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Ken Houghton



Articles by Ken Houghton

The Cass County, Indiana, Easter Effect

1 day ago

As noted in my last post, I have been looking at data. This usually causes trouble, and today is no exception.
As anyone who was paying attention predicted, the “Easter Effect”–a large gathering of people (“EC” or Otherwise) in an enclosed area that likely has multiple asymptomatic carriers (and likely a few with symptoms) is a recipe for infection. With a two- to three-week gestation period, that there was going to be an increase in cases at the end of April was well known. The only question was how much. Without running the numbers carefully, it looks as if it was about 10% above trend.

But the overall data covers for a lot of local sins. If you look at the places that have a high percentage of people infected, the relatively large Metropolitan Areas

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The Comic Stylings of FRED, Employment Edition

7 days ago

I’m back to playing with data, so there will probably be more posts coming soon. (Sorry.)
Meanwhile, this one was irresistible. FRED® has a “Natural Rate of Unemployment” data series. Apparently, the evil of the United States is that—except for the second half of the Clinton Administration where it was worth people’s while—Americans Just Don’t Work Enough,

Same graphic, excluding last month and with the monthly employment data averaged to match the Quarterly NAIRU.
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THE Important Graphic from April’s Unemployment Report

14 days ago

What happens when you downsize a large number of people? Well, it depends on the cohort downsized. In this case,
[embedded content]
That’s correct; Average Hourly Earnings skyrocketed from $28.67 to $30.01: up $1.34.
For context, that one-month change matches the average hourly earnings growth from September/October of 2018 until March of this year–18 months of increases in a month. And all it took was eliminating the jobs of about 6% of the U.S. population (not just workers).

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F**king Old Enough to Vote

September 12, 2019

It’s That Day again. I mostly stayed off Facebook (except for birthday greetings) and Twitter, but even LinkedIn has posts of now-yellowed newspaper articles of survivors–and probably some of those who didn’t.
In another ten years, it will be as far from 11 Sep 2001 as that date was from 11 Sep 1973.
At least now, most people know what a sh*t Rudy Giuliani was, both in setting up the firefighters for disaster and moving the NYC Office of Emergency Management Command Center from the safest location in the city–the basement of 1 Police Plaza–to the 23rd floor of a building in a complex that had already been bombed once before he did it. While he and Bernard Kerik got to Be Adulterers on taxpayer money, somewhere between one-third and one-half of the 343

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Projection is an Art, not a Science, especially for the SSA

April 25, 2019

The scary headlines of the past few days have been well-discussed below by Dale Coberly and Barkley Rosser.
Data, however, is only as good as its assumptions, and the overall trend is well worth a glance. (Note: I took the 2013-2017 data from BC professor (and director of their Center for Retirement Research) Alicia H. Munnell’s Table 1 here.
Year of Trustees Report:
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018
2019
First year outgo exceeded income excluding interest
2010
2010
2010
2010
2010
2010
2010
First year outgo projected to exceed income including interest
2021
2020
2020
2020
2021
2018
2020
Year trust fund assets are projected to be exhausted
2033
2033
2034
2034
2034
2034
2035

Note that last year’s projection that 2018 would have a funding shortfall turned out to

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What a Difference Three Days Makes?

April 4, 2019

March 27:
TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) – The United States said on Wednesday it had reached an agreement with three Central American countries to carry out joint police operations in the region, as the Trump administration seeks to stem the flow of migrants across its southern border.
The governments of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and the United States said in a statement they had agreed to a series of measures, including joint police work, improved border security, and efforts to deter international crime and curb “irregular migration.”
March 30:
WASHINGTON/EL PASO, Texas (Reuters) – The U.S. government cut aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras on Saturday after President Donald Trump blasted the Central American countries for sending migrants to the

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The Bank is the Colour of Malpasspractice, not Dead Televisions

February 6, 2019

If you want to understand why Mark Thoma’s 12-year daily-and-then-some blogging effort has become intermittent, consider that President Shit-for-Brains has made his nomination for the person to ru(i)n the World Bank.
David Malpass.
This David Malpass.
The best part of the nomination so far? This Twitter feed from Charles Kenny.
Brad DeLong concurs.
And I’m not the only one bringing back my writings from almost a decade ago. David Glasner at Uneasy Money remains in fine form. (via Krugman on Twitter)
ETA: pgl, chez delong, notes this 2012 piece from Bruce Bartlett as well.

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In the New Gilded Age, Capital is not for Investment

October 18, 2018

Many years ago, Goldman Sachs published research showing that, from about 1995 to 2004, more money had been taken out of S&P 500 companies in dividends and share buybacks than the companies had earned during that period.
You would think Boards of Directors and Shareholders would know better than to do it again. You would be wrong (registration required):
Stock buyback activity in US equity markets is simply staggering at present: $646 billion for the 12 months ending June 2018 for the companies of the S&P 500. Total dividend payments aren’t far behind, at $436 billion. The bright spot: the total of the two is $1,082 billion, only 90% of 12 month trailing operating earnings of $1,197 billion. That’s a better buffer than existed in 2015/2016, and an

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Is this Short Covering, or Are the Suckers Flooding the Market?

September 24, 2018

Via ElNuevoDia at LG&M, “Gamblers are now betting that Kavanaugh will not be confirmed.”
The market in question, at PredictIt, seems rather straightforward. Note, though, that the contract only opened five days ago (18 September) and traded consistently in the 60-70% range through yesterday (22 Sep), closing at 61% and only reaching as low as 55%.

In the past two hours, more than 20,000 transactions has occurred, which is greater than the volume on any previous day, with no trade higher than 60, and none in the past hour above 42. (It is 9:13 EDT as I write this.) The 24-hour graphic is impressive in its consistency:

until it’s not.
The open question is whether the buyers at the lower level are the same people who were selling in the 60s and 70s (the

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Ten Years Have Got Behind You

August 14, 2018

It has been almost ten years since:
Bear Stearns folded
Lehmann collapsed of its own free will
I posted on this blog
All of the above
Those who guessed “c” or “d” are optimists. Those who are expecting a long series of posts dwelling on the correct answer of “b” (with some references to “a” and AIGFP) will not be disappointed.
But this is an introduction. I have been trying to think of how to simplify ten years of lessons as if there were one root cause. And I think I finally have it.
Two friends were claiming that Democratic politicians have to be nice, noting that otherwise Republicans will obstruct anything they try to do if there is ever a free election in the United States again. My response of “So what?” (a more direct version of my usual “Ma nishta

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Minimum Wage Effects with Non-Living Wages

April 22, 2018

I’m teaching “Economics for Non-Economists” this semester. This is an interesting experiment, and is strongly testing my belief that you can teach economics without mathematics so long as people understand graphs and tables. (It appears that people primarily learn how to read graphs and tables in mathematics-related courses. Did everyone except me know this?)
Since economics is All About Trade-offs, our textbook notes that minimum wage increases should also mean some people are not employed. Yet, as I noted to the students, in the past several decades, none of the empirical research in the United States shows this to be true. (From Card and Kreuger (1994) to Card and Kreuger (2000) to the City of Seattle, in fact, all of the evidence has run the other

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Any Economist Who Talks about Rational Investment is Full of Shit, Hoosier Edition

February 23, 2017

CPAC had a gathering of Republican Governors today. As Jennifer Hayden (@Scout_Finch) on Twitter noted, the Brownback/Walker/etc. panel was called “How to ruin your state’s economy with one easy tax cut.”
So naturally my thoughts shifted to the one way blowing up your state’s economy could be ameliorated: if some unearned windfall occurred. Could a Legislature be saved from itself?
Lo and behold, the PowerBall jackpot was won by a ticket in Lafayette, IN, last night. The Indianapolis Star (Dan Quayle’s ancestral paper, fwiw) notes that this is the second large-value ticket won in the Hoosier State in the past nine months:
A Powerball ticket purchased in Lafayette is worth about $435 million this morning, a Hoosier Lottery official said Thursday….
In July, another Hoosier hit a big jackpot in the Mega Millions game. That ticket, worth about $541 million, was sold at a Speedway gas station in Cambridge City.
One great thing about having people win nearly $1,000,000,000 in the lottery is the tax windfall for the State.

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“Tell Me What Democracy Looks Like”

February 1, 2017

I have a face for radio and a voice for mime. My Eldest Daughter, on the other hand, can project.
She proves it for about thirty seconds of this (badly-mixed, overorchestrated) NPR video (starting around 3:30).
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