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Robert Waldmann

Robert Waldmann

Robert J. Waldmann is a Professor of Economics at Univeristy of Rome “Tor Vergata” and received his PhD in Economics from Harvard University. Robert runs his personal blog and is an active contributor to Angrybear.

Articles by Robert Waldmann

Stealth II

12 days ago

I think that with “Stealth” I indulged my inclination to try to figure things out more than I should have.The practical point is my claim that stealth technology is obsolete. I think this is well known and yet not allowed to effect the US Federal Budget.

I cite the Wikipedia

“Low-frequency radar[edit]

Shaping offers far fewer stealth advantages against low-frequency radar. If the radar wavelength is roughly twice the size of the target, a half-wave resonance effect can still generate a significant return. However, low-frequency radar is limited by lack of available frequencies (many are heavily used by other systems), by lack of accuracy of the diffraction-limited systems given their long wavelengths, and by the radar’s size, making it

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Taiwan Harpoon Budget

14 days ago

Taiwan says new Harpoon missiles will help it crush half of Chinese invasion fleet

Taiwan says US$2.37 billion worth of Harpoon missiles would enable it to obliterate half of Chinese invasion armada

“TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan’s military on Oct. 27 [2020] stated that the potential sale of US$2.37 billion worth of Harpoon anti-ship missiles will within five years help enable its defenders to wipe out “half of any” People’s Liberation Army (PLA) invasion force.

On Oct. 26, the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) issued a press release announcing that the U.S. State Department has given the green light to the sale of 100 Harpoon Coastal Defense Systems (HCDS) and associated equipment for approximately US$2.37 billion.

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17 days ago

First the usual warning – I am both ignorant and intellectually arrogant.  It should be assumed that I don’t know what I am talking about.

Stealth technology hides airplanes, drones, and cruise missiles from radar which uses high frequency radio waves.  It does not hide them from radar which uses radio waves of wavelength a meter or more – the thickness of the stealthy covering would have to be similar to that wavelength.  This means that an F-35 would show up on radar used during World War II.

It has been argued that this doesn’t matter, because radar does not show the location of an airplane unless the diameter of the radar dish is many times the wavelength so an otherwise standard but anti-stealth radar would need a dish 90 feet across.

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Reflections on the Evolution in France

24 days ago

Yesterday Emmanuel Macron was re-elected president of France solidly defeating Marine LePen by about 16%. This is a relief. I think a striking aspect of the election was the absence of Gaullist or Socialist candidate in the runoff. Instead there is a centrist vs a far rightist. This pattern is not confined to France and also not universal.

One important point is that LePen made the runoff by defeating leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon by 1.5% in the first round. The runoff could have been a centrist vs a leftist, and most commentary would have been totally different. To me the key news is the collapse of the old center left and old center right (now replaced by the new center center). I think this shows widespread anger with the establishment, which

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Ukraine Vs Russia: Lessons Learned

April 11, 2022

The current situation is that Russia has abandoned the effort to capture Kiev. Russian forces have been withdrawn from North Central Ukraine and are now operating on an arc from Kharkiv (North East) to Kherson (South Central). So far, Ukraine has won amazing victories and Russia has suffered astonishing defeats. The extreme surprise suggests that we can learn a lot from the war so far.

What have we learned ? I will include things that we really knew already or should have known.

1.It is very unwise to rely on the kindness, mercy or even sanity of dictators. It was generally assumed that Putin wouldn’t actually order an invasion (I assumed this at least up until a couple of weeks before the invasion). It is wise to prepare for the worst.

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TIPS Breakeven vs Michigan Inflation Expectations

April 10, 2022

I am interested in inflation expectations (acting like a macroeconomist for a change). In particular I am thinking about something Brad DeLong just tweeted. He says his subjective probability of sustained inflation due to expected inflation causing current inflation is still just 40%

Why “.only a 40% chance …? Because bond markets expect the Fed to get inflation down to 2% not in the short run of next year but in the medium run of three years from now and after. Workers and bosses won’t raise their prices anticipatorily unless they expect… 6/118 Brad DeLong @delong·Apr 9…inflation to continue. And I do not see how workers and bosses can expect inflation to continue while bond traders remain un-spooked. Bond traders are more sensitive to

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A Cloud in the Skynet

April 5, 2022

I am thinking about computers taking over the world. Given my age, for me, the classic reference is “Terminator” in which “SkyNet” becomes self aware and takes over the world. As made movie sense at the time SkyNet was a US Department of Defence project as was the ARPAnet mother of the mother of the mother of the World Wide Web. Frankly, I find that implausible now. If it were a DOD project, Congress would have appropriated funds to start it, then cut the budget so it never actually delivered self awareness. The internet was started by DARPA but has long since gone viral.

To me a more plausible origin story for the AI which rules the world is that, like natural conciousness and will to power, artificial conciousness is an emergent property.

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Anopinion on Liquified Natural Gas

April 4, 2022

This might be a very long confused post or might be a series of confused posts. I am trying to think about what to do about Putin (assuming he isn’t overthrown in a palace coup).

My first thought was that this is not time for increased military spending . The Russian military turns out to be much less capable than we thought. There is no reason to guess that the Chinese, North Korean, Iranian, or other potential trouble maker militaries are more capable than we thought. I think a reasonable assessment of overall world wide military threats has declined dramatically. I also think that NATO military spending was higher than optimal given information available in 2021.

I had a rather painful Twitter debate with Noah Smith on this topic. I

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Marking My Beliefs About Weapons to Market (Military 2/N)

April 1, 2022

In this post, I criticize current US weapons policy. I have been doing this for over 40 years. I have been saying the same things for those 40 years. This means I can check on the hostages I have given to fortune and mark my beliefs to market.

My thoughts again

1) I think that the US should buy smart munitions to be fired from many cheap platforms (that is I take one side in a decades long debate).

2) I think there has been a pattern of planning to spend really huge amounts of money on a weapons system, followed by compromise leading to high spending to acquire a small number of weapons which do not satisfy the original perceived need at all.

3) I think that there has been much to little focus on shoulder fired munitions (roughly

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US Military Procurement 1/N

April 1, 2022

I plan to write a series of posts on which and how many weapons the US should buy. I start with two important disclaimers. First, obviously, I have no expertise and probably don’t know what I am talking about. Second, I firmly believe that the US Federal Government intertemporal budget constraint is currently satisfied with slack, so spending can be increased without ever increasing taxes or cutting otehr spending. To argue that wasteful spending is suboptimal, I have to argue that there is a political limit on deficits (which there is) while discussing what I guess is optimal policy (ignoring politics).

The military procurement budget which I will discuss is $ 245.6 Billion for Fiscal Year 2022 out of a Defence Department budget of $778

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Why Is Germany Increasing Defence Spending ?

March 20, 2022

Recently we have learned that the Russian military is vastly less capable than anyone imagined. Also in three whole weeks Ukrainians have markedly reduced the capabilities of the Russian military. Therefore, naturally many governments (including the German government) have decided they must spend more on their militaries to face the Russian threat. This makes no sense.

To deal with Russian Germany needs liquified natural gas terminals and heat pumps. It will gain little by buying F35s (based on the general principal that buying F35s is stupid). With the same money they can tell people “if you replace your gas furnace with a heat pump, we will pay for the heat pump and the electricity to run it.” This is a much more effective strategy.

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What Sanctions ?

February 24, 2022

Russia has just attacked Ukraine. US policymakers seem to agree that we should impose severe economic sanctions (but definitely have no US boots on Ukrainian ground). What can the US do without firing a shot ? I think the US can impose extreme costs on Russia (hurting Russians other than Putin who are not to blame and will be innocent victims — tough luck). In general sanctions have not achieved– well much except the defunct Iranian JCPOA. However, Russia has a lot to lose, because (in spite of a default) it’s debt and currency are taken seriously.

The US Treasury can issue unlimited amounts of Ruble denominated bonds. This isn’t even counterfeiting — they would say “payable by the US Treasury”. I think this could make the ruble roughly

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Anopinion 3

February 18, 2022

Reading the first few paragraphs of Last War Brain by Noah Smith, I thought I would strongly disagree with his post and decided to write an attempted rebutal. I find that I agree almost 100% and can mainly complain about what I assert is a bit of bait and switch. As always I advise readers to just click the link. Noah is a much better writer than I am (low bar) so my effort to summarize and explain might best be skipped (skip to ***)

Noah argues that liberals have overlearned two lessons of the naughties and teens: The lessons are don’t invade Iraq, and don’t impose austerity when the economy is depressed. Now he argues that some people are incorrectly assuming that Russia v Ukraine is like Bush V Saddam and that the macroeconomic policy

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US Real Wage Growth During the Pandemic

February 16, 2022

Real Wages Grew During Two Years of COVID-19 After Controlling for Workforce Composition

Sean Howard, Robert Rich and Joseph Tracy

February 15, 2022

I propose you just read it. They are quite convincing. The bottom line is that real wages increased last year (the top line is nominal wages and yes I like to take figures of speech literally)

This is interesting for two reasons. First, the vast majority of our fellow citizens would consider this graph to be lies, damn lies, and statistics if they knew about it.

Second Jason Furman is a hero. He tried to use an Atlanta Fed series which isn’t what one guesses it is to do this calculation (par for the course) learned it was not what he thought it was and very publicly stressed that his

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Ezra Klein on MMT

February 9, 2022

I find myself disagreeing completely with Ezra Klein. This is very unusual and I feel compelled to blog about it (note you should not feel at all compelled to read this post which is self therapy).

I am commenting on a twitter thread here.

I am going to cut and paste a lot (because I hate Twitter and don’t want you to go there (as I do many times a day)).

It began with Larry Summers who wrote

“There are things MMT says that are true and things it says that are new but unfortunately there is no overlap.”

(I know of no things that MMT says which are new and true, but that may just be because I am ignorant).

Klein wrote

“So I’m not enough of a macroeconomist to know if it’s true that what MMT says that’s new isn’t true, and what

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contra MMT Anopinion III

February 9, 2022

Noah Smith (and many others) is irritated by a puff piece about Stephanie Kelton and modern monetery theory MMT by Jeanna Smialak in the New York Times. I am not interested in Smialak’s article. I think that Noah sums up his critique here very well

“The article then demonstrates that it has little notion of what separates MMT from mainstream thinking: ‘M.M.T. theorists argue that society should feel capable of spending to achieve its goals to the extent that there are resources available to fulfill them. Deficit spending need not be constrained to recessions, even theoretically.’” In Smialak’s defence, Kelton et al have no ability to explain how MMT differs from mainstream thinking either. I agree entirely with Noah that MMT is not theory and is

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Against the Stability and Growth Pact

February 6, 2022

The stability and growth pact regulated the fiscal policy of Euro bloc countries. It is currently suspended, because of Covid. There is an ongoing discussion of whether to reactivate it when the epidemic ends or whether to replace it with something else. I strongly advocate eliminating it and replacing it with nothing.

Very very rounghly, the pact limited cyclically adjusted public budget deficits to 0.5% of GDP. The possibility of suspending it during a crisis was explicit (also before most people thought that the crisis could be a pandemic).

I have written a lot, a whole lot, about the cyclical adjustment. I think it fair to say that the procedures used by the output gap working groups is not defensible. One problem with the Stability

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Moral Hazard and Bank Bailouts

February 2, 2022

My mind goes back to 2008. I was recently tempted to ask why bad loans by banks are a public problem. I was tempted to say that the bank made the loan, so it is their problem. If enough debtors default that the bank fails, so what? Then I remember the very appealing logic of the argument that, while other banks are free to save Lehman if they choose, no public money should be involved. That didn’t work out very well. The tempting pure market let banks sink or swim doctrine is, in fact, stupid. If they sink, they bring a lot of ordinary people down with them. A convincing promise to not bail out banks reduces moral hazard problems. It would be good, so long as it were a successful bluff. But actually, letting lots of large banks fail is not

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An Opinion II

January 19, 2022

This is my second comment on Noah Smith’s substack. Today he wrote about something I should know about — macroeconomics. As always, I am amazed by Noah’s knowledge (it is his former former field of academic research). I don’t know for sure if his article is available only for subscribers, so I will try to summarize a little.

His thoughts:”the U.S. is confronting another unexpected macroeconomic shock. Although the economy is doing great in terms of jobs and growth, it’s plagued by worryingly high inflation,” is it due to a demand shock or a supply shock. Although economists use much fancier models we can understand this with a model with an upward sloping aggregate supply curve and a downward sloping aggregate demand curve. This suggests the

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Oppressed by Deontological Twitter

January 11, 2022

I am temporarily banned by Twitter for “Violating our rules against hateful conduct.” because of the attached tweet. I don’t know if “all men must die” was interpreted as a threat rather than a simple statement of fact by the algorithm or if calling deontological reasoning confused or fanatical was considered hate speach.

Maybe I should have writtn “Valar Morgulis”. I do face a problem “By clicking Delete, you acknowledge that your Tweet violated the Twitter Rules.” I can not honestly acknowledge that — the literally meaning of “must” is “is inevitable” while the use of “must” to mean “is extremely desirable and I demand it” is an innovation. Should I lie to Twitter by clicking delete ?

As noted, I am not Kant and I am a consequentialist, so

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Waldman on Waldmann

December 23, 2021

“the economist who thinks he has caught what all the virologists have missed” is right here Paul.

OK now I have to put my mouth where my mouth is. I do honestly think I have answers which are of interest to actual virologists.

Start with the antibody, then find the antigen.

This is really a thought about vaccine development. Now, notably, they seem to be doing that rather well back in my home town (to put it mildly).

“SILVER SPRING, Md. – A series of recently published preclinical study results show that the Spike Ferritin Nanoparticle (SpFN) COVID-19 vaccine developed by researchers at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) not only elicits a potent immune response but may also provide broad protection against

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Un Tiro Manchin

December 20, 2021

The italian idiom for a low blow (also for an unexpected blow) is “un tiro mancino” literally a left handed blow. Manchin hit all the other Democrats with a tiro mancino yesterday. Notably “mancino” means left handed so, hard as it is to believe, he had ancestors who were lefties as in left handed.

Aside from the irresistable pun, I feel the need to write about senator Manchin, because I can’t stop thinking about him. I suspect that reading this would be a waste of time. (here is background information which I assume is all well known*)

The minimum is that after months of making all other Democrats (except sometimes Synema) bend to his will and follow his whims, senator Joseph Manchin declared that he will not vote for the build back better

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World Covid 19 Vaccination

December 15, 2021

I am mainly linking to this fairly important article by Dan Diamond in The Washington Post. Diamond quotes many people arguing that the US really should do more to get everyone in the world who is willing to take the vaccine vaccinated. I am going to move on quickly to how this could be done, because I think it is obvious that it should be done. I think I will try to get a few silly things out of the way.

What about other rich countries ? Is it reasonable to act as if the US alone should do this ? Other rich countries aren’t doing enough, so yes it is reasonable to act as if the US should do this. Yes it is equally reasonable to say that Japan, Germany, France and the UK each should do this, but Angry Bear readers are mostly in the USA. Each

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Teaching Statistics in High School

December 14, 2021

There is an interesting discussion about a topic where I know especially little: K-12 education. Within it, there is a narrow discussion about whether it makes sense to try to teach statistics to people who don’t know calculus. This is a clear question. However, it seems that the people who discuss it skip a much more basic question which is why mathematical statistics should be taught to high school students, and an even more basic question which is what do statisticians have to teach us.

Links and snippets.

Kareem Carr tweeted

Controversial opinion: Trying to teach statistics without using calculus actually leads to a lot of bad statistics classes, where the rules seem really arbitrary and the formulas feel like they come out of

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Not even a Fig Leaf

December 8, 2021

Senate Republicans are being dispicable as usual. They manage to combine bad intent and pathetic incompetence in a display which must delight all right thinking people. The issue is the debt ceiling. For months Mitch McConnell has asserted both that the debt ceiling shall and must be raised and that he plans to blame Democrats for raising it.

Your not supposed to say that out loud Mitch. He tells journalists that he will trick voters into blaming Democrats for doing something which he agrees must be done. There were two fatal flaws with this plan. First, to trick someone, it is best not to tell them you are trying to trick them. Second almost no one is paying attention anyway.

But now he has found a way to fail while failing to be

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Immune Memory

December 8, 2021

One non horrible effect of the Covid 19 epidemic is that people have become interested in immunology. I am pleased by this, but have the sense that journalists over-simplify. Roughly they act as if the immune system consists of circulating antibodies and killer t-cells. I think this post might be of some interest to some readers.

First acquired immunity does indeed come in two types called cellular and humoral. That does refer to killer t-cells vs immunity via antibodies (which are produced by b-cells). Another very important cell is the helper t-cell. They are very well known because HIV1 infects them and the loss of helper T-cells is called AIDS.

b-cells make antibodies when stimulated. t-cells have on their surface a very

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Get A Booster shot

December 8, 2021

Many months and many mutations ago, I argued that one shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was enough to protect against the original Sars Cov2. Since then delta. It doesn’t especially evade, but is more generally fit and I thought (and probably didn’t post) that two shots are needed given delta. Now omicron. Pfizer just claimed that three shots are enough against omicron, although two are not. Putting my shoulder where my mouth wasn’t (until now) I got a booster on Sunday.

My alternative running title is “non c’e’ 2 senza 3” that is: there isn’t two without three. This is an Italian saying, basically meaning if you do something twice, you will do it again. It seems to fit the evolving (in a Darwinian sense) situation, except this blog is

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Omicron at Slow Boring

December 1, 2021

I think every word of Matthew Yglesias’s post on Omicron, Omar Bradley, and why the hell aren’t we investing in pandemic prevention is brilliant. I think it is publicly available (I didn’t pay) and advise just clicking the link.

For those who ignored the above advice, I would like to focus on two main points

First he argues that we should invest in the capacity to make large amounts of vaccines against currently unkown viruses. This includes massive investment in efforts to produce a broad spectrum vaccine, but also just making sure that we don’t again end up with a vaccine but without the capacity to rapidly make 15 billion doses. As Yglesias notes, the cost benefit calculation is absurd.

We want enough infrastructure in place that

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Boring post on “Slow Boring”

December 1, 2021

“Slow Boring” is Matthew Yglesias’s substack. I don’t subscribe. It’s about the money. I can afford it, but I don’t like the fact that Matthew Yglesias makes so much money. I am extremely envious. I admit it.

I think this is a very very common problem. Many people have asked Matthew Yglesias how he makes people so angry. I guess that they too are jealous.

Also the text “Slow Boring” is brilliant snark. It is a reference to Weber saying “Politics is a strong and slow boring of hard boards. It takes both passion and perspective. Certainly all historical experience confirms the truth – that man would not have attained the possible unless time and again he had reached out for the impossible. But to do that a man must be a leader, and not only

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Borges, Berkeley, Tlon, Uqbar, Orbus Tertius, and all that

December 1, 2021

“tlon Uqbar orbus tertius” is an excellent story by Jorge Luis Borges. In it, he imagines a world in which all that exists are minds and ideas. He refers to the assertion that we live in such a world made by the Reverand George Berkeley.

In Borges’s wonderful Obis Tertius, objects can be multiplied if someone leaves it somewhere, someone else takes it away without the knowledge of the first person, so the first person finds a copy of it (called a Hronir) where it was left.

The story is absolutely wonderful, as usual. I will not spoil any surprises by describing how it turns out. I strongly advise reading it.

Borges does quote Hume. Hume said something eloquent which amounts to the assertion that Berkeley’s theory does not admit two

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