The Great Recession Was Good for Health

February 5, 2024 at 9:49 am

A new working paper by economists from MIT, the University of Chicago, and McMaster University in Canada finds that higher unemployment during the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009 reduced mortality rates. "These estimates imply that the GreatRecession provided one in twenty five 55-year-olds with an extra year of life," they write.

They think the main mechanism is not that out-of-work people have more time to go to the gym and cook health meals, or less money to spend on cigarettes and beer, or that nursing homes have an easier time hiring better staff during a recession; instead, they say a big factor seems to be "recession-induced declines in air pollution."

They caution that their focus on mortality "may miss...important non-mortality health impacts, particularly at younger ages where mortality may be a worse proxy for overall health."

The National Bureau of Economic Research working paper is "Lives Versus Livelihoods: The Impact of the Great Recession on Mortality and Welfare," by Amy Finkelstein, Matthew Notowidigdo, Frank Schilbach, and Jonathan Zhang.

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Bret Stephens on Media Credibility

January 30, 2024 at 8:46 pm

New York Times columnist Bret Stephens:

I worry that we — the news media in general — let ourselves off the hook a little too easily in explaining why the floor is falling out from under our business. Yes, the internet is part of the story. So is a general decline in public literacy.

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EU Exports Antitrust Law to America

January 29, 2024 at 4:34 pm

One of the drawbacks of a global economy is that it enables regulators in less-free parts of the world to essentially export their rules and impose them on American companies. The example that brings this to mind is the deal by Amazon to acquire iRobot. The acquisition was originally announced back in August, 2022. Today Seattle-based Amazon and Bedford, Mass.-based iRobot jointly announced that the deal is off.

Amazon's general counsel, David Zapolsky, is quoted in the release as saying, "Undue and disproportionate regulatory hurdles discourage entrepreneurs, who should be able to see acquisition as one path to success, and that hurts both consumers and competition—the very things that regulators say they're trying to protect."

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Striking Newton Schoolteachers Storm City Hall

January 26, 2024 at 4:21 pm

Schools in Newton, Massachusetts have been mostly closed this week as the teachers union has waged an illegal strike. Things got particularly interesting yesterday as the teachers stormed City Hall to the door of office of the mayor, who called police for protection.

The Newton Beacon quotes the city's mayor, Ruthanne Fuller, saying of the teachers, "What they did today was not role-modeling what I think our adults should be doing here in Newton." She went on, "They pushed past the office staff, they crowded down the hall in front of my office, they started pounding on the door."

In 2021, the most recent year for which data is available from the state, the average Newton teacher earned $93,031.

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Backlash Against "Big" Is Smallminded

January 26, 2024 at 12:27 pm

The leading presidential candidates from both major parties are running against big business. Or, often, more precisely, "Big" business, with the capitalized "B" being a sign of something particularly sinister.

President Biden's January 11 statement on the December Consumer Price Index number bashed "big" four times in three sentences. The Democrat accused Republicans of planning "massive giveaways to the super wealthy and big corporations." He said Republicans have "locked arms with Big Pharma and Big Oil to try to stop us from lowering prescription drug costs and utility bills." And he said, "They're doing everything in their power to allow Big Banks to keep charging you steep hidden fees."

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The Great Dechurching

January 25, 2024 at 4:56 pm

"Liberalism now functions for a substantial number of adherents like a religion: an encompassing worldview that answers the big questions about life, lends significance to our daily exertions, and provides a rationale for meaningful collective action," Stanley Kurtz wrote in a 2001 piece for National Review, "The Church of the Left."

Now it's turning out that politics is substituting for organized religion on the right, too. NPR's "On Point" program has an interview with Michael Graham and Pastor Jim Davis, authors of The Great Dechurching. From the transcript:

Davis:...dechurching is happening on the secular right at twice the pace, almost catching up in the full number of those who have dechurched on the secular left.

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Two Americas

January 24, 2024 at 11:22 am

The Committee to Unleash Prosperity has released a survey with comparisons between "all voters," "elites" (defined as those having a postgraduate degree, a household income of more than $150,000 annually, and living in a zip code with more than 10,000 people per square mile), and an even narrower subsection of "elites" consisting of those "adults who attended Ivy League schools or other elite private schools, including Northwestern, Duke, Stanford, and the University of Chicago." It found fairly dramatic contrast on a lot of issues, particularly on the balance between "individual freedom" and "government control."

Tip via Stephen Moore's New York Sun column.

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Vermont Weighs Wealth Tax on Unrealized Capital Gains

January 24, 2024 at 8:20 am

The New York Times reports:

So far in 2024, lawmakers in 10 states have introduced wealth-tax bills or are working on introducing them, according to Amber Wallin, senior policy and outreach director at the State Revenue Alliance. They are California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Washington.

No states currently assess any taxes on a living individual's net worth or unrealized capital gains. If Vermont's bill were to become law, it would basically do that, Ms. Kornheiser explained: Someone whose assets, after exemptions, started the year worth $10 million and finished the year worth $11 million, for example, would have $1 million in unrealized gains that would be counted as income, and therefore subject to Vermont's top income tax rate of 8.75 percent, even though nothing was sold and the gains were all on paper.

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John Paulson at Trump II Treasury?

January 23, 2024 at 10:22 pm

In his New Hampshire primary victory speech, President Trump acknowledged John Paulson and floated the possibility of him serving as Treasury secretary in a second Trump administration.

What would that mean, policy-wise? In a February 2023 interview Paulson said, "gold is rising again. I say again because it's been the reserve currency of the world for thousands of years, a legitimate alternative to holding the dollar or other paper currencies. There has been a significant increase in demand from central banks to replace dollars with gold, and we're just at the beginning of that trend. Gold will go up and the dollar will go down, so you'd be better off keeping your investment reserves in gold at this point."

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New Baltimore Sun Owner David Smith on Schools, Family

January 23, 2024 at 9:04 am

The nonprofit Baltimore Banner has a report on a newsroom speech by David Smith, the new owner of its for-profit competitor, the Baltimore Sun:

"Let me tell you something I can't do anything about. I can't do anything about a person who is a product of the Baltimore City school system. ... Can't do anything about that. As a news organization, you might be able to do something about it by focusing on those people, that class of people, who are products of the Baltimore City school system, who have never had a job. They're always going to be a product of the government. They're always going to be on welfare. Always going to be on some structure that the government takes care of. The only way you're going to fix that is to fix the school system."

"And it's not just Baltimore City. It's Baltimore County. It's Cincinnati. It's in every place I have business, it's in Portland, Maine. It's everywhere. And it's government controlling the system that is causing in large part, failure. So people who can't read or write, who do you blame for that?"

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More Bret Stephens on Trump's Triumphs

January 23, 2024 at 8:47 am

New York Times columnist Bret Stephens takes a second bite out of the pro-Trump apple:

His strength came from seeing, and saying, what most of America's coastal elites weren't: that life wasn't getting better for middle- and working-class America, that unchecked immigration was a serious problem and that elite institutions, particularly academia and the news media, had become preachy and untrustworthy. ... And his presidency was not the unmitigated disaster his critics claim: Operation Warp Speed was a triumph, as were the Abraham Accords, as was a pretty robust economy, at least until the pandemic.

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Bart Gellman Gets off the Sidelines

January 22, 2024 at 9:56 am

Announcing a professional move from the Atlantic to the Brennan Center for Justice, longtime former Washington Post journalist Barton Gellman writes on X, "I've decided to get off the sidelines. I have resigned from The Atlantic and joined the leadership team at the Brennan Center in the fight for democracy."

That formulation made me chuckle for several reasons.

First, who thought that The Atlantic, in its current hyper-activist anti-Trump instantiation, was on "the sidelines"? Editor in chief Jeff Goldberg, my former Forward colleague, is a journalist, not a politician or a lobbyist, but one of his many talents is to place himself and his team's journalistic work right in the center of the action, not on the sidelines.

Second, a journalist getting "off the sidelines" might typically be leaving to join a political campaign, or to serve in the government. Gellman is leaving to join a 501c3 nonprofit organization with roots at NYU Law School. Sure, the c3 also has a c4 and it discloses some lobbying expenses, but even so.

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Left Threatens Violence If Trump Wins

January 21, 2024 at 12:36 pm

The New York Times Magazine carries an interview with Andreas Malm, the author of the 2021 book "How To Blow Up a Pipeline." From the interview:

We live in representative democracies where certain liberties are respected. We vote for the policies and the people we want to represent us. And if we don't get the things we want, it doesn't give us license to then say, "We're now engaging in destructive behavior." Right? Either we're against political violence or not. We can't say we're for it when it's something we care about and against it when it's something we think is wrong. Of course we can. Why not?....

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Harvard Discovers Some Conservatives

January 19, 2024 at 3:02 pm

At times I wonder whether Harvard is so big, rich, and monolithic that no amount of pressure will change it. At other times I'm amazed at how rapidly it responds to suggestions and constructive criticism. In the second, "pleasant surprise," category comes the news that the university will feature former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, former American Enterprise Institute president Arthur Brooks, and former George W. Bush administration attorney general Michael Mukasey in the opening weeks of the Spring semester, as "part of a commitment to open discourse."

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce reasonably included ideological diversity (and the lack of it at Harvard) as a part of its hearing on "Holding Campus Leaders Accountable and Confronting Antisemitism," a hearing that resulted in the resignation of two of the three college presidents who testified at it, including Harvard's Claudine Gay.

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Who Benefits From Rent Control?

January 19, 2024 at 2:42 pm

Three recent examples from the New York Times provide some specific, concrete insights into rent control and rent stabilization in New York City:

From the obituary of Edward Jay Epstein: "Mr. Epstein lived alone in a lavish rent-controlled apartment on Manhattan's Upper East Side."

From the obituary for Alice Mason, real estate broker and society hostess: "She never left the rent-stabilized apartment where she held her storied dinners, in a century-old building on East 72nd Street. (In Manhattan real estate parlance, it was a classic eight, a gracious prewar layout that included three bedrooms and two maid's rooms.) When she moved there in 1962, the rent was $400 a month. At her death, it was $2,476. The apartment below her, in the same line, was recently on the market for just under $10 million."

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