## links for 2009-10-20

• Brooks Moses: October 17, 2009, 01:49 PM: So, what's a "Vlassic pickled nacho ring"? Google, in its high-speed exuberance, pretty much only returns this very page for a search on that. I'm guessing from context that these are pickled slices of jalapeno or something of that nature?
• Nearly half (49 percent) of recipients reported using the rebate mostly to pay off debt. Most other recipients reported either mostly spending the rebate (30 percent), or mostly saving the rebate (18 percent). The small remainder of those asked (3 percent) did not report this information
• The White House’s knee-jerk reaction to the news that inflation was so low that Social Security beneficiaries won’t get a cost-of-living increase next year was a seriously bad omen for long-term control of federal spending. The problem wasn’t the $13 billion cost of another one-time$250 payment to each retiree proposed by President Barack Obama. No, it was the utter disregard of the discipline inherent in indexing payments to changes in consumer prices. Benefits were indexed in the 1970s precisely to stop politicians eager to curry political favor by providing large benefit increases on an ad hoc basis. Shoveling out more checks to an important group of voters when the economy is as depressed as it is now would be a popular thing to do. Plenty of Democrats — as well as many of the Republicans who have been clamoring about soaring budget deficits — quickly endorsed the \$250 payment even though prices weren’t just flat, they fell by 2 percent.
• Nice catch by Jonathan Chait, who finds “George W. Bush’s former minister of propaganda, Peter Wehner” lashing out — still — at the victims of Bush Derangement Syndrome, a group that he says includes the likes of "Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews, Frank Rich, Paul Krugman, Jonathan Alter, Jonathan Chait, Bill Maher, Michael Moore, and many others." He describes as a “homogeneous crew”, which is almost funnier than the fact that he’s still using the term.
• There's a reason why so many people are uninsured and it isn't only because they have pre-existing conditions. It's also because insurance is unaffordable. Unless this reform fixes that problem they haven't fixed it at all. [The Democratic legislators] need to create a public plan that these subsidies can actually make affordable or these folks are all going to have to become criminals and defy the mandate. And if that happens reform fails. I think you will see a terrible backlash if they don't get a grip on the political realities here. I hope that Hickey is correct and that they are, or this could be a monumental debacle.
• Contrarianism generally lines up with the "perversity" column in Albert Hirschman's typology "The Rhetoric of Reaction: Perversity, Futility, Jeopardy". Here's the thing: as history progresses, things change. And societies try to adapt to those changes. Experts come up with solutions to the problems the societies face. Those solutions often entail discomfiting established interest groups. And the solutions the experts come up with almost always entail some degree of perverse counterreaction.... It can be very interesting to focus on those counterreactions; it can generate fascinating, eye-grabbing journalism. But in the overwhelming majority of cases, the counterreactions aren't as big as the first-order effects of the solutions..... There was a time when I encountered contrarian arguments like those made by Mr Levitt and Mr Dubner and thought, hm, that's really cool. In recent years, when I encounter such arguments, my tendency has been to think, yeah, that's probably a lot of hooey.