Monday, June 25, 2012

A crisis is a terrible thing to waste

In Getting Away with It, Paul Krugman and Robin Wells discuss three books about President Barack Obama, the Democrats, the Republicans and the global economic crisis.

It's not an uplifting story, but it is a necessary one.

"But while the economy now may bear a strong resemblance to that of the 1930s, the political scene does not, because neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are what once they were. Coming into the Obama presidency, much of the Democratic Party was close to, one might almost say captured by, the very financial interests that brought on the crisis; and as the Booker and Clinton incidents showed, some of the party still is. Meanwhile, Republicans have become extremists in a way they weren’t three generations ago; contrast the total opposition Obama has faced on economic issues with the fact that most Republicans in Congress voted for, not against, FDR’s crowning achievement, the Social Security Act of 1935.

These changes in America’s political parties explain both why there has been no second New Deal and why the policy response to the prolonged economic slump has been so inadequate."
"Obama’s innate centrism led him to adopt the preoccupation with the budget deficit of Geithner and Peter Orszag (his head of the Office of Management and Budget and another Rubin protégé) in opposition to vocal protests from both Summers and Romer that now was not the time to worry about deficits. As a result, Obama would never acknowledge that the original stimulus was not big enough, a position that left him boxed in when it became clear—as it already had by summer of 2010, if not earlier—that it had indeed been far too small."

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Richard Ford disses James Joyce's Ulysses

The author Richard Ford is interviewed in the New York Times Book Review and gets this question:

"What book did you feel you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?"

His answer begins this way:
"Overrated . . . Joyce’s “Ulysses.” Hands down. A professor’s book. Though I guess if you’re Irish it all makes sense."

I tend to agree.

I am reading - actually listening - to Ulysses in English after having read it in Swedish many years ago, and after having listened to 24 spirited lectures by professor James Heffernan, who recently retired from  of Dartmouth, and I must say that James Joyce's cathedral of words feels essentially empty. He is just showing off words and language, like an acrobat is showing off his marvelous skills. I enjoy listening to it, but then I find myself wondering what I am listening to, and why I am doing it. What is it all about? The Odysseys is at least exciting!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Educational Divide Perpetuates Downward Drift

On this past Wednesday, the New York Times had an interesting story about educational challenges facing cities like Dayton, OH.
Dayton sits on one side of a growing divide among American cities, in which a small number of metro areas vacuum up a large number of college graduates, and the rest struggle to keep those they have.
The winners are metro areas like Raleigh, N.C., San Francisco, and Stamford, Conn., where more than 40 percent of the population has a college degree. Metro areas like Bakersfield, Calif., Lakeland, Fla., and Youngstown, Ohio, where less than a fifth of the population has a college degree, are being left behind. The divide shows signs of widening as college graduates gravitate to places with a lot of other college graduates and the atmosphere that creates.
“This is one of the most important developments in recent economic history of this country,” said Enrico Moretti, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, who recently published a book on the topic, “The New Geography of Jobs.”
(Well-Educated Flock to Some Cities, Leaving Others Behind)
The article made me think of Joel Garreau's book about edge cities and Robert Reich's discussion of the geographic concentration to areas like Princeton, NJ, of what he then called "the symbolic-analysts".