A Bit About Me

By James Kwak

As loyal readers know, I spent the summer working and mainly not-blogging. I’m back in school now, but this semester will be busier than previous ones. I’m taking two clinics, and I have to make up for phoning it in last fall when I was writing 13 Bankers. (Simon and I wrote it in four months while I was in school and he was teaching three classes.) Also, I only have one more year of school left in my life, I’m paying more than $45,000 for it, and I’d like to take it seriously.

So the blog is going to be a somewhat lower priority in the past.* I’m hoping to post a few times a week this semester, if I have enough original ideas. I hope you will keep reading; I assume most people get the blog via email or an RSS reader, so frequency shouldn’t be an issue for you.

It’s possible that after school I will go back to more serious blogging; I do think it’s a valuable and potentially powerful medium, and certainly a lot more gratifying than writing academic papers.

Thanks again for reading.

* In my defense, most of the high-volume economics bloggers are either tenured professors (Cowen, Thoma, DeLong, Krugman) or people whose job is to blog (Salmon, Klein). (Yves Smith is an exception; how she finds the time I don’t know.)

32 thoughts on “A Bit About Me

  1. Thanks James. No doubt you’ll breeze through your final year at law school with laurels. Four months to write a New York Times best seller … all the while at Yale law school. It will be interesting to see what follows.

  2. James, good luck…those are certainly the right priorities for you. Thank you for yeoman service in running this site. I’ve learned a lot from all who post on it.

    On of the unfortunate realities of a blog site is that postings need to be well-written and thought out to spur thoughtful commentary, and frequent to focus and direct responses. As well, this site has served a very useful purpose to focus your and Simon’s thoughts as you finished 13 Bankers, and to attempt to influence thought leaders’ opinions during the thick of the financial reform battle. In that purpose you have assuredly changed a few opinions, and given opportunity for many others who would not have had the chance to speak their minds.

    Now, with the major congressional battles of the financial crisis behind, the prospect of further progressive reforms fading in the glare of the coming midterm elections, the country settling in to cope with a bleaker and austere future, and your own attention needing to be turned to more pressing needs,
    it may be time to consider that the arc of this site may have reached its peak. Over the summer, I’ve found the responses less and less discursive and more shrill, less informative and hopeful, more bemoaning and bitter. As would be appropriate for a subject that has already been resolved in the halls of power.
    That’s too bad, because the discussions that took place during 2009 and the early part of 2010 were some of the best I’ve ever read on a blogsite.
    Perhaps if the financial question is reopened for meaningful discussion and action – I fear in the middle of an even deeper crisis – baselinescenario can again become a vibrant nexus of stimulating discussion. But for now, it waits for that opportunity.
    Again, good luck in pursuing your own opportunities. I’ve appreciated your efforts.

  3. So what are you saying? No more technical help for your personal financial profile…?

    People serve as their own baseline. If you took an X-ray of an individual’s life in 2000, and compare it to an X-ray of their life today, what cancer ate out their organs? “Bitter” discussion or war?

    Here’s proof you realized that “economics”, especially playing-god economics, had a “human” factor that DESERVES to be served by at least SOME human activity being devoted to “profit” that is not:

    More misery for others = more money for ME ME ME

    Oregeno a month ago, “Lavrenti,
    I do believe you enjoy a good argument. On the subject of Dr. Hawking, global warming, and interstellar migration – I haven’t followed Dr. Hawking’s comments for some time and don’t really care. He long since has lost relevance for me though his earlier contributions to physics and cosmology were seminal.
    All scientists AND clerics are human, and subject to human limitations, including ego, insecurity, and far more than the 7 enumerated deadly sins.
    Once dogma and ego replace methodical inquiry and self-reflection in any human system, be it scientific, philosophical, or belief, the system and the individual lose their effectiveness.
    To the extent that the world’s scientists continue to raise their voices warning us of our overreach (our tendency to act in dominion of this world rather than in stewardship), and presenting evidence in support of their concern, I’m all for it.

    August 9, 2010”

    One can always expect a “Russian” to disappear…especially a “Beria” :-)

  4. Second the above comments. It’s quality not quantity that matters. The posts on this Blog have done more to awaken me to the reality of today’s world than practically any other Blog.

    And I totally second your comment about Yves Smith – that lady has access to more hours in the day than I could ever dream about!

  5. I’m not sure what you’re saying, Annie…my participation in this site had nothing to do with financial advice.
    I enjoyed the intellectual give and take and the very valuable economics education that this website provided over the past year and a half, from both the blogmasters and the commenters. As the financial crisis has taken its course and the “solutions” become more crystallized, that give and take has given way. This is to be expected. Going forward, a lot of work needs to be done to restructure our economy and our society to preserve the middle class. I’d love it if we could continue the discussions that are so necessary to doing so. Are you game?

  6. I’ll still read everything you have time to write–you’re at the top of my list in the econ blog area.

    What horrifies me is the $45,000. There is something very wrong with a country where a year’s education at any level costs that much. I don’t know what I’d have paid for my Ph.D at the University of Chicago if I hadn’t had the GI BIll to solve the problem, but if it had been anything like that much, inflation adjusted, I’d probably have sent my life working on some country newspaper for a pittance instead of teaching history in some pretty decent colleges.

    Best of luck with your studies!

  7. Years of discussion and no mention of the SPECTACULAR wastes of money that multi-national corporations incurred putting out e-toys, “medicines” and don’t-work-right cars that no one wanted!

    We all have a pet peeve and mine is the amount of “stuff” that is NOT being recycled that the whole “complex” chain of the computer industry generated as real toxic waste. So what’s the spin there, dump it in someone else’s yard so that they can’t grow food and will die? (it works for ME ME ME)

    Always focusing on how “government” wastes money on stuff like health care and social security, and “private industry” does not waste precious COLLECTIVE resources?!

    You can’t walk away leaving swords laying around without any plan to beat them back into plow shares, so to speak. What the heck kind of “idea” is that?!

    For starters, more “research” needs to go into making plastics that are NOT going to “decompose”. Durable plastics are useful for infrastructure, architecture and energy. One new IMMEDIATE job creating industry.

    Another, of course, is MORE re-cycling. Also an IMMEDIATE job creator. The more you can re-cycle your “stuff”, the more sustainable you are…

    No one is going to let “financial services” walk away privatizing the PROFITS of WAR and leaving collateral damage with the masses. That’s just downright delusional so remove yourselves from all blogs and go seek help. The Himalayas have long been in the refuge monastery for mercenaries business. You can blog from there via satellite about your personal conversions and conversations with “god” about the “meaning” of it all and it will no doubt enjoy a “niche” blog success.

    The rest of us DESERVE and NEED to get back to “chopping water and carrying wood” without all the PROVEN metaphysical errors of “unfunded” wars,

    or is that “chop wood and carry water”? Either way, you get the point…

    So there, two REALISTIC and immediate job-creating “ideas” coming to you from a person NOT looking to save a toxic portfolio.

    The conversation is actually FAR from over, but you are right that it IS over for the “financial” wizards who only had the mission to freeze hell for their own private posterity.

  8. Absolutely, I’m in! I was hoping I wasn’t understanding correctly, so thanks for replying.

    Just gave two examples of IMMEDIATE job creating industry in another post below.

    And if there is no $$$ available, print our own :-)

  9. Actually, that $45,000 tuition is directly related to some of the issues discussed on this blog.

    If you go back to the 1960’s, a year’s tuition at an elite private university was under $1,000. Student loans were more or less non-existent and financial aid in the form of grants relatively abundant. In addition, there were direct subsidies from the Federal government to some forms of higher education.

    Then all that changed. The government stopped subsidizing higher education and instead promoted student debt. They legislated loan guarantees for student loans and set a guaranteed level of profit on those loans for the banks. With that gift from Uncle Sam in their pockets, the banks went out and flooded the market with student loans.

    So, suddenly a lot of “money” (debt, really) chasing “education.” Of course, there wasn’t anything particularly innovative going on in education at the time that could justify extra cost. So the universities began to soak up that money, competing for it by adding on frills and amenities. But not by improving the basic product–in fact, over time, that has largely deteriorated by most accounts.

    This same debt-fueled education bubble also helped spawn lots of phony “trade” schools that took the money, left you with the debt, and gave you worthless credentials that didn’t qualify you for any real jobs. (And if you remained chronically unemployed, too bad–you can’t discharge this debt in bankruptcy.)

    So that is how it came to pass that today a year of higher education at an elite private university costs $40-50,000. We have the banksters and their government lackeys to thank for that. Today most people leave college with 5-figure debt, and those with a graduate or professional degree have debt well into the 6 figures. They live as indentured servants thereafter.

  10. Is the pizza still great in New Haven? The second best thing about Yale, besides the education.

  11. 大學之道,在明明德,在親民,在止於至善。

    Thanks, James. While Simon may be Baseline Scenario’s brains (arguable, I’ll allow), you are surely its heart and soul. We’ll miss your equanimity. Carry on.

  12. I am simply thankful for any insightful analysis you care to share, no matter how infrequent! Thanks for contributing intelligent debate to the mix and enjoy your last semester of shcool.

  13. Hmm…I’m glad you responded earlier in a more positive tone. Sure there is LOTS to talk about, and even more to do. But right now the entire country seems totally self-absorbed in the politics of polarization and rage, with little interest in constructive dialog. When a political opponent is considered your enemy, and moderation and respect a sign of character weakness instead of maturity, nothing can be realized in the civic sphere. Hence my discussion with Lavrenti about the role of religion and rationality in human affairs.
    You’re quite right that a return to a more concrete economy, communitarian values, and constrained corporatism is sorely needed. Some way of warping exponential growth capitalism into a system that rewards personal initiative but that recognizes the true costs of our endeavors is a part of that.
    And I’d really love to read more posts by Stats Guy.

  14. James, thanks for all the effort and the time you put into this blog! Enjoy the school and rest assured that many people will continue coming to this site.
    I hope Professor Johnson will pick up some the load too :-)

  15. It’s LABOR DAY Weekend.

    There IS lots of work to do, as there always is, around the “house” – USA. The unemployment is UN-NATURAL.

    Not a single person I know is “self-absorbed in the politics of polarization and rage”. Not even the few who were into it as little as 3 months ago.

    If we have D.C. and “media” continue to BELIEVE that their own bs propaganda machine of “perception is reality” is still working…like I wrote before – USA does NOT do “delusional” well since two-thirds of the country KNOW that the one-third making the most noise IS delusional.

    I think giving TWO immediate large scale job creating projects a “voice” is POSITIVE. Especially two that are NEEDED to “save the planet”.

    Daddy Koch would have been on the plastics/polymer being NON-degradable by now – there’s a reason the phrase “rich man’s idiot sons” came about…and USA is way behind with industrial material recycling…

    The Boss, “…poor man wannabe rich, rich man wannabe king, and a king ain’t satisfied ’till he rules everything…”

    As fab as this blog is, it certainly did present one “social” aspect more clearly – it lacked “diversity”, big time. Pretty sure I was the only one with experience in how to protect “patient safety.”

  16. “Not a single person I know is “self-absorbed in the politics of polarization and rage”. Not even the few who were into it as little as 3 months ago.”

    That is excellent. In my smallish circle that is also the case – but it seems that immediately outside of it the polarization is palpable. Of course, the economy where I live is abysmal with real un/underemployment rates approaching 25%. Let’s hope that the next 3 months sees a continuation in the civic awakening you’ve witnessed.

  17. This blog is among the most interesting, challenging and rewarding that I follow. Whatever you can offer while observing your other priorities will be welcomed and appreciated.

    Yes, $45,000 is unconscionable, unless you’re guaranteed a spot on Wall Street (so you can then become a 16th St lobbyist), or at least an appointment to the Superior Court in Connecticut. Maybe there is a connection? (:_()

    Best wishes for your continued success.

  18. It is always enlightening to read your posts, James. I’d love to hear about the death penalty case you worked on this summer. Where might you blog about that?

  19. Dear James, Your posts have been clear, concise & informed. You informed and challenged us & your presence will be missed.

  20. Yes, it’s awesome. But I usually get takeout, and Sally’s never answers the phone, and Pepe’s has an unpredictable time it takes to fulfill orders, so I usually order from Modern.

  21. OK. I hope your client gets off death row, and ultimately, that the death penalty be deemed cruel and unusual punishment by the Supreme Court, leading to the end of it in all 50 states.

  22. James
    Greetings from a rainy Dublin and thanks for your many insights. Things would be hopeless without dedicated people like you. Good luck with your law career and everything else.

  23. I’m going to keep repeating it every day,

    STOP PAYING ATTENTION TO THE WIZARD BEHIND THE MEDIA CIRCUS CURTAIN – (“step right up folks and burn this book”)

    and so should everyone else until we catch up to equal the total number of times we were called “stupid” by the wizards just since 2008 – to head back any further into the decade is too dark and not useful – we’ll leave the analysis to “history”, probably on some other planet that has been watching our TV – those transmissions travel FAR – imagine what they’ll write about Spaceship Earth – yikes!

Comments are closed.