Category: Housekeeping

Moving On

By James Kwak

I’ve decided not to post on The Baseline Scenario anymore. I’ve thought about this on and off during the several years that the site has been mostly dormant, but I never pulled the trigger, mainly because this blog still has thousands of email subscribers and an unknown number of followers on Facebook. But I obviously haven’t been into blogging for a long time now, and it feels weird to continue using a platform whose peak was in 2010 and 2011 (when we were regularly listed, with reason, as one of the most important finance and economics blogs on the Internet). As you’ve probably noticed, Facebook, Twitter, and the consolidation of media platforms (the Times, the Atlantic, Slate, Vox, etc.) has killed off most independent blogging. In addition, while Simon and I rarely disagree on anything, we tend to care and write about different things, as evidenced by our latest books—his on investing in science and technology to create better jobs, mine on partisan politics and expanding the welfare state. Both of us also write about issues that have strayed far from the original focus that drew in our core readers—primarily, the financial crisis and financial regulation. For example, the book I’m working on now is about injustice in the criminal legal system.

I owe this blog a lot. Without the blog, there would have been no “Quiet Coup” and hence no 13 Bankers, which got me fifteen minutes of fame, an academic job, and a new career that has lasted a decade so far. There would not have been the day that Larry Summers sent an email to the National Economic Council staff saying that The Baseline Scenario was required reading. I would not have met some good friends, some of whom have gone on to be far more influential than I ever was.

The blog itself will stay up indefinitely, taking up space on the Internet. Simon may choose to post here in the future, so don’t cancel your email subscription if you have one.

I will continue to write, occasionally at least. The primary place I will post things is Medium; you can find me at https://jamesykwak.medium.com/. For a while I’ve been posting articles in both locations, there and here. I just posted an article about this year’s presidential election that you can read on Medium. I’d be flattered if you decided to follow me there. I also have a Twitter account, of course; I spend little time on Twitter (because it’s awful), but links to things that I write get posted there. I have no plans to use Facebook (because it’s also awful).

Good bye, and thank you for reading.

Changes

By James Kwak

You may have noticed that my blogging has tailed way off over the past few months—to, well, just about nothing. You probably noticed that it was pretty spotty for a long time before that. The main reason is that I’ve been busy with a new teaching job, which requires some effort on academic publications, and raising two small children. The other major factor is that I often just find I don’t have much that’s original to say. Financial regulation is a pretty heavily covered field, and I don’t have the time to be a real expert on, say, derivatives clearinghouses, and—believe it or not—I generally try to avoid posting if I don’t have something new to add. I tried to get back into the flow in the spring semester, when I was only teaching one class, and that worked for a while. But at the beginning of the summer I started doing some part-time consulting for my old company (I’m on unpaid leave from my law school this semester), and that’s made it impossible to keep up with the news, much less write something interesting about it.

That said, I still like to write. I’ve started posting occasionally on Medium, which I like both for the gorgeous interface and because it isn’t organized as a reverse-chronological list—which means that I don’t have to worry as much about saying something newsworthy before the moment passes. This week I wrote about playing Minecraft with my daughter (OK, it’s mainly about the Microsoft acquisition) and one of my favorite topics, why megabanks run on bad software.

I don’t know how long I’ll be keeping this up, but in the meantime my plan is to write an occasional post here summarizing things that I write on Medium or elsewhere on the web. As usual, I’ll also post new articles to Twitter more or less immediately after publishing them.

Thanks for reading.

Why Raise Taxes on Poor People?

By James Kwak

My Atlantic column today is on the bizarre fixation that some conservatives have with taxing poor people, pointed out by Bruce Bartlett in his latest column. Here’s one explanation:

The other, even-more-disturbing explanation, is that Republicans see the rich as worthy members of society (the “producers”) and the poor as a drain on society (the “takers”). In this warped moral universe, it isn’t enough that someone with a gross income of $10 million takes home $8.1 million while someone with a gross income of $20,000 takes home $19,000. That’s called “punishing success,” so we should really increase taxes on the poor person so we can “reward success” by letting the rich person take home even more. This is why today’s conservatives have gone beyond the typical libertarian and supply-side arguments for lower taxes on the rich, and the campaign to transfer wealth from the poor to the rich has taken on such self-righteous tones.

Also, in some housekeeping news, I’ve switched to a personal Twitter account, @JamesYKwak. My blog posts should generate tweets in that account; Simon’s should generate tweets in the old account, @baselinescene. I’ll try to aggregate all the stuff I write in various places in my new Twitter stream.

The Baseline Scenario Facebook page should be aggregating both of our Twitter streams, but I had a little difficulty with it on Monday, so who knows. It seems like Facebook changes the way everything works every other Tuesday, so you never know when something will break.

New “Debt for Beginners” Section

By James Kwak

I created a new “Debt for Beginners” page on the White House Burning website. It’s a collection of previous articles, mainly written for a general audience, on deficits, the national debt, government spending, taxes, and the politics thereof. It’s intended as a starting point for people who want to get up to speed on these issues.

Loyal readers are probably familiar with all the material already.

Under Construction Thursday Night

With WordPress.com, you can’t modify your blog in a sandbox and then promote it to production. Things will be unsettled for a couple of hours.

Update: OK, I think I’m done for now. I’m pretty confident the page nav problem is fixed (thanks to a custom menu). I killed the image at the top of the page to save on white space. We may not need the third column, but we will next week. The Twitter feed filters out all tweets that are just robotic notifications of new blog posts, so it is 100% non-redundant with the rest of the blog.

If the fonts are too small (most common problem, I think), read this (bottom section).

Blog Housekeeping

By James Kwak

As you may have noticed, we’ve been making some changes to the site recently. The main thing is that I decided we needed two sidebars in order to make it into the 21st century. I’ve been looking for a good theme that has three columns but doesn’t have dynamic page navigation (those links across the top), because we have pages that shouldn’t really be made so prominent, but I couldn’t find one. So I switched to this theme, which has three columns but also has dynamic page navigation. Now the problem is that the page navigation is buggy: right now it’s showing pages that no longer exist, pages whose titles have changed, etc., and it seems to change mysteriously from time to time. I’m hoping it will settle down in the next few days. I’ve generally been very happing with wordpress.com, but this is totally infuriating.

Blog Archive Updated

By James Kwak

At the suggestion of an anonymous commenter, I decided to use Vienna, an open-source OS X RSS reader, to download monthly feeds and “print” them to PDFs, so the blog archive is now up to date. It wasn’t quite what I was looking for, since I wanted an online solution, but I don’t mind installing new software on my Mac as much as I minded it on a PC.

Blog Archive

By James Kwak

Last month a reader pointed out that many of the links in the blog archive were broken. The problem is that Feedbooks, the service I was using, no longer allows you to transform RSS feeds into PDFs. I fixed the links up through April 2010, but the problem is that I no longer have an elegant way of creating new PDF archives. Basically I need something that will allow me to type in an RSS feed and will generate a PDF from that feed.

For example, this is the feed for May 2010, in forward chronological order. When I type that feed URL into Chrome, I get raw XML. When I type it into Firefox, it gives me truncated versions of each post. When I type it into Safari, it gives me full posts, but in its infinite wisdom, it sorts them in reverse chronological order; the sort by date feature only allows reverse chronological. When I type it into Google Reader, I get full posts in the right order, but I lose the post dates (they are replaced by the current date). Bloglines is like Safari — it insists on reverse chronological. RSS 2 PDF only gives me post titles. FeedShow displays nothing.

If I could get any of these to work in any browser, I could just convert that to a PDF and be done. Any suggestions?

Update: To be clear, saving a web page (or anything) as a PDF is not the problem. It’s trivial on a Mac (and not that hard on a PC, either). The problem is getting the full text of all the posts in the feed, in the proper order, with the proper dates, on one web page.

Comment Unthreading

By James Kwak

I’m sorry to those who liked it, but I decided to turn off threaded comments. There were just too many examples of people “responding” to the first comment with something that, while perhaps related to the original post, was not related to that comment, apparently to get their input up to the top of the comment list. I decided this was a simpler solution than trying to block those people.

Update: Many people use the “@” symbol to show that they are replying to a previous comment. So if you want to reply specifically to a comment by “agreenspan,” for example, put “@agreenspan:” at the beginning of your comment.

Important Matters

By James Kwak

I know you can’t wait to hear my thoughts on the NCAA basketball tournament, but I’ve put them on my personal blog. I used to have a personal blog, and one my friends said he preferred it to The Baseline Scenario, so I started a new one recently for things that don’t have to do with economics, politics, business, the law, or the like. I post to it occasionally — just whenever I have something I want to say that doesn’t feel like a Baseline Scenario post. You can visit it or not, as you choose.

Branching Out

By James Kwak

Tomorrow I’ll be writing the February 18 post for the3six5, a collective diary written by 365 different people, mostly creative/artistic/media types (which I am not, in case you hadn’t noticed). The post should be a diary entry for that day — so, not an analysis of the Treasury’s proposal for Fannie and Freddie, for example. But if you have any suggestions feel free to let me know.

Upcoming Appearances

By James Kwak

I know you can see Simon somewhere virtually every week (OK, that’s a big exaggeration, but you know what I mean), but I wanted to let you know about a couple of talks I’ll be giving. I’ll be the featured speaker at the NS Capital Fall Financial Symposium in Stamford, Connecticut, on October 7 (free, but pre-registration required).

On September 15, I’ll be the keynote speaker at the Washington Credit Union League Convention in Seattle, but for that one I believe you need to register for the conference.

See you.

Update: I forgot to add that I’m also talking on a financial reform panel at Yale Law School on September 28 at 6 pm.

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.)

Summer “Vacation”

By James Kwak

Tomorrow I am beginning my summer internship (for those who don’t know, I’m a law student between my second and third years). I’m going to be working in death penalty defense.

Sometimes people ask me how I find the time to write this blog. The answer is that being a student at the Yale Law School takes a good deal less time than a real job. (You can, of course, make yourself very busy with clinics, journals, and other activities, but you don’t have to.) But this summer will be like a real job, and I intend to spend the time that I’m not working with my family, which means that I will be cutting way, way back on blogging this summer. I’m guessing that I’ll write about two posts per week, but I would not be too surprised if I don’t even manage that, and there’s a small chance I won’t have time for anything at all.

I expect that I’ll get back to something close to my usual frequency in late August or early September.

Thank you for taking the time to read the blog.