Thursday, January 29, 2009

News of the Day

Odd ends of political and economic news:
  • Nobel-Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman, patron saint of free-marketers everywhere, was sure that companies wouldn't knowingly produce dangerous goods, because it would be bad for their reputation and bad for business. Oh, really? Milton, meet the Peanut Corporation of America, which violated the law in various ways by shipping salmonella-infected peanut products, causing several deaths.
  • Wall Street had its worst year since the Great Depression, very likely, given all that happened in 2008, with the fallout of the subprime crisis causing mergers, bankruptcies, and suicides in the US and Europe. That didn't keep financial firms from awarding $18.4 billion in bonuses. Hello? Earth to Wall Street! Who did anything deserving a bonus last year?? NY State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is urging the Obama administration to examine whether any taxpayer-provided bailout money went into the bonuses. Update: The President said he found the size of the bonuses a disgrace.
  • The Obama stimulus plan passed the House yesterday, in a nearly straight party-line vote (a few blue-dog Dems voted against the plan). The public is behind a stimulus package, the Republicans are sinking in popularity, and none of them could get behind the plan? Sheesh. As Paul Krugman said, too bad Obama included tax cuts in a spirit of bipartisanship. The Republicans aren't playing that game; to them, bipartisanship means Democrats voting the way Republicans want them to, not anything like compromise.
  • Too bad about the tax cuts, but President Obama has done a few things that make me darned happy in his first week in office: started process of closing Guantanamo, ordered an end to torture, told the CIA to close its network of foreign prisons, gotten the ball rolling on approvals for the new California emissions standards, sent George Mitchell to knock a few heads together talk to everyone in the Middle East, started the process of getting higher fuel efficiency standards in place faster (the automakers object; as someone in the administration said "They've known this was coming for years and had plenty of time to plan for it"), started our military on figuring out the Iraq exit plan. Keep up the good work, Mr. President.
  • You probably joined me in rolling your eyes at the toy company that plans to bring out dolls resembling Malia and Sasha Obama, the President's daughters. Here's thoughtful commentary on the power of dolls from Body Impolitic, the body-image blog.
  • Buried in this feature about the White House dress code under the former and current presidents is a nice bit about how happy the President is to be living under the same roof as the rest of his family, after years of commuting between his job in Washington and his family in Chicago. He has breakfast with his daughters in the morning and helps get them off to school. Now there's a dream guy for you: he's President of the United States and he does the daily work of being a parent.


Anonymous said...

The fallacy of item 1 was proven by the muckrakers before Milton Friedman was even born. That was the evil that the FDA was created to address.

After reading of Alan Greenspan's stunned reaction on discovering that the world doesn't work like an Ayn Rand novel, I'm inclined to guess that the reason Friedman wasn't aware of this is that, like Greenspan, he was merely stupid. That's a strong word to use of a Nobel laureate, but in his case I think it applies.

Lisa Hirsch said...

There's always "blinded by ideology."