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J. Bradford DeLong
Berkeley, CA
J. Bradford DeLong is an economist teaching at the University of California at Berkeley.
Interests: history, economic history, information age, political economy, grand strategy, international relations, material culture., information technology, economics
Recent Activity
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**Daniella Thompson**: _Newly-Reshingled c. 1898 High-Peak-Gable House in the Elmwood District_ : 'Photo: Anthony Bruce, 2020: ---- #noted #2020-03-30 Continue reading
Posted 5 hours ago at Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality
3086 words The large populations and low levels of material wealth and agricultural productivity in China and India checked the growth of wages. Workers could be cheaply imported and employed at wages not that far above the physical subsistence level. Low wage costs meant that commodities produced in countries open to Asian immigration were relatively cheap. And competition from the Malaysian rubber plantations checked growth and even pushed down wages of the Brazilian rubber tappers as well. The late nineteenth century saw living standards and wage rates become and remain relatively low (although higher than in China and India) throughout the regions that were to come to be called the third world. And as wages in economies that were to become the global periphery were checked, the prospects for having a rich-enough middle class to provide demand for a strong domestic industrial sector ebbed rapidly. As a result, the chain of causation went thus: * The openness of some places where tropical goods could be produced to migration from China and India pushed down their prices in world markets. * Low prices in the world markets meant low wages everywhere tropical goods were produced. * Low wages meant no prosperous... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality
There were 2027 reported deaths in the U.S. from the novel coronavirus as of late on Mar 28—if our reporting systems have not yet broken down. With a 1% death rate, and with 3 weeks between infection and death, that means that as of Mar 7 there were 202700 coronavirus cases in the United States. Up through Mar 28 deaths have been doubling every three days, suggesting that before Mar 7 true cases were also doubling every three days: 1. If that that pace has continued since, by Mar 31 we will have had 8 further doublings: 52 million cases, 1/6 of the population. 2. If the curve bent to doubling every four days, by Mar 31 we will have had 6 further doublings: 13 million cases, 1/25 of the population, with an additional 30 million cases expected by April 7 3. If the curve bent to doubling every six days, by Mar 31 we will have had 4 further doublings: 3.2 million cases, 1/100 of the population, with an additional 3.8 million cases expected by April 7 4. If the curve bent to doubling every eight days, by Mar 31 we will have had 3 further doublings: 1.6 million... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality
Charles Pardee is supposed to have compared making monetary policy by the Federal Reserve Board by driving at high speed a car with its windshield painted black, peering into the rear view mirror for your only information about the road ahead. Because we have no testing, only deaths, that is our situation now. We know that three weeks ago the natural log of cases was increasing by two every week. And we hope that the curve has been powerfully bent since then... **NOTES: U.S. Coronavirus Deaths** : * BEND THE CURVE, PEOPLE!!!! * 2227 deaths as of 2020-03-28 * 2.001 is the log growth factor over the past week * 900,000 is what you get if you project that out over the next three weeks, to April 18: * The people who will die on or before Apr 18 will have caught the coronavirus by... now. They are baked in the cake: Unless the curve has already bent, they are toast. * 49,000,000 is what you get if you project that out over the next three weeks, to May 2: * The people who will die on or before May 2 will have caught the coronavirus by... Easter. * That... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality
**Nick Rowe**: _Relative Supply Shocks, Unobtainium, Walras' Law, and the Coronavirus_ : 'A temporary 100% output cut in 50% of the sectors (what the Coronavirus does) is very different from a 50% output cut in 100% of the sectors (what our intuitions might expect from supply shocks in aggregate macro models).... Here's the intuition.... Unobtainium is a very desirable good.... Someone actually invents a way to produce unobtainium. They can't produce it just yet, but everyone knows they will produce it, and sell it at an affordable price, a few months from now. What happens when they hear the news? Everybody... wants to save up to half their income, so they can spend it on unobtainium in a couple of months time.... That is pretty much what's happening with the Coronavirus, in the real world. Half the goods we used to buy are temporarily unobtainium. But we expect to buy them in a couple of months.... High intertemporal substitution can beat low cross-section substitution.... That's why we need temporarily looser monetary and fiscal policy. (Plus, we also need fiscal policy to redistribute between people differentially affected by the Coronavirus, but that's another story.) Think that's (basically) right... ---- #noted #2020-03-28 Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality
_The Weight Featuring Robbie Robertson and Ringo Starr_ : ---- #fortheweekend #music 32020-03-28 Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality
**Lizzie Burden**: _Trump’s Crusade to Reopen the Economy ‘May See Extra 5M Deaths’ and a Second Fiscal Bailout_ : 'Economists know the shutdown can’t last forever. As Padhraic Garvey, head of research Americas at ING, said: “Individuals have been told to literally go home because there’s no work for them. They have families to support and at a certain point, the pendulum has to swing back to supporting them.” Nonetheless, there is consensus among economists that there is no trade-off between health and economics—yet. Jonathan Portes... “Immediately we... should be trying to control the health consequences as much as possible. After that, the aim is to make sure that fall in GDP doesn’t have long-term economic damage.... In six months’ time you may ask whether to keep some restrictions at some economic cost because a vaccine might come along, or say we should live with it as long as it’s contained and controlled and just deal with localised outbreaks and accept the negative health consequences. That’d be a reasonable public health debate to have in six months—but not now”... >...Economists are also unanimously deferential to the scientists. “You’re going to sacrifice people on the altar of what?” Anat Admati, professor... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality
**NOTES: U.S. Coronavirus Deaths** : * BEND THE CURVE, PEOPLE!!!! * 1696 deaths as of 2020-03-27 * 1.895 is the log growth factor over the past week * 500,000 is what you get if you project that out over the next three weeks, to April 17: * The people who will die on or before Apr 17 will have caught the coronavirus by... now. They are baked in the cake: Unless the curve has already bent, they are toast. * 22,000,000 is what you get if you project that out over the next three weeks, to May 1: * The people who will die on or before May 1 will have caught the coronavirus by... Easter. * That number is too large: that tells us that the epidemic is running its course between now and Easter—unless the curve is bent, or has already been bent. * Our last time to act to stop spread is... now **NOTES: State-by-State Coronavirus** : * Currently 4791 cases and 106 deaths in California: that's 121 _reported_ cases per million—ranking 31st among states in the U.S... * If the death rate is 1%, then that means 265 _true_ CA cases per million on Mar 6...... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality
Someone who wishes me ill sends me this from Niall Ferguson, published on Mar 16. Two weeks from Mar 16 is Mar 30, three days from now. By then the U.S. is likely to have 180,000 _reported_ cases and 3400 coronavirus deaths. I guess the big lesson is: mommas, don't let your kids grow up ignorant of exponentials... **Niall Ferguson** (2020-03-16): _Opinion: The First Coronavirus Error Was Complacency_ : 'In the panic of the pandemic, we are making a lot of category errors.... If the whole of U.S. goes the way of Italy then, adjusting for population, within two weeks there will 95,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and nearly 7,000 dead... ---- #noted #2020-03-27 Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality
**Comment of the Day**: _Joe Barsugli_ : 'I agree with Jubilee, but Hunker Down has some problems. While I agree with the broad outline, we simply don't know how much hunkering down is needed to "reach a level that reduces the caseload to what the medical system can currently handle, but should not be pushed far beyond that point." I'm not sure you can fine-tune it. European experience seems to indicate that half-measures are much less than half-effective. Better to hit it hard with all you've got up front and hope you start to see results in 10-12 days. If the current measures prove adequate, then they have to be run for several cycles. China was extreme in its measures and beat the virus back in 6+ weeks. Lightening up too much too soon would lead to a second wave before we are ready to handle it... >...While the immediate goal is to keep the ICUs from being overwhelmed, the goal over the next month should also be to limit the percentage of the population that gets it in the first place. As we go from one in a thousand cases to one in a hundred to one in ten,... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality
**Comment of the Day**: _Rad Geek_ : 'Rad Geek said in reply to Ebenezer Scrooge: "A really expert journo collects an awful lot of signal with very little added noise, even if the originals are mentally accessible and noise-free .... a general-purpose journo in a specialized beat is trouble, even if the journo is smart and fair. ... A good lawyer or journo can manipulate symbolic knowledge far better than those who have the tacit knowledge..." I don't think we disagree about the features that make a really expert journalist very valuable on a well-defined beat. Sure: and under ordinary conditions in an informational ecosystem, that's sometimes a pretty good reason to read newspaper reports more than you read abstracts, etc. But what I'm concerned about is what happens in extraordinary conditions in the informational ecosystem, when—for example—the sheer volume, rapid-fire turn-around times, and tremendously wide scope of issues involved mean that a lot more "general-purpose" journos are suddenly put onto specialized beats, or onto writing generalist stories that really essentially involve complicated issues from a specialized beat. (Call that the demand-side worry.)... >...And, also, even expert journos on a specialized beat do rely on a lot of the institutional... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality
**Comment of the Day**: _'Joe Barsugli _ : 'At this point cases are not the best metric. Hospitalizations are goo now, until (and if) that system gets saturated. Then deaths... ---- #commentoftheday #2020-03-27 Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality
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Could "reopening America for business" on Easter backfire? Oh, yes it could. Oh, it definitely could backfire: BIGTIME. The experience so far is that, in a society not undertaking social distancing, coronavirus cases double in a little less than five days—grow 100-fold in a month. If, say, the virus has been largely suppressed and only 10000 in the U.S. have it Easter week, then after the u.S. is opened up 1 million will have it on May 15, and then 100 million on June 15, at which point the epidemic will have pretty much run its course. But from May 1 to June 15 hospitals will have been overwhelmed. The likely death rate will have been not 1% but 6%. 5 million additional Americans will have died. In return we will have produced an extra $1 trillion of stuff. That's a tradeoff of $200K per life, which is not a good tradeoff to aim at making. And, while it could be better, it could be much worse... The right way to do it is to lockdown while we test, test, test, test, test: * Test a random-sample panel of 10000 Americans weekly to get a handle on the progress of... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality
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**Neil Ferguson**: _UK Has Enough Intensive Care Units For Coronavirus, Expert Predicts_ : '[Neil Ferguson] said the UK should have the testing capacity “within a few weeks” to copy what South Korea has done and aggressively test and trace the general population. New data from the rest of Europe suggests that the outbreak is running faster than expected, said Ferguson. As a result, epidemiologists have revised their estimate of the reproduction number (R0) of the virus. This measure of how many other people a carrier usually infects is now believed to be just over three, he said, up from 2.5. “That adds more evidence to support the more intensive social distancing measures,” he said. His comments come as a team at the University of Oxford released provisional findings of a different model that they say shows that up to half the UK population could already have been infected... It assumes that most people who contract the virus don’t show symptoms and that very few need to go to hospital. “I don’t think that’s consistent with the observed data,” Ferguson told the committee... ---- #noted #2020-03-27 Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality
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**NEJM Group**: _Updates on the Covid-19 Pandemic_ : 'From the New England Journal of Medicine, NEJM Journal Watch, NEJM Catalyst, and other trusted sources... **Worldometer**: _Coronavirus Update (Live)_ ... **Financial Times**: _Coronavirus Tracked_ ... **CDPH**: _nCoV2019 Updates_ ... **CDPH**: _News Releases 2020_ ... **Josh Marshall**: _Epidemic Science & Health Twitter List_ ... ---- #coronavirus #highlighted #publichealth #2020-03-27 Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality
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**Heather Boushey**: _The Economist as Anesthetist: Putting the Economy Under and Bringing the Economy Back Up_ : 'In response to the #coronavirus crisis, the nationwide economic shutdown has put the economy “on ice” so that it can be ramped back up after the health crisis is addressed. Concerns about falling into a deep and protracted #coronavirus recession are exacerbated by historically high economic inequality, which makes the United States particularly vulnerable to economic shocks. Policymakers should keep income flowing by helping small businesses pay their bills, ensuring any corporate assistance helps workers, boosting unemployment insurance, and providing #paidleave. The U.S. is one of only three industrialized countries that does not ensure every worker has access to paid time off when they are sick. We also need additional fiscal stimulus to ensure a recession does not turn into a full-scale economic depression. That means direct payments to families and more support for SNAP, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. We need to remember that the economy isn’t something that happens to us—it’s the direct result of choices that policymakers make. The only entity with the power to mobilize resources and not further exacerbate rising inequality at such a large scale... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality
Claudia Sahm, Joel Slemrod, and Matthew Shapiro have the baton on the effects of direct payments to people in cushioning the fall in aggregate demand during a recession. There are good reasons to fear that this supply shock induced recession will be different. But at the moment it is the best we got: **Claudia Sahm**: _'Research on payments to people in recessions..._ here are our past papers (with Joel Slemrod [and Matthew Shapiro]): 2008 payments: . 2008 payments vs 2009-10 Making Work Pay tax credits: . 2011-12 payroll tax cut: ... ---- #noted #2020-03-27 Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality
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I confess I am positively unmanned by the every-three-days doubling of _reported_ cases and deaths here in the United States. I had thought that we would see true cases doubling every seven days. And back when _reported_ cases started doubling every three days, I was encouraged, because I thought it meant that we were catching up on testing, and so getting closer to detecting the bulk of the symptomatic cases. But now it looks like that was wrong: _reported_ cases were doubling every three days because _true_ cases were doubling every three days—that is what deaths tell us was happening to _true_ cases up until three weeks ago. The lack of case curve-bending makes me think that testing is not improving. It makes me think that _reported_ cases are doubling every three days because _true_ cases are doubling every three days. That means that the Trump administration has only 40% as much time to get its ass in gear as I thought it did. And that means the chances it will are very very low indeed: I must confess it had never occurred to me back when China shut down Wuhan that we would simply not test everyone who presented... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality
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In a good world, Jim Stock would already be back in the Eisenhower old executive office building chairing the Council of Economic Advisors during this crisis. He is vastly more thoughtful, more confident, and more up to speed on the issues and the trade-offs that we face, economically, during this public health crisis. However, we are not in a good world. We are in a very bad one. Already, the United States his response to the coronavirus is the worst in the world. And it only looks as though the gap between us and other countries is going to grow over the next months: **Jim Stock**: _Coronavirus: Data Gaps and the Policy Response_ : 'Social distancing and business shutdowns... [affect] the case transmission rate β.... [One] policy design question is how to achieve that case transmission rate while minimizing economic cost. A second... is the optimal... β, trading off... economic cost[s]... against... deaths.... [We] lack... data.... Tests have been rationed.... The fraction of tests that are positive do not estimate the population rate of infection.... The COVID-19 asymptomatic rate... estimates in the epidemiological literature range from 0.18 to 0.86. However, the asymptomatic rate could be estimated accurately and quickly by... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality
Let me endorse this as a thoughtful assessment of how important it is to keep the economy from sending anybody a "you are bankrupt: shut down" signal by the economy in this public health crisis. Instead, every business and every workers should be being sent a "you are, at most, on pause: be ready to resume" signal by the economy. How to make sure that signal is sent requires fiscal stimulus an order of magnitude greater than the $2.2 trillion currently in the headlines. For one thing, it requires tolerance of inflation, as prices of medical equipment and necessities rise and as social distancing temporarily reduces productivity elsewhere in the economy: **Peter R. Orszag**: _Social Distancing Makes Sense Only With Huge Fiscal Stimulus_ : 'Mandating social distancing in response to the Covid-19 crisis requires socializing the economic costs of doing so. We as a society can’t reasonably require social distancing, with the massive economic consequences it entails, and believe that most of those costs should be privately borne. We therefore need to either abandon social distancing (thereby overwhelming health systems and sparking untold deaths) or enact much larger stimulus measures. And by much larger I mean far larger even than... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality
This is by a substantial margin the best thing I have seen on the coronavirus, and where we are with respect to it. My confidence that the Trump administration and the Republican senatorial majority are up to the task of organizing this is too low to measure: **Richard Danzig and Marc Lipsitch**: _Prepare Now for the Long War Against Coronavirus_ : 'It’s essential to clearly envision the problems we’ll face over the next 12 to 18 months and mobilize to respond right away. Here are five priority problems and the actions we should take now.... Minimizing errors and uncertainties about and maximizing confidence in our judgments about cure will soon become as important as present efforts at disease detection. People who recover from Covid-19 probably can work in hospitals, emergency response settings and ordinary jobs without fear of infection.... We need to identify these people and assess how soon after their recovery they become unlikely to infect others.... Assuring that someone has immunity against this new virus requires tests that are distinct from the PCR tests of nose and throat swabs now being used to identify infections. We need to develop and distribute antibody tests.... Problem: If current efforts at... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality
What more can I say, other than that Jonathan Wagner is right?: **Jonathan Wagner** : 'Donald Trump says: At 15 cases: "Within a couple of days, it'll be close to zero". At 9,000 cases: "It's a war. It's a very tough situation". At 46,000 cases: We're safe. Let's reopen America. Are you ready to trust that kind of unstable judgment right now? I'm definitely not... ---- #noted #2020-03-27 Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality
As near as I can see, the Trump administration's coronavirus strategy—if it can be said to have a strategy at all—is to dither, doing the very minimum that the public health experts drive it to do well hoping that coronavirus will, like the standard flu, meltaway as the northern hemisphere warms up in the spring. This is a very low odds existential Bette to be making. If anyone has any insight into why they are making it, I would appreciate being dropped a line. Here we have somebody who knows what he is talking about explaining why this is the most draw-to-an-inside-straightish draw to an inside straight: **Marc Lipsitch**: _Seasonality of SARS-CoV-2: Will COVID-19 Go Away on Its Own in Warmer Weather?_ : 'Even seasonal infections can happen “out of season” when they are new. New viruses have a temporary but important advantage—few or no individuals in the population are immune to them. Old viruses, which have been in the population for longer, operate on a thinner margin—most individuals are immune, and they have to make do with transmitting among the few who aren’t. In simple terms, viruses that have been around for a long time can make a living—spread... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality
If you do not test anybody, you do not recognize that you have some cases.
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**Shiv Ramdas** : 'Reminder that this was the official US govt position 30 days ago... ---- #coronavirus #orangehairedbaboons #publichealth #2020-03-26 Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality