Dear Love Bunnies,
March is hard. That’s why it’s called March and not stroll. Mercury retrograde is over, and that’s pleasing. But wait! Look: Saturn retrograde in Scorpio, Mars retrograde in Libra. Picture some douchebag at the club; he keeps stepping on your feet; then he leaves and two more appear outta nowhere. These new guys are like, “Oh, taking up space and jabbing you with my elbows? Don’t mind if I do. You want to have a hard time keeping your commitments and honoring your responsibilities and being honest about what you want? Cool, because that is what I’m about to serve up.” Bunnies, don’t worry. I went right up to those guys and was like: “Come at me, Bro.”
-With Fierce Protection, Galactic Rabbit
I love Galactic Rabbit and the Hairpin.
Recently the Federal Reserve released transcripts of its monetary policy meetings during the fateful year of 2008. And, boy, are they discouraging reading.
Partly that’s because Fed officials come across as essentially clueless about the gathering economic storm. But we knew that already. What’s really striking is the extent to which they were obsessed with the wrong thing. The economy was plunging, yet all many people at the Fed wanted to talk about was inflation.
Matthew O’Brien at The Atlantic has done the math. In August 2008 there were 322 mentions of inflation, versus only 28 of unemployment and 19 of systemic risks or crises. In the meeting on Sept. 16, 2008 — the day after Lehman fell! — there were 129 mentions of inflation versus 26 mentions of unemployment and only four of systemic risks or crises.
Historians of the Great Depression have long marveled at the folly of policy discussion at the time. For example, the Bank of England, faced with a devastating deflationary spiral, kept obsessing over the imagined threat of inflation. As the economist Ralph Hawtrey famously observed, “That was to cry ‘Fire, fire!’ in Noah’s flood.” But it turns out that modern monetary officials facing financial crisis were just as obsessed with the wrong thing as their predecessors three generations before.
And it wasn’t just a bad call in 2008. Much supposedly informed opinion has remained fixated on the supposed threat of rising prices despite being wrong again and again….
What accounts for inflation obsession? One answer is that obsessives failed to distinguish between underlying inflation and short-term fluctuations in the headline number, which are mainly driven by volatile energy and food prices. Gasoline prices, in particular, strongly influence inflation in any given year, and dire warnings are heard whenever prices rise at the pump; yet such blips say nothing at all about future inflation.
They also failed to understand that printing money in a depressed economy isn’t inflationary.
…The point, however, is that inflation obsession has persisted, year after year, even as events have refuted its supposed justifications. And this tells us that something more than bad analysis is at work. At a fundamental level, it’s political.
…The overall picture is that most conservatives are inflation obsessives, and nearly all inflation obsessives are conservative.
Why is this the case? In part it reflects the belief that the government should never seek to mitigate economic pain, because the private sector always knows best.”
Into every life, a little pain must fall.
My friends and I, all well into our Medicare years, often joke that if nothing hurts, you must be dead. In truth, pain is not a normal part of aging, experts note, and should not be ignored.
A mistaken belief that pain is inevitable is just one of many barriers to proper care for the elderly.
On this date in 1870, New Yorkers got a look at the first subway tunnel.
It was only 120 feet long, but it was a hit.
Visitors who “expected to find a dismal, cavernous retreat under Broadway opened their eyes at the elegant reception room, the light, airy tunnel and the general appearance of taste and comfort,”The Times reported.
The transit visionary Alfred Ely Beach built the tunnel to demonstrate his proposed pneumatic subway line.
Eventually the tunnel carried passengers for several hundred feet. More than 400,000 people rode it in its first year.
But the project fell victim to the political and financial winds.
It would be three decades before New Yorkers had a subway that went anywhere.
Redefining the argument may help us find strategies that can actually bring about change. The turning point in the tobacco wars was when the question changed from the industry’s — “Do people have the right to smoke?” — to that of public health: “Do people have the right to breathe clean air?” Note that both questions are legitimate, but if you address the first (to which the answer is of course “yes”) without asking the second (to which the answer is of course also “yes”) you miss an opportunity to convert the answer from one that leads to greater industry profits to one that has literally cut smoking rates in half.
Similarly, we need to be asking not “Do junk food companies have the right to market to children?” but “Do children have the right to a healthy diet?” (In Mexico, the second question has been answered positively. Shamefully, we have yet to take that step.) The question is not only, “Do we have a right to bear arms?” but also “Do we have the right to be safe in our streets and schools?” In short, says Freudenberg: “The right to be healthy trumps the right of corporations to promote choices that lead to premature death and preventable illnesses. Protecting public health is a fundamental government responsibility; a decent society should not allow food companies to convince children to buy food that’s bad for them or to encourage a lifetime of unhealthy eating.”
Oddly, these are radical notions. But aren’t they less “un-American” than allowing a company to maximize its return on investment by looking to sell to children or healthy adults in ways that will cause premature mortality? As Freudenberg says, “Shouldn’t science and technology be used to improve human well-being, not to advance business goals that harm health?” Two other questions that can be answered “yes.””