Today, while walking (the abnormally far distance) to the bus in moderate rain, a stereotypical gangsta rolled up next to me in his Mustang, music thumping (lyrics chanting about firearms and various drugs), and asked if I needed a ride. I was caught very off-guard, and with little time to think about it I said "Sure!"
I got in and his extremely aggressive driving immediately made me a little worried I wouldn't make it to school that day. He pulled in at the gas station and said he needed to buy some cigarettes. After he came back out he got in, turned the music up even more, drove as fast as ever, and lit up a Marlboro. Note I don't smoke, and I try to avoid smoke for health reasons, not to mention there is good evidence that smoking while driving increases accidents. I was uncomfortable. This was in no way a normal situation for me. But despite these feelings, the world is a better place because I got in that car and stayed.
Racial tensions in the country are still a bit high, especially in the Midwest. I'll be honest, Midwesterners are sweet, and kind, and inviting, but the racial divide is much more blatant than out West. The choice that this man made to offer me a ride showed his willingness to surpass the tension between blacks and whites, especially considering the striking stereotype both of us convey. By accepting his offer I helped him continue the feeling of trust for people different from himself, and I validated his desire to be kind. It can be a great service to accept the help of others, it helps them become the people they desire to be.
I am now very happy to have had to opportunity to accept this disconcerting ride. I am now a better person for sacrificing some comfort (and possibly - but hopefully not - some health) in order to have a friendly relation with someone from a very different demographic. I am also filled with hope for humanity, that in fact the current tensions between people of differing races, or income classes, or geographic locations can be transcended, that we can work toward the goal of being of one heart and one mind, with no poor among us.
A quick glance at an excerpt from an economics publication and... BAM! Of course! It all makes sense! How could I have not known! (See picture)
There is a serious disconnect between economists and normal people. I once had an econ professor suggest that economists purposefully use multiple words of a common definition precisely to maintain their allure of being the only people who know what's going on, and so maintain their own importance and job security. Another of my former professors recently posted to social media that the nature of finance research is simple 'rent-seeking' - the idea that one creates the necessity of payments to his/herself without actually creating any value.
Another defect of the general public's understanding of economics is that many "educated" college graduates have taken one, or two, or three economics courses and they think they REALLY know economics, making all sorts of claims based purely upon the content of their coursework. Equally as detrimental are those with the same coursework experience who see a world where none of the simplistic models in Econ 201 hold and decide that economics as a discipline is wholly worthless. For the record, the idea of supply and demand equilibrium was conceived over 300 years ago, and the theory of convergence given a certain elasticity (your typical supply and demand curves) was new research 128 years ago. Modern economic research is much more complicated and attempts to get at all those little things that just don't work very well conceptually with rudimentary methods from sophomore microeconomics (or senior microeconomics for that matter).
I plan to write a book. I plan to write a number of books. I've begun writing a number of books (and I really have no idea where the drafts have gone...). In any case, one book I plan to write is a guide for normal people to understand modern economic research, notably economic analysis pertinent to policy. Voters and politicians alike struggle with the ins and outs of economic analysis, and all sorts of ridiculous claims are made for and against every angle and perspective.
Here are a few tidbits I expect my book to cover more thoroughly:
There was an article on WSJ today about how President Trump tweeted that he asked China to reduce the US-China trade deficit by $1B, while others report that the request was actually $100B. Every week I am stupefied again and again with the ridiculousness of Trump's tweets.
Apparently Trump posts his own tweets, some are of his own authorship and others are written by/with the help of aids. I am struck by the continuity of false, offensive, and silly tweets - it seemed that if Trump wasn't thought credible before, he is only injuring himself further. And then I had an epiphany.
Trump has never had the general support of the establishment, and let's be honest, if he did a turnaround today and became the man we wish he were, the establishment would probably still reject him. He built his election on the blue-collar attitude, and it worked. He HAS to maintain that support of the blue-collar culture, otherwise he will have no support at all. How can he do that? By being controversial in the news. When people (like me) are repeatedly critical of him, those who originally supported him are always on edge to support him, to argue, to be angry and defensive. If Trump were to lie low for a few months, he'd go to the back of everyone's mind, including his supporters, then when he did something that was generally criticized, his supporters wouldn't be prepared to resist on his behalf, they wouldn't have the fire welling up within them.
I'm still unsure whether Trump's election success was a fascinatingly calculated scheme of victory, or just dumb luck, but my opinion is that Trump's current trend of "Get in the news by saying something stupid" is absolutely purposeful. It continually maintains his image in the forefront of his supporters' minds, and keeps them with their hand on the hilt, ready at a moment's notice to ward off the foe (and honestly, prevents them from giving cool, collected consideration to Trump's really bad policies and personal shortcomings).
If we would stop talking about Trump it would likely be his downfall, and he and his staff know it. For Trump, maintaining presence by any means is a political technique, even a political weapon.
President Trump, in case you haven't seen... any news source at all... has decided we should really have some steel tariffs. And, of course, the EU and China are a little annoyed. Everyone should be annoyed. Especially when the President tweets about trade wars being good. In the words of my friend, "Good for who?", and in the words of myself in response, "Basically it's good for the US companies that make steel, but only in the short term."
Because I have to work on some homework for theoretical asset pricing and applied linear models I'll have to keep this post short, but COME ON. Protectionism is bad. It artificially raises prices - I mean that's the point. This means steel-using companies will reduce their steel consumption (which is why this is a short-lived triumph for domestic steel companies). This also means the price of steel dependent products made in the US will go up - but those produced outside the US won't. This makes US production less competitive worldwide and domestically. It raises prices for consumers, so they effectively can buy less, or if possible, they'll switch to buying imported goods. The impending trade wars will reduce demand for US goods even more, even in non-steel dependent products.
One could make the argument that we need to keep steel production available just in case a war or some such thing happens. Because steel isn't a tech-central product and nothing about it is perishable would be reasonable prep plants for "storage" and leave them unused until needed. A subsidy could be given in the form of a tax break for corporations that maintain such facilities. A reserve short term stockpile could be maintained that would last until domestic steel production could be reinstated. This seems a far better resolution that engaging in trade wars.
Protectionism is bad for businesses, it's bad for employees, it's bad for consumers, it's bad for other countries.... it's basically bad for everyone. Two thumbs down, Donald.