Schlock Mercenary: May 23, 2015
40 minutes ago
Comments, observations and thoughts from two left coast bloggers on applied statistics, higher education and epidemiology. Joseph is a new assistant professor. Mark is a marketing statistician and former math teacher.
This is also the core of the social security privatization movement. SS is a visible example of government helping people, it's very popular, and it's highly efficient.Is there a reason that we are allergice to the idea that different approaches work better for different problems? A screwdriver is a very useful tool but sometimes you need a saw instead. I would think that adaptability is the most important feature of a society or an economy. But for some reason we refocus adaptability to be entirely framed as competition between private firms without asking hard questions about where different approaches might have a comparative advantage.
(Well, the ideological affront of it all, plus what a sudden, massive infusion of taxpayer cash into the stock market would do for people who already have large holdings. Ahem.)
Gov't does a lot of things poorly, but social security, like higher ed, isn't one of 'em.
Now I’m just confused here. Who’s supposed to be “concerned” here? As a New Yorker subscriber, am I supposed to be concerned that dual-class firms underperformed the market? I just don’t get it. Why should I care? If the shares underperform the market, people can buy a piece of Facebook for less. That’s fine too, no?I think that Andrew would be completely correct in a perfect market (one in which all of Mark Thoma's issues are not present). If some financial products give a piece of the return while others give ownership plus return then people could choose which ones to purchase.
Several similar contests with the petty tyrants and marauders of the country followed, in all of which Theseus was victorious. One of these evil-doers was called Procrustes, or the Stretcher. He had an iron bedstead, on which he used to tie all travellers who fell into his hands. If they were shorter than the bed, he stretched their limbs to make them fit it; if they were longer than the bed, he lopped off a portion. Theseus served him as he had served others.
The secret is in a futuristic substance known as "LiquiGlide," a non-toxic, FDA-approved coating that can be applied to the interior of bottles. According to MIT PhD candidate Dave Smith, it's "kind of a structured liquid — it's rigid like a solid, but it's lubricated like a liquid." Regardless of what the bottle is constructed of, liquid or plastic, ketchup will flow out of it nearly effortlessly.
Interestingly enough, LiquiGlide wasn't initially designed to be used for ketchup — the original idea had the coating being used as an anti-icing coating, or a pipe coating that might help reduce oil and gas clogs. But as Smith explains, "most of these other applications have a much longer time to market; we realized we could make this coating for bottles that is pretty much ready. I mean, it is ready."
Weinberg is a particle physicist, one of the heroes who developed the Standard Model. Thus it is not surprising that most of his article concentrates on particle physics experiments. Unfortunately, I think that appeals for governments to pour more money into particle accelerators are A) doomed to fall on deaf ears, and B) not really very convincing in the first place. Let me explain why.
First of all, the Standard Model of particle physics is good. Really good. In fact, we've never conducted an experiment where it makes an incorrect prediction at any level of precision!! In that sense, it is one of the most successful theories ever. Now, the Model may or may not fail at ultra-high energies (such as those that could be produced inside a black hole or a multibillion-dollar particle accelerator), or at galactic distances. But these are not environments that will ever matter for human beings on Earth.
As Weinberg points out, the Standard Model is incomplete. It doesn't include gravity. But we have another theory, general relativity, whose track record is just as good, to describe gravity. Unifying these theories would increase our understanding of the nature of the Universe, but it's not clear whether it would improve our ability to predict our immediate surroundings.
In other words, new particle accelerators may be able to answer interesting questions, but they are unlikely to produce much of technological value.
In fact, this has proven true for the last several generations of particle accelerators. We've discovered a zoo of new particles, and these discoveries have improved our theories greatly. But none of these new particles has been something we can exploit for technological applications. In the early 20th century, new fundamental physics led rapidly to applications like nuclear bombs, semiconductors, lasers, and GPS. But to my knowledge, nobody is even trying to make a device that exploits the properties of B-mesons or neutrino mass.
To this, add another problem, which Weinberg discusses: We actually have no idea if the "next generation" of particle accelerators would find anything useful. In the past, we always had new theories that predicted stuff we should expect to see if bigger accelerators were built (for example, the Large Hadron Collider was built to search for the predicted Higgs Boson). As of now, new physics theories have made no new concrete predictions about what should come out of bigger and more expensive accelerators. If we build those accelerators, it will purely for speculative, exploratory purposes - to see what might be out there.Smith's piece was still fresh in my mind when I read this previously cited piece in the Washington Post:
On Wednesday afternoon, [Rep. Jim] Cooper rose to the defense of taxpayer-funded research into dog urine, guinea pig eardrums and, yes, the reproductive habits of the parasitic flies known as screwworms--all federally supported studies that have inspired major scientific breakthroughs. Together with two House Republicans and a coalition of major science associations, Cooper has created the first annual Golden Goose Awards to honor federally funded research “whose work may once have been viewed as unusual, odd, or obscure, but has produced important discoveries benefiting society in significant ways.” Federally-funded research of dog urine ultimately gave scientists and understanding of the effect of hormones on the human kidney, which in turn has been helpful for diabetes patients. A study called “Acoustic Trauma in the Guinea Pig” resulted in treatment of early hearing loss in infants. And that randy screwworm study? It helped researchers control the population of a deadly parasite that targets cattle--costing the government $250,000 but ultimately saving the cattle industry more than $20 billion, according to Cooper’s office.My natural bias is pro-research and if the amount of money we spent on particle accelerators was unrelated to the amount of money spent on other research I'd probably say go for it, but in an era of tight money (or the perception of tight money), there are other areas that score higher on almost every non-ddulite criteria.
And more generally, college is slowly moving from the “things which are bought” column into the “things which are sold” column — for-profit colleges, in particular, recruit aggressively in ways that would have been unthinkable to an earlier generation of tertiary educators. As a result, people drop out of college not just because it’s statistically certain that in any college class there will be some students who drop out, but increasingly because a lot of students, especially in courses offered by for-profit colleges, really can’t and shouldn’t be in those classes in the first place.I think that this is a really dangerous trend for a purchase that is as expensive as education. Buying the wrong education is much worse of a mistake than buying the wrong car or house -- at least partially because you can have a car or house foreclosed on. Furthermore, the focus on marketing will tend to make it more difficult to assess universities on quality. Look at how hard it is to get good information on something as simple as an automobile (using Edmunds.com, for example). Now considering needing to assess something as complicated as an educational program.
Exhibit A for our purposes today is the professional pharmacist. Just five years ago, a pharmacy degree was a near guarantee of permanent and well-paid employment. So much so that a lot of universities started their own schools of pharmacy. In Tennessee, they went from one pharmacy school to half a dozen. So you know what happens next.
The good news is this vote is being criticized across the political spectrum ...
From the WSJ: Republicans try to kill data collection that helps economic growth... From the NY Times: Operating in the Dark... From AEI's Norman Ornstein at Roll Call: Research Cuts Are Akin to Eating Seed Corn... From the WaPo: The American Community Survey is a count worth keeping... And from Menzie Chinn at Econonbrowser: The War on Data Collection
Perhaps this is not surprising given that the tilt to the left among college faculty members has been growing nationwide for several decades. At UC Berkeley, the ratio of Democrats to Republicans even in the hard sciences had grown to 10 to 1 in 2004, many times what it was 30 years ago, according to a study by Daniel Klein and Andrew Western.And the second courtesy of EconoSpeak
Catherine Rampell quotes Daniel Webster, who sponsored a bill to eliminate the American Community Survey, which was passed by the full House of Representatives: “We’re spending $70 per person to fill this out. That’s just not cost effective, especially since in the end this is not a scientific survey. It’s a random survey.”It should be noted that the LA Times Op-Ed is more or less a press release from the National Association of Scholars (Ellis, Geshekter, Klein and Western are all associated with the organization in some way) and that politically the NAS falls somewhere between the John Birch Society and Genereal Bullmoose.* Those concerned about subsidized research will find much to worry about here.
So what's the big deal? Well, the Falcon 9 is a private spaceship, fully developed and owned by the private company SpaceX. And SpaceX is the brainchild of Elon Musk, the Internet billionaire who made his fortune from PayPal. With contracts from NASA to develop new launch platforms, SpaceX and other companies are poised to make space the domain of profitable businesses. And Musk has been explicit about his intentions to go beyond Earth orbit, to build commercially viable ventures that might take people to Mars in a decade or two.Frank's enthusiasm is understandable but his thinking about the business and economics of space ranges from the wishful to the hopelessly muddled, particularly when it comes to "the basic principles of private venture and risk."
His timing couldn't be any better or any more urgent. Even without the space shuttle, America needs to remain a leader in space. Now, when I was a kid, the U.S. space program fueled my imagination and led me into a life of science. But as I got older, it became clear that the real business of getting a human presence across the solar system was going to have to fall to business. Governments might get the exploration of space started, but the vagaries of election and budget cycles meant they could never go further.
Now, we've reached the point where it's the exploitation of space that matters. And while exploitation might seem a dirty word to some folks, they should stop to consider how dependent we are already on the commercialization of that region of space we call low earth orbit. Think of the billions of dollars in commercial activity tied to weather prediction, global broadcasting and global positioning. All this business depends on satellites orbiting overhead right now.
But if, as a species, we want to go beyond the thin veil of space directly overhead, then the basic principles of private venture and risk will have to apply. These are the ones that have always applied. While Queen Isabella may have given Columbus his ships to cross the Atlantic, it was private companies that built the seagoing trade routes and brought folks across to settle - for better or worse. Likewise, it's only through commercially viable endeavors that large numbers of humans are getting off this world and into the high frontier of space.
It's no small irony that the billionaires bankrolling the new space entrepreneurship built their fortunes not in jetfighter aerospace manufacturing but in the dream space of the Internet.
From the National Association for Business Economics (NABE):
[t]he U.S. House of Representatives was considering an appropriations bill for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (H.R. 5326) that would drastically reduce funding for the Census Bureau and make participation in the American Community Survey voluntary.
... Regrettably, the legislation ultimately passed the House along party lines and was much more damaging than originally proposed. In its current form, H.R. 5326 will "devastate" the nation's economic statistics.
Specifically, the legislation will:
- Terminate the American Community Survey;
- Cancel the 2012 Economic Census; and
- Halt development of cost-saving measures for the decennial census.
Oh, dear me, how unspeakably funny and owlishly idiotic and grotesque was that “plagiarism” farce! As if there was much of anything in any human utterance, oral or written, except plagiarism! The kernel, the soul—let us go further and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable material of all human utterances—is plagiarism. For substantially all ideas are second-hand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources, and daily use by the garnerer with a pride and satisfaction born of the superstition that he originated them; whereas there is not a rag of originality about them anywhere except the little discoloration they get from his mental and moral calibre and his temperament, and which is revealed in characteristics of phrasing.
Trade is important because, without it, it would be pretty difficult for some of us to survive only consuming what we produce well, especially those of us who haven’t figured out how to eat economics lessons yet. Technically, however, trade only gets us part of the way to what we would consider capitalism, since direct trade (i.e. barter) still requires a double coincidence of wants.The problem with money is that it needs to be guarenteed or to have value independent of social contracts. The second is the whole idea behind a gold standard. But even with small and valuable items, it is hard to imagine the vast levels of wealth we see in the modern world existing if you had to store tonnes of gold in vaults. It would be too simple to be robbed and options for recourse would be quite limited.
CHACE: Welcome to the warehouse district of Little Ferry, New Jersey. Right above the loading dock, I found Alex Melen. He runs Melen LLC. It's an internet marketing company. And he provides Facebook likes to people and companies for about $75 per 1,000 likes.
HENN: Liking something on Facebook means you're a fan. It lets a company talk to you. So clicking that little blue thumbs up actually has value. This company supplies likes for cash. It sells them. So I go in and I say, I want 200 likes. How much?
CHACE: Right. And when you go in, it's exactly what you'd expect. About 10 guys, computers, beer cans, Red Bull, iced coffees. The oldest one there is Melen. He's 28.
MELEN: And once we find a supplier that says OK, I have the--2,000 likes or 5,000 likes or whatever the client ordered, we just place the order with that network, and then they fulfill it.CHACE: So who is it that's actually clicking the like button for cash?
PREPIS: Danny Longshanks, Camel Love, Vida, Elvis Adon, Bruce Buffalo...
CHACE: Well, it's people from all over the world who are found on work-from-home sites.
PREPIS: And if they get paid 10 cents per like, then they like it. You know, even 500, the over month total. You're making $50 a month that probably took them, in total, maybe 20 minutes to do.
HENN: Or these Likers might not be people at all. Ben Zhao is a computer science professor at UC, Santa Barbara. He says there are much cheaper ways to get a supply of likes - social bots. These are fake people controlled by a computer. Or you can buy compromised accounts.
BEN ZHAO: Right now on the black market, you can actually buy and sell bundles of Facebook account credentials, tens of dollars or hundreds of dollars for hundreds of thousands of Facebook accounts.
I don't have an opinion on this research, but I can think of all sorts of interesting applications for something like this both in the social sciences and in business if the technique performs as advertised.
A typical IAT procedure involves a series of seven tasks. In the first task, an individual is asked to categorize stimuli into two categories. For example, a person might be presented with a computer screen on which the word "Black" appears in the top left-hand corner and the word "White" appears in the top right-hand corner. In the middle of the screen a word, such as a first name, that is typically associated with either the categories of "Black" or "White." For each word that appears in the middle of the screen, the person is asked to sort the word into the appropriate category by pressing the appropriate left-hand or right-hand key. On the second task, the person would complete a similar sorting procedure with an attribute of some kind. For example, the word "Pleasant" might now appear in the top left-hand corner of the screen and the word "Unpleasant" in the top right-hand corner. In the middle of the screen would appear a word that is either pleasant or unpleasant. Once again, the person would be asked to sort each word as being either pleasant or unpleasant by pressing the appropriate key. On the third task, individuals are asked to complete a combined task that includes both the categories and attributes from the first two tasks. In this example, the words "Black/Pleasant" might appear in the top left-hand corner while the words "White/Unpleasant" would appear in the top right-hand corner. Individuals would then see a series of stimuli in the center of the screen consisting of either a name or word. They would be asked to press the left-hand key if the name or word belongs to the "Black/Pleasant" category or the right-hand key if it belongs to the "White/Unpleasant" category. The fourth task is a repeat of the third task but with more repetitions of the names, words, or images.
The fifth task is a repeat of the first task with the exception that the position of the two target words would be reversed. For example, "Black" would now appear in the top right-hand corner of the screen and "White" in the top left-hand corner. The sixth task would be a repeat of the third, except that the objects and subjects of study would be in opposite pairings from previous trials. In this case, "Black/Unpleasant" would now appear in the top right-hand corner and "White/Pleasant" would now appear in the top left-hand corner. The seventh task is a repeat of the sixth task but with more repetitions of the names, words, or images. If the categories under study (e.g. Black or White) are differently associated with the presented attributes (e.g. Pleasant/Unpleasant), you would expect that the pairing that a participant associates with or believes would be considerably easier for the participant. In this example a participant may perform better when White and Pleasant are paired together than when Black and Pleasant are paired.
Hart and Risley also found that, in the first four years after birth, the average child from a professional family receives 560,000 more instances of encouraging feedback than discouraging feedback; a working- class child receives merely 100,000 more encouragements than discouragements; a welfare child receives 125,000 more discouragementsthan encouragements.
As I pointed out before, Edwards is basically saying (in reverse order) that:
Some believe the Census Bureau does too much already. “They waste a share of their budget on studies that no one actually uses,” says Chris Edwards, an economist with the Cato Institute, who cites periodic surveys on such items as the total hog count in the U.S. to prove his point. “A lot of that could be done by the private sector.”
Proprietary data that could be used without the privacy restrictions the government imposes would be worth an incredible amount of money. Despite all that trying, though, no private data source comes close. I realize that the Cato Institute might not like to hear this, but this is one of those cases where the private sector tried to do something the government does and couldn't do it as well.I am increasingly annoyed at either pro-government extremists (Marxists) and anti-government extremists (Randians). It is quite clear to me that, as a society, neither approach will work and that a pure version of either vision is difficult to find (we can argue about edge cases like "failed states" but I am not sure that really addresses the major point).
What you’re looking at here is the self-reported returns from all 100 of the Kauffman foundation’s funds, plotted on a time zero axis. In theory, if you believe the VC industry’s hype, the returns should look a bit like the green line: negative in early years, as you make investments which won’t pay off for a long time, and then positive by year 10.
In reality, reported returns peak very early on, in month 16 — which just happens to coincide with the point at which the GPs tend to start going out on sales calls, trying to raise their next fund. (The blue line shows total fund returns, while the red line shows returns net of fees — the money which actually goes to LPs.) Of course, at month 16, none of the returns are realized: they’re driven instead by increases in portfolio-company valuations, and those valuations are set by the GPs themselves.
If GPs were incentivized mainly by their 20% performance fee, then you’d expect something like the green line, or at the very least you’d expect the performance to rise over time, as the fund’s illiquidity premium manifested itself. If GPs were incentivized mainly by their 2% management fee, however, then you’d expect something much more like the real-world red and blue lines, where performance figures are used more to raise new funds than to make money.
[Cary] Fowler reminds me that losing varieties of crops means losing genes that may one day come into their own. He recounts the story of Jack Harlan, who in 1948 was collecting plants in Turkey. Harlan came across a wheat variety that looked scarcely worth picking up. "It was the most miserable-looking wheat. It had a poor yield, it was susceptible to lots of diseases, it fell over with rot... before it could be harvested." Some years later, wheat in the north-west of the US was attacked by stripe rust, and researchers scoured seed collections to find a way to help. The "miserable-looking" wheat turned out to be resistant. New varieties were bred to incorporate this quality. Fowler estimates that feeble-seeming wheat has been worth more than $100m a year to the US agrarian economy.
The study by professors at the University of California, Berkeley, concludes that acquisitions, while nearly always initially cheered by investors, end up hurting a company, and in particular its share price, in the end. Winning by Losing, which was released this week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, found that following an acquisition the stock of that company tends to underperform shares of similar companies by 50% for the next three years. Another finding of the study: Deals done in cash, which is often considered a more conservative way to pay for acquisitions, tend to do worse than deals done for stock. If an acquiring company doesn't want its new owners' shares, you shouldn't either.Of course, just because the market overvalues acquisitions doesn't mean that it overvalues growth in general, but this is another piece of evidence for the pile.
The number the politicians look at, however, is the unemployment rate, which ticked down to 8.1%. That’s still high, but it’s not a statistic to beat Obama round the head with.
For demographic reasons — the retirement of the baby boomers — the labor force participation rate is naturally going to fall over the next decade. But go back just one year, to March 2011, and look at the official CBO projection of the labor force participation rate. The CBO saw a rate of 64.6% in 2012 — a full percentage point higher than we’re at right now. The participation rate wasn’t expected to fall to today’s level of 63.6% until 2017.What is interesting is that people focus on the Unemployment Rate. WHich actually makes it a less useful indicator of anything -- as there are incentives to try and frame the number in a way that looks better than it really is. Dropping people who would like a job but are no longer looking from the sample is a clever way to make the number look better.
The Mercury group wasn’t surprised at Welles’s taking a script credit; they’d had experience with this foible of his. Very early in his life as a prodigy, Welles seems to have fallen into the trap that has caught so many lesser men—believing his own publicity, believing that he really was the whole creative works, producer-director-writer-actor. Because he could do all these things, he imagined that he did do them. (A Profile of him that appeared in The New Yorker two years before Citizen Kane was made said that “outside the theatre … Welles is exactly twenty-three years old.”) In the days before the Mercury Theatre’s weekly radio shows got a sponsor, it was considered a good publicity technique to build up public identification with Welles’s name, so he was credited with just about everything, and was named on the air as the writer of the Mercury shows. Probably no one but Welles believed it. He had written some of the shows when the program first started, and had also worked on some with Houseman, but soon he had become much too busy even to collaborate; for a while Houseman wrote them, and then they were farmed out. By the time of the War of the Worlds broadcast, on Halloween, 1938, Welles wasn’t doing any of the writing. He was so busy with his various other activities that he didn’t always direct the rehearsals himself, either—William Alland or Richard Wilson or one of the other Mercury assistants did it. Welles might not come in until the last day, but somehow, all agree, he would pull the show together “with a magic touch.” Yet when the Martian broadcast became accidentally famous, Welles seemed to forget that Howard Koch had written it. (In all the furor over the broadcast, with front-page stories everywhere, the name of the author of the radio play wasn’t mentioned.) Koch had been writing the shows for some time. He lasted for six months, writing about twenty-five shows altogether—working six and a half days a week, and frantically, on each one, he says, with no more than half a day off to see his family. The weekly broadcasts were a “studio presentation” until after the War of the Worlds (Campbell’s Soup picked them up then), and Koch, a young writer, who was to make his name with the film The Letter in 1940 and win an Academy Award for his share in the script of the 1942 Casablanca, was writing them for $75 apiece. Koch’s understanding of the agreement was that Welles would get the writing credit on the air for publicity purposes but that Koch would have any later benefit, and the copyright was in Koch’s name. (He says that it was, however, Welles’s idea that he do the Martian show in the form of radio bulletins.) Some years later, when C.B.S. did a program about the broadcast and the panic it had caused, the network re-created parts of the original broadcast and paid Koch $300 for the use of his material. Welles sued C.B.S. for $375,000, claiming that he was the author and that the material had been used without his permission. He lost, of course, but he may still think he wrote it. (He frequently indicates as much in interviews and on television.)
“Foible” is the word that Welles’s former associates tend to apply to his assertions of authorship. Welles could do so many different things in those days that it must have seemed almost accidental when he didn’t do things he claimed to. Directors, in the theatre and in movies, are by function (and often by character, or, at least, disposition) cavalier toward other people’s work, and Welles was so much more talented and magnetic than most directors—and so much younger, too—that people he robbed of credit went on working with him for years, as Koch went on writing more of the radio programs after Welles failed to mention him during the national publicity about the panic. Welles was dedicated to the company, and he was exciting to work with, so the company stuck together, working for love, and even a little bit more money (Koch was raised to $125 a show) when they got a sponsor and, also as a result of the War of the Worlds broadcast, the movie contract that took them to Hollywood.
Ryan’s mastery of these details does not signify openness to evidence or a willingness to shape his views to real-world evidence. It actually signifies the opposite. And yet Ryan has grasped that the aura of specificity he has cultivated paradoxically renders the specifics themselves irrelevant.
For a virtuoso display of this principle in action, return to another vintage Ryan moment: his Dave profile from last year, where he awed a swooning reporter by opening up the budget to a random page and fingered a boondoggle. The item Ryan pointed to was the Obama administration’s reform of the student-loan industry. “Direct loans—this is perfect,” Ryan said. “So direct loans, that’s new spending on autopilot, that had no congressional oversight, and it gave the illusion that they were cutting spending.”
The exchange is so perversely revealing that it rewards explanation. For decades, the government helped make college more affordable through “guaranteed loans”—it encouraged banks to lend money to students by promising to repay the banks if the students defaulted. Banks were making billions of dollars in profits at virtually no risk. The General Accounting Office, a kind of in-house fiscal watchdog for the federal government, issued sixteen reports over the years noting how the government could save money simply by issuing the loans itself and cutting out the middleman.
It was the simplest, no-brainer pot of savings you could find—ending pure corporate welfare, just like in the movie Dave. The cause attracted support from think tanks, as well as the moderate Wisconsin Republican Tom Petri, an eclectic reformer who is sort of the real-life version of the Paul Ryan character who appears on television. Two National Revieweditors endorsed eliminating guaranteed loans in an article advocating a new reform conservatism.
The banks lobbied fiercely to protect their gravy train. Among the staunchest advocates of those government-subsidized banks was … Paul Ryan, who fought to protect bank subsidies that many of his fellow Republicans deemed too outrageous to defend. In 2009, Obama finally eliminated the guaranteed-lending racket. It could save the government an estimated $62 billion, according to the CBO.
Not everything in Ryan’s career, and possibly nothing at all, is quite so undeniably venal. You could pluck any other single example out of Ryan’s long history of strident conservatism and he would be able to defend it, at the very least, on ideological grounds. A tax cut for the rich, a hike in military spending—all those could be explained as a blow for the cause of Reaganism. This was an almost astonishingly unlucky break, an instance where he lacked even ideological cover—standing up for higher spending at the behest of a powerful lobby lacking any plausible rationale for its subsidy.
At the moment the page opened to that unfortunate item, Ryan’s heart must have stopped. Here was a reporter trying to cast him as a movie-hero outsider, and he was performing on cue. Yet the book opened to a page that, cruelly, just happened to expose the gap between Ryan’s image and the reality more clearly than anything else possibly could have.
Ryan probably knew, even in that split second, that he stood little chance of exposure. (The overlap between television news reporters and people with a detailed understanding of the federal budget is quite small.) Yet a lesser politician might have panicked, or hesitated, or possibly tried to flip to a different page. In that moment, Ryan revealed the qualities that have propelled him to his current position. As cool as can be, and as winsome as ever, he said, “This is perfect.”
Praise Jesus and pass the awesome sauce. Paul Ryan's going to be the next Republican Saint, wrapped in a flag and waving down at all of us who are too stupid to understand the complex thinking and amazing nuance of St Paul's brain.Thank you, Jonathan Chait, for this awesome NYMag article telling us how to count the ways Paul Ryan is the Great American Hero. What would I have ever done without being enlightened in such an obsequious way, beginning with the title: The Legendary Paul Ryan?
And then there's the self-effacing "I'm not ambitious at all, no sir!" claim that Chait reinforces:One trope that has marked Ryan’s media coverage from the outset is that he is consistently described as lacking ambition. It’s a sharp contrast with fellow Republican Eric Cantor, to whom the adjective “ambitious” is affixed like a tattoo. Ryan says, and many political reporters believe, that he is immune to the political concerns that distract his colleagues. He “has a level of disdain for the sort of rank political calculations required of people who want to climb the electoral ladder,” explains the Washington Post. Here is a telling description from Politico: “Of the partisan political game, Ryan confessed, ‘It’s not my natural tendency. I’m a policy guy.’ ” The operative word here is “confessed.”Because wonks lack ambition? This would be why Ryan has abandoned St. Ayn Rand in recent days, eschewing her "I've got mine, screw the rest of you" philosophy for a kinder, gentler piety that "disagrees" with Catholic bishops and pretends to be a bipartisan kind of guy who gets along with everyone! Of course he's not ambitious. Jon Chait has told you so.