The “Ever Expanding” Government Illustrated, Part III

Following up on these two previous posts [1] [2], I decided to confront some views commonly held in certain circles with some actual data. To summarize:

  • Real government nondefense spending on goods and services is declining, and is declining relative to real GDP.
  • The ratio of government outlays to nominal potential GDP is declining.
  • Total civilian government employment is declining, and is declining as a share of total nonfarm employment.

Real government nondefense spending on goods and services is declining
leviathan1.gif

Figure 1: Real spending on goods and services at state and local levels (blue area), and at Federal (nondefense) level (red area), in billions of Ch.2005$, SAAR. NBER defined recession dates shaded gray. Source: BEA, 2011Q2 second release.

Clearly, after rising throughout the 2000’s, total government nondefense spending picked up a bit in 2009, after which point is has declined. It’s currently at about 2006 levels.

 

Real nondefense spending on goods and services is declining relative to GDP

 

Since these series are in Ch.2005$, one cannot literally add the series up. However, as an approximation which should be pretty good over the last decade or so, I’ll add government spending at state and local levels to nondefense spending at the Federal level. Then, since I cannot divide that series by GDP in chained dollars to get a sensible ratio, I’ll log them both and rescale them to 2000Q1=0. Those series can then be compared in terms of cumulative growth rates.
leviathan2.gif

Figure 2: Real spending on nondefense goods and services at all government levels (teal), and real GDP, in billions of Ch.2005$, SAAR, logged and rescaled to 2000Q1=0. NBER defined recession dates shaded gray. Dashed line at 2009Q1. Source: BEA, 2011Q2 second release, NBER, and author’s calculations.

As is clear from the graph, real nondefense spending is falling, driven mainly by the decline in spending at the state and local levels. Example: See Wisconsin [3] [4].

 

The ratio of government outlays to nominal potential GDP is declining

 

Government outlays include transfers (unemployment insurance, SNAP, social security payments, etc.), as well as spending on goods and services. Once one takes these expenditures into account, what does the picture look like? I have plotted this series, normalized by potential GDP, in the figure below.
leviathan3.gif

Figure 3: Nominal outlays at the state and local levels (blue area), and at Federal (nondefense) level (red area), SAAR, divided by potential GDP. NBER defined recession dates shaded gray. Note that Federal nondefense proxied by taking current expenditures and subtracting defense spending on goods and services. Source: BEA, 2011Q2 second release, CBO Budget and Economic Outlook (January 2012) supplemental information, NBER, and author’s calculations.

Since I didn’t have ready access to Federal nondefense outlays, I proxied nondefense outlays by subtracting nominal defense spending on goods and services from total Federal current expenditures. To the extent that there are defense transfers, I am overstating Federal nondefense outlays. The ratio in 2011Q4 is just about the same level as in 2008Q2.

 

Total civilian government employment is declining, and is declining as a share of total nonfarm employment

 

In the figure below, I plot the absolute level of government employment at all levels (blue line) and the ratio of government employment to total nonfarm payroll employment (red line).
leviathan4.gif

Figure 4: Total government employment, in 000’s (blue line, left scale), and ratio of government employment to nonfarm payroll employment (red line, right scale), both seasonally adjusted. NBER defined recession dates shaded gray. Source: BLS, January employment release, NBER, and author’s calculations.

These are all graphs based on data readily available at BEA and BLS.

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53 thoughts on “The “Ever Expanding” Government Illustrated, Part III

  1. JLR

    Professor:
    Thank you. This is the best news I have seen in 4 years. It is cause for optimism.

  2. Woolsey

    Tracking government employment–at least at the federal level–may not be worth it. Increasingly, they have replaced career employees with contractors. I’ve gone to meetings with “federal agencies” and there hasn’t been a federal employee in the room.

  3. Bruce Hall

    2 points:
    Executive Summary The annual cost of federal regulations in the United States increased to more than $1.75 trillion in 2008. Had every U.S. household paid an equal share of the federal regulatory burden, each would have owed $15,586 in 2008. By comparison, the federal regulatory burden exceeds by 50 percent private spending on health care, which equaled $10,500 per household in 2008. While all citizens and businesses pay some portion of these costs, the distribution of the burden of regulations is quite uneven. The portion of regulatory costs that falls initially on businesses was $8,086 per employee in 2008. Small businesses, defined as firms employing fewer than 20 employees, bear the largest burden of federal regulations. As of 2008, small businesses face an annual regulatory cost of $10,585 per employee, which is 36 percent higher than the regulatory cost facing large firms (defined as firms with 500 or more employees).
    Source:
    http://archive.sba.gov/advo/research/rs371tot.pdf
    Despite efforts to freeze non-security discretionary spending, the budgets of federal regulatory agencies are increasing in both 2011 and 2012.
    The estimated cost of running regulatory agencies in fiscal year 2011 is $54.9 billion, a 5.7 percent increase over 2010 spending. The president’s budget request for 2012 calls for an additional 4.5 percent increase to $57.3 billion.

    The number of staff working to develop and enforce regulations in 2012 is expected to increase by about 10,000 people over 2011 levels to reach an all-time high of 291,676. Additional employees at the Department of Homeland Security make up more than 65 percent of the total staff increase.

    http://news.wustl.edu/news/Pages/22318.aspx
    Could it be that the money that is being spent is focused on increasing regulatory costs instead of relieving them?

  4. Menzie Chinn

    Woolsey: Interesting. I’ve been in meetings with Federal officials, and there hasn’t been a single contractor in the room. I guess time to hunt down the statistics. But at least expenditures on those contractors would show up in total spending on goods and services.

    Bruce Hall: That’s not necessarily the relevant question. Rather one would want to ask if the marginal social benefit of the regulation exceeds the marginal social cost.

    I think this might be relevant in terms of financial regulation, unless you think the financial regulatory disarmament of the G.W. Bush Administrations went off smashingly.

  5. gt4

    You have to jump through a lot of hoops to show that government spending is falling as a share of GDP. I congratulate you on finding a way to make it look like spending is falling. The focus on “potential GDP” is uniquely creative tool.
    In the real world that isn’t adjusted by “potential gdp”, dropping entitlements, excluding defense vs. non-defense, and ignoring state and local spending when convenient and leaving here are the facts:
    1. Total gov’t spending as a share of GDP has fallen for the last 4-6 quarters.
    2. Since the late 1940’s gov’t spending has increased as a share of GDP by a rate of 0.2% annually with an R-squared of 80%. It has gone from roughly 20% to 35% of GDP.
    3. Spending as a share of GDP rose during the Reagan/Bush I years.
    4. It fell during Clinton’s presidency.
    5. Government spending has gone from 29% to 35% during the Bush II/Obama terms.
    Confirmation bias is a wonder thing and these charts and rationalizations must be wonderful distractions from the reality of the trend.

  6. LM

    Can we just post the federal figure? Each state has its own policy and is not dictated by the federal government, so what purpose do their figures serve here? I’m assuming we are debating the federal economic policies, right?
    By layering it on top of the state/local figure, it’s no longer obvious. But see, my reading of the chart is federal expenditure did grow quite significantly. Is that not true?
    Of course we can talk about why it grew and whether it’s justified. But that should be the next step, after we agree on these facts…

  7. Menzie Chinn

    LM: I don’t know about you, but I was responding to various critics of spending at all levels of government. In Wisconsin, we are busily cutting civil servants and teachers at the state and local levels.

    Anyway, you can see the graphs of total Federal current outlays that you wish for in this post, for data up to 2011Q3. As I observed in that post, we are almost at the levels that Reagan hit in 1982Q4.

  8. gt4

    If you just consider federal spending, it has gone from 15% to 25% over the 1950-2011 period.
    Yes, it’s down slightly over the last few quarters, but the trend is a 0.1% annual increase in share of GDP with an R-squared for 60%.
    Also it rose during Reagan/Bush, fell during Clinton, and rose again during Bush/Obama.

  9. 2slugbaits

    CoRev So you think figure 4 is a good news story??? What figure 4 shows is less the effect of a GOP House and more the effect of GOP governors and state legislatures. Those folks are not too bright and apparently believe in pro-cyclical fiscal policies. I know my Republican governor has explicitly said that government should tighten its belt during a recession. He’s a dimwit.
    Woolsey I don’t know about other federal departments and agencies, but within DoD the trend towards having private contractors replace government workers has abated. That was the trend for awhile, but lately those contracts are not being renewed. Part of it is because of budgetary pressures, but another part is because many of the private contractors were really just retired government workers who came back to work part time to train newly hired government workers. The federal government went for a long time without hiring new blood and this created a bow wave of retirements. Retirees were rehired as private contractors in order to address the bow wave problem.
    I’m currently doing a stochastic frontier analysis of Army repair bases and comparing the efficiences of repair sites staffed by contractors (e.g., Ft. Bragg, Ft. Carson, etc.) versus government workers (e.g, Ft. Hood, Ft. Lewis, etc.). It turns out that it’s very hard to get recent panel data for the contractor repair sites because they have been shedding workload in favor of government worker bases. Just another piece of anecdotal evidence that the DoD is moving away from private contractors.

  10. Bruce Hall

    That’s not necessarily the relevant question. Rather one would want to ask if the marginal social benefit of the regulation exceeds the marginal social cost.
    Indeed, that is the question… how marginal is the benefit for the cost… including the cost of other opportunities lost.

  11. Alex

    What’s worse contractionary monetary or fiscal policy? And ultimately doesn’t the latter depend on the former?

  12. gman

    An elder insurance scheme w/ massive military attached is the scope of the federal gov.
    Kids, R & D, pure science, infrastructure and the environment..you know…THE FUTURE..has been gutted for decades.
    We can now live w/ pampered geriatrics and burdensome empire.

  13. MarkOhio

    Why don’t you just use data in Table 1.1.10 Percentage Shares of Gross Domestic Product? This is readily available at http://www.bea.gov in the National GDP Interactive Tables. Why all the recalculations and adjustments? I can see that the shares for government shown in the table do not include transfer payments for programs like Medicare, but isn’t that what you are trying to exclude anyway?

  14. ppcm

    Still the government consumption expenditures is of a healthy appetite,the charts are nice but would be more revealing in absolute value as opposed to a ratio to GDP.Increasing consumption from domestic production could improve the log ratio and drive to a declining share of the government expenditures,but this has been tried already.
    Government Consumption Expenditures & Gross Investment (GCEA)
    http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/GCEA
    Same for the European government expenditures (Please go to Statistical Data Warehouse,government expenditures,Collective consumption expenditure) The cumulative government expenditures Euro area 17 have cumulatively doubled since 1995 (Please go to government finance,expenditures, Euro area 17 fixed composition,Collective consumption expenditure).There are merits in expenditures and investments, when driving assessable profitability,but the returns are tardy (please see EDP debt government finance).
    One could think that the non elected parliament is hastily allocating the losses and cost to the “executive management” as good practice would require, or may be this is done at the respective national level.Anyway some day European citizens will have to be better informed about the real contributions of the European parliament as sitting in the homeland of Jacques Brel. We know of many restaurants going by the name of the ” Trois faisans”.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxAp3ymhY4M

  15. Steven Kopits

    We are doing work for DOE. Nine of the ten people we are working with there are contractors.

  16. J-So

    Menzie, I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but if government spending relative to GDP is falling, then how do you explain the huge deficits under Obama and the gigantic increase in the national debt in just three years? It’s not like he enacted huge tax cuts reducing the government take relative to GDP. Something doesn’t jive.

  17. Jeff

    Government spending only captures part of the picture. Regulations and laws matter as well.

    Health care is a good example. If we tax employers and use the proceeds to pay for health insurance, that shows up as government spending. But if we just require employers to provide health insurance, it does not.

    What really matters is who gets to make decisions. As Milton Friedman never tired of pointing out, no one is as careful spending other peoples’ money as they are when spending their own. By taking decisions out of the hands of private individuals and putting them into the hands of government officials, regulations, transfer payments, financial guarantees for TBTF institutions, and direct government outlays all contribute to poorer resource allocation, rent-seeking, and bad incentives.

    In this broader sense, there is no question that the size of the government has been increasingly pretty steadily for decades.

  18. Menzie Chinn

    Bruce Hall: Indeed. I prefer that my fellow citizens and I do not have to breathe air with high concentrations of mercury, and don’t have to drink water that might catch fire.

    MarkOhio: Because real magnitudes are of interest as well, as relative prices change.

    Alex: I agree it’s not a good thing that spending was down. But I did want to highlight that a sensible countecyclic stabilization policy would entail a rise in spending during the recession.

    gt4: Hmm. An ADF fails to reject a unit root at conventional levels. Think twice about estimating and reporting linear trends in current expenditures to GDP ratio.

    Jeff: And if we don’t regulate the financial sector and allow the accumulation of enormous contingent liabilities, then that too would represent a stealth increase in government, given the fact that governments cannot credibly precommit to no-bailouts.

  19. Jeff

    Nonsense. How did the country manage to survive its first two centuries without bailing anyone out?

    It’s much more accurate to say that governments run by people who don’t think bailouts are a bad idea can’t commit to a no-bailout policy. We get bailouts because we elect people who don’t mind them. And because economists who should know better make excuses for them.

  20. Menzie Chinn

    Jeff: What was that about Milton Friedman and the banks in the Great Depression? From you assertion, that collapse in the economy and all those unemployed must have been a figment of my imagination, and I must be mistaken about the efficacy of the self-insuring financial system. (By the way, 1776+200 = 1976, and 1933 is before 1976, yes?)

  21. Bruce Hall

    Indeed. I prefer that my fellow citizens and I do not have to breathe air with high concentrations of mercury, and don’t have to drink water that might catch fire.
    No one is questioning obvious problems such as the Cuyahoga River pollution or Pittsburgh in the 1960s. But what about the diversion of water from California’s central valley farming on the excuse that a smelt needs it? Why not divert it from coastal cities? http://hallofrecord.blogspot.com/2009/12/h2o-worries-real-worry.html
    Furthermore, the so-called “settled science” of CO2-based “global warming” aka “climate change” aka “climate management” aka “send us taxpayers’ money” is a prime example of government regulation with little return except speculation, energy starvation, and significantly higher costs of living. Just ask Germany and England.
    And that mercury you are so worried about? Just do your own Google search “China pollution California” and then ask how much of U.S. regulation … especially California’s … is wrongly targeted.
    There are areas of regulation that not only have no marginal benefit, they have significant negative results.
    Throw the baby out with the bathwater? No. Throw out the polluted regulatory bathwater.

  22. Darren

    In Wisconsin, we are busily cutting civil servants and teachers at the state and local levels.
    And not a moment too soon.
    ‘Civil Servants’ are power-mad bureaucrats who want to jail parents if their child draws a picture of their father fighting monsters.
    Public School teachers are overpaid and underdelivering relative to private school teachers.

  23. Darren

    I think your comments re: global climate change science speak of themselves. No need for me to say more.
    In other words, Menzie has trouble coming to terms with the fact that the Global Warming fraud has been exposed.
    The evidence of fabrication of data grows by the day.
    Mercury actually *is* a problem, though, and unlike CO2 changes in the atmosphere, is man-made.

  24. 2slugbaits

    Jeff You might want to bone up on 19th century economic history. In particular, you need to examine all of the bailout actions pushed through the state legislatures in the wake of the 1837 panic.

  25. Bruce Hall

    Menzie,
    There is a difference between environment and climate. There is a difference between regulating poison and the carbon cycle. There is a difference between honest, scientific investigation and fraud. Politicians declaring something to be so doesn’t make it so.
    An economic policy based on a series of fraudulent “scientific” papers is simply stupid.
    Stick to economic theory.

  26. Menzie Chinn

    Bruce Hall: Ae you saying that anything you disagree with is fraudulent? Or are you saying the distribution of published scientific papers highlighted in this post has drastically changed in the past year? Or that there is a vast conspiracy centered at the National Academy of Sciences aimed to misleading us? Inquiring minds would like to know.

  27. Bruce Hall

    Are you saying that anything you disagree with is fraudulent? Or are you saying the distribution of published scientific papers highlighted in this post has drastically changed in the past year?
    I’m saying that basing economic policy around “science” that is fraudulent is foolish.
    http://hallofrecord.blogspot.com/2012/02/global-warming-heats-up.html
    I’m saying that politically based science is neither good for economics nor good for climate science.
    The greatest push for regulation this century is based entirely on a series of faulty and fraudulent publications through the United Nations. Europe is on the verge of repudiating all policies based on this gigantic fraud.
    This blog is excellent for discussions about the economy, but is out of its element when discussing climate science. Most skeptical scientists have not tried to refute that earth warmed slightly over the past century. They have argued that CO2… and especially the small amount of anthropogenically based CO2… is not the major player in this trend. Rather increase in CO2 is a relatively minor concomitant occurrence rather than a major causative factor.
    The link I provided above gives a summary of the issues from a “non-believer’s” perspective. If nothing else, watch the video by Berkeley professor Richard A. Muller, a former strong advocate of the theory of anthropogenic CO2 global warming.
    Hey, if a professor of physics from ultra-liberal Berkeley stopped drinking the Kool-aid, maybe a liberal professor from Wisconsin can as well.
    And… I still enjoy your economics blog… if that’s any consolation.

  28. CoRev

    Menzie, you were doing just fine until you brought up Global Warming. Worse you referenced an old thread. Things have changed since Aug 2010. Climategate II confirmed many of the findings from Climategate I. Worse the recent Peter Gleick, Fakegate, debacle has further eroded trust in the mainline climate scientists.
    Since August 2010 it has been recognized temperature trends have stabilized and/or even fallen for perhaps as long as fifteen years (CRU3) data set.
    There is so much more changes since that article it is too long to list, but consider that it is last on nearly every poll for which it is even listed.

  29. Jeff

    Menzie: I don’t think there were any bailouts in 1933. The crisis started with the stock market crash in 1929, but that wasn’t all that different from many other stock market crashes before it. What turned it into the Great Depression was extremely bad monetary policy, partly driven by a foolish reluctance to abandon the gold standard which was killing everybody.

    When Roosevelt raised the dollar price of gold in 1933, that was an appropriate easing of money, and the economy started growing very rapidly. This happened despite the fact that hundreds of banks had just gone under. Easy money trumped bad banks. The rapid growth came to a halt in 1937 because the Fed foolishly tightened money.

    What should have happened in 2008 was to (i) let the big insolvent banks like Citi and BofA go under, but (ii) dramatically ease money. It’s OK for the lender of last resort to lend to solvent institutions, but we gave money to insolvent firms via the payouts on AIG credit default swaps and the GSE bailouts. And we didn’t ease money, we tightened it by paying interest on excess reserves. We should also have started publicly targeting a path for the level of a price index or nominal GDP. Scott Sumner has blogged extensively about this for several years now, and he’s right.

    Similarly, we also should have made an effort to avoid the dollar appreciation that occurred in the late summer and fall of 2008. With all the bad credit conditions we already had, we really didn’t need the hit on net exports.

    None of this is rocket science, and it’s not particularly novel either. It is utterly amazing how almost the entire profession seems to have completely forgotten what Sumner and I both thought was the consensus view of monetary economics prior to 2008.

    2slugbaits:I don’t really care that much about state-level bailouts, particularly in 1837. State governments don’t have a monetary policy, and the fact that people can move to another state limits how bad their other policies can be.

  30. dvdhwl

    Given that global warming will have a greater impact on the economy than any other events, it should not be surprising that a professor of economics has an interest it it.
    I see two questions on global warming: 1. Would you rather believe the 99.9% of climate scientists or the politicians and their funders? 2. I believe the scientists, but then the question is what should we do about global warming? We could try to reduce it or just adapt to it. Unclear which is more economical.

  31. Darren

    Menzie, you were doing just fine until you brought up Global Warming.
    The most generous explanation is that Menzie is finding the Wisconsin winters so cold, that he desperately seeks warming.
    But more likely, he is clinging to a political view that has been discredited.
    Not only have US polls shown that most voters think the GW push was a scam, but Germany is moving away from nuclear power and towards energy sources that emit CO2. No country that believed in GW would abandon nuclear.
    Like many often say, Menzie is a leftist first and an economist second.

  32. Darren

    Menzie,
    Would those power-mad bureaucrats be housed in the same building as the death panels?
    Probably in entirely different complexes of buildings, given how immensely huge you want the government to be.
    So, Menzie, what do you think the top marginal tax rate should be on the wealthy? It is currently as high as 45% for people in California and New York city (counting state, local, medicare taxes).
    What rate would YOU want it to be?

  33. Darren

    CoRev and Bruce Hall,
    Why would the GW nuts be so much more obsessed with CO2 (which is mostly not from humans), but not care about plastic and mercury in the oceans (which obviously IS from humans)?
    I mean, I thought they care about the environment. But I never see a political GW nut even mention the plastic and mercury problems.

  34. greg

    Actually, climate change is the most important issue for this, or any blog, to address, since a screwed up climate is what we are leaving for our children. JBTW, increased heat retention by the atmosphere does not necessarily mean increased temperatures. The atmosphere also converts heat into the forms of water-vapor and wind energy. Also, the largest reservoir of heat on the planet is the ocean. (BTW, did you know the oceans are rapidly warming up to the temperature they were at the start of the last ice age?
    Cf:
    http://anamecon.blogspot.com/2011/09/ice-age-in-our-future.html )
    But, since no effective national policy can reasonably be expected, my advice is:
    1: Stay away from buying oceanfront property. An actual ice-age probably won’t happen until after Greenland melts, which means, IIRC, about 17′ rise in sea level. Throw in a bit of Antarctica…. Riverfront property is probably also problematic.
    2: If building in the Midwest, build underground.
    3: Don’t allow privatization of your water supply.
    4: Do allow for increased variations in climate, whether or not you think they’re actually going to happen. eg: In Georgia, pack a shovel, and a bag of sand, in your trunk for winter.
    5: Make sure your flood insurance, and other natural disaster insurance, is paid up. (PS: Try not to wince at the escalating premiums.)
    6: Buy a generator. Stock up on essentials. (Including gasoline.)
    7: Start saving, since the price of everything, starting with food, will be going up.
    8: Keep that open mind: Pay more attention to prices and insurance premiums, (corporate money,) than that propaganda the oil/energy companies want you to believe, (corporate mouth.)
    9: Phase transitions are chaotic, with more and bigger of everything. So expect bigger storms, longer droughts, more tornadoes, and records of all kinds to keep getting broken.
    10: Finally, remember to keep a smile, as there is no delusion like a happy delusion.

  35. 2slugbaits

    Bruce Hall watch the video by Berkeley professor Richard A. Muller, a former strong advocate of the theory of anthropogenic CO2 global warming.
    Huh? I think you’ve got things exactly backwards. Muller is a former skeptic who recently changed his mind and now thinks manmade global warming is a reality. Muller took on a challenge to relook the data. Many prominent skeptics (including Anthony “High School Graduate Weatherman” Watts) agreed to abide by whatever Muller found. Last year Muller gave this presentation at the Santa Fe Institute:
    http://berkeleyearth.org/pdf/berkeley-earth-santa-fe.pdf
    Skeptics were stunned and felt betrayed. Watts now refuses to accept the results, claiming they don’t count because they are only “preliminary.”
    Muller’s data also refutes CoRev’s nonsense about stabilizing trends.
    CoRev What Gleick did may have been unethical, but it does’t mean what he uncovered isn’t true. Heartland Institute is a corrupt astroturf “think tank” set up by Big Oil that got caught lying about its mission and who funded it.

  36. CoRev

    2slugs mad a fascinating statement of total untruths: “CoRev What Gleick did may have been unethical, but it does’t mean what he uncovered isn’t true. Heartland Institute is a corrupt astroturf “think tank” set up by Big Oil that got caught lying about its mission and who funded it.”
    Lessee, set up by “big oil” maybe true, but that’s not what Gleick found. Lying about its mission? It’s mission is unchanged, and that’s not what Gleick found. Who funded what?

  37. tj

    OH NO ! Global Warming again! :)
    Have you noticed how the successful the media has been at programming us to the idea that whenever there is a story on “climate change” we automatically associate it with “man-made”?
    The actual debate is with regard to the sensitivity of the climate to increases in man-made CO2.
    Here is a nice start for those of you clinging to the “Science is Settled” dogma.
    This link raises doubt as to the accuracy of the climate models. Be your own judge:
    http://jonova.s3.amazonaws.com/guest/evans-david/skeptics-case.pdf
    If you think there is a possibility that the science is not settled after reading that piece, then take a look at this piece.
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/03/02/why-cagw-theory-is-not-settled-science/
    Lastly, and to add balance, here is a piece from John Cook’s blog (John is a strong advocate for the man-made global warming arguement) Note that the flaw in the results of the cost-benefit analyses (Ecomonics!) they cite, is that all the results are based on the flawed (IMO) projections of the output from the models in the first link above.
    http://www.skepticalscience.com/print.php?n=507
    If you attack the methods that’s fine. But why attack the people who disagree with you? Our B.S. detectors should go off whenever someone attacks the person behind an arguement rather than the arguement, or uses strawmen to steer the debate.

  38. Mitch

    I find is incredibly sad and disheartening that a blog so devoted to solid empirical analysis can devolve so quickly into ideological half-truths and sound bites in the comments section.

  39. Steven Kopits

    On global warming:
    UAH satellite temp anomaly for Feb. is -0.12 deg C. See it here: http://www.drroyspencer.com/latest-global-temperatures/
    Global sea ice anomaly: http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/global.daily.ice.area.withtrend.jpg
    Antarctic sea ice anomaly — upward trend (not down): http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/seaice.anomaly.antarctic.png
    On the physical expansion of Manhattan over what has been a period of global warming, NYT, print edition, cover, Real Estate section, today. Similar topic: Everybody Inhale http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/04/realestate/how-many-people-can-manhattan-hold.html?hpw
    Upside of warm US winter, again NYT: “This year’s flu season, however, didn’t officially begin until late last month. And while a true number is difficult to reach — not every sick person is tested, for instance, and the cause of a death in the hospital can be clouded by co-morbidities — it is likely that no more than a few hundred people in America, and possibly far fewer, have died of the flu this winter. Indeed, by any measurement, the statistics are historic and heartening. For every individual who has been hospitalized this season, 22 people were hospitalized in the 2010-11 flu season. Even more strikingly, 122 children died of flu last season and 348 during the flu outbreak of 2009-10 — while this time around that number is 3.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/04/opinion/sunday/the-best-part-about-global-warming.html

  40. CoRev

    For those who do not follows the GW blogs and know what the Gleick issue might be about, Peter Gleick, a loud voice in the scientific ethics community and a water specialist, used a fake Id to get copies of the Heartland Institute’s board meeting materials.
    He then released them with a faked memo claiming several things, most of which were from the purloined materials, but the memo was written to show th worst possible face for them.
    Gleick was outed by several very smart bloggers, and he confessed a few days later. Part of his statement included: “…Given the potential impact however, I attempted to confirm the accuracy of the information in this document. In an effort to do so, and in a serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics, I solicited and received additional materials directly from the Heartland Institute under someone else’s name….” (My emphasis)
    For the skeptic community Gleick’s actions confirmed the worst thoughts of “anything for the cause” attitude that seemed evident in Climatgate I & II. Trust in the science and scientists have been lost with these actions.

  41. 2slugbaits

    Darren Back in 1837 the states did establish monetary policy, so you should care. Take the time to actually read some economic history instead of just winging it.
    Bruce Hall UGH!!! Good God, man. Look at the date of the Muller youtube lecture. That was an old lecture. Go look at what his website says today. Go look at his Santa Fe lecture from 3 months ago. A year ago he was pretty confident that he would be able to disprove manmade global warming. He now accepts manmade global warming and agrees with the 0.7 C estimate attributable to manmade warming.
    If you’re going to run a blog, then you really need to get your facts straight. Simple stuff like getting the timelines right. Checking dates. That kind of stuff. Or are you planning a second career as a stringer for Fox News?
    CoRev Heartland denied that they had been involved in trying to influence public education curricula. That claim was proven to have been a lie. If you don’t trust Gleick because he lied about his true identity, then why do you trust Heartland who was also caught lying?
    Mitch The discussion about global warming tracks a lot of economic discussions on this blog and is consistent with that NY Times story about how it isn’t the poorly educated that are most resistant to empirical evidence, but older conservatives with above average education. We see that here. We see it with hard science and soft science. We see it with global warming, evolution and simple facts like the size of the government workforce. We see it in the inability to understand the difference between unconditional and conditional forecasts. Folks with some quantitative skills, but not nearly as much as they believe. Just enough knowledge to be dangerous. People with enough knowledge to run regressions in Excel, but not enough skill to actually perform the necessary diagnostics, such as ADF tests for stationarity (see Menzie’s comment above to gt4)

  42. Darren

    2slugbrains wrote :
    Back in 1837 the states did establish monetary policy, so you should care.
    When did I even mention monetary policy? You must be responding to another commenter.
    ake the time to actually read some economic history instead of just winging it.
    This from the person who couldn’t even get the commenter to respond to correct.
    Then again, projection is to leftists what methane is to cattle.

  43. CoRev

    2slugs mad a fascinating statement of total untruths: “CoRev What Gleick did may have been unethical, but it does’t mean what he uncovered isn’t true. Heartland Institute is a corrupt astroturf “think tank” set up by Big Oil that got caught lying about its mission and who funded it.”
    Lessee, set up by “big oil” maybe true, but that’s not what Gleick found. Lying about its mission? It’s mission is unchanged, and that’s not what Gleick found. Who funded what?

  44. Darren

    So, Menzie, I am still waiting for your answer to my tax question :
    What do you think the top marginal tax rate should be on the wealthy? It is currently as high as 45% for people in California and New York city (counting state, local, medicare taxes).
    What rate would YOU want it to be?

  45. Moopheus

    Can you estimate how much of the rise and fall in state & local spending is due directly to the housing bubble? Rising house prices=rising property taxes, falling prices=falling property axes.

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