The Year in Review, 2020: Hanging on for Dear Life (and Rational Policymaking)

I remember once seeing a book on a used bookstore shelf in Washington DC (Second Story Books?) years ago entitled “Great Public Policy Disasters” or something like that. Over this year, I’ve been thinking that one could write an entire book series entitled “Great Public Policy Disasters of 2020” . With that in mind, here’s the year in review:

January: Some people continue their crusade against confidence intervals, and statistical theory in general.

http://econbrowser.com/archives/2020/01/a-critique-of-confidence-intervals

February: The inimitable Judy Shelton is still on on tap for the Fed … to the amazement of all sane people…

http://econbrowser.com/archives/2020/02/malleable-and-ductile

March: I don’t know why people who can’t understand a model talk about models.

http://econbrowser.com/archives/2020/03/when-non-economists-talk-macro

April: An Econbrowser reader (representative of many people, apparently) says the pandemic is “slightly overblown”

http://econbrowser.com/archives/2020/04/reader-comment-from-march-9th

May: White House foregoes Mid-Session Review, retains the January forecast:

http://econbrowser.com/archives/2020/05/the-hill-white-house-to-forgo-summer-economic-forecast-amid-covid-19-breaking-precedent

Runner up: Trump’s implicit valuation of life as of May 22 is about 1/10 of OMB’s valuation. Who knows what it is in December?

http://econbrowser.com/archives/2020/05/trumps-implicit-valuation-of-life-back-of-envelope-calculations-from-the-pandemic-response

June: Even after three years of Trump in office, his racism is stunning. I predicted his racism would just escalate as the campaign neared its end — and I was right!

http://econbrowser.com/archives/2020/06/kung-flu-in-recent-historical-perspective

July: Thinking about what monetary policy has to do to target a gold price…

http://econbrowser.com/archives/2020/07/if-we-were-to-implement-a-gold-price-target-what-should-the-fed-funds-rate-be

August: How to mangle the data, illustrated, by a Covid-19-denier

http://econbrowser.com/archives/2020/08/worst-statistical-analysis-i-have-seen-this-year

Runner Up: ALEC’s economic outlook index again…

http://econbrowser.com/archives/2020/08/alec-laffer-state-competitiveness-index-13th-edition-is-out

September: The spectre of Scott Walker returns to disinform

http://econbrowser.com/archives/2020/09/scott-walker-wisconsins-agricultural-manufacturing-jobs-would-be-devastated-under-biden-leadership

October: As Wisconsin hospitalizations and fatalities surge, conservative legal organizations are suing to strike down public health measures

http://econbrowser.com/archives/2020/10/wisconsin-covid-19-trends

November: As record numbers of people go to food banks and measured growth decelerates, Stephen Moore lauds “Trump’s super recovery”

http://econbrowser.com/archives/2020/11/stephen-moore-trumps-super-recovery

December: Like a perennial, fears of inflation re-appear

http://econbrowser.com/archives/2020/12/debasing-the-dollar-or-inflation-looming-again

That’s it! And I didn’t even mention “bleach” and “sunlight” – let’s all hope for a return to sane policy analysis in 2021.

28 thoughts on “The Year in Review, 2020: Hanging on for Dear Life (and Rational Policymaking)

  1. Dr. Dysmalist

    I hope that, one year from now, we can celebrate that our policymakers returned to having a deep respect and appreciation for the data that so many unsung civil servants work hard to provide us. And I hope that all of us use that data correctly and as fully as possible in the pursuit of truth.

    May all of us have a safe and prosperous new year.

    1. pgl

      Well said in my view. But of course JohnH would say we are practicing partisan hyperbole. So hey – let’s join him and wear those MAGA hats!

  2. ltr

    December 31, 2020

    Coronavirus

    US

    Cases   ( 20,445,654)
    Deaths   ( 354,215)

    India

    Cases   ( 10,286,329)
    Deaths   ( 149,018)

    France

    Cases   ( 2,620,425)
    Deaths   ( 64,632)

    UK

    Cases   ( 2,488,780)
    Deaths   ( 73,512)

    Germany

    Cases   ( 1,743,478)
    Deaths   ( 34,104)

    Mexico

    Cases   ( 1,413,935)
    Deaths   ( 124,897)

    Canada

    Cases   ( 581,395)
    Deaths   ( 15,606)

    China

    Cases   ( 87,052)
    Deaths   ( 4,634)

  3. ltr

    December 31, 2020

    Coronavirus   (Deaths per million)

    UK   ( 1,080)
    US   ( 1,067)
    France   ( 989)
    Mexico   ( 964)

    Canada   ( 412)
    Germany   ( 406)
    India   ( 107)
    China   ( 3)

    Notice the ratios of deaths to coronavirus cases are 8.8%, 3.0% and 2.5% for Mexico, the United Kingdom and France respectively.

  4. ltr

    https://news.cgtn.com/news/2021-01-01/Chinese-mainland-reports-19-new-COVID-19-cases-WGIuXLV5ni/index.html

    January 1, 2021

    Chinese mainland reports 19 new COVID-19 cases

    The Chinese mainland recorded 19 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, of which 9 were locally transmitted and 10 from overseas, the National Health Commission said on Friday.

    Four domestic cases were reported in Liaoning Province, 5 in Beijing.

    Nineteen new asymptomatic COVID-19 cases were also recorded, while 279 asymptomatic patients remained under medical observation.

    No COVID-19 deaths were registered on Thursday. Meanwhile, 17 patients were discharged from hospital. The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in China reached 87,071, and the death toll stood at 4,634.

    Chinese mainland new imported cases

    https://news.cgtn.com/news/2021-01-01/Chinese-mainland-reports-19-new-COVID-19-cases-WGIuXLV5ni/img/3b546ed8e4854f549d9e93cb271ae1ae/3b546ed8e4854f549d9e93cb271ae1ae.jpeg

    Chinese mainland new asymptomatic cases

    https://news.cgtn.com/news/2021-01-01/Chinese-mainland-reports-19-new-COVID-19-cases-WGIuXLV5ni/img/831533e9b6a94d9eb71a8fdeb4ff72bb/831533e9b6a94d9eb71a8fdeb4ff72bb.jpeg

    [ There has been no coronavirus death on the Chinese mainland since the beginning of May.  Since the beginning of June there have been only limited community clusters of infections, each of which was an immediate focus of mass testing, contact tracing and quarantine, with each outbreak having been contained.  Symptomatic and asymptomatic cases are all contact traced and quarantined.

    Imported coronavirus cases are caught at entry points with required testing and immediate quarantine.  Cold-chain imported food products are all checked and tracked through distribution.  The flow of imported cases to China is low, but has been persistent.

    There are now 370 active coronavirus cases in all on the Chinese mainland, 9 of which cases are classed as serious or critical. ]

    1. pgl

      Yea – you actually think you are smarter than Krugman even though you may be the dumbest troll ever. Try reading the headline of that 1st link. We have seen a global recession but the dumbest clown ever calls this hypebole. Your stupidity is never ending.

    2. pgl

      Krugman five weeks ago wrote the following partisan hyperbole to use JohnH’s words:

      “The next few months are going to be incredibly grim. The pandemic is exploding, but Donald Trump is tweeting while America burns. His officials, unwilling to admit that he lost the election, are refusing even to share coronavirus data with the Biden team.

      As a result, many preventable deaths will occur before a vaccine’s widespread distribution. And the economy will take a hit, too; travel is declining, an early indicator of a slowdown in job growth and possibly even a return to job losses as virus fears cause consumers to hunker down again.

      But a vaccine is coming. Nobody is sure which of the promising candidates will prevail, or when they’ll be widely available. But it’s a good guess that we’ll get this pandemic under control at some point next year.”

      Wait – this sounds exactly right. Now will 2021QIV see the economy bouncing back. Let’s hope so.

      But I have another prediction – we are going to see even more of the dumbest BS of all time from the troll known as JohnH.

    3. 2slugbaits

      JohnH You’re being less than fully honest here. Yes, Krugman did make an over-the-top prediction the day after the 2016 election. But he quickly corrected the record and admitted that he was reacting emotionally and not as a proper economist. We should all hope that in 2021 Trump’s supporters will be equally forthright in admitting that they backed a dangerous candidate. Just as Krugman apologized for making an over-the-top prediction, so should Trump’s supporters apologize for the very real damage they caused by voting for that clown show of a president. And yes CoRev and Bruce Hall and sammy, I’m talking to you. You owe the country an apology followed by ten Our Fathers, ten Hail Mary’s and one hundred Act of Contritions. Now go and sin no more. Make that your New Year’s resolution.

      1. JohnH

        I didn’t back Trump. I voted third party, because I can’t stand either of the evils. I’m quite happy to admit that Trump did real damage in ways to numerous to count.

        And, yes, Krugman recanted, but only three years later, after having repeated his partisan nonsense throughout 2016. Even pgl is technically right—a global recession did eventually occur as they have throughout history.

        I remember early in Trump’s term, pgl was playing the partisan doomsayer, trying to convince everyone that Trump was sure to raise interest rates. Now you have to understand that pgl lives in NYC, so you would think that he might possibly have known just a little bit about Trump. Apparently not! Trump was a real estate magnate. If real estate magnates find anything abhorrent, it’s high interest rates. Trump most certainly would never favor high interest rates. But this was inconsistent with pgl’s partisan message, so instead of reconsidering his position, he had his usual hissy fit.p, laden with lots of insults.

        But again, pgl was technically correct, the Fed did raise interest rates as they typically do as the economy strengths, though their blinked every time Wall Street coughed. I don’t the numbers, but I remember Trump belly aching as much as pgl every time rates got raised.

        1. Menzie Chinn Post author

          JohnH: I’m sorry, how could Krugman repeat this “partisan nonsense through 2016” if his column is from … November 2016?

          I doubt pgl said Trump was sure to raise interest rates; I’m sure he is well aware the Fed raises interest rates. Rather he said the advent of a debt-loving Trump would induce an increase in interest rates (Taylor rule for short rates, crowding out for long rates). And indeed the Fed really started raising rates as starting with Trump’s election, and kept on raising with a hiatus before passage of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act, whereupon the raising continued.

          1. pgl

            Look I have gotten used to having JohnH lie about what I said. He gets all flustered and angry when I note some of which he writes is Bruce Hall level stupid. Then again Bruce Hall gets angry at being corrected on his nonsense too. Which is what JohnH strikes me as Bruce no relationship to Robert Hall II.

            Now if one thinks about the state of the economy back in early 2017, it seemed quite strong so it was a wise decision for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates. Of course the FED got nervous about what Trump’s vaunted economy started to look like later as you have often addressed. And the FED reversed course thankfully.

            I guess noting the FED was trying to do the right thing is being partisan. Now I did oppose the 2017 tax give away for the rich, which I presume JohnH is now praising????

          2. Dr. Dysmalist

            Well. So much for my wish that we would, in this new year, renew a reverence for and devotion to accurate information, i.e. facts. Thank you, kind and benevolent host, for correcting the record.

            And as for frequently trotting out one’s votes for third parties as a virtue or badge of honor, I firmly believe it is neither. Anyone who, when confronted with choosing one out of a list which includes a protofascist, a pretty much normal person, and any number (from 1 to infinity) of third-party candidates with zero chance of winning, opts for one of the deadenders, is complicit if the protofascist wins. Not choosing the only one of the major candidates who is not evil is almost as bad as affirmatively voting for the evil one.

        2. pgl

          “trying to convince everyone that Trump was sure to raise interest rates.”

          Actually it is the FED not Trump who determines monetary policy. And see our host’s comment as he captured what I was thinking back then and saying. Then again our host used economic terminology so I guess it will go straight over your little head.

        3. pgl

          “But again, pgl was technically correct, the Fed did raise interest rates as they typically do as the economy strengths, though their blinked every time Wall Street coughed. I don’t the numbers, but I remember Trump belly aching as much as pgl every time rates got raised.”

          This was so incredibly incoherent that I had to go to FRED and refresh my memory about what happened to short-term government bond yields. They rose over the period from when Trump was elected until Nov. 2018 which is when the trade war kicked in. Yes they started to lower interest rates for reasons our host has often noted. Now I would ask you to go read his posts on this over the last couple of years but again you would never understand basic economics.

          But this has nothing to do with Wall Street coughing. Whatever that stupid term of yours even means. Then again I live in Brooklyn so I have not been in the Wall Street area for years. Get a map of NYC sometime – dumbass.

        4. 2slugbaits

          JohnH Krugman recanted, but only three years later

          As I recall it was closer to three days later. The stock market tanked immediately after Trump’s election, which is what prompted Krugman’s post, but the stock market recovered just as quickly, which is what prompted Krugman to apologized. BTW, Krugman also said that Trump would likely start a trade war. He kinda got that one right.

          1. pgl

            “Krugman also said that Trump would likely start a trade war.”

            Do you know why JohnH hates Krugman? It is because his Nobel Prize was awarded for his work in international trade. That means to the know nothing troll called JohnH that Krugman is dogmatic free trader who works only for rich people. Of course anyone who has ever read anything Krugman has written realizes he is not a dogmatic free trader and certainly not a mouth piece for rich people.

            But JohnH is so incredibly dumb that he thinks all trade protection is a good thing. Even Trump’s incredibly stupid trade war. Now a lot of trade protection helps rich people but don’t expect a stupid troll like JohnH to get that.

          2. 2slugbaits

            anyone who has ever read anything Krugman has written realizes he is not a dogmatic free trader

            Right. Krugman has even been known to be a bit sympathetic with Smoot-Hawley under certain conditions.

            JohnH strikes me as someone whose life circumstances are such that he can afford to indulge in the solipsism of purity politics. I think Dr. Dysmalist hit the nail on the head.

        5. noneconomist

          As a self styled third party voting idealist, JohnH. absolves himself of any blame for any current issues. Casting his vote for Otto Schmidlap maintained his sense of independence and self worth, even if Otto had less chance of being elected than (the late) Mr. Ed.
          He sees no problem with the 97,000 idealists who cast votes for Ralph Nader rather than one of two electable candidates even if only 538 of those 97,000 votes could have prevented much of the Bush craziness.
          But he can certainly lecture those whose pragmatism he abhors, especially those “corporatists” who number everybody but him.

  5. pgl

    April: An Econbrowser reader (representative of many people, apparently) says the pandemic is “slightly overblown”

    With his incessant Pollyanna crap on this virus Bruce Hall did make an excellent run for the dumbest troll ever. But we have a new candidate – did you just notice how JohnH declared any notion of a global recession partisan hypebole.

    Hey Bruce – time to come off vacation and write some of your patented nonsense as you are now trailing in the race for Stupidest Troll Alive.

  6. pgl

    “Under any circumstances, putting an irresponsible, ignorant man who takes his advice from all the wrong people in charge of the nation with the world’s most important economy would be very bad news”

    So JohnH thinks having Navarro lead trade policy and Kudlow be the chief economic adviser were good moves? Yes boys and girls – JohnH is really this incredibly dumb.

  7. pgl

    ‘Scott Walker: Wisconsin’s agricultural, manufacturing jobs would be ‘devastated’ under Biden leadership
    The people of Wisconsin have seen ‘the jobs come back since Donald Trump and Mike Pence have been in office,’ Walker said’

    The Faux News headline under your September entry. Yea you have shown Walker is an utter boob. But he may be recruiting our own JohnH to be his speech writer! Nah – that Fox News headline is not “partisan hyperbole”.

  8. joseph

    JohnH: “Maybe in 2021 some Very Serious Opinion influencers can dispense with their oh so serious hyperbole …”

    Here is what Krugman said back in 2016:
    “… the GOP nominee’s administration could quickly undo the progress that the markets around the world have made in the eight years since the financial crisis. Under any circumstances, putting an irresponsible, ignorant man who takes his advice from all the wrong people in charge of the nation with the world’s most important economy would be very bad news.”

    And here we are four years later and everything about the economy is worse than when Trump took office: employment is down, unemployment is up, GDP is down, the trade deficit is up, and 350,000 people are dead of a virus, one of the worst public calamities in history. Krugman’s prediction about an irresponsible, ignorant man who takes his advice from all the wrong people was right on target. It just took Trump’s incompetence a little longer to get there but it was quite predictable.

    1. pgl

      Remember when Kelly Anne Conway tried to blame Obama and Biden for COVID-19. After all according to Ms. Alternative Facts this had been preceded by COVID-1, COVID-2, etc. Yes she is really that stupid but then I bet she is brighter than JohnH!

  9. ltr

    Latin American countries have recorded 4 of the 13 highest and 6 of the 24 highest number of coronavirus cases among all countries.  Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Chile.

    Mexico, with more than 1.4 million cases recorded, has the 4th highest number of cases among Latin American countries and the 13th highest number of cases among all countries.  Peru, with more than 1 million cases, has the 5th highest number of cases among Latin American countries and the 18th highest number among all countries.  Mexico was the 4th among all countries to have recorded more than 100,000 and 125,000 coronavirus deaths.

    December 31, 2020

    Coronavirus   (Deaths per million)

    US   ( 1,067) *

    Brazil   ( 914)
    Argentina   ( 952)
    Colombia   ( 845)

    Mexico   ( 964)
    Peru   ( 1,135)
    Chile   ( 865)

    Ecuador   ( 790)
    Bolivia   ( 779)

    * Descending number of cases

  10. ltr

    https://apps.bea.gov/iTable/iTable.cfm?reqid=19&step=3&isuri=1&select_all_years=0&nipa_table_list=5&series=q&1=5&2=2007&3=2018&4=q&5=x&first_year=2017&6=0&7=survey&last_year=2020&scale=-9&thetable=

    December 22, 2020

    Defense spending was 59.7% of federal government consumption and investment in July through September 2020. *

    $887.7 / $1,487.0 = 59.7%

    Defense spending was 23.3% of all government consumption and investment in July through September 2020.

    $887.7 / $3,816.6 = 23.3%

    Defense spending was 4.2% of GDP in July through September 2020.

    $887.7 / $21,170.3 = 4.2%

    * Billions of dollars

    [ What is actually being spent now by the Defense Department. ]

  11. macroduck

    I was stumped by “January”. A simply stunning lack of understanding of what the language of statistical analysis means. Essentially, the complaint was that if the conditions which allow for valid analysis are not present, confidence intervals aren’t valid. Yeah, and? If confidence intervals aren’t reliable, odds are mean, median and mode are not reliable, either. Sheesh.

    I realize the other months’ links represent more harm to people, but January is as bad as it gets in terms of intellectual failure.

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