Worried about Surging Inflation?

Periodically, I get emails from some guy named Tim Congdon of the Institute of International Monetary Research, bewailing the tendency “to shrug off the inflation risks that have in the past arisen from too much monetary financing of large budget deficits.” So…big increases in the Fed’s balance sheet: will they collide with reduced supply over the medium run to produce inflation? TIPS say no…

Figure 1: Money base, in millions $ (left scale) and 5 year inflation breakeven, calculated as GS5-FII5, % (right scale). 

One can see the logic of the anxiety. Consider using a IS-LM-AD-AS model (from these lecture notes on the Covid-19 shock). AD and medium run AS shift in (red arrows), but in short run AD inward shift is bigger. Then we get deflation in short run. In medium run, if fiscal and monetary policy are unable to counteract autonomous consumption and investment declines, then the price level will adjust downward (purple arrows).

But if over time the monetary impulse is big enough so the AD shifts out (say the red arrow is undone), an attempt to re-attain the original level of output Y0 will result in inflation…

It’s just that the markets don’t yet see inflation on the horizon. Now, one might say that expectations inferred from TIPS are questionable. We can look to the last time when folks worried about hyperinflation in the wake of QE1, QE2, QE3. Then the mean error from 2008M11 to 2015M03 was -0.06 percentage points (TIPS overpredicted inflation). If I account for TIPS liquidity issues by dropping 2008M11-12, the overprediction rises to -0.13 percentage points.

Well, markets aren’t omniscient, so we could get surging inflation. They just aren’t signalling it.

Addendum, 4/29: Bruce Hall seems to think closing down means no output. My point is we could’ve — with competent leadership and administration — done something closer to S. Korea (few deaths/million) and minimized the downturn – Korea has only a 1.4% q/q decline.


95 thoughts on “Worried about Surging Inflation?

  1. pgl


    Tim Congdon is an economist and businessman who has for over 30 years been a strong advocate of sound money and free markets in the UK’s public policy debates. He is often regarded as the UK’s leading “monetarist” economist and as one of its most influential economic commentators. He was a member of the Treasury Panel of Independent Forecasters (the so-called “wise men”) between 1992 and 1997, which advised the Chancellor of the Exchequer on economic policy. Lombard Street Research, one of the City of London’s leading economic research consultancies, was founded by him in 1989. He was its Managing Director from 1989 to 2001 and its Chief Economist from 2001 to 2005.

    A Cato sound money type cast as a wise man? What was his independent forecast for U.S. inflation during the QE episodes during the Great Recession?

  2. rick shapiro

    And don’t forget the asymmetric consequences of inflation and deflation. Ordinary inflation can somewhat discourage investment by increasing uncertainty in returns (although hyperinflation, which always is a consequence of government trying to support itself by printing money, is not a reasonable possibility in the US).
    Deflation, on the other hand, devastates investment, reduces societal wealth by idling productive human and material capital, and blights millions of lives.
    They certainly don’t deserve equal risk probabilities.

  3. Moses Herzog

    I believe a man Professor Chinn has high regard for is also putting most of his poker chips on a lack of inflation, though not saying it is impossible in a highly unusual 2020 context:
    (My spellcheck keeps wanting to call Professor Chinn “Professor China” and I have the fear of God building up inside me that one day it’s going to get past me)

    Always enjoy the IS-LM related stuff as it’s my opinion it’s still an important framework to view things through.

    1. macroduck

      Blanchard’s three conditions combine to suggest low odds of inflation in the next cycle or so. Among those conditions, only fiscal expansion obtained prior to the pandemic. The other two conditions were absent. If a low neutral rate persists and is exacerbated by the pandemic, then already weakened central bank tools will be weakened further. Inflation may remain too low to allow rate policy to have much power. So while low odds of inflation may be a happy thought for some, those low odds represent evidence of other problems in the economy.

      Given that’s the case, it might be wise to actively pursue a higher public debt-to-GDP ratio in order to maintain living standards and keep inflation from falling dangerously low. A slow recovery with a higher saving rate and reduced risk appetite means government will be able to borrow at very low cost. That amounts to a signal that government should be borrowing to replace credit demand from business and household sectors. The list of potential useful spending items is long and fairly well known. Infrastructure (particularly infrastructure aimed at facilitating transition to a low-carbon economy), education, basic research and research further along toward commercialization in areas that meet societal needs, universal health care, pollution mitigation and remediation and so on.

  4. 2slugbaits

    So this guy is worried about possible inflation at some indefinite time in the future? And what level of of inflation has him worried? 3% inflation? 4% inflation? 10% inflation? Zimbabwe? Fortunately I’m not on this guy’s emailing list, so I don’t know if he’s quantified any of these risks or if he’s just expressing some vague uneasiness of the kind that one might feel as a kid when walking through the cemetery at midnight on Halloween…and hearing chainsaws…in Texas.

    Going back to the old IS-LM workhorse, it strikes me that right now the LM curve is pretty damn flat. Interest rates in the US aren’t quite zero, but not far from it. And in many OECD countries interest rates are well into negative territory. Sounds to me like people want to hold onto cash. Maybe that will change in a few years, but worrying about a possible future problem that is both manageable and well understood like inflation at the expense worrying about an immediate and severe problem sounds king of goofy. It’s like Thurston Howell worrying that Gilligan might steal his money.

    I’m hoping that one good thing to come out of this pandemic is that economists will rethink GDP. We know that healthcare costs are going to blow up this quarter. And somewhat ironically those higher healthcare costs will add to GDP. But instead of worrying about GDP, we should pay more attention to NDP. When we calculate NDP we subtract depreciation or capital consumption from the investment component of GDP. One thing that this pandemic makes painfully obvious is that much of healthcare spending should really be treated as depreciation costs for human labor. Subtracting certain kinds of healthcare costs from GDP would concentrate economists’ minds on the true costs of any “herd immunity” solution. If you just look at GDP without correcting for human depreciation the NIPA tables would suggest that a “herd immunity” solution could increase measured GDP because it would increase healthcare’s contribution to GDP.

  5. Not Trampis

    Central banks can easily combat inflation but have little in their armoury to combat deflation.

    Hyperinflation requires central banks to be led by Trump!

  6. Bruce Hall

    Bryan Caplan wrote a differing view in March: https://www.econlib.org/i-fear-stagflation-and-general-price-controls-are-coming/

    Not too sure about general price controls, but we could have a period of high unemployment because the states chose to shut down (versus the Swedish approach) and subsequently businesses closed and supply chains were disrupted. This could lead to shortages in key areas such as food, especially meat production and higher prices. https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-04-22/meat-shortage-coronavirus

    Fortunately, we still have a glut of oil so we won’t see a repeat of the 1970s when energy prices skyrocketed and drove up the price of everything else while creating high unemployment.

    Some politicians might want price controls: https://roguerocket.com/2020/03/26/calls-for-rent-freeze-grow/ and https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/elections-2020/biden-sanders-demand-freeze-on-rent-payments-evictions-across-u-s/ar-BB11QzbZ.

    We may look back in 5 or 10 years and say, “Absolutely, shutting down the economy was the stupidest thing we could have done.” https://www.facebook.com/KGET17News/videos/537566680274166/

    1. pgl

      Caplan had an interesting discussion especially the end when he talked about the 1970’s. This passage of yours tells me you have no clue what he was talking about:

      ‘we still have a glut of oil so we won’t see a repeat of the 1970s when energy prices skyrocketed and drove up the price of everything else while creating high unemployment.’

      Oil prices drive everything in your view? Damn Bruce – you are even dumber than we gave you credit for.

      1. Bruce Hall

        pgl, Oil prices drive everything in your view? Damn Bruce – you are even dumber than we gave you credit for.

        I take it you weren’t around in the early 70s through early 80s when the U.S. went through recessions and double-digit inflation because of the “oil shocks”. History is a bitch. https://www.britannica.com/topic/oil-crisis

        What I wrote: Fortunately, we still have a glut of oil so we won’t see a repeat of the 1970s when energy prices skyrocketed and drove up the price of everything else while creating high unemployment.

        But what we have now is worse because (some) economists and (some) politicians really believe that the economy can be shut down without severe consequences. These are the same economists and politicians that say it will be months before we can get back to doing business again… just to be safe. This cure is far worse than the disease. Most people in the U.S. are not ill; all people in the U.S. are being adversely affected by over-reactive government.

        1. pgl

          I was around during this period. In fact, I have published articles on this topic. My point was simple – oil is only one factor but leave it to a moron like you to think it is the only factor. Now you continue with your sheer stupidity:

          ‘But what we have now is worse because (some) economists and (some) politicians really believe that the economy can be shut down without severe consequences. These are the same economists and politicians that say it will be months before we can get back to doing business again… just to be safe. This cure is far worse than the disease.’

          No one has said the current situation is not difficult. NO ONE! So why the lies Brucie? Oh wait – you are still saying massive deaths is a small price to pay to make your leader (Trump) look good. Get real – he is incompetent. And no amount of incredibly dumb comments from you changes that.

        2. 2slugbaits

          Bruce Hall (some) economists and (some) politicians really believe that the economy can be shut down without severe consequences.

          It’s easy to argue with a strawman. No one is saying that there won’t be economic consequences to “shutting down” the economy. And I hope you’re not stupid enough to believe that there won’t be economic consequences if we followed a business-as-usual approach and didn’t shut down parts of the economy. There are smart ways to “shut down” the economy and there are stupid ways to do it. The stupid way is to pretend that there’s no problem so we should just pretend the virus is nothing more than a nuisance. If a few folks have to die, well…that’s just a shame but it’s more important that we keep the economy going full bore and re-elect Donald Trump. That’s the MAGA hat solution. But that was never going to happen. Britain tried that approach and had to reverse course after reality sunk in. Some cities tried that approach during the Spanish flu pandemic and it didn’t work then either. The smart approach to shuttering the economy is to close nonessential businesses and then have the Treasury write lots of checks to keep out-of-work folks afloat. And you want to shut things down hard early on and do lots of testing early on. Also, as I’ve argued before, you need to look at Leontief I/O matrices and Domar weights to model how shutting down individual economic sectors affect overall employment.

          This cure is far worse than the disease.

          So not being able to enjoy your juicy ribeye is worse than people dying prematurely? How very Trumpian of you.

          Most people in the U.S. are not ill

          Did it ever occur to you that shutting down and social distancing might have something to do with that?

          And you completely misunderstood my comment regarding meatpacking plants. The issue was not the governor’s political party; my point was that meatpacking plants had to be shut down eventually irrespective of the governors’ decisions to try and keep them open. In other words, the notion that the choice is between shutting down the economy and keeping things going as before is a false choice. One way or another those plants were going to be shut down. If not by the governor, then by the workers refusing to show up to work or because those workers became too sick to work. Almost all of your comments are based on this false choice, as though we can choose keep the economy going with only a few people getting mildly ill for a few days. You’re living in another world. Maybe you live in a gated community shut off from reality. OTOH, if you lived in a nursing home you might have a different perspective.

    2. 2slugbaits

      Bruce Hall Apparently both you and Bryan Caplan don’t know the difference between the SRAS and LRAS curves. Another incomplete cocktail napkin “analysis.” Will you guys ever learn? As to prices, I do think there’s a potential problem there as the economy opens up, but not the problem that Caplan sees. I’m more concerned with unreliable price and demand signals as the economy opens up. That could lead to “bullwhip” effects if certain sectors of the economy respond to price and demand signals through changes in intermediate output sectors rather than point-of-final-sale demand signals. The other potential problem is that certain sectors of the economy (e.g., agriculture) are especially susceptible to the “cobweb” model. If the market supply curve is very flat relative to the demand curve and if suppliers primarily rely upon price signals, then the market will tend to move away from equilibrium in the absence of government intervention.

      As to temporary (and people are only talking about TEMPORARY) freezes on rents, interest and evictions, those policy choices are almost certainly better than “free market” policies that are based on an immature “econ 101” understanding of economics.

      The only people who will be saying that shutting down the economy was a bad idea would be those who are temperamentally unable to admit they were wrong; i.e., your garden variety MAGA hatter. Failing to shut down was godawful in Britain and they had to reverse course. Sweden’s experiment with “herd immunity” has been a disaster. Currently Sweden’s mortality rate is 219 per million and still rising. Compare that to Germany’s 72 per million and flat. The US is at 149 per million and flat. For a good takedown on the “herd immunity” approach initially tried by Britain, see this:

      As to food shortages, yes, there’s likely to be shortages. But that does not mean keeping the economy open would have prevented food shortages. Indeed, the biggest shortages in meatpacking plants are happening in areas where those plants were not shut down. Governors tried to exempt those plants with disastrous results. Those plants eventually closed because workers refused to come to work.

      1. pgl

        ‘Indeed, the biggest shortages in meatpacking plants are happening in areas where those plants were not shut down. Governors tried to exempt those plants with disastrous results. Those plants eventually closed because workers refused to come to work.’

        Correct but here is the funny thing about the LATimes article Brucie boy linked to – the very first sentence made the same exact point:

        “The clock is ticking for the U.S. to avoid a meat shortage as sick workers force more slaughterhouses to shut down.”

        Once again Brucie boy misinterprets what his own sources say. I have to wonder if Brucie even bothers to read his own stuff!

          1. Menzie Chinn Post author

            Bruce Hall: For a person until recently advocating widespread use of hydroxychloriquine, it seems rich to me that you are now accusing someone of spouting nonsense.

          2. pgl

            Hey Bruce – read the very first sentence in your own link. Read it over and over again. Apparently you need to do so just to figure out what your own link said.

          3. Bruce Hall

            Menzie, it may be that hydroxychloroquine, by itself, won’t be a “cure”. On the other hand: https://www.webmd.com/lung/news/20200421/fda-approves-hydroxychloroquine-trial-for-covid-19 It’s interesting that most positive results were with a combination of HCQ, azithromycin, and zinc.

            It’s also interesting that Remdesivir hit the news as the next great treatment and then nothing except the Chinese trying to patent the product of Gilead’s research. https://www.msn.com/en-ie/news/world/concerns-that-china-concealed-knowledge-of-covid-19-following-revelation-of-drug-patent-in-january/ar-BB13geBY

            Medicinal misinformation is not a new problem — in one example, false rumors abounded during the HIV/AIDS crisis — but the speed and spread of misinformation related to COVID-19 is on a scale never before seen.

            Chinese state-run media had touted the drug as a potential cure earlier in February, and a Nigerian doctor made a similar claim, but it was the French doctor who seemed to capture the attention of social media users. An interview with Russian state-owned television, RT News, published Feb. 27, had about 350,000 views as of Thursday….


            So maybe this was a disinformation campaign from the government of the nation that started the pandemic. Who knows at this point. If it was, it certainly has been effective at diverting resources in nations around the world. If Trump hadn’t tried to get some action to see if the drug/drug combination worked against the virus, then he would have been accused of doing nothing to use a treatment when when China was already telling us what the treatment was.

            Now China claims no new cases in a month (same number of cases/deaths as a month ago with a very slight revision). So now everyone is convinced that all you have to do is shut everything down for an indefinite period and we’ll all be safe and the economy will be just fine. Well, almost everyone. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/22/no-lockdown-in-sweden-but-stockholm-could-see-herd-immunity-in-weeks.html

            So, maybe we will look back and say that Sweden was right and we simply played into the hands of panic caused by disinformation and bad policy based on that disinformation.

          4. Menzie Chinn Post author

            Bruce Hall: It’s a strawman you’ve set up. Did any of us say “shut down the entire economy”? I don’t think I did. We have lots of “essential services” continuing. I think we’re saying something on the order of “use science to guide us to when we can re-open certain segments of the economy.” And by science, I don’t mean the folks on FoxNews telling us use hydroxychloriquine, or “bringing the light” inside the body.

          5. 2slugbaits

            Bruce Hall No one was arguing against clinical trials for hydroxychloroquine. It may or may not be effective. There’s anecdotal evidence, but that’s not the same thing as going through clinical trials. Those anecdotal results could just be random noise. Or it could be that in some very specific cases hydroxychloroquine might have some therapeutic value. But you don’t know, which is why you need to do clinical trials. But Trump didn’t just let the experts evaluate hydroxychloroquine in an impartial and scientific way. Trump couldn’t help shooting off his fat mouth and telling his loyal followers that his gut told him it would work. He asked his MAGA hatters what they had to lose, apparently not realizing that they had a lot to lose. And then it comes out that Trump pressured government scientists to invent good news stories about hydroxychloroquine that weren’t based on science. Do you understand the difference between being silently agnostic about a drug’s effectiveness and being an uninformed cheerleader?

            As to Sweden, they may or may not achieve herd immunity. Given enough deaths almost any country could achieve herd immunity…assuming of course that the antibodies actually provide significant immunity, which is something that we don’t even know for sure. We have good reasons to believe that there could be some kind of immunity, but we don’t know that for sure. And we don’t know how long that immunity will last. What if it turns out that Sweden went through hell and killed off thousands of folks only to find out that the antibodies only provide limited protection for six months? The Swedes are taking a huge gamble just so they can go out and enjoy lingonberry crepes in a Stockholm restaurant. BTW, Sweden’s per capita death rate is about three times higher than its southern neighbors.

          6. pgl

            “It’s also interesting that Remdesivir hit the news as the next great treatment”

            Bruce Hall is still desperate to sell this hydroxychloroquine garbage? The folks at Gilead have NOT sold Remdesivir as a proven treatment. No – they have been careful about their phase III research. And of course the snake oil sales person that he is has decided that some incomplete and inconclusive news from China proves Remdesivir is worthless. Of course no serious scientist would draw that conclusion. But Bruce is neither a scientist nor serious.

          7. pgl

            “A patent for the commercial use of Remdesivir was filed on January 21 in a move that has been described as ‘provocative’ by clinical research site Trial Site News. Gilead maintains that it applied for the right to use Remdesivir to treat coronavirus four years ago, and clinical trials are currently underway to test the efficacy of the drug against COVID-19.”

            The Chinese company is BrightGene and this has been known since February. Gilead is well aware that this Chinese company is ramping up production of Remdesivir. Actually they are cool with 3rd party manufacturers ramping up production as we will need a lot of this if it works. Gilead will simply demand royalties for the use of their IP. So PeakTrader does not have to go off on China stealing our IP.

            But I get the sense that Bruce Hall is mad that the world’s scientists are trying to get an effective treatment. I guess that is because he is still trying to sell that Trump snake oil.

          8. Bruce Hall


            It’s time to bring some rational thought to this whole Covid19 panic that has resulting in the U.S. economy being shut down by the fear stoked daily in the media. While that fear is great for readership and bottom line in those media sources, it has been nothing more than an economic catastrophe for this nation… an unwarranted economic catastrophe.

            The latest updates of the projected deaths in the U.S. from Covid19 is less than 100,000.

            “The 1968 pandemic was caused by an influenza A (H3N2) virus comprised of two genes from an avian influenza A virus, including a new H3 hemagglutinin, but also contained the N2 neuraminidase from the 1957 H2N2 virus. It was first noted in the United States in September 1968. The estimated number of deaths was 1 million worldwide and about 100,000 in the United States. Most excess deaths were in people 65 years and older. The H3N2 virus continues to circulate worldwide as a seasonal influenza A virus. Seasonal H3N2 viruses, which are associated with severe illness in older people, undergo regular antigenic drift.”
            – source: CDC – 1968 Pandemic (H3N2 virus) https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1968-pandemic.html?

            How many states were shut down because of the H3N2 flu? Come on. You can surely guess that. Now, how many people in the U.S. died in the first year of that flu? You can surely read the quote above, correct? And which group was most vulnerable to the H3N2 flu? To Covid19? How many people are projected to die from Covid19? That’s rhetorical. You don’t have to answer.

            Oh, one last comparison. The U.S. population in 1970 was about 180 million; in 2020 it is about 330 million. With similar number of deaths from the epidemics, the H3N2 flu was almost twice as deadly.

            Oh, but if we didn’t shut down the nation, the epidemic would have been far worse. Sweden didn’t; it’s not. https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/11438740/sweden-coronavirus-death-rate-dips-40-fatalities-refuse-lockdown/

          9. Menzie Chinn Post author

            Bruce Hall: See addendum to post. Also, from WaPo today:

            [t]he New York state [death] rate appears to be 0.5 percent — which is one death per 200 infections.

            That figure is still sobering to infectious disease experts. A rate of 0.5 percent “is way more than a usual flu season and I would think way more than the ’57 or 1968 [influenza] pandemic death toll, too,” Viboud said.

            … an infection fatality rate of 0.6 percent, he said — a figure that roughly matches what has been seen in New York City.

            At that rate, the United States could potentially experience 1 million deaths if half the population became infected and no efforts were made to limit the contagion through social distancing, a vaccine or proven therapeutics, Shaman said.

          10. 2slugbaits

            Bruce Hall The 100,000 mortality number for Hong Kong flu was the total across successive waves. The initial wave killed 33,800. There are some important differences between the Hong Kong flu and COVID-19. One is the rate of transmissibility. The Ro for the first wave was in the 1.06 to 2.06 range, and for the second wave it was in the 1.21 to 3.58 range. The Ro for COVID-19 appears to be well north of even the second wave of the Hong Kong flu pandemic.

            Secondly, the Hong Kong flu was a flu, not a member of the SARS family. We had effective therapies for the Hong Kong flu, which is something that we don’t have today. The argument for opening up the economy at a quicker pace would be more convincing if we had effective therapies for COVID-19, but we don’t. We also don’t have a proven vaccine, unlike Hong Kong flu.

            Third, the fact that we didn’t close down the economy in 1968 is not a reason why we shouldn’t close nonessential sectors today. The elderly make up a larger percentage of today’s population than they did in 1968. And we’re a richer country. Most economists would treat life expectancy as a normal good, meaning that as we grow richer we value it more.

            Finally, your link to the Swedish death count is simply yet another Rupert Murdoch lie. You’ve been suckered again. Don’t you ever get tired of being played for a sucker? According to your link (which was dated 20 April) the daily death count for the previous day (19 April) was down to 40. That’s wrong. The daily death count for 19 April was 86.
            Sweden’s per capita mortality rate is the worst among the Nordic countries and is almost three times higher than Germany’s. Sweden is even doing worse than the US. You have to be careful about the Swedish data…especially reports over the weekend (19 April was a Sunday). The regions in Sweden do not uniformly report COVID-19 death counts over the weekend. Aren’t you even in the least embarrassed by your reliance on Rupert Murdoch media outlets? You should be. Murdoch delights in fooling rubes.

      2. Bruce Hall

        2slug, really? The only people who will be saying that shutting down the economy was a bad idea would be those who are temperamentally unable to admit they were wrong; i.e., your garden variety MAGA hatter.

        https://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory/jbs-shuts-minnesota-pork-plant-hit-covid-19-70246043. It seems to be a pretty good mix of governors representing both Democrats and Republicans who have tried to keep their processing plants open. But you’d argue that everything should have been shut down so that there would have been immediate and disastrous food shortages. Gee, what happened to “flattening the curve” for collapsing our economy?

        1. pgl

          “In Kansas, Gov. Laura Kelly sent personal protective equipment and testing supplies to counties with meat processing plants.”

          I guess you missed this as it was in the 2nd paragraph of your own link. These governors are doing what the owner of these companies and Trup have utterly failed. Find a way to safely run these processing plants. Come on Bruce – do learn to READ the English language before lecturing the rest of us. DUH!

    3. macroduck

      Um, no, we won’t. “Mistaken in retrospect” is a possible conclusion, but “dumb” requires bad thinking. Bad thinking is represented by ideas like “inject disinfectant” and “use ultraviolet light”. We don’t have to look back to know those are dumb ideas and we can’t honestly look back and conclude that limiting activity was “dumb”, since the choice to limit activity was based on the best thinking available. We have not “shut down” the economy, as any visit to a grocery will show.

      Thanks for playing, but you need to make your propaganda more challenging. Troll-whacking is one of the activities we can practice while in social isolation, and as long as you insist on trolling, you owe us a better effort

      1. Bruce Hall

        McDuck, “dumb” is making many assumptions without actual data. We’ll assume millions are going to die if we don’t shut everything down. Well, maybe only a million. Well maybe a few hundred thousand. Well, maybe…. Assumptions about actual infections versus confirmed when the sample was so small for the confirmed and the data for all of the actual was non-existent. There was no way to know if the sampling was representative or if it only represented the tail of the distribution. But enormous economic decisions were made on the basis of ignorance. So, yes, a real possibility that the decisions “in retrospect” were “dumb”.

        1. pgl

          “dumb” is making many assumptions without actual data.

          This is exactly what you do 24/7. Yea – even know you are dumb. As far as the projected number of deaths had we followed Trump’s original plan of doing nothing – that was based on some very smart modeling by people who understand this stuff. No wonder you hate it. Intelligence is not your style.

        2. 2slugbaits

          Bruce Hall If there’s anyone who has been guilty of making assumptions without actual data it’s you. Let me remind you that you insisted COVID-19 was no more lethal than the flu. You were the one who kept posting links to Fox News shows that featured supposed “doctors” who turned out to be quacks and frauds. You are the one who keeps insisting without clinical trial evidence that hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment for COVID-19. You’re the one who doesn’t seem to understand the economics of pandemics despite plenty of empirical work on past pandemics.

          Let me also remind you that in the early stages of the pandemic there were many studies (e.g., the Bern study, the Imperial College study, the Washington University study) that modeled ranges of infections and deaths under various mitigation strategies. And those studies were informed by actual data coming out of Asia.

          There was no way to know if the sampling was representative or if it only represented the tail of the distribution.

          Huh? This statement makes no sense. Do you know anything about sampling theory?

          But enormous economic decisions were made on the basis of ignorance. So, yes, a real possibility that the decisions “in retrospect” were “dumb”.

          Spoken by someone who has no experience with decision models.

        3. Baffling

          Bruce, the fallacy in your argument is that trump severely bungled our ability to test and acquire that data, something i pointed out in MARCH. And we still have not adequately developed that ability. Thank you maga and trump.

        4. macroduck

          Wow, Bruce, once you get going, you’ll write most anything. The smart thing, in fact the only thing, to do in the absence of data is to make assumptions. That’s what assumptions are all about. Now, if there were no critical decision to be made, we could forego assumptions and wait for more data, but we have really miportant decisions to make. You just wrote among the most nonsensical things ever to appear in this comments section.

    4. pgl

      ‘We may look back in 5 or 10 years and say, “Absolutely, shutting down the economy was the stupidest thing we could have done.” ‘

      I tried to listen to this supposed doctor of yours but I was also reading the comments to this total waste of Facebook. Something about having poor math skills. Gee Bruce – you found one doctor on Facebook that is even dumber than you are.

      No the stupidest thing we could do right now is listen to people like you, Trump, and this dumbass doctor as reopening too soon will lead to a new spike in deaths and a total shut down in the economy.

      Of course knowing you – you will manage to find an economist dumber than Lawrence Kudlow with a plan to reopen even without testing. Please try really hard as your stupid links are truly a laugh riot!

        1. pgl

          Tucker Carlson used your doctor as his evidence too. Just posted the story that busts your latest lie. Come on Bruce – we know you lie 24/7 so why even bother. Your frauds are always exposed within days. Oh wait – I’m suggesting you and Tucker Carlson are two different people but it seems you two spew the same crap including that snake oil alleged treatment for COVID-19. So say hello to Sean Hannity for us!

          1. Barkley Rosser

            Please,pgl, at least at one point Tucker Carlson was being sort of reasonable. Back in March when Hannity and Ingraham were loudly repeating every phony lie by Trump, Carlson figured out that the pandemic was for real and that Trump needed to change his line, with Carlson reportedly actually playing a role in that through a personal appeal at some Mar-a-Lago function.

            However now he seems to have joined Hannity and Ingraham in spouting whatever is the latest lie emanating from Trump’s mouth. So it goes at Fox News.

    5. Ulenspiegel

      “we could have a period of high unemployment because the states chose to shut down (versus the Swedish approach) and subsequently businesses closed and supply chains were disrupted.”

      1) Schweden is in EU supply chains. Is the Swedish producing economy in better shape than the Danish or German?

      2) Sweden pays a high price for letting cafes and restaurants open, 1500 more deaths in comparison to Austria.

      3) With high death rates Sweden will be in a worse shape to restart her economy than Austria.

      To sell Schweden as good working alternative is stupid. You confuse small number of deaths with small number of deaths per capita,
      which Schweden does NOT have: Schweden 225, Austria 61 per million pop.
      Schweden tells us only how not to do it.

      1. Barkley Rosser

        “Schweden”? If you want to play good Germa/Scandinavian or whatever here Til, it is “Sveriges” in Swiedish. “Schweden” is just ridiclulous.

  7. dilbert dogbert

    An interesting story would be how Brazil weathered a period of high inflation. I remember stories of poor folks rushing to spend their pay and the wealthy getting daily interest on their bank accounts. Who bailed out Brazil? IMF?

  8. Moses Herzog

    I may be wrong on this, but one of the reasons it’s probably better to let states distribute this money (rather than federal level), is things such as unpaid child support, which I know they don’t want to send those checks to guys that don’t take care of their family commitments and openly brag about not paying (this would be a better group to put in jail than low-income blacks and black teens for marijuana usage, but you all know how crazy I am on things like that).

    Anyone of any intelligence already knows how the orange creature donald trump spends its day—3/4+ of it watching TV, including media he calls “fake news” (why spend every day watching something you claim is “fake news”=MNSBC and CNN?? But to hear it detailed is still interesting. Brings to mind Nixon in his isolated times when he was sucking down liquor and making angry phone calls.

  9. spencer

    In a low inflation environment firms typically raise prices once a year–typically at the start of th calendar or fiscal year.
    As a consequence over half of the annual NSA core CPI occurs in the first quarter of the year.
    We now hav3 first quarter data and if anything it says core inflation will remain at the two decade old trend of 2%.

  10. Alan Goldhammer

    How can there be inflation if low demand prevents price increases. Some of the inflation of the 1970s was driven by the creation of OPEC and cartel price raises. It’s hard for me to see how commodity prices of almost anything will go up significantly to pose an inflation risk. Yes, the US shale oil industry is collapsing but the oil in the ground is not going anywhere. Once oil goes up to $50, they will start pumping again. Agricultural commodities prices are low and if the restaurant industry doesn’t bounce back, food prices will stay low. Other retail items will stay low and car sales are cratering.

    How can anyone predict inflation out of these numbers?

    1. The Rage

      I don’t agree with this. Once the financial support is pulled, it will need to go back to 100$ for larger investment to come back. 150$ to really boom) I think you underestimate that these have been bleeding cash since 2015. The “bounce” of 2017-18 was only triggered by a hope and prayer from the driller to its bank. It was also one of the worst business decisions of this cycle. Just should have never opened so many mines and the banks that allowed credit should be forced to close. 50$ simply won’t cut it. If I were a refiner, I would reject anything that isn’t sweat crude that is easy to refine. That sour stuff the US and Venezuela have just isn’t worth it right now. This is why Russia wanted to slash the throat in 2016, but the rest of OPEC wimped out.

  11. Moses Herzog

    Any “of the golden age of blogging” “old timey” “closet boomer” types in here that used to read and miss the civilized and hyper-educated ravings of a Mr. James Kwak?? It appears he is semi-regular blogging again. Not at his prior prolific pace, but enough to take notice:

    The appearance of the blog’s interface has changed a bit, but still a very pleasant non-monetized feel to the blog. Possibly the only “one-two punch” in blogging to give Sirs Chinn and Hamilton a run for their money.

    1. pgl

      Dr. Friedman was never a big fan of the simplistic view that inflation strictly follows M2 growth but yea when he was invited to speak to your usual rightwing groups, he did lower his presentations to their really low levels.

      1. Moses Herzog

        @ pgl
        That’s not how I remember his thoughts on monetary policy, but if you want to hero-worship a man because you met him once and you thought he grinned at something you said, Hey “cool”.

        1. pgl

          I’ll admit he often lowered himself to advocate some simpleton version of Monetarism for the masses. But he has also written some rather brilliant pieces too. Even Ben Bernanke has noted that many times. I now get why Barkley gets pissed at some of your more bizarre comments. Maybe it makes you feel better but it is still rather childish. But if you want to emulate Trump – go for it.

          1. Moses Herzog

            Uh-oh, somebody’s fee-wings got hurt.

            I just wish Friedman could have given you a big WET kiss after that presentation like some old grandma to make all this worth it for you. I also wish Friedman could take back all his statements on video and his writings on the topic and then we could let you live in the imaginary world in which Friedman didn’t make money supply and inflation near direct causation, then we could make your bad boo-boo with the puss infected scab disappear altogether.

          2. pgl

            Moses Herzog
            April 28, 2020 at 11:01 am

            What a childish and pointless comment. I have no clue what has your feathers up but you are acting more and more like Donald Trump.

          3. Barkley Rosser


            Yes, Moses has been more off-the-wall recently than usual. I suspect this may be due to excessive staying-in-place. But then many people are going increasingly stir crazy now.

      2. macroduck

        Once M2 velocity destabilized, Friedman conceded that targeting M2 growth would be bad policy. Unlike Taylor and Mundell, Friedman understood his own ideas well enough to know when to apply them. The monetary ideas, at least.

    2. B.A.Badger

      Counselor, you overstate your case. Dr. Friedman has been dead for 14 years–not wrong for twenty. Dr. Friedman challenged assumptions both economic assumptions and political assumptions. I admire that. I many not agree with his theories, but his putting out the several hypotheses (with some empirical support) that caused those folks in Sweden to give him a shiny gold medal. They gave him the shiny medal based on several works–not just the one we are so critical of. Dr. Friedman’s worked caused some great minds to perform rigorous analysis with empirical support. Much of the advance in Keynesian economic study was inspired by a desire to refute Dr. Friedman. It should be remembered that Dr. Friedman was the person who “dropped money out of a helicopter” to stimulate/stabilize an economy. Dr. Friedman is the person responsible for much of the discussion today concerning whether and under what circumstances does an increase in money supply result in inflation. Dr. Friedman is responsible for discounting the “cost push” theory of inflation. That point was hit hard by smart Keynesian bloggers correcting Mr. Hall’s logic leaps. Dr. Friedman contributed greatly to economic thought, even though I disagree with many of his conclusions. He has not been “completely wrong for twenty years.” He was right about some things–he was wrong about others.

      BTW: I bought your book and think it is well written

      1. Barkley Rosser


        While I believe references were made to other parts of his voluminous work, I think the Nobel committee particularly Friedman’s work on the permanent income hypothesis regarding consumption behavior when he was given the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. Ironically enough, that particular piece of work has not held up as well as some of his other work, such as arguing for the virtues of floating exchange rates at a time when that was very much a minority view, although that did not involve as deep scholarly work as some of his other stuff. But indeed that is one that has held for the major nations and currencies long after he advocated for it almost by himself, in contrast to say his money supply rule, which even he disavowed later in his life, shifting to supporting an inflation targeting rule.

  12. baffling

    one thing about the shutdown, it has exposed exactly how much excess we had in the modern economy. a significant part of retail and services shut down. and yet the world did NOT stop spinning. it also illustrates how many jobs do NOT require a common office space. many years ago, i worked with a group from ibm, and was astounded by the fact nobody in the group had a home office. the company paid each person a sum to keep a home office, and found it cheaper to send them around the country living out of hotels to be mobile in their work, rather than pay for office space they only used part time. this calculus will probably emerge for the broader workforce when all is said and done. the shutdown has also showed the true value of schools and day cares to keep the workforce efficient. i hope policy makers improve their funding for those areas in the future.

    1. pgl

      Those who get what the new-new economy has to offer will come back from this mess with some incredible business models. Those that don’t will be living off government dole for a while. Me? I fixed my home computer so I could ditch the one owned by an incompetent company in New Jersey and am being more productive writing what I truly believe. Now how I get paid for my new stuff – still figuring that out.

  13. Barkley Rosser

    For what it is worth, oil prices were back to collapsing today, with Brent crude back under $20 per barrel and WTI back under $13 per barrel, although no returns fo negative price territory like last Monday. But indeed anybody worrying about stagflation along 1970s terms driven by oil prices does not look to be on top of things, although maybe one driven by high meat prices?

  14. Moses Herzog

    I have made no secret of my strong dislike of David Brooks, and my complete bewilderment of his employment at NYT. Enjoyed this so much, and thought I would share it. I should WARN Menzie, there is some vulgarity in the blog post but it’s not excessive IMO.

    Although Menzie has always been tolerant of my comments, I also hope the fact that Barkley Junior now sees opinion columns as deep proofs of outlandish theories on “Lab created pandemics”, this will add more of an “intellectual rigor” perception of the Chumplady link.

    1. Barkley Rosser


      David Ignatius may be an “opinioin columnist,” but he is one of the best informed journalists in Washington. I have on occasion see him put a tilt on judgments regarding information he provides, but I have yet to see him provide previously unreported information that was subsequently shown to be actually false. Can you name a single instance of Ignatius reporting previously unreported information in one of his columns that was subsequently shown to be false? Go ahead, Moses, yet another challenge for you that you will fail to fulfill: find such a column by David Ignatius in which he reported previously unreported information that was subsequently shown to be false. I dare you.

      1. Barkley Rosser

        Oh, and regarding the matter of the “outlandish theory” regarding the possible lab origin of the coronavirus, https://www.theguardian.com/world.2020/apr/20/misssing-wuhan-journalist-reappears-after-two-months indeed reports on the reappearance a week ago of Le Zehua who had been investigating said lab among other thingsin Wuhan and disappeared on Feb. 26 (he managed to film his arrest).

        That was the exact same day that Botao Xiao of the South China University of Technology withdrew his paper from being posted on ResearchGate.netet entitled “The possible origin of 2019-nCoV coronovirus,” which arguedd that one of the lwo labs in Wuhan studying bat coronaviruses may have been the accidental origin of the virus (with at least one of those labs apparently using live bats in their research, thus not needing an as-yet unidentified intermediary animal to transmit the virus from bats to humans). Xiao declared that he was withdrawing the paper because it l”was not supported by direct proofs” of the arguments in it, not because he had learned that the arguments in it were actually false.

        The director of one of the labs has declared “on my life” that her lab was not the source, although apparently she wwas concerned at one point that it might be. She has also denied that a former post-doc at her lab, Huang Yenliang, was “Patient Zero,” as claimed in a Jan. 2 report in the Beijing News, and that Huag is alive and well and working in some unnamed other province now, although nobody can seem to find Huang, who has not stepped forward to make any public statements.

        As for 25-year-old Le Zehua who had been working for the CCT, he was apparently initially arrested for “disturbing public order,” but then was put into quarantine until March 29 after when he supposedly was stayed with his family somewhere until his release. He is reported to have appeared very different, “neutral” and issued a curious statement that goes on about how “the people are unpredictable” and how in order to maintain “the Unity of the people and the Cosmos” in connection with “the heart of the Tao” it is necessary to obey “the doctrine of golden mean of Confucian orthodoxy.” Some of this appeared in a Daily Mail followup to the original Guardian report.

        Two other journalists who also disappeared from Wuhan in February, Chen Quishi and Fan Bing, remain missing.

        Oh, theguardian.com/world/2020/apr11/china-clamping-down-on-coronavirus-research-deleted-pages-suggest also reports on exactly what that title suggests, that the Ministry of Science and Technology is now insisting that any research that gets started on the origin of SARS-Cov-2 must be reported to and approved by said ministry.

        Obviously you are right, Moses, this theory that Ignatius reported on that SARS-Cov-2 might have initially escaped by accident from a lab in Wuhan is clearly “outlandish.”

      2. Moses Herzog

        @ Barkley Junior
        I could give you a pretty long-winded screed about David Ignatius, maybe even with a couple links thrown in. And if I decided to get myself worked up, blink my eyes once and find myself finished with that long screed. But I’m gonna do you a favor and save you the hassle. I don’t think David Ignatius is the devil. And “everyone has to pay the mortgage somehow”. However, similar to a Mr. Barkley Rosser, he could use “some adjustments” in his personal ethics here and there. Sometimes you can tell A LOT more about a person not by the topics they discuss, but by the topics they choose to carpet over or leave untouched. And without naming names, I’ll just say this: I think the CIA must find it very useful to have a house pet who runs to fetch bones every time the CIA tosses them, with that very simple minded pooch only asking that after they fetch that bone and bring it dutifully back to their CIA master that the CIA promises to throw him another bone sometime soon. That’s a great house pet to have around the house when you can find one like that. A person could almost carve themselves a decades long career out of being that dutiful house pet.

        1. Barkley Rosser


          Ah, so you do not accept the challenge but instead throw some vague allegations regarding supposed ethics violations along with some whining about stories he did not write about (yeah, sure not going to make any errors while not writing about something). And you emboldened this idiotic comment of yours? Yes, he clearly has excellent sources at CIA as well as lots of other parts of the US military-intelligence establishment. I think that he has sometimes passed on things from his sources that eventually were found not to be accurate. What you will not find with him is him inaccurately passing on what he has heard or worse yet making stuff up out of whole cloth.

          I also note that he was a reporter before he was a columnist, and an excellent one. He cut his teeth in Beirut reporting on the incredibly complicated and awful Lebanese civil war. He really does know an awful lot. And unlike many other columnists, he retains his old reporter ID by usually providing some sort of information from his sources that has not been reported on previously by anybody.

          That is what he did in his column on April 2, when he reported on sources saying that it was being taken seriously by authorities in the US govt that a lab in Wuhan may have been the source of SARS-Cov-2. You have simply dismissed this report as “unwarranted” or somehow otherwise ridiculous, but then on April 14 we had the report from Josh Rogin that the US State Dept had received two cables in 2018 from US physicians with a WHO team that had seen safety violations in at least one Wuhan lab that concerned them. The State Dept is refusing to make public those cables, and WaPo is suing them over this. There have been further reports from other sources about those cables, those reports having come out since you initially dismissed the lab theory with great contrempt, although it is clearly a real possibility.

          I am going to link to a post I put up on Econospeak several days ago that goes into more detail about these treports, a post that now has 33 comments with the most severe critic of the post, the famous Anonymous, now accepting that I have commented on this seriously and reasonably.

          Again, the bottom line is that we do not know what the ultimate origin was, but the Wuhan lab theory is very much in there as one of the leading theories, and Ignatius in particular has emphasized that we do not know the ultimate answer, although he strongly dismisses the Sen. Cotton conscious bioweapon theory.

          Some think that why Trump is going after the WHO especially is that for various reasons he does not really want to duke it out with Xi Jinping for several reasons, even as he encourages the GOP to follow a “blame China” strategy for the election.

          https;:www.econospeak.blogspot.com/2020/04/the-wide-open-question-regarding.html . If that does not work, as is likely given my track record on these things, that will give anybody curious enough to find it by googling.

          1. Moses Herzog

            @ Barkley Junior
            Reading recommended for our beloved dementia victim in Harrisonburg Virginia:

            Quoted verbatim from the Mark Mazzetti, Julian E. Barnes, Edward Wong and Adam Goldman authored story:
            “Some intelligence analysts are concerned that the pressure from administration officials will distort assessments about the virus and that they could be used as a political weapon in an intensifying battle with China over a disease that has infected more than three million people across the globe.
            Most intelligence agencies remain skeptical that conclusive evidence of a link to a lab can be found, and scientists who have studied the genetics of the coronavirus say that the overwhelming probability is that it leapt from animal to human in a NON-LABORATORY setting, as was the case with H.I.V., Ebola and SARS.”

            It goes on—-
            “A former intelligence official described senior aides’ repeated emphasis of the lab theory as ‘conclusion shopping,’ a disparaging term among analysts that has echoes of the Bush administration’s 2002 push for assessments saying that Iraq had weapons of mass of destruction and links to Al Qaeda, perhaps the most notorious example of the politicization of intelligence.”

            Continuing towards the end of the NYT article:
            “The odds were astronomical against a lab release as opposed to an event in nature, said Kristian G. Andersen, the lead author of the paper published in Nature Medicine and a specialist in infectious disease at the Scripps Research Translational Institute in California.
            He acknowledged that it was theoretically possible that a researcher had found the new virus, fully evolved, in a bat or other animal and taken it into the lab. But, he said, based on the evidence his team gathered and the numerous opportunities for infection in the interactions that many farmers, hunters and others have with wild animals, ‘there just isn’t a reason to consider the lab as a potential explanation.’
            No evidence supports the theory that the coronavirus originated ‘in a laboratory either intentionally or by accident,’ Daniel R. Lucey, an expert on pandemics at Georgetown University who has closely tracked what is known about the origins, wrote this week.”

            It’s very humorous that our two butt-buddies here from “Econo-Misspeak” blog can never admit when they are wrong about something, but when called out, dig in their heels deeper in reflexive fashion (even when the majority of experts in the field disagree with their statements. Does this sound like a similar trait to any orange colored U.S.A. officials we hear from in the late afternoons??)


            Here’s the ONE piece of good news I have which helps “verify” Barkley Junior’s opinion on this: Mike Pence is running around and sharing with everyone this SAME theory that Barkley Junior wants to be patted on the head for. I see a blossoming relationship between Barkley Junior and Pence—undoubtably, intellectual peers to each other.

          2. Barkley Rosser


            Bettter than usual, but not decisice. Needless to say I do not support efforts by Trump admin to pressure US intel to come up with a particular conclusion.

            Some of these are pretty strongly worded, but none of them are decisive, and none of them propose an intermediate animal. In the earlier cases of SARS and MERS they found that animal pretty quickly, a civet and dromedary camel respectively. The discussion has now become overly politicized by Trump bad behavior, but whether or not the lab story is true or not has nothing whatsoever to do with what Pence is saying.

            Note carefully that this article speaks in terms of probabilies, n ot definite answers. And so far no intel agency is saying we know what the answer is. And we may never know, espcially if nobody can pin down this intermediate animal.

            Regarding Mazzetti et al, it is pretty clear they are motivated by the politics now infecting this discussion. Oh, the admin is pressuring intel officials, so we had better fight back, but as it is they end up with an incredible argument, an apparent claim that somehow one can determine genetically that the leap from animal to human did not occur in a lab with “opverwhelming probability.” Sorry, but that is not something that can be determined genetically. It can be shown that it is unlikely that it mutated in the lab or was artificially created in the lab, but the location of a transfer from an animal to a human cannot be determined genetically. The argument here is a mere assertion without scientific foundation.

            As for Anderson and Lucey, we have admission that in fact a researcher might have brought an infected bat into the lab, but then dismisses this by saying there are so many other ways a transmission could have occurred, farmers and hunters, and so on, although there remains no clear candidate intermediate animal. But this is a truly silly argument: it could have happened in a lab, but probably did not because it could have happened elsewhere.

            All of this ignores certain serious problems. Serious people, see Xiao and there are others not part of the Trump admin, have claimed that indeed there were bats in at least one of those labs, both of which were studying bat coronaviruses. If that is the case, then it is completely trivial for somebody to get infected from one of those bats, which Anderson-Lucey admit is possiible and give no substantial reason why it should be rejected out of hand.

            Sorry, but while some strong words here, these arguments are vacuous and unconvincing.

            Look, I would prefer to see this conflict minimized. it would be better if indeed it could be shown, really shown as was done for the earlier viruses, not with vague asserions and handwaving as done here, that there was a ttansmission somehow not from one of those labs. But that has not happened yet.

            Indeed, in the comments on Econospeak I pointed out that if indeed it really is true that both of those labs had nothing to do with this, it should be pretty easy for the Chinese to show it, or at least tilt things much more towards such a view, even in the absence of finfing a guilty intermediate animal at the wet market or on some farm somewhere.

            The first thing would be to let an international group of scientists, preferably from the WHO but with some Americans included (Trump’s behavior towards WHO does not help here) in to see the labs. A particular item of intterest would be to see if there are any bats in eithetr, although by now it would be easy to remove them if there are or were, and if there are bats to test them to see if they have the virus. I see no reason why the Chinese govetrnment should reject such a request if indeed the labs are innocentt as the day is long.

            Another thing that could be done would be to have Huang Yinliang make a public statement. I do not see these reports you quote saying anythign about this possible Patient Zero as initially reported in the Chinese media who seems to have gone missing. I suppose asking to see this person amounts to “taking conspiracy theories seriously,” and I even saw somebody defending not having Huang make a public appearance on the grounds of “protecting her privacy.” But I see no reason why she could not make a You Tube or somethign else that would give no indication of her location or current work activities but would show her alive and weel and saying that she is. That the lab director assures everybody that she is alive and well does not cut it given the past history of the Chinese outright lying about this matter.

            Heck, they put forward this Le Zehua who had disappeared for two months, even including his video of his arrest. Why can they not produce this Huang Yinliang whom some Chinese sources say is dead with her body cremated? Having her publicly appear would kill all othose rumors and report quite thoroughly dead. Why do they not take advantage of doing so, if indeed she is alive and well?

            This is less decisive, although could be, but in fact the Chinese really should make more information available about the reported early patients. A fair number of them apparently were at the Wuhan wet market, still the leading suspect for some kind of intermediate animal to human transmission despite the bizarre bringing up of farmers or hunters by your commentators, but some apparently were not. In particular there have been reports that the earliest identified patient from Nov. 17 was a 55-year old man. Did he visit the market? Did he have any links to the lab? Some more public information about him as well as other early patients would reallly be helpful, but for some mysterious reason that has not been forthcoming,

            Back to the original challenge, you have not shown Ignatius to be in error. He reported that there are people in the US intel and diplomatic establishment who remain open to the possibility that the virus came out of one of those labs in Wuhan, and this was before what appears to be a very recent pressure campaing by Pompeo and Pollinger to push the intel agencies to find something, which they have not. The bottom line remains that no US intel agancy and nobody else has definitelly determined the ultimate origina, and that for at least the intel agencies the possibility of it coming from a lab remains open, even if they are annoyed by this recent tound of Trump admin pressure to find a lab the source.

            And the arguments in your quotes, for better or worse, do not provide a shred of explanation why one should view the probability that no lab was involved do not hold up, indeed are full of gaping holes.

          3. Barkley Rosser


            A major reason it is unfortuate that Trump (and Pence and Pompeo) have publicly pushed the Wuhan lab theory and pressured US intel agencies to support it is that almost certainly now we shall never learn the truth about the ultimate origin of SARS-Cov-2, although i have seen some argue that it is not important anyway, which might be true. As it is, now almost anybody opining on this will be able to be accused of political bias one wa or the other, and even though I pointed out that the Chinese could easily engage in some actions that would help clarify this matter, they certainly will not now with Trump shooting off his mouth as he has.

            In any case, I shall put a bit more out here to make it clear that some of these strong assertions you have quoted should be taken with som large grains of salt at best. So there are some scientists supporting the possibility of an accidental escape of the virus from a Wuhan lab, even as most seem to view it as less probable than a transmission outside a lab. One of those is Amesh Adelja of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Sciences who recently said regarding the accidental Wuhan lab release idea: “This isn’t something that’s completely farfetched, it does happen…I think it’s a lower probability than the pure zoonotic theory.”

            Probably the most prominent sicentist to argue more strongly for the Wuhan lab accidental escape theory is Robrt Ebright of the Wakeman Institute for Microbiology at Rutgers University, one of the sources for David Ignatius. As far back as February 23, 2017 in a Nature News in Focus report on “Inside China’s pathogen lab: Maximum-security biosafety facility nears approval, parking excietement and concern” out of Wuhan by Daid Cyranoski, vol. 542, pp. 399-400, nature.com/news/polypoly.fs/1.21487/menus/main/topColumn/topLeftColumn/pdf/nature.2017.21487pdf?origin-ppub
            Ebright was being quoted on this matter, yes, in Nature.
            On p. 399 in its second paragraph the article states: “Some scientists outside China worry about pathogens escaping, and the addition of biological dimension to geopolitical tensions between China and other nations.”
            Ebright is then specifically quoted on the next page: “But worries surround the Chinese lab too. The SARS virus has escaped from high-level containment facilities in Beijing multiple time, notes Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University.”
            Indeed, the most widely reported-on such escape happened in 2004 after the first wave of the most famous SARS epidemic, when a smaller second wave erupted briefly as a result of such an accidental release from a lab in Beijing, which led Chinese authorities then to discipline some individuals at that leb who were deemed responsible for this.

            In light of this, it seems quite incredible for the folks you quote to somehow claim that thare is an “overwhelming probaability” that this current virus did not escape from one of these labs.. We have seen it happen before, so it is clearly not all that wildly improbable of an event. Indeed, Ebright in particular has recently been quoted regarding the current situation that “The probability is quite substantial,” although he may well be in the minority with his view.

            Needleess to say, the current DNI has little credibility, but on afternoon of 4/30 (iit is now May Day, have a happy one everybody, even you, Moses), the current DNI’s office issued an official statement on all this that state that SARS-Cov-2 was not “man-made or genetically altered” while also saying that it is still an open question whether the virus was transmitted to humans outside a lab or from one of the labss in Wuhan.

  15. Moses Herzog

    I forgot to include something in my comment related to David Brooks above. Visuals are often very helpful in story telling, don’t you think?? Especially in reference to a paragon representation of morality and “conservatism”:



  16. pgl


    Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Romer says for the US to return to normal by the summer every person must be tested — at a cost of $100 billion

    The Nobel laureate Paul Romer says that if the US wants to return to normal this summer, the government should test every resident for the novel coronavirus every two weeks and isolate those who test positive. He said it would probably cost about $100 billion, which is only a fraction of the more than $2 trillion that Congress has already spent dealing with the coronavirus. “It’s totally in our control to fix this,” he told The Washington Post. “We should be spending $100 billion on the testing. We should just get it going. It’s just not that hard.”

    It really is not that hard. Economists – both liberal and conservative – have been saying this for months. But this seems to escape the Idiot-in-Chief. Then again his chief “economic” adviser is Lawrence Kudlow who is not an economist but a court jester. One would think Trump’s sycophants such as Bruce Hall would eventually get the need for real testing. But having read their comments, they do not get it. I guess they are even dumber than Trump or Kudlow.

  17. pgl

    Interesting Washington Poll on the appropriateness of the stay at home restrictions:

    2/3 think they are appropriately restrictive;
    1/6 want even more restrictive measures;
    Only 1/6 advocate less restrictions.

    So even some of those former MAGA wearing hat goofballs have wised up. But not this last 1/6 which clearly includes some of our Usual Suspects like Bruce Hall!

  18. pgl

    Tucker Carlson is well known for some really stupid and dangerous lies. But this one makes me think Tucker Carlson and Bruce Hall are one in the same:


    “You may remember what they first told us back in February and March,” Carlson told viewers. “They said, we have to take radical steps in order to, quote, ‘flatten the curve.’ Well, six weeks later, we’re happy to say that curve has been flattened, but it’s likely not because of the lockdowns. The virus just isn’t nearly as deadly as we thought it was.” Carlson didn’t provide much in the way of evidence.

    Actually Tucker Carlson did provide some batshit babbling from two Bakersfield doctors:


    “Cue the debunking: Two Bakersfield doctors go viral with dubious COVID test conclusions: Bakersfield Drs. Dan Erickson and Artin Massihi from Accelerated Urgent Care held a press conference at their Coffee Road facility on April 22. They claimed their COVID testing proved the novel coronavirus had spread widely in the region and was thus less of a concern, but public health experts say they were jumping to that conclusion based on an unrepresentative sample. Photo by Alex Horvath / The Californian”

    Take a look at that photo and go back to what Brucie provided us in terms of an hour set of babbling from someone Brucie tried to pass off as some expert. It is the same Bakersfield doctor. Bruce Hall – as dishonest as Tucker Carlson! Or perhaps the same village idiot!

    1. noneconomist

      Bakersfield? How about doctors in Barstow? This is Peak Trader country and mot tone trifled with.
      This should excite Bakersfield’s MC, Kevin (“My Kevin”) McCarthy and his next door dimwit colleague, Devin Nunes, who has apparently self isolated after urging others to get out and about.

  19. Bruce Hall

    A New York Magazine reporter: “If an American president loses more Americans over the course of six weeks than died over the entirety of the Vietnam war, does he deserve to be reelected?”

    An interesting question that’s so wrong on many levels, but here’s some Vietnam era context: https://www.dailywire.com/news/reporter-compared-coronavirus-deaths-to-vietnam-to-rip-trump-but-during-vietnam-another-virus-killed-more-americans-than-the-war?

    I know you won’t like the source, but the reality doesn’t change: in retrospect, the over-reaction to this latest virus and shutting down the world’s economies may be considered “dumb”.

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      Bruce Hall: If I told you an elected official, by dint of his failure to act in the face of repeated intelligence assessments rising to the top level (as PDBs do), had allowed 40,000 (conservatively) avoidable deaths of Americans to occur, what would you say about that elected official’s performance? Not clear that back in 1968, the information was transmitted with the speed and alarm that the 2019 information was.

      1. pgl

        I remember this Hong Kong flu. My parents got me the vaccine as soon as it was available. Now if John Fund is being remotely honest (never mind he writes for that rag known as the National Review) I bet his parents got him vaccinates as soon as possible. Leave it to Bruce Hall to find some absurd National Review excuse making. After all – he has decided to duck and run now that we have exposed his Bakerfield medical doctor for being just another Tucker Carlson fraud.

          1. pgl

            You are right but that is why Bruce relies on him. Besides being honest gets you fired by the National Review.

          2. pgl

            But the data it produces has seduced some into thinking that we know more than we actually do and that we can produce useful models to predict the course of this novel coronavirus disease. “We’re being bombarded with data, but we often act like the guy who looks for his keys under the lamppost because the light is better there,” he told me.

            A snippet from John Fund’s rant. The light is better there must refer to Trump who thinks injecting light into the body cures this virus! Trump certainly thinks he knows everything but in truth he is a village idiot!

      2. pgl

        Pardon the interruption of Bruce Hall’s MAGA disinformation campaign but could we look at a less partisan and more honest account of the Hong Kong flu?


        Although the 1968 flu outbreak was associated with comparatively few deaths worldwide, the virus was highly contagious, a factor that facilitated its rapid global dissemination … The pandemic occurred in two waves, and in most places the second wave caused a greater number of deaths than the first wave.

        I note this second wave because Trump and his lying sycophants are now dismissing the prospect of a second wave of COVID-19. Of course Trump is a serial liar so his sycophants like Bruce Hall see their duty is to also lie to us.

      3. Moses Herzog

        As a Democrat, I will admit LBJ had many faults. The capacity to feel deep guilt over deaths related to his own decisions isn’t one of them. I’m not sure if you would would agree or dispute this, but I feel it necessitates being said. It’s also worth noting that outside of Abe Lincoln, possibly no other president did more to help minorities get ahead in life than LBJ.

        1. pgl

          LBJ visited every dead soldier when their bodies came back from Vietnam. George W. Bush visited none of the dead soldiers who came back from Iraq.

          When the private calls between MLK and LBJ were released, you heard two Southerners talking very candidly as only they could. LBJ got the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts through because he really admired MLK and was pushed by him.

    2. pgl

      Still conspiring with Tucker Carlson to find medical doctors who turn out to be complete frauds?. Carlson is a disgusting lying little boy. You are worse.

    3. 2slugbaits

      Bruce Hall Your memory isn’t very good. The Hong Kong flu was very contagious, but not especially lethal. For much of the world it was no big deal, which is one reason why the US was late in waking up to its danger. Soldiers returning from Vietnam brought it back with them. And the most virulent part of the outbreak occurred when schools were closed in late December. There were also effective therapeutics available to fight the virus. And although a specific vaccine came on a little too late to have an immediate impact, there was significant residual herd immunity from the 1957 Asian flu (as well as partial protection from the earlier Asian flu vaccine,) which was very closely related to the Hong Kong flu. And I don’t know where the NY Magazine reporter got his numbers, but according to CDC data the number of Hong Kong flu deaths was only 34,000, which is significantly lower than the number of American GI deaths during the Vietnam war.

      Your desperation to avoid having to admit that you were wrong is patently obvious to everyone. At this point you’re making a complete jackass of yourself. Just man up and admit you’ve been wrong. It might even save your life.

      1. pgl

        True for round I. Round II was worse. But of course Trump has assured Brucie that there will be no round II for COVID-19.

  20. baffling

    it is ironic to point out that bruce hall advocates for “freeing the economy” while he sits in isolation at home behind his computer screen getting weekly deliveries from the grocer filled with frozen pizzas, his pension and social security checks direct deposited to his bank account. this dude hasn’t stepped out of his house in six weeks, because he knows the virus will probably kill him if he gets it. yet he is quite comfortable sending out somebody else’s kid to do the dirty work and possibly acquire herd immunity, so he may once again safely go outside. bruce cried foul that somebody compared the deaths in vietnam to the deaths from covid. a more apt comparison is the old white males sending the youngsters to fight on the front line, so the old men can stay safely at home.

    1. pgl

      Let’s call Amazon and cut Bruce off. Let’s call Spectrum and have his internet service suspended. Then he will have to go out in the real world to a coffee shop with reliable WIFI.

  21. The Rage

    Bruce, H2N2 helped trigger a recession in the fall of 1957 due to highly infectious rate. You were getting a recession whether you liked it or not. That one had “herd immunity” as well. Didn’t help in general. The economy went down. Didn’t fully recover until the end of 1964 as well.

    fwiw, inflation is caused by government printing money. No, what the Fed does is not printing and never will be. When LBJ and Nixon printed money to tamp down a surging deficit, it triggered a mess. Without it, deficits would have been huge. It was a phenom used by most of the European powers though, the US wasn’t alone. The US wasn’t quite the “world” reserve currency at that point in the cold war, so out went fiscal cash to pay off creditors which recycled back into the economy, with a long effect until the early 90’s. Now the US can just run massive deficits without having to pay back creditors. What a great system!!!!!!

  22. The Rage

    Lets also note, that US GDP was goosed by Covid-19 in December/January, but then started to contract in February as investment stalled. The US economy was heading to trouble. Subprime/nonbank lending was cratering(as the Wolfstreet report on Softbank finally pulling back on liens in San Fran showed late last year) and investment was down. Looks like a late 2020 recession was going to happen, as this board predicted last year. By the 1st quarter of 2021 at the latest. The cycle was over.

Comments are closed.