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Alright, you've got questions and Dylan Matthews, as you saw this morning, has answers. Who's next?

By Ezra Klein  |  June 17, 2010; 11:17 AM ET
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Sorry, repost from thread above.

How many jobs does a federal gov dollar buy? Provide optimistic (most efficient -- extending unemployment? building a smart power grid?), median and pessimistic (tax cuts for wealthy?).

The point of the question is to find out how much (deficit) spending would decrease unemployment by, say, 1%.

Or, from the perspective of a citizen, how much debt are you willing to take on to give you or your neighbor a better chance at finding a job?

Output is a graph of spend ($B) against unemployment (%).

Posted by: BHeffernan1 | June 17, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Information on gas/carbon taxes that were implemented in other countries, political fallout, impact, etc.

Posted by: pemlewis | June 17, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

1. the effect of financial transactions taxes in Sweden

2. the estimates of relative elasticities of different income quintiles in the face of tax increases, how this impacts excess burden problems, and what it means for (progressive) tax systems/changes.

(hint, see Slemrod, Joel, 2006, The Consequences of Taxation, Social Philosophy and Policy; Carroll, Robert, 2009, The Excess Burden of Taxes and the Economic Cost of High Tax Rates,
Tax Foundation Special Report No. 170; and Martin Feldstein's work to get a range of estimates)

Posted by: stantheman21 | June 17, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Is it true that US embassies routinely deny visas to young, single women seeking to visit the US - and if so, is there a policy governing this? I've heard lots of anecdotes about this, and the assumption is that the US doesn't want foreign young women coming here and snaring husbands.

Posted by: Liz_B | June 17, 2010 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Do you feel bad for killing Ezra's blog?

Posted by: obrier2 | June 17, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

I'm having a debate with my wife about this one: What is the effect of income on divorce rate?

Posted by: Scott_Hayton | June 17, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

That's quite a loaded question Scott! Hah.

Is there a measurement of cash volume readily available?

With the advent of electronic systems, is the intention still that all dollars are meant to represent a physical dollar, or is there some percentage that is only digital? What is that percentage?

Is new money simply exchanged for old, worn out money during normal times? Or are we always creating more money than replacing?

Posted by: akusu | June 17, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

On Dylan's earlier post on the regressivity of payroll taxes, the traditional justification for that (probably mentioned by CBO in their presentation) is the progressive distribution of the Social Security benefits funded by the tax payments.

On BHeffernan1's question about how many jobs government spending can create, Blinder had an optimistic presentation of that issue in his WSJ oped yesterday where he defended the stimulus package as being $300 billion in one year's spending that must have saved/created at least a couple million jobs. But he didn't mention the usual caveat that if the borrowed funds have to paid for in the future with spending cuts or tax hikes, then the government is simultaneously saving/creating jobs in the present while destroying jobs in the future.

Posted by: billahern | June 17, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

"I've heard lots of anecdotes about this, and the assumption is that the US doesn't want foreign young women coming here and snaring husbands."

Then they are working against the will of the American people. Or, at least the American single male people.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | June 17, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

So, using Blinder's numbers, $300B/$2M jobs = $150K/job which seems plausible. Round BLS numbers show 9.9% unemployment = 15.3M people. So roughly, 1% of unemployment = 1.5M people and it costs $150B to reduce by 1%.

It's not a terrible deal.

But, a high quality intern like Dylan would probably have ideas to blend in some velocity of money factor (as EZ wrote about a few days ago) and subtract out some tax receipts from the folks who are employed and such things. If you blended all that so $/job went down and you ended up with, say, a souped up power grid at the end that facilitated long term growth, it could become a more compelling case. Or not.

Posted by: BHeffernan1 | June 17, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

A historical graph plotting doctors per X population from like 1860 to 2050 and their average income expressed as a percentage of the average American's income.

Posted by: bharshaw | June 17, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

I was laid off in May 2008. I had a job already lined up. On the third day of that job the boss said that he was made to hire me and didn't like me or my style. So I quit. Because I quit, I never applied for unemployment nor have I ever collected. I was unemployed since then. I just got a job again. It was a job someone else left, so it was not a new creation.

What statistics, if any, will I show up on? I was never counted as unemployed or long-term unemployed. My new status won't bring down that number and my job wasn't newly created. I'm wondering if I just don't show up anywhere.

Posted by: mhollick | June 17, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse


How many federal employees (authorized positions) are there in the United States Department of Education?

How many federal employees (authorized positions) are there in the Department of Housing and Urban Development?

Posted by: lancediverson | June 17, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

During Jimmy Carter's "Crisis of Confidence" (aka Malaise) speech, he cited polling data for the number of Americans who believe the next five years will be worse than the past five years.

Is similar polling conducted today, and if so what is the result?

Posted by: jnc4p | June 17, 2010 3:06 PM | Report abuse

I'm curious about the restructuring of the student loan system. The new system is supposed to save the U.S. gov. money by taking private banks out of the process. It also sets a fixed interest rate for loans. Currently, interest rates on student loans are variable (mine are anyway). Seems like in this age of low interest rates this might result in higher interest costs for students than the old system. I'd be interested to see if there is a way to do a cost comparison from the student perspective -- say fixed vs. variable rates over the last 10 years or so -- rather than looking at this from the federal budget perspective.

Posted by: dollarwatcher | June 17, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

dollarwatcher: the difference in rates paid by students b/w 2005 (when Higher Education Reconciliation Act passed) and now is immense. For data see (for stafford)

Posted by: stantheman21 | June 17, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

This morning on "Morning Joe," Joe Scarborough said that despite being from Chicago, Barack Obama has received more "money" - I assume he meant campaign pledges - from oil companies than any president (or presidential candidate? I forget which he said now) in history. True?

Posted by: stlyrface | June 18, 2010 8:59 AM | Report abuse

Since another $33 billion war supplemental will presumably pass the House soon, I've got a few defense budget-related questions:

The defense budget is often broken down into war- and non-war-related expenditures. How accurate is this delineation? And how much do we spend in each non-war theater? (e.g. how much do our German, Japanese, and South Korean deployments cost us, respectively?)

Whenever we talk about the size of the defense budget in relation to other countries or as a percentage of GDP, we usually exclude nukes, veteran health care/retirement, and Homeland Security, among other things. Are these same things excluded from the defense budgets of the countries we compare ourselves to? And have these same things always been excluded in the United States? Meaning, when we compare the 6.2 percent/GDP peak in the 1980s to the current 4.7 percent/GDP, are we really comparing the same thing?

Posted by: JohnRose | June 18, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Oh, and one more, since other people seem to be interested in stimulus: How does defense spending compare to other types of government spending in its stimulatory impact? I've seen at least one study ( that indicates that defense spending isn't a very efficient job-creating industry, but is it still better than no stimulus at all?

Posted by: JohnRose | June 18, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Ezra often notes the fact that people who are tied to purchased homes in bad job markets are unable to move to find work. Fair enough. However, it's been my sense that most out of work individuals are tied to their communities by far more than a mortgage (e.g., family obligations, community ties, friends, employed significant others, etc.). Moreover, there's a sense that finding a job from a distance would be difficult (e.g., travel costs for interviews, limited networks), while moving somewhere without a job is even more risky (i.e., what if you don't find one while you're there?). Thus, my question: how many people actually do move significant distances (say, over 50 miles) for work? Is there a correlation between unemployment rates and depopulation (apart from Detroit metro, perhaps, which is an unusually bad case)? Has there been an influx into areas with lower unemployment rates? If people do move, who are they? Most importantly, are they already migrant laborers or young people who are mostly renting to begin with, or are they likely home owners?

Posted by: JohnQXQ | June 18, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

what does it take to be consider a "policy wonk" nowdays? only an undergrad liberal arts degree, a propensity to read blogs and scanning the occasional think tank or government report? is (any sort of) expertise required, or is it a self appointed title?

Posted by: stantheman21 | June 18, 2010 6:51 PM | Report abuse

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