29% Of Americans Say It’s Difficult To Afford Food

Hanson on the Technological Singularity — Robin Hanson of GMU talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the idea of a technological singularity–a sudden, large increase in the rate of growth due to technological change. Hanson argues that it is plausible that a change in technology could lead to world output doubling every two weeks rather than every 15 years, as it does currently. Hanson suggests a likely route to such a change is to port the human brain into a computer-based emulation. Such a breakthrough in artificial intelligence would lead to an extraordinary increase in productivity creating enormous wealth and radically changing the returns to capital and labor. The conversation looks at the feasibility of the process and the intuition behind the conclusions. Hanson argues for the virtues of such a world.
 
Tree-conomics —  Many trees are private goods. If you own some, you can probably do whatever you want with them. As a rational economic actor, you can respond effectively to incentives. If the price of wood goes up, you can decide to chop your trees down and sell them. But trees are also public goods — they generate benefits for other people, creating what economists call positive externalities. Most trees are beautiful. Most create habitat for an immense variety of creatures that don’t know the meaning of property rights. All trees sequester carbon until they die, helping buffer the effect of carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles, power plants and other sources (our most worrisome public bad). The difference between private and public benefits explains why some local communities regulate tree management. But more profoundly, it drives a hardwood wedge between individual and social outcomes, with disturbing implications. Deforestation is contributing to global warming
 
29% Of Americans Say It’s Difficult To Afford Food – The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press released their year-end survey on December 15, 2010. Their pollling revealed that for the public, a tough year ended on a down note. Consistent with the mood of the nation all year, 2010 is closing on a down note. Fully 72% are dissatisfied with national conditions, 89% rate national economic conditions as only fair or poor, and majorities or pluralities think the country is losing ground on nine of 12 major issues.Pew’s survey results are not surprising, and I would cover them in depth if it weren’t for some rather important information that was buried in the next to last paragraph. The survey finds that a majority of the public (57%) says it is very difficult or difficult to afford things they really want. About the same percentage said this two years ago (55%). And for many Americans, affording basic necessities remains a struggle – 51% say it is difficult to afford health care, 48% say the same about their home heating and electric bills, and 29% say it is difficult to afford food.

 

Even Low Estimates for EV Sales May Be Optimistic – I think it’s time to focus on HPM (hype-per-million): misleadingly high press popularity that masks underlying revenue model problems. Electric cars seem to be heavy on the hype — by the vendors, the business press, the general press and even politicians — while sales are barely improved from the first great coming of the EV. (And this time, there’s no one to blame for poor sales but the invisible hand of basic economics.) An AP report Friday was stark in its assessment: GM sold 250 to 350 Chevy Volts this month, and Nissan’s (NSANY.PK) sales totaled fewer than 10 Leaf sedans in the past two weeks. Production for both is slowly ramping up. It will be well into 2012 before both the Volt and Leaf are available nationwide. And if you’re interested in buying one, you’ll need to get behind the 50,000 people already on waiting lists.

Drilling Is Stalled Even After Ban Is Lifted
- More than two months after the Obama administration lifted its ban on drilling in the deep-water Gulf of Mexico, oil companies are still waiting for approval to drill the first new oil well there. Experts now expect the wait to continue until the second half of 2011, and perhaps into 2012. The administration says it is simply trying to enforce new safety rules adopted in the wake of the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which killed 11 workers and set off the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. Environmental groups say the administration is right to take its time because the Gulf disaster exposed the risks of offshore drilling. But the delay is hurting big oil companies such as Chevron Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell PLC, which have billions of dollars in investments tied up in Gulf projects that are on hold and are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars a day for rigs that aren’t allowed to drill.

Singapore Economy Rebounds on Manufacturing Surge – Singapore’s growth rebounded last quarter as manufacturing surged, capping the biggest annual increase in output since independence in 1965. Stocks rose.  Gross domestic product rose an annualized 6.9 percent in the three months through Dec. 31 from the previous quarter, when it contracted a revised 18.9 percent, the trade ministry said in a statement today. The median forecast of eight economists surveyed by Bloomberg News was for a 9.4 percent expansion.  Singapore is on course to be the world’s second-fastest growing economy, adding to inflation pressures that have prompted policy makers to allow faster currency gains and take steps to cool the property market. The expansion may signal Asia will in 2011 sustain an outperformance over developed markets hampered by Europe’s sovereign credit woes and U.S. unemployment that remains above 9 percent.

Are they really that uninformed or just acting the part? – When Congress starts up the 112th session later this week, we will have the displeasure of watching the newly elected teabaggers and their brethren open their pieholes and wax poetic about the meaning of the constitution, the debt ceiling, healthcare for all Americans, the separation of church and state, the environment and many other issues that the graduates from Nutter U seem to think are easily solved by just referring to the Constitution itself. Oh, and Darryl Issa is vying for King of the Crazies with his rhetoric that Obama’s administration is "one of the most corrupt" in our history. His..cough.. list of Obama transgressions here.  Where was this fucking asshole/douchenozzle during Bush43’s administration? Issa will have subpoena power come January 5th. Lindsey Graham, who used to be somewhat sane and a moderate, joined the ranks of the wingnuts Sunday on Meet The Press with his pronouncement that the debt ceiling will not get raised on his watch without a major overhaul of government spending.

 Cuomo Plans One-Year Freeze on State Workers’ Pay – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo will seek a one-year salary freeze for state workers as part of an emergency financial plan he will lay out in his State of the State address on Wednesday, senior administration officials said.  The move will signal the opening of what is expected to be a grueling fight between the new governor and the public-sector unions that have traditionally dominated the state’s political establishment.  It will also come days after the New Year’s Eve layoffs of more than 900 state workers, an event that union representatives marked with a candlelight vigil on the steps of the Capitol and outside government offices in five other cities.  “The governor said during his campaign that the difficult financial times call for shared sacrifice,” “A salary freeze is obviously a difficult thing for many government workers, but it’s necessary if the state is going to live within its means.”
 
The Euro and the European Project – Some readers have chimed in that the euro is essentially a political rather than economic project. Well, it’s both; that has been the European strategy ever since the Schuman declaration. The point is to deliver a series of economic integration plans that do double duty: they’re economically productive, but they also create “de facto solidarity”, moving Europe closer to political union. For 60 years, this strategy has been highly successful. Europe is one of the great, inspiring stories of the modern world, maybe of all time: peace, prosperity, and democracy flourishing where once there were minefields and barbed wire. But: the strategy depends on each move toward economic integration being both a political symbol and a good economic idea. That was clearly true of coal and steel, the common market, the eurosausage, and so on. It is, however, by no means clear that the euro passes that test. Europe’s limited labor mobility (although there’s more than there used to be) and, crucially, lack of fiscal integration makes a common currency a dubious proposition at best.
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