Posted by Bob Lord
I remember reading a piece by Matt Taibbi which he opened by apologizing to himself and his readers for succumbing to the temptation to blast away at David Brooks, after promising not to. Matt, buddy, I'll never be one-tenth the writer you are, but I feel your pain.
On to the Thuckster.
This second thing about Thucky follows logically from the first, so I need to develop the first just a little further. I recently had an exchange with Thucky in which he ventured out of his comfort zone and tried to do his own analysis. He got it absolutely dead wrong, reaching the opposite conclusion that logic would dictate. I'll reprint the exchange at the end of the post.
So, I'm going to go out on a limb here, and guess that Thucky's a religious dude. I have no specific knowledge here. I've not seen any references to his faith, although there may be some in the comments he posts to posts of my colleagues.
But here's the thing. Thucky idolizes the conservative economists he cites. But he's demonstrated over and over again here that he doesn't have the intellectual wherewithal to understand how they reach their conclusions, or to test their logic with any real rigor.
So, how does Thucky "know" the supply-siders he worships are right, despite all the evidence to the contrary? How does he disregard plain logic presented to him that undermines his supply-side view? Because he has religion, and that allows him to have faith that his supply-side heroes are not leading him astray.
For that exchange, follow me after the jump.
This is not nearly as dense as it may first appear. In any case, my point is that if Thucky gets tripped up on this sort of analysis, there's just no way he can slog through an academic paper and have a clue what the author is really saying.
Thucky: We ought to be particularly concerned because the median length of unemployment has been creeping back up for the last four months despite the plunge in total unemployment. So, I suspect that the average length of unemployment is going down as people give up or go onto disability even as employment prospects are worsening as shown by the median length of unemployment.
The emphasis here is simply to show that I corrected a clerical mistake Thucky made, which he himself corrected in a subsequent comment.
So, Thucky figures out that the folks who are giving up are disproportionately from the group that are unemployed the longest. He then notes that their giving up will drive down the average lenght of unemployment for those remaining in the pool of unemployed. Okay, so far so good. Then, for no reason, he decides that would cause the median length of unemployment to rise. No it wouldn't. Say you have 11 unemployed people. The one who is the sixth shortest unemployed represents the median. What happens if the two who are unemployed the longest drop out? Now the one who is unemployed the fifth shortest represents the median. The median length of unemployment just decreased.
Worse, though, Thucky didn't even contemplate what the effect of increased hiring would be, as I explain in my response.
Me: It's just the opposite. You have two competing forces that push the median length of unemployment in opposite directions, but both of which reduce the unemployment rate. One is new job creation, which forces the median length up, because we know employers favor those who have been unemployed for a shorter-term. Thus, as the unemployed are hired and the unemployment rate decreases, the median term for those still unemployed is rising. Think of what happens to the median if you take the 100 most recent entrants to the pool and give them jobs.
At the other end, we have those who give up. They're disproportionately at the longer end, so, as they leave the ranks of unemployed, the median term of unemployment for those remaining is decreasing.
What's happening in the past four months is that the impact of new hiring is outweighing the impact of folks giving up. That's actually an encouraging sign.
I never got a response from Thucky on that one.
Is Thucky just totally feeble minded? I don't think so. He's no genius, but a large part of this is that his faith acts as a blocking mechanism. Reason can overcame faith, but not easily. For right now, Thucky has faith, in both his religion, which almost undoubtedly is a form of Christianity linked to the belief in unfettered capitalism and supply-side economics.