Saturday, July 2, 2011

Excellent advice from strange places

Via Krugman's "Conscience of a Liberal":
Barton Biggs, re-born in Keynesia
Speaking exclusively with The Wall Street Journal, Barton Biggs, managing partner at multibillion dollar hedge fund Traxis Partners, painted a bleak outlook for the developed world with only huge government intervention likely to improve things...

Mr. Biggs, former chief global strategist for U.S. investment banking powerhouse Morgan Stanley, demanded the U.S. government temporarily return to ideas used in the Great Depression as a way to get the country back to higher growth.

“What the U.S. really needs is a massive infrastructure program … similar to the WPA back in the 1930s,” he says.

The plan would be to employ some of the many unemployed people, jump start the economy, as well as help catch up with Asia, which is building state-of-the-art infrastructure from new mechanized port facilities to high-speed trains.

He suggested financing such building through the sale of U.S. Treasuries.
Just for the heck of it, I checked Wikipedia on Barton Biggs and found he was chief global strategist for Morgan Stanley for 30 years before partnering at Traxis.  Institutional Investor rated him the "top global investor" from 1996 to 2000 and he's been "the premier prognisticator on the global scene" according to Smart Money mag.

So Biggs is a formidable, greatly respected character in the upper echelons of global finance.  And he's currently pushing hard-core "New Deal" style Keynesianism in response to the economic crisis that puts him approximately in Bernie Sanders' territory.

Welcome aboard, Mr. Biggs.  Now, not to be rude, but what about those bizarre super-low tax rates on your mega-compensation as a hedge fund manager?

Giving Larry Summers his due...

American Public Media's Marketplace correspondent Jeremy Hobson had an interesting interview with the much-maligned Summers that helps put some perspective on his role and views within the Obama administration and suggests he's on the side of the need for more stimulus:

HOBSON: You recently called for a new stimulus in the form of a payroll tax cut. But it's been reported over and over again that within the Obama administration -- when you were in the administration -- you were actually on the side of a smaller stimulus back in 2009.  

SUMMERS: Not accurately. Not accurately.

HOBSON: That's not true? You weren't pushing for a less-than $1.2 trillion stimulus?

SUMMERS: No, I mean it's a much more complicated story, but those reports are not accurate. It was my judgment as an economist that there was no danger of doing too much stimulus and one should achieve as much stimulus as possible. There were a set of political calculations having to do with what the Congress could accept that were mostly determined by the president's political advisers and ultimately by the president which pointed towards the size of the program that was ultimately passed. But the economic advice that I gave was that the stimulus program should be as large as it could be.

HOBSON: Do you think it was too small in the end?