In the Long Run ...

A blog about business and economics.
March 20 2012 2:25 PM

In the Long Run ...

1332267933277

This is not a problem specific to Paul Ryan, but it always strikes me as absurd that it's considered the very height of Washington, D.C., seriousness to pay lots of attention to 75-year budget projections. Look at that chart and roll it backward in time to the year 1940. Europe is at war, and the United States is clearly casting its lot with the United Kingdom but not directly involved on a military level. People are wondering if tough economic sanctions on Japan will be enough to dissuade it from its brutal efforts to conquer China. There are no antibiotics, jet planes, or television networks. Somebody tells you he has an idea about changing federal health care policy. You ask him, as if it's the most natural question in the world, "What are the implications of your proposal for the federal budget in the year 2012?"

He sits down at a desk with his slide rule to try to figure it out. If he's lucky, the calculation has a high priority and he'll have the budget necessary to hire some human computers to assist him with the calculations. He's of course going to miss the invention of the nuclear weapons, the Iron Curtain across Europe, and a decades-long Cold War, but perhaps it's not such a big deal because of course by 2012 the Cold War will be over and the Iron Curtain torn down. Little does he know that in 2009 there will be a furious debate about the implications of digital medical records for long-term health care costs because at the time of his work there are no digital records of anything.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS

But the next president might. 

IOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

Science

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

The Ungodly Horror of Having a Bug Crawl Into Your Ear and Scratch Away at Your Eardrum

We Could Fix Climate Change for Free. Now There’s Just One Thing Holding Us Back.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 17 2014 7:03 PM Once Again, a Climate Policy Hearing Descends Into Absurdity
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Outward
Sept. 17 2014 6:53 PM LGBTQ Luminaries Honored With MacArthur “Genius” Fellowships
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 6:14 PM Today in Gender Gaps: Biking
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 5:56 PM Watch Louis C.K., Dave Chappelle, Bill Hicks, Mitch Hedberg, and More on New YouTube Channel
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 7:23 PM MIT Researchers Are Using Smartphones to Interact With Other Screens
  Health & Science
Jurisprudence
Sept. 17 2014 4:49 PM Schooling the Supreme Court on Rap Music Is it art or a true threat of violence?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 17 2014 3:51 PM NFL Jerk Watch: Roger Goodell How much should you loathe the pro football commissioner?