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Just What I Said

Bloomberg Economics Columnist Takes on Bonds, Banks, Budgets, and Bubbles

Just What I Said by Caroline Baum
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Not for nothing do her initials also stand for "Central Bank." For nearly two decades, Caroline Baum has produced incisive commentary on central bank policy, the ebbs and flows of the economy, and how they influence the bond market. Her much sought-after, real-time analysis is read by a devoted audience on the BLOOMBERG PROFESSIONAL service within seconds after it appears. The word on the Street is that reading Caroline Baum is an economic education in itself.

This selection from her more than 1,300 Bloomberg News columns, arranged by major themes and with new introductions by the author, condenses and organizes that wisdom for the first time in print form.

Wiley; May 2010
317 pages; ISBN 9780470885116
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Title: Just What I Said
Author: Caroline Baum
 
Excerpt
...That’s where I come in. Humdrum, in the right hands, can be exciting. The operation of the Federal Reserve—how the central bank creates reserves out of thin air and destroys them in the same way—would normally make for dry, scholarly reading. It wouldn’t even fly as a PBS series. What if the Fed chairman could be disrobed to reveal an ordinary human being under the sphinxlike facade? What if the emperor has no clothes? It would sure make all that stuff about the sources and uses of reserves easier to swallow. That’s my job: to make knotty subjects understandable and fun. I once wrote a column comparing Alan Greenspan to Alfred Hitchcock. The connection may not be immediately apparent, but after reading every word Greenspan has uttered since he became Fed chairman in 1987 and seeing most of Hitchcock’s films, it was to me. The column was light; it was deep. (It’s in chapter 8.) It’ll give you a unique perspective on how Greenspan operates. I had another flight of fancy (no pun intended) as I was watching birds flock to my new bird feeder. Could the avian world shed any new light on the law of supply and demand? Bird-watching became a lesson in economics. (See chapter 5.) Then there’s mop technology. Isn’t it time someone applied Moore’s Law—the observation that the memory capacity of computer chips doubles every 18 months—to the vast home-products market, where most of the 111 million households surely own a mop? You’ll read about that, too, in this book (chapter 11). In the midst of the late 1990s productivity boom, like most consumers I spent hours on the phone with tech support trying to get help with my home computer. While I was on perma-hold, it dawned on me that the degradation of services was a particularly insidious, albeit unmeasured, form of inflation. That realization became the basis for my belief and analysis that we are understating service-sector inflation. Economics, in other words, can be demystified and explained via the raw material of daily life...
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