Post Hoc Not Always Propter Hoc

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

The Census Bureau announced today that housing permits were up 11.6% in September compared to the previous month. Matt Yglesias thinks Ben Bernanke deserves the credit:

That’s all great news for the economy. I also think it’s a clear sign of the power of QE3….Since monetary policy primarily works through expectations, it primarily works very quickly. QE3 was clear, forceful, and yet also relatively modest so a short-term one-off surge in investment activity (housing starts) and durable goods purchases (car sales) followed by a speedy return to the trend growth path is exactly what we should expect.

Well….maybe. But QE3 was announced on September 13, so it would have to work very quickly indeed to affect housing permits in the same month. Too quickly for the real world, I think. First, there would need to be one heck of a lot of builders with plans all drawn up and financing in place, eyes fixed on CNBC just waiting for the right moment to submit their applications. Second, local bureaucracies would then have to circulate the applications to all the various planning agencies, review and approve whatever variances are required, and issue the permits in record time to make the end-of-month cutoff. It’s true that the September number is well above the recent trend, but color me skeptical that QE3 had anything to do with this.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate