Mike Konczal

Mike Konczal is a fellow with the Roosevelt Institute, where he works on financial reform, unemployment, inequality, and a progressive vision of the economy. His blog, Rortybomb, was named one of the 25 Best Financial Blogs by Time magazine. His writing has appeared in the Boston Review, the Washington Monthly, The Nation, Slate, and Dissent. He's appeared on PBS NewsHour, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show, CNN, Marketplace, and more.

Recent Articles

Unemployment Ticks Up—And That's a Good Thing

The economy gained 171,000 jobs in October, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The previous two months’ job gains were also revised upward, with the BLS now estimating that an additional 50,000 jobs were created in August and 34,000 in September. With the revisions, we finally have more jobs than in early 2009, when the economy was in full collapse and President Obama took office. Job growth is important, but what might be even more exciting news is that the unemployment rate went from 7.8 percent to 7.9 percent. Wait—isn’t unemployment the number we want to go down immediately? Unemployment is a measure of people looking for work. As people are unemployed for longer periods of time, they become discouraged and give up on trying to find a job. When they do this, they are no longer counted as unemployed, which leads to an artificial decline in the unemployment rate—it’s not that the economy has added jobs; it’s that there are fewer people...

Full Employment Is the Best Social Program

The optimistic debate about what could happen in the United States after the unemployment rate goes down

AP Photo
The unemployment rate’s drop to 7.8 percent, reported last week, marked the first time since 2009 that the rate was below 8 percent. It’s fitting that this occurred shortly after someone who predicted the rate couldn’t get below 8 percent changed his mind. Until a year ago, president of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Narayana Kocherlakota had argued that there may be a new normal unemployment rate of 8.7 percent, and that adjusting the rate at which banks borrow money would do little to help. Now he argues that the Fed should commit to keeping rates low until unemployment is declines—a position in line with those hawkish about our unemployment crisis. Kocherlakota’s arguments were popular among the right, with conservatives like David Brooks name-checking him in his national column. But they also found support from a surprising ally: former President Bill Clinton. Clinton went on David Letterman's show and NPR in 2010, quoting Kocherlakota to argue that...

What the Heck Is Quantitative Easing?

A look at the history behind the Fed's latest move

(Flickr/Talk Radio News Service)
Last week, the Federal Reserve announced a third round of quantitative easing, or what is referred to as QE3. This is an open-ended purchase of $40 billion a month, along with a commitment to keep rates low until “a considerable time after the economic recovery strengthens.” Many economic commentators are saying that this is a serious change in economic policy. In order to understand why this is so important to our economy now, it might be helpful to go back to an academic debate about Japan in the 1990s. The era from the early 1980s through the financial crisis was referred to as the “Great Moderation.” It was common for economists to assume that the Federal Reserve and other central bankers could control the economy effortlessly, basically picking the unemployment rate they wanted. Prominent economists who studied macroeconomics, the field created during the Great Depression to study economic crashes, thought everyone in the discipline should pack up and go...

Cleaning Up the Subprime Aftermath

Welcome to the Kafkaesque world of mortgage loan servicing.

JPMorgan Chase trumpeted some impressive news on Jan. 14, 2011. It had earned a record $17.4 billion in quarterly profits in fiscal year 2010, a 47 percent jump from the previous quarter. Three days later, the bank quietly released a less flattering statement. Its mortgage-servicing division, the third largest in the country, had overcharged some 4,000 active-duty troops on their mortgages and improperly foreclosed on 14 of them, violating a law called the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. This story broke because of embarrassing litigation. A Marine F-18 fighter pilot, Capt. Jonathan Rowles, who had been faithfully paying his mortgage, was marked delinquent. He and his wife hired a lawyer and spent two years fighting to get JPMorgan Chase to relent. The foreclosure mess is the sequel to the subprime calamity. During the housing bubble, investment bankers sought to move as many mortgages as they could, sound or otherwise. No-documentation loans packaged by Wall Street were blessed by...

Bernanke Gives a Press Conference

The big takeaway from Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke's historic press conference was that the focus, both of questions asked and Bernanke's own remarks, addressed a situation that would be the exact opposite of the one we're in now. What is our current situation? We have seven million people out of work since the crisis (on top of the number of those who would have been out of work without the crisis). The employment numbers have plummeted for all groups, regardless of education or age. Current estimates say it will take years, 2014 or beyond, before the country approaches a normal unemployment rate. The Federal Reserve has two jobs, which is often referred to as a dual mandate. One is to maximize employment. Bernanke has testified that there are things the Federal Reserve can do, like buying assets through quantitative easing, that will result in job creation. However, the Federal Reserve's other job is to maintain price stability and not let inflation spin out of control. The...