Good Luck to Harold Pollack, and Welcome to Larry Kudlow

Big changes are coming with RBC’s bligging lineup

The New Harold Pollack
The New Harold Pollack
I should have seen this coming, but still it makes me sad. Harold Pollack’s 4 x 6 index card of financial advice was perhaps the most read, cited and tweeted RBC post in history. It drew coverage from Washington Post, Money Magazine, Vanguard and Motley Fool among many, many others. It is now a book that is getting tremendous press everywhere.

I thus understand Harold’s decision to move on from RBC to take up a regular investment advice column at Wall Street Journal and a “Pollack’s Mad Money” television show on CNBC, which fired Jim Cramer today to make room for Harold. Congratulations my friend, you will be missed.

However, with every ending comes a new beginning, so it is therefore time to welcome Larry Kudlow to RBC. Larry will have big shoes to fill, but is strongly committed to writing here about poverty, inequality and the need to expand the social welfare net and raise taxes on the wealthy. The only thing holding him back so far has been that he doesn’t know any poor people, but Harold, gracious in transition, has agreed to introduce to him to one very soon.

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College Lonon. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over ten thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

12 thoughts on “Good Luck to Harold Pollack, and Welcome to Larry Kudlow”

  1. Why did you print this while I was drinking my morning tea? My spit take would have brought tears to Danny Thomas’ eyes.

  2. I was wondering how you were going to rationalize the entry of Larry Kudlow into the RBC. Then I read the last paragraph and almost choked on my coffee laughing and then I remembered (until my grave) your “never the mane shall tweet” and decided that maybe Kudlow could add some special leavening to the mix. If I remember correctly he’s got the tickets. It’s just that he’s chosen to ride on a very different train from the rest of us.

  3. Thanks Keith. Welcome Larry, to the fold. To ease in, we’ll start with someone at 200% of the poverty line, and work down.

  4. penance perhaps for having served as a one-man national economics clown show for, must be ten years or more?

  5. I don’t get the joke.

    If the index card is all that’s necessary, why would there need to be a column?

    Or, are you going to do makeovers??? Love those.

  6. Proposed addendum:

    The news coverage of the Powerball drawing struggles to find ways of expressing how improbable it is that you will hit the jackpot when the odds against that happening for a single ticket are 292 million to one. The local news keeps saying that you have higher odds of being hit by lightning, which is true enough, but would not dissuade me from buying a bunch of tickets when the jackpot is high as it is today.

    In October they upped the odds from 175 million to the present 292 million. There has been only one winning ticket sold since October 7. That ticket was sold on November 4. The lottery has been rolling over ever since then. The decision to lengthen the odds will mean that jackpots of several hundred million dollars will happen more often than in the past, which will draw the kind of publicity we see today. People from non-participating states are driving for three hours to be able to buy tickets, and then drive three hours back home. I mean, what could possibly go wrong with that?

    The problem is that big numbers are too hard to relate to, because they surpass the kinds of reality that we can readily relate to. So I propose expressing the situation as follows, using a Poisson distribution (which I think is the correct approach).

    Because of duplicate tickets being sold, you do not have a 50% likelihood of a jackpot being hit until there are about 202 million tickets sold. This means that if you participated in the twice weekly drawing by purchasing over 950 tickets (over $1900 worth) twice a week beginning at the time of Christ, you would, as of the present, have a 50-50 chance of having won the jackpot. Chances are 50-50 you would still be waiting for your lucky number to come up. Gotta buy tickets at that rate through the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, the Dark Ages, the voyages of Columbus, the Enlightenment, and the rise of America, every week without fail, all for a 50-50 chance of the big prize.

    So one more item for the index card: do not jaywalk across Sepulveda Boulevard during rush hour to buy a Powerball ticket at the 7-11.

      1. The game change was made in a deceptive manner as I see it. Before October, the player had to pick 5 numbers from a field of 59, and then pick the correct bonus number out of a field of 35. Now, the player must pick 5 numbers from a field of 69 and then pick the correct bonus number from a field of 26. The smaller field for the bonus number makes it appear as if it offsets the larger field for the combination of numbers. The shorter bonus field of only 26 numbers appears to give the player a better shot at winning (about 25% smaller than the field of 35), and the field for the combination of numbers has grown by only about 17%. But the odds of winning are worse by a factor of about two thirds. The commissioners knew what they were doing and did it anyway. Sales have increased as expected.

        Saying that the odds are the same as tossing a coin and getting 28 consecutive heads (as was reported on the NBC news) only makes the situation worse. This does not sound like that hard a thing to have happen, and sounds quite doable to me until I do the math. We have all seen heads come up several times in a row, so how hard can it be to have it happen 28 times? Hell, maybe I will ride over to the 7-11 on my bike in the dark wearing dark clothes and no helmet and get a ticket before the sales end in just over an hour. Better make that 28 tickets to be sure of winning.

  7. Added congratulations and best wishes to Harold, and welcome to Larry.

    It is worthwhile underlining that Harold’s deserved success with the index card depended on the blog platform the RBC offered him. I don't see how his index card could have reached the general public from the university lecture theatre, seminar room, or academic journal. In the old days, he could have written a book (outside his academic speciality; hard to find a publisher) or written a letter to the editor of a newspaper, a very long shot.

    Blog posts are ephemera, but the Internet has a memory and long-term success is possible, though rare. Other examples are Daniel Davies' One Minute MBA post on the second Iraq war and Kevin Drum's on lead and crime. Most of us have to be content with a lesser impact, principally the satisfaction from the knowledge that one's thoughts are of interest to our regular readers. I had my week of minor notoriety from aspirin and broccoli (shameless advert), which is icing on the cake.

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