One should never make too much of a single month's data, but yesterday's report of a sharp falloff in existing home sales, price declines throughout most of the country, and record inventories of unsold homes, might be seen as supporting the view that a bubble is bursting, but not in the NYT.
SPEAKING OF VACATIONS. The RNC may have a beef with Markos Moulitsas taking a vacation, but that's not a position likely to win them more Catholic supporters this summer. Over the weekend, the Pope -- yes, the real, actual Pope -- issued a reminder to his flock that taking a break is the spiritually beneficial thing to do, and should be encouraged:
Working too hard, even for those leading the Catholic Church, is bad for the spirit, Pope Benedict XVI said Sunday as he greeted tourists at his summer residence outside Rome.
TALE OF TWO TEXANS. Inspired by this mash note from Time's Blog Of The Year, I remembered that one of the finest moments in Spike Lee's masterful HBO documentary on Hurricane Katrina came when Douglas Brinkley -- who's much more shrill, and gratifyingly so, as a talking head here than he's ever been on Jim Lehrer's show -- recalls the visit that President Lyndon Johnson made to New Orleans the day after Hurricane Betsy made landfall in 1965. Even considering the inevitable Lyndonisms -- "This is your president.
FREE ADVICE. Far be it from me to give advice to the good folks at the Republican National Committee, and they're certainly entitled to risk death and dismemberment in the dungeons of Grand Vizer Kos. But, given the great vehicle that the Internets are for helping us celebrate anniversaries, do the ambitious little GOP drones really want to get snarky over the next couple of weeks on the subject of someone's relaxing vacations?
I wrote a short note a couple of days ago about an article in the Washington Post on the immigration bill passed by the Senate. I wrote that the article used an estimate from CBO that was based on an error in the bill's wording that would almost surely be corrected before the final passage.
After someone sent me a note, I reread the CBO report and I realized that the article had correctly reported the spending in the bill, as projected by CBO. However, it had neglected to mention the increase in tax revenue that CBO projected based on the corrected wording.
House prices have stayed even with the overall inflation rate from 1950-1995. Since 1995 they have risen by more than 50 percent in real terms. There has been no remotely comparable increase in rents. As a result, home building has been hugely outpacing the rate of household formation and vacancy rates are at record levels. Given this information, economists should see a bubble in the housing market and expect prices to plummet. Instead, when they see bad news on sales, they are surprised.
RACE IN REPUBLICAN RACES. Raw Story reporter Brian Beutler has catalogued a surprising number of racist remarks from Republican candidates this year and noted the national party's response -- or lack thereof. Unlike Macacagate, most of these examples have not garnered national media attention.
WHY INEQUALITY MATTERS. My friend Will Wilkinson is puzzled over the excess concern liberal economists express over inequality. He gets why they'd care about each individual's well-being, but not why they'd worry about the gap between Tom and Bobby, assuming both of them have enough. I'm no liberal economist, but I sometimes play one on the blogs, so let me take a crack at it.
BUSH V. GORE. Great presidents educate the public, and what's most distressing about the Bush era is that the president has so horribly mis-educated the public on the two biggest public policy decisions of his presidency: taxes and Iraq. On the first count we were told by Bush during the 2000 campaign and many times subsequently that, despite massive debt, annual surpluses were a problem for the public and the economy.
DIPLOMACY FOR BEGINNERS.John Judis has a nice piece about the history and sorry track record of conservatives' odd aversion to diplomacy and liberals' tragic failure to adequately resist it. The upshot is that, specific issues and countries aside, the whole assumption that there's anything to be gained by either de facto or de jure denying diplomatic recognition to other countries is wrong. Having ambassadors in each others' countries and regular talks between officials about matters of common concern is just what countries that aren't actively at war with each other do.