TO LAURA. OK, in 2004, you came out and patted us all on the head and reassured us that all that icky stem-cell stuff wasn't something we should count on, no matter what beasties were lurking in our gene pools. Last week, you went back to that old stand, tut-tutting Michael J. Fox , simultaneously insulting him and condescending to every voter in Missouri. Then, there's this business yesterday . You are not a geneticist. You are not an epidemiologist. You are not a military strategist or a constitutional lawyer or the Manners Police of the national discourse. You're a librarian from Bugtussle. Thanksgiving is on the way. Go home and make sure the liquor cabinets are locked. --Charles P. Pierce

    FAILURE OF THE WILL. Via The Corner , conservative mil-pundit Ralph Peters has thrown in the towel on Iraq . What's revealing about the piece is that it's impossible to see why he bought into the Bush line in the first place. In a typical passage, Peters writes that "I believed that Arabs deserved a chance to build a rule-of-law democracy in the Middle East. Based upon firsthand experience, I was convinced that the Middle East was so politically, socially, morally and intellectually stagnant that we had to risk intervention -- or face generations of terrorism and tumult." OK, based on firsthand experience ? What in the world does this mean? And what sort of basis can it be for the most gigantic foreign-policy undertaking in a generation? More importantly, there's this: This chaos wasn't inevitable. While in Iraq late last winter, I remained soberly hopeful. Since then, the strength of will of our opponents -- their readiness to pay any price and go to any length to win -- has eclipsed...
  • Zero Productivity Growth: Preemptive Strike

    I know that I usually comment on the news after it's been reported, but I don't want to have to write tomorrow about how reporters missed a big story. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today that productivity growth for the 3rd quarter was zero. I am always the first one to point out that quarterly productivity is poorly measured and highly erratic, but the rate of productivity growth over the last year was just 1.3 percent. This number will be revised down by another 0.2-0.3 percentage points when the 800,000 additional jobs from the benchmark revision to the establishment survey are included in the data. The continuation of the economy's strong productivity growth over the last five years had been the big story of this recovery. At the least, the recent data point to a serious cyclical downturn in productivity growth. This should be front page news tomorrow. I don't want to have to write about what is not there. --Dean Baker

    MISS AMERICA COMPASSION. Jennifer Roback Morse 's claim that voting for Rick Santorum -- conceivably the least libertarian major national elected official in the country -- is the only responsible choice for libertarians to make is, above all else, pure comedy gold. But her attempt to claim the libertarian mantle for Santorum based on his support for tax cuts and ... er, tax cuts actually provides a useful illustration of why his efforts to build a genuine "compassionate conservatism" are a non-starter. I don't say this because I think that Santorum's desire to help the poor is insincere -- and, certainly, better some concern for the poor than a Catholic conservatism that begins and ends with a desire to criminalize abortion and deny equal rights to gay people. The real problem is that it's fundamentally incoherent to vote to increase funding for the poor -- especially the non-American poor -- while simultaneously voting to gut government revenues, since during periods of fiscal...
  • The Post Editors Should Come to Washington

    A Washington Post editorial today warns us that allowing Medicare to negotiate prices directly with the pharmaceutical industry would be "a sure way of flooding the political system with yet more pharmaceutical lobbyists and campaign spending." Those of us who live in Washington know that the industry already floods the political system in order to preserve and strengthen the government granted patent protection that allows them to charge monopoly prices. Taking the money away will reduce, not increase, the number of lobbyists. --Dean Baker
  • The Minimum Wage: Restaurateurs May Do the Math, but Reporters Don't

    It is hard to run a restaurant profitably. It is a crowded and heavily competitive market. This is why most new restaurants go out of business within a few years of opening. Rather than blame their failure on market conditions or their own lack of business acumen, restaurant owners would much rather blame government regulation. Minimum wage laws are featured front and center in this story. Unfortunately, almost any story a restaurant owner tells is likely to be treated seriously by reporters. The Times gives us an account of restaurant owners facing crises because of the prospect of a higher minimum wage. The poster child is a restaurant owner in Montana who explains that the problem is that his wait staff get tips, but the state minimum wage laws provide no exemptions for tipped employees. This means that the higher minimum wage will require him to pay more to workers who he claims are already earning four times the minimum wage. (He also complained that the minimum wage would be...

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: MICRO MACHINES. Have the Dems managed to gain ground this year in the field of microtargeting mobilization, or is the GOP as dominant as ever? Joseph Ax reports . --The Editors

    DOBBS FILES FOR DIVORCE FROM REALITY. Now maybe it isn't fair to blame Lou Dobbs . Maybe it's the unwritten rule of television news programs (FOX excepted) that commentators must subscribe to a lower-brow version of the "pox on both their houses" David Broder school of punditry, no matter how vacuous and unfactual, that's making him do this. But Dobbs� column on today is misleading to an extent that makes it inappropriate for a respected news organization to publish it. Here are a few problems, listed in increasing order of egregiousness: ...most of that money for Democrats and Republicans alike comes from corporate America. So what will be the outcome of this election? The only certainty is that corporate America will get what it's paid for, and that's more of the same. Whether the Democrats or Republicans take control of the House and Senate, corporate America has just bought a license to outsource more middle-class jobs to cheap foreign labor markets, to continue unabated...

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: MUFFLED SHOT. Sudhir Muralidhar finds that the controversy-courting Bush assassination movie Death of a President isn't quite worthy of the outrage it's sparked. --The Editors
  • Bill Moyers Commits the Social Security and Medicare Sin (and Worse)

    Some of us expect intelligent commentary from Bill Moyers. Well, we didn't get it today . Instead Moyers gives a whole array of deceptive statistics. The worst of course is combining the projected shortfalls from Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, ignoring the fact that the vast majority of these liabilities stem from a projected explosion of health care costs. As BTP readers have heard me say many times, if health care costs follow this trajectory, then the economy will be devastated even if we shut down Medicare and Medicaid completely. Alternatively, if we get our health care costs more in line with costs in every other country in the world, there is no big problem. The point is that we have to fix our health care system, not gut Social Security or even Medicare and Medicaid. The second major sin in the Moyers piece is to report the projected deficits in trillions of dollars. This sounds very scary, which is presumably the intention. Well, this should be taken as seriously as...