Archive

  • INTRIGUING NEWS ...

    INTRIGUING NEWS If you have any interest in the Scooter Libby trial, or in the past and future of the Vice President, you'll want to check out this piece from Murray Waas , who has consistently done the best reporting on the CIA leak case. --Jeff Lomonaco
  • Welfare Down South

    We all know that the southern states like to take a hard line on families that fall on hard times and turn to the government for support. Their payments for TANF and other benefits for low income families are far below the national average. But, if you're a homeowner and live near the coast in Florida, the government is much more generous in dishing out money. The Washington Post reports that Florida has opted to subsidize the insurance for this group, because the private sector would charge exorbitant fees (presumably reflecting the actual risk). It would have been helpful if this article discussed the dollars and cents a bit more. Specifically, how much money are hardworking Floridians paying to subsidize the mostly wealthy people living in coastal areas, who apparently lack the ability to make it on their own. --Dean Baker
  • UNIONBUSTING IN OP-ED...

    UNIONBUSTING IN OP-ED FORM. Kevin already did important yeoman's work pointing out some of the simple factual inaccuracies riddling Russell Roberts ' anti-union screed , but it's worth noting what a conceptual mess the article is. Roberts writes, "When more than 90% of the private-sector labor force isn't unionized, why do 97% of us earn above the minimum wage? If our bargaining power is so pitiful, why don't greedy employers exploit us and drive wages down to the legal minimum?" This seems like a discussion question at the end of an Introduction to Economics textbook chapter. And Roberts' answer is about as illuminating. Meanwhile, the issue with unions is, in the immortal words of Samuel Gompers , "more." Just because the median laborer is clearing $5.15 doesn't mean he's making as much he theoretically could. Distribution matters. Unions get more for their workers, a "more" that would otherwise fall into executive pockets and corporate profits. The question isn't whether they save...
  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: THE TRADE QUAGMIRE.

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: THE TRADE QUAGMIRE. Robert Kuttner tells us about the coming four-way collision over trade policy. --The Editors
  • FORWARD-LOOKING INSURERS? ...

    FORWARD-LOOKING INSURERS? Tyler Cowen 's argument against Medicare-For-All is really quite strange. He writes that "Private insurance has been covering prescription drugs for -- what -- about twenty-five years?...So when it comes to the one thing that really works, government insurance was twenty or more years behind private insurance." Let's argue this in a numbered, Cowen-esque way. 1) The example proves the point. Medicare was barred from covering prescription drugs -- and is currently kept from negotiating down their prices -- by the insurance and pharmaceutical companies, who spent hundreds of millions lobbying against Medicare's entrance into this most profitable market. Those millions, passed onto consumers through premiums and prices, added no value to the system, but kept the elderly from getting necessary drugs at affordable prices. This all goes to show the essential undesirability of a prviate insurance system, and the necessity of a Medicare-for-All structure. 2) Medicare...
  • JOHN MCCAIN'S CONSISTENT OPPOSITION TO REPRODUCTIVE FREEDOM.

    JOHN MCCAIN'S CONSISTENT OPPOSITION TO REPRODUCTIVE FREEDOM. Given the news that John McCain has forcefully denounced Roe v. Wade , the understandable liberal reaction is to point out the inconsistency of this legendary Straight Talker (TM). And I agree, in general, that the media myths about McCain's increasingly risible claims to independence need debunking. Given the unpopularity of his position, though, when it comes to forced pregnancy it should be pointed out that his record is in fact fundamentally consistent: he's for it . He has a 0% NARAL rating. He's never met a federal abortion regulation he doesn't like . He voted for Robert Bork , which would have meant Roe being overturned 15 years ago. He favors a constitutional amendment banning abortion . It's true that he has said that he wouldn't want his daughter forced by the state to carry a pregnancy to term, but basically all American social conservatism comes with an implicit self-exemption for rich white people, and John...
  • The NYT Endorses Protectionism

    The NYT editorial page can always be counted on to harshly condemn protection for agriculture or manufactured goods, but when it comes to much larger economic distortions that are generated by copyright and patent protection, the NYT tells its reporters to look the other way. Today�s article on the development of new software that can detect the presence of copyrighted material on the web provides yet another example of the NYT�s selective protectionism. The article includes no discussion whatsoever of the economic losses that result from imposing copyright protection. Think of the enormous gains to the economy and society if all books and articles, music and video were available to everyone in the world at zero cost over the web. These gains would dwarf any potential gains from eliminating trade barriers in manufactured goods or agricultural products. In addition, think of how much we would gain by eliminating all the rent-seeking behavior associated with copyright protection. For...
  • WE ARE THE DEADLY WARRIORS.

    WE ARE THE DEADLY WARRIORS. David Brooks's recent column (behind a firewall but I summarize it here sufficiently, I hope) on how the conservatives are correct about human nature is hilarious. In short, he argues that we humans (though I think he really means male humans) are malevolent brutes, intent on status competition and clubbing the cavewoman out before dragging her off to a life of housewifery in the cave. Well, I added that last bit, but I have an excuse, because the whole article encourages such humorous additions. Take this paragraph , for example: Over the past 30 years or so, however, this belief in natural goodness has been discarded. It began to lose favor because of the failure of just about every social program that was inspired by it, from the communes to progressive education on up. But the big blow came at the hands of science. From the content of our genes, the nature of our neurons and the lessons of evolutionary biology, it has become clear that nature is filled...
  • AN UNREASONABLE ARGUMENT:

    AN UNREASONABLE ARGUMENT: So I saw "An Unreasonable Man," the documentary on Ralph Nader that is coming out this week. From the previews I was expecting a sharply produced even-handed examination of Nader and his legacy. What I got instead was a kitschy piece of propaganda. The film, which was filled with unintentionally comical images flying across the screen and oddball music choices, gave an impression of Nader that was absurdly skewed in his favor. While the early parts of the film that discussed his work as a consumer advocate were reasonably interesting, its second half was totally bizarre. It said nothing about what Nader has done since the mid 1980s besides run for president four times. It treats the fact that Nader runs every four years with a seriousness it would never show other perenial candidates like, say, Harry Browne . Most egregiously it gives considerable air time to factually false and intellectually dishonest arguements in support of Nader's 2000 presidential...
  • Clinton and Executive Power -- Enough, Already!

    Clinton and Executive Power -- Enough, Already! The Times’ man on the Clinton beat, Patrick Healy , has an interesting story this morning on Senator Clinton’ s new approach to the question of whether she should apologize for her 2002 vote to authorize the Iraq War, and the fight within Hillaryland on the subject. Apparently the winning strategy is to use a firm refusal to apologize as a symbol of her toughness and resolve. I have a feeling that strategy won’t hold for long -- not just because it won’t satisfy Democratic primary voters, but because it is exactly the definition of toughness that got us into this mess -- but I was more alarmed by the following passages: Mrs. Clinton’s belief in executive power and authority is another factor weighing against an apology, advisers said. As a candidate, Mrs. Clinton likes to think and formulate ideas as if she were president - her ’responsibility gene,’ she has called it. In that vein, she believes that a president usually deserves the...

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