Archive

  • CARETAKER NOSTALGIA. Gerald...

    CARETAKER NOSTALGIA. Gerald Ford served ably during a difficult time and gave a troubled nation what it needed : After a decade of division over Vietnam and two years of trauma over the Watergate scandals, Jerry Ford, as he called himself, radiated a soothing familiarity. He might have been the nice guy down the street suddenly put in charge of the nation, and if he seemed a bit predictable, he was also safe, reliable and reassuring. He placed no intolerable intellectual or psychological burdens on a weary land... His former aides , less so. --Garance Franke-Ruta
  • TO CLARIFY. Good...

    TO CLARIFY. Good to see someone using the Tapped holiday posting system (the office is down this week and those who are posting are doing so sans Sam Rosenfeld ). Mark may be reading a bit more in my item that I intended to put there, however. Of course Hillary Clinton will have significant challenges in winning election -- heck, she'll have major challenges just getting through the primary at this rate . Nothing about her run will be a waltz. But I do think we need to make sure that those of us who write about politics don't look at her candidacy as a totally sui generis thing, or confuse issues common to women running for office with ones specific to her candidacy. That's especially the case because the politically incorrect historical precedent here is clear. Female politicians in the American system massively benefit from having either a famous political father or husband. This is just a fact. The first woman ever elected to the U.S. Senate, Hattie Caraway , was first appointed to...
  • Medicare Drug Plan: The Conservative Nanny State in Action

    The NYT has a good piece about how some of the insurance companies in the Medicare drug plan failed to notify seniors of changes in their plan. These changes often involve higher prices and the dropping of some drugs from the plan. Of course, even seniors who did get notified would have to read through 30-40 page booklets. That sounds like a great holiday present for elderly people, many of whom have bad eyesight and problems concentrating. It will be interesting to see if the new Congress takes any substantive steps to fix this nonsense. The obvious way to have created the drug benefit would have been to let Medicare offer its own plan as an add-on to the traditional program. The insurers within Medicare could do the same, with an equal subsidy and they could compete in the market. This would have made a simple low cost option available to all Medicare beneficiaries. The brave men and women who occupy Congress say that the insurance and drug industry have too much power to allow for...
  • Washington Post Promotes Image of Tax and Spend Democrats

    "Determined to banish their image as shameless fearmongers who constantly raise the threat of terrrorism for political purposes, the Republicans are planning a new approach to foreign policy." Well, the Washington Post didn't write that sentence, instead the lead story in today's paper began "Determined to banish their old tax-and-spend image, Democrats want to shrink the federal deficit, preserve tax cuts for the middle class and challenge the president to raise money for the Iraq war when they take control of Congress next week." Sorry to bore people with the facts , but the ratio of debt to GDP has consistently fallen under Democratic administrations, while it has risen under the last three Republican administrations. Spending as a share of GDP fell sharply in the Clinton years, while rising sharply in the Bush years. The idea that the Democrats have been reckless spendthrifts is an invention of their political opponents. It should not be treated as an accurate characterization of...
  • Washington Post Makes Up the Numbers In Social Security Jihad

    The country's private pension system is broken, so there is nothing wrong with creating new systems of private accounts in addition to Social Security. However, there are grounds for suspicion about the motives of people who propose such accounts using public funds, esepcially when they make up numbers. As part of its ongoing Jihad against Social Security, the Washington Post published a column by Republican senator Jeff Sessions advocating such accounts, with the usual invented numbers. Basically, it allowed Mr. Sessions to use preposterous rate of return assumptions. Mr. Sessions claims that $1,000 invested at birth would grow to between $50,000 and $100,000 by age 65. This implies a rate of return of 6.2 and 7.3 percent. This would only be possible if we assume that all the money was invested stocks (the normal assumption for these calculations is 60 percent) and we assumed that stock returns would be substantially higher than future profit growth projections will allow. During the...
  • THE EX-PRESIDENT FACTOR

    THE EX-PRESIDENT FACTOR . I see the point of Garance's defense of Senator Clinton against the argument that she is too compromised by her husband to win/deserve election to the presidency, but comparing her to 1984 vice-presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro does Clinton no favors! As it happens, I also just read an account of Ferraro's brief and unhappy months on the national stage, in Steven Gillon 's 1994 book, The Democrat's Dilemma, which uses the career of Walter Mondale as a lens to tell the story of the death of mid-century liberalism. By Gillon's account, Ferraro was woefully unprepared for the scrutiny that went with being her party's nominee. She stonewalled the questions about her family's finances, which she had omitted from her congressional financial-disclosure filings. And as more came out, her husband, John Zaccaro was revealed to have some extremely dubious dealings, one of which involved taking a $100,000 loan from the estate of an elderly woman to whom he had been...
  • Did the Washington Post Lose Russia?

    Well, they certainly seem to have lost the ability to talk about it coherently. The peaceful disintegration of the Soviet Union and the subsequent course of Russian history is a remarkable story. Unfortunately, one gets very little of the real picture in the Washington Post's piece marking the 15th anniversary of the collapse. For most of the Russian people, the main story is a devastating economic collapse, which led to a decline in per capita GDP of more than one-third from 1990 to 1996. The standard of living for the typical Russian might have fallen even more sharply, as a small group of well-connected business people sezied control of much of the country's wealth. This is indicated by the extraordinary drop in life expectancy in Russia. As the box accompanying the article shows, life expectancy for men fell from 61.9 years in 1992 to 58.9 years in 2004. For women, the drop was from 73.7 years to 72.3 years. Russia's economy has since rebounded, regaining most of the lost ground...
  • Nonsense on Oil and the Dollar

    The BBC had a short article on the possibility that Venezuela will shift from trading its oil in dollars to trading in euros. This article gives me an opportunity to trash two common myths about the meaning of such a shift among producers. The first issue is the importance of the shift to the value of the dollar. A story often circulated across the web is that there will be dire consequences for the dollar if oil producers made this shift. Some simply arithmetic should quickly eliminate such concerns. Currently oil consumption is about 85 million barrels a day. Let�s assume that a bit more than half, or 45 million barrels a day, crosses international borders. Now, let�s say that the bill for this trade is all paid on the same day of the month everywhere in the world. This would mean that if all payments were made in dollars, oil consumers would need to come up with $81 billion (45 million barrels*$60 per barrel*30 days) once a month to pay for their oil. World-wide holdings of dollars...
  • THE BILL FACTOR....

    THE BILL FACTOR. People who object to Hillary Clinton 's potential presidential candidacy often do so on the grounds that it will revive media focus on Bill Clinton in a way that will damage her and Democrats generally, not to mention drag America back into a deeply annoying and contentious moment in our past. Some different woman candidate, one not married to a former president -- and, specifically, not married to him -- might have a less controversial time of it, according to this line of thinking, because her husband would be less of an issue. To them I would suggest: Take a look at what happened to Geraldine Ferraro . I was reminded of what a major issue her husband became in her 1984 campaign this morning while reading a journalism history book , and it's a history worth considering. Even today, husbands frequently become issues in women's campaigns in ways they don't in those of male candidates (see: Pirro, Jeannine ), because political husbands are more likely than political...
  • TRUTHS ABOUT PHARMA....

    TRUTHS ABOUT PHARMA. A new report out of the GAO sheds some useful light on that majestic pharmaceutical industry everyone's always talking about. The GAO was asked to look into the industry's trends because, despite R&D increases over the past decade, there's been a sustained drop in the number of genuinely new drugs being submitted to the FDA. The culprits? Well, among other things, entirely 68 percent -- more than two-thirds -- of the drug company's new applications are for "me-too" drugs, knockoffs of other company's blockbusters with enough molecular differences that they evade patent restrictions. Such spending, reports the GAO, is safer than socking money into so-called "New Molecular Entities," the drugs with the potential to offer new treatments. Going for new blockbuster drugs (drugs capable of generating $1 billion a year) or knockoffs of old ones is the easier road to profits. Other culprits are a lack of qualified research scientists, technological hurdles, and the...

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