Archive

  • Rewriting History on Primary School Enrollment in sub-Saharan Africa

    The NYT has a good article today on the surge in primary school enrollment in sub-Saharan Africa. It points out that after stagnating for nearly two decades, primary school enrollment rates have begun to soar across sub-Saharan Africa. While the article includes much useful information (including the problems providing adequate classroom space, textbooks, and teachers for so many students) it leaves out a very important element in this story. It fails to mention the importance of public protests and pressure from non-governmental organizations in forcing the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to change their policy in this area. Prior to 1998, it was common to include clauses requiring fees for primary school enrollment in the structural agreements that countries signed to get loans from these institutions. The fees would improve a country's financial situation by both raising revenue and reducing enrollment, and therefore the need to pay for public education. Fees for primary...
  • BUT CAN HE...

    BUT CAN HE RAISE TAXES? Mark Schmitt reminds , correctly, that the country will need more than an acceptance of moderate deficits over the next few years: It'll need revenue increases. Whatever enthusiasm John Edwards generates for rejecting fiscal conservatism should be tempered by the knowledge that, without tax increases, he'll have very little room for social spending. Relevant here is a question asked at the press conference following his announcement speech. The reporter asked whether tax increases would be necessary to fund Edwards' social spending. Edwards replied: Well, I'll give you a few examples: We ought to be patriotic as americans, not just as a government, though the government plays a critical role in helping to rebuild New Orleans. We ought to be patriotic in doing something about global warming. And I don't mean in an abstract way -- we walked away from Kyoto unilaterally which was a very serious mistake...[long digression on global warming, which I don't have the...
  • New Year's Resolutions for Economic Reporting

    In the interest of providing the public with better reporting on economic issues the association of economic reporters approved the following list of resolutions for 2007: (Okay, no such association exists and this list is completely invented, but I can dream.) 1) Put Numbers in Context Virtually no one can attach any meaning to the $40 million appropriation for a particular earmark, the $196 billion transportation budget for the next six years, or the projected $70 trillion budget shortfall over the infinite future. These numbers can be made meaningful by putting them in some context. In the case of budget items, this is probably best done as shares of total spending and/or as per person expenses. In the case of deficits, the appropriate denominator is GDP over the relevant time frame (annual GDP for a current year deficit, all future GDP for an infinite horizon calculation). These calculations require almost no extra time from reporters and zero extra space (substitute a percentage...
  • SO SORRY NOT TO HAVE MISSED IT.

    SO SORRY NOT TO HAVE MISSED IT. Gee, thanks, Brother Sam , for not letting that essay by the junior senator from Connecticut slip by me. I was really trying hard not to see it; I saw the headline and said, ugh, him again. Then I turned the page -- only to have it turned back at me. (I do not like that Kosher ham; I do not like him, Sam-I-am!) I suppose I should be grateful that Joe Lieberman decided not to throw control of the Senate to Vice President Richard Vader Cheney , but this bit of drivel , as Sam pointed out, is hard to take. My favorite bit: Because of the bravery of many Iraqi and coalition military personnel and the recent coming together of moderate political forces in Baghdad, the war is winnable. We and our Iraqi allies must do what is necessary to win it. Pair that with this headline, in today's Washington Post , from an actual news story by staff writer Nancy Trejos : "December's Number Steadily Edging Toward Highest Monthly Tally of '06." If that doesn't break your...
  • THERE'S A WORD FOR THAT "TENSION." IT ALSO BEGINS WITH "T."

    THERE'S A WORD FOR THAT "TENSION." IT ALSO BEGINS WITH "T." I know that the words Deficits Don't Matter are engraved over the doorway to the American Prospect offices, so I'll put a little at risk here by pointing out that while the current deficit is entirely manageable, as Ezra says, the fiscal outlook for the next ten years is much bleaker -- an additional debt of $3.5 trillion, under current policies, even without accounting for the costs of the war. At that level, deficits certainly will matter. They are economically unsustainable, they leave no cushion to respond to a recession or other emergency, and they certainly leave very little room to push the deficit up even further to finance public investment, social spending, health care, or other goods. Anyone who wants to argue that we should move to invest more in those public goods, without addressing in some way the medium- and long-term deficit, is implicitly arguing that this country can handle deficits of $500 billion a year...
  • GOOD CALL, CONNECTICUT.

    GOOD CALL, CONNECTICUT. Joe Lieberman -- he's ruining my holiday vacation. I'm a bit late in getting digs in at Lieberman's appalling Washington Post op-ed backing escalation in Iraq, but everyone really should take a look at this thing in its entirety. The out-of-the-blue insertion of Iran as our central threat not only in Iraq but in the global war on terror, the non sequitors, the comic book stylings and language, the assertion that "vision, will and courage" is all that we've been lacking and all that we need to secure victory -- it all serves to make the very idea that this writer has staked his political career partly on perceived foreign policy expertise and gravitas truly absurd. The lowlight: Lieberman insists that the troop surge should have "a clearly defined mission." Elsewhere Lieberman describes that mission as defeating "the extremists." Clear as a bell! --Sam Rosenfeld
  • EDWARDS VS. THE...

    EDWARDS VS. THE DEFICIT HAWKS. Des Moines is a very charming town, with some truly fantastic steakhouses. That's particularly if some of your fellow reporters are feeling generous with ther expense accounts. But I digress. I spent much of yesterday in Iowa watching John Edwards do the Townhall thing. And believe me: The boy got skillz. Speaking to a room of a 1,000+ people (the campaign estimated 2,500; the papers 1,000), Edwards easily outdid his announcement speech from the morning, going far deeper into the policy and at far longer length. And it was an impressive performance, particularly compared to his relative insecurity when discussing such issues in 2004. Afterwards, I couldn't find a member of the crowd -- not that there were none, just that I couldn't find him -- who wasn't now supporting Edwards in 2008. As I said, an impressive performance, But Nick Beaudrot 's post on the deficit reminded me of a fairly remarkable exchange from the Q&A that I want to transcribe here...
  • WHAT'S NOT THE MATTER WITH KANSAS

    WHAT'S NOT THE MATTER WITH KANSAS : Freshly re-elected governor Kathleen Sebelius has some gratifying parting shots for Kansas's outgoing Underwear Drawer Monitor Phil Kline : Gov. Kathleen Sebelius today criticized Attorney General Phill Kline�s actions in his abortion investigation into George Tiller. �The story just continues to get stranger and stranger,� Sebelius said in response to questions from reporters. On Wednesday, a state district judge rejected for the second time an attempt by Kline to file charges against Tiller, a Wichita doctor who performs abortions. Kline, an abortion opponent, said he would appoint Don McKinney, also an anti-abortion advocate, as a special prosecutor to take over the case before he leaves office Jan. 8. Asked if she thought Kline�s actions were appropriate, Sebelius said, �I think what the judge found is that he did not follow the law, he did not abide by the steps that needed to be taken. He looked at it twice, and to me that�s not appropriate to...
  • Globalization and Redistribution from Wages to Profits

    It is standard wisdom that globalization has led to a redistribution from wages to profits. In fact, an NYT column by Tyler Cowen actually presents this redistribution as a reason to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits. (For low income workers, the cuts are offset by contributions to private accounts.) I hate to ruin a story line with evidence, but the profit share of corporate income just returned to the level of the 90s' cyclical peak this year. Since profits are usually revised downward, it remains to be seen if we will exceed the profit share of the 90s cycle in the current cycle. While there was a shift from wages to profits in the 80s and 90s, if we don't cross the 90s profit peak in this cycle, it would mean that the huge increase in trade and the trade deficit over the last decade did not lead to a redistribution from wages to profits. This implies that globalization does not necessarily entail a shift from wages to profits. Of course, most workers have benefitted little...
  • EDWARDS' SHREWD MOVE:

    EDWARDS' SHREWD MOVE: While I, like Garance , will reserve judgment on Edwards' announcement speech until I hear it, there is one aspect of his entrance into the race that I think shows that he is taking the right approach: his choice of location. The Ninth Ward of New Orleans has the potential to be the Democrats' Ground Zero--a symbolic space that can be used to rally the public. Having made poverty eradication a centerpiece of his 2004 campaign, Edwards is perfectly positioned to take advantage of the Republicans' weakness on this issue. Hurricane Katrina was the most poignant example of how many Americans have been literally and figuratively left behind, and the Democrats would be wise to follow Edwards' lead in reminding the country of it. --Ben Adler

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