Archive

  • The Dollar is #2

    The Financial Times reports that the value of euro notes in circulation worldwide now exceeds the value of dollar notes. This should tell us two things. First, the dollar is not essential to world finance. People are happy to hold euros and other currencies, no one needs to hold dollars. Second, the euro passing the dollar is not some sort of cataclysmic event. As long as people still have faith in the basic soundness of the dollar, they will be happy to hold it, even if it slides to number 2 by some measures. Of course, if investors become convinced that the currency is on a downward path, then it could lead to a serious run. In short, the world does not need the dollar, but it is also not anxious to throw it in the toilet, or at least not yet. --Dean Baker
  • EDWARDS IS IN....

    EDWARDS IS IN. John Edwards reportedly chose the quiet week before the new year to formally announce his second run for the Democratic presidential nomination in hopes of having the political press all to himself, but things are not exactly going as planned. Gerald Ford 's death has created a major competing story, and a website goof today forced him to move up his announcement. Reports the A.P. : Former Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards jumped into the presidential race Wednesday a day earlier than he'd planned, prodded by an Internet glitch to launch a candidacy focused on health care, taxes and other domestic issues. The North Carolina Democrat's campaign accidentally went live with his election Web site a day before an announcement Thursday that was supposed to use Hurricane-ravaged New Orleans as a backdrop. The slip-up gave an unintended double-meaning to his campaign slogan on the John Edwards '08 Web site: "Tomorrow begins today." Aides quickly shut down the...
  • YOU'RE VOTING FOR...

    YOU'RE VOTING FOR WHO ? There must have been 10 or so of us, sitting around a table at the Commons dinner hall at Goddard College, all examining the absentee ballots we had received from our home states. The year was 1976, and this was the first time any of us would vote to elect a U.S. president. In residence at one of the most hippy-dippy schools ever conceived (though conceived before the existence of hippies), it was assumed by everyone at the table we would all vote for the Democrat, Jimmy Carter , governor of Georgia. Well, that would be, assumed by everyone but me. I knew I wasn't voting for Carter. I liked Jerry Ford ; he was doing an okay job. I was happy not to have to hear any more from or about Richard Nixon . Furthermore, I did not trust Southerners. But more than anything, I was crazy about First Lady Betty Ford , and thought it spoke well of the president that he had had the stones to marry an outright feminist, and to stick by her as she spoke her outrageous...
  • FORD ALMOST CAUGHT HOOVER.

    FORD ALMOST CAUGHT HOOVER. Gerald Ford's death got me to thinking about the power (and length) of recent post-presidencies. Because presidents are living longer after leaving office, there's increasingly more to say about them once they leave the White House but before they depart for the big sleep. When Ford took over the presidency after Richard Nixon 's resignation, Nixon was the only living ex-president at the time -- and, for obvious reasons, not exactly somebody with whom Ford could much consult or consort (at least publicly). And although Nixon would be the next ex-president to die, he didn't until after Bill Clinton took office in 1993. Because Nixon, along with Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan , and George H.W. Bush were still alive, Clinton became only the second president inaugurated with five former presidents still around. Abraham Lincoln was the first and, as a testament to the increased longevity of presidents in the modern era, George W. Bush was the third. (Nixon...
  • 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...

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