Archive

  • More Bad News on Productivity?

    While we still may have some surprises in the December data, it looks like 4th quarter GDP growth is likely to come in at under 2.5 percent, driven down by declines in both residential and non-residential construction, as well as a drop in equipment investment. Hours are on track to grow at about a 1.6 percent annual rate, which means that productivity growth for the quarter will be less than 1.0 percent. Yet another quarter of weak productivity should raise some eyebrows. If we take 1.0 percent as the number for the 4th quarter (which is likely high), this would be the picture since the fourth quarter of 2005: 05:4 -- -0.1% 06:1 -- 4.3% 06:2 -- 1.2% 06:3 -- 0.2% 06:4 -- 1.0% This gives an average annual growth rate of just 1.3 percent over these 5 quarters. That compares to more than 3 percent from 2001-2005. But, revisions will make the data look even worse. BLS will add in 810,000 jobs to the establishment survey as of March 2006, in its annual benchmark revision. This will lower...
  • The Iraq War: Misleading Budget Choices

    No one can be happy about the situation in Iraq, but the media do the public a serious disservice when they misrepresent the choices available. The Wall Street Journal commits this sin today when it quotes a senior fellow at a "liberal think tank" as saying "whatever you think should happen in Iraq, the fact is we have troops there and we have to fund them." Actually, we don't have to fund the troops to be in Iraq. If Congress chose, it could summon the commander of our forces to devise a plan for a safe withdrawal of our troops and calculate a price tag. It could then appropriate the money needed to carry through this task -- end of story, end of funding. The senior fellow at a liberal think tank may not like that option, but it is one that exists, and the Wall Street Journal should not have uncritically presented a quote that implied otherwise. --Dean Baker
  • NEXT UP: CA....

    NEXT UP: CA. It's getting a bit hard to keep track of all the universal health care proposals swirling around right now, but it'll be worth watching what Arnold Schwarzenegger announces on January 9th. He's promised to make reform his top priority in the coming year, and he has every incentive to do so: Being the guy who fixed California's health care system and possibly catalyzed the country's switch to UHC is enough to enduringly erase all doubts about the celebrity governor and restore the national profile that got tarnished during his string of 2005 defeats. Of course, Schwarzenegger won't be pursuing this alone. After Massachusetts produced their plan and Mitt Romney received a firestorm of positive press, other governors are eyeing the issue as a way to make their names national, too. So Arnold will want to move quick. How you create universal health care without raising taxes, which he's promised not to do, puzzles me, though. I assume it involves a rocket launcher, or possibly...
  • WHEN ONE ARAB...

    WHEN ONE ARAB CIVIL WAR ISN'T ENOUGH. Not content with baby-sitting the civil war in Iraq, the United States, according to recent reports, has been quietly inserting itself into the growing conflict between Hamas and Fatah in Gaza and the West Bank. According to The San Francisco Chronicle : The Chronicle has obtained a training manual distributed to officers of the Al-Haras Al-Rayassi, Abbas' Presidential Guard, during a two-week course held in Jericho earlier this year at which the chief instructor introduced himself as a U.S. Secret Service officer who served during the Reagan administration. The manual, titled "Advanced Protective Operations Seminar," is emblazoned with the logo of the Counterterrorism Training Group, which includes the U.S. government seal. Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, the U.S. security coordinator to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, told the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth after news of the training sessions leaked out that since Iran is helping arm and fund Hamas...
  • CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY MUST...

    CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY MUST END! I've given Democracy (a journal of ideas!) a bit of a hard time in recent months, but their latest issue is genuinely fantastic. It contains a couple of articles I want to talk about, but the most important is Aaron Chatterji and Siona Listokin 's ferocious critique of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) movement. As they argue, liberals have largely abandoned attempts to change the economy through government regulation and action and begun seeking instead to convince individual corporations, by way of PR campaigns and lobbying efforts, to become better economic citizens. This is foolish, in addition to being ineffective. As Chatterji and Listokin document, corporations have become scarily adept at using the atmospherics of CSR to escape real regulation or public outrage. Here's how it works: Imagine a world with one voluntary code of conduct governing the operation of apparel factories. Let�s call it the Golden Code of Conduct (GCC). This is a...
  • EXPERIMENT.

    EXPERIMENT. To add to Scott's able denunciation of Ken Pollack's discussion of the "experiment" of leaving Iraq, it's important to emphasize that anything the United States does from this point forward is an "experiment." Those who denounce withdrawal plans as "assuming, asserting that there would not be any consequences from withdrawal in Iraq," have to give some kind of semi-plausible account of how continued maintenance of a large presence in Iraq will both a.) be better than the status quo, which is almost incomparably awful, and b.) actually lead to some kind of positive end state. Thinking that the explicitly temporary deployment of 20,000 soldiers will win a counter-insurgency war, for crying out loud, has to be.... I don't know. I'm at a loss for vicious, angry epithets. Professional political scientists should know better than this. --Robert Farley
  • WHY ARE WE LISTENING TO THIS MAN?

    WHY ARE WE LISTENING TO THIS MAN? In pointing us to this remarkable construction of ice cream castles in the air and destruction of strawmen by Frederick Kagan and Kenneth Pollack at AEI, Yglesias asks : "Whether the Kagan-Pollack meeting of the minds enhances Kagan's credibility or detracts from Pollack's I'll leave as an exercise to the reader." My question: what credibility on Iraq could Pollack possibly have left to lose at this point? As Matt says, Pollack's remarks consist of a very convincing explanation of why the inevitable chaos in Iraq is going to be a disaster with considerable regional spillover, which constitutes excellent evidence for the foolishness and hubris of the war's advocates but is neither here not there in terms of demonstrating the viability of avoiding such an outcome. Pollack's conclusion, however, sums up the evasiveness and blame-shifting of the pro-war dead-enders effectively: At the end of the day, walking away from Iraq or even trying to contain it...
  • D(ECLASSIFICATION)-DAY. In...

    D(ECLASSIFICATION)-DAY. In a fairly cool story, The New York Times reports that when the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, hundreds of millions of classified government documents will instantly enter the public sphere, including 275 million from the FBI alone. Indeed, the documents, whose quarter century (or more) of secrecy has now ended, will shed enormous light on everything from the Cuban Missile Crisis to the Vietnam War to the Soviet espionage network. Should be fun stuff for the historians. An interesting sidenote here is the secrecy-obsessed Bush administration didn't block or eliminate this declassification. They could've, given that it was a Clinton initiative and subject to executive review, but they're letting it go through. Good for them. --Ezra Klein
  • OBAMA-ADJUSTED POLLS.

    OBAMA-ADJUSTED POLLS. Observing all due caveats about early horserace polls, it's possible to learn something if you remember that these polls are basically distorted by unequal name recognition. When I was a kid, the polls used to always say that Ted Kennedy was going to be the next president, later it was Mario Cuomo , etc. But since name ID is itself a measurable thing, it's possible, if you're not bound by the strict code of professional ethics governing the polling industry, to extract some useful information by factoring it in. In the current polling, there are four candidates who are almost universally known among voters: Senator Clinton , Senator McCain, Giuliani and Gore . (And John Edwards , probably somewhat less so, but for some reason he isn't in the Newsweek or CNN polls.) And there are two who are not at all well known, Senator Obama and Governor Romney . (By the way, that thing about the ethical code was a joke. Don't panic, Mr. Penn , .) In the Newsweek poll , 81%...
  • CRUDE NUKES.

    CRUDE NUKES. J. at Armchair Generalist highlights this Foreign Policy article about the dangers posed by a crude nuclear device. Long story short, it's not at all hard to construct a crude, cylinder atomic device, as long as you have the material. It can be fairly responded that "Yes, and if I had a Maserati I could go 185 ", but fissile material is not impossible to get; there's an almost limitless supply of plutonium on the shelf in Russia, and only a very small amount would be needed for a bomb. Back in late October, Bob Galluci of the Walsh School of Foreign Service scared the hell out of gathered Pattersonites by arguing in an after-dinner speech that a nuclear terrorist attack on the United States was a virtual certainty in the next fifteen years. While Lexington, Kentucky isn't a likely target, many of our graduates go on to live and work in Washington, a fact which had me thinking about what kind of memorial we would build to the alumni lost in the attack. Galluci suggested...

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