Archive

  • WHO'S BUYING? ...

    WHO'S BUYING? You occasionally hear that the American economy is really six types of awesome because, though inequality is widening and wage growth has been weak, Americans buy a lot of stuff. And middle class and working class Americans are even more determinedly consumptive than their upper class brethren! Problem is, it just ain't true. Those with lower salaries does spend a great percentage of their incomes buying stuff, but they do not outspend the rich. According to The New York Times , consumer spending from low income households is down sharply since 2001. Not so for the high-income households. In 2005, the top 20 percent were responsible for 39 percent of all consumer expenditures -- the highest share since the government began keeping track in 1984. --Ezra Klein
  • THE WASHINGTON POST...

    THE WASHINGTON POST AND DOUBLE STANDARDS. In the midst of apologizing for Pinochet , The Washington Post drops this bombshell while apologizing for Pinochet-apologist Jeane Kirkpatrick : The contrast between Cuba and Chile more than 30 years after Mr. Pinochet's coup is a reminder of a famous essay written by Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, the provocative and energetic scholar and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who died Thursday. In "Dictatorships and Double Standards," a work that caught the eye of President Ronald Reagan, Ms. Kirkpatrick argued that right-wing dictators such as Mr. Pinochet were ultimately less malign than communist rulers, in part because their regimes were more likely to pave the way for liberal democracies. She, too, was vilified by the left. Yet by now it should be obvious: She was right. Wow, what might be a counterexample to this. Oh, I don't know -- maybe all of formerly-communist-and-now-NATO'd-up Eastern Europe ? What should be obvious to the Post is the fact...
  • DEMOCRATS IN DISARRAY?...

    DEMOCRATS IN DISARRAY? Tom Edsall spouts a meme I'm getting a bit tired of: The head of the pack is a dangerous place for a Democrat to be. Democrats excel in cannibalizing their front-runners. Just ask those who were knocked out in the primary season (Lyndon Johnson, Ed Muskie and Howard Dean) or those who limped from the ring after 15 rounds (Walter Mondale and Al Gore). Republicans, by contrast, honor hierarchy. For four decades the G.O.P. has nominated the early favorite. Unlike Democrats, Republican voters have a long history of rejecting rebels and underdogs. Grr. Alright: To call Howard Dean 2004's frontrunner is to make a mockery of the term. He was a particularly potent insurgent. John Kerry was the early favorite, and he won. In 2000, heir apparent Al Gore didn't lose a single primary. Heir apparent George W. Bush , conversely, was nearly toppled by John McCain . In 1996, Bill Clinton faced no primary challenge, while Bob Dole was weakened by Pat Buchanan 's insurgency. In...
  • DEEPWATER.

    DEEPWATER. Lotta stuff out on the problems with Deepwater , the Coast Guard's expensive modernization program. Shockingly enough, the program is over-budget and under-successful. Nadezhda at American Footprints has a good discussion, but also see this long article in the NYT . The Coast Guard has taken it on the chin in both the War on Drugs and the War on Terror, getting lots of responsibility without much prestige or increased funding. The Deepwater program was intended to recreate the fleet (by itself one of the largest navies of the world) but has fallen prey, according to many retired Coast Guard officials, to perverse incentives created by privatization of the acquisition process: Insufficient oversight by the Coast Guard resulted in the service buying some equipment it did not want and ignoring repeated warnings from its own engineers that the boats and ships were poorly designed and perhaps unsafe, the agency acknowledged. The Deepwater program�s few Congressional skeptics...
  • MUSICAL CHAIRS.

    MUSICAL CHAIRS. The New York Times reports on U.S. plans to attempt to curb Moktada al Sadr 's influence by fostering a new coalition that gives enhanced power to SCIRI's Abdul Aziz al-Hakim . As Laura herself notes , she reported on variations of these plans for TAP Online recently: The plan would be to try to forge a new and more effective Iraqi government coalition that would include the Sunnis, Kurds, and the Shias, while engineering a tilt within Maliki's Shia coalition away from Sadr and toward fellow Shiite leader Ayatollah Abdul Aziz Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and its attendant Badr Brigade militia. (Hakim is scheduled to arrive in Washington next week on an official visit.) The Mahdi Army loyal to radical young Shiite cleric Moqtada al Sadr would continue to be the enemy. Washington would also engage Saudi Arabia and regional neighbors to encourage Sunni support for Maliki, and Syria and Iran would be pressured to limit their...
  • MORE ON PROLIFERATION ROLLBACK.

    MORE ON PROLIFERATION ROLLBACK. Via Brad Plumer , this discussion from Jeffrey Lewis elaborates on the point I made last week regarding the British nuclear program: The debate over Trident is somewhat surreal because, frankly, the UK�s nuclear weapons are irrelevant: they don�t deter anyone, confer any status or, frankly, threaten anyone. They are not particularly good or bad. On a related subject, I failed to note at the time that North Korea represents another opportunity for rollback of nuclear proliferation. Although it�s unlikely that North Korea will ever willingly give up its nuclear program, a collapse of the regime would likely lead to reunification with South Korea. If that happens, and if Seoul manages to get control of the DPRK�s nuclear arsenal, it�s possible that the unified Korean state could be convinced to disassemble the weapons. It might be a tough sell, since even a unified Korean regime will be at a military disadvantage to all of its neighbors, and I suspect that...
  • HANDS OFF THE...

    HANDS OFF THE MISTLETOE, BUB. While I was tickled to read Brad Reed 's prescription , here on TAP , for a liberal jihad on Christmas, as a gay (well, almost) Wiccan (well, not exactly) ukulele-player (yes, really), I must request exemptions for yuletide and mistletoe. The former refers to the time of year once called "Yule" by the pagan Anglo-Saxons, who celebrated the winter solstice with a ceremonial fire that is also known as the burning of the Yule log. (According to the Heathen Calendar on the Web site, Normannii Thiud & Reik , "The Yule log ideally should be made out of oak, a wood that is sacred to the thunder god Thunor.") Thus, the celebration of Yuletide is inherently anti-Christian. As for mistletoe , it is the magical fauna of the Celtic Druids (also pagans, y'know), who employed it at solstice time for the enhancement of fertility. As Steve Tatler writes : Because of the colour and juice of its berries mistletoe was regarded as the 'sperm of the gods', containing...
  • Why We Have Newspapers: Exposing Improper Links Between Credit Rating Agencies and the Companies They Review

    The credit rating agencies are the umpires of the financial world. They are supposed to be giving objective assessments of the financial status of the companies they rate. This is why it is big news that Standard & Poors may have altered its rating of Portland General Electric at the request of the company. David Cay Johnston deserves credit for tracking this one down . The NYT should not have buried the piece in the distant recesses of the business pages. --Dean Baker
  • NPR Misinforms on Fed

    NPR presented an interview with Wall Street Journal reporter David Wessel this morning in which he asserted that controlling inflation is the Fed's charge. This is not true. The law says that the Fed is obligated to run its monetary policy in order to promote price stability and high levels of employment, and specifically sets 4.0 percent as a target unemployment rate. Many economists would like to ignore the second goal, but that is not the law. --Dean Baker
  • Yet Another Episode in the Washington Post's Jihad on Social Security

    Did anyone get a 6 percent (nominal) wage increase last year? Congratulations on your "skyrocketing" paycheck. This is the term that the Post applies to Social Security expenditures, which have risen at an average rate of 5.2 percent in the last five years and are projected to rise at a 5.5 percent rate over the next five year (both in nominal dollars). This leaves Social Security expenditures virtually unchanged as a share of GDP over this period. Social Security expenditures are projected to rise more rapidly in the future, but they clearly are not "skyrocketing" at present. A little greater commitment to reality on this topic would be useful. --Dean Baker

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