Archive

  • YADDA-YADDA.

    YADDA-YADDA. I admit it. I never got the whole Seinfeld thing. Part of it was a pre-existing loathing for the star. Back when the late Sam Kinison was prowling the stages and scaring people ( Jesus : "Sure, I'll go back, even if I'm the only guy in history who can use his hand for a whistle!") it was Jerry whom the culture warriors brought out to soothe their maidenly vapors. Jerry would talk about how he never worked blue and then yap about breakfast cereals. Different strokes and all, I agree, but I never shook the feeling that Seinfeld was on the other side from all the real stuff. Anyway, I watched his show long enough to realize that there was an awful lot of overdog bullying going on at the heart of the phenomenon -- vaguely racist and xenophobic, with a mysterious sweet-tooth for Funny Cripple humor. We're losers, but the world is full of bigger losers, and a lot of them look different. Ho, ho. So, when Michael Richards went off the other night (inevitable YouTube footage here...
  • Whining for Trade Agreements

    Washington Post columnist Sebastian Mallaby rivals Thomas Friedman as a cheerleader for the U.S. trade agenda. He made yet another appeal on Monday , using arguments that he shoud know are fallacious. One of these ranks high on my list of all-time favorites for fallacious arguments. He makes the case that growth is the key for reducing poverty (this is true) and then argues that trade is essential for increasing growth: "And growth, in turn, is highly correlated with trade openness. One World Bank study showed that poor countries whose trade grew as a share of the economy recorded gains in income of 5 percent per year in the 1990s; by contrast, poor countries whose trade did not expand had no income gains whatever." The problem with this one is simple. Every country uses trade as a mechanism to promote growth. Some are successful, some are not. The ones that are more successful in increasing trade are also more successful in growing. In other words, increased trade is an outcome...
  • Milton Friedman and the Permanent Income Hypothesis

    The commentary on Mitlon Friedman's passing reminded me of the permanent income hypothesis, one of his most important theoretical contributions. The basic argument is that people will plan their annual consumption based on their expected income over their lifetime, not their income at a point in time. There is a simple logic in this. If someone has a temporary falloff in income, for example if they lose their job, we don't expect their consumption to fall by the same amount. Similarly, if someone has an especially good year (lots of overtime or big gains in the stock market) we don't expect them to spend all this money at once. So the idea that consumption would not respond to transitory changes in income in the same way as permanent changes in income seems intuitively reasonable. However, there is a stronger version of this story that Friedman and some of his followers sought to promulgate. This was the view that consumption was largely unresponsive to temporary changes in disposable...
  • HOT OFF THE PRESSES: THE DECEMBER PRINT ISSUE.

    HOT OFF THE PRESSES: THE DECEMBER PRINT ISSUE. The latest print issue of the Prospect has dropped; you'll want to check it out. Two of the pieces are available as free previews to non-subscribers: Tom delves further into the data illustrating the northern realignment that these elections consolidated, while Ezra offers up some ideas for how Democrats can pursue smart policies that are also smart politics -- "prioritizing policies that strengthen, expand, and empower their coalition." Elsewhere on the post-election front, Jacob Hacker and Ruy Teixiera suss out the economic politics of these midterms, Drew Westen gets at the subliminal power of effective campaign appeals, and Congressman Barney Frank makes the case for worrying about -- and responding to -- economic inequality. Spencer has a lengthy report on what the Baker - Hamilton commission will mean for the dynamics of the Iraq debate. Tara McKelvey investigates civil war in the ACLU. Jo-Ann Mort captures the predicament of...
  • POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: PARTIAL-BIRTH'S TROJAN HORSE.

    POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: PARTIAL-BIRTH'S TROJAN HORSE. Scott tells us why the Supreme Court's upcoming decision regarding the federal partial-birth abortion ban matters more than people think: If the Court overturns the health exemption, this will deal a body blow to Casey , giving states hostile to abortion much more leeway to legally harass doctors and patients in ways likely to have a chilling effect on abortion providers. (Remember that D&X abortions are not limited to post-viability abortions.) If the Court gives a free pass to legislatures that make bogus medical claims to evade the health exemption requirement, as the drafters of Federal Partial-Birth Abortion Act did, this will have the same effect with an extra layer of dishonesty added on top. (It will also send a signal to legislatures that the Court will not scrutinize the motives and consequences of abortion regulations with any seriousness, further diluting the "undue burden" restriction.) If, alternatively, the Court...
  • A CODA FOR...

    A CODA FOR THE BUSH YEARS. He was describing the ongoing gap in test scores between whites and blacks, but he could have been summing up the past six years in many other ways as well: �Not only have all boats stopped rising, but the boats that are under water are sinking further down,� said Bruce Fuller, an education professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who contributed to the study. --Garance Franke-Ruta
  • ALZHEIMER'S.

    ALZHEIMER'S. This was a terrific catch by Ezra . If I may just add my own particularly nasty-ass dog in the fight -- Alzheimer's Disease, which struck down my father and every one of his four siblings. It is a disease that takes a horrible toll on almost everyone in a patient's family. The estimated cost of caring for an AD patient is $174,000, and average course of the disease is seven years. The Alzheimer's Association estimates that 16 million Americans might have the disease by 2050. Even if a therapy can be found, a lot of the cost of caring for an AD patient is still going to come from things like home nursing and respite-care, which enable the fulltime caregiver, usually an aging spouse, the opportunity to sleep three or four consecutive hours. And we don't have the space to get into the problems inherent in the nursing-home industry. As Ezra said, a malignant system, indeed. --Charles P. Pierce
  • A GRAND BARGAIN....

    A GRAND BARGAIN. Barney Frank , the incoming Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, gave a speech in Massachusetts over the weekend calling for a "grand bargain" between business and Democrats. "What we want to do," he said, "is to look at public policies that'll get some bigger share of the increased wealth into wages, and in return you'll see Democrats as internationalists. . .. I really urge the business community to join us." In other words, Democrats will lift their opposition to a variety of free trade bills and regulatory changes if business will drop their opposition to legislation increasing wages, guaranteeing health care ("I think employer-paid health care is a mistake, I think it depresses wages"), and reempowering unions. Likely? Not particularly. Business has gotten so much of what it wants over the past few years that the changes Frank can offer are relatively marginal, while the concessions he's demanding are fundamental economic changes. That said, there...
  • A MALIGNANT SYSTEM....

    A MALIGNANT SYSTEM. So far as the personal responsibility wars rage in health care, cancer is a usefully clarifying condition. Its causes are manifold and hard to pinpoint: Genetics, poor luck, environment, lifestyle, and a variety of other mechanisms play a large part. Few tend to see the disease as the direct result of poor choices (save smoking), which makes this Kaiser study on affected families all the more poignant. According to Kaiser's survey, a full quarter of households used up all their savings treating the patient. One in ten had to forego major expenses like food, heat, or housing in order to bear the burden. 13% ended up going into debt and being hounded by collection agencies, 3% declared bankruptcy. 8% of respondents said they delayed or went without treatment due to the expense. 11% were unable to health insurance because of their cancer and 6% lost insurance they already had. What's there even to say? --Ezra Klein
  • WRASSLING WITH DIXIE....

    WRASSLING WITH DIXIE. Tom 's right. His non-Southern Strategy thesis drives people nuts. I know this because I alienated no less than three (3) separate people by mentioning it this weekend, and then finding myself unable to escape the resultant firestorm of offense and anecdote. You can't focus your resources in the Interior West because that person grew up in the South (albeit in a university community), and they know, just know , that the South would greet Democrats as liberators, showering them with chocolate and flowers, if only they'd make a play for their affections. Tom can ably argue against that impulse, and I'd like to see him go a bit more into the racial politics than he's been doing. It's worth noting that the South, as an aggregate region, disagrees with the Democrats on a variety of issues areas (mainly national security, civil liberties, and cultural issues), and it is not in any way irrational or immoral for southerners to vote based on those preferences. But as a...

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