Archive

  • The Housing Crash Continues

    David Leonhardt uses his column to point out that house prices are declining far more than the standard indices show. He misses my two favorite reasons. First, sellers often throw in many extras to make a sale now (e.g. help on closing costs, paying for repairs, paying condo fees for a year etc.). Sellers had no reason to make such concessions a year ago. These concessions will not appear in the indices which are based only on sales price. The other big problem is that the OFHEO House Price Index (HPI) only includes mortgages that are small enough to qualify for the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage pools. These are capped at around $360,000, which is a 90 percent mortgage on a $400,000 home. In some of the most overheated markets, this cap puts you below the median home price. That means that much of the action in places like Boston, New York, Washington, and San Francisco will be completely missed by the HPI. It is likely that the price run-up was larger in the higher end homes...
  • WHAT'S RICH? ...

    WHAT'S RICH? It's often easy to forget how unequal the world really is. The richest 10% of adults own more than 85% of all worldwide wealth. And how much do you need to hold to qualify for that global top 10%? $61,000. --Ezra Klein
  • THE FIRST FEMINISTS

    THE FIRST FEMINISTS . You think modern feminists have to put up with the "hairy-legged man-hater" stereotype too often? Just imagine what it must have been like for these ladies . New research says neanderthals died out because their womenfolk didn't want to stay home and take care of the babies -- they wanted to join in the hunt. That's right. Their quest for equality is being blamed for the downfall of the entire species. In other words, the neanderfeminists are STILL facing the backlash , a hundred thousand years later. Doesn't bode well for the rest of us, does it? --Ann Friedman
  • BEING CONSTRUCTIVE. ...

    BEING CONSTRUCTIVE. On this whole Liberaltarianism thing, Julian Sanchez has a fair riposte : "Fine, pretend for a moment you aren't convinced this is a doomed idea and make a counteroffer. We want a system in which people are encouraged to rely more on individual saving and investment. Is there any distance you're willing to go down that road?" It's a good question. I'm all for opt-out 401(k)s and asset building plans, if that's what Julian's wondering about, but I've a feeling the road extends quite a bit farther. Problem is, part of what makes me a liberal is a belief in the power of collective action. I think a universal, government-run health care system would be far superior to any devolved, individualized alternative. I think we need countervailing powers in the economy. I think the common good is distinct from the macro growth numbers and needs to be enforced. As the saying goes, we live in a society, not an economy. But let's try some compromises: Within the context of a...
  • BAR THE GATES....

    BAR THE GATES . The more I refresh my memory about defense secretary nominee and former CIA Director Robert M. Gates , the more convinced I am that no senator on the Armed Services Committee, before which Gates appears today, who votes to move this nomination to the Senate floor will honestly be able to say that he or she has supported a man worthy of the job. In their rush to fill the Pentagon's top spot with anybody but Rumsfeld , the committee appears poised to replace an arrogant, loud-mouthed crank with a craftier player of the same philosophical bent. Like his prospective colleagues in the W adminstration, Gates has a reputation for bending intelligence to suit the political goals of his bosses, as he did during his stint as deputy to William Casey , who served as director of Central Intelligence in the Reagan administration. Lending support for the rationale that led to the unconstititutional arms-for-hostages deal known as Iran-Contra , Gates advanced faulty intelligence that...
  • OPIUM.

    OPIUM. Josh Meyer has a good article in the LA Times about resource battles between the Pentagon and the DEA over opium. I suppose that I'm of two minds on using military assets for opium eradication in Afghanistan. On the one hand, it's clear that the Taliban is using the opium industry to fund its resurgence, so the traffic is a military problem. On the other, the idea of U.S. forces diverting time and resources to supporting DEA anti-opium operations seems like a hell of a waste, especially since I suspect that, while the DEA has chosen to talk up its eradication efforts as being part of the counter-insurgency campaign, that it's really interested in the destruction of the trade for its own sake. As a policy problem on its own merits, I could really care less about Afghan poppies and the effect that their destruction has on the price of heroin in Seattle or Amsterdam. Obviously, poppy destruction also has a negative political effect, since many Afghans rely on production for their...
  • LIBERALTARIANS. The...

    LIBERALTARIANS. The blogosphere is abuzz today with discussion over Brink Lindsey 's call for a grand alliance between Libertarians and Liberals. This is the sort of thing I always want to believe in, but can never actually imagine happening. Part of that is because Lindsey has a very specific vision of what liberals should -- or do -- care about. His actual proposal advocates "A refashioned liberalism that incorporated key libertarian concerns and insights could make possible a truly progressive politics once again -- not progressive in the sense of hewing to a particular set of preexisting left-wing commitments, but rather in the sense of attuning itself to the objective dynamics of U.S. social development.' There's a lot packed in there, and most of it shreds Lindsey's hoped-for alliance. As becomes clear a couple of grafs later, Lindsey believes capitalism a truly progressive force because the civil rights movement was really enabled by the mechanization of agriculture, feminism...
  • JUST POSTED ON...

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: BRIDGE TO NOWHERE. Matt is skeptical of the Baker-Hamilton commission's political "bridge-building" mission: And here, I think, is the essential appeal of political bridge-building as a goal. Political divides were bridged in the past, and the result was a fiasco. Iraq's current presence in the thick of the political hurly-burly threatens to suss this out into the open. High-profile political debate on Iraq is bad for Republicans, who supported the administration's war policy in lockstep until it was much too late. Democrats, as a whole, should benefit from an absence of political bridges. But pressing the political advantage on Iraq will, naturally, shift the balance of power inside the party away from Bush's hawkish collaborators in favor of war opponents better positioned for political confrontation. Bipartisan adoption of the ISG's recommendations, in other words, may not solve America's Iraq problem, but it just might solve the Iraq problem facing the...
  • SHOW HORSESH*T.

    SHOW HORSESH*T. I feel no pity for Joe Biden . His recent comments in South Carolina joking about how his home state, Delaware, wishes it had been part of the Confederacy, are exactly the kind of crap that enables conservatives. By spouting this bunk -- a word with southern origins, incidentally -- Biden has undermined not only his own party but, by extension, his chances of being elected to anything other than Delaware senator-for-life. As Lambert over at CorrenteWire argues, this may be Biden�s � Trent Lott moment.� If there is any justice in politics, it will be. In a recent profile of Hillary Clinton , the Atlantic�s Josh Green tells the story of how the venerable Robert Byrd advised Clinton, upon her arrival in the Senate, to be a �workhorse, not a show horse.� Of course, Byrd gave Biden the same advice 30 years ago, too. As Green remarks, Biden proves that, for some, advice just doesn�t �take.� The Delaware Show Horse has proved he�s willing to perform whatever tricks his...
  • Medicare Drug Plan Roulette: Does This Have to Happen?

    The NYT has an article reporting on how hundreds of thousands of low-income Medicare beneficiaries may find themselves suddenly paying much more for their prescriptions on January 1, if they don't take the right steps to ensure that they are properly registered to receive means-tested benefits, or that they are enrolled in a plan that provides the drugs they need. This is yet one more benefit of having competing private plans. I'm sure these seniors can't wait to sift through the various options again. Since this had been an issue that troubled members of Congress prior to the election, it would have been worth mentioning the political implications of these problems. --Dean Baker

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