The NYT had a mostly good piece on efforts to deal with global warming today. The one big item missing is any discussion of pay-by-the-mile auto insurance. The logic on this one is simple. Currently auto insurance is pretty much a fixed price, drivers pay an average of close to $1,000 a year whether they drive 100 miles or 100,000 miles (low mileage discounts alter this slightly). Obviously the risk of accident for any given driver is roughly proportionate to the amount they drive.
Apparently NYT reporters can't. An article in Monday's NYT on a new Medicare guidebook that seems to promote private plans reports that "senior Democrats" complain that these plans raise the cost of the program. Well, senior Democrats might complain about the higher costs of the HMOs, PPOs and other private plans that have been incorporated into the Medicare program, but the evidence comes from independent assessments from the Congressional Budget Office and elsewhere.
We all know the story, an old-line U.S. industry, burdened by high wages and outmoded business practices, starts to lose out to foreign competition. Instead of bringing their pay more in line with world standards, they go running to the government for help.
No, I'm not talking about economics reporters or the brilliant economists who somehow failed to see the housing bubble (and the stock bubble), I'm talking about the Census Bureau's release of data on vacancy rate for thethird quarter. The data show that vacancy rates have climbed to yet another record high.
BUT WHAT KIND OF POPULISM? My friend Cliff Schecter has a new article lauding the populist approach of Midwestern and border state Democrats. I'm always happy to see such pieces, mainly because it would be good if part of the post-election narrative for Democrats, assuming they win, is that a resurgent populist appeal pushed them over the finish line. I would, however, be grateful if writers began defining their terms a bit. The fact that these politicians are populist is simply asserted -- what the label means beyond thinking economic hardship is bad is never explained.
LOOK OUTWARD. I�ve admired Katha Pollitt�s work for years and was thrilled to see she took the time to respond to my essay on the lack of women opinion columnists. Pollitt makes some excellent points; indeed, Gail Collins was hardly the sole decision maker when it came to hiring and promoting New York Times columnists. That�s why I wanted to take the focus off Collins and ask some larger questions about the significance of the debate on women in journalism.
BAD OMEN. There's a great moment near the beginning of the movie Tootsie, in which Dustin Hoffman and his agent are arguing about a play that Hoffman's roommate has written for him. In the play, Hoffman is to play a man who moves back into the toxin-poisoned neighborhood of Love Canal. The agent (played by director Sidney Pollack) finally explodes, "Nobody will pay to watch people living next to chemical waste. They can see that in New Jersey."
This came to mind earlier this afternoon when, while listening to Al Franken's radio program, he told me to stay tuned to hear from Howard Fineman.
SEPERATE AND UNEQUAL. To follow up on my general concerns about federal rules intended to make single-sex education more common, Brad Plumercites the details of the ACLU's suit against gender-based education in Louisiana, which persuasively cites evidence that this education reinforces gender sterotypes. More concerns expressed here and here.