BRAZILIAN ELECTIONS. The elections in Brazil -- where Lula is headed for a run-off on October 29, have received some attention in the U.S. news media, but of course that coverage fails to make much of the context clear. Fortunately, we have a resource in an American academic blogger who goes by the handle Mr. Trend.
U.S. AND EUROPEAN INEQUALITY. I think Greg Mankiw partially obscures the import of this graph comparing what high income and low income households make across developed countries. "The bottom line:" he writes. "The poor in the United States have about the same real income as the poor in western Europe. The rich in the United States, however, are much richer."
IRAQI AIR FORCE. Speaking of the air force, it's important to remember that air power, while hardly a panacea, certainly plays an important role in modern military operations. Although air power is less important to counter-insurgency conflicts than high-intensity wars, having control of the air and being able to deliver ordinance to targets never hurts. If the Iraqi government is to fight Iraqi insurgents, it will need an air force. Unfortunately, things aren't going so well on that front:
Projections show that the combined cost of Medicare, Medcaid, and maintaining the roads and sidewalks in front of the Washington Post will increase by more than 8 percentage points of GDP by 2050. Clearly we cannot afford to maintain the roads and sidewalks. When will politicians have the courage to cut the budget for maintaining the roads and sidewalks in front of the Washington Post?
Hal Varian (my former micro professor) has an interesting piece in the NYT about the impact on the entertainment industry of the declining cost of producing and distributing video material. The basic story is that free material (e.g. YouTube) drives out costly material (e.g conventional movies). The greater the availability of free material, the less time and money will be spent on costly material.
The NYT reports on yet another incident in which the pharmaceutical industry has misrepresented research findings in an effort to promote one of its drugs. This is exactly the sort of corruption that economic theory predicts from a situation in which government patent monopolies give drug companies large monopoly rents.
THE FRAUD CAUCUS FUND. I have to agree with Ari Bermanof The Nation that the logical underpinnings of Republicans Who Care are shaky at best. A bunch of decrepit moderate millionaire Republicans are jumping into the breach between their far-right party leadership and moderate districts to save members of the Fraud Caucus like Chris Shays and Deborah Pryce.
FROM THE DECEMBER PRINT ISSUE: A LIBERAL MANIFESTO. Recently, Tony Judt wrote a piece for the London Review of Books entitled "Bush's Useful Idiots," which charged American liberals -- not "some" or "too many" American liberals, simply "American liberals" -- with "acquiesc[ing] in President Bush's catastrophic foreign policy." The essay caused a big stir -- and made Todd Gitlin and Bruce Ackerman a bit mad.