Archive

  • MY PREDICTIONS.

    MY PREDICTIONS. Alright, here we go: House: Democrats +26 Senate: Democrats +4 (and Lieberman wins) Governor:Democrats +7 As I'm barely recovered from the emotional disaster that was November 2004, this includes some significant hedging. If things turn out much worse, expect to find me on the floor of my apartment in a fetal position with an empty bottle of cheap bourbon. --Robert Farley
  • PHILADELPHIANS AGAINST SANTORUM.

    PHILADELPHIANS AGAINST SANTORUM. Sunday afternoon, I shadowed a few lifelong activists who were canvassing for Philadelphians Against Santorum (PAS). We met on a South Philly street corner, where PAS armed us with an arsenal of fliers highlighting the fundamental differences between Casey and Santorum. PAS is geared toward getting a minimum of 60 percent of Philadelphians to vote against the Republican incumbent. Their logo is an angry cartoon of William Penn with �Philadelphians Against Santorum� scrawled across his chest along with a Liberty Bell. PAS has been canvassing various Philadelphia neighborhoods for the last two months straight, as Bob Casey �s lead has grown to double digits. They target Democrats and unaffiliated voters whom they suspect might not make it to the polls. With any luck, one PAS staffer told me, a canvasser will average 25 knocks an hour and hold 6-8 conversations with voters. �We�re potentially sitting on a third of the votes needed to get rid of Santorum...
  • NATION�S DEMOCRATIC WAVE ERODING MONTANA BEACHHEAD?

    NATION�S DEMOCRATIC WAVE ERODING MONTANA BEACHHEAD? The Montana Senate race has tightened up considerably. Democratic candidate Jon Tester enjoyed the early momentum out of the primary election and into October, but incumbent Republican Senator Conrad Burns has surged to make this race a statistical dead-heat, according to recent polls . (A November 4th Mason/Dixon poll has both candidates at 47 percent; a November 5th poll shows Tester with 50 percent and Burns at 48 percent.) Many pundits scramble to explain why Burns has closed the gap on Tester. Columnist Robert Novak crows that the Republicans� standby strategy of rousing fears against Democratic tax hikes is driving unsure voters into the arms of their incumbent senator. President Bush �s recent visit to Billings probably rendered many Montanans star struck . After all, it�s not often the nation�s chief executive visits this rural state. And those most antagonized by Bush�s appearance are already likely to support Tester. Still...
  • TRYING TO DISAGREE.

    TRYING TO DISAGREE. I'm also not sure that Matt and I disagree all that much about counter-insurgency, but I'm going to press foward as if we do. Matt's argument, I think, is that a focus on operational questions such as counter-insurgency doctrine ignores the basic political question of what could have been achieved in Iraq or Vietnam. Matt is arguing that, because even a competent counter-insurgency doctrine would have failed in those situations, focusing on doctrine rather than on the critical political question of the intervention itself is misplaced. Setting aside the question of whether Matt is right about Iraq and Vietnam (which is open to reasonable dispute, although I agree with Matt), I still think that he's missing the point. Whether or not Iraq was winnable, the military ought to proceed in terms of its doctrinal organization as if the conflict could have been won through military means. This is the Army's job, as it was between 1950 and 1985, when most within the Army...
  • Reforming the Medicare Drug Plan: The Drug Industry on Drugs

    I didn't do it. Besides, it was an accident. Yes, that appears to be the drug industry's line on allowing Medicare to offer its own prescription drug plan and negotiate prices directly with the industry. The NYT gives us the official line from the drug industry's allies in the Bush adminisitration. Allowing Medicare to offer its own benefit would not save any money because the prices paid by the private insurers are already so low. It then cites the complaint from Ken Johnson, senior vice president at Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America that "allowing Medicare to negotiate directly would be unfair because the government had too much market power." It then quotes Mr. Johnson, �The government doesn�t negotiate prices -- it dictates prices." Well either the Bush administration is right or the drug industry is right, but they can't both be right. (Yes, a good news story would have made this contradiction clear to readers.) I vote with the industry. Barring illegal...
  • Believe the Establishment Survey

    In an earlier note I referred to a Wall Street Journal article that pointed out the large gap between the employment growth reported in the Labor Department's household survey and the job growth reported from its establishment survey. I took a quick glance at the recent data on Social Security tax collections and concluded that the proponents of the household survey may have a case. I looked at the data more closely and must come down on the side of the establishment survey. The simple arithmetic looks like this. Social Security tax collections were up 5.35 percent in fiscal year 06 compared to fiscal year 05. The average weekly wage rose by 3.9 percent, which implies job growth of 1.4 percent. Reported job growth in the establishment survey matches this closely, at 1.44 percent. However, we know that the Labor Department will add in 810,000 jobs to its March 2006 number in its benchmarked revision (these additional jobs are wedged in over the prior 12 months). When the data is...
  • Put Wal-Mart in the Recession Camp

    Wal-Mart Starts Discounts Early
  • Washington Post: The Unemployment Rate is Too Low

    Yes, that is what the Post had to say about yesterday's drop in the unemployment rate. The Post article asserted that: "considering that some workers lack the education and skills to be readily employable, economists regard any unemployment rate below 5 percent as striking." It then quoted Mark Zandi (generally a reasonable economist) as saying that "we are beyond full employment." Let's imagine that economics was a discipline where evidence mattered. In the 90s, the unemployment rate first fell below 5% in May of 1997 and didn't cross 5% again until October of 2001. During this four and a half year period, there was only a modest uptick in the inflation rate, much of which was attributable to a sharp rise in oil prices in 1999-2000. Back in the 90s, the Post would tell the public that economists believed that the unemployment rate could not get below 6.0 percent without generating inflation. This was the consensus within the profession. The low unemployment of the 90s proved that the...
  • LAST POINT ON...

    LAST POINT ON THE CORNER. They have some really great post titles . And whoever we are, whatever we believe, we can all come together over great post titles. --Ezra Klein
  • Republicans Insist that Productivity Is Lower Than the Data Show

    Yesterday's employment report showed far more growth in employment in the household survey than in the establishment survey. Most economists view the establishment survey, which is much larger, as being the better gage of employment, but there are doubters (many of whom are not Republicans). I have examined this issue in the past and generally concurred with the establishment view. (It's worth noting that the establishment survey actually showed far more rapid job growth in the 90s.) I am more agnostic now, because a quick glance at Social Security tax collections suggests a more rapid pace of growth than is consistent with the wage growth and job growth reported in the establishment survey. (It's late, I could be missing something). There is an important sidebar to this argument. If job growth is actually more rapid than is being reported by the establishment survey, then productivity growth is lower than BLS is now reporting. BLS uses the establishment survey for hours data when it...

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