Archive

  • 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...
  • PHILADELPHIA, PA --

    PHILADELPHIA, PA -- At lunchtime today, hundreds gathered in Philadelphia�s Love Park to support Pennsylvania Democrats. The crowd huddled in the cold, clutching their �Ricky the Rat� signs that depicted a smug Santorum with whiskers, buck teeth, and mouse ears. �He�s a rat,� said one red-cheeked activist, �for making $165,000 a year and not supporting minimum wage changes.� Local labor leaders quickly got the crowd fired up by chanting �Hey hey! Ho ho! Rick Santorum�s got to go!� Governor Ed Rendell �s bus pulled up to the busy Center City intersection with a veritable Dream Team of politicians aboard. The stirring piano intro from Van Halen�s �Right Now� came on over the loudspeakers, as Chakah Fatah, Patrick Murphy, Ed Rendell, Bob Casey , and keynote speaker John Edwards took the stage. If the polls are any indication of what�s in store for Tuesday, of course, both Casey and Rendell are shoo-ins. When Bob Casey took the stage, hundreds of �Casey for Senate� signs went up into the...
  • THE CONSERVATIVE ID.

    THE CONSERVATIVE ID. I'm wary of getting into a lot of meta discussions about blogs, but what the hell. Ben hints at it in responding to Blake , and this is perhaps not going to inspire widespread agreement among readers and commenters (or fellow Tapped ers), but it needs to be said: The Corner is must-reading. I don't read as many conservative blogs as I probably should (as Specialist kindly reminds us, reading at least some is important so as to avoid too much cocooning), but The Corner is truly vital, a smorgasbord of conservative sentiments, thoughts, impulses, biases, arguments, and -- these days -- angst. You've got dead-ender Bush -loyalist hackery mixed with principled conservative self-critiques mixed with plenty of liberal-bashing mixed with truly vicious infighting mixed with intelligent analysis mixed with abject goofiness mixed with interesting provocations and off-message arguments. It's the conservative id. And in the era of the GOP crack-up, it's only getting more...
  • THE INTERESTING THING ABOUT RIGHTWING BLOGS:

    THE INTERESTING THING ABOUT RIGHTWING BLOGS: In response to Blake : I generally do not read rightwing blogs myself, as I typically find their argumentation so tautological and their views so ill-considered that they are totally unpersuasive. However, one thing they can do is make you understand your own beliefs more clearly--and not only out of revulsion at theirs. Some of the better writers at some of the better blogs, like The Corner, actually have a fairly nuanced understanding of American liberalism, even if they try to cover it up with outlandish book titles . Last week I had a back and forth with libertarian blogger Julian Sanchez (sidenote: libertarians, because they actually have a consistent philosophy and they share certain liberal assumptions are generally much more interesting to read than conservatives in my opinion) about whether a conservative or libertarian politician who opposes social security, funding for stem cell research or civil rights protections for the...
  • THE PROCESS OF...

    THE PROCESS OF POPULISTS. I don't know, Mark , I always got the feeling that 1974 represented the zenith of process-oriented, good-government liberalism. My read on 2006 is that we're seeing the opening salvos of a populist turn in the Democratic Party. This obviously isn't true straight across the board, but the Testers, Browns, Webbs , and even Lamonts of the world represent something distinct and resonant, more reminiscent of 1994's class of true believers than 1974's class of hard workers. My understanding is that the Campaign for America's Future and Stan Greenberg (he's everywhere, no?) have reams of polling data backing this up and ready for release on November 9th, but, alas, we'll have to wait till then for hard numbers. Even in their absence, I think various economic trends and forces (inequality, wage stagnation, union decline, death of the corporate welfare state, etc) render a resurgent populism an absolute inevitability in American politics and, fairly or not, I'd guess...

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