Archive

  • Combatting Global Warming: What's Wrong With Pay by the Mile Insurance?

    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. Pay by the mile policies would have drivers pay for their insurance based on the number of miles they drive. The numbers are dramatic. The average car is driven about 10,000 miles a year, which translates into 10 cents a mile for a $1,000 a year policy. For a car that gets 20 miles a gallon, this would provide the same disincentive to drive as a $2 per gallon gas tax. Unlike a gas tax, pay-by-the-mile insurance does not raise the average cost of insurance at all. For some reason, pay-by-the-mile insurance...
  • Can You Tell the Difference Between "Senior Democrats" and the Congressional Budget Office?

    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. In other words, the allegation that private sector plans raise costs for Medicare is not a partisan charge, it is a well-established fact based on independent analyses. There may still be reasons to support these private plans, but the Times should inform readers that they do in fact raise the cost of the program. --Dean Baker
  • Another Uncompetitive Industry Seeks Government Protection

    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. Yep, that's the best way to describe the financial industry's efforts to roll back Sarbanes-Oxley and change other rules of corporate governance. Rather than cutting back the multi-hundred million dollar compensation packages paid to people like current Treasury Secretary Henry Paulsen and former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, they want to scale back the protections that make it more difficult for corporate management to rip off shareholders. Since management decides which capital markets to use, this is one way to gain a competitive edge. Given who holds the positions of power in the U.S. government, there is a good chance they will succeed. The conflicts of interest in this story are glaring and should be highlighted in the...
  • The Lights Are on, But There's Nobody Home

    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. The big story is on the side of vacant ownership units. The vacancy rate for rental units has hovered near its record high for the last three years. However, the vacancy rate for ownership units is up nearly 50 percent from its level as of two years ago. While the actual rate (2.5 percent) might still seem low, not many people can afford to pay the mortgage on a home that they are not using, nor are renting out. This suggests further downward pressure on prices in the months ahead. As best I can tell, this Census Bureau release was not mentioned in any of today's economic reporting. I agree that the weak 3rd quarter GDP growth was the big story, but if you want to know where the...
  • RISK ASSESSMENT: HACKER...

    RISK ASSESSMENT: HACKER RESPONDS. Don't miss Jacob Hacker 's response to Schmitt , Klein , and Yglesias . --The Editors
  • BUT WHAT KIND...

    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. There are many different types of populist appeals and many different ways to frame them. Among those which Democrats are assumedly not engaging in are tirades against the Jews and rants deriding intellectuals. Hopefully, they are recognizing the value of some healthy anticorporate sentiment. But it would be good to know who's doing what, and how it's working. Looking at poll numbers, overwhelming majorities of...
  • INCOHERENT LIKE A FOX.

    INCOHERENT LIKE A FOX. OK, do your best with what in the world this means. This is Bush during his roundtable with conservative columnists: This stuff about "stay the course" -- stay the course means, we're going to win. Stay the course does not mean that we're not going to constantly change. So he is staying the course now? An endlessly-mutable course? I give up. -- Spencer Ackerman
  • LOOK OUTWARD.

    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. I believe it�s important to expand the parameters of this discussion: If we�re going to obsess over the number of women with magazine bylines and on newspaper op-ed pages, we shouldn�t disconnect those discussions from concerns about the lack of women congressional representatives, governors, mayors, and state legislators. This doesn�t mean, as Pollitt writes, that I issue �an invitation to editorial complacency.� In fact, I argue explicitly in my piece for byline gender quotas, as put forth by Ann Friedman , to force editors to...
  • BAD OMEN.

    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 . Good god, Al. Howard Fineman? Is there a broadcast outlet of any kind in America where I can't see Howard Fineman, so reliably banal a fount of conventionality that he makes David Broder look like Thomas Pynchon ? I swear, last week, I saw Fineman marching in the Texas band at halftime of the Nebraska game, bidding high on a nut straight on the World Series of Poker, warming up in the Cardinals...
  • SEPERATE AND UNEQUAL.

    SEPERATE AND UNEQUAL. To follow up on my general concerns about federal rules intended to make single-sex education more common, Brad Plumer cites 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 . I also agree that it's important to make distinctions between K-12 and higher education here; unless the programs involved are very specialized (like VMI), having single-sex univiersities is much less likely to foreclose opportunities for women than single-sex high schools. --Scott Lemieux

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