The standard story of financial bubbles has that financing gets progressively more tenuous as the bubble expands. BusinessWeek has a nice piece about the latest and most pernicious financial innovation of the current bubble, the option ARM. It's too bad that no one in a position of authority was awake before the bubble grew to such proportions.
Regular users of government data (like reporters) should know its limitations. Many of the series are highly erratic, meaning that any individual number contains a considerable amount of error and a limited amount of information.
The hourly wage data very much fit this bill. In the real world, hourly wage growth doesn�t change very much from month to month. (How could it? � not that many people change jobs in a month; and wages don�t suddenly plunge or soar for workers keeping their jobs.)
THE PARADOX. So, on the one hand, we have a nation that does not take poverty seriously (as per E.J. Dionne), and on the other, a public that thinks Democrats are excessively focused on the poor at the expense of the middle class (as per Elizabeth Warren). I have my own thoughts about how these two phenomena might be related, but I'm curious to hear reader's explanations.
DOES THE NEW POVERTY AGENDA UNDERMINE THE MIDDLE-CLASS MESSAGE?Elizabeth Warren lays out some provocative food for thought over at The Democratic Strategist:
When I talk with families about politics, I often hear a variation on this theme: "Democrats care most about the poor. They tell me I'm better off than the poor, and that I should give up more of my money to help the poor. Well, I'm stretched to the breaking point, and I just can't do it any more." Whenever a Democrat stands up and says, "I'll help every child go to college," then cuts off benefits at $20,000 a year, the message just burns deeper.
YOUR SATURDAY MORNING. Cancel your plans. Set your alarm. Make tonight an early night. I'll be on C-SPAN starting at 7:45 a.m. Eastern time tomorrow to chat about politics, the weather, whatever. It'll go until 8:30 a.m., and I have a hard time imagining you have better things to do at the crack of dawn than roll out of bed and enjoy my sonorous soliloquies.
POVERTY WITHOUT RACE. I'm intrigued by E.J. Dionne's column today because it strikes me as such a clear example of the latest trend in liberal anti-poverty writing and thinking, which is to talk about the poor without any reference to race. Writes E.J.:
All manner of politicians and columnists said in Katrina's wake that this was the time to revisit the problems of the destitute. The anguish of the people of New Orleans's Lower Ninth Ward would have at least some redemptive power if the country took poverty seriously again.
COCOON, THE RETURN. In TNR's new Open University blog, Cass Sunstein has a post describing ideological amplification -- the tendency of likeminded people to reinforce and intensify ideological positions when dissenting viewpoints aren't included. David Greenbergfollows up, applying the notion explicitly to the blogosphere and mentioning Sunstein's old book Republic.com, which had warned that the internet would encourage cocooning and ideological echo chambers that would produce extremism and damage serious deliberation.
AMERICA: CHILD NEEDING BABYSITTER, REVISITED. I know that I have a president who has speechwriters. They write speeches. So, is it too much to ask that they somehow arrange it so that, here in the middle of World War Whatever It Is, as the existential boogedy-boogedy reaches high tide and we confront the threat from Islamo-nazified-fascistic wha-dee-doo-dah, that the president of the United States not sound like a 12-year-old babysitter speaking to a room full of toddlers? From Wednesday night:
CUZ WHO WANTS TO CURE CANCER? Over at The Wall Street Journal, Sharon Begley has an important column on the underfunding of the National Institute of Health and all the promising research that's falling by the wayside. She tells the story of Dan Welch, a molecular oncologist who discovered a molecule that suppresses metastases (and thus, cancer's progression) and sought to test whether it could be switched on to fight the disease. But when he went to the NIH, they said he needed to gather preliminary breast cancer tissue from hundreds of women, a project he simply lacked the funding for.