Archive

  • SEDUCTIONS AND PERILS OF AIR POWER.

    SEDUCTIONS AND PERILS OF AIR POWER. Evidence cannot discredit revolutionary doctrine, as the revolutionaries simply interpret new evidence in whatever way they see fit. Air power enthusiasts have taken rather a hit lately, first with the failure of air power to tame Hezbollah in Lebanon (to the extent that the IDF did damage to Hezbollah, it was almost entirely with ground force), and second with the recent Lancet report suggesting that the use of air power, in spite of increased precision, had led to tremendous Iraqi civilian casualties.
  • The Unsustainable Cost of Maintaining the Roads in Front of the Washington Post

    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? Yes, David Broder did the old Medicare and Social Security trick again. (Projections show that Medicare's costs will explode over the next 40 years, the projected increase in Social Security spending is about the same as over the last forty years.) By the way, one of the "prominent non-aligned" economists who provided the background wisdom for Mr. Broder's article was David Lereah, the chief economist for the National Association of Realtors and the author of the 2005 bestseller, Are You Missing the Real Estate Boom? --Dean Baker
  • Will Technology Wipe Out Hollywood?

    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. As someone who wrote a free book ( The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer ), I strongly agree with my former prof on this one. --Dean Baker
  • The Costs of Protectionism: Another Prescription Drug Scandal

    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. Unfortunately, almost no economists pursue this aspect of economic theory. While there is a vast body of research documenting the economic costs associated with 10 percent tariffs on shirts, economists don't believe it is worth their time to examine alternatives to patent protection for drugs that can raise the price above marginal cost by more than 1000 percent. Of course patent monopolies on prescription drugs cost both lives and money. Maybe one day economics will mature to the point where its practioners feel qualified to examine bigger issues than small tariffs. --Dean Baker
  • THE FRAUD CAUCUS FUND.

    THE FRAUD CAUCUS FUND. I have to agree with Ari Berman of 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 . They are reportedly supporting "Republicans who favor balanced federal budgets and believe government should take a hands-off approach on such issues as abortion." The silliness of this exercise should be self-evident by now: if you want to support a politician who believes in a balanced budget and a woman's right to choose you don't need to look for the proverbial Republican in a haystack, you can just support a Democrat. Indeed, if you really care about a balanced budget and a woman's right to choose, re-electing a Republican who happens to profess those positions is actually counter-productive to those ends, particularly in the...
  • FROM THE DECEMBER PRINT ISSUE: A LIBERAL MANIFESTO.

    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. It inspired them to write this manifesto, a statement of liberal principles for the waning Bush era: " We Answer to the Name of Liberals ." Clearly this is a moment for liberals to define ourselves. The important truth is that most liberals, including the undersigned, have stayed our course throughout these grim five years. We have consistently and publicly repudiated the ruinous policies of the Bush administration, and our diagnosis, alas, has been vindicated by events. The Bush debacle is a direct consequence of its repudiation of liberal principles. And if the country is to...
  • THE CENTRIST AESTHETIC....

    THE CENTRIST AESTHETIC. Does David Ignatius remember the 90's? Because I do (indeed, they're about the only decade I can say that for). In his latest Post column , Ignatius warns that "there's a larger, overarching battle this year between two visions of America: testing whether it's a country defined by its political center or one defined by its political extremes." The first is Bill Clinton 's "synthesizer" style, which "holds that Americans for the most part, with the exception of irate groups at the edges, are less interested in ideology than in practical solutions to basic problems." The second is the base mobilization strategy Bush and Rove . But Clinton proves the point: This yearning for polite centrism is a hollow farce. Clinton, as I recall, was the coke-smuggling sexual assault artist who murdered Vince Foster before breakfast and sold off the White House by lunch. Whether his third-way policy ideas were smart approaches, his decidedly bipartisan approach to governance was...
  • RACE MATTERS. ...

    RACE MATTERS. Joe Klein 's recent mash note to Barack Obama , which Charlie Pierce talks about here , contains some interesting (if banal) reflections on the problems faced by black Democrats. Either they can seek to appeal to other African-Americans, thus jacking up turnout but confining them to majority African-American districts, or they can move towards white voters, which will depress turnout among liberals and blacks. It ain't easy. But Michael Steele is proving that Republican candidates have it no easier. The Steele path to the Senate relies on heavy white support from Republicans and cutting Ben Cardin 's margins among blacks. In the past few days, though, Steele has received some help with the latter that may not be wanted: Mike Tyson , his one-time brother-in-law, happily endorsed him (and then explained to the assembled reporters how he'd like to box women for money) and Don King has hit the campaign trail for Steele (Said King: "I must have an indictment list longer than...
  • CONSPIRACY.

    CONSPIRACY. Ezra had an interesting post over at his place the other day about the problematic relationship between Serious People and what they dismiss as conspiracy theories. He then thanks someone for passing along the details of the MK-Ultra fiasco. (By the way, according to recent reports, everything old is new again .) It's all a matter of perspective, really, even for those of us who've had a sweet-tooth for American political paranoia most of our lives. We grew up in what was its modern golden age, abetted by the excessive secrecy of the Cold War, and jump-started forever by the botched inquiries into John Kennedy 's assassination. That said, we'd believe anything, because LBJ really did lie about the Tonkin Gulf. COINTELPRO was a real program. Ronald Reagan really did sell missiles to the mullahs. Hell, even the original explanation for the Roswell incident turned out to be a grand fib. And, just to play with young Ezra 's noggin a little more, here's my personal favorite ...
  • CONSPICUOUSLY ABSENT.

    CONSPICUOUSLY ABSENT. Not for nothing, Senator Obama , but you should probably run for cover. Joe Klein may be about to subject you to one of his big old man-crushes. This can't be easy for Joe. After all, the last one of these he had was on that smiling hunk o' red-hot centrism from the Ozarks who ultimately threw him over for Sidney Blumenthal and then a chubby staffer. So it's understandable that Joe would be proceeding cautiously here. Once burned and all. The most interesting passage scrawled on the cover of Joe's Social Studies notebook of the mind is the one in which he writes down the names of other way-cool African Americans, and reinforces it with a quote from Shelby Steele , which is very often a problem, about how white people love the black people who don't make white people feel too badly about themselves. We are, according to Steele, grateful for this. Joe certainly is. His list includes Colin Powell , Michael Jordan , Oprah Winfrey , and Tiger Woods . (Holy Pudding...

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