Archive

  • Accounting Games: The New Way to Cut Social Security

    The Financial Times reports that the Financial Accounting Standards Board is about to recommend that the federal government adopt "accrual" accoounting to more accurately affect its budget situation. This would mean, for example, that the projected cost of Medicare benefits for a worker who is 25 today should be listed as a government obligation. While the pretense is that this accounting method would be more honest, I can think of 20 ways to game this off the top of my head (e.g. write in cuts for 40 years out that you know will not happen, stop making projections for certain programs -- we don't make projections for prison costs now). It looks to me like another backhanded way to build support for cutting Social Security and Medicare by people who refuse to address the real source of the problem -- the projected explosion in U.S. health care costs. --Dean Baker
  • Every Honest Columnist: The Social Security and Medicare Trick, Yet Again

    Last week it was David Broder, this time it is Sebastian Mallaby telling us that "every honest politician" knows that we have to cut Social Security. Actually, honest politicians who know arithmetic and can read, know that Social Security is projected to be able to pay all scheduled benefits fro the next 40 years, with no changes whatsover. Why do Washington Post columnists so frequently say things about Social Security that are not true? --Dean Baker
  • Brazil's Dynamic Economy?

    In a piece on the importance of the Portuguese language, the Times explains that one reason for increased interest is Brazil's "dynamic economy." Brazil's per capita GDP growth has averaged less than 1.0 percent annually over the last decade. Add this one to the "huh" department. --Dean Baker
  • Sycophantism at the Post

    Steve Pearlstein often wrote thoughtful pieces when he was a reporter, and this has been the case in more recent years with his columns. For this reason, I was overcome by shock and awe (hence the 2 day delay in writing) when I read what could only be described as sycophantic praise in a column marking the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Institute for International Economics (IIE). Pearlstein devoted his whole column to explaining how IIE is simply the best, and how he often got grief from his editors for being too dependent on IIE sources (this is what is known as �good grief�). I have nothing against IIE. There are plenty of good economists who work with the Institute and I have often found their research useful, but let�s take a look at the track record. IIE was at the forefront in producing work showing that NAFTA would both increase U.S. exports and lead to more rapid growth in Mexico. For more than a decade, IIE has been producing papers predicting a collapse of China�s...
  • KIM JONG IL...

    KIM JONG IL AND DAVID KUO. Unable to match Brother Ezra 's heartfelt post about David Kuo and the compassion agenda, I offer readers a rueful laugh in the form of the title of a piece by Jason T. Christy of The Church Report , a right-wing political publication dressed in a cassock: " David Kuo: An Addition to the Axis of Evil ." --Adele M. Stan
  • A BITE SIZED SOLUTION.

    A BITE SIZED SOLUTION. I'm not sure how to feel about economist Martin B. Schmidt 's New York Times op-ed from yesterday. In it he argues for a 10% tax on food ordered from drive-throughs on the grounds that it will encourage people to get out of their cars, and raise money to off-set the social cost of obesity. In principle I think these are both laudable goals, but in practice this idea is deeply flawed. As long as there are drive-throughs, taxing the people who use them and not people who order the same food at the walk-in counter could reasonably be construed as discriminatory against people with disabilties. But I'm also troubled by the American state of mind that this suggestion seems to accept. Here is an economist, who clearly understands how our excessive driving culture bloats our wastelines -- and by extension our healthcare spending -- but his solution is almost comically miniscule. Getting people to walk a few steps from the parking lot to the door of a McDonald's will...
  • FAITH-BASED COMPASSIONATE CONSERVATIVES....

    FAITH-BASED COMPASSIONATE CONSERVATIVES. As Michael Crowley points out , David Kuo 's anecdotes about the Bush administration's total abandonment of the "compassion" agenda are rather remarkable: A West Wing friend called to say the president heard about the article as he walked from the Oval office of the OEOB. He was angry. "Well," he yelled through the stairwell, "is he right or isn't he? Have we done compassion or haven't we? I wanna know." An hour later we got the first and only call from the deputy chief of staff Josh Bolton's office requesting an urgent "compassion meeting." In the two years since the transition, it was the first time the president's senior staff fully engaged in the compassion agenda.... The president's question first needed to be answered. He wanted to know how much we had spent on compassion programs in his first two years in office. We made some calls and did some calculations and discovered that if we applied his definition of compassion to federal social...
  • THE TILLMAN FAMILY IS NOT GOING AWAY.

    THE TILLMAN FAMILY IS NOT GOING AWAY. If there's an iconic tale of the betrayal of the national unity and resolve in the wake of the 9/11 atrocities, it's what happened to Pat Tillman when he left the Arizona Cardinals and went off to war. His death occasioned one of the very first grotesque and demonstrable public lies in what has become an almost endless parade of them. Since then, it has been revealed that the original story of hs death was concocted by a military in thrall to a truthless and cowardly civilian political establishment, and it also been revealed that Tillman himself was possessed of a shrewd and interesting mind, with a good eye for how sacrifice gets coined into someone else's gold. Now, his surviving brother, Kevin , has stated his own case . Of course, the real shame is that this didn't appear in a more prominent and influential forum. Of course, if it had, Kevin Tillman would be riding the Cindy Sheehan swiftboat by now. Anybody who doesn;t believe that hasn't...
  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: ELECTROSHOCK.

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: ELECTROSHOCK. Genevieve Smith explains why worrying about electronic voting machines isn't just for paranoid "conspiracy theorists." Not only is the machines' vulnerability to tampering real, but the potential for simple human error to cause major screw-ups is vast -- and has been demonstrated in practice already. Take a look . --The Editors
  • HOW BAD IS...

    HOW BAD IS CARD-CHECK? A couple days ago, Megan McArdle and I got into a heated argument over the morality of card-check legislation. Card-check is a top union priority that would effectively abolish the current system of employer-controlled union elections and create a situation where, if 50+1% of workers signed a card asking for a union, they've got a union. Megan found this -- and I quote -- "morally abhorrent," mainly because the ballot is not secret, and so unions can intimidate. My concerns fell much more with the current, constant, and far more effective intimidation tactics of employers. Research shows that, when threatened with a union, 30% of employers fire pro-union workers, 49% threaten to close down, 51% use bribery or favoritism to tilt the election, and 82% hire unionbusting consultants. Now that's what I call morally abhorrent. Today I found some interesting data with strong bearing on the argument. A poll commissioned by American Rights at Work (a pro-union org),...

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