Archive

  • THE MINIMUM WAGE....

    THE MINIMUM WAGE. Every once in awhile, I like to reengage the minimum wage debate. It's such an article of faith on the right that minimum wage increases lead to widespread unemployment, and such an intuitive argument, that society would have to be a pretty bizarre place not to abandon the wrongheaded policy altogether. Except for the fact that, intuitive as the argument may be, and faithful as its rightwing advocates may prove, there's just not much evidence that minimum wage increases have a measurable effect on unemployment. The foundational study in this area -- which various economists have sought to confirm or reject, all with varying, and often contradictory, success -- is the Card/Krueger survey of New Jersey restaurants that found a slight positive impact on employment. Lots of controversy on that result, but now there's new data from Arindrajit Dube, Suresh Naidu, and Michael Reich checking out San Francisco's restaurants after they instituted an $8.50 minimum wage. As Kash...
  • GEORGE WILL, MAKING SENSE.

    GEORGE WILL, MAKING SENSE. Say what you want about George Will , he's always taken a rational approach to analyzing the business side of sports, and his column today on college football is no exception. Will beats the usual dead horses about what's wrong with Division I-A men's college football and basketball: they're run for business rather than educational purposes, with their high television revenues and coaches salaries, and their low graduation rates. But he comes at it from a fresher angle, asking if universities should lose their tax-exempt status for these commercial rather than educational activities(George Will favors more taxes? This has to be a first.) The only problem with the piece is that Will seems to buy into the standard approach to this issue, which is to suggest ways of scaling back the business side of college sports and improving the academic experience for college athletes. Clearly, the business is too lucrative, and the fans are too crazed, for this to ever...
  • NOT EVEN SIX...

    NOT EVEN SIX DEGREES. While Brother Pierce expounded on the absurdity of the Heaton - Caviezel - Suppan (et al) television spot thrown together in response to Michael J. Fox 's latest star turn as an advocate for stem-cell research, my ears pricked up at the mention of the name of Patricia Heaton, whose face graces the misleading Feminists for Life ad that has run on this web site off and on for the last month. As I reported here last week, Feminists for Life is closely allied with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and took funding from the bishops for its first ad campaign. * Now comes this television spot featuring Heaton that makes a case against a Missouri ballot measure, Amendment 2, that would, according to a pro-amendment editorial in the Kansas City Star , "guarantee Missouri scientists the right to conduct all forms of stem-cell research permitted under federal law." The ad, will air tonight during the World Series, during which Suppan is slated to pitch. The ad, which...
  • FALLING OUT OF LOVE.

    FALLING OUT OF LOVE. Back when The New York Times endorsed Ned Lamont in the Connecticut Democratic Senate primary, I wondered whether the Times would break from their tradition of high-minded endorsements for moderate Republicans this fall. It would seem strange, after all, if the same page that opposed Joe Lieberman on the grounds that Congress must be a watchdog rather than an enabler of the Bush presidency run-amok, endorsed, as it always had in the past, the more conservative (and actual Republican) Rep. Chris Shays , also of Connecticut. Well, today the question was answered , very articulately. The Times notes: [A]s his party has moved to the right, Mr. Shays has taken more and more stands with which we have profound disagreement. His position on immigration reform is far closer to the crabbed, xenophobic stance of the House Republicans than the fairer, bipartisan approach of the Senate. During the campaign, his remarks about the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison --...
  • MORE ON THE COLLEGE BOARD REPORT.

    MORE ON THE COLLEGE BOARD REPORT. Just to add a bit to Ezra 's post : As James Surowiecki recently explained in The New Yorker , the cost of college rises faster than inflation because it is so labor intensive that the technological advances that reduce the costs of production in other industries do not have nearly the same cost-saving effect on higher education. And government subsidies of higher education and tuition, like the Pell Grant, have failed to keep pace, when they should be increasing in response to this problem. There are plenty of common-sense proposals out there, including some that would actually save the government money, like switching to direct student loans (rather than government guaranteed loans from private corporations.) American students have not generally been nearly as active in organizing around these issues as their European counterparts, though the folks I work for are trying to change that . --Ben Adler
  • THE ECONOMY ROCKS.

    THE ECONOMY ROCKS. According The College Board, tuition costs are far outpacing inflation this year. In fact, "[i]n the report, the board also found that in the past five years, tuition and fees at public institutions rose more than at any other time in the past 30, increasing by 35 percent to $5,836 this academic year." Yikes. The report attributed the cost increases to declining state and federal support. Unsurprisingly, when you cut taxes, you just end up paying more elsewhere. With the tax cuts, however, the rich got far more back than the poor or the middle class. So far as tuition costs go, the prices fall equally (or get transferred to students in the form of loans). Just another reason the Bush economy rocks. If only Senator Bluto were around to make this an issue... --Ezra Klein
  • RISK ASSESSMENT. Ezra's...

    RISK ASSESSMENT. Ezra 's first submission in the exchange with Jacob Hacker is now up. Hacker will be responding to him and Matt tomorrow. --The Editors
  • GENDER SEGREGATION AND...

    GENDER SEGREGATION AND SEXISM. Becks of Unfogged is appalled that the ACLU and a feminist group are threatening to sue over a federal decision to permit more single-sex public education. I think the issue is a little more complex, however. I do agree with Becks that the equation of gender and racial segregation by Nancy Zirkin is excessively simplistic, and probably the former is somewhat more defensible than the latter when education is concerned. Current Supreme Court jurisprudence would seem to agree. In her landmark opinion ruling Virginia's exclusion of women from the Virginia Military Institute, Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted that "[s]ingle sex education affords pedagogical benefits to at least some students, Virginia emphasizes, and that reality is uncontested in this litigation," and implied that if Virginia offered a school for women comparable to VMI, its exclusion of women from VMI itself would be defensible. However, the VMI case also suggests that there is serious cause for...
  • Take the President Seriously: Social Security is on the Ballot

    President Bush has repeatedly said in the last two weeks that he wants to push his plan for privatizing Social Security again after the election. This presumably means that it will be back on the table if the Republicans keep control of Congress. This means that Social Security should be a major issue in every Congressional and Senate race. The media should asking candidates where they stand and telling the voters. --Dean Baker
  • BUSINESS FOR SPITZER.

    BUSINESS FOR SPITZER. Speaking of business, this endorsement of Elliot Spitzer , on the Wall Street Journal editorial page , by a former executive vice president of Morgan Stanley, is interesting stuff. The argument, which others have made from the outside but Donald Kempf makes from experience, is that Spitzer's style of anti-corporate populism is a boon, rather than a threat, to capitalism in general and business in particular: Mr. Spitzer often had a better grasp of the underlying facts, legal implications and policy considerations than many from the federal regulatory agencies. Discussions (sometimes debates) with him on the substance of matters were both focused and fruitful. He was especially constructive when it came to searching for sensible solutions that would facilitate firms resolving problems and getting back to running their businesses for the benefit of customers, employees and shareholders. Moreover, because he is both smart and self-assured, Mr. Spitzer is willing to...

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