Archive

  • NPR Must Learn How to Be Impartial

    In a report on a congressional race this morning, NPR mentioned the candidates views on the estate tax. It noted that Republican incumbant was opposed to "taxation without respiration [good line]." It then reported that the Democratic candidate claims that the estate tax did not harm small farms and businesses because it has exemptions of $3-$4 million. Well, this was not just a claim by the Democratic candidate, it also happens to be an accurate description of the law. There is a large exemption (I'll have to check the latest number -- it rises through time under the current law), with special provisions to allow any tax owed on a family farm or business to paid out over 10 years without penalty. It is not impartial to characterize one candidate's recitation of facts as a "claim." People may still oppose the estate tax, but it is fact that it has almost no impact on anything that most people would consider a "small" business or family farm. --Dean Baker
  • WHAT COULD HAVE...

    WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN. As this wide-ranging interview with Bob Woodward illustrates, John Kerry would have made a very, very good president. Much better than he seemed during the campaign, possibly even finer than his performance suggested at the debates. It's a trite truth and a crying shame that our system encourages the qualities that make a very good campaigner rather than a fine leader. It's into that chasm that Kerry falls. But it's worth reading his talk with Woodward to get a flavor of how a grown-up would be dealing with the world. Update : This is a fair point by Jason Zengerle , who notes that Kerry never gave voters a chance to see how a grown up would do all this because he refused to answer the same set of 22 questions during the heat of the campaign, when his replies would have made a difference. I do wonder, though, why Jason thinks Gerald Ford , undistinguished though his presidency may have been, would know nothing of interest for a modern day successor. The...
  • HEALTH CARE ATTITUDES....

    HEALTH CARE ATTITUDES. Kaiser, ABC, and USA Today just released a pretty expansive poll documenting the country's opinions on health care. The nickel version is that your countrymen are mostly liberal, deeply confused, and more likely to loathe the status quo than clearly conceptualize potential alternatives. Respondents said it was the third most important issue in the country, behind Iraq and the economy, but before immigration, gas prices, or terrorism. That's probably because opinions towards the system are so overwhelmingly negative: 80 percent are dissatisfied with the cost of health care in the country, and 54 percent are dissatisfied with the quality . So the system starts out with few friends. From there, things get more complicated. Nearly 90 percent are satisfied with the quality of care they received. Nearly 60 percent are satisfied with their costs. In other words, Americans believe everyone else's health care system costs too much and delivers too little. Their own...
  • WHAT THEY REPORT:...

    WHAT THEY REPORT: WHO DECIDES? The Associated Press is reporting that a McClatchy newspaper in Kentucky, the Lexington Herald-Leader , is returning to the Center for Pubic Integrity Center for Investigative Reporting * a $37,500 grant the foundation made to the paper to finance a series of stories on the fundraising operation of Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell , who famously opposed the McCain - Feingold campaign finance reform legislation. The paper is returning the grant to the Center in response to allegations by McConnell's staff that the foundation has a liberal bias. However, it will still run the four-part series about McConnell -- considered the likely replacement for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (Tenn.) -- for which it had awarded the grant. Bias or no, the thing I find curious about the deal is why a for-profit media operation should require grants from non-profit foundations in order to do a bit of investigative journalism. Is this a harbinger of the future? Will big...
  • WHO CARES WHAT ANTHONY WOULD DO?

    WHO CARES WHAT ANTHONY WOULD DO? Amanda Marcotte calls our attention to this excellent piece by Stacy Schiff , who debunks claims that Susan B. Anthony was a supporter of abortion bans. I find it particularly interesting because Anthony was able to ask questions about whether abortion bans actually accomplish anything even if you agree with the end of inhibiting abortions, a distinction which eludes most contemporary opponents of abortion rights. Still, there's another question here: what difference would it make if Anthony had supported abortion laws? With respect to Lincoln , Mark Graber recently pointed out: Many American political and constitutional arguments have something close to the following structure. 1) The following political action/constitutional understanding is wise, benevolent, and prudent. 2) Abraham Lincoln must have favored that political action/constitutional understanding because Abraham Lincoln was a wise, benevolent, and prudent leader. 3) We ought to adopt that...
  • U.S. Health Care Costs: Are We the Only Country in the World?

    USA Today had an article this morning on rising U.S. health care costs. It never mentions the fact that the United States pays more than twice as much per person as the average among other wealthy countries, yet has shorter life expectancies. I guess we can attribute this to protectionism. There are enormous potential gains from trade in the health care sector (if we can't do it right here, why not let people go elsewhere), but the media is so protectionist, it won't even allow the possibility to be discussed. --Dean Baker
  • Profits, Wages, and the Business Cycle

    Today's NYT has a column reporting on the redistribution from wages to profits that has taken place in most wealthy countries over the last quarter century. While the piece is useful in calling attention to an important trend, it is somewhat sloppy because it fails to adjust for cyclical effects. This is important because profits shares do follow well defined cyclical patterns: rising in a business cycle upturn, typically peaking before the actual peak of the cycle, and then falling sharply in the downturn. In the U.S. context, we see a substantial rise in the profit share from 2000 to 2005, which the column presents as the continuation of the trend of the last quarter century. However, the 2005 profit share was still slightly lower than the profit share in 1997, the profit peak of the last cycle, as explained in a short paper CEPR published last week. Whether or not the profit peak of the current cycle exceeds the 1997 peak remains to be seen. My guess is that it won't, as the...
  • Cutting Social Security on the Brain?

    Can you find the words �Social Security� in this text? So what�s our exit strategy from Iraq? Why do our soldiers have to keep dying? What about affordable health care? Can�t we support stem cell research? Why did we let down Katrina victims? Why won�t Congress do anything? Pass a decent minimum wage? Why are we losing so many jobs to overseas? (Narrator:) O.K., it�s kind of ridiculous to think you�re ever going to get an answer from this (pause) bush. But it�s also kind of ridiculous to think you�re going to get an answer (cue a picture of President Bush) from this one. Text: Demand Answers. Vote for Change. I couldn�t either. Which makes you wonder why the NYT�s commentary on this Democratic Party ad describes it as highlighting the fact that: �Congress has not acted on several major issues, including immigration and Social Security.� The Congressional Budget Office�s projections show that Social Security can pay all scheduled benefits for the next 40 years with no changes...
  • FREE SPEECH.

    FREE SPEECH. I have to say I don't quite share Pierce 's level of incredulity at Rohrbaugh 's notions and the fact that CBS would air them. I certainly agree that those notions are wacky. But creationism is no fringe outlook, even if the causal connections Rohrbaugh draws obviously constitute more of one. Lotsa people believe all sorts of crazy stuff -- it's this problem with the CBS segment that seems more compelling to me. --Sam Rosenfeld
  • NOTE THE ELLIPSIS.

    NOTE THE ELLIPSIS. While I was on the whole Catholic thing earlier -- sticking up for Holy Mother Church against the Worst Published Writer Ever -- I figured I'd slide on over to see what one of my favorite Papalettes was up to. Ah, mais oui . La Noonan never disappoints. It seems that nasty liberals -- in this case, Howard Kurtz (!) -- have been up to their censorious worst these days. For example: On Oct. 2, on Katie Couric's "CBS Evening News," in the segment called "Free Speech," the father of a boy killed at Columbine shared his views on the deeper causes of the recent shootings in Amish country. Brian Rohrbough said violence entered our schools when we threw God out of them. "This country is in a moral freefall. For over two generations the public school system has taught in a moral vacuum. . . . We teach there are no moral absolutes, no right or wrong, and I assure you the murder of innocent children is always wrong, including abortion. Abortion has diminished the value of...

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