Archive

  • THE WAL-MART EFFECT....

    THE WAL-MART EFFECT. So long as I'm talking books, I've been trying for days now to figure out how to recommend Charles Fishman 's The Wal-Mart Effect , which is by far the most important, enlightening, and judicious examination of the new economy I've yet seen. Since all I've got for the tome is unadulterated, schoolgirl-like praise, a review wouldn't quite have worked, so I'm just going to shoehorn it in here. If you're at all interested in the subject, Fishman's book is among the top two or three I've ever read on a contemporary issue (the others, if you're interested, being Jason DeParle's American Dream and Thomas Geoghegan 's Which Side Are You On ?). It's masterfully written, deeply reported, and thoroughly analyzed: You'll close the last page thinking differently than when you opened the first, which is about the highest praise I can offer a book. Give it a look. -- Ezra Klein
  • BOOKS. David...

    BOOKS. David Brooks argues that one indicator that conservatism is running out of steam is a distinct paucity of "big, impactful books" on the right. He reminisces about the good ol' days, the 80's and 90's, when George Gilder, Alan Bloom, Charles Murray, and others were writing books that fundamentally shifted how conservatives viewed the world. Such books aren't being released lately, he laments. Well, truth be told, my knowledge of conservative publishing is rather sparse, so I've little more than a suspicion that he's right. But is the left any different? Over the past ten years, and certainly over the past five, it would be simple to point out titles that changed how the left views politics . Books like What's The Matter With Kansas, Don't Think of an Elephant, and even Crashing the Gate offered fairly fundamental insights into the depressing electoral realities facing Democrats. But eliminating the strategic, have there been any really important books for how the left views the...
  • Bernanke: "We Must Cut the Fed's Budget"

    Okay, that is not what Benjamin Bernanke said, but that is what his logic implies. How do I get there? Well, in a speech today, Mr. Bernanke complained about the huge projected rise in entitlement spending. He pointed out that Social Security and Medicare spending together are projected to rise from 7 percent of GDP today to 15 percent of GDP by 2050. Therefore he called for the revamping of both programs. Of course, Mr. Bernanke knows that three quarters of this projected increase in spending is due to the projected rise in Medicare costs. The projected increase in Social Security spending is relatively modest over the next 45 years and in fact no larger than it was over the last 45 years. In addition, he also knows that workers have already largely paid for this projected increase in spending, paying a designated Social Security tax that exceeds current needs. The Congressional Budget Office projects that future tax revenue, plus the accumulated surplus over the last quarter century...
  • GREEN OUT.

    GREEN OUT. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has shot down the GOP-funded useful idiot Green Senate candidacy. --Sam Rosenfeld
  • FOLEY FALLOUT.

    FOLEY FALLOUT. You can see it in the way that salacious scandals in unrelated races are resurfacing in Foleygate's wake. As Eve Fairbanks has been noting , Pennsylvania's Don Sherwood has been dogged by allegations of choking his Peruvian mistress, but the scandal had remained mainly as subtext in his heated reelection fight -- until now. Check out Sherwood's new ad . --Sam Rosenfeld
  • THE CORRUPT CCP.

    THE CORRUPT CCP. The New York Times reports that the party boss of Shanghai was detained in an anti-corruption probe last week, the first such major detention since 1995. The Times suggests that the move was intended to solidify Hu Jintao's power base, and to intimidate leftover supporters of retired leader Jiang Zemin . The Western narrative of corruption in China tends to follow several themes; corruption is bad for economic growth, it's really bad at the lowest levels of the bureaucracy, it's gotten worse as reforms have pressed forward, and it threatens the Chinese Communist Party's hold on power. Minxin Pei gives an example of this kind of narrative in China's Trapped Transition (reviewed here ), but I've always had my doubts. The idea that the Chinese government is shot through with corruption at every level represents both a problem and an opportunity for the CCP. On the one hand, corruption can pose a genuine danger to economic growth (although perhaps not as large a danger as...
  • DOW DOWNER. ...

    DOW DOWNER. Speaking of stock market stuff, expect to see the GOP trumpeting the Dow's ascension to a new high of 11,727.34 yesterday. While it's a good number, it's a bit illusory. The Dow is reported in terms of absolute values, but as with everything else in economics, those are rarely so absolute. Indeed, if inflation is taken into account -- and why wouldn't it be? -- the Dow would need to jump another 2,150 points before matching its past high. Today's number is good, but in terms of metrics like the ability to actually buy things, it's no high. -- Ezra Klein
  • THE INVISIBLE RIGHT...

    THE INVISIBLE RIGHT HAND. It's a hoary truism that markets favor Republican rule, though one that, till now, lacked much evidence. Stock prices, after all, have consistently done better under Democratic administrations than Republican rule. But Justin Wolfers at the Wharton School of Business and Erik Snowberg and Eric Zitzewitz at Stanford University found a more telling methodology for testing the preference: They researched how markets performed during the 48-hour period starting when the American people were actually voting for president. And, indeed, when exit polls, expectations, or events favor Democrats, the markets make a sad face and begin erasing investor money. When things swing back towards the right, spirits -- and stock portfolios -- lift. Rightly or wrongly, Republican victories cheer markets. Just to note the illogic here: It's literally true that markets do better under Democrats, yet they still prefer Republicans. Possible explanations abound, from rich investors...
  • BUSH: BLACKWELL...

    BUSH: BLACKWELL IS A �NUT.� The Toledo Blade pointed out yesterday that buried on page 347 of Bob Woodward�s State of Denial is this not so flattering Bush remark about Ken Blackwell , who other Republicans -- including the President�s brother -- have touted as a rising GOP star: Mr. Woodward writes that around 3 a.m. - which Mr. Bush called "the latest I've been up since college" - the White House was expecting to hear from Ohio's top election official. That, of course, was Mr. Blackwell, who was co-chairman of the Bush campaign in the Buckeye State. "Blackwell," Mr. Woodward writes, "a former black-power-saluting student leader who had shifted to the Republican Party, was a lone ranger who shunned party discipline. 'I'm the President of the United States,' Mr. Bush said fuming, 'waiting on a secretary of state who is a nut.'" What did that mean, exactly? Surely Bush -- who used Blackwell�s help to make the exploitation of the fundamentalist Christian vote a particularly lucrative...
  • The Stock Market is Not the Home Team

    One infuriating feature of business reporting is the constant cheering for a higher stock market. I have nothing against a higher market, but I know of no general public interest in a high stock market. In principle, the stock market represents the discounted value of the future profits of corporate America. If the value rises because the economy can now be seen as growing more rapidly, then this is certainly good news. But, if future profits are projected to be higher because of lower wages or lower corporate taxes (e.g. a higher tax burden on workers or fewer public services), why should the mass of the population, who own little or no stock celebrate? Of course, the higher stock market may just be due to the irrational exuberance of people who control lots of money, as happened in the nineties. This is also not obviously good news. In this case, a higher stock market will shift wealth to those smart enough to get out, from those stupid enough to get in. In short, there is no...

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