The NYT had an interesting piece on counterfeit drugs in Russia. It reports that counterfeits may account for as much as 30 percent of total sales. This is what happens when the government creates an artificial monopoly with patent protection. Just as the Soviet Union couldn't prevent black market sales of blue jeans, Russia can't prevent sales of unauthorized versions of patented drugs. A little economic analysis would have been very useful in this article.
If Social Security was a private corporation, Tim Russert would be unemployed and NBC would be out of business. (When you misrepresent the financial state of a private business in the way that Russert misrepresents the financial state of Social Security, you get sued for libel.)
LABOR DAY SPECIAL.Tapped will be closed for Labor Day -- but have no fear, there's still TAP Online content you can enjoy today at the barbeque. Today we're kicking off a debate that tackles two related questions -- just how is the middle class actually faring in the contemporary economy, and how should Democrats and progressives adjust their middle-class appeal accordingly? Labor economist Steve Rose has been making waves in the past year with a critique of the Democratic economic message as being both overly gloomy and overly concerned with a set of government programs that does not actually directly benefit large parts of the middle class.
The NYT�s Europe-bashing desk pulled out the stops today in going after Germany. Readers would have learned about Germany�s �chronic double-digit inflation.� This surely would be news to most readers, since the OECD puts Germany�s inflation rate over the last year at just over 2.0 percent.
No, that's not me rooting for a quick end to the housing bubble; those are the words of David Lereah, the chief economist of the National Association of Realtors, as quoted in the Wall Street Journal. Yes, this is the same economist who until recently was assuring buyers that house prices will never fall.
The new data on pending sales of existing homes show a year over year drop of 16 percent, yet more evidence that the bubble is bursting.
The standard story of financial bubbles has that financing gets progressively more tenuous as the bubble expands. BusinessWeek has a nice piece about the latest and most pernicious financial innovation of the current bubble, the option ARM. It's too bad that no one in a position of authority was awake before the bubble grew to such proportions.
Regular users of government data (like reporters) should know its limitations. Many of the series are highly erratic, meaning that any individual number contains a considerable amount of error and a limited amount of information.
The hourly wage data very much fit this bill. In the real world, hourly wage growth doesn�t change very much from month to month. (How could it? � not that many people change jobs in a month; and wages don�t suddenly plunge or soar for workers keeping their jobs.)
THE PARADOX. So, on the one hand, we have a nation that does not take poverty seriously (as per E.J. Dionne), and on the other, a public that thinks Democrats are excessively focused on the poor at the expense of the middle class (as per Elizabeth Warren). I have my own thoughts about how these two phenomena might be related, but I'm curious to hear reader's explanations.
DOES THE NEW POVERTY AGENDA UNDERMINE THE MIDDLE-CLASS MESSAGE?Elizabeth Warren lays out some provocative food for thought over at The Democratic Strategist:
When I talk with families about politics, I often hear a variation on this theme: "Democrats care most about the poor. They tell me I'm better off than the poor, and that I should give up more of my money to help the poor. Well, I'm stretched to the breaking point, and I just can't do it any more." Whenever a Democrat stands up and says, "I'll help every child go to college," then cuts off benefits at $20,000 a year, the message just burns deeper.
YOUR SATURDAY MORNING. Cancel your plans. Set your alarm. Make tonight an early night. I'll be on C-SPAN starting at 7:45 a.m. Eastern time tomorrow to chat about politics, the weather, whatever. It'll go until 8:30 a.m., and I have a hard time imagining you have better things to do at the crack of dawn than roll out of bed and enjoy my sonorous soliloquies.