Archive

  • THE TRUE SPIRIT OF '94.

    THE TRUE SPIRIT OF '94. Over the weekend, the Post began its (premature) obituary for congressional Republicans with an electoral advisory issued by none other than Joe Scarborough . I�m happy to give Joe credit for showing, both in the Post and in his Washington Monthly piece , the courage to wonder aloud about how the supposed revolution swept in by the 1994 election has so quickly collapsed, as he did in the opening sentences yesterday: I can't help but feel sorry for my old Republican friends in Congress who are fighting for their political lives. After all, it must be tough explaining to voters at their local Baptist church's Keep Congress Conservative Day that it was their party that took a $155 billion surplus and turned it into a record-setting $400 billion deficit. How exactly does one convince the teeming masses that Republicans deserve to stay in power despite botching a war, doubling the national debt, keeping company with Jack Abramoff, fumbling the response to Hurricane...
  • THE BULLY IN CHIEF.

    THE BULLY IN CHIEF. Back in the 1990s, we were treated to all manner of stories regarding how Bill Clinton , his wife, their marriage, and his presidency were all coming unglued at once. When they were sourced at all, they were sourced as well as the average story concerning Ferris wheels on Mars. The crack pipes on the White House Christmas tree. The tossing of the vase -- or was it a book, a globe, or a bust of Grover Cleveland ? Inquiring minds wanted to know. Somehow, though, it all stayed behind closed doors -- and within the lurid imaginings of people like Gary Aldrich -- since Clinton himself remained capable of sailing through press conferences and interviews by drowning them in wonkish minutiae. No Nixon -shoving- Ziegler moments for him. This all came back to me because, quite frankly, I think the president of the United States is getting ready to slug somebody. And, based on several recent on-camera performances, all of them readily available to anyone who wants to watch,...
  • A DIFFERENT TYPE...

    A DIFFERENT TYPE OF IMMIGRATION. Sebastian Mallaby has a good column arguing that lax immigration policies are one of the better developmental strategies open to wealthy countries. As he argues, if rich countries opened their borders to allow in the equivalent of three percent of their workforce, it would be equal to an extra $300 billion in developmental aid -- and it would be more effectively directed, too, going through remittances rather than Third World bureaucrats. Better yet, many of those who would train in wealthy countries would later repatriate, bringing new and more globally marketable skills, methods, and ideas back to their homelands. Win-win, right? But one thing Mallaby doesn't go into is that part of any new immigration consensus should, if it seeks to enrich poorer nations, focus on high-skills immigration. For a variety of reasons, when we think of immigration, we tend to mean the importation of menial labor into the country. But as TAP 's own Dean Baker loves to...
  • "Fast Growing" Mexico

    With the annual meetings of the IMF-World Bank in Singapore, there has been another round of stories about how certain fast growing countries are getting an increased voice at the IMF to correspond with their growing importance in the world economy. As I noted in prior posts, Mexico is one of the four rabbits on the list (along with China, Turkey, and South Korea.) As I pointed out in my prior post, Mexico has no business being on this list because it is not a fast growing economy. Starting from before the NAFTA slump, it's per capita GDP has risen by just over 1.0 percent annually. It's growth rate has actually lagged the world average. I am revisiting this issue because I just got my copy of the March OECD Observer in the mail. The "Databank" section on the last page has a nice little chart showing per capita GDP growth since 1980 for several of the poorer OECD countries, along with the OECD average. And, what do you know, "fast growing" Mexico is at the bottom of the list. It would...
  • GOREWATCH. Obviously...

    GOREWATCH. Obviously no one is saying Al Gore is going to run. Obviously no one is insinuating Al Gore is running. Obviously no one is suggesting that his decision to write The Assault on Reason for Penguin Press and publish it next May is in any way motivated by an impulse to keep testing the field at the precise moment speculation will be highest. Obviously no one is pointing out that a high-profile book tour on a Serious Subject in May 2007 will make Gore look even more attractive while the other candidates hang out at fish frys and chili cookoffs. Obviously no one is noticing that it'll let him tour the primary states and gauge the reaction without officially entering the race. Obviously no one is saying this is a fairly brilliant way to keep his options open and ensure his relevance and visibility if he wants to jump in. Obviously. -- Ezra Klein
  • WAITING FOR AN ARGUMENT.

    WAITING FOR AN ARGUMENT. Better lawyers than I will have fun conducting a weeklong autopsy of John Yoo 's execrable attempt in the Sunday New York Times to recast American history as Peronism In Powdered Wigs. However, I was struck by this particular passage: A reinvigorated presidency enrages President Bush�s critics, who seem to believe that the Constitution created a system of judicial or congressional supremacy. Perhaps this is to be expected of the generation of legislators that views the presidency through the lens of Vietnam and Watergate. But the founders intended that wrongheaded or obsolete legislation and judicial decisions would be checked by presidential action, just as executive overreaching is to be checked by the courts and Congress. The changes of the 1970�s occurred largely because we had no serious national security threats to United States soil, but plenty of paranoia in the wake of Richard Nixon�s use of national security agencies to spy on political opponents...
  • Allan Sloan Changes His Tune on Social Security

    Allan Sloan, a columnist at Newsweek and the Washington Post and a commentator on MarketPlace reversed his previous position on the Social Security trust fund. I had previously taken Mr. Sloan to task for advocating default on the government bonds held by the Social Security trust fund. This morning on MarketPlace , he unambiguously stated that he expects that these bonds will be paid off, and therefore they should be included in measures of the government's deficit. See, even prominent columnists are capable of learning. --Dean Baker
  • Does the NYT Fear Bill Gates' Looming Unemployment?

    In an article on the victory of the conservatives in Sweden's election, the NYT repeated their assertion that Sweden's official 5.7 percent unemployment rate would jump to 21 percent if "early retirees, people in job-training and those on long-term disability" were included. The same charge appeared the previous day. It is not clear what this 21 percent measure means. In the United States, the vast majority of people stop working before age 65. Would the conservative's measure include all these people, including Bill Gates, who is about to step down from his position at Microsoft, as being unemployed? As I noted yesterday, there are internationally comparable measures of employment and unemployment available from the OECD. These data show that Sweden has higher employment rates than the United States by almost any measure. It would be helpful if the Times would try to use data that readers could interpret in a meaningful way. -- Dean Baker
  • From the NYT�s Europe-Bashing Desk

    Sweden is holding an election on Sunday, which earned it a bit of ink in the Times . The article notes that Sweden�s official unemployment rate of 5.7 percent is one of the lowest ones in Europe. It then reports the assertion of the conservative opposition candidate that its unemployment rate would be 21 percent if you add in people on disability, early retirement and in government training programs. It would be helpful if the article provided some evidence to readers to better allow them to assess the truth of this claim. Politicians are known to say things that are not true. Serious reporters do not just report one claim and then a denial. (e.g. Democrats oppose President Bush they claim he is mass murderer. The president denies the allegation.) It is not even clear what the 21 percent figure is intended to refer to. (Does it count every retiree in Sweden as being unemployed?) The OECD does make an effort to standardize measures of employment and unemployment. It reports that the...
  • Reporting Industrial Production Data

    The Fed released data for industrial production for August yesterday. The story in the media was that production had fallen by 0.1 percent in August, suggesting that the economy was slowing. Well, this is a case where more caution would be helpful. First, it is best to focus on the data for manufacturing. The other two components, mining and utlities, are very erratic. (Utility output tells you primarily about last month's weather.) Manufacturing output was unchanged in August. While this may not give a very different picture, it is worth noting that the Fed revised July's growth figure up from 0.1 percent to 0.4 percent. This means that the new report showed August output as being 0.3 percent above where we had previously believed July's output to be. I'm not saying that there has not been a slowdown in manufacturing (my guess is that there has been), but the latest data are far more ambigious than the headline number implies. --Dean Baker

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