Archive

  • David Brooks' Ignorant Protectionism Strikes Again

    Every time his column appears, David Brooks demonstrates that the U.S. economy still offers good-paying jobs for unskilled workers. His Sunday column (sorry, Times Select and therefore non-linkable) is yet another diatribe against Democratic politicians (e.g. Sherrod Brown and Bob Casey) who are opposed to trade and immigration policies that are designed to redistribute income from less-skilled workers to college educated workers and capital. Brooks does the usual routine of contrasting these backward looking nationalists with forward looking internationalists like Hillary Clinton. Of course, if Times columnists were required to know what they were talking about, Mr. Brooks would know that the Hillary Clinton "internationalists" are actually strong proponents of protectionism, but only for the professionals who make up their base. Their trade agreements do little or nothing to subject doctors, lawyers, and other highly paid professionals to international competition. Rather, they...
  • The High Cost of Protectionism: Dangerous Drugs

    The NYT reported today that the German pharmaceutical company Bayer A.G. concealed a study from the F.D.A. that showed a drug used in heart surgery might increase the risks of strokes and death. Of course, economic theory predicts that government granted patent monopolies will create incentives for exactly this sort of behavior. Economists should be focusing a large portion of their research to developing more efficient alternatives for financing pharmaceutical research. Unfortunately, they spend much more of their time calculating the gains from eliminating 5 percent tariffs on pants. As a result, tens of millions of people cannot afford drugs that would be sold at very low prices in a competitive (i.e. patent free) market, and drug regulators get lies about the safety of the drugs they evaluate. --Dean Baker
  • FRIDAY FIVE O'CLOCK...

    FRIDAY FIVE O'CLOCK FOLKWAYS. The entire American labor movement has been atremble today, waiting for the National Labor Relations Board to deliver its decisions in the Kentucky River cases -- decisions in which the Board is widely expected to reclassify as many as 8 million workers as management, and hence ineligible to join or belong to unions. The ruling would apply to nurses who schedule shifts or offer training on some new devices, say, to other nurses, perhaps to carpenters who help train apprentices -- you get the picture. The whole point of the ruling, labor fears, is to further cripple its ability to organize and represent workers -- and crippling unions and afflicting workers, after all, is the very the raison d�etre of the Republican and management hacks who constitute the majority of the board. It turns out labor must tremble a little longer. With the board's current deliberative term at an end as the month ends, the word, as of 5:00 PM Eastern time today, Friday, is that...
  • BROWN'S VOTE.

    BROWN'S VOTE. Surely Sherrod Brown 's vote in favor of the detainee bill was one of the more notably dispiriting to behold this week. As it happens, Jim McNeill has a profile of Brown in the new print issue of the Prospect that sets up his race as the test case for a certain kind of (very Prospect y) political approach -- the bet that amped-up economic populism can trump social and security issues in red states. But certainly this week showed that Brown isn't above casting a compromised vote on a security question if its profile is sufficiently high. These political questions were actually hashed out at some length at the Prospect breakfast event with Brown back in March. The transcript of the discussion is here , and I think it's highly worth taking another look at. There's much about Brown that impresses, but his answers touching on both the substance and politics of national security really nicely capture, I think, some of the continued pathologies that afflict Democrats in that...
  • FOLEY.

    FOLEY. Not sure what to add regarding the news of Florida congressman Mark Foley 's resignation (looks like the GOP is going to have a hell of a time trying to keep that seat Republican). In the spirit of kicking a guy while he's down, I guess I'll just note that, yes, he did vote to impeach Clinton . --Sam Rosenfeld
  • THE LESSONS OF...

    THE LESSONS OF WARS. You often hear of Vietnam Syndrome, that odd affliction wherein liberals who noticed America's last occupation attempt didn't go that well made the crazed extrapolation that this one wouldn't either. Loons! But Spencer Ackerman notices that the right has their own dysfunction left over from the war or, at least, its aftermath: Disillusionment with a war usually follows a predictable pattern, particularly among elites: support or acquiescence for the enterprise; a tortured recognition of the war's poor fortunes; and, finally, denunciation. Norman Podhoretz, the neoconservative founding father, followed exactly the opposite course with Vietnam. In 1971, as editor of Commentary, Podhoretz wrote despondently about the war, "I now find myself ... unhappily moving to the side of those who would prefer ... an American defeat to a 'Vietnamization' of the war which calls for the indefinite and unlimited bombardment by American pilots in American planes of every country in...
  • UNIVERSAL INSURANCE.. ...

    UNIVERSAL INSURANCE.. Bad news for the middle class in this new CAP report . Wages are flat, average job growth is one-fifth that of previous business cycles, the top five expenditures of most families (health care, housing, food, cars, and household operations) are racing upward, fewer than a third of families have savings that could weather three months of income loss (and that number is going down), and so job loss and health emergencies are more dangerous than ever. They don't call me Happy McSmiles for nothing! All of which reminds me of an idea I've been meaning to plug. In his new book The Great Risk Shift , Jacob Hacker argues for a new scheme of economic protection he calls Universal Insurance. The plan is to have an all-purpose form of insurance that covers catastrophic expenses from health emergencies, job losses, or whatever. How much is covered depends on the extent of the loss -- did you take a pay cut or lose your job? -- and how high your income is. So a massive income...
  • TNR'S CLINTON PROBLEM....

    TNR 'S CLINTON PROBLEM. What is it that so infuriates the folks at The New Republic about the Clinton Global Initiative? Clinton could be drawling out old war stories on the golf links, like, say, Gerald Ford. He instead spends his time charming rich folks out of their money in order to help out the poor. Slick Willie plays Robin Hood. The first year Bill Clinton held this conference, he raised a couple billion. This year, he raised more than seven billion. And TNR , whose karmic balance currently strains under their cover for a misguided war and starring role in the destruction of the 1994 universal health care push, sees this is as worth repeated mockery. Glad they've got their priorities straight. TNR's first swing at the CGI pinata came last year, when Michael Crowley greeted the first conference with an article mocking Clinton's wonky tendencies and superstar trappings. To Crowley, the couple billion raised by the effort was less worthy of attention than Clinton's "pathological...
  • CURT WELDON (R - CRAZYTOWN).

    CURT WELDON (R - CRAZYTOWN). Atrios passes on news that Pennsylvania congressman Curt Weldon is facing an increasingly serious challenge from Dem challenger Joe Sestak , which reminds me to plug Laura Rozen 's piece in the latest print issue of the Prospect about Weldon -- "the House's most erratic member." --Sam Rosenfeld
  • DEPARTMENT OF DELICIOUS IRONIES.

    DEPARTMENT OF DELICIOUS IRONIES. The headline and subhead from this Washington Post article today are almost too good to be true. Now, Even Allen's Apologies Are Getting Him in Trouble Sons of Confederate Veterans Is the Most Recent Group Offended by Senator's Comments So, after years of wrapping himself in the confederate flag, George Allen admits to finally realizing that "this symbol . . . is, for black Americans, an emblem of hate and terror, an emblem of intolerance and intimidation." Indeed, it is, and I might add that it says something about Allen's worldview that he only attributes those feelings to blacks. But of course there is nothing more dangerous in politics than dissing your base, which is precisely what Allen just did. So now, according to the Post , even the Lost Causers are demanding their pound of flesh: "He's apologizing to others, certainly he should apologize to us as well," said B. Frank Earnest Sr., the Virginia commander of the confederate group at a news...

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