Archive

  • I COME NOT...

    I COME NOT TO BURY DAVID BROOKS... Last week I wrote extensively on the problems I saw with David Brooks ' recent column on inequality. I thought it both dead wrong and totally misleading as to the views of Lawrence Katz , the Clinton economist Brooks brandishes for bipartisan cred. Folks can check out the interview I did with Katz here , rebutting much of it. That said, Brooks' follow-up piece , where he proposes some solutions to inequality, was actually quite good, and is coming in for some rather unfair criticism. The Brooks plan has basically five elements: 1) favorable tax treatment for families with children (aimed at allowing one parent to stay home if they choose); 2) strengthening marriage by making urban single men more attractive mates through a heightened earned income tax credit for single males; 3) asset building; 4) universal preschool; and 5) more variety in schools. Brooks describes this as "an agenda that is socially conservative and economically progressive," which...
  • FROM THE SEPTEMBER PRINT ISSUE: THE REAL RUDY.

    FROM THE SEPTEMBER PRINT ISSUE: THE REAL RUDY. Rudy Giuliani became "America's Mayor" five years ago today with a show of strong leadership while New York was attacked. But the credibility regarding terrorism and security that Giuliani garnered for himself that day doesn't stand up to scrutiny. In this piece from the September print issue of the Prospect (adapted from the upcoming book Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11 ), Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins lay out an eight-year history of error and negligence on the mayor's part that has never gotten the attention it deserves. Likewise, after Giuliani was sworn in on January 2, 1994, he did not discuss the terrorist threat the city faced with other key officials. As U.S. attorney, Giuliani had hired and befriended the men who had prosecuted the city�s important antiterrorism cases, from Gil Childers, who convicted most of the 1993 bombers, to Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman�s prosecutor Andrew McCarthy, to Ramzi Yousef �s...
  • OBSCENE.

    OBSCENE. Both the Times and the Post note this morning that Bush laid two wreaths at ground zero last night in the company of George Pataki , Mike Bloomberg , and Rudy Giuliani . The Post goes well out of its way to remark that the event �left aside the partisan rancor� that�well, that Bush & Co. have enforced on the country since about 9-14. If this event was so nonpartisan, where were Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton ? Neither paper makes any mention of their having been there. I�m told that in fact they were not invited (they were at St. Paul�s church, where Bush went after laying the wreaths -- and where there were apparently no photographers!!). In what sense does an event that features four Republicans but excludes the two senators who were representing New York at the time of the event, but who happen to be Democrats, leave aside partisan rancor? I was in NYC during 9-11 and for two years after, and I remember Chuck and HRC (and House members of both parties) attending...
  • David Brooks and Inequality: Round II

    After getting a few things wrong in his last column, David Brooks is back to tell us his remedy for the problem of inequality: education (sorry, it�s Times Select and therefore not linkable). He proposes an agenda that would promote educational opportunity for middle class and poor kids. I question whether his route is the best one for this task (universal child care and health care would rank higher on my list), but promoting educational opportunities for the less advantaged is certainly a good thing.
  • Consumer Debt and the Housing Bubble

    The Fed released data for consumer debt for July on Friday. The release got little attention, and the short pieces that did cover it mostly focused on the slower rate of growth. The growth in consumer credit overall slowed from a 7.3 percent annual rate in June to a 2.8 percent rate in July. For the revolving debt component (primarily credit card debt), the slowdown was much sharper, from 13.2 percent in June to a 3.4 percent rate in July. I had previously noted the sharp uptick in credit card debt as evidence of the bursting of the housing bubble. When houses stop appreciating, people are forced to borrow against their credit cards instead of their homes. This new report doesn't change my mind. The reason is that the growth rate for credit card debt was revised sharply upward for the prior two months. The growth rates previously reported for May and June were 11.0 percent and 9.8 percent, respectively. These numbers were revised upward in yesterday's report to 13.0 and 13.2 percent...
  • LAWRENCE KATZ SPEAKS....

    LAWRENCE KATZ SPEAKS. One last thing on yesterday's David Brooks column . My friend Reihan Salam wondered why I was so dismissive of the piece, and he was right to. In short, I've done a lot of reading into the economic literature on inequality and never, ever come across what Brooks was saying. Moreover, I'd read a fair amount of Lawrence Katz 's work on inequality and it also failed to support Brooks' thesis. Something seemed wildly awry. So I employed the top secret journalistic technique of picking up the damn phone (or PUDP, in TAP office parlance), and gave Katz a call. His answers confirmed my suspicions. Before he even talked about the column, he e-mailed to say that "I obviously don't have anything to do with the 'spin' [Brooks] gives the material and certainly nothing to do with the numbers he cites in the first half of his column." And when I got him on the phone, he repudiated nearly every aspect of the piece. "There are," he said, "clear market forces that have to do with...
  • DEBATING THE MIDDLE.

    DEBATING THE MIDDLE. If you haven't yet, check out Dean Baker and Ruy Teixeira 's contributions to the Rose - Mishel debate on the middle class . (There will be more next week.) Meanwhile, Jon Cohn has a piece today disputing Rose's take on health care. And for all of you who can't get enough of this stuff, it so happens that The Democratic Strategist has been hosting a very similar roundtable that's highly worth reading. --Sam Rosenfeld
  • WHY THE REPUBLICRATS...

    WHY THE REPUBLICRATS WILL RISE. Julian Sanchez has some thoughtful comments on my feature in the latest issue arguing that small government conservatism is dying and the right is going to swing towards an economic progressivism that takes the survival and encouragement of the nuclear family as its raison d'etre . His comments make me fear, however, that I overemphasize poll numbers in the original piece, so let me restate the evidence a bit. The polls that I use show the emergence of so-called "pro-government conservatives": Republicans who want government-guaranteed health care, corporate regulations, and all the rest. Julian cautions that these show little more than that "people right now are responding to a specific form of political rhetoric under specific conditions." I think that's wrong. Among the various answers that set this group apart is that fewer than 30 percent report no trouble paying their bills. The rest are financially squeezed. These polls, in other words, are...
  • THEY EVEN HURT THE ONES THEY LOVE.

    THEY EVEN HURT THE ONES THEY LOVE. One of the real, overlooked tragedies of this whole ABC docudrama mess is that it plays political handball with the story of the late John O'Neill -- who is, by all accounts, superbly played by Harvey Keitel -- the relentlessly hellraising FBI cop who beat people over the head on the subject of al Qaeda until he finally ran out of friends and allies, and who died at the World Trade Center. I never met O'Neill, but I knew a lot of NYC reporters who knew him, and I trust all of them implicitly. Considering the rave reviews a half-crook like Bernard Kerik got in the wake of 9/11, and to say nothing about the ongoing canonization of Rudy Giuliani , it was more than past time for O'Neill's story to be told, and to be told well. (He is one of the few unquestioned heroes of Lawrence Wright 's brilliant new book,The Looming Tower.) Obstreperous on the job, and deeply struggling off of it, O'Neill deserves to have his memory honored by something better than...
  • THE PROBLEM WITH...

    THE PROBLEM WITH THE LIKABILITY ECONOMY. Yesterday, David Brooks argued that merit is its own reward in the contemporary economy, and that those who are falling behind are doing so because of a lack of merit. Even on its surface this philosophy is among the most pernicious and noxious forms of historical justification for social inequality around. A story in today's New York Times news section really drives that point home. Let's look again at what Brooks wrote : ...the market isn�t broken; the meritocracy is working almost too well. It�s rewarding people based on individual talents. Higher education pays off because it provides technical knowledge and because it screens out people who are not organized, self-motivated and socially adept. But even among people with identical education levels, inequality is widening as the economy favors certain abilities. My colleague Ezra Klein has labelled this thesis The Likability Economy thesis: ...by relying on social skills rather than...

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