Archive

  • The Consumer Price Index and Living Standards

    One of the themes that has arisen in the recent Paul Krugman inspired debate on middle class living standards is the possibility that the consumer price index (CPI) misses improvements in the quality of various goods and services, and therefore overstates the true rate of inflation. This would then mean that "real" wages and income have risen more than official data show. I have spent far more time on this issue than I would have liked. In the mid-nineties there was an effort inspired by Alan Greenspan and spearheaded by the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan to cut Social Security benefits based on this claim.
  • "OUTRAGEOUS AND DISHONEST."

    "OUTRAGEOUS AND DISHONEST." The Washington Post 's Daphna Linzer has one hell of an aggressive piece out today on the IAEA's apoplectic reaction to the House Intelligence Committee's recent report on Iran's nuclear capabilities. Yesterday's letter, a copy of which was provided to The Washington Post, was the first time the IAEA has publicly disputed U.S. allegations about its Iran investigation. The agency noted five major errors in the committee's 29-page report, which said Iran's nuclear capabilities are more advanced than either the IAEA or U.S. intelligence has shown. Among the committee's assertions is that Iran is producing weapons-grade uranium at its facility in the town of Natanz. The IAEA called that "incorrect," noting that weapons-grade uranium is enriched to a level of 90 percent or more. Iran has enriched uranium to 3.5 percent under IAEA monitoring... Privately, several intelligence officials said the committee report included at least a dozen claims that were either...
  • IT'S ALRIGHT, MA BELL.

    IT'S ALRIGHT, MA BELL. Ezra 's post on Verizon's cronyish involvement in the administration's spying program prompts me to mention this piece by Zander Dreyer that we ran a few months ago, which makes a useful argument drawing the connection between the adminsitration's pro-monopoly line on telecom issues and its interest in domestic surveillance. It's worth a look . --Sam Rosenfeld
  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: COLD CASE?

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: COLD CASE? The New Jersey Senate race is getting mighty ugly, with a Republican U.S. prosecutor opening an investigation into property leased by Bob Menendez and Democrats whispering about dropping the candidate. How strong are the ethics charges? Midterm Madness 's own Thurmon Hart takes a look . --The Editors
  • WILLIAM BARR: WORKING...

    WILLIAM BARR: WORKING FOR YOU. My good friend Brian Beutler just published an explosive piece at Raw Story potentially implicating Verizon in the NSA wiretapping scandal and illuminating a fascinating nexus between the company's legal department and the Republican Party. It turns out that William Barr , Bush 41's Attorney General and a top Reagan advisor, is the head legal counsel and a VP for Verizon. Not surprisingly, given his experience in government, he's routinely called up by the Senate to testify on legal and intelligence matters. Here are a few choice samples: "I believe that the critical legal powers are granted directly by the Constitution itself, not by Congressional enactments. When the Nation itself is under attack by a foreign enemy, the Constitution vests the broadest possible defense powers in the President...No foreign threat can arise that the Constitution does not empower the President to meet and defeat." "While the PATRIOT Act was a major step forward and...
  • FORWARD TOGETHER.

    FORWARD TOGETHER. Today saw some truly horrific carnage in Baghdad, with over 100 people killed or found dead throughout the city, and another of the double-wave bombing attacks designed to maximize deaths: At least 62 unidentified bullet-riddled corpses--all bearing signs of torture--have been found throughout the city since Tuesday night, said Brig. Gen. Abdullah Mahmood of the Interior Ministry. Some of the bodies had been beheaded. Attacks on police patrols killed an additional 27 people Wednesday morning, officials said. The bloodiest scene unfolded at 9 a.m., when a car bomb exploded near an indoor stadium in Baghdad, killing 12 traffic policemen and wounded 13 others, authorities said. When a crowd gathered to help the wounded, another bomb detonated, killing seven civilians and wounding 47 others. Yesterday's much-discussed Lowry - Kristol column focused on the urgent strategic need to secure Baghdad, and in fact a more modest version of that project was actually launched last...
  • CONSERVATIVE CASE FOR REPUBLICAN DEFEAT.

    CONSERVATIVE CASE FOR REPUBLICAN DEFEAT. The new issue of the Washington Monthly has a truly inspired collection of conservative arguments for a Republican defeat this November. The highlight is surely Christopher Buckley 's piece, which expresses the libertarian scorn for George W. Bush 's "compassionate" conservatism. Buckley coins a new term for it, "incontinent conservatism," which seems particularly apt given his list of grievances ("bigger government, unrestricted government spending, government intrusion in personal matters, government ineptitude, and cronyism in disaster relief.") Perhaps the reason that Buckley's disappointment seems so genuine, while one may suspect David Frum of crying crocodile tears, is that Buckley concedes that Republicans betrayal of conservatism is nothing new. He acknowledges a laundry list of instances where Richard Nixon and even conservative savior Ronald Reagan (gasp!) sold out to the big-government beast. But he adds, reasonably enough: Despite...
  • TO FIRE, OR...

    TO FIRE, OR NOT TO FIRE? It looks , rather surprisingly, like John McCain , Lindsey Graham , and John Warner are readying to take substantive stands against the Bush administration�s attempt to torture by another name. The nut of the disagreement is over Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibits "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment." The Bushies, through some complicated legal footwork, are trying to invalidate that prohibition. McCain, Graham, and Warner appear unwilling to allow it, and are crafting their own compromise that actually follows the Geneva Convention. Right now, we basically have two tiers of interrogation: The Army, which fully abides by the Geneva Conventions, and the CIA, which tortures. That may make sense, save for the total lack of evidence that the CIA�s program is either more effective or a useful compliment to the traditional methods of interrogation. Lt. General John Kimmons , the Army's deputy chief of...
  • The Deficit You Didn't Read About

    The deficit hit another record in July. It's now running at an $820 billion annual rate, more than 6 percent of GDP. Of course, I'm talking about the trade deficit, not the budget deficit. All the bad outcomes of large budget deficits are also true of large trade deficits, yet the media barely notice a trade deficit that is now more than 3 times as large as the budget deficit. (Even if we add in the money borrowed from Social Security the trade deficit would still be almost twice as large as the budget deficit.) Like the budget deficit, in the short-run the trade deficit allows higher living standards. We can consume imported goods that we are not paying for, just as the government can spend money that is not paid for with tax revenue. In the long-run we cannot do this, we accumulate foreign debt on which we will have to pay interest. While the media never tires about talking about long-run problems from the budget deficit, they manage to largely to ignore the much larger trade...
  • WHY EMANUEL HATES...

    WHY EMANUEL HATES DEAN. In a funny bit of intra-Democratic news from this week, the burgeoning rapprochement between Rahm Emanuel and Howard Dean included an agreement on how much the DNC would spend in 2006, and almost contained a "good behavior" clause in which the DNC would donate more money if Emanuel stopped bashing them to the press. It's a testament to Emanuel's loathing of Dean that the DNC even considered such a play, but it's more understandable in the context of this article reporting what the two national party committees will spend on 2006: The DNC will contribute $12 million to Democratic efforts, the RNC will give $60 million. This, by the way, is why I remain somewhat bearish on the Democrat's chances in 2006. While the national mood may favor the left, the GOP still enjoys a massive advantage in funding, voter technologies, microtargeting databases, and GOTV efforts. Add in dropping gas prices and the power of the bully pulpit (which Bush has used to great effect over...

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