Archive

  • LIKE FRIST, ONLY COMPETENT.

    LIKE FRIST, ONLY COMPETENT. Another Sunday, another exceedingly unimpressive appearance by Bill Frist on a chat show. Meanwhile, Zachary Roth and Cliff Schecter have a good piece in The Washington Monthly about the man who will succeed Frist as Republican Senate leader (be it in the majority or the minority) when the latter retires this term -- Mitch McConnell . Looking back over his highly undistinguished tenure as majority leader, I'm tempted to say that Frist was something of a victim of his times -- being caught in the tension between the partisan and parliamentary turn under Bush on the one hand and the still-extraordinarily sticky, inefficient, non-majoritarian structure of the Senate on the other. That is to say, he was handpicked by the White House and then tasked with delivering legislative wins for the GOP that were impossible for anyone to pull off in the Senate. Be that as it may, Frist's basic ineptness at parliamentary tactics and vote counting only compounded the...
  • Why Is NPR so Opposed to Free Trade?

    NPR had a piece this morning on the possibiity that Medicare reimbursements for doctors will be cut. It told listeners that if this cut went into effect, then there may be a shortage of doctors who are willing to serve Medicare beneficiaries. In other contexts, such as supplies of farm workers, custodians, and restaurant workers, NPR has told listeners that shortages meant that the country needed immigrant workers. No one interviewed for this segment mentioned the possibility of more immigrant doctors, even though doctors receive much higher pay in the United States than they do in the developing world, or even Europe. Surely, if the United States worked to eliminate the barriers that make it difficult for foreigners to train to U.S. standards and practice in the United States, there would be large numbers of foreign physicians who would be willing to do the work that NPR tells us American workers do not want to do. The great thing about economic models is that you can use the same...
  • Sentiments on Iraq and the Economy: Missing Correlations

    The NYT has a column today reporting that people's assessment of the economy is heavily influenced by their view of the situtaion in Iraq. While I am open to this view, the chart (sorry not linkable) accompanying the column left me unconvinced. Eyeballing the numbers, we start in May '03 with more than 70 percent of the public thinking that the situation in Iraq is going well. At that time, just over 20 percent report believing that the economy is getting better. Over the next year, the share of the public who think that things in Iraq are going well falls below 40 percent, while the share who think the economy is getting better rises to 30 percent. In the subsequent two years the share of the public who think that things are going well in Iraq hovers near 40 percent, while the sahre who think that the economy is getting better falls below 20 percent. Maybe there's a problem with my eyesight, but I'm afraid that I don't see the correlation. --Dean Baker
  • Yet Another One From the NYT�s Europe Bashing Desk

    The NYT had an article today on Berlin�s mayor. At one point the article discusses Berlin�s economy, telling readers that it has a 17 percent unemployment rate. It would have been helpful to point out Berlin�s unemployment rate is 17 percent using the official German measure of unemployment. This measure counts anyone who is working less than 15 hours a week, who would like to be working full-time, as being unemployed. In the United States these people are counted as being employed. This difference adds approximately 2 percentage points to Germany�s unemployment. The Times reporters and editors are well aware of this difference in measurement. (I have repeatedly harassed them about it.) It is difficult for me to see why they would report the official German measure instead of attempting to convert it to the U.S. measure, or at least informing readers of the difference. This would be like telling readers that the temperature in Berlin in September averages 20 degrees, without noting...
  • From the NYT Europe Bashing Desk: Italy Faces Less Congestion and Pollution

    The NYT gives us yet another crisis story about declining congestion and pollution in Italy. You guessed it -- fewer children and falling population. According to the article, economists say that communities will struggle to find people for certain jobs like ambulance drivers or police officers. It sounds more like Italy has a shortage of well-trained economists. If they raise the pay for these occupations, I am sure that they will be able to find the necessary workers. There is no reason that a society and economy should not be able to thrive in a period of declining population. I look forward to my beachfront property in Italy, which will no doubt be very cheap because there will be no one in Italy who wants it. --Dean Baker
  • VALUES VOTERS' VALUES.

    VALUES VOTERS' VALUES. I just got back from the Family Research Council's Values Voter Summit . The audience was what you'd expect -- white and old. The speakers, on the other hand, mixed things up a little. Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR), addressing George W. Bush 's original "compassionate conservative" framework, suggested that being "pro-life" also means caring about the fetus's safety after it's born. This sentiment, perhaps because it sounded as though it could have come from Jim Wallis , drew much more tepid applause than the Brokeback jokes (e.g., everyone should stand against gay marriage "until Moses comes down with two stone tablets from Brokeback Mountain.") It was only toward the end of the speech, when Huckabee finished off his appeal for the welfare of children by calling on the audience to imagine "what we could do if instead of paying half their income in taxes, but gave a dime of every dollar to their church or charitable organization," that it became apparent what...
  • INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN...

    INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN INEPT. Bloggers are in an understandable uproar over a Roll Call article in which a hodgepodge of nameless Democratic aides reveal that the leadership is readying to party like it's 2002 and refocus the election on economic issues. I'm a bit skeptical. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi haven't proven themselves to be obvious idiots (indeed, quite the contrary ) over the past couple of years. And given, as Kos says, that 2002 and 2004 were both disasters based on that very strategy, I have a tough time believing they're itching for a repeat. Add in that "unnamed Democratic" strategists and aides could be anybody and tend to be willing to spout whatever counterproductive pabulum reporter's want, and I'm a bit hesitant to jump on this one as gospel truth. So I called up some folks in the Democratic leadership to ask them whether the story was truthful. The answer I got was "sort of." There are certain campaigns -- like Amy Klobuchar �s in Minnesota, and Sherrod Brown �s...
  • GUEST POST: FASTEN THE ROPES.

    GUEST POST: FASTEN THE ROPES. Senator McCain and his colleagues deserve some credit; they have, once again, pushed back on an administration that is congenitally allergic to the rule of law. When faced with the senators� insistence -- along with the stern warnings of two former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs and more than two dozen other senior retired military leaders -- that the Geneva Conventions should be preserved as a baseline standard for detainee treatment, administration lawyers did indeed scramble to resurrect Common Article 3 of the treaties, despite their initial attempt to write that commitment out of U.S. law altogether. According to Sen. McCain, speaking on the Today show this morning, the agreement makes clear that it is a war crime to engage in the waterboarding technique allegedly used against CIA-held detainees in the past. The agreement also appears to leave in the criminal category techniques like induced hypothermia and stress positions -- the apparent cause of...
  • YOU LISTEN.

    YOU LISTEN. This is just a heads up that Max Sawicky 's always terrific MaxSpeak blog now looks to be even more interesting and frisky with the addition of decidedly non-EPIish center-left economist Jason Furman to the roster of contributors. Much mixing-it-up has already ensued. It will definitely be worth checking out . --Sam Rosenfeld
  • AMERICANS AND TORTURE.

    AMERICANS AND TORTURE. Shrill Charlie Pierce and the unshrill New York Times editorialists are correct -- it was substantively a fool's game and a disgrace for Democrats to consciously refuse to engage the torture debate, and, as The Times puts it, "it�s time for them to either try to fix this bill or delay it until after the election." I totally agree with this. I will only note -- not by way of defending the Democrats, but merely of lamenting the state of the nation on this issue -- something Sandy Levinson said yesterday. He asked why, if the Democrats can openly be called the party of death, the Republicans shouldn't be known as "the party of torture": Presumably, Democrats are hesitant to use such a term as "the party of torture" either because it would be viewed as over the top (unlike "the party of death?") or, more ominously, because they fear that too many "median-vote" Americans actually like the idea of tortuous modes of investigation against those the administration...

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