Archive

  • 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...
  • 300 MILLION AMERICANS...

    300 MILLION AMERICANS CAN BE WRONG. I do like the continual sharpening of differences between the libertarian health care wonks and, well, me. Today, Cato's Michael Cannon files the shank a bit more and stabs down to the heart of it: I think panels of experts should watch over health care decisions, he thinks individual patients should evaluate care (he is responding to a study that found individual patients are incompetent at evaluating care -- he believes that, if the world were radically different than it is, that study would be incorrect). More basically, he thinks that health care is comparable to buying a Subaru, and I do not. So I guess that's the question: Do you think you'll ever have the training to, in the aftermath of a heart attack or cancer diagnosis, approach your care provider's treatment suggestions as you would a car purchase? More to the point, have you ever made a bad car purchase? I, for instance, bought a Ford Focus. I did so after a lot of research. I made a...
  • GOOD ONE, CALIFORNIA....

    GOOD ONE, CALIFORNIA. The Corner's Anthony Dick needs a better sense of your humor. He's got a post today on California House Resolution 36, which focuses on Pluto's planetary status and the concern that "[d]owngrading Pluto's status will cause psychological harm to some Californians who question their place in the universe and worry about the instability of universal constants." As you may expect, he sells it as evidence of California's cosmic self-absorption and total looniness when, in fact, it's quite the opposite. The resolution is a clever joke meant to mock the priorities of the legislature -- which it does, with more flair, self-consciousness, and genuine humor than any similar bill I've seen. I really recommend you download the pdf , but here are some of the choicest lines: WHEREAS, The deletion of Pluto as a planet renders millions of text books, museum displays, and children�s refrigerator art projects obsolete, and represents a substantial unfunded mandate that must be...

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