Archive

  • THE END OF...

    THE END OF UNIVERSALISM. Leave it to David Brooks to bury a recantation of long-held beliefs in a Labor Day weekend column. His Sunday column this week is significant, however, because it outlines a conceptual error that was common in conservative and neoconservative circles over the past five years, and which can still be found across the political spectrum. Writes Brooks: I spent much of the 1990�s (that most deceptive decade) abroad � in Europe, the former Soviet Union and the Middle East. People everywhere seemed to want the same things: to live in normal societies, to be free, to give their children better lives. Now it seems that was an oversimplified view of human nature. It�s true people everywhere want to satisfy their desires, but they also require moral systems that will restrain and give shape to their desires. It�s true people everywhere love their children, but they also require respect and recognition and they will sacrifice their own lives, and even their children�s...
  • AGAINST DOUBLE-SIDED ANONYMITY...

    AGAINST DOUBLE-SIDED ANONYMITY IN JOURNALISM. Last spring I was briefly involved in an unpleasant blogstorm for making the case against double-sided online anonymity, but the sorry case of Lee Seigel revives my concerns. Let me be clear: I have nothing against people using pseudonymns to write in comment threads (except when, as in Lee's case, they're writers working under the expectation that they always take public responsibility for their work), or who author blogs while cloaking their identities. It's a free country, and pseudonymous speech has a long tradition in American politics and a strong legal basis for continued protection. However, I was and remain disturbed by the way newspapers and magazines quote from bloggers and commenters whose identities they do not even make an attempt to determine. So far I have lost this battle, and badly -- even The Washington Post quotes anonymous blog commenters without always confirming their identities -- but I do believe journalists will...
  • ALL HAIL THE...

    ALL HAIL THE MORTGAGE MOMS. Just the other day, the TAP staff convened around our luxurious oak conference table, reclined in our high-backed leather chairs, and complained that this election was missing the key ingredient for pundits (Disclaimer: Not all the details of this story are precisely true): A clumsily named swing group. So far as we could tell, The Powers That Be had not yet lowered their Sword of Brooksian Characterization to designate a successor to the Soccer Moms, Office-Park Dads, or Security Moms of yore. But hark and behold, where once there was absence, now there is presence. The Washington Post stepped into the breach today with "Mortgage Moms," the most Democrat-friendly group in years. These are the economically insecure (at no point does the WaPo offer a gender, family structure, or home-financing breakdown that would justify either the "moms" or the "mortgages" part) portion of the electorate: Downwardly mobile whites buffeted by a summer of inflation that beat...
  • BROWN HANDS.

    BROWN HANDS. This ad is being run in the 13th Congressional District of North Carolina by the Republican candidate, a true whackadoo named Vernon Robinson . Please read the text as quoted carefully. It is almost word-for-word the text of the famous "black hands" ad that Jesse Helms threw up at the last minute against Harvey Gantt in their bloody 1990 senatorial campaign. Apparently, there's a template for bigots in which you just fill in the name of the Other du jour. A hundred years ago, they'd have been talking about my grandmother. --Charles P. Pierce
  • Medicare Drugs and What Politicians "Think"

    There should be a simple rule written in huge neon signs in every newsroom: �You don�t know what politicians �think.�� The reason is simple. Politicians do not generally say what they think. They say what will advance their political careers. This is their job. (That is a bi-partisan comment.) If a reporter believes that she knows what a politician actually thinks then she is probably too close to this person to be able to cover them objectively. Reporters best serve the public by reporting what politicians say, and leave it to their readers to determine what the politicians might actually believe (if anything). For this reason, it was very annoying to read a book review in the Washington Post that tells us that Bill Thomas, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, prohibited Medicare from offering its own drug plan that would negotiate directly with the drug industry because he �thought pitting private insurance companies against one another would inject competition into...
  • The Cost of Protectionism in Russia: Counterfeit Drugs

    The NYT had an interesting piece on counterfeit drugs in Russia. It reports that counterfeits may account for as much as 30 percent of total sales. This is what happens when the government creates an artificial monopoly with patent protection. Just as the Soviet Union couldn't prevent black market sales of blue jeans, Russia can't prevent sales of unauthorized versions of patented drugs. A little economic analysis would have been very useful in this article. --Dean Baker
  • Tim Russert Bashes Social Security, Yet Again

    If Social Security was a private corporation, Tim Russert would be unemployed and NBC would be out of business. (When you misrepresent the financial state of a private business in the way that Russert misrepresents the financial state of Social Security, you get sued for libel.) Note how the fact that Social Security, Medicare, and everything else that fits under �entitlements� becomes a Social Security problem, as Russert points out that entitlements account for 52 percent of the budget, approaching 70 percent. (I believe that these percentages exclude interest payments, but it's not clear where Russert is getting these numbers.) Note that Mr. Russert ignores the fact that Social Security is funded by a designated tax that will keep the program fully funded until 2046, according to the most recent projections of the Congressional Budget Office. Many people, including me, have tried to call Russert�s attention to the actual numbers on Social Security � he obviously does not care. He...
  • LABOR DAY SPECIAL.

    LABOR DAY SPECIAL. Tapped will be closed for Labor Day -- but have no fear, there's still TAP Online content you can enjoy today at the barbeque. Today we're kicking off a debate that tackles two related questions -- just how is the middle class actually faring in the contemporary economy, and how should Democrats and progressives adjust their middle-class appeal accordingly? Labor economist Steve Rose has been making waves in the past year with a critique of the Democratic economic message as being both overly gloomy and overly concerned with a set of government programs that does not actually directly benefit large parts of the middle class. (See here and here for his argument.) An exchange of letters between Rose and our own Bob Kuttner in the latest print issue of the Prospect set the stage for this Labor Day week debate, and kicking things off today are two new pieces: EPI president Lawrence Mishel offers a thorough response to Rose's recent work and argues that a populist...
  • From the NYT�s Europe Bashing Desk

    The NYT�s Europe-bashing desk pulled out the stops today in going after Germany . Readers would have learned about Germany�s �chronic double-digit inflation.� This surely would be news to most readers, since the OECD puts Germany�s inflation rate over the last year at just over 2.0 percent. Perhaps the article meant to say �chronic double-digit unemployment.� Well that�s a bit closer, but still no cigar. The OECD puts Germany�s unemployment rate at 8.2 percent. [The web version has replaced "inflation" with "unemployment."] (Even this number should be qualified � former East Germany still has an unemployment rates in the high teens, which means that the unemployment rate in the areas that comprise former West Germany is around 6.5 percent.) Then the article warns about �a health care system that is going bankrupt because of rising costs and an aging population.� Well, we all hate health care systems that are going bankrupt � but yes that�s right BTP fans, Germany�s costs are not...
  • "I'm Hoping For Prices to Drop"

    No, that's not me rooting for a quick end to the housing bubble; those are the words of David Lereah, the chief economist of the National Association of Realtors, as quoted in the Wall Street Journal . Yes, this is the same economist who until recently was assuring buyers that house prices will never fall. The new data on pending sales of existing homes show a year over year drop of 16 percent, yet more evidence that the bubble is bursting. --Dean Baker

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