Archive

  • The Last Throes of the Housing Bubble

    The standard story of financial bubbles has that financing gets progressively more tenuous as the bubble expands. BusinessWeek has a nice piece about the latest and most pernicious financial innovation of the current bubble, the option ARM. It's too bad that no one in a position of authority was awake before the bubble grew to such proportions. --Dean Baker
  • Monthly Wage Growth Data: Hours of Pain

    Regular users of government data (like reporters) should know its limitations. Many of the series are highly erratic, meaning that any individual number contains a considerable amount of error and a limited amount of information. The hourly wage data very much fit this bill. In the real world, hourly wage growth doesn�t change very much from month to month. (How could it? � not that many people change jobs in a month; and wages don�t suddenly plunge or soar for workers keeping their jobs.) However, the monthly wage series does show large fluctuations in the rate of hourly wage growth. For example, in April, the average hourly wage reportedly increased by 10 cents, a 0.6 percent increase. Similarly, it reportedly rose by 8 cents in July, a 0.5 percent increase. Before anyone gets too concerned that these wage increases will lead to inflation, let me point out that wages rose by just 1 cent in May and 2 cents in August. The smart folks out there already guessed that the slow wage growth...
  • THE PARADOX. So,...

    THE PARADOX. So, on the one hand, we have a nation that does not take poverty seriously (as per E.J. Dionne ), and on the other, a public that thinks Democrats are excessively focused on the poor at the expense of the middle class (as per Elizabeth Warren ). I have my own thoughts about how these two phenomena might be related, but I'm curious to hear reader's explanations. --Garance Franke-Ruta
  • DOES THE NEW...

    DOES THE NEW POVERTY AGENDA UNDERMINE THE MIDDLE-CLASS MESSAGE? Elizabeth Warren lays out some provocative food for thought over at The Democratic Strategist : When I talk with families about politics, I often hear a variation on this theme: "Democrats care most about the poor. They tell me I'm better off than the poor, and that I should give up more of my money to help the poor. Well, I'm stretched to the breaking point, and I just can't do it any more." Whenever a Democrat stands up and says, "I'll help every child go to college," then cuts off benefits at $20,000 a year, the message just burns deeper. Democrats thought that the tax cuts would cause a national uprising because they so disproportionately benefited the rich. But they missed a key point: the cuts also benefited the middle class. The middle class might make less-heck, they might make a whole lot less on the tax breaks-than the rich folks, but they would make something. And that something would stay in their pockets and...
  • YOUR SATURDAY MORNING.

    YOUR SATURDAY MORNING. Cancel your plans. Set your alarm. Make tonight an early night. I'll be on C-SPAN starting at 7:45 a.m. Eastern time tomorrow to chat about politics, the weather, whatever. It'll go until 8:30 a.m., and I have a hard time imagining you have better things to do at the crack of dawn than roll out of bed and enjoy my sonorous soliloquies. --Ezra Klein
  • POVERTY WITHOUT RACE....

    POVERTY WITHOUT RACE. I'm intrigued by E.J. Dionne 's column today because it strikes me as such a clear example of the latest trend in liberal anti-poverty writing and thinking, which is to talk about the poor without any reference to race. Writes E.J. : All manner of politicians and columnists said in Katrina's wake that this was the time to revisit the problems of the destitute. The anguish of the people of New Orleans's Lower Ninth Ward would have at least some redemptive power if the country took poverty seriously again. It didn't happen. The innovative ideas that came from all sides were swept off the table. The poor became unfashionable once more. Congressional conservatives changed the conversation. A concern for the struggling gave way to debate over how to offset spending on Katrina with budget cuts -- directed in large part at programs for the needy. Poverty in America is unequally distributed, according to the latest from the Census (PDF): Last year, the poverty rate for...
  • THREE QUESTIONS FOR...

    THREE QUESTIONS FOR SEAN HANNITY. Continuing his long-standing effort to enrich the civic discourse, Hannity recently said : If you believe that these are consequential, transformative times, if you believe our borders need to be secure, if you believe that we need to cut taxes to keep the economy humming, if you think it's an absolute mistake and a disaster to pull out of Iraq too early, if you think we're gonna retreat in the war on terrorism, if you think we're gonna be less safe, less secure with a party that has a pre-9-11 mentality, then this is the time not to give up. This is the moment to say that there are things in life worth fighting and dying for and one of 'em is making sure Nancy Pelosi doesn't become the speaker. Three questions for the Hannitized one: 1) So if given the choice, would you actually trade your life to keep Nancy Pelosi from becoming speaker? 2) If yes, is this localized to Pelosi, or generalizable to any Democrat? 3) Since you included "fighting" in your...
  • COCOON, THE RETURN.

    COCOON, THE RETURN. In TNR 's new Open University blog, Cass Sunstein has a post describing ideological amplification -- the tendency of likeminded people to reinforce and intensify ideological positions when dissenting viewpoints aren't included. David Greenberg follows up , applying the notion explicitly to the blogosphere and mentioning Sunstein's old book Republic.com , which had warned that the internet would encourage cocooning and ideological echo chambers that would produce extremism and damage serious deliberation. Sunstein has a sequel of a sorts to Republic.com coming out called Infotopia . I haven't had a chance to read through it carefully, but it appears to take a somewhat more optimistic view of the internet's effect on politics and deliberation, and to the extent that my impression is accurate, I'm glad to see it. Sunstein basically wrote Republic.com before blogs and internet political discourse came into their modern form, and I think it made a somewhat plausible...
  • AMERICA: CHILD NEEDING...

    AMERICA: CHILD NEEDING BABYSITTER, REVISITED. I know that I have a president who has speechwriters. They write speeches. So, is it too much to ask that they somehow arrange it so that, here in the middle of World War Whatever It Is, as the existential boogedy-boogedy reaches high tide and we confront the threat from Islamo-nazified-fascistic wha-dee-doo-dah, that the president of the United States not sound like a 12-year-old babysitter speaking to a room full of toddlers? From Wednesday night : We face an enemy that has an ideology; they believe things. The best way to describe their ideology is to relate to you the fact that they think the opposite of the way we think. We treasure the freedom to worship. We value the freedom for people to express themselves in the public square. We honor the right for people to be able to raise their children in a peaceful society so they can realize their dreams. The enemy we face doesn't believe in dissent. They don't believe in the freedom to...
  • CUZ WHO WANTS...

    CUZ WHO WANTS TO CURE CANCER? Over at The Wall Street Journal, Sharon Begley has an important column on the underfunding of the National Institute of Health and all the promising research that's falling by the wayside. She tells the story of Dan Welch , a molecular oncologist who discovered a molecule that suppresses metastases (and thus, cancer's progression) and sought to test whether it could be switched on to fight the disease. But when he went to the NIH, they said he needed to gather preliminary breast cancer tissue from hundreds of women, a project he simply lacked the funding for. That, replicated over and over again, is the story of the modern NIH. Clinton had accelerated the agency's funding, but, in 2004, Bush and the Republican Congress shut off the spigot, and money has flat-lined since. That's left a significant gap between the number of promising proposals from reputable scientists that get submitted and the number of promising proposals from reputable scientists that...

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