Archive

  • The Statistical Discrepancy: A Source of Phony Wage Growth

    A New York Times article today commented on the extraordinary jump in wages over the last two quarters. Before anyone breaks out the champagne, take a look at the statistical discrepancy in the GDP accounts. This might be is a bit nerdy, but there is an important story here. In principle, it is possible to add up GDP on either the income side (e.g. wages, interest, profits) or the output side (e.g. consumption, investment, government) and get the same number. Of course, they never end up exactly the same � you don�t get perfect accounting in a $13 trillion economy. Typically, the output side comes up slightly higher than the income side. (The conventional wisdom is that people might hide income in order to avoid taxes.) This gap between output side GDP and income side GDP is the statistical discrepancy. The big story on the statistical discrepancy is that it fell by $150.8 billion over the last two quarters. The most obvious explanation is that the income side of GDP is currently...
  • KEEP MY SKIN...

    KEEP MY SKIN OUT OF IT. Yesterday, I went to Cato to see right-wing health economist Arnold Kling debate the Washington Post 's Sebastian Mallaby and contrarian progressive economist Jason Furman (who looks more like Chuck Klosterman than any economist has any right to) on his new book, a Crisis of Abundance . CofA argues that our health system suffers from an overuse of highly specialized and technologically advanced treatments. In that respect, it's undoubtedly correct -- modern medicine suffers from a grotesque lack of good treatment data, and I welcome Kling's proposal for a health care equivalent of the Congressional Budget Office (a nonpartisan research facility). From there, we part. Kling's other solution relies on a massive increase in the amount of health costs that come out of pocket. The "very poor" would be subsidized, as would the "very sick" (neither term is defined in his book), but everyone else would be paying for their own care. This makes sense in a very specific...
  • THE WAGES OF MACACA.

    THE WAGES OF MACACA. Elsewhere in TAP blogdom, Steve Benen and Brendan Nyhan both have analyses of the latest news regarding George Allen 's race problems. They're both worth reading, and also provide me with another chance to bring up this picture : That's all. --Sam Rosenfeld
  • HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH VERSUS THE UNKNOWN LOBBY.

    HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH VERSUS THE UNKNOWN LOBBY. This post by Alan Dershowitz , arguing that human rights groups' criticisms of Israel should be dismissed, overwhelmingly focuses on Amnesty International, but does offer up a token attack on Human Rights Watch: The two principal "human rights" organizations are in a race to the bottom to see which group can demonize Israel with the most absurd legal arguments and most blatant factual misstatements. Until last week, Human Rights Watch enjoyed a prodigious lead, having "found" - contrary to what every newspaper in the world had reported and what everyone saw with their own eyes on television - "no cases in which Hezbollah deliberately used civilians as shields to protect them from retaliatory IDF attack." Shocking. Now let's look at what the HRW report "Fatal Strikes: Israel�s Indiscriminate Attacks Against Civilians in Lebanon" (PDF) actually says: The Israeli government claims that it targets only Hezbollah, and that fighters from the...
  • BEYOND THE LINES.

    BEYOND THE LINES. The naming of the National Tennis Center for Billie Jean King at the commencement of this year�s U.S. Open is quite a tribute to the tennis great, and one she fully deserves. Sports pioneers often break barriers in American culture by their �firsts,� such as Jackie Robinson �s shattering of the color line in baseball. Though it undoubtedly takes a special person to handle the pressure of being a �firster� while still excelling on the field, being first is a role that by its very definition is confined to a few. Having a lasting impact on sports and America life, however, is an opportunity available to far more athletes yet accepted by too few. King has had that lasting impact: She spoke openly about having had an abortion in the early 1970s; she was courageous and respectful in divorcing her husband and admitting her homosexuality; and, of course, she took down chauvinist circus act Bobby Riggs in Houston�s legendary �Battle of the Sexes.� Moreover, the advances King...
  • DON'T SAY I DIDN'T WARN YOU.

    DON'T SAY I DIDN'T WARN YOU. We take a break from breathlessly guffawing at this latest example of incompetent administration cronyism to remind you that, in the classic political thriller Seven Days in May , the secret code for launching the military coup d'etat was embedded in an apparently innocuous all-services dispatch concerning ...(drama sting)... a horse race. Just sayin'. --Charles P. Pierce
  • TIMES CHANGE.

    TIMES CHANGE. Jonah Goldberg has an interesting column on the somewhat random subject of efforts to wield Barry Goldwater 's views as a cudgel against social conservatives. Roughly speaking, Jonah's argument is that Goldwater became more libertarian over time, but that at the time Goldwater was leading the nascent New Right movement, he was, in fact, a social conservative. In other words, it's Goldwater who changed, not conservatism. That seems plausible, though I don't really have the chops to assess it. What I will observe is this. People often take up what I think is a fairly confused attitude toward the rise of organized, politicized Christianity in this country. They observe that it wasn't a major factor 40 years ago, that it is a major factor today, and thus conclude that we're in some kind of march to theocracy (if you don't like social conservatives) or else headed for an awesome moral revival (if you do like them). The truth, however, is that you didn't have "Christianist"...
  • SMALLER GOVERNMENT, HIGHER...

    SMALLER GOVERNMENT, HIGHER TAXES. Occasionally, you see arguments over whether the conservative movement sees smaller government as an end or a means, that is, whether they support the privatization of public services only when it results in cheaper and more efficient outcomes or whether they'll allow greater expense and inefficiency in order to satisfy an ideological distaste for government. Over at the IRS, we're seeing evidence for the latter: Unless Congress steps in to stop it, the IRS is set to begin implementing a wildly inefficient plan to outsource the collection of past-due taxes from those who owe $25,000 or less. IRS employees could collect these taxes for about three cents on the dollar, comparable to other federal programs' collection costs. But Congress has not allowed the IRS, which is eliminating some of its most efficient enforcement staff, to hire the personnel it would need to do the job. Instead, the agency has signed contracts with private debt collectors...
  • BIRTH PANGS.

    BIRTH PANGS. "Women giving birth are smuggled out of Baghdad and into clinics in safer provinces." Why's that? Well, because hospitals run by the new Iraqi government's Health Ministry have been infiltrated by Shiite death squads who like to massacre Sunni Arab patients. --Matthew Yglesias
  • YOU'RE SEXY WHEN...

    YOU'RE SEXY WHEN YOU'RE SCARY. I'd love to know which "major public-relations offensive to strengthen support for the Iraq War" we're at now. Is this the fifth? The seventh? The twelfth? Because while Rummy accuses Democrats of "campaigning on fear" (see, irony's not dead!) and Bush denounces all of us who eventually want to stop running Iraq, I'm getting, well, bored. This is the third set of major speeches Bush has given on the issue this year, and the song and dance remains the same. We can't abandon the mission, we must stay the course, any sort of orderly withdrawal or redeployment is catnip for terrorists, and so on. That's weak. I want some good old-fashioned fear-mongering -- wild insinuations that Hussein personally hijacked the jets, promises that the terrorists will hide in the wheel wells of our aircraft and use our retreat to gain entry into the United States -- whatever. Just give me something to go on here. And, while I can't speak to the set of speeches Bush is about...

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