Archive

  • Income Inequality: Missing Mechanisms

    There has been a raging blog debate, following in the wake of some recent Paul Krugman columns, as to whether the rise in income inequality is due to policy or the natural workings of the economy. While Krugman indicated that he believed the policy view (promising details later), many of the economists weighing in have said that they don�t see any policy mechanism(s) that could explain the rise in inequality. Perhaps I have different eyes (or maybe I don�t have sufficient training in economics), but I see the mechanisms almost everywhere. There is a nice example in the news today. A judge ruled that Northwest�s flight attendants can�t go on strike to oppose the wage cuts that the airline is unilaterally imposing, following in the wake of its bankruptcy. In other words, a U.S. judge is telling workers that they will go to jail if they refuse to work for the wages that Northwest wants to pay them. (I know, I�m skipping some steps here.) Judges don�t have to threaten workers with jail...
  • HOW DID YOU GET TO SCHOOL?

    HOW DID YOU GET TO SCHOOL? Another likely factor in the modern epidemic of childhood obesity and related illnesses like Type 2 diabetes, from the University of Texas: In 1969, about half of all students walked or bicycled to school. Fast forward 35 years and less than 15 percent of students walk or bicycle to school. Obviously this decline in daily exercise has some effect on the health of children. The steepness of this decline is especially noteworthy -- even within the same communities, where the distance from home to school may not have changed over this period, people are making different, less healthy choices. Dr. Tracy McMillan, a professor at UT, has been conducting surveys to figure this out. Apparently many parents view the time they spend driving their kids to school as quality time they wouldn't otherwise have with them. Also, they are concerned about the safety of walking in traffic-heavy areas, where automobiles are increasingly large and fast-moving. The first problem...
  • IT'S ALL RELATIVE....

    IT'S ALL RELATIVE. It's probably inevitable, but this sort of thing irritates me. From The Economist 's review of Bruce Reed and Rahm Emanuel 's The Plan: Big Ideas for America : If the system is made more efficient, Mr Emanuel thinks coverage can be extended to all American children. But he concedes that a nation as individualistic as America will probably never accept a European-style national health service�and he should know, having worked on Hillary Clinton's doomed health project in the 1990s. He argues, however, that maybe, some day, every American might receive a voucher for basic health services from the insurer of his or her choice. How interesting -- Emanuel dismisses the chances for a universal health system, but leaves open the option for an absurdly complicated voucher scheme, precisely the sort offered up by his brother, the bioethicist Ezekiel Emanuel , in The Washington Monthly awhile back (a well-intentioned but misguided effort that I took on here ). On that note,...
  • FLOP. FLOP. FLOP....

    FLOP. FLOP. FLOP. A little over 20 years ago, I went fishing on a cold Wisconsin lake. I pulled in a fairly good-sized bass. It was a handsome critter, and it flopped around in the bottom of the boat. Flop. flop, flop. I had a Polaroid taken of me and the fish and then we threw it back into the lake. I remembered that moment while watching this remarkable hunk o� video . I can assure you that, as it was flopping around in the boat, believing itself on the way to the fishy afterlife, it was at every second more at ease and articulate than the Ivy-educated lady in the middle panel is in this clip. --Charles P. Pierce
  • NIRVANA AND VOTING.

    NIRVANA AND VOTING. Arguably the last great era of FM radio was grunge. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins -- these bands rose from obscurity into the pantheon of rock. It was something to behold. But then there was a shift. Radio stopped taking risks. It slung Backstreet Boys, �N Sync, and other over-produced garbage. It brought in a profit and was safer than the garage band that kept sending in their cassette tapes. Result? Radio listenership fell . The same thing is happening to television. As iPods and YouTube have crept into our consciousness and as media outlets cower before the administration, television news viewership has dropped . Like radio, they�ve opted for the safe route and seem surprised when their viewers have turned their attention elsewhere.
  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: FRIDAY REVIEWS.

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: FRIDAY REVIEWS. Two reviews today of new films to check out. Tracie McMillan assesses the new PBS documentary on the working poor, Waging a Living , while Alex P. Kellogg recommends OutKast's vibrant, subversive musical, Idlewild . --The Editors
  • BUT ARE YOU...

    BUT ARE YOU REALLY SURPRISED? New data out of the Agency for Health Care Quality and Research shows that though the nation's largest employers -- those with over 1,000 employees -- still overwhelmingly offer access to health benefits, fewer and fewer of their employees are able to afford the options. Between 1996 and 2004, megafirm workers purchasing their employer's health insurance dropped from about 88 percent to about 81 percent -- a seven percent decrease in eight years. The most significant drops came in the retail (Wal-Mart) sector, where participation plummeted by 16 percent, but numbers were down across all industries. The number may not seem large, but we're peering into the most protected, rarified realm of health insurance here. Massive employers can bargain down health costs far better than small employers or individuals, and their ability to spread risk across a large pool ensures fair pricing for all and relatively smooth cost growth. That health inflation is...
  • WEEPIN' JOE AND BATTY BECK.

    WEEPIN' JOE AND BATTY BECK. This is the kind of thing that passes for wit on the rightist radio circuit. Ordinarily, it would float past us unremarked as further evidence that the primary thing wrong with the concept of Intelligent Design is the adjective, and not the noun. However, it should be noted that, just last week, Weepin' Joe Lieberman (I-Green Room) played kissy-face with this very same tackhammer. They agreed that we are currently in World War III and, if you read all the way to the end, you find that Weepin' Joe is "very proud" of his new friend. I guess this is what The Washington Post was talking about, back before the primary, when Fred Hiatt or someone went briefly off their meds and decided to launch this editorial from the highest peak of Delusion Mountain. Weepin' Joe is very proud of his new friend who makes jokes about blind people. Weepin' Joe remains the most prominent scarecrow on the Imus Ranch. Principles, my aunt Kate . He'd kick a crutch out from under a...
  • SWEET, SWEET ITALY-BASHING.

    SWEET, SWEET ITALY-BASHING. All last week, on IM, I've been chatting with TAPPED alum and current UN Dispatcher Fast Leon Goldberg , mocking the idea of an Italian-led peacekeeping mission in Lebanon. Italy, after all, has what's got to be the western world's least distinguished military record, managing to get stomped by the disintegrated Austro-Hungarian Empire on various occasions, failing to subdue Ethiopia during the high tide of imperialism, and generally proving to be more millstone than ally during the Second World War. It did, however, occur to me that this might be an unfair smear. Maybe Italy has a distinguished record in contemporary peacekeeping operations. It could happen, right? Well, it could , but Jeremy Kahn , less lazy than I, takes a look at the evidence and finds nothing but more of the same. It's probably actually irrelevant to the current situation, in which the UN force is more of a face-saving way for everyone to return to the status quo ante and get a new...
  • WHY EDUCATION IS...

    WHY EDUCATION IS GOOD FOR THE LADIES. Forbes.com executive editor Michael Noer 's execrable and poorly reported "article," "Don't Marry Career Women," has been given the thorough mocking it deserves by now, making his name and his site the laughing stock they deserve to be for years to come. Those who are yearning for some real data on what life is like for contemporary "career women" won't have to wait for Noer's ignominy to fade, though. This October, social scientist (and friend of GFR ) Christine Whelan will publish Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women (Simon & Schuster), which gathers in one place all the most recent facts about men, women, education, achievement, and marriage. Whelan finds, contra the misogynistic Noer's glib and partial reading of the social science literature, that real career women -- women with graduate degrees or who are high-earners for their age group -- are just as likely to marry as their less accomplished peers, and significantly less likely to divorce...

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