Archive

  • THE LIKABILITY ECONOMY....

    THE LIKABILITY ECONOMY. To say a bit more about the economic fraud Brooks is perpetrating in his column , we've got to say a bit about meritocracy and how it relates to income inequality. Brooks would like you to believe that the driving force for inequality is a relative of skills-based technical change. That's what economists tend to call the adoption of computers, but Brooks appears to think it's currently about social skills. In his mind, the difference between the rich and the poor largely rests on having "high social and customer-service skills." The intent of this is that it justifies inequality. Instead of the maldistribution of income being something to fix, it's those who are losing income who are broken. Better yet, by relying on social skills rather than intelligence, Brooks makes the deciding factor mutable: a personality characteristic that we can change, improve, or develop. To say that this doesn't support the facts is like saying Newt Gingrich is a tad hysterical. It'...
  • MOUSEGATE CONTINUES! James...

    MOUSEGATE CONTINUES! James Bamford reveals that one of the FBI's consultants quit Disney's Path to 9/11 miniseries because he believed the producers and writers were simply "making things up." Elsewhere , Clinton and his top aides penned a four-page letter specifically refuting a series of fabricated vignettes from the show and demanding that ABC either make the necessary changes or pull the program. Nevertheless, an inside source on the show wrote conservablogger Hugh Hewitt , assuring him that "the blame on the Clinton team is in the DNA of the project and could not be eradicated without pulling the entire show." --Ezra Klein
  • BILL SPEAKS.

    BILL SPEAKS. Yesterday, I wondered about whether or not Bill Clinton was going to leave the House of Many Triangles and defend his record in the face of the now nakedly spurious ABC docu-fakery. Well, any man who defends himself in such a fashion that the staid, old New York Post can put a goofy headline on the story has answered more than adequately any complaints I might have had. I now entertain fond daydreams about the reaction on the right if ABC were to send this production off to cable hell the way the Reagan production was dispatched under fire three years ago. I also now remember that I saw this movie once and wonder whether my daydreams may be violating the laws regarding intellectual property. --Charles P. Pierce
  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: DEBATING THE MIDDLE.

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: DEBATING THE MIDDLE. Today's David Brooks column that Ezra discusses below referenced Monday's TAP Online piece by Steve Rose , but Brooks didn't mention that Rose's article is part of an ongoing debate we're hosting about the fate of the middle class and the appropriate political message for middle-income Americans. Here's the page for that debate. In addition to Rose and Larry Mishel 's opening salvos and Matt 's offering from Tuesday, responses from Jeff Madrick , Jacob Hacker , and Jason Furman are now included. The page will be continuously updated as further responses -- from other contributors as well as Rose and Mishel themselves -- are added, and a link to the debate will remain available on the Prospect 's main page. Give it a look . --The Editors
  • GOOD CARE? ...

    GOOD CARE? WHO KNOWS? In The Wall Street Journal , more empirical scorn is being heaped on consumer-directed health care, this time in the form of a study showing that consumers have absolutely no idea what good health care is. Researchers from the RAND Corp., UCLA, and the Department of Veteran's Affairs had 236 elderly patients in two major managed-care plans rate the quality of their health care. Satisfaction was high, with the average rating a super 8.9 out of 10. Then the researchers sat down to rate the care that these same patients received. They compared care received to care that should have been received, taking into account fundamental metrics like whether a patient received Aspirin within an hour of being diagnosed with acute myocardial infarction. Scores plummeted. Despite the high level of patient satisfaction, the researchers gave the care a failing grade of 5.5. More interesting, the patients who rated their care as a 10 were just as likely to be getting low-quality...
  • BYE BYE, BOLTON....

    BYE BYE, BOLTON. In a web column yesterday, I wrote that Ambassador Bolton faces an uphill confirmation battle. Well, it seems that Bolton's prospects just got much, much dimmer. Moments ago, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Richard Lugar delayed a scheduled vote on Bolton following "consultations with a few other senators." "A few other senators" is perhaps code for Lincoln Chafee , who was the only Republican as yet undecided on how he would vote on Bolton in committee. Word was that Chaffee was disinclined to vote against Bolton because of his tough primary election on Tuesday. That seems not to be the case. And with Chafee digging his heels in against Bolton before his primary, then he is sure to continue with his opposition to the nominee for the foreseeable future. Another possible reason could be that the Republican leadership realized that even if all Republicans on the SFRC, including Chafee, voted for Bolton, they still would not likely muster enough votes to...
  • IT'S THE MERITOCRACY,...

    IT'S THE MERITOCRACY, STUPID . David Brooks has an op-ed today rebutting the "populist myths of economic inequality" that's just...wrong. It's not sneaky, or subtly misleading, or anything else. It's simply an incorrect recitation of economic data that is meant to convince readers of things that aren't true. As Dean Baker points out his must-read take-down , just about no economic statistic Brooks cites is actually correct. Where Brooks argues that "[w]ages and benefits have made up roughly the same share of G.D.P. for 50 years," "roughly" conceals an actual 1.7 percent drop in the corporate sector (the only area where profits matter), which equates to six percent of family income for the bottom 60 percent. And don't take Baker's word for it; as Harold Meyerson mentioned in a past column, "According to a report by Goldman Sachs economists, 'the most important contributor to higher profit margins over the past five years has been a decline in labor's share of national income.'" I...
  • APPEASING THE EVIL-DOERS....

    APPEASING THE EVIL-DOERS. Among the many nasty developments from which yesterday's speech by President George W. Bush has proved to be a distraction is the recent, uh hem, appeasement deal made by Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf with the resurgent Taliban. Musharraf is expected to visit the United States less than a week after it marks the 5th anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks. Just days before NATO commander Gen. James L. Jones called upon NATO nations to provide more troops for the alliance's intensifying conflict with Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, Musharraf cut a truce deal with the Taliban, promising to move Pakistani troops out of the tribal areas in which al-Qaeda operatives and Taliban fighters have taken refuge, in exchange for a moratorium on Taliban attacks within Pakistan's borders. In truth, Musharraf's balancing act between the demands of the United States for the apprehension of al-Qaeda figures and the pro-Taliban Pakistani intelligence officials who...
  • David Brooks Swings and Misses in Inequality Debate

    NYT columnist David Brooks weighed in on the origins of inequality in his column (sorry�it�s NYT select and therefore not linkable). While he wants to assure readers that inequality is not a serious issue, and not caused by policy, he gets almost everything in his article wrong. Briefly, here are the highlights:
  • Labor Costs and the Fed

    Both the NYT and Post had articles this morning that warned about the 4.9 percent annual rate of growth in unit labor costs in the second quarter reported yesterday, and indicated that this could cause the Fed to raise interest rates further to combat inflation. Whatever the Fed does on interest rates, let�s hope that the quarterly data on unit labor costs is not the reason. Unit labor cost data are highly erratic and are also subject to large revisions. This is due to the fact that both the numerator (compensation in the national income accounts) and the denominator (productivity) are highly erratic. Compensation can jump because of the timing of health care payments to insurers or the decision of workers to take stock options. (Compensation for the first quarter was revised up in yesterday�s release to show a 13.7 percent annual rate of growth, after originally showing a 6.9 percent rate of growth.) Productivity for the second quarter was reported as growing at 1.6 percent annual...

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