Archive

  • EARMARKS.

    EARMARKS. In his triumphant New Republic debut, Brad Plumer makes the liberal case for pork. "It's not," he writes , "because pork projects are defensible on the merits, although they sometimes can be. It's not because they create jobs, although they can do that, too. Rather, it's because, without pork, activist government would wither and die." Using the examples of Reagan 's 1986 Tax Reform and Clinton 's first budget, he explains that pork are bargaining chits that allow tough, controversial pieces of legislation to squeeze through the legislative process. I'll buy that, but I wonder if it's not becoming a relatively obsolete consideration: As Congress continues evolving into a more parliamentary institution and party loyalty grows easier to enforce, I think we'll begin seeing an easier ride for tough legislation. Think of the Medicare Drug Bill, which was anathema to the left and a grotesque mutant to the right, but which nevertheless squeezed through. If massive legislation with...
  • Wal-Mart's Average Wages

    The NYT reported on Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's decision to veto an ordinance setting a higher minimum wage for large stores (e.g. Wal-Mart). After 2010, the law would have required large stores to pay workers at least $10 an hour, plus $3 an hour for benefits. The article concludes by presenting the assertion of a Wal-Mart spokesperson that the average wage for "full-time hourly associates" in Illinois is $10.41 an hour. Before anyone assumes that this means that Wal-Mart already pays more than the 2010 minimum imposed by the vetoed ordinance, it is important to remember that the spokesperson only referred to "full-time" employees. What percent of Wal-Mart's workforce is counted as full-time? I don't know this one offhand, and the article provides no guidance on this issue. Maybe they could have gotten this information if they had spoken to someone from an organization that is critical of Wal-Mart. --Dean Baker
  • Chevron's Tax Windfall on New Oil Find

    This is what reporters are supposed to do. --Dean Baker
  • Finger Pointing on the Housing Bubble

    We are still at the early stages of the collapse of the housing bubble, but it�s not too early to start pointing fingers. This isn�t a question of vengeance, the issue is accountability. If the dishwasher breaks the dishes, she gets fired. If the custodian doesn�t clean the toilet, he gets fired. Economists think it�s very important that people who don�t do their job adequately face serious sanctions, including job loss. This provides the necessary incentive for people to do their job effectively, and sustains the economy�s productivity. This is why it is important to identify the people who did not do their job, and therefore contributed to the growth of a dangerous housing bubble. A very big finger has to be pointed at all the reporters who cover the housing market. In news stories on the housing market, how many times did they present the views of the economists from Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the National Association of Realtors, the Mortgage Bankers Association, and the...
  • LAUER STEPS UP.

    LAUER STEPS UP. How I mourn, and if I mourn, is nobody's business but mine. It's not the business of network news organizations, and it's certainly not the business of the ambitious young hacks of local news who send the latest Lisa or Brian to New York to stand over a mass grave while maudlin piano music tinkles away in the background. However, one little bit of video did catch my attention this morning. Matt Lauer of The Today Show got an interview in the Oval Office with George W. Bush . The first odd thing about it was that both men were standing. Usually, as was the case with Tim Russert 's famous "Make-My-Dad-Proud" moment a while back, such conversations are held with both participants sitting down and practicing their best First Communion posture. In this case, Lauer and the president looked like a couple of local sportcasters in Green Bay, standing outside the stadium, chatting over the Packers game. To Lauer's enormous credit, and given the strange circumstances, he pushed...
  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: CULTURE CLASH.

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: CULTURE CLASH. The clash of civilizations theory isn't, in fact, all bogus, says Addie Stan ; but the conclusions the right has drawn from it are the reverse of what's really called for. --The Editors
  • BEATING DR. BEETROOT....

    BEATING DR. BEETROOT. In the world of the AIDS pandemic, South Africa is, as Stephen Lewis , the U.N. Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, memorably termed it, "the unkindest cut of all." The only country in the region rich enough to truly mount an aggressive campaign against the disease is hampered and hamstrung by an administration so aggressively opposed to science that they make the Bush crew look like the MIT Electron Microscope Appreciation Club. South Africa's health minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang , believes beetroots, garlic, and African potatoes are an effective replacement for anti-retroviral drugs, which the government fought to keep out of the hands of their citizens. The murderous negligence is taking its toll: One out of every eight HIV cases in the world is currently in South Africa. Nine hundred of the country's citizens die every day from the disease. For perspective, if you scale their population to ours, that would be 5,744 daily deaths, or almost two 9-11s every...
  • FALSE SENSE OF INSECURITY?

    FALSE SENSE OF INSECURITY? Yesterday's New York Times Week in Review piece about the state of the war on terrorism does the service of raising a notion and a possibility that no politician has found very useful to acknowledge: [F]ive years of evidence suggests that the terrorist threat within the United States is much more modest than was feared after 9/11, when it seemed quite possible that there were terrorist sleeper cells in American cities, armed with �weapons of mass destruction� and awaiting orders to attack�As time has passed without a new attack, the voices of skeptics who believe that 9/11 was more a fluke than a harbinger are beginning to be heard. The GOP, needless to say, has lacked much incentive over the last five years to dampen the sense of danger and crisis stemming from the terrorist threat. But doing so has proven to be distinctly off-message for the Democrats as well, given their relentless (and, to be sure, accurate) emphasis on the Bush administration's...
  • THE LEFT'S COMING OF AGE.

    THE LEFT'S COMING OF AGE. For years now, the standard attack on liberals or liberal Democrats has been two-pronged. The first prong proceeds from the idea that the vast majority of liberals are weak, slow-to-learn political bunglers who repeat the same mistakes, chose the same dumb candidates, take lumps without fighting back, etc. The second prong of the attack is to assert that the small sliver of politically competent liberals are ruthless, shameless, rabid radicals bent on destroying the country and its values -- not to mention liberalism itself and the Democratic Party along the way. Call it the feckless-or-reckless critique: The smart, reasonable elements are weak, and the strong elements are unhinged lunatics. With this formula, there�s not a sane liberal and the only Democrat with any redeeming value is somehow Joe Lieberman . Well, guess what? In the wake of the nationwide campaign to de-legitimize ABC�s 9-11 �documentary,� it will be increasingly hard for the mainstream...
  • REMEMBERING POST-9-11. ...

    REMEMBERING POST-9-11. I'm going to eschew the 9-11 remembrance motif that's flitting through the blogosphere. Like all Americans, I found the day to be wrenching and horrific, the experience hallucinatory and unsettling. But I lived all the way out in California -- indeed, in the very same town where Duncan noticed a curious detachment from the event -- and to pretend that I can even start to understand the agony it caused those who were immediately affected would be nothing more than an opportunistic attempt to use a national tragedy to enhance my own moral credibility. So I won't. I'll leave that to those who were there and who have more of a right to eulogize than I. That said, the political aftermath of 9-11, the reprisals conducted in the name of America, belong to us all. I've only ever felt the Afghanistan War to be a legitimate response to the hijackings. The Iraq War was falsely sold under the same rubric, but Hussein , as the Senate Intelligence Committee recently...

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