Archive

  • The Wall Street Journal Discovers the Housing Bust

    Good to see that reporters and my fellow economists are now discovering some of the downsides of the housing bubble. The WSJ now recognizes the problem in part , although we're still only talking about something "harder than a soft landing but softer than a hard landing." But, that's progress. The article earns a BTP goat prize for failing to note that current house price indices are failing to pick up the full decline in prices because they miss the various concessions (seller paid closing costs, buyer-side realtor bonuses, and seller subsidized mortgages) that sellers often use to move their houses. The WSJ also notes that the housing affordability index hit a record low. How could that have happened, seems it was at record highs just a few years ago. Excuse me while I go tear my hair out . --Dean Baker
  • NPR�s Counterfeit Reporting on China

    NPR ran a piece this morning on �counterfeiting� in China. (Anyone who heard the story knows that NPR disapproves of the practice being discussed, but the term that neutral reporters use is �unauthorized copying.�) The segment included no economic analysis of the practice, which would point out many of the benefits of unauthorized copies. The segment included no discussion of the relative quality of the authorized copies. Nor did the segment even clarify the extent to which the unauthorized copies are genuinely counterfeit products. (The goods are only genuine counterfeits if the consumers believe that they are buying the brand whose products are being copies.) A serious report on unauthorized copying would discuss such issues, pointing out that unauthorized copying can provide enormous economic gains. If the brand product sells at 5 or 10 times the price of the copy, then the economic harm of eliminating the unauthorized copies is the same as imposing tariffs of 500 or 1000 percent,...
  • From the New York Times Canadian Health Care Bashing Desk

    As I have noted before (see � Missing Fact on British Health Care ,� May 7, 2006), the New York Times feels the need to periodically run articles on the health care crises in countries with universal health care systems. These articles never make comparisons to the health care situation in the United States, which might help readers put the articles in some context. An article in today�s Times fits the bill perfectly, reporting the surprising news that many Canadian doctors are hoping to make more money outside of the country�s public health care system. (Actually, the article never mentions the possibility that doctors want to leave the public system to make more money. The article implies that the doctors are just very publicly minded individuals who only think of the public good, not about money.) Anyhow, the article includes the obligatory assertions about long waiting lines in the Canadian system from a right-wing think tank. The article does not include any comments from...
  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: TANF TURNS TEN.

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: TANF TURNS TEN. On this, the 10th anniversary of welfare reform, we've posted two articles assessing a decade of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. From our March print issue, Chrisopher Jencks , Scott Winship , and Joseph Swingle analyze what went right (or at least, better than feared) and what may still go wrong. And in a new piece, analysts Margy Waller and Shawn Fremstad argue for a basic revision of how we think of TANF; it's many things, but it's not welfare. --The Editors
  • BOOKS OF SAND....

    BOOKS OF SAND. Chalk me up as one of those skeptics who don't buy, not even for a second, the spin that George W. Bush has read more than sixty books this year (via Steve Benen ). C-SPAN claims to have a partial catalog of his reading list, but none of it makes any sense. While I'm pleased Bush is trying to accrue some intellectual credibility, the boast reminds me of nothing so much as Steve Carell in The 40-Year-Old Virgin recounting how "her" breasts felt like big bags full of sand! Right guys!? In the flick, Carell's boast exposed his inexperience -- only a virgin would think that's how a breast felt. Bush's "sixty books" strikes me as similarly revealing. This is the claim of someone who wants to project dominance in a field he doesn't understand, and so wildly overreaches. Reading books, particularly nonfiction books, takes a really long time . It's hard, and it's boring, and I say this all as an effete liberal intellectual who likes reading long, boring books but can't, like...
  • FROM THE SEPTEMBER PRINT ISSUE: THE RISE OF THE REPUBLICRATS.

    FROM THE SEPTEMBER PRINT ISSUE: THE RISE OF THE REPUBLICRATS. The Bush era has signalled the death of small government conservatism. What comes next for the GOP? Ezra reads the tea leaves: ...[T]hree longer-term factors have deprived [small govenrment conservatism] of both intellectual legitimacy and popular support: structural changes in the GOP�s coalition, accelerating economic insecurity, and the empirical failure of supply-side economics. Of these factors, the first is the most noteworthy. Through its use of cultural and �values� issues -- and, since September 11, security concerns -- the Republican Party has captured the allegiance of working-class, socially conservative whites and seen its coalition�s center of gravity shift from West to South. But recent research shows that these voters, whatever their views on gay marriage, are quite fond of the stability and protection of the entitlement state. The dilemma for conservatism is obvious: How can a pro-business, pro-tax cut, and...
  • NOW HEAR THIS:...

    NOW HEAR THIS: I AM NOT A TERRORIST. Today Eric Lipton of The New York Times reports on the Bush administration's latest effort to leave no stone unturned in its quest to terrorize the American people: A proposal by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff would allow the United States government not only to look for known terrorists on watch lists, but also to search broadly through the passenger itinerary data to identify people who may be linked to terrorists, he said in a recent interview. No big deal, you say? Well, it could be for someone like me -- or maybe even you. In 1998, I traveled to Pakistan and India on a Ford Foundation-funded research project for a NGO. I spent a week on the Pak-Afghan border in Peshawar, then home to Osama bin Laden , where I entered an Afghan refugee camp in what is known as an "extralegal" manner, through an old-school mujahadeen contact. It was two months after bin Laden had issued his death-to-Americans fatwah . I traveled home through Delhi...
  • WHEN THE OP-ED PAGE DOESN'T KNOW WHAT THE NEWS PAGE IS DOING...

    WHEN THE OP-ED PAGE DOESN'T KNOW WHAT THE NEWS PAGE IS DOING... Yesterday's Washington Post op-ed page had a very sensible column from education writer Jay Mathews . He argues that the media sensationalism surrounding over-worked, over-pressured high-schoolers is totally misplaced. Media elites regurgitate this story because their own children attend fancy suburban public schools or urban private or magnet schools, where students have too much work, too many extracurriculars, and too much pressure to get into Dartmouth. In fact, as Mathews demonstrates, for the vast majority of American high-schoolers, the problem is that their schools are not demanding enough, and, rather than not having enough time for contemplation, they have too much time for television. So imagine my surprise when I then turned to the Post 's Metro section on the very same day and saw a story on how local Big Three alumni are reacting to this year's U.S. News college rankings. The story was incredibly narrowly...
  • BABY GAP.

    BABY GAP. I keep reading arguments like this one in today's Wall Street Journal about how differential birthrates will spell doom for liberalism: Simply put, liberals have a big baby problem: They're not having enough of them, they haven't for a long time, and their pool of potential new voters is suffering as a result. According to the 2004 General Social Survey, if you picked 100 unrelated politically liberal adults at random, you would find that they had, between them, 147 children. If you picked 100 conservatives, you would find 208 kids. That's a "fertility gap" of 41%. Given that about 80% of people with an identifiable party preference grow up to vote the same way as their parents, this gap translates into lots more little Republicans than little Democrats to vote in future elections. Over the past 30 years this gap has not been below 20%--explaining, to a large extent, the current ineffectiveness of liberal youth voter campaigns today. Differential birthrates really do have...
  • POSITIVE REENFORCEMENT.

    POSITIVE REENFORCEMENT. Check this out in the Times : �What matters is that in this campaign that we clarify the different points of view,� Mr. Bush said from the press secretary�s lectern in the White House conference center up the street from the Oval Office. �And there are a lot of people in the Democrat Party who believe that the best course of action is to leave Iraq before the job is done, period, and they�re wrong.� In calling the opposition the �Democrat Party� Mr. Bush was repeating a truncated, incorrect version of the party�s name that some Democrats have called a slight, an assertion the White House dismissed as ridiculous. (Emphasis added.) Have you ever seen that before in our precious MSM? I don't think I have. Maybe if everyone agreed to write like that for a month or two, the Republicans would have to knock that particular inane gimmick off. --Matthew Yglesias

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