Archive

  • I.R.S. Cracks Down

    The NYT had a good piece this morning about plans by the I.R.S. to turn over 12,500 tax deliquency cases to private collection agencies. There are two interesting features to this story. First, the I.R.S. believes that it will get less money by turning these cases over to private collection agencies than if it pursued the cases itself. (Well, someone has to help out the collection agencies -- life's tough out there.) The other interesting part of the story is that the I.R.S. is only turning over cases where the back taxes owed are less than $25,000. While this still amounts to a nice hunk of cheating (about 5 times the average cash TANF grant for a year), the industrial strength tax cheats will still not have to worry about annoying calls from bill collectors. --Dean Baker
  • Bad Inflation Numbers From BLS

    A couple of days ago I commented in passing about the Bureau of Labor Statistics plans to change the way it reports its inflation numbers. I realize that I did not fully understand the issue until a couple of posts clarified the problem. Currently, BLS reports index numbers and changes only to the first decimal. Remarkably, it computes the monthly change based on index numbers rounded to the first decimal, even though it obviously has the data calculated to many decimals. This can lead to the monthly inflation figure being understated or overstated, depending on the rounding. For example, suppose the June index number is 202.050 (rounded to 202.1) and the July number is 202.249 (rounded to 202.2). The inflation rate calculated based on the three decimal index numbers is 0.0985 percent, which would be rounded to 0.1 percent in the monthly CPI report. The inflation based on the one decimal index numbers is 0.0495 percent, which is rounded to 0.0 percent in the monthly CPI report. In...
  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: IN CASE OF EMERGENCY.

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: IN CASE OF EMERGENCY. Bruce Ackerman argues that we should act now to devise a new statutory frameword for federal emergency powers -- before the next terrorist attack sweeps away the prospects of checking the government's powers. The emergency statute should recognize that extraordinary powers are indeed justified in the immediate aftermath of an attack. There is a clear and present danger that the terrorists have already organized a second strike, and it is imperative to take special steps to disrupt the plans before it is too late. As a consequence, Congress should authorize short-term detentions on reasonable suspicion -- so long as they remain short-term. At the same time, the new framework must prevent reasonable emergency measures from becoming permanent restrictions on our freedoms. First and foremost, it should impose strict limits on unilateral presidential power. Presidents should not be authorized to declare an emergency on their own authority,...
  • COUNTING WHITES ONLY.

    COUNTING WHITES ONLY. Back to orthodoxy: Corner bashing! Be amazed as Kate O'Beirne tries to demonstrate that women usually vote Republicans and shows you can, in fact, demonstrate just that, as long as you . . . don't count African-American and Latina women. --Matthew Yglesias
  • POLITICIZING TERROR. ...

    POLITICIZING TERROR. I assume nobody will be surprised by this, but the Republican Party has apparently settled on its 2006 message: Vote Democratic, and the terrorists will win. That's always been their implicit appeal, of course, but now they're just saying it. On the other hand, why shouldn't they? Terror should be politicized, and if one party or another believes they can do the better job, they should say so. There�s nothing illegitimate about it. That means, however, that Democrats shouldn't be afraid to mention that the Bush administration is directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of American troops, World Trade Center employees, Iraqi civilians, and adorable little puppies. It also wouldn't hurt to wonder if Bush isn't some sort of Manchurian plant, so dedicated has he been to ensuring that America did exactly what its enemies hoped it would. Block the U.N. from stopping Israel's self-destructive demolition of Lebanon? Why not? Who cares if it'll empower a dangerous...
  • DON'T CRY FOR MOM AND POP.

    DON'T CRY FOR MOM AND POP. The other day Jon Chait paid us a backhanded compliment , suggesting we're unduly predictable here at the Prospect . Then I see civil-rights-leader-turned-Wal-Mart-flack Andrew Young getting the sack (with Jason Zengerle 's apparent approval ) for the following off-message take on why black people shouldn't care if big box stores drive out mom and pop businesses: In the [Los Angeles] Sentinel interview, Young was asked about whether he was concerned Wal-Mart causes smaller, mom-and-pop stores to close. "Well, I think they should; they ran the 'mom and pop' stores out of my neighborhood," the paper quoted Young as saying. "But you see, those are the people who have been overcharging us, selling us stale bread and bad meat and wilted vegetables. And they sold out and moved to Florida. I think they've ripped off our communities enough. First it was Jews, then it was Koreans and now it's Arabs; very few black people own these stores." Except for the fact that,...
  • REASONING MATTERS. ...

    REASONING MATTERS. Glenn Greenwald is incensed at the Washington Post 's blithe dismissal of yesterday's ruling that found Bush 's wiretapping unconstitutional, and criticizes it for lacking in scholarly complexity. And he's right, the editorial is unbearably smug and self-satisfied, as if the issue at hand is subordinate to the procedural perfection of those evaluating it. But if the Washington Post 's case is unconvincing, Publius's demolition of the ruling is much more convincing. "[F]rom a legally technical standpoint," writes Publius , "this opinion is premature, unsupported, and in violation of elementary civil procedure...This is pure naked politics dressed up as law. It is an insult to the legal system. And the Sixth Circuit is going to squash it like a bug." And that may be the real program. As Scott Lemieux writes , "[I]f this was the Supreme Court the argument would be merely normative. But since it's a District Court, the quality of the legal reasoning matters in a...
  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: STORM TROOPER.

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: STORM TROOPER. Addie Stan reviews the new book Through the Eye of the Storm , Cholene Espinoza 's account of her time in a small Mississippi town ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. (Our own Tara McKelvey interviewed Espinoza here .) --The Editors
  • NEW DARFUR RESOLUTION.

    NEW DARFUR RESOLUTION. In late July, Kofi Annan came up with a novel, next-best option for addressing the spiraling violence in Darfur. With no member state willing to commit troops to a peacekeeping force in Darfur, Annan proposed that the United Nations appropriate resources, such as communications and logistical assistance, and material items, like APCs and aircraft, to the African Union, which has 7,000 troops stationed in Darfur. In a letter to the Security Council on August 10, he urged that the Council to consider his recommendations. Eight days later, it seems that at least two member states have heeded his call. A couple of hours ago, I obtained a copy of a new U.S.-U.K. draft resolution on Darfur that explicitly endorses Annan's plan for a hybridization of A.U. and available U.N. resources. As envisioned in the draft resolution, this would serve as a stop-gap measure (commencing October 1) and continue until the African Union force has fully transitioned into a 17,300-strong...
  • WHERE ARE THE...

    WHERE ARE THE UNIONS? One more thing on the health care question: Nathan Newman accuses me of thinking that all the unions, "fair-share" advocates, consumer groups, and those fighting for expansion of the employer-based system are "dumb." What I actually said is that some unions have short-term goals which may conflict with longer-term goals, but that�s beside the point. What I would suggest is that Newman checks out whether all the unions really are standing lockstep behind him lately. Here, for instance, is Andy Stern , head of SEIU, the nation's largest union, admitting that it's time to nail up the coffin of the employer-based care system: The truth is, we are way past incremental change. It is not going to work. As the Institute of Medicine says and I think it applies here, your trying harder will not work; it is changing systems of care. Well, I think the same thing is true about our health care system. It is not just trying harder. It is not just making incremental changes. It...

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