Archive

  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: MY SUMMER READING JOURNAL.

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: MY SUMMER READING JOURNAL. The president reads Camus and describes his existential journey to writer Julian Sanchez in a series of fascinating diary entries. This is a side of George W. Bush that few have seen before. --The Editors
  • Media Use the Social Security Surplus to Hide the Budget Deficit

    It is common for people to complain that politicians are using the Social Security surplus to hide the true size of the federal budget deficit. In fact, this is not possible. The media decide which budget numbers the public hears on the news and reads in the newspapers. If they believe that the appropriate deficit numbers include the money borrowed from Social Security, then it is a very simple matter to report this number, regardless of which deficit numbers politicians happen to use. Reporters don�t even have to do the simple arithmetic of adding two numbers together. Every official budget document shows the deficit including the money borrowed from Social Security (the �on-budget� deficit) right alongside the more commonly reported unified budget deficit. All the news reports on the new deficit projections from the Congressional Budget Office that I saw avoided any mention of the money borrowed from Social Security. For example, the deficit now projected for 2006 was reported as $...
  • Perverse Incentives in the U.S. Health Care System

    Economists believe that people respond to incentives. Unfortunately, they pay much too little thought to the incentives that the U.S. health care system gives to providers. The NYT has two very good pieces showing the practical effect of the current incentive structure in today's paper. The first reports on the frequency of angioplasties in Elyria, Ohio. Doctors in Elyria use the procedure among Medicare beneficiaries at more than three times the average rate across the country. Why the high rate of angioplasties? They have a number of cardiologists that specialize in the procedure. This means that they are more likely to opt for angioplasties rather than trying drugs or open heart surgery, because they get paid to do angioplasties. The second article reports on a secret deal between Bristol-Meyers Squibb and a generic drug manufacturer to keep a generic version of Plavix (an anticlotting drug) off the market until 2011. This sort of bargain is exactly the sort of corruption that...
  • HEALTH CARE: STILL...

    HEALTH CARE: STILL SCREWED UP. There�s nothing too new in all this, but in case you were seeking further confirmation that health care is now a middle-class problem, a new study by the Commonwealth Institute reports that 48 percent of adults making between $35,000 and $50,000 report major problems paying for health coverage, as do a fifth of those making between $50,000 and $70,000. Coverage, for that matter, isn't the only issue; 40 percent complain of unsafe or unsatisfactory care under the system and 76 percent say it needs either major changes or complete rebuilding. Possibly most interesting is that about half of Americans making up to $70,000 worry that they'll be unable to afford high-quality care in the future. That's the sort of anxiety a savvy politician could make some great gains by tapping into. --Ezra Klein
  • Free-Trade Ain�t What It Used to Be

    USA Today had a great story about President Bush�s visit to a Harley-Davidson factor in York, Pennsylvania to tout the merits of �free-trade.� The reason why the story was so great is that the plant is in fact a testament to the effective use of protectionist policies to sustain a favored industry. Don�t take my word for it, here�s the beginning of a 1983 article in the New York Times describing President Reagan�s decision to impose tariffs on imported motorcycles: �In an unusually strong protectionist action, President Reagan today ordered a tenfold increase in tariffs for imported heavyweight motorcycles. The impact of Mr. Reagan's action, which followed the unanimous recommendation of his trade advisers, is effectively limited to Japanese manufacturers, which dominate every sector of the American motorcycle market. The action was exceptional for protecting a single American company, the Harley-Davidson Motor Company of Milwaukee, the sole surviving American maker of motorcycles ("U...
  • LEE SIEGEL, CALL YOUR OFFICE.

    LEE SIEGEL, CALL YOUR OFFICE. At the nexus of blogofascism and Islamofascism lies Mahmoun Ahmadenijad �s new blog . Really. So far there's only one post up and its length indicates that he hasn't yet quite grasped the format. He does, however, promise that "From now onwards, I will try to make it shorter and simpler." The site even has an online poll question: "do you think that the US and Israeli intention and goal by attacking Lebanon is pulling the trigger for another word war?" Newsweek offers analysis . Early critique: The site seems slow, probably because he seems to be using some kind of Java backend rather than standard blogging software. The design is, however, much more clean and contemporary than what Ayatollah Khameini has to offer . Khameini's efforts to combat rising sectarian violence seem noteworthy: "Discord and disunity is a lethal poison to the Islamic world, and any action causing schism among Muslims and, as a result, serving the interests of the enemies is a...
  • I BLAME THE POPE.

    I BLAME THE POPE. Ramesh Ponnuru ponders the theory that the Republican Party has become less anti-statist because it's become more religious, and then wonders "let�s assume for the sake of argument that Republicans have simultaneously become more religious-conservative and less anti-statist. What�s the causal relationship here?" My hypothesis would be . . . Catholics. As the Democratic Party came to embrace feminism in the 1970s, the GOP started successfully counter-mobilizing a fairly generic religiosity -- or at least a generic Christianity -- and began to secure the allegiance of the more devout sectors of America's Catholic population, formerly a core Democratic constituency. This constitutes a convergence with Continental political dynamics where practicing Catholics are typically on the right. At the same time, the conservative political parties in those countries are much more statist than the American right has traditionally been and, in part as a consequence, the Republicans...
  • UNIONS AND POLITICS....

    UNIONS AND POLITICS. Kelly Candaele , a former Los Angeles AFL-CIO employee, has one of those occasional op-eds counseling that the union movement recede from politics and focus on organizing. A couple thoughts: � Candaele is using Chicago's law forcing Big Box retailers to pay a living wage as her jumping-off point. But that was a local initiative, not an outcome of the national movement's priorities. And while I agree with her that Chicago's law was basically useless for the unions (and possibly counterproductive), there's little doubt that national labor laws need to undergo radical reform if Labor is to enjoy a resurgence. For organizing to succeed, the context in which it occurs may have to change. For that reason, the real test of the soundness of Labor's priorities is whether they force a Democratic Congress -- which would be largely elected by their GOTV operation and campaign donations -- to liberalize the labor laws. If the unions make Pelosi Speaker, Rep. George Miller 's...
  • AMERICA'S NEXT TOP MODEL.

    AMERICA'S NEXT TOP MODEL. The boss, Mountaineer Mike Tomasky , probably thinks that none of his minions read Marie Claire . He's wrong . Yow! I wonder if the latest issue has reached the End Zone Pub in Morgantown yet. --Charles P. Pierce
  • IN DEFENSE OF JERRY COLANGELO.

    IN DEFENSE OF JERRY COLANGELO. The Nation publishes a Dave Zirin article right in my sweet spot -- the intersection of national security policy and professional basketball -- slamming USA Basketball Director Jerry Colangelo for organizing a get-together between the senior men's team and some American soldiers wounded in the Iraq War. Zirin is against this. But he can't quite seem to say why. As a basketball motivational tactic and team-building effort, everyone seems to agree that it was a good idea. The results of this year's FIBA World Championships won't be known for some time yet, but so far Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski seem to have succeeded in building a team-ier team than we've fielded in previous international hoops competitions. Nor is their any sign that the troops in question were anything but thrilled to meet LeBron James , Dwyane Wade and Team USA's other young stars. Clearly, invading Iraq was a gigantic error and the grievous wounds suffered by many of our...

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