Archive

  • I DON'T NOT...

    I DON'T NOT WANT MY 401(K). The Los Angeles Times has an interesting article on the move towards automatic enrollment in 401(k)s, also known as opt-out 401(k)s. The basic concept is simple: People are lazy. You, probably, are lazy. If forced to request, fill out, and turn in the forms that are necessary in order to set a retirement nest egg, you'll probably instead just go watch somebody get hit in the crotch with a baseball on YouTube. Similarly, if you're automatically entered into the 401(k), rather than go through the hassle of removing yourself from a sensible, dutiful savings shelter, you'll just adapt. While saving. And watching folks get hit in the crotch on YouTube. It'll be much better all around. And so corporations are beginning to do exactly that, and the results, at times, are extraordinary, with participation leaping from 37 percent to 86 percent. Given America's negative savings rate, there are few more painless and effective ways to reverse a really worrying trend. --...
  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: CONTRA IRAN.

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: CONTRA IRAN. Last month Laura Rozen talked to Mark Perry about Hezbollah and the unfolding crisis in Lebanon. Today, she talks with another Hezbollah expert, Magnus Ranstorp , who offers a very different perspective. --The Editors
  • YEAH, IMAGINE THAT.

    YEAH, IMAGINE THAT. Last Sunday, chatting up Wolf Blitzer on CNN, Senator Mitch McConnell imagineered himself up the following scenario: "Imagine the United States, if you had a couple of terrorist organizations in Mexico or Canada, that came across our borders, captured two of our soldiers, and then started launching rockets against our civilian population. We'd go after them, too." Now, without discussing the merits of hypothetically carpet-bombing Ottawa, it seems incumbent upon us to recall that there was a terrorist organization that did in fact come "across our borders," launching jetliners at our civilian populations, and that, today, the people who helped enable that act are on the comeback in Afghanistan, that the leader of that group remains uncaught, unpunished, and un-smoked-out, and that his second-in-command remains free to release videotapes, apparently recorded in whatever the Hindu Kush has for an ESPN Zone. Unkind souls -- and, certainly not me -- might point this...
  • RUBIN REPENTS? ...

    RUBIN REPENTS? I just noticed it, so I guess I can hardly wonder why it attracted so little attention, but I'm sort of stunned that Nation national affairs correspondent and leading fair-trader William Greider 's tentative rapprochement with establishment economics guru and former Clinton Treasury secretary Bob Rubin attracted so little notice. Greider and Rubin sat down last month for a long chat on the state of the economy, the problems of trade, and the dangers of inequality. Rubin, for the first time, spoke publicly about his concerns over the state of the economy, gave play to fears that neo-liberal economic policies weren't healing the distributional divide, and acknowledged that we lacked an effective strategy for dealing with the global wage convergence (where the median wages of rich and poor countries swing towards the middle). I'm having a bit of trouble articulating why, but this is important, momentous stuff. When Rubin and others started The Hamilton Project, many of us...
  • REVISITING IRAN-CONTRA.

    REVISITING IRAN-CONTRA. The more I look back on it, the way that the crimes of the Iran-Contra affair came to such an uncertain conclusion, the more it strikes me as a lost opportunity, and not just because so many of the principals are back to screwing up the nation now, 20 years later, although that's a pretty good reason in and of itself. What Iran-Contra resembles is nothing less than an embryonic exercise in the notion, now popular in the lunchroom at the Department of Justice, that the Executive Powers section of the Constitution resembles more closely than anything the operating principles of the Corleone family. Of course, back then, the president -- good ol' infinitely impeachable Dutch Reagan -- chose not to faithfully execute only a few laws, and not 800 of them, but the theory that the president pretty much can do what he pleases in foreign affairs obtains, in both cases, a fundamentally un-American heresy that should have been crushed into the dust along with the public...
  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: THE CENTER HOLDS.

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: THE CENTER HOLDS. Mike considers the argument that a defeat next week for Joe Lieberman will signal the death of moderation in the Democratic Party. He doesn't buy it. --The Editors
  • THE NEED TO COPE.

    THE NEED TO COPE. In this post , Martin Peretz notes that having Hezbollah de-militarize by being absorbed into the Lebanese Army would be unsatisfactory from an Israeli point of view. He also says that "it would even be terrible if the Lebanese army didn't absorb but simply occupied the southern part of the country." And here , he says he doesn't like the idea of a UN force either. This, however, leaves only the possibility of Israel re-occupying southern Lebanon, which didn't work out well at all, or else a return to the status quo ante . The hard truth is that there simply isn't an appealing solution to Israel's Hezbollah problem, which has its roots in public opinion dynamics among Lebanese Shiites that military force can't improve and that, realistically, can only change fairly gradually over time. The good news from the Israeli point of view is that the pre-war status quo , while certainly sub-optimal, wasn't so terrible either. The low-intensity border conflict that had been...
  • GIVE 'EM UP....

    GIVE 'EM UP. Now this is comforting. A New York Appeals Court has ruled that a federal prosecutor can inspect the phone records of the New York Times reporters who revealed the government's plans to take action against two Islamic charities. The charities were tipped off when the reporters called to get their reactions to a raid that hadn't happened yet. The court ruled that the government's need to know the tipster outweighed the paper's desire to protect its sources. Weirdly, though, the court simply demanded the telephone records, not the cooperation of the journalists. As Robert Sack , the sole dissenting judge wrote: �Reporters might find themselves, as a matter of practical necessity, contacting sources the way I understand drug dealers to reach theirs � by use of clandestine cellphones and meeting in darkened doorways. Ordinary use of the telephone could become a threat to journalist and source alike. It is difficult to see in whose best interests such a regime would operate.�...
  • The Slow Motion Train Wreck

    This is the first posting as a TAP blog, so I thought I would mark the occasion with a comment on the housing bubble. We have enough data at this point (lower sales, rising inventories, falling median prices) that I feel confident in saying that the crash has begun. We don't yet know the speed of the decline or the full repercussions in terms of the financial havoc or the extent of the economic downturn. Of course, the housing crash, like the stock crash, was entirely predictable. Housing prices had never risen like this in the past and NO ONE has identified anything that made the period after 1996 different from the period prior to 1996. The press can be given a bit of a pass on this one ?- as with the stock bubble, most of the blame lies with my profession. In both cases, economists were more worried about the possibility that we might have to raise Social Security taxes in 50 years or tariffs on imported shirts, than trillions of dollars of paper wealth disappearing with the...
  • BEAT THE PRESS.

    BEAT THE PRESS. We're very excited to announce that TAP Online will now be hosting Beat the Press , Dean Baker 's blog on economics and reporting. Many Tapped readers already know about Dean; he's an economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research . He was a Social Security "crisis" debunker before Social Security crisis debunking was cool, and has recently released the must-read (and free!) e-book The Conservative Nanny State . (His most recent TAP contribution was this piece heralding the benefits of an aging population.) We've been a fan of Beat the Press since it started up a few months ago, and we encourage everybody to check in on it regularly. Set your bookmarks . --The Editors

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