Archive

  • Economic Malpractice at the Financial Times

    In case you thought that the United States had a monopoly on bad economic reporting, the Financial Times is out to prove you wrong. In a column this morning, Lex sought to show that an increase in the value of the Renminbi will not necessarily lead to a decline in the U.S. trade deficit with China. The evidence is a chart showing that the large rise in the euro against the dollar since 2001 has actually been associated with an increase in the U.S. trade deficit with Europe. What�s wrong with this story? Simple, the large rise in the euro since 2001 followed a large decline prior to 2001. The euro was born in 1999 at a value of approximately 1.17 dollars to the euro. Its current value is just over 1.25 dollars to the euro. Since inflation in the euro zone has averaged approximately 1.0 percentage point less annually then in the U.S., the real value of the euro against the dollar today is approximately the same as it was in 1999. Trade does not adjust immediately to changes in currency...
  • U.S. Health Care and Long-Term Deficit Scare Stories

    My earlier comments about the how projections of rising health care costs are driving the horror stories about the long-term deficits prompted a number of comments. I will make a few quick points by way of response. First, my claims about the poor quality and outrageous cost of the U.S. health care are based on OECD data on life expectancy and cost . While some people have noted that this data is not strictly comparable across countries, it is the best data available (I�m open to suggestions, if someone has another source.) I will also point out that the deterioration can be seen by simply examining the change through time. In the early seventies, the U.S. did not have the most expensive health care system, and it had near the longest life expectancy in these data. It now has by far the most expensive system and ranks at the bottom among rich countries in terms of life expectancy. There can be little doubt that the quality of the U.S. health care system has deteriorated hugely over...
  • Job Numbers for Nerds (and Good Reporters)

    As has been widely reported, the July job numbers came in somewhat weaker than expected, with job growth of just 113,000. This is the fourth consecutive month in which job growth has hovered near 100,000. However, the actual picture may be somewhat worse than the official data show. The reason is that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) may be imputing too many jobs into the survey for new firms that are not included in their sample.
  • Phase II.

    Phase II. As General Peter Pace and General John Abizaid told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday that Iraq was on the verge of civil war, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Pat Roberts was complaining to The New York Times that the White House was obstructing the declassification of two new sections of his committee�s long awaited Phase II inquiry into the administration�s use of pre-war intelligence. �I have been disappointed by this administration�s unwillingness to declassify material contained in these reports, material which I believe better informs the public, but that does not � I repeat, does not � jeopardize intelligence operations, sources and methods,� Roberts told The Times . The first phase of the Intelligence Committee�s findings, which examined the intelligence community�s mistakes, had been delivered back in the summer of 2004. Now, more than two years after the release of Phase I, as observers from across the political spectrum...
  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: THE ANTI-REGULATOR.

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: THE ANTI-REGULATOR. This week, the president announced his nomination of the Mercatus Institute's Susan Dudley as federal regulatory czar. In an administration packed with fox-guarding-henhouse scenarios, this is one the most extreme -- and the president just may install her, John Bolton -style, through a recess appointment.* Genevieve Smith brings us the gory details . * Not, in fact, likely to be this month. --The Editors
  • SOCIALLY LIBERAL, FISCALLY...

    SOCIALLY LIBERAL, FISCALLY CONSERVATIVE. I find Jonah 's derision of the socially liberal, fiscally conservative viewpoint baffling. Not because the perspective isn't generally confused -- it is, for reasons I'll go into in a moment -- but his reasoning is so self-evidently addled. So as far as I can tell, he's relying on an old Derbyshire column explaining that socially liberal policies necessitate fiscal liberalism because, for instance, liberalizing views towards homosexuality leads to AIDS, which leads to money spent on treatment. Which makes sense. If only there were different words, arranged in a different order, which actually made sense. Both the beginning and the worst of the AIDS epidemic, as we well know, came during a period when views towards homosexuality were many, many more times regressive than they are now. The epidemic's reversal was accompanied by changes in attitude, and during those years, homosexual behavior was able to transform itself from a repressed, reviled...
  • THE CASE FOR RECEIPTS.

    THE CASE FOR RECEIPTS. It's obvious now that Mountaineer Mike has never been a daily sportswriter, particularly one sentenced to six weeks at spring training in a place like Winter Haven, the least-charming place in Florida, the Designer Mudflap Capital Of The Known Universe, the heartbeat of that part of the Sunshine State we like to call Baja Mississippi. Anyway, let me make it quite clear -- you save receipts for EVERYTHING. Sportswriter pals of mine have been known to submit -- and be reimbursed for -- ATM fees. If you don't, then They -- the big They, the beancounting bastards who run our lives -- will save the company money, and no self-respecting journalist ought to be in the business of saving the company money. This fall, I am contracted to do a major piece for TAP 's print manifestation. If I don't send in a receipt every time I think about spending money, then you can fluff up my hair and call me Lindsey Graham . You have been warned. --Charles P. Pierce
  • CRYING FOR JOE.

    CRYING FOR JOE. It's important to take a little history into a weekend in which I can guaran-damn-tee you the plight of poor Weepin' Joe Lieberman is going to render the Sabbath panel shows into the tear-jerking narrative spawn of Mildred Pierce and Judas Iscariot . Oh, the sights we're going to see. Oh, the things we're going to hear. (There also likely will be some incredibly dumb things about Mel Gibson , and about Oliver Stone 's new movie, which my moles tell me is brilliant, but which is going to get waved around like a cudgel by people who, not very long ago, thought Stone was Leni Riefenstahl on psilocybin. Ignore them and see it anyway.) Anyway, one of the things you will hear, probably from Republicans, unless somebody's managed to use the jaws of life to get Al From away from a hospitality buffet table, is that poor Weepin' Joe is only six years removed from being the Democratic nominee for vice president, and what possibly (sniff, sniff) can have happened to that party...
  • UNEXPECTING THE EXPECTED.

    UNEXPECTING THE EXPECTED. "Two top U.S. generals said yesterday that the sectarian violence in Iraq is much worse than they had ever anticipated and could lead to civil war," reports The Washington Post . It's good to see some reality creeping in. At the same time, it's worth noting that this outcome was fairly widely predicted by observers outside of the U.S. government. John Judis warned Prospect readers in April 2003 that "even if the United States quickly ousts Saddam Hussein, the Mideast might more closely resemble the gates of hell than the new dawn." He was drawing on some pretty basic facts: The country was knitted together by the British after World War I out of three Turkish-controlled provinces and is composed of three feuding religious-ethnic groups, the Sunnis, the Shia and the Kurds. Even though the Sunnis constitute only about a third of the population, the British, following the practice of the Turks, put this group in charge. Under Hussein they have remained so, but...
  • COMPLETELY OFF-MESSAGE FRIDAY AFTERNOON POST.

    COMPLETELY OFF-MESSAGE FRIDAY AFTERNOON POST. I noticed a couple weeks ago that Kevin Drum had a post laying out his wise strategy for avoiding sales clerks. So if he can do that one, I can unload with this. What bugs me is receipts. In this town, sales clerks everywhere are ceaselessly forcing sales receipts into your hand. What the hell is this about? I go into a CVS (a horrifying experience under any circumstance). I get a couple things. It comes to $4.38. Do most people really want a receipt for $4.38? Who still goes home and enters $4.38 into a checkbook? I simply cannot believe that 51 percent of consumers really want their receipts for small purchases like this. It�s just one more piece of useless paper to throw away, to have to� do something with. And when I work up the courage (such is their wrath) to tell them, no, I do not want the receipt, they look at me as if I�ve refused communion. Receipts for expensive purchases, sure. Those, I keep in a safe place. But for the drug...

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