Archive

  • Paulson Supports Large Trade Deficit

    That's what the headlines should have read after Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's speech in New York on Tuesday. While the fact apparently escaped the attention of the reporters covering the testimony, Mr. Paulson effectively endorsed continued large trade deficits when he announced his support for a strong dollar. In the non-voodoo economics world, a strong dollar means a large trade deficit. The logic here is straightforward. A higher dollar makes imports cheaper for people in the United States. That means we buy more imports. It also makes U.S. exports more expensive for people living in other countries. That means that they buy fewer U.S. exports. If we import more and export less, then we get a larger trade deficit � pretty simple stuff. The press has printed a lot of nonsense on this issue, in which people blame the trade deficit on the budget deficit. There can be a connection between the two, but only insofar as the budget deficit is responsible for higher U.S. interest...
  • PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE.

    PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE. Noam Scheiber has some smart remarks on my generation gap post from yesterday. Ed Kilgore also offers the reasonable rejoinder that one major failing of the "new school" tendency in progressive politics is some mistaken notions about the past. I think, though, that the crucial sub rosa divide isn't really about the past or the present, but about the future. Petey commenting on my initial post offered the observation that high levels of polarization have helped the right. I think that's correct. He then leaps, however, to a prescriptive analysis that I think is wrong -- high levels of polarization have helped the right and therefore the left should try to reverse the polarization dynamic . This doesn't follow. The invention of air conditioning has led to a relative economic decline of the Northeast vis-�-vis the Sunbelt, but the Northeast shouldn�t try and rid itself of air conditioners in order to boost economic development. My contention would be that the...
  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: IDEOLOGY, NETROOTS, AND LIEBERMAN-LAMONT.

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: IDEOLOGY, NETROOTS, AND LIEBERMAN-LAMONT. Two new pieces address debates and themes that have either been raised or reinvigorated by the Nutmeg State primary. Scott Winship of Democratic Strategist fame takes on the "netroots are partisan, not ideological" nostrum and says it's bunk; he makes an argument that is likely to be controversial. Meanwhile Ari Melber argues that a Lieberman loss would help to strengthen, not diminish, Democrats' credibility on national security. --The Editors
  • RUSS FEINGOLD SPEAKS,...

    RUSS FEINGOLD SPEAKS, YOU LISTEN? A couple weeks ago, surveying the poor press coverage greeting Pete Stark 's new health care proposal, I realized I should probably stop complaining about such superficial wire stories and use my position at a political magazine to actually, y'know, do something about it. Today comes the first attempt. I spent fifteen minutes chatting with Sen. Russ Feingold this morning on his new health proposal, which would offer a big pot o' money for a small number of states to create universal health programs. Better yet, I recorded the call and got ace editor Alec Oveis to stick it online. You can listen to it here . We'll try to get a transcript of it shortly. If you guys like it, I'll make this into a regular thing. So do let me know if it's informative. We in the blogosphere are always claiming that the press should do a better job allowing smart leaders to explain their plans for the country, but we all too rarely recognize that we can fill the void. If...
  • NICHE-MARKETING A WAR....

    NICHE-MARKETING A WAR. It wasn't so much where Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice turned up on the airwaves last night, but that she landed on these two shows on the same day: The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer (PBS) and The O'Reilly Factor (FOX News Channel). Secretary Rice, it seems, sees two influential groups that need persuading on the U.S. approach (hands-off?) to the current conflict in the Middle East: the small, intellectual "opinion-maker" crowd who watch Jim Lehrer , and the angry, right-wing anti-intellectuals who love Bill O'Reilly . On both programs Rice was asked about the role of Iran in the war between Israel and Hezbollah. On PBS , she gave interviewer Ray Suarez a terse answer, marking the only time she mentioned the name of the Persian state in the course of her 10-minute interview. (For the eggheads, she also bandied about the phrase " status quo ante " some eight times.) But when O'Reilly gave Rice an opportunity to hold forth on Iran, she took that ball and ran with...
  • 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...

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