I have always considered the consumer confidence index to be one of the least valuable releases of economic data. Consumer spending is hugely important for the state of the economy, but the index provides very little information about the direction of spending. The index includes two components, a current situation component, which does track current spending reasonably well (and therefore has little predictive value about the future), and an expectations component which is highly volatile and has very little predictive value.
It took 43 days, but the Washington Post did finally correct an April 17th news story that had Mexico's economy growing at a 17.5 percent annual rate in the period since the passage of NAFTA. This is longer than one would hope, and it required much more prodding from my colleagues at CEPR than should have been necessary, but it is still good to see that the paper felt a responsibility to correct such a blatant mistake.
The Times had an article this morning that explained the immigration problem in very simple terms, "this many jobs; only this many visas." As the article reports, there are a huge number of less-skilled jobs waiting to be filled by immigrants, but almost no visas are available for immigrants to come across the border and work at these jobs legally.
To prove this case, the article quotes Stephen P. Gennett, president of the Carolinas chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America (a builders' trade group), "we have a problem here, a people shortage."
I am continually amazed by the apparent need that reporters feel to describe the trade agreements negotiated by the U.S. government as "free trade" agreements. (See the Timesarticle on the Colombian elections for the current target of my wrath.) What possible additional information do reporters and editors believe that they are conveying by including the word "free?"
REVOLT OF THE NEOCONS, CON'T.Danielle Pletka and Michael Rubintake Bush to task in the Los Angeles Times today for -- fancy that! -- not living up to his pro-democracy rhetoric:
LAST WEEK, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced resumption of full U.S. diplomatic relations with Libya, citing Tripoli's renunciation of terrorism and intelligence cooperation. This ends a quarter-century diplomatic freeze. It also marks an effective end to the Bush doctrine.
COINCIDENCE? The gunfire-in-Congress story is obviously still developing but thankfully so far it appears possible that no one (including one aide who was seen being taken out of the Rayburn office building to the hospital) was injured. Subcription-only Roll Callcites a witness reporting that "Capitol Police were told over their radios to look for 'a white male in a black shirt with a handgun.'" In unrelated news, Ezra never came to the office today for some reason.
NEEDED: MORE SPORTS UNION MILITANCY. If you just read Malcolm Gladwell's New Yorker review of the new book The Wages of Wins, about the economic analysis of sports, you'll miss the important American Prospect-y angle. The book clearly indicates that professional sports unions ought to be more militant. It argues that, contrary to what team owners tell you, imposing salary caps has very little impact on competitive balance.
WHAT LEAVING MIGHT LOOK LIKE. Lefty stalwart In These Times, which has become increasingly provocative and readable under its dynamic new leadership, is generating controversy in anti-war circles with Chris Toensing's new piece, "Why Leaving Iraq Won't Be Easy." It's well worth reading, and the kind of clear-eyed assessment of the complex facts on the ground one might more readily expect to find in The New Republic, if TNR had a less complicated relationship to the Iraq War, than in a publication I long thought of as being not so far to the right of Z magazine.
CAN'T TAKE THE POLITICS OUT OF WAR.The New Republic is the kind of magazine that can run a series of ridiculous articles on Darfur and then publish this week's brilliant and devastating critique of the very same articles by David Rieff. It's a subscriber only piece, so I'm looking for a good excerpt and I think I'll go with this one because it has the most general importance: