Archive

  • Is the Housing Bubble Bursting?

    The latest numbers certainly show a slowing. Existing home sales are down by 10 percent from their peaks last year. Prices have stabilized on a year over year basis (down slightly after adjusting for inflation), and inventories are building. It is worth noting in the latest report that the inventory of unsold condos stood at 8 months of sales in the June report. Also, it is important remember that the existing homes data refers to sales closed in June. Since it typically takes 6-8 weeks to close a contract, the June sales are most showing information about contracts signed in April and May. --Dean Baker
  • The WTO is Not Free Trade

    It would be nice if reporters were forced to read what they write before it appears in the paper. What do they mean when they say "free trade?" What makes increasing patent and copyright protection (an essential part of recent U.S. trade agreements) free trade? These are government granted monopolies. Isn't that obvious? Yes, they serve a purpose in providing incentives for innovation and creative work, but ALL forms of protection serve a purpose, that doesn't mean that they are not protectionism. Also, it really is infuriating that reporters cannot recognize the protectionism that sustains relatively high salaries for professionals and reporters. If we had free trade for doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc. we would have standardized licensing requirements so that smart students anywhere in the world would have the same opportunity to train and get a job in these professions in the United States as a kid born in New York. Any economics reporter who thinks we have this situation now...
  • THE MYSTERY CANDIDATE....

    THE MYSTERY CANDIDATE. The blogosphere has been consumed today with the unnamed GOP senatorial candidate who lit into George W. Bush at a reporter's breakfast. The whole situation was a bit weird -- the cloaked complainer was frustrated at the GOP's weakness and Bush's unpopularity, so it's not clear why he didn't rip off the mask and try to carve out some public independence. In any case, ABC News confirms that the man behind the mask is Maryland's Michael Steele. I wonder how the rest of the GOP feels about him publicly blasting the party to reporters -- feeding the Bush-is-unpopular and GOP-is-doomed narratives -- while hiding behind assured anonymity. --Ezra Klein
  • A TALE OF...

    A TALE OF TWO PLANS. The blogosphere has endless amounts of commentary on Hillary Clinton and the DLC's American Dream Initiative, a laudable-if-modest set of policy proposals to help the middle class, subsidize the poor, and offer this undefined thing called opportunity. None of the plans are particularly inspirational, and the health care section is packed with the usual pabulum about electronic medicine, small business buying pools, and giving kids insurance. All the easy stuff, in other words. And, according to Google News , these shocking proposals garnered over 220 news articles. Elsewhere, on Capitol Hill, Pete Stark and Jan Schakowsky presented the AmeriCare Health Act, a fully realized piece of legislation that would create a universal insurance program using a slightly revamped Medicare template. The plan would have a deductible of $350 ($500 for a family), a 20 percent copay, and an out-of-pocket limit of $2,500 for individuals and $4,000 for families. The benefits are full...
  • MIDDLE MANAGEMENT. Regarding...

    MIDDLE MANAGEMENT. Regarding Matt 's and Ezra 's contentions that Democratic initiatives to strengthen and build the middle class by making it easier and less expensive to attend college are less important than focusing on high-school drop-outs, I'd just like to note that Hillary Clinton is probably taking this approach because Democratic presidential candidates have in the past two elections lost college-educated and college drop-out voters as a group, even while they consistently won high-school drop-outs. So between trying to win voters who have turned away from a Democratic Party they perceive as caring only about the problems of ethnic and racial minorities and the unionized, and actually doing something for poor minority voters, it would seem that the ability to do the latter is entirely dependent on the ability to do the former. Democrats elected to national office can do very little about the high high-school drop-out rate, which is significantly a function of the high black...
  • TONY SNOW, WHAT WOULD THEY DO WITHOUT YOU.

    TONY SNOW, WHAT WOULD THEY DO WITHOUT YOU. I know he has a good reputation among the Beltway Cool Kids -- how good is it? Check this out -- so the question naturally arises as to when it was that Tony Snow took on the role of Mr. Stupid. First, there was the nasty shot at Helen Thomas . Then, he got up and told the world that the president believed that stem-cell research was "murder," which he had to walk back yesterday, probably because, in the internal White House polling, the answer "C: No, because this administration is as dumb as a box of rocks" scored in the mid-90s. Then, there was this little tidbit from today's gaggle: Well, I think -- I don't want to characterize satisfied or dissatisfied. It is clear that there is -- that there is work to do to secure Baghdad. And General Casey has made no secret of that, and other spokesmen in Baghdad have made no secret of that. So now we're working with the government to say, okay, what can we do. What can we do to go ahead and get into...
  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: RAMALLAH STIRS.

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: RAMALLAH STIRS. Writing from the city that houses the Palestinian government, Jo-Ann Mort reminds us of the conflict that remains the core issue in the region, and documents glimmers of potential forward movement: Prior to Meshal's meddling, Palestinian factions had been forging a partnership -- one that might even produce a unity government -- orchestrated as a result of a document negotiated and finalized at the end of June by prominent Palestinian prisoners held in Israel�s Hadarim jail. That document marks the first time that all the Palestinian factions have come together to sign a statement of principles. The key figure in the making of the prisoners� document is Marwan Barghouti, considered the leading figure in the generation known as �Young Fatah� that came of age during the First Intifada (1987-1993). Barghouti is often mentioned as a possible successor to Mazen in the event that the Israelis free him. One of Barghouti�s top allies is Qadora Fares...
  • THE GIULIANI MIRAGE.

    THE GIULIANI MIRAGE. If you're interested in a little pure political analysis, I really recommend Kate O'Beirne 's National Review article on exactly how dim Rudy Giuliani 's odds of winning the GOP presidential nomination are. If you compare the views of New York City residents, where Bush got a pathetic 24.7 percent of the vote in relatively conservative Queens, with the views of Republican presidential primary voters, it's just inconceivable that anyone could win a majority in NYC and also be a viable member of a national Republican ticket. As O'Beirne points out, you win in New York -- even as a Republican -- by, among other things, taking stands on abortion, gay rights, and gun control that would put you in the leftward half of the Democratic Party. --Matthew Yglesias
  • AND NO, I'M NOT WEARING A TINFOIL HAT.

    AND NO, I'M NOT WEARING A TINFOIL HAT. In the course of an extremely snarky review of the latest books from David Sirota and George Lakoff in this past Sunday's New York Times book section, there was this remarkable bit of analysis from one Tobin Harshaw , who is identified as "an editor with the Ope-Ed page of the Times." And, yes, it would be just as snarky of me to point out that accusing Sirota of "wafer-thin allusions to popular culture" is not a charge that should be idly thrown about by someone whose day-job may well entail the futile task of saving David Brooks from himself. Anyway, writing of Lakoff, who apparently mistrusts the good faith of modern conservatives, Harshaw writes: But does anybody not wearing a tinfoil hat believe that Republicans really want to take the vote away from women, blacks, and non-landowners? Or that President Bush's poorly managed Medicare prescription-drug expansion was a clever ruse to destroy the program? Well, yes, as a matter of fact, taking...
  • WHY COLLEGE?

    WHY COLLEGE? To follow up on Matt 's points below, it's worth noticing that the obsessive focus on college education bespeaks a certain cowardice and calculation in Democratic circles. College is a cost that primarily affects the middle class and the well-to-do but, particularly in the private context, is hefty enough that it can be burdensome for both. Talk of making it more affordable, while ostensibly aimed at subsidizing the poor, is really a poll-tested way to speak to the politically potent middle- and upper-income quintiles -- it's a way for the Democratic Party to speak up the income ladder, where the votes are. The whole thing is a basically coded appeal, framed in terms of economic uplift so all can feel progressive while supporting something for themselves. If we spent one tenth the energy working on high school graduation rates, we'd have both a more powerful impact on the truly disadvantaged and a more significant impact on college attendance. The problem is, the middle...

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