Archive

  • Credit Card Debt Soars in May

    The initial reports on the Fed's release of consumer credit data for May focused on the slow 2.4 percent annual rate of growth reported for the month. This reporting misses the boat. There are two major components to consumer credit. The non-revolving component is primarily car loans. This component fell at a 2.0 percent annual rate, reflecting weak car sales. The other component is revolving credit. This is primarily credit card debt. This component rose at 9.9 percent annual rate in May. This is a sharp acceleration from earlier this year, when revolving debt was actually declining. It is always possible that a single month's data is simply an aberation and will be reversed next month. But if this proves to be the beginning of a trend, then the story goes like this: home prices have stopped rising and may even be declining in some places. This means that people can no longer sustain their consumption with by withdrawing equity from their homes. Therefore, many people are turning to...
  • SWM ISO BIG...

    SWM ISO BIG IDEAS. Andrei Cherny and Ken Baer 's latest op-ed on the power of ideas makes me want to bang my head against a wall -- which isn't a new idea, but an old one that should probably be implemented more often. Responding to the handful of pundits who are finally tired of the new ideas meme and have pointed out its vapidity, they write that the Democratic Party is "listening to the worried words of pundits and political professionals who counsel Democrats to avoid offering any vision or direction for the country � to instead simply wait for voters to so tire of Republican mismanagement that they will turn to more "competent" Democrats to administer a conservative state." Ah yes, because the nation's chattering class has been so quick to honor the Democratic Party's lack of grand concepts. Head, meet wall. Cherny and Baer go on to retell a version of American history wherein "the bravest conservative thinkers took on the GOP establishment and its most plodding, popular voices...
  • THE POLITICS OF...

    THE POLITICS OF DISLIKE I was going to let the latest Jon Chait column on Lieberman pass, as I think enough pixels have been spilled on this point, but I'm just baffled by his defense of the piece, which seems to take the weakest parts of the original document and exaggerate its flaws. Jon makes a strong argument that the electoral outcomes of Lamont 's primary challenge are, in their way, almost all bad. If Lieberman wins, his worst instincts are strengthened and his distaste for the left (if possible) even more deeply entrenched; if he loses, he'll be a conservative martyr. Worse, the seat now has a slight possibility for a Republican pick-up. All granted. And if Chait were arguing that Lamont and his backers were proving poor tacticians, or under-committed to a Democratic majority, that'd be fine. But he isn't. Chait's central plank is that the challenge to Lieberman lays bare the agenda, and operating procedures, of the Netroots. In his article, he laments that the Netroots "...
  • NO MUSIC FOR...

    NO MUSIC FOR YOU. So you know how if you're listening to the radio you're allowed to record what you're listening to onto a tape? So, seemingly, if you're listening to digital radio, you should be allowed to record what you're listening to onto a digital file. So, at least, that�s what XM and Sirius Radio believe. But Bill Frist and the RIAA feel otherwise and are pushing a bill to ban such devices: The record labels� campaign has urgency, since XM and Sirius already have rolled out devices that allow users to store music broadcast over their networks. According to the radio companies, the technology works like a more advanced method of tape-recording songs off a traditional radio broadcast. Users can store songs they�ve recorded and arrange them on a playlist, but they can�t transfer them onto a CD or upload them onto the Internet. For instance, they can record a block of songs � say, an hour of Coldplay � and later sort through which ones to save and which to trash. Once a listener�...
  • THE NORQUIST FACTOR....

    THE NORQUIST FACTOR. After being wrong about a couple of things, Jon Chait 's post winds up getting to the heart of the problem with the Netroots -- the admiration for their image of what Grover Norquist has done and the desire "to replicate on the left the comintern-like apparatus he has constructed on the right ." As Chait writes: It is true that the Norquist mentality has helped Republicans win elections. But plenty of conservatives wonder whether it has actually helped advance conservatism. Government, after all, has grown under Republican rule, and the fact that it now funnels more of its largesse to GOP-affiliated interests is of small comfort to honest conservatives. You can see this in Kos ' attack on liberal interest groups for attempting to . . . advance the interests of their constituents. As Mark Schmitt points out here, while what Kos is complaining about certainly is bad for the Democratic Party, it's totally vital to the ability of labor, environmental, and other groups...
  • POLITICS OVER POLICY....

    POLITICS OVER POLICY. Like Mike Crowley , I'm pleased to see Hillary Clinton joining Russ Feingold in one of the great nonsensical issues of our time: the fight to connect congressional raises to increases in the minimum wage. On a policy level, this is absurd on its face. If you want to link the minimum wage to something, inflation, the cost of living, increases in productivity, or even CEO salaries all make far more sense. And I'm of the slightly counterintuitive view that congresspeople should be paid far more as is, so I'm not terribly impressed with legislation that would constrain their salaries. But as a political gambit, it's brilliant. It pits the sympathetic worker against the loathed congresscritter, underscores the Republican majority's reprehensible unwillingness to raise the wage above its current 50-year low, and will, by virtue of being a potent political club, make it easier to extract increases and maybe an eventual automatic mechanism in the minimum wage. It's good...
  • JUST POSTED ON...

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: THE "F" WORD. Freedom, that is. Ulrik J�rstad Gade talks to George Lakoff about his new book, Whose Freedom?: The Battle over America�s Most Important Idea . Lakoff sounds off on framing, populism, and what Tomasky got wrong (and right!) with his "common good" argument. --The Editors
  • I GET BY...

    I GET BY WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES. I'm happy to see Sebastian Mallaby giving a big ol' backhand to his colleague Robert Samuelson 's column on why only the engineers can save us from global warming. As Mallaby points out, the engineers ain't gonna do jack if government doesn't regulate and tax the incentives into place. Subsidies for new technologies are fine, but the bottom line is that conservation -- both to extend the life of our hydrocarbons and lower the temperature of our planet -- is going to be the name of the game here, as the market will lag in syncing prices to future damages. Moreover, government can subsidize tech, but it'd really be better if it adjusted the marketplace so private firms funneled some of their cash in that direction. As Mallaby points out, Bush has pledged a $1.2 billion over five years to get hydrogen cars to market. Now consider that the energy firms spend nearly $20 billion every year refining hydrocarbon technology...
  • NEXT UP: HOW...

    NEXT UP: HOW CUSTER WAS KILLED BY VIKINGS. I know he's a slow-moving target, but this from John Podhoretz last Thursday is proof enough that some people occasionally encounter history the way other people encounter a rake in the tall grass -- "Boink! Ouch!": Gay-marriage advocates often liken their struggle to the civil-rights movement. Well, consider the following contrast. In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court nobly ruled that �separate but equal� education was unconstitutional - a view that did the justices enormous credit. But what happened in its wake? Open revolt in the South. Black schoolchildren assaulted. The National Guard mobilized just to ensure kids could enter the school buildings of Little Rock. Riots in Alabama and Mississippi as their universities were forced to open their doors to all. Now recall what happened in the wake of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the 1968 Fair Housing Act. All three were passed into law by both houses of Congress and...
  • A TECHNICAL PSA....

    A TECHNICAL PSA. I know this will seem dreadfully behind the times to the more technically sophisticated readers of this blog, but since most journalists I know are not yet using RSS readers , I'd like to heartily recommend the technology. Not having an RSS feeder to help you manage your blogs in 2006 is almost as bad as listening to 8-tracks in 1986, or not having a CD player in 1996. A simple, low-cost program like NetNewsWire (for Macs) or any of these (for PCs) can give you control over how you experience the Internet. After all, one of the biggest questions people in old media have about the new media is, "How on earth am I supposed to keep up with all of this?" The answer is: You're not supposed to -- your program is. Get yourself an RSS feeder and let it do the work for you. It will change your life. Once you can read 75 blogs and newspapers on one page you will kick yourself for not making the change sooner. (Also, if you are still using IE on a Mac -- unbelievably, I keep...

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