Archive

  • Good Piece in the NYT on the Evils of Protectionism (drug patents)

    When the government imposes restrictions that artificially raise prices above the competitive market level, economic theory predicts that producers will engage in anti-social rent-seeking behavior to maximize their rents. Drug patents, which raise drug prices by several hundred percent above the competitive market price (sometimes several thousand percent), lead to all sorts of corruption, just as economic theory predicts. Unfortunately, economists show relatively little interest in this interference with the free market. Fortunately, the NYT shows more interest. It has a good article on doctor run foundations that receive large payments from drug and medical supply companies. These foundations tend to produce research that shows the effectiveness of their donors' products. --Dean Baker
  • What Is $16 Billion to the Federal Governemnt?

    The Times ran an informative article on the Bush administration's new rules requiring states to impose more stringent work requirements on welfare recipients. However, the piece fell short in telling readers the cost of welfare. It reports that welfare is blockgranted at $16 billion annually between 2007 and 2010. It would have been helpful to tell readers that the cost of the program will fall from 0.6 percent of total spending in 2007 to 0.5 percent of spending by 2010. Alternatively, government spending is projected to be approximately $50,000 for every person in the country over the next five years, of this $270 will be spent on welfare. --Dean Baker
  • THE TROUBLE WITH...

    THE TROUBLE WITH CHOICE. The response to Linda Hirshman 's infamous article (now expanded into a book ) was , and continues to be, predictably heated, but also a bit disappointing. (And I'm not just disappointed because the best blog ever is counted among the many "mommy blogs" that have taken understandable umbrage at Hirshman's argument.) Some of the critiques have been straightforwardly wankerific while plenty of others have been sound and compelling. But too few responses have fully and directly engaged one of Hirshman's central points, which is her attack on the left's misguided investment in what is actually a libertarian view about (and veneration of) individual "choice." This, to me, is an extremely important argument, which is why I was so happy to read this really phenomenal review of Hirshman's book today by Meghan O'Rourke . She makes the basic point early on: But�though I almost hate to say it�buried beneath Hirshman's overblown rhetoric is a useful idea, now set out in a...
  • KOOKY? YES. I...

    KOOKY? YES. I just got off the phone with Lieberman 's press secretary, and I can confirm that yes, she is a bit " kooky ." I had called to find out simply what polling company the senator was using, and she nearly jumped down my throat: "Are you working on a story? Is this for a process story?!" She then ranted about how the campaign was focused on the issues of Connecticut voters, all the while growing more agitated. She terrorized me for a few minutes, asking why I had called, until I told her that I was only a lowly intern who knew nothing and oh, would she please let me go� Needless to say, she didn't answer my question. --Ben Weyl
  • ON SIMPLICITY. Scott...

    ON SIMPLICITY. Scott Winship at the new Daily Strategist blog purports to disagree with me and Jon Chait as to whether it's possible to quickly summarize liberal thinking on economic policy. The trouble is that his summary is, well, not all that quick: How about this for a �single overarching theory�: equal opportunity and security. We don�t value progressive taxation except to the extent that it helps us create more opportunity for the disadvantaged. Reducing the deficit is important to the extent that it increases economic growth (promoting opportunity in this generation) or reduces the share of future budgets that go toward interest payments on the debt (promoting opportunity in future generations). Health coverage � including Medicare and Medicaid � reduces insecurity. Education and technology investment promote opportunity. Environmental protection is vital for the opportunity and security of future Americans. I think that's fine. But when you think about it, it just isn't nearly...
  • KEEPING THE BOOT...

    KEEPING THE BOOT ON THE NECK. This Hill piece about the heat Democrats are bringing down on vulnerable House GOP incumbent Mike Fitzpatrick on the subject of Social Security privatization makes for highly encouraging reading. For a while there has been a real worry that Democrats' fierce and devastating victory in the Social Security fight last year was turning out to have been a catastrophic success -- too much of a victory, too soon, for it to be a live issue to campaign on in the fall of 2006. Democrats seemed to have been satisfied with their substantive defeat of actual legislation and weirdly inclined to move on to other issues once that fight had been won. Obviously, though, there's a paper trail of statements and an endless stream of damning associations Democrats can deploy to corner vulnerable Republicans on Social Security this election while drawing stark distinctions between the parties. --Sam Rosenfeld
  • BOOK CLUBS. ...

    BOOK CLUBS. This is rather funny. Excited that the Chamber of Commerce's educational wing has selected Cato scholar Arnold Kling 's healthcare treatise for their "Top 10 Reading Selections," Michael Cannon enthuses that "The foundation�s board is a bipartisan group of influential figures from the business, political, and policy spheres...[which] evidently agreed with Marginal Revolution publisher Tyler Cowen that Crisis of Abundance 'is one of the most important books written on health care.'� Well that's true. But that bipartisan bit is a smidge suspicious. Here are the 10 titles on the list: 1. Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers and Copycats are Hijacking the Global Economy by Moises Naim 2. Three Billion New Capitalists: The Great Shift of Wealth and Power to the East by Clyde Prestowitz 3. The Bottomless Well: The Twilight of Fuel, the Virtue of Waste, and Why We Will Never Run Out of Energy by Peter Huber and Mark Mills 4. In Our Hands: A Plan to Replace the Welfare State by...
  • WAIT A SEC....

    WAIT A SEC. All due respect to Charlie Pierce , but I've never mentioned Jerome 's astrology stuff, have no idea what this is about, and would appreciate it if someone could link me to a synopsis. I think he means Garance and Matt . By the way, TAPPED astrology fun fact: Did you know that Sam Rosenfeld, Matt Yglesias , and I are all Tauruses? --Ezra Klein
  • ASTROLOGY, A POLITICAL LIABILITY?

    ASTROLOGY, A POLITICAL LIABILITY? All due respect to Garance and Ezra , but the proof that this whole Kos- TNR rockfight has been conducted exclusively with the moon in the House Of Groucho is probably the latest iteration in which poor Jerome Armstrong , who should just go to the track the next time he wants to make easy money, is belabored with the fact that he has an interest in astrology. I disagree with the notion that this necessarily is a political problem, and anyone who asserts that it is must somehow answer the argument that a similar interest didn't seem to derail the political careers of these fine folks. --Charles P. Pierce
  • DAVID BROOKS: MAKING...

    DAVID BROOKS: MAKING THINGS UP. David Brooks , joining the "kosola" fake scandal brigade over the weekend wrote: When Sherrod Brown, the Democratic Senate candidate in Ohio, hired Armstrong last year to help with his campaign, this was also a sign of respect. The Kingpin [i.e., Kos] had instructed his Kossack cultists to support Brown's Democratic primary rival, Paul Hackett. But the Kingpin switched sides and backed Brown over his former anointee. As has been the case lamentably often during this escapade, the person making the allegations here isn't being totally clear on what he's alleging. The "suspicious" pattern of activity, however, is pretty clear. First Kos is backing Paul Hackett . Then Sherrod Brown hires Jerome Armstrong . Then Kos decides to back Brown instead. Suspicious. Only, as Robert Wright points out , this gets the order of events totally wrong. Look at Jim Geraghty 's timeline and you'll see that Brown hired Armstrong in April 2005 . Then, on October 4, 2005,...

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