Archive

  • Rich Countries Provide $300 Billion Annually in Subsidies to the Pharmaceutical Industry

    You won't see this headline in the newspapers. You should ask why. Newspapers have repeatedly reported on the hundreds of billions of dollars that the rich countries give to the agricultural industry. (See the Financial Times for the latest example.) While the wording of the headlines, and often the articles themselves, would lead readers to believe that this money is being paid directly from rich country governments to farmers, the vast majority of this money takes the form of higher prices that result from trade barriers of various types. To those who might say that it doesn't matter whether the money comes from government coffers or through higher prices to consumers, I will point out that this is not how the media generally treat the issue. The media have never run a story about the hundreds of billions of dollars in government subsidies to the pharmaceutical industry. These subsidies take the form of patent protection, government granted monopolies that raise the price of patent...
  • TEENAGERS? With...

    TEENAGERS? With the minimum wage returning to the forefront of the political agenda, time's ripe to knock down the oft-deployed stereotype that it just affects a bunch of teenagers. Putting aside the general incoherence of that perspective (uh, why should teenagers be paid poorly?), it's simply untrue. The best work (PDF) on this subject comes from Heather Boushey at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. She analyzed the Survey of Income and Program Participation and found: � The overwhelming number of minimum wage workers are adults. Fewer than one in five are under 20, and more than half are between 20 and 54. Let's repeat: over 50 percent are between 20 years old and 54 years old. 87 percent are over 20. � The average minimum wage worker brings home 68 percent of their household's income. Many of them are supporting a family on nothing but the minimum wage, which is to say $10,500 a year -- well below the federal poverty line. � The minimum wage can be sticky. For more than...
  • FUN WITH INFLATION....

    FUN WITH INFLATION. Man, monetary policy is the most boring subject ever. Nevertheless, it's utterly, crucially important to people's lives. Ergo, it's worth pointing out that Robert Samuelson 's column on why we must fear inflation is bunk. As he notes, the trouble with inflation is "that inflationary psychology, once embedded in price- and wage-setting practices, is stubborn and destructive." But the thing about the current rise in inflation is that wages haven't been rising above trend productivity growth. Quite the reverse -- productivity has risen much faster than wages over the current economic cycle. Ergo, we're not yet at the point where one need be concerned about a wage-price spiral. That, at least, is the argument the anti-anti-inflation lobby is making. Yet Samuelson doesn't acknowledge the point at all or try in any way to debunk it. --Matthew Yglesias
  • HOLY JOE'S BLASPHEMY....

    HOLY JOE'S BLASPHEMY. My colleague Harold Meyerson has a nice column today dissecting a particularly astonishing comment by Joe Lieberman . The Holy Nutmegger told David Broder that this election is really a referendum on tolerance. Is the Democratic Party big enough to support pro-war views? If not, then they will die, as have all parties that demanded some sort of basic ideological agreement. Harold cries that "I thought that elections were held to enable voters to choose between candidates espousing different points of view on the most important issues. Lieberman seems to believe that elections exist to enable voters not to choose -- indeed, to 'accept diversity of opinion.' And that if voters have the temerity to go ahead and choose anyway, they have crossed the line between party and sect in their zeal 'to have everybody toe the line. '" Anyone else think Lieberman's breath must smell a lot like a foot these days? In any case, Joe is actually assuming a time-honored Republican...
  • CREDIT. Hillary...

    CREDIT. Hillary Clinton hasn't let her routine spats with the blogosphere stand in the way of good policy: She's come out as cosponsor of a strong net neutrality bill. This, by the way, is evidence of why nothing she does to the blogs or the blogs do to her is particularly dangerous over the long haul. If Clinton wins the primary, the netroots will still unite around her because, of the two candidates, she's the one most likely to govern in a way they can stomach. And she'll welcome them into the fold, because they bring cash and energy. There'll be some grumbling, sure. And when the rapprochement begins grinding forward and the internecine battles wind down, you'll see a bunch of "Why I Support Hillary" posts, most of which will prominently feature this bill. Bandwidth is thicker than water, after all. --Ezra Klein
  • AT LAST, SOME...

    AT LAST, SOME SENSE. So House Republicans have opted to nix any real chance of passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill this year in favor of holding purely political hearings on border security in select regions this summer. That makes some sense. The way the immigration fight (largely among Republicans) has unfolded this year -- particularly the President's bizarre insistence on publicly pushing a policy that's very unpopular within his party without expending any real effort to twist arms -- has been genuinely baffling to behold. Wedge politics and targeted demagoguery in an election season is a whole lot easier to understand. -- Sam Rosenfeld
  • BIG IDEAS. ...

    BIG IDEAS. It's sadly locked behind The New York Times cursed subscription wall, but Maureen Dowd has penned one of the best op-ed columns I've read in months. The context is yesterday's launch luncheon for Democracy , where Andrei Cherny , Ken Baer , Bill Kristol , Francis Fukuyama , and Mike Tomasky batted around the worth of "Big Ideas." Cherny recalled a conversation with a conservative pundit who asked, "Who's on your tie?" Apparently, the Reaganites signaled their seriousness by using Edmund Burke and Adam Smith as neckwear. This struck me as stupid: John Kenneth Galbraith may be a massive influence for me, but there's not a doubt in my mind that he would consider anyone wearing his face on their chest a doofus. The intellectuals I revere were too iconoclastic and skeptical for that sort of hero worship. But I'm in the minority: The aesthetics of seriousness are in vogue now, and it's only a matter of time before George Lakoff becomes a fashion statement. It's odd, though. The...
  • WHEN PRINCIPLE MATTERS....

    WHEN PRINCIPLE MATTERS. See, man, you try to insert a little nuance into your argument and the young punks jump all over you . But here's the rub -- on issues that are going to be before Congress one way or another, principles don't really matter. Does Joe Lieberman really think the Employee Free Choice Act is important, or is he just pandering to a key liberal interest-group? I don't care. What matters in this instance is that he'll vote for it. It seems that he will, and that's all to the good. But not every issue has that dynamic. An unprincipled foe of "indecent" pop culture mouths the ritual denunciations when the issue is thrust onto the public agenda. This is unfortunate. The real villains, however, are the people who insist on thrusting the issue into the public agenda in the first place. There are many reasons one might become an agenda-thrusting indecency foe, but principled opposition to indecency is certainly a frequent cause. This gives us, I think, particular reason to...
  • THE MAGAZINE READER....

    THE MAGAZINE READER. Is the age of small magazines once again upon us? And has Washington become America's new intellectual center? Washington certainly is looking like the new Boston this week, with the launch of The Democratic Strategist , an online journal, and the aforementioned journal Democracy . Indeed, the city looks, in particular, to be entering an era of intellectual ferment on the left (and center-left) the likes of which it has not seen in some time. Small political magazines used to spring from the minds of New Yorkers and residents of the other big, liberal metropoles, and while today such cities produce magazines like n+1 and The Believer , it's been some time since they produced any new innovative political journals. Meanwhile, The Prospect , born in Boston, has become ensconsed in the District, and the much-larger Boston-bred Atlantic magazine has turned D.C. into its new, congenial home. Like The Atlantic , The New Republic is under new leadership. Another newcomer...
  • PRINCIPLES. I generally...

    PRINCIPLES. I generally agree with Matt 's article today, particularly his conclusion that principles are "only good if your principles are the right ones." But he seems to be contradicting himself here: Lieberman at least plausibly really does think the role of a United States senator ought to be complaining about "Friends"� time slot. If so, that�s all to the worse. Politicians who pander to misguided public concerns are problematic; politicians who genuinely share those misguided concerns and help to feed and create them are worse. I don't get it. It seems to me that the whole point of Matt's article is that it doesn't matter how one arrives at a public policy position, whether it's political pandering or genuine principle. What matters is whether the position they adopt is right. If that's the case, then why does Matt think it worse that Joe Lieberman 's schoolmarmish instincts are genuine rather than calculated? Parenthetically, I think Matt would agree with me that his point...

Pages