Archive

  • MORE ON HOUSING...

    MORE ON HOUSING FIRST. On Friday, I talked a bit about the Bush administration's Housing First program, a legitimately worthwhile policy initiative where the toughest homeless cases are given permanent, private housing without any expectation of behavioral modification. These are the toughest, most stubborn cases, the ones who've been in treatment six or more times, yet continue to live on the streets, using heavily and racking up enormous health and crime costs. The question for policymakers is always whether they can bear offering something for nothing, opportunity without responsibility, even if it'll be cheaper and safer for the community. Today, The New York Times reports on Seattle's interpretation of the program, and it's worth the read. This is bleak stuff, but it's better and cheaper than the alternative. What a shame, then, to hear that the local bloviating talk show hosts are calling it "Bunks for drunks -- [a] living monument to failed social policy, [that's] aiding and...
  • EVERYONE HATES CHARITY....

    EVERYONE HATES CHARITY. Let me welcome Jon Chait to the charity-bashing bandwagon . As he observed in a column over the weekend, Warren Buffet 's giant charitable contribution "matters as much as an annual increase or decrease of 1/10 of 1% of the federal budget," which gives rise to the question: "How much would it cost to influence the political system to move 1/10 of 1% of the budget out of, say, wasteful subsidies and into the sorts of programs the Gates Foundation supports? I'm not sure, but it's way less than $31 billion." Quite so. Donating to charities is a great way to support the arts and pretty much the only way to support religious groups you believe in, but as a method of remedying social problems, it leaves an enormous amount to be desired. Failure to recognize this is a huge problem. Even leaving Bill Gates and Buffet to one side, foundations with liberalish sentiments are actually significantly wealthier than the rightwing foundations created to counter them. The...
  • JUST POSTED ON...

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: EVERYTHING'S RELATIVE. Is Hillary electable? Compared to what? Matt takes on Carville and Penn 's lame case for Clinton. --The Editors
  • WHOSE PARTY? ...

    WHOSE PARTY? Big doings in Joe Lieberman 's camp this weekend, as Lieberman began collecting signatures for an independent run that would allow him to remain on the ballot even if Ned Lamont wins the Democratic primary. This puts the Democratic Party in a rather awkward position -- Chuck Schumer has hinted that the DSCC will continue supporting Lieberman even if he's an independent. "[Y]ou can run as an independent Democrat," said Schumer, "who pledges to vote for Harry Reid as Majority Leader." There are two issues here, and much of the coverage has conflated them. There's nothing wrong with Lieberman trying the independent route. Primaries are about nothing more, and nothing less, than a party's endorsement and ballot line. If Lieberman thinks the primary will prove unrepresentative of Connecticut's voters as a whole, he has every right to remain in the race and seek the favor of independents and, yes, Republicans. Senators are supposed to represent states, not bases. More...
  • THE ITALIAN JOB....

    THE ITALIAN JOB. It always seemed likely that the Bush administration's practice of kidnapping people off the streets of Europe in order to have them shipped abroad for torture was carried out with at least the tacit consent of some of the relevant governments. But in democracies, governments change. And with Italy now under a center-left government, the investigation into the fate of Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr is moving forward to include the arrests of two Italian military intelligence officers who supposedly worked with the CIA in abducting Nasr. Warrants, meanwhile, are still in effect for about two dozen Americans for their activities. Of all the various bizarre things that have been ordered in the name of the war on terror, this one seems to me to have the biggest "what were they thinking?" factor. It should have been obvious that if American intelligence operatives started kidnapping people as they walked around Western cities, we were going to wind up getting caught. And the...
  • W.T.O. Mysteries in the Washington Post

    Economists always like to talk about the ideal situation of perfectly competitive markets. This is the world in which there are vast numbers of buyers and sellers so that no individual buyer or seller can affect the price. In this world, every producer is a price taker. This means that the price is set by the market, and they can sell as much as they want to produce at the prevailing market price. In the real world, this is not an accurate description of most markets, which have a relatively limited number of sellers. The one market that does seem to fit the competitive story reasonably well is agriculture. Farmers see a price in the market for corn, wheat, soybeans, etc. and they can sell as much as they choose at this price. Unfortunately, the Post apparently does not believe that agriculture is a competitive market. It reports today that the United States is trying to open up markets in developing countries in order to give U.S. farmers something to offset the loss of subsidies in...
  • HAPPY FOURTH. TAPPED...

    HAPPY FOURTH. TAPPED will not be publishing on July 3 or July 4. See you back here on Wednesday! --The Editors
  • THE BLIND (QUOTES)...

    THE BLIND (QUOTES) LEADING THE BLIND (PRESS). If you want to know how political journalism came to be in the state it's in -- c.f. "prone" -- and, therefore, how the present administration came to run merrily amuck, look no further than the following paragraph from Saturday's Washington Post , in which various West Wing moles 'n trolls try to make Hamden chicken salad out of that which our fathers told us one could not make chicken salad. To wit: "A senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the issue is still being debated internally, seemed to hint at the potential political implications in Congress. "Members of both parties will have to decide whether terrorists who cherish the killing of innocents deserve the same protections as our men and women who wear the uniform," this official said." Leave aside what you may think of the notion. Why does any reporter allow a source to remain anonymous on a quote like this, and why does any editor allow...
  • Xenophobia at the New York Times

    The New York Times editorial page went a bit overboard in its anti-Bush tirade on the budget deficit. The basic point, that the Bush administration deficits are too large, is on the mark. (By the way, they could better make this point using the gross deficit [4.0 percent of GDP], which includes the money borrowed from Social Security, or better yet, just report the change in the ratio of gross debt to GDP.) If the Times had left the issue there, all of us econ types could happily applaud this push for fiscal responsibility. But our intrepid Times editorial writers felt the need to push further. They tell us that the debt is especially troublesome because 43 percent is in foreign hands and "debt owed to bankers in Beijing, Tokyo and elsewhere could destabilize the dollar and from there, drive up interest rates and prices." Huh? Okay, let's check the bases here. Most foreigners hold government debt for the same reason that investors in the U.S. hold debt, they value its safety, and also...
  • ON OBJECTIVITY. Wow,...

    ON OBJECTIVITY. Wow, a bunch of young journalists who don't believe in objectivity. I dunno, I'm going to have to side with Mike here. I rather like the idea of objectivity in reporting, by which I mean approaching the world with questions and letting the answers you get shape the story you write, rather than seeking only those facts that you can fit into a pre-conceived narrative. Now, I'm all for news outlets where people allow ideology -- or even just perspective -- to shape the questions they choose to ask, as we do at this magazine, but there's still something to be said for being reality-based in the pursuit of answers, I hope. Even ideological reporters can be objective in their assessment of facts. I sometimes feel like the growth in media criticism as a field has led a lot of people to form higher-than-ever expectations of journalism. Journalism is not the Holy Bible, a set of fixed texts meant to be parsed and prodded and discussed ad infinitum. It's not in the business of...

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