Archive

  • ANOTHER BORING POST...

    ANOTHER BORING POST ABOUT IRAQ. After reading it, Al Gore 's actual statement on Iraq strikes me as significantly more open-minded and conciliatory than Garance 's gloss below or the one ABC News gave to it made it sound. By which I mean that, as a member of the anti-war base, I find Gore's take on this to be annoying and something I hope he'll change his mind about, while I've found, say, Hillary Clinton 's comments to be more along the lines of infuriating. At any rate, the question of substance remains. Stay the coursers say that if we leave, something bad would happen next. They're correct. Deadliners say that for however long we stay, bad things will happen during that duration, and then we'll leave at which point all the bad things stay the coursers worry about will happen anyway. We're also correct, and I think absolutely all the evidence from our 38 month-or-so occupation of Iraq backs us up. Go back twelve months ago and revisit the argument that was being had then. Stay the...
  • GORE SHOWS HIS...

    GORE SHOWS HIS ROOTS. Via Mickey Kaus , Al Gore raised questions about setting a deadline for withdrawing from Iraq during his This Week appearance yesterday. Some will say that this puts Gore to the right of likely '08 presidential contenders John Kerry , Russ Feingold , and, after his recent comments, perhaps even Evan Bayh , but I'd disagree. Gore has always been a sensible centrist, and his opposition to the invasion of Iraq was a manifestation of his steady understanding of the dangers of pre-emptive war at a time when too many people were seduced by the chest-thumping and martial rhetoric of the right, and not of any native dovishness. He certainly didn't win any popularity contests for taking that stance at that time, and I don't think he's going to win any now either, when many on the left, who've become his biggest supporters, believe in immediate withdrawal or deadline setting. Instead, Gore is, once again, following his own path, based on the facts as he sees them. From ABC...
  • DEMOCRATS 'O6: CATCH...

    DEMOCRATS 'O6: CATCH THE 'BETTERNESS.' It looks like Harry Reid has begun ending his e-mails with the Democrats' dreaded 2006 catchphrase: "Together, America can do better." Without some better wordsmiths, though, the Democrats apparently can't. I'm reminded of Geoffrey Numberg 's riff on the line from his forthcoming book, Talking Right : Given the slogan's resounding vacuity, it might seem like piling on to point out that it's ungrammatical in the bargain, with the together sitting uncomfortably with the singular America . Saying "Together, America can do better" is a bit like saying "Together, the North won the Civil War" -- you know what it's supposed to mean, but you have to do a little mental stutter-step to get there. It's clearly a sentence written by a committee: you can tell that one faction wanted to go with "America can do better" while another favored "Together, we can do better" to get the unity theme in there, so they decided to split the difference. I figure the phrase...
  • KRISTOL ON HADITHA....

    KRISTOL ON HADITHA. This article is rather repugnant, but I think it contains a pearl of accidental wisdom: "Liberals may want to win a war on terror without fighting, and are shocked that in a war, crimes and abuses occur. But here's the hard, Trumanesque truth: In war, terrible things happen, including crimes and abuses and cover-ups." To me, this mostly cuts the other way. The best way to avoid war crimes and related abuses is to fight fewer wars. Which isn't to say you should never fight a war, but part of what needs to be in the mix when you think about these decisions is that, in practice, you're not going to have a perfectly clean war anymore than you're going to have 100 percent compliance with speeding rules . If you're considering initiating a military action -- or, as is more relevant right now in Iraq, prolonging one -- it's worth being realistic about the fact that you don't get to have an idealized one, you're going to get a genuine, flawed one. Thinking about this ought...
  • THE DISTRIBUTION'S THE...

    THE DISTRIBUTION'S THE THING. Conservatives puzzling over this weekend's New York Times op-ed on "Freakoutanomics" would be well-advised to stop focusing so obsessively on growth numbers and begin paying a bit more attention to the distribution of growth numbers. That's basically the point of the op-ed, which argues that the 1870's saw a strong macro-economy that obscured a large class of economic losers. And it's what accounts for the contemporary disconnect between strong economic indicators and low economic polling, a case I've made more substantially in the L.A. Times . As a larger point, the right really does have a tendency to over-fetishize growth. That's not to say growth isn't important -- it's unrelentingly important. But so is distribution. And that's what most forecasters and pundits seem inattentive to: The mean growth numbers no longer say much about median growth numbers. We can no longer simply assume that growth is broadly-shared. Inequality has simply grown too great...
  • ENFORCEMENT FIRST. Tyler...

    ENFORCEMENT FIRST. Tyler Cowen makes a valuable point in the immigration debate, noting that the seemingly commonsense principle that "at least we should enforce the law" is actually a bit odd. Lots of laws are very imperfectly enforced and this isn't necessarily a problem. The police deliberately downplay the level of resources they dedicate to solving burglaries in order to focus on the more serious crime of murder. But they don't completely cease trying to arrest, prosecute, and jail burglars just because not every murder gets solved. And as everyone knows, lots of people get away with speeding on highways, but many other people get tickets, and the modest amount of effort put into enforcing the speeding laws has a real impact on behavior. Nobody, however, seriously thinks we should hire enough state troopers -- or create a federal Interstate Speed Limit Enforcement Agency with enough manpower -- to perfectly enforce the speed limits. With immigration, as with everything else, half...
  • WHY WE CAN�T "ALL JUST GET ALONG."

    WHY WE CAN�T "ALL JUST GET ALONG." I am the author of " Homeward Bound " ( The American Prospect , December 2005), where I argued that women quitting their jobs to stay home are making a mistake, work in the public and market world is more likely to produce a flourishing life, and, if men did more domestic work, women could do more public work. On June 12, my book, Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World , will be in the bookstores. I expected that people would argue back. Instead, all of a sudden the subject of women's lives became the new taboo. A chorus of stay-at-home moms filled the papers on Mother's Day. "A bit of mutual respect? " the Chicago Tribune asked . "Ceasefire for Moms" implored the Boston Globe . "Why can't we all just get along?" they say. Let's concentrate on getting the things we need from 'the government' or 'business.' We all have the same interests in being good mothers. What can this mean? No one tells Democrats not to disagree with Republicans, or...
  • THE ESTATE TAX....

    THE ESTATE TAX. The Washington Post has a nice set of dueling op-eds on the estate tax today. They've matched up Sebastian Mallaby with doltish Alabama senator Jeff Sessions , which is a bit like setting a monkey in intellectual combat with his banana. It's proof, no doubt, that the editorial page's overlords treasure the estate tax, and are seeking to discredit its repeal by choosing an incompetent opponent. There will be no complaints from this corner though -- repealing the estate tax is a foolish idea, moronic enough that Mallaby can pen a rhythmic column that keeps ending each explanation of a fundamental problem for the US economy with the refrain that repealing the estate tax is "the dumbest possible response." Over and over again. Music to my ears. Sessions, remember, is the guy who sought to revitalize the estate tax repeal movement by scouring post-Katrina New Orleans for a corpse with an estate subject to the tax. The ghoulish endeavor netted precisely no examples . Here,...
  • Escaping With the Trust Fund

    Folks, I am off for a weeklong vacation. I will not be back at my blogging duties until Monday, June 12th. In the meantime, my colleagues at CEPR, Heather Boushey, David Rosnick, John Schmitt, and Mark Weisbrot will be intermittently filling in. I should also warn that there may be somewhat more delay before your comments get posted. Comments to the blog are moderated, and I can't guarantee the pace at which items get posted in my absence. I am sorry to leave in the middle of a lively debate on the Social Security trust fund. I am sure that there will be no difficulty reaching consensus on this issue in my absence. --Dean Baker
  • GARBAGE IN, GARBAGE...

    GARBAGE IN, GARBAGE OUT. Greg Anrig has a great post over at TPMCafe about the convoluted decision making process at the Department of Homeland Security and the way its evaluation criteria led to the current controversy over the new formula for funding didfferent localities. He's also unearthed a fact sheet (PDF), written by Department of Homeland Security assistant secretary Tracy Henke and now likely to embarass her, laying out how the department's grant-making decisions were to get made. Tooling around the Office of Grants and Training Site, I also found this "Discussion of the FY 2006 Risk Methodology and the Urban Areas Security Initiative" , which is really quite fascinating. Apparently, the DHS risk evaluations have gotten so complex and multi-factoral that they are leading to outcomes, such as the present one, that defy common sense. Just look at the level of mathematical calculation that went into the 2006 decisions: in FY 2003, three primary equations were used in the risk...

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