Archive

  • Libeling Social Security

    One of the disadvantages of having a public Social Security system is that people are free to make all sorts of untrue statements about it without facing any consequences. For example, an oped in the Washington Post this morning described the Social Security trust fund as "largely an accounting fiction." This statement is of course absurd. The trust fund consists of U.S. government bonds, which the government is obligated to repay under the law. There is no sense whatsoever in which it can accurately be described as fictional. Because Social Security is an agency of the government, the author is free to impugn the soundness of Social Security's financial situation with impunity, and the Post need not fear any consequences from printing this libel. On the other hand, if the author had made similarly untrue claims about the financial status of General Electric or Microsoft, the paper would be quickly greeted with an angry call from some honcho corporate lawyer. The correction would...
  • There's Still Good Paying Jobs for CEOs

    Gretchen Morgenson had a good piece in the Times documenting some of the ways in which corporate boards manage to dish out bonuses to CEOs even when they miss performance targets. With all the scandals in CEO pay over the last decade, it is remarkable that this sort of nonsense persists unchecked. Clearly there is a structural imbalance, with top executives being able to pilfer corporate coffers to enrich themselves at the expense of shareholders. It would be a simple matter (legally, if not politically) to change some of the rules of corporate governance to redress this imbalance. For example, how about requiring that the compensation of packages get sent out for shareholder approval at regular intervals? Suppose the rules also require that shareholder proxies that don't get returned don't count? (The standard practice now is that unreturned proxies are counted as supporting management.) How about also making corporate directors personally liable for not using proper care in setting...
  • JUST POSTED ON...

    JUST POSTED ON TAP: ANOTHER MISSILE CRISIS? Ted Sorensen and Adam Frankel discuss what the Bush administration could learn about Iran from JFK . --The Editors
  • WHO WOULD JESUS...

    WHO WOULD JESUS WHACK? Occasionally you hear about all those broadly supportable progressive issues on which rapprochement with the Christian right will be had. This worldview presupposes that the evangelical movement's partisan identification is the result of the right convincing them that they hold more areas of policy agreement. Which may, in part, be true. Of course, there's also the Mafioso-style intimidation tactics that are deployed against heretics... --Ezra Klein
  • THE END OF...

    THE END OF SUPPLY-SIDEISM . Chris Suellentrop notes that Republicans are beginning to abandon supply-side economics, one of the most overdue exoduses in economic history. Evidence comes from Bush 's former chief economic adviser Greg Mankiw , who writes that "some supply-siders like to claim that the distortionary effect of taxes is so large that increasing tax rates reduces tax revenue. Like most economists, I don't find that conclusion credible for most tax hikes, and I doubt Mr. Paulson does either." Elsewhere, Ben Stein -- yeah, that one -- has a full-throated takedown of the economic illusion known as the Laffer Curve. "Supply side is fun," he writes, "in the same way it's fun to rationalize spending as if it were saving, and in the same way any theory is fun when it says that the easier, softer way is better than the hard way. But it doesn't work, or at least it hasn't worked yet. " No, it hasn't. And what a comfort that it only took the economic Ph.D.'s in the Republican Party...
  • TAPPED BOUND. Many...

    TAPPED BOUND. Many TAPPED readers, I�m sure, will be happy to learn that Linda Hirshman will be guest-blogging with us for two weeks starting next Monday. Hirshman�s outstanding critique of �choice feminism,� which appeared in the Prospect �s December issue, helped spark a very heated debate about women, work, and the domestic glass ceiling. Hirshman has since extended her work for that piece into a book, Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World , which will be released on June 8. So tune in next week for what will surely be an exciting discussion. --Alec Oveis
  • SOME PAULSON SKEPTICISM....

    SOME PAULSON SKEPTICISM. Reaction to Henry Paulson 's appointment as Treasury Secretary has, thus far, been boringly positive. Fortunately, Max Sawicky rides to the rescue with a strident critique. --Matthew Yglesias
  • MORE ON IRAN....

    MORE ON IRAN. In addition to Garance and Laura Rozen 's comments , it's worth heeding cautionary notes from both Kevin Drum and Ivo Daalder that Condoleezza Rice may be (whether in deliberate bad faith or not) putting too many demands for Iranian concessions on the table as preconditions for negotiation. That concern notwithstanding, as The Washington Post 's piece on her announcement notes, Rice has certainly appeared to serve as a force in the administration for moving in the direction of engagement since she became secretary of state, and today's news seems to bolster that view. The news serves as another pretext to plug this truly terrific article by Gareth Porter in the latest print issue of the Prospect which provides a thorough and insightful rundown of the complete history of the Bush administration's policy towards Iran. Repeatedly -- and most dramatically and explicitly in 2003 -- overtures from Tehran were extended to the administration, and the administration rejected them...
  • SOME PROGRESS, FINALLY....

    SOME PROGRESS, FINALLY. The United States, after much pushing, has finally acceded to engaging in direct talks with Iran, on the condition that it abandon its nuclear enrichment activities. This is the necessary next step in the diplomatic dance, but marks a dramatic departure from the Bush administration's approach toward Iran over the past six years. With the world looking to Iran for a counter-offer, Iran will now either have to chose the engagement with the United States it says it wants or else be perceived as the intransigent party in this conflict. Either way, the offer takes some of the pressure off the United States to resolve the impasse and puts it back where it rightly belongs, on Iran. Laura Rozen , who is a must-read on this as on so many other issues, has more from Chris Nelson over at War and Piece. --Garance Franke-Ruta
  • THE GOOD NEWS....

    THE GOOD NEWS. While I was on vacation yesterday, I don't think any of my colleagues noted the ongoing developments in the Haditha massacre story. This is one of those things that makes you appreciate the old-fashioned print news media which, for all its flaws, can bring things like this to light and leaves your humble blogger with relatively little to add. I will say, however, that I think that if you look at the historical record of counterinsurgency warfare, you'll see that this is the kind of thing that pretty consistently winds up happening. As we've been seeing for a while, insurgent campaigns are a very ugly business. More recently, it's become clear that the counterinsurgency being waged by the Shiite new regime in Iraq is a very ugly business as well. And now we see that the United States military is no exception to the trend, just as it wasn't in Vietnam and in the Philippines. The first-order solution, obviously, is to try and get people to not perpetrate massacres and...

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