Archive

  • HOORAY FOR PRE-K....

    HOORAY FOR PRE-K. The vote on California's Proposition 82 -- the Rob Reiner -spearheaded initiative providing universal access to preschool for all Californians, paid for by an income tax hike on wealthy residents -- is coming up in a week. The odds are still in its favor for passage, though not overwhelmingly so. National Review pans the idea in an editorial today, calling it a "boondoggle" whose design is "blind, bloated, and indiscriminate." These obviously aren't terms I'd use to describe the idea but I think they actually (and perversely) get at some of the reasons why liberals should enthusiastically support universal preschool initiatives at the state and federal levels. On substantive policy grounds, the social science data on the benefits of early childhood education (especially, though not exclusively, pertaining to underprivileged kids) has accumulated over several decades, and is overwhelming. This Arthur J. Reynolds op-ed in The Los Angeles Times gives a good rundown of...
  • SPEAKER PELOSI. The...

    SPEAKER PELOSI. The New York Times assesses Nancy Pelosi today. Much ink (including a direct quote from Barney Frank ) is devoted to how bad she is on television. This is true; she's bad on television. It's her deficiency as a "spokesperson for the party" that seems partly to explain the rather odd pincer dynamic that's emerged under her leadership, wherein various observers, activists, and members both to her left and to her right have expressed dissatisfaction with her. The hostility from the right -- from Steny Hoyer 's allies, a.k.a. " Democrats interested in passing more bills that are friendly to corporate campaign contributors " -- is straightforward and makes sense. The criticism from those liberals who are at least aware that the actual alternative to Pelosi is Hoyer tends to center on her failures as a message person. But looking to congressional leaders for party image-making and P.R. is a mistake. The actual job of managing a caucus in some kind of effective and strategic...
  • MAY ACTUALLY DO...

    MAY ACTUALLY DO A HECKUVA JOB. With Treasury Secretary John Snow finally on his way out, Bush has named Goldman-Sachs CEO Henry Paulson to be Snow�s replacement. Paulson is -- believe it or not -- a serious, competent guy who comes, like Robert Rubin before him, from Wall Street. Better yet, he retains a reputation of his own, has long ties to the private sector, and has plenty of money in the bank. In other words, the administration needs him, he doesn't need them, and both sides know it. Paulson should enjoy an easy confirmation, and Chuck Schumer has already offered his support. Guess the Bush administration didn't feel like picking a fight... Update : The Progress Report notices that Paulsen is also a serious conservationist who sits on the board of the pro-Kyoto The Nature Conservancy and has pushed Goldman-Sachs to demand "urgent" action from the government to curb emissions. One wonders what he thinks of Bush's belief that "Kyoto would have wrecked our economy. I couldn't in...
  • ORIGINAL ZIN. Newly...

    ORIGINAL ZIN. Newly appointed White House domestic policy chieftain Karl Zinsmeister admits to The Washington Post today that he altered his quotes in the online reprint of an article, without ever informing the reporter of the story that he contested the original quotes or readers that he'd altered them. Zinsmeister tells the Post he didn't take the matter up with the reporter at the time because he didn't want to get him in trouble. This does not seem like a credible explanation. Zinsmeister's writings on the press have been so overwhelmingly negative that it's extremely difficult to believe his attempt to cast himself in the role of solicitous and protective elder worried about tarnishing the reputation of a young scribe. More likely, Zinsmeister simply has no respect for journalists or their work. That's certainly the impression you'd get from reading his comments on the reporters covering the war in Iraq. Here's what he had to say about the press in 2003 : Alas, many of the...
  • THE (IN)CORRUPTIBILITY OF...

    THE (IN)CORRUPTIBILITY OF HARRY REID. On Harry Reid and the case of the comp boxing tickets, this is about as fully a non-story as you can imagine. The lay of the land went something like this: Reid was offering legislation to increase federal regulation of boxing. The Nevada Athletic Agency, concerned the new body would usurp their authority, gave him ringside seats to three matches, where officials from the NAA presumably pressured him on the bill. Reid watched, listened, and then voted for his legislation -- exactly what the NAA had been hoping to head off. Efforts to make this into an issue are reminiscent of a similar campaign conducted when Jack Abramoff 's fame was peaking. During that furor, various outlets tried to make hay out of a meeting between Reid's staff and an Abramoff-connected lobbyist over attempts to impose the minimum wage in the Marianas Islands. Abramoff was trying to stop the legislation, he deployed a lobbyist to see if he could enlist Reid's help, and Reid...
  • Should Anyone Care About Consumer Confidence?

    I have always considered the consumer confidence index to be one of the least valuable releases of economic data. Consumer spending is hugely important for the state of the economy, but the index provides very little information about the direction of spending. The index includes two components, a current situation component, which does track current spending reasonably well (and therefore has little predictive value about the future), and an expectations component which is highly volatile and has very little predictive value. The Times had a piece on the recent dip in consumer confidence this morning that backs up my view. The article includes a chart that shows the latest reading for the index is near its 2002 levels, when real consumer spending rose at a respectable 2.5 percent annual rate and the savings rate fell by more than a percentage point. In other words, a low consumer confidence index did not seem to have much impact on consumption growth. The index probably does give...
  • Washington Post Corrects Mexico's Post-NAFTA Growth Rate

    It took 43 days, but the Washington Post did finally correct an April 17th news story that had Mexico's economy growing at a 17.5 percent annual rate in the period since the passage of NAFTA. This is longer than one would hope, and it required much more prodding from my colleagues at CEPR than should have been necessary, but it is still good to see that the paper felt a responsibility to correct such a blatant mistake. --Dean Baker
  • Immigrant Labor and Supply and Demand

    The Times had an article this morning that explained the immigration problem in very simple terms, "this many jobs; only this many visas." As the article reports, there are a huge number of less-skilled jobs waiting to be filled by immigrants, but almost no visas are available for immigrants to come across the border and work at these jobs legally. To prove this case, the article quotes Stephen P. Gennett, president of the Carolinas chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America (a builders' trade group), "we have a problem here, a people shortage." While Mr. Gennett is undoubtedly knowledgeable about the state of the labor market for construction workers, he also represents an organization that has a clear interest in this issue, they want cheap labor. Ordinarily, the claim that there is a people shortage would imply that wages are rising at an extraordinary rate. (This is the way economists ordinarily think about markets, shortages mean higher prices.) This means that...
  • Do Trade Agreements Have to Be "Free"

    I am continually amazed by the apparent need that reporters feel to describe the trade agreements negotiated by the U.S. government as "free trade" agreements. (See the Times article on the Colombian elections for the current target of my wrath.) What possible additional information do reporters and editors believe that they are conveying by including the word "free?" As I have written elsewhere, these agreements do not free all trade -- there are still substantial obstacles facing Colombian doctors, lawyers, and other professionals who would like to sell their services in the United States. This agreement also increases protectionist barriers by stengthening patent and copyright protection. (Even if you think these protections are good, they are still forms of protection.) So, why don't these reporters just save themselves a word and more accurately describe these pacts as simply "trade agreements." --Dean Baker
  • REVOLT OF THE...

    REVOLT OF THE NEOCONS, CON'T. Danielle Pletka and Michael Rubin take Bush to task in the Los Angeles Times today for -- fancy that! -- not living up to his pro-democracy rhetoric: LAST WEEK, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced resumption of full U.S. diplomatic relations with Libya, citing Tripoli's renunciation of terrorism and intelligence cooperation. This ends a quarter-century diplomatic freeze. It also marks an effective end to the Bush doctrine. At his second inauguration, President Bush declared: "The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world." Since that soaring pronouncement, the Bush administration has watched Egypt abrogate elections, ignored the collapse of the so-called Cedar Revolution in Lebanon and abandoned imprisoned Chinese dissidents; now Washington is mulling a peace treaty with Stalinist North Korea. The rhetoric of...

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