Archive

  • John Kenneth Galbraith, 1908-2006

    The passing of John Kenneth Galbraith is a real loss. His works made major contributions to public debate over the entire post-World War II era, and continue to have an impact. The New York Times had a mostly fair commentary today on Galbraith's life and work. (Brad DeLong does a good job pointing out the ways in which it is not fair .) The Post apparently did not learn the news in time for the Sunday edition, or alternatively it had not prepared an obit in advance. Any assessment of Galbraith's life invariably includes the comment that his work had more influence outside of economics than within the profession. This is unfortunate for the economics profession. While we can benefit from mathematical modeling and new econometric techniques, I believe that Galbraithian insights will ultimately prove far more important in advancing our knowledge of the economy and society. --Dean Baker
  • New York Times Exposes CEO Pay Scam

    Eric Dash at the New York Times had a very good piece this morning on a backdoor $500,000 bonus that Denny's gave to its CEO, Nelson Marchioli, by allowing him to buy stock at below the market price. Of course Denny's is free to pay Mr. Marchioli whatever it feels is appropriate, but by making the payment in the form of stock options priced at below market values, it was able to conceal this payment from all but the most vigilant analysts. As the article points out, Denny's is not the only company making such surreptitious payments to its top executives. There are two important points here. First, this sort of surreptitious pay deal demonstrates a continuing problem in corporate governance. Companies are not supposed to be run for the well-being of their CEOs. If the pay could not be disclosed openly, then it is not proper, end of story. It would be reasonable for the laws to mandate that all compensation packages for top executives have to be subject to shareholder approval at...
  • JUST POSTED ON...

    JUST POSTED ON TAP: THE POLITICS OF DEFINITION.* For those of you looking for some weekend reading, all four parts of �The Politics of Definition� by John Halpin and Ruy Teixeira are now available. The article draws some similar conclusions to those made by our fearless leader, Mike Tomasky , in our current cover article . * Okay, okay, fixed. --The Editors
  • BILLIONS SQUANDERED IN...

    BILLIONS SQUANDERED IN IRAQ AREN'T JUST AN ABSTRACTION. A commenter to this post below takes issue with the argument that Dems should oppose Iran by pointing out that Bush 's wars could cost more than Vietnam. M.J. writes: "arguing that we shouldn't take military action in Iran because it's too expensive" won't "resonate with the American people," adding, "the rest of us are worried about a madman with nuclear weapons." Obviously financial cost alone doesn't add up to enough of an argument. Human toll is the most important consideration, needless to say; also critical is the potential impact on the United States' already-tattered global relationships. But look -- the billions of dollars that are swirling down the Iraq sinkhole matter . They're not some abstraction. Those wasted billions will have a human toll, with countless long-term effects on the state of this country, and its people. But the main irony is that those squandered billions may end up mattering precisely because there...
  • OUT OF THE...

    OUT OF THE RED, AND INTO THE BLUE. In the current issue of Rolling Stone , Neil Strauss writes that Bruce Springsteen gets a �Neil Young pass� for Springsteen�s quirky homage to classic folk, We Shall Overcome: The Pete Seeger Session . Now, I consider myself a huge Neil Young fan. To me, albums do not get much better than Zuma or On the Beach. As I see it the man can do no wrong, but I presume Strauss� dig was in reference to some of Young�s, er, �concept albums� like Re-act-tor and Everybody�s Rockin� . Having just listened to Living With War , I can say with all the authority of a Neil Young fan who was born in the 1980s that he needs no pass. This is no quirky concept album. It is at once gritty, scathing, and wonderfully sonorous. Dig in . --Mark Leon Goldberg
  • RIGHTS-BASED LIBERALISM RUN...

    RIGHTS-BASED LIBERALISM RUN AMOK. Some serious and trenchant criticisms of Mike 's "common good" essay are starting to stream in, and are worth a look. Somewhat less seriously, but in the spirit of pushing back against the Bossman's critique of identity politics and group-rights liberalism -- and maybe even of pushing the envelope of rights-based liberalism a bit -- I wanted to tout thespian and PETA activist Pam Anderson 's Wall Street Journal op-ed today about ape abuse and exploitation in the entertainment industry. This, of course, dovetails with the news that the Spanish Socialist Party is signing up for the Great Ape Project and extending human rights to simians. As Matt said , all joking aside, the case for a full set of ape (particularly chimpanzee) rights is actually strong. As for another rights-based front where the affirmative case is easily sneered at but is, in fact, shockingly compelling, take voting rights for children . As is the case with ape rights, forward-thinking...
  • THIRD PARTY WOES....

    THIRD PARTY WOES. As Dave Weigel smartly notes , the Rasmussen poll showing a xenophobic, border-enforcing third party would nearly win the 2006 elections should only be served with a heapin' helping of salt. "Americans," Dave writes, "have had the chance to vote for a candidate for wanted to build a border wall and make immigration crackdowns his #1 priority. He was a nationally-known figure who'd nearly won the Republican nomination in 1996 before leaving the party. He won $12.6 million in federal campaign funds and used them to run striking campaign ads. He was Pat Buchanan and he got less than half of one percent of the vote." Quite a showing. But we can be much more current than Buchanan . About a year ago, a border-enforcing third-party candidate did run in a primary. His name was Jim Gilchrist , he was the founder of the Minutemen, and he benefited from a storm of free media. Luckier yet, he ran in my home district, California 48, quite possibly the most xenophobic patch of...
  • BUSH'S WARS: MORE...

    BUSH'S WARS: MORE EXPENSIVE THAN VIETNAM. Now here's a way Dems can argue against a possible war with Iran. Not long ago, during this site's informal debate about how Dems should handle the Iran question, Ezra rightly suggested that Dems level with Americans about the cost -- human and monetary -- of Iraq and potentially of Iran. Now we have new info that helps us make that case -- on the financial end, anyway -- in a devastatingly simple and convincing way. Check out the Washington Post article about a new Congressional Research Service study of war costs that Matt flagged below. From the piece: When factoring in costs of the war in Afghanistan, the $811 billion total for both wars would have far exceeded the inflation-adjusted $549 billion cost of the Vietnam War. ( Emphasis added. ) Bush is set to spend more on his wars than the cost of the entire Vietnam War. Yes, yes, I know, adjusted for inflation. Still, that was clearly the news in the CRS report. The Post buried the lede...
  • FAKES, FRAUDS, AND...

    FAKES, FRAUDS, AND SO FORTH. This is brilliant. Dennis Hastert and a couple other Republican politicians held a press conference at a local gas station to protest, or pander, or otherwise mention the rise in gas prices. As part of the optics, they drove away in hydrogen powered cars -- conservation is king! A few blocks later, some enterprising photographer snapped a picture of Hastert disembarking his greenmobile for a gas-burning, black SUV that drove him the few blocks back to the Capitol. --Ezra Klein
  • BIG TROUBLE IN...

    BIG TROUBLE IN PUERTO RICO. Has anyone noticed that Puerto Rico is going out of business ? I haven�t been following this very closely, but apparently the Puerto Rican government has been unable to agree on a budget since 2004, so they�ve been using the 2004 budget while the debt keeps increasing. On Monday, the commonwealth will simply run out of money, leaving the 1.6 million people who are on public health insurance without coverage. Worse, the commonwealth�s public employees, who make up 30% of the island�s total workforce, will go unpaid. This is crazy. If you are a Puerto Rican government employee, be that a clerk for the Supreme Court or a bus driver, you will not earn a salary for months. I don�t follow this issue closely enough to have an informed opinion, but I wonder if it would be prudent or wise for the United States federal government to bail out Puerto Rico? On the one hand, such a move might foster an unhealthy dependency on Uncle Sam. On the other, a bailout would...

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