Archive

  • How Big Is China?

    This is not a grand existential question; I am referring to the size of its economy. According to most news reports, China's GDP is approaching $2 trillion, rivaling Germany for the #3 ranking in the world, behind the United States and Japan. In fact, this figure grossly understates the size of China's economy. It is already far larger than Japan's economy and is likely to surpass the size of the U.S. economy in less than a decade. The error is simple. The standard number reported for China's GDP is based on a "currency conversion" measure of GDP. This method takes China's GDP, calculated in its own currency, and then converts this number into dollars, using the official exchange rate. However, China's currency is hugely under-valued, so this method provides a very poor measure of the value of goods and services produced in China each year. The method preferred by economists for most comparative purposes is a "purchasing power parity" measure. This measure adds up GDP by using the...
  • JUST POSTED ON...

    JUST POSTED ON TAP: DON�T DO IT. Matt makes the case against war with Iran. --The Editors
  • THE POLARIZATION PROBLEM....

    THE POLARIZATION PROBLEM. Washington Post reporter Juliet Eilperin 's new book Fight Club Politics: How Partisanship is Poisoning the House of Representatives is the subject of TPMCafe's book club this week. The thesis is pretty much there in the title. Looking at the book itself and the first round of comments yesterday, from Mark Schmitt and various commenters, I wrote up a little web piece making the case that there is much that liberals might embrace about ruthless DeLay -style partisanship and legislative discipline in Congress. Now Thomas Mann has weighed in with a really valuable post . Now, there's a part of Eilperin's argument that's easy to challenge and there's a part that's tougher to challenge. The easy part is the notion that members of Congress being mean to one another and Allen Boyd getting hassled by his colleagues for being a terrible Democrat somehow constitute a serious crisis in American politics. The more compelling arguments she makes have to do with...
  • MORE GLOBAL WARMING...

    MORE GLOBAL WARMING PESSIMISM. I wish I shared Matt 's optimism. John Quiggin 's post, and Matt's, largely focuses on the ease of heavily reducing CO2 emissions within America. And on that point, Quiggin's right: to paraphrase Rob Schneider 's character in nearly every Adam Sandler movie ever made, we could do it! But we won't. The quick sketch looks like this (go here for the long version). Climatologists tend to think that we're rapidly approaching, or have already passed, a crucial tipping point at which the feedback loops and energy patterns driving global warming are simply not reversible enough, fast enough, to forestall the catastrophic climatological impact folks fear. Matt and John mention that changing patterns merely in the U.S. would kill off a couple percentage of GDP growth -- given the way conservatives fret and fear over slight increases in taxation-as-percentage-of-GDP, the likelihood that we'll institute such cuts while global warming remains a journal paper...
  • CUTTING CARBON EMISSIONS...

    CUTTING CARBON EMISSIONS -- FUN AND EASY. I don't think Ezra should be so quick to concede the infeasibility of big reductions in carbon emissions. The notion that this would require earth-shattering economic sacrifices is the product of an unfortunate conspiracy between regulation-averse right-wingers who don't want us to do anything about the problem, and the modernity-averse faction of environmentalism that wants us to overreact. See this post by John Quiggin for the long form of the argument. He concludes that the requisite changes would cost "between 1.5 per cent and 3 per cent of GDP. That�s about one year�s worth of economic growth [over a period of decades]. Remember that this estimate is not for the modest first steps required under Kyoto, but for a reduction in emissions on the scale required to stabilise climate." Along those lines, it's worth recalling that our current economic policies are not perfectly optimized to maximize growth anyway (just consider the loss...
  • PARTY IN SEARCH...

    PARTY IN SEARCH OF A NOTION. Our fearless leader Mike Tomasky wrote the new cover story for the May print issue of the Prospect , a piece that offers a lengthy rumination on the lingering "philosophy gap" between the left and the right and a prescription for closing it. Mike delineates the two basic liberal traditions -- one emphasizing individual rights, the other emphasizing collective obligations and the common good -- and argues forcefully for a revival of the latter strand as a means by which Democrats can win the country back. The essay is likely to provoke a lot of discussion and debate, and is highly worth a read . --Sam Rosenfeld
  • A REAL WHITE...

    A REAL WHITE HOUSE SNOW JOB. Unless President Bush wants to face headlines cracking jokes about "snow jobs" and "getting snowed" for the next three years, selecting FOX News' Tony Snow to be the new White House spokesman doesn't seem like the best idea. I don't particularly think the identity of the White House spokesman matters all that much given how the job is constructed under Bush, but I do think Snow would be flash-point for controversy, given his roots on FOX and his rather vehement, self-confident style. If he acted in as self-satisfied and sneering a matter in the White House post as he does on television, he'd be certain to exacerbate the administration's problems, and especially the perception that it is arrogant and uncaring and untrustworthy -- and I somehow suspect that's not what the administration is going for with this staff change. Snow might appeal to a certain segment of the Republican base, but that's not the constituency he'd have to serve as White House...
  • COOL TO GLOBAL...

    COOL TO GLOBAL WARMING. I'm fairly puzzled by the emerging conservative line on global warming. Realizing they've lost the debate on whether it will happen, they've begun turning to the difficulties of stopping it. Pushing that line today is Ross Douthat , who's frustrated by Al Gore 's insistence on energizing the issue and adamant that "the kind of economic reforms necessary to do anything significant about the accumulation of carbon dioxide would be immediately and decisively disastrous." Well, maybe so. They certainly wouldn't do much good for our economy or developing economies. But if there's a sick patient on your table and you decide surgery might kill 'em, that doesn't erase the fact that there's a sick patient on your table. If Douthat and others think that massive reductions in CO2 emissions -- reductions I judge fairly impossible -- are a bridge too far, where's the counterplan? After all, he's very concerned about the economic prospects of the poor under Gore's plan, but...
  • VOTER TARGETING VS....

    VOTER TARGETING VS. MOVEMENT BUILDING. One of the peculiarities of this moment in progressive movement building is the way progressive interest groups are being asked to put aside their interests in favor of building a smooth, unified political party that can win elections at the very moment that some rather compelling evidence has begun to emerge arguing for the enduring political utility of defending those interests. For example, Jonathan Singer argued over the weekend , the Republican assault on choice may well have begun to backfire in a way that opens up new opportunities for Democrats to win by defending it. He notes a "whopping 30-point gender gap" in last week's Los Angeles Times /Bloomberg poll (PDF) "on the generic congressional ballot question, with women overwhelmingly preferring to see a Democratic Congress by a 58 percent to 30 margin while men narrowly prefer a GOP Congress by a 41 percent to 39 percent margin." The Cook Political Report poll for RT Strategies (PDF), he...
  • FIRE EVERYONE, HIRE...

    FIRE EVERYONE, HIRE LA TIMES COLUMNISTS INSTEAD. Max Boot offers up the right-wing version of the incompetence dodge -- Don Rumsfeld should be fired for his mismanagement of the war, and the professionals in the officers' corps should be slammed for their own mismanagement of the war. Apparently, the only people fit to run the U.S. foreign policy are neoconservative journalists. Boot repeats the canard that "the president and his top aides blundered by not sending enough troops," though, in fact, we sent all the troops that we could send consistent with a long-term deployment. In response to General Anthony Zinni 's observation that "containment worked remarkably well," Boot offers the stirring rebuttal that Zinni's "is a highly questionable judgment, and one that is not for generals to make." Everything's "questionable" if you live in fantasyland, but since the goals of containment were to stop Saddam Hussein from building WMD, stop him from rebuilding his conventional military...

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