Archive

  • SOME RECOVERY. ...

    SOME RECOVERY. Brad Plumer , wielding a fearsome EPI study, does a nice job debunking the claim that stagnating wages are merely the inevitable effect of rising health costs. As he notes, between 2004 and 2005 the bottom 20 percent saw their wages drop nearly 2%, but only 24% of this quintile receives employer-based health care. Had health costs leapt up 39%, they might be the explanation. Instead, they went up 9.2%, and likely less for these folks, who tend to receive substandard benefits. So while my sympathies go out to all those Gilded Age apologists out there, you just can't explain away the central economic problem of our time -- accelerating, unchecked inequality so pervasive that we're seeing an economic "recovery" with continuing wage slippage and poverty increases -- by claiming that the poor receive too much health care. --Ezra Klein
  • NOW THAT'S BRAND...

    NOW THAT'S BRAND LOYALTY. Imagine if Coca-Cola, tired of seeing "New Coke" used as a universal signifier of a remarkably bad idea, blasted out a press release demanding that folks cease smearing the trademark of what was merely a sugared up soft drink concocted in accordance with a national survey of soda taste preferences. Oh the internets would laugh, and laugh, and laugh. So prepare to emit a chuckle in Grover Norquist 's direction . Because Grover, finally fed up with all the unfair smears aimed at his innocuous project to browbeat lobbying firms into hiring more conservatives and fewer Democrats, is seeking to patent the name "K Street Project," rescue it from its association with Jack Abramoff , and make a quick buck along the way: �Some people say Kleenex when they mean tissue,� Norquist said. �We will jealously guard the real phrasing the way Kleenex and Coca-Cola do. We will sue anyone who says it wrong and make lots of money.� Ah Grover, what would we do without you? --Ezra...
  • HARDBALL. It's...

    HARDBALL. It's a bit Machiavellian, but what a move . Turns out that a hefty chunk of congressional Republicans wanted to delete James Sensenbrenner 's provision turning all illegal immigrants into felons. Too explosive, they thought, to unite behind a bill that would render 1.6 million children serious criminals hiding on the lam. The Bush administration asked Sensenbrenner to soften the offense of lacking a visa to a misdemeanor and so he did, offering an amendment to that effect. The amendment failed, 164-257, with 191 Democrats voting to retain the harsh penalties: "From a strategic point of view, Democrats were not going to help Republicans pass the bad Sensenbrenner bill," said Jennifer Crider, spokeswoman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco). "With the felony provision in there, it is a poison pill, as we've seen from all the rallies around the country." Crider said that Republicans were the majority party in the House, and if they truly wanted to change the...
  • PROFILES IN COURAGE....

    PROFILES IN COURAGE. This is pretty disappointing stuff. A Senate bill, cosponsored by a variety of leading Democrats, to force call centers to identify their country of origin at the beginning of the call. Exactly why the United States Senate has to force the dude handling your tech support to mention that he's in New Delhi isn't really explained, but I assume it's just such a nice merging of protectionism and Clintonian incrementalism that opportunistic senators simply couldn't resist. In the end, though, a bill like this doesn't penalize outsourcing, it doesn't help the unexpectedly unemployed, and it doesn't do anything about globalization -- it just whips up some resentment again foreigners. If Democrats want to seriously address the downsides of free trade, they should (it'd be damn well about time). Instead, they want to look like they're addressing the downsides of free trade, while not actually making any of the hard decisions or substantive trade offs a coherent policy...
  • WHERE DO YOU...

    WHERE DO YOU COME FROM, WHERE DO YA GO? After Monday's immigration marches, The National Review 's Cliff May crept forth with a dark, ominous post wondering about the shadowy groups organizing these demonstrations and the nature of their true "agenda." Well May can take that extra layer of tin foil off his hat, because the answers are out , and they're pretty innocuous. According to the AP, the story goes something like this: After James Sensenbrenner brought his endearingly medieval outlook to the issue, a hastily called confab of unions, civil rights groups, and religious organizations met in California. The consortium decided to sponsor some rallies with a simple purpose: against Sensenbrenner's legislation, for some undefined path to citizenship. Outreach was conducted primarily through Hispanic radio, e-mail, and churches, with the Service Employees International Union and the Catholic Church eventually taking the lead, particularly on funding. The rallies tapped into the...
  • DEAN CALLS FOR...

    DEAN CALLS FOR DECLASSIFICATION RE WASHPOST PIECE. DNC Chairman Howard Dean this morning called on the Bush administration to declassify a 2003 Defense Intelligence Agency-sponsored report that undercuts a key administration claim about Saddam Hussein -era Iraqi weapons. As reported in this morning�s Washington Post , the DIA sent a team of experts to Iraq in May 2003 to examine trailers that were suspected of carrying equipment needed to make biological weapons. The team determined that the trailers did not contain such material, and reported that finding to Washington on May 27, 2003. Two days later, President Bush said, �We have found the weapons of mass destruction.� Dean, at this morning�s Prospect breakfast meeting with roughly two dozen journalists, said, "We are going to call, probably today, for the declassification of the report.� He wouldn�t say whether he had already spoken to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi about this strategy, but one source said that such conversations...
  • PSA. For the...

    PSA. For the past few months, spammers have bombarded our comments section. It came to a point where, for a brief period yesterday morning, they had brought down all of TAP Online . We had to temporarily deactivate the comments section to look into this problem more carefully, but it should all be resolved later today. Sorry for the inconvenience. --Alec Oveis
  • ABOUT THAT SCLEROSIS....

    ABOUT THAT SCLEROSIS. The economic performance of the large continental European economies -- France, Italy, and Germany -- really does leave a great deal to be desired. That said, the American press seems dogmatically determined to vastly overstate the extent of the problems. This editorial in my morning paper argues that "European governments seem unable to summon the strength even to address the economic sclerosis eating away their prosperity -- much less challenge American power." Mixed metaphor aside, Europe isn't becoming less prosperous . Rather, it's becoming more prosperous at a slow rate . If Europeans were actually getting poorer, then I think you'd see much more electoral support for dramatic changes. As things stand, it's always worth noting that European economic growth could be boosted rather easily if the European Central Bank would loosen monetary policy. My understanding is that they've been maintaining a tighter-than-necessary monetary policy in order to...
  • BOOING CHENEY. This...

    BOOING CHENEY. This is bizarre. Dick Cheney was selected to throw out the first pitch at the Washington Nationals home opener yesterday and got booed as he took the mound because he's ridiculously unpopular . This, as Jane Hamsher notes , was reported by The Washington Post thusly: The first pitch of the Washington Nationals� second season at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium was low and away, bouncing in the dirt before being scooped up by catcher Brian Schneider. For that, Vice President Cheney received a round of boos from the home crowd this afternoon. By all other accounts in the press and rather plainly on the Post 's video , Cheney was getting booed from the beginning just as you would expect. --Matthew Yglesias
  • When Out of Context Is Untrue

    A couple of days ago, I gave my standard diatribe about the importance of putting numbers in context, especially budget numbers, which as isolated billions or trillions are virtually meaningless to the typical reader. In some cases, the issue is not just one of being uninformative, it's also a question of actually being wrong. In budget reporting, the most obvious case in which out of context is wrong, is when comparisons of the deficit are made through time. There have been many news reports pronouncing the Bush deficits the largest in history based on the fact that nominal deficits (which peaked at $413 billion in 2004) were larger than the size of the deficits in any prior year. This statement is true, but sufficiently misleading to be wrong. The impact of the deficit on the economy, and the potential debt burden it poses to taxpayers in the future, depends entirely on its size relative to the economy. This is the Bill Gates principle. If Bill Gates chooses to borrow $1 million for...

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