• The Return of Brooks

    David Brooks's column today is the best I've seen him write since signing on with the Times . This is what he used to be like in The Atlantic -- playful, thought-provoking, idiosyncratic. Turned out he couldn't do that on a biweekly basis, so he gratefully slumped into the waiting arms of talking points and hackery, but somewhere, deep inside reasonable and non-threatening exterior, lurks the unique cultural critic everybody used to enjoy. Ezra
  • Home, Home Out of Range

    The LA Times has a great article on the housing bubble, and its stubborn unwillingness to pop, this morning. In it, they talk to a bunch of economists who've been predicting a crash for years now, only to see their best models and most educated guesses foiled by the market's relentless upward momentum. Best quote comes from Dean Baker, who you all remember from the Social Security wars. He writes: A year ago, Baker was so sure the collapse was at hand that he sold his Washington condo, which had tripled in value in the seven years he owned it. He moved two blocks away into a rental and wrote another article warning that "the crash of the housing market will not be pretty." He pointed out that housing prices traditionally didn't rise faster than inflation, but that on the coasts the price jumps were exceeding that level by double digits. He dismissed the argument that prices were increasing because of immigration, or the scarcity of land or the demographics of the baby boomers. Despite...
  • Primary Qualities

    If you were designing a system to pick a Democratic presidential nominee, it probably wouldn't look much like the current primary system. The Iowa / New Hampshire sequence helps candidates who've done favors for local politicians and who are willing to perform obscene acts of submission to Big Corn. No offense meant to Jeanne Shaheen or the corn lobby (actually, on second thought, let's offend the corn lobby), but these aren’t especially desirable features in a Presidential candidate. New Hampshire boosters say that putting their small state up front allows for more face-to-face "retail politics." But presidential elections aren't decided on the basis of retail politics, and we want the primary process to turn out the Democrat whose skills are optimized for winning the general election. Getting more people involved has all the usual advantages of democracy, and it allows for more generally positive media attention towards our candidates. In a crowded primary field, candidates are...
  • The People's Debt

    I thought I might chase The Ethical Werewolf's notes on The People's Money with a snapshot of The People's Debt. I've been following this story for several months, and I've noticed that it doesn't get much air time. The essence is simple. Assume the Republican Party makes all of its recent regressive tax changes permanent (but does not go farther down that path) and then only increases discretionary spending with GDP (by among other things, not debt-financing colonial adventurism). By 2040, almost every penny that the Federal Government takes in goes just to pay the interest on the national debt. For those who are curious about what that looks like, there's a chart below the fold. That's not my opinion. That's the opinion of the General Accounting Office , based on a middle-of-the-road set of assumptions. And yet, the Republican Party talking points are that Social Security is bankrupt because in 2042, the Social Security Trust Fund will be depleted, and the amount of money then...
  • The People's Money

    Hi, everybody! I’m the Ethical Werewolf . As my first post on Ezra's blog, I'd like to point out a nice little pattern that has held over the last 16 years of budget history : In every year when a Democrat has controlled the White House, the deficit has gone down (or the surplus has gone up). And in every year when a Republican has controlled the White House, the deficit has gotten worse or we've lost surplus. While this won't come as a big surprise to those of us in the wonkosphere, I'd bet that most Americans haven't fathomed the depths of Republican fiscal depravity. Pre-election polls that I can't find anymore gave Democrats a slight advantage on budget-related issues, but nowhere near what the 16-year streak would justify. A serious push to make people know that we're way better on fiscal stuff is especially important given how the Tom DeLay scandals are going. You earn cred as a reformer coming to clean up Washington by showing your commitment to taking care of the people's...
  • Star Wars

    By the way -- Star Wars? Just atrociously, terribly fucking bad. Some cool ships, to be fair, and some interesting alien design, but my main motivation during the movie was staying until something horrible happen to that whining, unlikable little snot Anakin. Lord was he a distasteful character. And it's not as if Hayden Christenson can't act -- his performance in Shattered Glass was terrific. So chalk another one up to Lucas's dialogue. And you might think, by the way, that the Jedi's great hope would be able to see through cheap, crude attempts at manipulation. Nope. Palpatine's arguments would alarm a five-year old he was enticing with candy, but Anakin blithely buys his crap. Beyond Anakin, Padme (Natalie Portman) had fewer dimensions than an 80's arcade game. Her role in life, insofar as a role could be ascertained, was thinking up newer and ever-more uninteresting ways to merge the words "love" and "Anakin" into the same sentences. She had no soul, no self-directed movements,...
  • Middle Class Woe

    The centrist Democratic group Third Way has released an analysis of the 2004 exit polls showing, quite starkly, that Democrats lost the middle class. The tipping point for white voters, the spot where they began voting for Republicans rather than Democrats, was $23,700, not that far above party level. More damaging, the same dynamic was on exhibit with Hispanic voters, who gave us a 21-point margin when their incomes were under $30,000, but only a 10-point win when they made between $30,000 and $75,000. To some degree, this can all be explained away as priorities. If you're making under $30,000, economic security is likely to be your foremost concern, easily outweighing wars a world away and terrorist threats that have long since become routine. Jack up the incomes and financial stability, though, and more mental space is freed to fret over terrorism, orange alerts, and gay couples. All this, I think, shows why a simple return to populism isn't going to do the trick, at least not in...
  • Guest-Bloggers

    This weekend, Neil Sinhababu from Ethical Werewolf and Paperwight from Papewright's Fairshot will be helping me out. Indeed they, and maybe a few others, will be on the site until Thursday, as I'm going to DC for the first few days of next week. I'll still be posting, just not with my usual frequency, so having them around will keep everything humming along nicely. Hearty welcomes all around!
  • Market 1, Consumer 0

    Kate catches doctors surrendering to their inner capitalist and accepting the practice of giving project funders -- often pharmaceutical companies -- full control over their research projects. That means control over design, what's studied, how the material is presented...the whole deal. Why is this so attractive in such a service-oriented profession? She explains: researchers at medical schools are often responsible for coming up with their own project funding after their first couple years on staff. Many will turn to pharmaceutical comapanies and other for-profit entities to foot the bill. This just perpetuates the conflict of interest cycle, from the researcher's petri dish to the doctor's prescription pad -- Big Pharma has their hand in all of it. So there's a funding gap in research, researchers need funding to do their job, and Big Pharma altruistically steps into the void, with a few little sub-clauses. Another win for the magical market, I guess.
  • Roe v. Wade, Men v. Women

    Via Steve Soto , here's some interesting poll data: While American voters have mixed opinions about abortion, they support the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision 63 - 33 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Men support it 68 - 28 percent, while women support it 58 - 37 percent. This is historically predictable -- men have almost always supported abortion rights in higher percentages than women -- but this is the first time I've seen a 10-point spread between the two. I've never quite understood why women are so much more loathe to come out for choice, but it's an interesting phenomenon. I've heard arguments postulating a decreased willingness for women to answer in the affirmative during telephone polls or, more interestingly, that there's a certain strain of denial (i.e, I'd never get accidentally pregnant, so I don't need to support Roe v. Wade) covering responses. Any readers have some insight on this?