• It's Just Hard Work

    David Sirota has been running a series of posts on the Senatorial bid of Rep. Bernie Sanders , (Democratic Socialist - Vermont). As I read it, Bernie Sanders has two lessons to teach the Democratic Party. First, that one can be an economic populist without the negative out-group Dixiecrat pandering to prejudice that flatters itself as "cultural conservatism". And before all of the "centrists" and Republicans out there start parroting the Club For Growth talking points about how Vermont is just another ultraliberal East Coast Volvo-latte-hippie dystopia and shouldn't really count, let's do some math.
  • Free Trade Here Now!

    A lot of people on the left are unhappy with American trade policy. They think corporations are profiting by keeping the Third World in poverty. They're right about this, but not exactly in the way that many of them think. As far as policy in the First World is concerned, it's our protectionism, not free trade, which impoverishes poor nations. That's why venerable relief organizations like Oxfam are pushing for America to permit more imports of foreign goods. (In poor countries, the story is different -- the relief organizations tend to support poor countries in protecting nascent industries and blocking imports.)
  • 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!