Dean Baker

Recent Articles

Budget Reporting Without Context

The Times ran a piece this morning on a budget resolution passed by the House last night. According to the article, the resolution provides for a substantial increase in defense spending (not counting war expenditures) and some degree of cuts for everything else. However, it is not clear where (if anywhere) adjustments have been made for inflation (now between 3.0-4.0 percent) so I doubt that many readers have any clear sense of what spending changes would be implied by this resolution for a $2.7 trillion budget ($2.8 trillion on NPR). In fairness, this bill was passed at 1:00 A.M. and the Senate will almost certainly not approve it, but if it was worth writing about, it was worth writing about in a way that provided information to readers. --Dean Baker

The Conservative Nanny State in html

To increase sales, we now have my new book, The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer , available for free download in html format . It is still possible to get a free PDF download, or you can also order a paperback copy. Also, for those interested in asking questions on the book, or just questioning my competence and integrity, I will be guest blogging at Maxspeak on Wednesday, May 24, from 1:00-2:30 (EDT). --Dean Baker

European Union Enlargement and Mexico

Both the Clinton and Bush administrations were eager proponents of European union expansion, calling on the EU to quickly admit the former Soviet bloc countries, as well as Turkey. The media have typically presented resistance to rapid expansion as reflecting perverse European fears of globalization. The Post had another piece in this vein this morning. In assessing this resistance to expansion, it would be helpful to point out that the EU is more than just a NAFTA type trading bloc. It is a quasi-state, that in principle allows free movement of people and workers across borders and provides for substantial subsidy flows from richer regions to poorer ones. In this context, the people who oppose rapid ascension of the considerably poorer countries of east Europe and Turkey are showing the same sort of perverse fears as those people who oppose free entry of Mexican workers into the United States and a committment to use federal tax revenue to quickly bring Mexico up to U.S. living...

Immigration ID Logic

Perhaps I'm missing something, but it seems that there is an obvious flaw with President Bush's proposal to have a tamper proof identification card for guest workers. As I understand it, under his program guest workers would be required to present this ID to employers when they get a job. The flaw in the logic is that all workers are already required to present ID to employers showing that they are either a U.S. citizen or have legal authorization to work in the United States. The problem is that the necessary documents can be readily forged, which is why so many workers are employed illegally. The question is, if the documents accepted for proof of U.S. citizenship can still be readily forged, what difference does it make that the ID for guest workers is relatively secure? If the flaw in the president's plan has been reported, I have not seen it. --Dean Baker

No Fun With Numbers: Another Cost of Intellectual Property

The Times had a piece this morning about how Major League Baseball is suing to prevent fantasy baseball games from using players' statistics without paying a licensing fee. The article tried to be fair in presenting the views of both parties as well as independent legal scholars. What is missing from the discussion is any independent economic analysis. The lack of economic analysis in articles on efforts to extend intellectual property has been an ongoing problem in the media (read the discussions of the legal battles over Napster and related services). This would be comparable to reporting on the debates over agricultural protections without ever referring to their economic costs. The economics profession has not been very good in its treatment of intellectual property (IP) issues, but that should not give the media an excuse to ignore the often sizable economic impact of IP controversies. --Dean Baker