Dean Baker

Recent Articles

The Times Discovers Temps in Europe

The New York Times had an interesting article about the growth of part-time and temporary employment in Europe. It notes that in several European countries, 20-30 percent of the workforce is employed either part-time, or on temporary employment contracts, or both. It is good to see this piece, because part-time and temporary employment has been an important part of many European economies for close to two decades. As the article notes, these workers tend to enjoy far less employment protection than do full-time workers. Of course, the article is somewhat misleading in implying that these workers enjoy no protection. The extent to which employment protection extends to part-time and temporary workers varies substantially across countries, but in most countries, part-time and temporary workers enjoy more legal protection than do full-time workers in the United States, who generally can be fired without cause at any time. Part-timers and temps in Europe also generally have health care...

The Conservative Nanny State is Here!

The moment you have all been waiting for has finally arrived. You can download your copy of The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer today. The book is available as a free e-book (read chapter 4 for the reasoning). You will soon be able to order paperback copies at Conservativenannystate.org . The book takes issue with the prevailing political metaphor in U.S. politics: that liberals want the government to intervene to promote fairness and equity, while conservatives want to leave outcomes to the market. The book argues that conservatives (or at least those in power) support a wide range of government interventions that have the effect of distributing income upward. This list includes a trade and immigration policy that places less-skilled workers in direct competition with workers in developing countries, while protecting highly paid professionals from the same sort of competition. Another item on the list is Federal Reserve Board...

The New York Times Discovers Sweden

The Times had an article this morning that reports on Sweden's success in sustaining healthy rates of economic growth, while also ensuring a high degree of economic security for its workforce. The article is mostly fair, but is misleading on a few points. For example, the article reports that Sweden overhauled its Social Security system in the mid-nineties and added private accounts. This is true, but it would have been helpful to add that the defined benefit portion of Sweden's system is still approximately one-third larger (relative to wages) than the current U.S. system. The article also reports a common complaint that the official unemployment rate of 4.8 percent substantially understates true unemployment because it excludes the people in government retraining programs. (The article reports that labor unions put the true rate at 8 percent. Labor unions rarely appear as a source for economic data in Times articles.) It is not clear why workers in government funded training...

Post Columnist Advocates Default on National Debt

Washington Post columnist Allan Sloan called for defaulting on the U.S. national debt, or at least a portion of it, in his weekly column today . Mr. Sloan pointed out that the Social Security trustees project that the program will begin drawing on the government bonds in its trust fund in just over a decade. He said that repaying the bonds in the trust fund will be a burden to the government, and that his children, as future taxpayers, shouldn't have to bear this burden. Mr. Sloan probably would object to describing his column as a call for default on the national debt, but this in fact exactly what it is. In the column, he implicitly derides the legitimacy of the bonds held by Social Security by calling them IOUs. Of course all bonds are IOUs, but they are never described this way in normal discussions. Under the law, the bonds held by the Social Security trust fund are legal obligations of the federal government. Social Security bought these bonds with the excess Social Security...

Dying Children and Numbers in Context

A New York Times article this morning, reporting that up to 4 million infants die every year for the lack of very simple medical care items, provides a classic example of reporting numbers out of context. The article informs readers that the Bush administration proposes to spend $323 million in 2007 on aid for maternal and child health care in developing countries, down from $356 million in 2006. Apart from the failure to adjust the spending figures for inflation, very few Times readers are probably aware of the fact that the 2007 appropriation comes to $1.08 per person in the United States, or 0.013 percent of federal spending. This program may or may not be a good use of public money, but it is a trivial item in the federal budget, and readers should be made aware of this fact. --Dean Baker

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