Dean Baker

Recent Articles

Will Millennials Suffer Because Retirements Create Job Openings for Them?

Robert Samuelson argues that they will . Samuelson apparently believes that people's standard of living is determined only by their tax bill. According to Samuelson's world view, Bill Gates is much worse off than the typical middle class family because he pays so much more in taxes. Of course in real world land, well-being is determined by after-tax income. The greater sum that Bill Gates pays in taxes is trivial compared to his enormous income. The same story applies for the millennials. The projections from the Congressional Budget Office, the Fed and all other standard sources show that before-tax compensation will rise on average at the rate of about 1.4 percent a year. This means that after 20 years their compensation will be more than 30 percent higher than what workers get today. This means that even if they pay substantially higher taxes than workers today, they will still have substantially higher living standards. The retirement of the baby boomers is likely to help...

Car Complaints by Company: Bad Numbers at the NYT

The NYT has a piece discussing efforts by Ford and GM to improve their quality. There is a chart accompanying the article showing the trend in complaints for the three automakers over the last decade. It shows a sharp drop in complaints by model year for both Ford and GM, while the numbers for Toyota remain almost flat. The picture is somewhat distorted since it doesn't take account of sales. GM and Fords sales both fell by roughly one-third over this period, while Toyota's doubled. This means that Toyota also saw a sharp fall in complaints per vehicle, while the declines on a per vehicle basis for Ford and GM are not as steep as indicated by the graph. --Dean Baker

Missing the Story on Iceland: Can the Bankers Steal Your Kids' Money

The NYT's piece on Iceland's referendum on using public money to pay debts to foreign bank depositors failed to explain the real issues involved. During the boom, several Icelandic banks courted deposits outside the country, mostly in the UK and the Netherlands, by offering higher interest rates. The banks then used these deposits to finance a range of highly speculative investments. As long the bubbles kept expanding, this model was hugely successful. However, when the bubbles burst, the value of the banks' assets collapsed and they had no ability to repay their depositors. This would have all been a private matter, except that the government insures bank deposits up to a certain level (like the FDIC in the United States). Iceland, as a matter of its treaty obligations with the European Union, is obligated to maintain a system of public deposit insurance which applies to both domestic and foreign depositors. The issue here is whether private banks can effectively create enormous...

How Does Being "Anti-Free Trade" Distinguish Anyone in Congress?

Just about every member of Congress supports protecting one or more domestic industries from foreign competition. For example, no member has publicly endorsed opening up our health care system to greater international competition. Therefore, describing a member of Congress as "anti-free trade" is misleading since the description would apply to every member of Congress. In describing Representative Sander Levin, the interim chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, as "anti-free trade, " the Post just means that he is opposed to trade measures that it supports. --Dean Baker

Jobs From the Jobs Bill: NYT Gives the Full He Said She Said

The House just approved a $15 billion jobs bill that was already passed by the Senate. Will it help the economy? The NYT told readers that Representative Bob Etheridge, "estimated that the measure could create one million jobs." It then quoted Republican Representative Steven LaTourette saying that: "This is a no-jobs bill, this is a faux-jobs bill, this is a snow-jobs bill." Later we are told that: "But lawmakers said that given the dismal unemployment picture, they were willing to give it a try, and estimated the tax breaks would put 300,000 people to work." It's not clear where this 300,000 jobs number came from or which lawmakers it is associated with. As a practical matter, the incentive in the bill, which is primarily the 6.2 percent employer side of the Social Security tax, is unlikely to be large enough to have much effect on hiring. Even in the current weak economy, employers hire close to 4 million workers a month offsetting the departure of roughly the same number of...