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  • Strong Words on the Fed

    "The Fed chairman may be appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, but his real bosses are on Wall Street." This isn't the ranting of some crazed radical; it is a line from a column in the Washington Post 's Outlook section, by Richard Yamarone, an investment analyst. While I probably never would have phrased it so bluntly, I think that Mr. Yamarone is largely correct. It is worth reflecting on this one. The interests of Wall Street investors are not necessarily the same as the interests of the public as a whole. For example, big wage increases, that come out of corporate profits, would be very welcome news to the vast majority of the population, since they depend on wages for the bulk of their income. Needless to say, lower profits are not welcome news on Wall Street. The fact that we have an arm of the federal government that answers to the special interests on Wall Street, rather than the larger public, should be cause for concern in a democracy. --Dean Baker
  • JUST POSTED ON...

    JUST POSTED ON TAP: HARD SELL. Garance Franke-Ruta reports on the icy reception Mark Warner received at this year�s Yearly Kos convention. --The Editors
  • PRACTICALITY. I...

    PRACTICALITY. I recommend that folks read Garance 's sharp analysis of Mark Warner 's impact at YearlyKos. Most interesting to me was news that the famously pragmatic, nonideological Markos is scornful of a potential meeting with Team Hillary . When a Hillary staffer reached out to him a year ago, Markos ignored the invitation. Indeed, he offers a willingness to take it a step farther, saying that if Clinton requested a meeting today, �I�d probably say no � I don�t think she has anything to say to me.� Fair enough, though snubbing the party's likely nominee isn't exactly a "pragmatic" move. But neither was it the first time: in 2004, Markos swiftly rebuffed Cam Kerry 's efforts at outreach after his brother secured the nomination. At least, it wasn't on first blush. But upon further thought (second blush?), both moves are perfectly, even ruthlessly, pragmatic. Clinton doesn't need Kos -- his netroots won't prove a major force in her fundrasing machine, her victory won't be attributed...
  • UNFOUNDED CONFIDENCE. ...

    UNFOUNDED CONFIDENCE. Responding to claims that America's apathy towards soccer adds to international irritation with us, Jerry Taylor wonders whether the world would really be happier "if America took this game seriously and, as a consequence, cut through their footballers like a hot knife through butter?" That's just silly. Our record in international competitions ain't exactly so hot. Baseball, a sport we theoretically dominate, just held the World Baseball Classic, a sort of World Cup for our national pastime. We lost to Korea, Mexico, and Canada, getting eliminated before the finals. We're just lucky we didn't play Cuba, who would've delivered a rather embarrassing whupping. And we all remember the 2004 Olympics, where the Dream Team was summarily demolished by Puerto Rico -- our very own colony ! So comforting American exceptionalism aside, it's not clear to me how a national focus on soccer would lead to us tearing through the Brazilians. Do we, as a country, pay insufficient...
  • BUT WHAT WILL...

    BUT WHAT WILL BE THE CAUSE OF DEATH? I spent this morning at a Brookings/New America Foundation event on the future of employer-based health care. The consensus? The system, captain, she canna' take anymore! The morning's most interesting speech came from Andy Stern , head of the SEIU and catalyst for last year's union split (which gets a dim review from Harold Meyerson in the upcoming issue of The American Prospect ). And make no mistake, the guy can talk. Despite having a look and speaking style unsettlingly similar to Bill Maher 's (if Maury Povich ever has a "Long Lost Brothers" show, and Maher or Stern is waiting uneasily on stage, you can be sure that the other is set to stride out from the wings), he gave a ripsnorting condemnation of the current system -- a decaying, dying structure -- and called on the room's business leaders and policy wonks to show some damn leadership and hasten what comes next. It was powerful stuff, and Stern knew how to deliver it. His union, after all...
  • IDEALISM AND SUCH....

    IDEALISM AND SUCH. Writing like this from Richard Just makes me suspicious. Ostensibly, the argument is that "there are plenty of ways short of military action that America can oppose tyranny in Iran and elsewhere" and that we should do so. The post doesn't, however, name any such ways, cite any arguments that such ways would be effective, or debunk any counterarguments against any such proposals. Instead, the actual weight of the post is just dedicated to bashing liberals. I'd be interested in hearing about what these ways are -- really! My read, though, is that the tragedy of the situation in Iran is that there's actually very little we can do to affect internal Iranian developments -- we have almost no leverage over the situation. We might be able to do more vis-�-vis friends and allies, like Saudi Arabia and Tunisia, but even there I'm not sure, in practice, what can really be done. I think it would probably be somewhat helpful if countries that don't have suspect geopolitical...
  • THE WAR: IT'S...

    THE WAR: IT'S HERE, IT'S REAL, GET USED TO IT. Yesterday's scummy GOP political stunts over Iraq were, of course, scummy. At the same time, though, Democrats are paying the price for the ostrich-like attitude they've taken to the war ever since the 2004 election. There's been this persistent hope that either the Bush administration would declare victory and go home, or else that the mounting casualties, costs, and unpopularity of the venture would somehow allow a bipartisan truce to prevail letting Democrats wage a campaign that's all about ethics and prescription drugs. There's a lesson in yesterday's events that Democrats need to learn, and quickly: The Republicans are confident -- very confident -- about the politics of national security. Confident enough to try and sell a war based on bogus intelligence. Confident enough to, in the wake of the intelligence's evident wrongness, simply revise history and say it was about something else. Confident enough to try and make the war a...
  • BEN-GURION REDUX. All...

    BEN-GURION REDUX. All right, on this David Ben-Gurion business, I was trying to be provocative and maybe should have just gone with Menachim Begin whose Irgun is less controversially considered a terrorist group. That said, the different pre-independence groups did work together before the King David Hotel bombing, and Ben-Gurion's group was involved with "kidnapping of British officials in Palestine and sabotaged the British infrastructure in Palestine." My inclination would be to say that kidnapping British officials serving in Palestine or other colonies wasn't terrorism. It's conventional, however, to describe the attacks on the Marine barracks in Lebanon, on the Khobar Towers installation in Saudi Arabia, on the USS Cole at sea, on our embassies in East Africa, and on various American officials in Iraq as terrorism. If those things were terrorism, then so were Haganah�s tactics. Be that as it may, my intent was less to compare Zarqawi to Ben-Gurion and Michael Collins than to...
  • Cooking Unemployment Data to Make the U.S. Look Better

    Laurent Guerby made a post on the prior topic about European-U.S. unemployment comparisons, I was just at a conference sponsored by the OECD where exactly this issue came up. The basic point is that proponents of the U.S. model want to add people in employment training programs and disability roles in Europe to their official unemployment rates for purposes of international comparisons. This seems bogus on several grounds. First, the employment training programs are obviously heavily subsidized by the government (often 100 percent), but there are many situations in the U.S. where jobs enjoys substantial government subsidies. The EITC peaks at more than 35 percent of wages, throwing in work related child care benefits can easily push the subsidy to more than half of the wage. At what point do we say that the job is simply concealing unemployment, a 60 percent subsidy?, an 80 percent subsidy?, or does it have to be 100 percent? Furthermore, what if the government paid the full wage, and...
  • OF COURSE I...

    OF COURSE I THINK THE MEN SHOULD STAY HOME WITH THE BABIES. But just in case the guys are too busy and are thinking of using a little outside help, this week, New York Times business columnist David Leonhardt trumpeted the results of a 2005 economics study of Canadian child care, which concluded that �across almost everything we looked at, the policy led to much worse outcomes for kids.� Leonhardt fails to mention that the study, which was promoted by the ultra-conservative C.D. Howe Institute , was immediately and heavily challenged (PDF) by the child development experts at the University of British Columbia�s Human Early Learning Partnership , Drs. Hillel Goelman , David Kershaw and Clyde Hertzman , who objected to results on the grounds that they were inconsistent with all other analysis, included no longitudinal data about the children, and most importantly did not include data on the quality of child care provided. As these real experts note, no peer-reviewed child development...

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