WANKIEST OP-ED COLUMN EVER. "For the Democratic Party to revive, major tenets of American liberalism, economic and sociocultural, will have to be discarded. The party can join Studebaker and the Glass Bottle Blowers union, it can trudge along as No. 2, or it can undergo a painful transformation." Gee, it sure sounds like Tom Edsall, who wrote those words in his Saturday New York Times column, had a whole argument about the death of the Democrats in place before the election and just dutifully trotted it out, the results notwithstanding. Declaring American liberalism dead and the 2006 election a last twitch of life before rigor mortis sets in, Edsall goes on to make all the centrist "friend of the Democrats" attacks on the left that we've been hearing for twenty years. Only problem: it all proceeds from a factually false premise. The Democrats are not "No. 2." On November 7 they were number one by a wide margin. And the stats from recent years don't suggest a final death twitch: before...

    WHILE WE WERE AWAY. Believe it or not, it's possible for Iraq to slip even further into chaos. The Iraqi government -- not that it's really in charge of the country anyway -- is on the brink of collapse after Moqtada al-Sadr & company threatened to withdraw if Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki goes ahead with his meeting with Bush in ... Amman (scheduled for Wednesday). As Spencer noted on his blog, this was an astute move by the Mookster, who is the beneficiary of a rising tide of Shi'ite anger provoked by the latest massive bombing attacks in Sadr City. Another round of deadly reprisal attacks on Sunnis may begin if Baghdad's curfew lifts later today. The rapidly sinking Maliki, put in an impossible position, has said he's going ahead with the meeting with Bush. Maybe he's just trying to flee the country. --Blake Hounshell

    POPULAR POPULISM. The initial media narrative for 2006 -- namely, that Republicans lost because of the war, and to an emergent class of conservative Democrats -- is, I'm happy to report, starting to turn a bit. The New York Times is leading the way, with an appropriately titled piece yesterday by Louis Uchitelle ("Here Come the Economic Populists), followed today by a regional analysis from Pam Belluck about the Republicans' northeastern debacle. --Tom Schaller

    CHEERS, TOM. Our own Tom Schaller is giving a public presentation today on his book, Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South , at Duke University at 3 p.m. (not 2:30, as originally scheduled), in the Social Science Research Institute. If you can't make it to Durham, you can watch Schaller's appearance on C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" program archives. --The Editors
  • The Post Jihad on Social Security Continues

    The Washington Post just won't give it a rest. Just after a new Congress was elected, in part in response to President Bush's effort to privatize Social Security, the Post editorializes that it is now a great time to "reform" Social Security. Columnist Sebastian Mallaby also threw in another diatribe for good measure. The Post is more honest than usual in today's column, noting that the program is solvent for the next 35 years according to President Bush's Social Security Trustees (40 years according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office) and that the projected explosion in health care costs implies that Medicare is a much bigger problem, but then argues that workers need time to plan for their retirement. While time for planning is great, one might think that 20 years is plenty. Furthermore, the Post's editorialists were unconcerned about the impact that the impending collapse of a stock market bubble would have on people's retirement plans in the late 90s and they also...
  • Let's Get the Story Right: The Clinton Democrats are Protectionists

    It is unfortunate that a debate over the economic agenda of the Democratic party seems to be starting from the Clintonites' framework. There are many important issues about economic policy at stake, but the question of a free market and free trade verse government intervention is not one of them. Trade has played an important role in distributing income upward over the last quarter century not because it has been "free," but because it hasn't. The Clintonites, along with the Republican administrations that preceded and followed them, structured trade agreements that had as a goal putting manufacturing workers in direct competition with low-paid workers in the developing world. The predicted result of such competition is to drive down the wages of manufacturing workers in the United States. Since manufacturing has historically been a source of high wage jobs for less-educated workers (i.e. the 70 percent of the workforce that lacks a college degree), this pattern of trade had the...
  • The Economy's Mixed Signals

    The NYT business section had a column today urging cautious optimism about the economy's future. While the case for pessimism is clear enough (crashing housing market leads to continued declines in housing related sectors, which are soon amplifed by falling consumption, as consumers lose the ability to borrow against homes that have lost value) the article does not make much of a case for optimism. The article notes that capacity utilization has been falling for the last three months. I thought this was going to be an argument for pessimism, since firms are less likely to invest when they have considerable excess capacity. Instead, this is cited as a basis for optimism (room for expansion -- no inflation). In fact, the story on utlization is even worse than the data in the article suggest. The recent increase in utilization has been mostly in the mining sector, utliization in the manufacturing sector is just 1.3 pp higher than its year ago level and down 0.7 pp from its August peak...
  • Getting Facts Straight on the Medicare Drug Benefit

    Lobbyists and politicians often try to obscure issues when they advocate positions favored only by relatively small special interest groups. They did their job well in helping to frame a Washington Post piece on the Medicare drug benefit. The article discusses the possibility of having Medicare negotiate drug prices directly with the industry, a position strongly opposed by the Washington Post editorial board. One would be hard-pressed to figure out what is at issue after reading this piece. For example, the article raises the possibility that if Medicare negotiated prices directly with the industry, it �could drive prices higher.� Yes, this must be why the industry is lobbying so hard against having Medicare negotiate prices. They are worried that it would cause them to charge higher prices and get higher profits. The article then raises the other potential downside of negotiated drug prices �it could significantly lower drug-company profits and discourage medical innovation.� Okay,...

    WHEN YOU THINK YOU'VE LOST EVERYTHING, YOU FIND OUT YOU CAN ALWAYS LOSE A LITTLE MORE . So it's not just that Bush 's new chief of family planning services, Eric Keroack , uses wacky cartoons to teach kids reactionary, anti-scientific nonsense about sexuality. Apparently, he's not even a board-certified ob-gyn . Heckuva job, Bushie! (In fairness, as Bush appointments to crucial family planning posts go, he's still not quite as bad as David Hager .) -- Scott Lemieux

    CANCEL THE APPOINTMENT. The Department of Health and Human Services is now defending Eric Keroack as an appointee to lead federal family planning groups based on Keroack's private practice as an OB-GYN, during which he prescribed birth control to patients. Keroack has a record of working for Christian family planning centers that dissuade women from abortions and birth control. Moreover, he "inadvertently" let his OB-GYN certification expire in the last year at the same time that HHS officials have been touting that credential as evidence of his suitability. --Kay Steiger