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Archive for August, 2008

Oh Crap I Can’t Resist: Obama’s VP Will Be…

August 19th, 2008 No comments

Clark.

Because, the following seems very odd to me.

According to Steve Clemons at The Washington Note, the Obama campaign is either ignoring Clark or actively putting him at arm's length—he's supposedly not even attending the convention.

Odd because: Clark's clearly a Very Big Democratic Asset, and what Obama describes as one "inartful" comment doesn't change that.

And the Obama campaign certainly knows how to field their assets. They might not play him up a lot, but ignoring him or telling him to crawl in a hole? Doesn't make sense.

All of which suggests to me: an incredibly well-executed head fake.

But whaddo I know? I'm an inveterate wishful thinker.

Wishful because: I cast my mind forward two days, two months, and I imagine the campaign atmosphere with any of the first-tier VP prospects. What I experience in my imagination: a dull, dead, same-ol'-same-ol' feeling.

Then I imagine the atmosphere with Clark in the game. Maybe it's self delusion, but the feeling is electric. Those two on stage together? Yow.

Also, this.

Maybe Obama’s Not So Bad…

August 19th, 2008 No comments

My wonderful friend and former business partner Steve allows as how maybe Obama isn't going to drive our economy into extinction after all. His route to that revelation, via a Mankiw post, puts aside that sage's other comment in the post:

[Obama quote:] Over the past decade, we've seen…hefty corporate profits, but a shrinking share of those profits going to workers.

[Mankiw;] I
am pretty sure that the share of profits going to workers has been
stable–at zero. Profits are what owners get to keep after workers have
been paid.

Which can only be described as a spurious, specious, intentionally obtuse quibble, utterly unworthy of one so well-versed. (Okay, it could be described other ways; but I like my way.)

The key point here I think is that Obama, like every other important progressive leader, is totally on board the bigger-pie bandwagon. (Think: Clinton. Rubin.) And they have some seriously good ideas about how to make that pie bigger while at the same time giving more people (in America and worldwide) a place at the table—actually making it bigger because the table's bigger and there are more seats. (For some of the best of that thinking, run don't walk to read everything by Lane Kenworthy. Don't be lazy; read his books.)

By contrast, the leaders on the right cling to a single, childishly simplistic faith-based prescription: cut taxes and make government smaller. Damn the evidence, damn the experts, and damn the consequences.

When you do find right-wingers rather reluctantly calling for more equity (i.e. Jim Manzi), they do so not because they think it promises a better future, or because they envision any kind of win-win, all-boats-rise, non-fixed-sum, bigger-pie solutions in that direction, but because they're worried that their brand is eroding. They're scrambling to dole out dollops to the downtrodden in some kind of lèse majesté, latter-day inversion of droit du seigneur. (Okay, sue me for florid alliteration; I deserve it.)

The "cut taxes" pander has been a very effective method of buying votes and power for decades. But it's not working so well any more.

Immigrants: Pay for My Retirement! Please?

August 17th, 2008 No comments

Everyone agrees: the problem with Social Security is that we’re going to have (already have?) too many old people and not enough young people.

Since killing off old people like me is not an option, what we need is more hardworking young people.

Americans aren’t putting their shoulders to the wheel by creating more little ones. Since Abstaining-from-Abstinence programs would likely to be about as effective as their opposites, we’re going to have to find an alternate method if we want to increase the number of  young workers.

Happily, we’ve already got one, and it’s already hard at work: immigration.

It seems that the Social Security projections greatly understate the projected number of immigrants (who are, not surprisingly, heavily skewed toward prime-working-age individuals). The latest SS trustees’ report—which is required to assume current legal limits on immigration—projects between 1 million and 1.3 million immigrants, mid-century. (We’re currently at 1.3 million.) But the Census Bureau projects 2 million.

Dean Baker says that “If the Census projections prove correct, then close to 30 percent of the projected Social Security shortfall would be eliminated.” (Unfortunately he doesn’t detail his calculations or source, though his post implies that the scenario comes from the trustees’ report; I can’t find it in there.)

Hat tip to Don Pedro at Economist for Obama.

Bush Promotes Private Sector: Cancels Shuttle for Football Fans

August 15th, 2008 No comments

Seattle's Metro used to have a shuttle to get people to Seahawks games. Not any more. (Seattle P-I.)

the Bush administration began requiring public transit agencies such
as Metro to step aside when private operators say they want to provide
service. Starline Luxury Coaches of Seattle has done so this year.

The Seahawks rejected Starline's bid, saying it would have
dramatically raised fares and wouldn't have picked passengers up at the
park and ride lots as Metro did.

But since Starline is still interested and is not disqualified under
federal rules, Metro can't step back in, and fans are left without the
service.

I think free-marketers would call this "the law of unintended consequences."

Or…maybe not.

Taxes: Obama vs. McCain

August 15th, 2008 No comments

The Best Path to Prosperity?

August 9th, 2008 1 comment

Between 1970 and 2000, GDP per person rose by 64% in the United States and by 60% in France. In America, this came about because productivity per worker rose by 38% and hours worked per worker rose by 26%.

In France, it came about because productivity rose by 83% while hours worked fell by 23%.

Source.

Which led me to think: isn’t GDP/hours-worked a better measure of “the good life” than GDP/capita? You can have stunning GDP/capita if everyone works all the time. (Hey: what country does that make me think of?)

Which led me to dig up the excellent OECD data sets on labor productivity here. (Not to worry, it’s not XLS or PDF, just spiffy HTML/CSS; Check ‘em out—excellent interactive spreadsheets with pop-up menus and such.)

About which—if you get back here—you’ll be hearing a lot more.

For now, here are the 2006 numbers (dollars converted using purchasing power parity).

$/worker hour Relative to US (100)
Luxembourg 72 143
Norway 71 141
Belgium 53 104
Netherlands 51 102
Ireland 52 102
United States 50 100
France 50 99
Germany 47 93
Sweden 45 89
G7 countries 45 89
Euro-zone (excluding Denmark, Sweden and
United Kingdom)
43 86
Denmark 43 85
NAFTA 42 84
Austria 42 84
Australia 42 83
United Kingdom 41 82
Finland 41 82
Canada 41 82
Switzerland 40 80
OECD-Europe (excluding Turkey) 40 79
EU19 (EU members that are also OECD
members)
40 79
Spain 39 78
Italy 38 76
OECD 38 75
Japan 36 71
Iceland 36 71
New Zealand 28 56
Slovak Republic 25 50
Portugal 24 48
Hungary 24 47
Czech Republic 22 44
Korea 20 41
Poland 19 38
Mexico 16 32
Turkey 15 29

Who’s Fiscally Responsible?

August 7th, 2008 No comments

This is old news, but here are the latest figures.

Federal Debt: 1940–2019: (Updated 1/31/2010)

Yet another of those telling inflection points in 1980. (With a brief respite in the late nineties.)

The red line–Gross Debt–is the scary (and actual) one; it includes loans from government trust funds (mainly Social Security) that will have to be repaid/made good on. We spent thirty years responsibly working it down after the war.

Thanks to the irresponsible voodoo magic of the Reagan Revolution, it’s gone from 34% of GDP to nearly 70%. If it sounds too good to be true (“It’s easy. All we have to do is cut taxes! And you’ll like that, right? And vote for me?”), it is.

But let’s zoom in:

2007: 65.5%
2008: 67.5%
2009: 70.4%

Yikes.

The one encouraging thing? It looks like it’s projected to decline!

Oh, wait–that’s assuming that the Bush tax cuts are repealed.