Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Miscellaneous

  • Via Daily Kos:Snow claims Greenspan backs tax cuts (full story here). As I mentioned before, Snow used to be against deficits.
  • Wampum has an interesting suggestion for further de-Frenchification of the House of Representatives.
  • TalkLeft found some actual left-right bipartisanship.
  • On the subject of my Iraq post, Matt Yglesias points out that my statements that we should “maintain containment in Iraq” and that we should “improve relations with the Muslim world” are somewhat contradictory, as containment is not particularly popular among Middle Eastern Muslims. Agreed (though I did say “ideally” Bush could achieve four simultaneous objectives). Certainly, containment would mandate continued military presence in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East more generally. Could we somehow offset the resentment created thereby? Fullfilling committments in Afghanistan would help. Engaging on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict might help. Ending sanctions against Iraq might help. And for that matter, removing Saddam and financing the building of a free, prosperous, and democratic Iraq might help, but the second part seems particularly unlikley.

AB

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The Iraq Post

As I wrote before, Unlearned Hand is collecting Bloggers’ opinions for a series called “Where Do We Go From Here?” Mr. Hand is looking for posts on “fleshed-out alternatives to war” and “what would you do in Bush’s place?”

Here’s the post I submitted, edited very slightly for style.

Ideally, Bush would find a way to simultaneously

  • Maintain containment in Iraq.
  • Restore strained relations with allies–France, Germany, Mexico.
  • Improve relations with the Muslim world.
  • Preserve the credibility of U.S. foreign policy in the process. This is more important than preserving Bush’s credibility.

Are there reasonable ways to achieve all of these objectives? Perhaps, though I doubt that this administration will pursue any of them. If Rove anticipates “World Makes U.S. Back Down” headlines around the globe, then backing-down is a non-starter for this administration. Imagine combining the state of the domestic economy with the Chinese/Spy Plane incident writ large, and even Dick Gephardt might beat Bush. So my focus is not particularly on what is right, but rather on strategies the administration could actually use to back down without making it seem like backing down.

On domestic policy, this administration has great success with the strategy of repeating a lie until it seems true to the general public. I doubt that would work in this instance, but it might be worth a try. The strategy in this case would be for the administration to repeat ad nauseum this story: “for twelve years and umpteen resolutions, Saddam has defied the U.N.; now the U.S. and President Bush are making him comply. The only way to prevent a war was through this administration’s credible threat of war.” To feed the outraged right, augment all statements with lines about how ineffective Clinton was in enforcing Iraqi compliance to U.N. resolutions. The story would be the “only George W. Bush could prevent war” version of “only Nixon could go to China”.

Another option is to intentionally escalate the rhetoric until Britain backs out. Then blame Tony Blair, who is then probably out as Prime Minister, but the Labor Party’s dominance likely endures. Find a way to tie this into Clinton as well. This tact would increase the global outrage, but the Republican base might enjoy the chance to further vent their outrage at the Europeans. This is unlikely.

Perhaps a better way for the administration to back down is to not back-down, but not start war either. Specifically, this involves a second UN resolution that in essence says “War starts when either or both Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei say it starts”. In this scenario, there would be two categories of reports that Blix and ElBaradei could make. The first would be regular progress updates and reports of obstruction of inspections, and on the basis of these, the UN Security Council could authorize or not authorize war. The second would be a list of trigger-items. If, at any time 14 days or more after passage of the resolution, inspectors formally report the presence of any Nuclear, Chemical or Biological weapons (and the definition of these would be clearly spelled out), only a super-majority of the Security Council (12/15, say-it would be spelled out in the resolution. I like 12/15; it means that the U.S. and Britain just have to convince one other country) can prevent war. The key is that the U.S. get a measurable and verifiable trigger along with up-front commitment to that trigger by the currently reluctant UNSC members. Kenneth Pollack might even support a plan like this.

There would need to be a face-saving quid pro quo for the administration. I think the most important would be commitments by Russia, France, and China to not use their veto power in any proceedings related to Iraq. The White House could draft appropriate spin: “Negotiating through the night with foreign leaders, President Bush reached a stunning compromise: War immediate upon discovery of WMD. France, Russia, China agree will not veto on Iraq.”

In an alternative version, replace the UN with NATO, which might make Bush’s base slightly less enraged.

Not yet addressed are the perceptions of the United States in the Muslim world. Certainly, not starting this war would be a good start on improving relations. But war or no, the administration should fulfill the commitments we made in Afghanistan, immediately.

Angry Bear

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Talking Dog

I’ve often thought it would make life easier if only someone would compile a master list of blogs, complete with descriptions. As it turns out, The Talking Dog has done it and it’s available here. I’ve even made the list:

Angry Bear

is the work of a real, live slightly left leaning economist. Posts are detailed, complete with charts and actual real world justification for the positions espoused. AB also trolls the blogosphere for useful opinions and interesting commentary. Despite covering technical economics, this blog is in no sense dry, but is, dare I say it, fair and balanced. The blogroll features the majors, as well as the big-time lefties.

TD Designation: Non-Canine (Angry Bear)

I have to say that I rather like Talking Dog’s summary.

AB

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Let Freedom Ring Get Oily Hot in a Deep Frier

or be dipped in beaten eggs, placed on a griddle, and cooked until crispy on the outside and tender one the inside; sprinkle with powdered sugar or use syrup, as you prefer:

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The cafeteria menus in the three House office buildings changed the name of “french fries” to “freedom fries,” a culinary rebuke of France, stemming from anger over the country’s refusal to support the U.S. position on Iraq.

Ditto for “french toast,” which will be known as “freedom toast.”

Two (gasp) Republican lawmakers (Bob Ney, R-OH; Walter Jones, R-NC) are behind the menu change.

AB

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Where do we go from here?

Unlearned Hand is collecting Bloggers’ opinions for a series called “Where Do We Go From Here?” Mr. Hand is gathering posts on “fleshed-out alternatives to war” and “what would you do in Bush’s place?” For what it’s worth, I was asked to put in my two cents, which are available here (scroll down to get to my post).

AB

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For the curious but unwilling or unable to watch…

Kerry Lauerman watches and reports on MSNBC’s newest jackass, so you don’t have to.

Here’s the show in a nutshell:

On Saturday’s show, the only callers allowed to talk to Savage were his most exuberant fans. According to Pellegrino, “I told the screener that I was upset about these bozo liberals like Martin Sheen, these movie stars, and who do they think they are to talk, blah blah blah, and I said, ‘I love Michael Savage, I think he’s so great.’ And she said, ‘Oh, great!'” No other caller challenged him on anything.

That makes MSNBC’s statement last week, defending the show as a “a legitimate attempt to expand the marketplace of ideas,” particularly dishonest. But it also creates a show without an ounce of spontaneity or conflict. As a result, the most obvious problem with “Savage Nation,” based on its debut, is one not even the strongest critics of “The O’Reilly Factor” or “Hannity & Colmes” could hurl at those Fox shows: It’s excruciatingly dull.

AB

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Income Inequality and Growth

Vaguely Right, who I belive is an Economics Ph.D. student (and should probably be working on his/her dissertation instead of blogging) has a good (long) post on income inequality in the US, and it’s based on Census data. The abbreviated version contains these nuggets:

  • Income Inequality in the US has increased substantially since 1967.
  • But viewed in levels, everyone–bottom, middle, top–is much better off now than them, even after adjusting for inflation.
  • If the rate of economic growth between 1967 and 2001 were unchanged (perhaps a big assumption), and the income distribution were unchanged, the bottom 20% would be making 14% more, the next 20% would be making 24% more, the middle 20% making 18% more, the second highest 20% making 5% more, and the top making 13% less.
  • But if keeping income shares constant has even a very modest impact on growth, then in levels the bottom 80% are better off having the inequality (and corresponding growth)
  • So is greater concentration of wealth at the top the price of higher economic growth for everyone (think trickle-down)? If this were true then you would expect that as income inequality increases, growth rates increase. Vaguely Right shows that this is not the case.

On the last point, I’d add that Alesina and Rodrik (Quarterly Journal of Economics, 1994) take a panel of countries and regress income growth 1960 to 1985 on control variables and two GINI coefficients in 1960, one measuring income inequality and one measuring inequality in the distribution of land. Countries that were more unequal in 1960 grew slower (and land inequality has more of an impact than income inequality)! Land reform in Asia that reduced inequality is one explanation for the “Asian Miracle” of economic growth.

Here’s a neat picture I stole from the University of Texas Inequality Project (green, light blue and dark blue are the more unequal; red is the most equal; click to enlarge):






AB

P.S. In a second post, Vaguely Right also comments on my rawls post.

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