Posts from October 2012

Workers & Economic Inequality

Map of the Day: Despite Job Growth, a Housing Hangover

Post by: Benjamin Landy , on October 24, 2012

Looking through the Department of Labor's statistics on state and local unemployment, I was reminded of an exchange between Paul Ryan and Joe Biden during the recent vice-presidential debate:

RYAN: Joe and I are from similar towns. He's from Scranton, Pennsylvania. I'm from Janesville, Wisconsin. You know what the unemployment rate in Scranton is today?

BIDEN: I sure do.

RYAN: It's 10 percent.

BIDEN: Yeah.

RYAN: You know what it was the day you guys came in? 8.5 percent. That's how it's going all around America.

BIDEN: You don't read the statistics. That's not how it's going. It's going down.

Of course, Biden was right. Just days earlier, the Bureau of Labor Statistics had released its latest jobs report showing the national unemployment rate had fallen 0.3 points to 7.8 percent in September, the lowest level since Barack Obama took office at the height of the financial crisis. If you look at the map below, you see that nearly every county in the United States has reported positive job growth over the last year. Only parts of the Northeast, particularly New York State, stand out as exceptions to the general rule:

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Ignore the Doomsayers: The Book Industry Is Actually Adapting Well

Blog Post by: Peter Osnos , on October 24, 2012

The fall publishing season is in full swing. There can hardly have been a year with more luminaries atop both the fiction and nonfiction bestseller lists; J. K. Rowling, Michael Chabon, Ken Follett, Junot Diaz, among others, represent literary acclaim and commercial appeal. Diaz (This Is How You Lose Her) is having an especially good run: He is both a National Book Award finalist and a recipient of a MacArthur "Genius" prize. Stephen Colbert, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Neil Young, Bob Woodward, and Salman Rushdie are just a sampling of the nonfiction bestsellers. (For the full array, check out the New York Times's copious five pages of print and e-book listings in the book review, which are supplemented online with "expanded rankings" featuring "more titles, more rankings and a full explanation of our methodology.") Whatever else may be happening in this tumultuous period of transition in how books are produced and distributed, the sheer range and quality of so many titles is indisputable proof that our marketplace has writers and readers in impressive numbers.

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Foreign Policy

Election-Year Stakes Overshadow Nuances of Libya Investigation

Blog Post by: Michael Rosario, on October 23, 2012

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Tags: foreign policy,

Obama and Romney Square Off in Foreign Policy Showdown: Your Guide to the Debate

Blog Post by: The Century Foundation , on October 22, 2012

What questions will be asked tonight? Politico’s Mike Allen (via their media columnist Dylan Byers) has the list of topics that moderator Bob Schieffer will choose from for tonight’s debate (9:00PM EST). Each topic will be allotted 15 minutes:

America’s Role in the World
Our Longest War—Afghanistan and Pakistan
Red Lines—Israel and Iran
The Changing Middle East and the New Face of Terrorism—Part I
The Changing Middle East and the New Face of Terrorism—Part II
The Rise of China and Tomorrow’s World

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Foreign Policy

Infograph: The New United Nations Security Council Members

Post by: Benjamin Landy , on October 19, 2012

An illustrated map of the new, current, and outgoing members of the Security Council listed along with their rank on the Human Development Index (HDI). The HDI, compiled annually by the United Nations, ranks composite scores of life expectancy, years of education, and gross national income per capital for each country. Although this measurement is not without its critics, it is the most prominent way to compare countries in terms of development.

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Presidential Debate Reveals Candidates’ Lack of Vision

Blog Post by: Benjamin Landy , on October 18, 2012

For all that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney talked about the economy during Tuesday's presidential debate, it is remarkable that neither candidate offered anything like a real solution to the high unemployment and depressed wages that continue to plague America's shrinking middle class. Romney doubled down on the failed policies of the Bush years, particularly lower taxes and increased drilling. Obama spoke generally about investing in education and promoting manufacturing and green jobs.

With the exception of lower taxes, which historically do not correlate with faster growth, each proposal is a good idea in the abstract. But not one directly addresses the immediate fundamental challenge confronting the U.S. economy: weak aggregate demand. When the housing bubble collapsed, Americans lost trillions of dollars of wealth, real and imagined, and the country entered a period of debt deflation. Emergency fiscal stimulus and loose monetary policy staunched the bleeding, but funds provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act were essentially spent by 2011. Without the federal government to prop up demand, subsequent economic growth has been limited by household deleveraging and public sector cutbacks. Despite recent gains, unemployment remains high.

Unfortunately, the rhetoric of both candidates during Tuesday's debate suggests neither would take the extraordinary measures required to speed the economy's return to full employment. Romney's insistence on supply-side solutions like lower taxes on high income "job creators" misses the point entirely. President Obama's proposed investments in education and manufacturing address long-term structural problems on the demand side, such as skill-biased technological change, but ignores the cyclical shortfall in demand that is keeping businesses from hiring.

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Workers & Economic Inequality

False equivalence in candidates’ budgetary unknowns

Blog Post by: Andrew Fieldhouse , on October 17, 2012

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s budget proposal is short by nearly $9 trillion worth of specifics—the tax increases and spending cuts needed to meet promises of revenue-neutral tax changes and capping government spending at 20 percent of GDP. In this context, the Washington Post editorial board’s recent “pox on both houses” indictment of President Obama for a lack of second-term policy specifics, particularly with regard to fiscal sustainability, was entirely off the mark. Though too often lost on the punditry, the president has produced four comprehensive, independently analyzed and scored budgets—largely consistent and all fiscally sound—offering guidance to what a second Obama administration would imply for economic recovery and fiscal sustainability.

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Workers & Economic Inequality

Graph: How to Go Over the Fiscal Cliff

Post by: Benjamin Landy , on October 12, 2012

Originally called "taxmageddon," it is revealing that policymakers and journalists eventually settled on the less apocalyptic "fiscal cliff" to describe the $607 billion of tax cuts and stimulus spending scheduled to expire at the end of the year. The image of a cliff—literally something that you either fall off or walk away from—is oddly appropriate for Washington, where Republican obstructionism has made it increasingly likely that Congress will kick the can down the road rather than take the plunge and negotiate a timely compromise.

Andrew Fieldhouse, a fellow at The Century Foundation and the Economic Policy institute, and Josh Bivens, also at EPI, are somewhat more optimistic. They suggest Congress could approach the expiring provisions like a "fiscal obstacle course," with several separable policies. Some, like the Bush-era tax cut for high income households, add hugely to the deficit while contributing little to overall economic growth. Others, like the payroll tax cut and expanded unemployment insurance, have a much more positive impact on GDP and employment levels while costing comparatively little. The report concludes that policymakers could achieve the best of both worlds—deficit reduction and sustained economic growth—with just $415 billion of well-targeted stimulus, rather than the $732 billion cost of extending 2012 spending levels.

Distributional impact of fiscal cliff

 

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Foreign Policy

A Climate Hawk at The World Bank?

Blog Post by: Website Administrator, on October 12, 2012

In his maiden speech at the World Bank’s annual meeting in Tokyo, the Bank’s new president, Jim Yong Kim, underscored the important role sustainable development plays in poverty alleviation and economic growth, specifically citing climate change mitigation as an institutional priority. While laying out his agenda for the Bank, Kim said: “I know that we cannot ignore the scientific evidence on climate change and that we must embrace the urgent task of protecting our environment. If we do not, we risk creating a physical environment which will undermine and reverse development.”

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Foreign Policy

Governor Mitt Romney’s Foreign Policy Vision: Vague and Constantly Shifting

Blog Post by: Thérèse Postel , on October 11, 2012

On Monday, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney delivered a retooled message in a speech on foreign policy at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI). Governor Romney’s speech was heavy on platitudes, weak on policy, and encapsulated a shift toward the center that Romney’s campaign has actively constructed since the first presidential debate. This vacuous speech proves that the Romney campaign is consistent only in its opportunism. Romney’s policies change with public opinion. If his policies haven’t changed, they are devoid of concrete solutions and chock full of prosaicisms. Although it’s a difficult task, voters must try and read between the lines in Mitt Romney’s campaign, not only in this speech, but in past statements as well to ascertain his true foreign policy approach (if he even has one).

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