Beat the Press is Dean Baker's commentary on economic reporting. Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR).
Those of you who were wondering about the best way to finance drug research need look no further, the Washington Post has the answer: It's government-granted patent monopolies. They told us in an editorial today:
"The profit-driven system in this country has its inefficiencies, including high marketing costs and the like; but on balance it has served the United States, and the world, well, by promoting more innovation than a state-dominated system of research probably would have."
It would have been useful if the Post had given some hint as to what evidence it might be relying on to make this assertion. The claim doesn't start well with the phrase "profit-driven," since there is no reason that alternative funding mechanisms might not also be profit-driven. For example, military contractors are profit-driven, last time I checked. These alternative systems also would not create the same sort of perverse incentives that are likely to lead to enormous waste and bad medicine.
But hey, since we got the word from the Post, there is no reason to look further. (I suppose it is rude to mention that the Post gets lots of advertising revenue from drug companies.)Add a comment
One of the most bizarre debates in national politics is over whether China "manipulates" its currency. It is bizarre both because of the term used and also because the fact that China manages its currency is really not a debatable point.
The use of the term "manipulation" is bizarre because it implies that China is doing something sneaky in the middle of the night when no one is looking. There actually is nothing sneaky about it. China openly targets the value of its currency at a level that is well below the market clearing rate. The question is not whether we can somehow catch them in the act, the question is what do we think about the policy.
Anyhow, China just gave deniers another degree worth of global warming to explain away when the bank lowered the target rate for its currency against the dollar in order to boost its economy. There are three points worth making here.
First, China is quite obviously acting in currency markets to keep down the value of its currency. Do we have to pretend we didn't see this? The $4 trillion in reserves that China's central bank was sitting on should also have been a big hint on this issue. (For those who confuse the importance of stocks, rather than just flows, almost everyone believes that the Fed's holding of $3 trillion in assets puts downward pressure on U.S. interest rates. It's the same story with China's central bank's reserves and China's currency.)
The second point is that China's government obviously believes that the relative value of its currency affects its trade balance. That also should not really be arguable, but there were some policy experts who believed that imports and exports from China are not affected by relative prices. Of course they may still be right, but this move demonstrates that China's government does not agree with them.
The third point is that several other currencies moved in step with China's currency against the dollar. This contradicts a common assertion that if China raised the valued of its currency against the dollar then we would just import more from other countries. In fact, since many countries' currencies follow the Chinese yuan, the improvement in the U.S. trade balance with China that would result from a higher yuan is likely to be amplified by an improvement in our trade balance with other countries as well.Add a comment
That is the implication of comments by John Myers, a reporter with KQED radio in San Francisco. Myers was interviewed on the occasion of California paying off the last of $15 billion of bonds issued in 2004 to cover a large deficit. When Myers was asked how the bond issue worked out for the state, he responded:
"Well, certainly, the state got through the worst times. But again, in that million dollars a day, every day, for 11 years, that's a lot of interest. I don't think that the voters really understood that. Schwarzenegger did not sell that part of the plan when he was out campaigning for the deficit bond that it was going to cost all of this in interest. I think there are definitely lessons learned.
"The politics of California were so polarized back then. And of course, we have seen that now on a national level. There are, you know, some lessons about what happens that the political system can't resolve at some point. And I think, too, there's probably a lesson for voters that borrowing money in state bonds is not free money and that it does come at a cost. All of those interest payments could have gone for something else in California.
"That money - just as an example - could have paid for the state's share of the University of California system for like 15 or 16 months. I mean, it is a lot of money. And these were choices that the voters were making. I think that might be the real lesson learned."
The state could have only saved the interest to pay for its share of the University of California system for 15 or 16 months if it had found some combination of tax increases and spending cuts to fill a $15 billion gap in 2004. Since the state had already done both, and was still feeling the effects of the collapse of the tech bubble on its economy at the time, it does not follow that a further set of tax increases and spending cuts would have been wise policy at the time.
Of course the state could have made very large cuts to its contributions to the University of California and K-12 education in 2004, then it would not have been forced to pay so much interest in later years, but it's hard to see why that would have been a better route for the state to take. In addition to the direct effect of these cuts, given the weakness of the economy at the time, it is likely there would have been an additional effect due to loss of purchasing power and therefore further job loss.Add a comment
That's pretty much what the headline and article said, telling readers that Clinton wants to spend $350 billion "to make college affordable." Is that a lot of money?
Well, the article doesn't tell us whether the spending is over one year or twenty years, which would make some difference. If we assume that it is over ten years, the standard budget horizon, that comes to $35 billion a year. With total government spending a bit over $5 trillion in a 2017-2026 budget horizon, this would come to roughly 0.7 percent of projected spending. Alternatively, with a bit more than 20 million students enrolled in college (including community colleges), this would amount to roughly $1,700 per student per year.
Anyhow, it might have been useful to provide a little context on this one.Add a comment
Apparently pay increases aren't on the list of ways to address a teacher shortage according to the New York Times. The paper had an interesting piece reporting on a nationwide shortage of applicants for open teaching positions. The article described a number of ways in which schools are attempting to address this shortage, including lowering standards and recruiting overseas.
It does not indicate any plans to raise wages, which would be the textbook way to address a shortage of workers. Lack of job security could also be a factor making it difficult to attract qualified teachers, since some people have gained celebrity status as a result of the pleasure they take in firing teachers.Add a comment
Paul Krugman makes a good point comparing the economy's performance under President Reagan and Obama. He shows the path of unemployment was actually worse under Reagan than Obama. This is to show there is no real basis for praising the Reagan record. Krugman then concludes the piece by saying, "anyway, I’m surprised that this chart isn’t more widely discussed."
Actually there is a good reason the record is not more widely discussed. The employment to population ratio is still much lower now than it was before the downturn. This is true even if we restrict the analysis to prime age (ages 25-54) workers to reduce the impact of demographic change.
Employment to Population Ratio: Prime Age Workers
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics.
If we focus on the EPOP rather than unemployment rates, then the economy still has a long way to go before it recovers. Since it is implausible that millions of prime age workers suddenly decided they don't feel like working, we need to do much more to get back to something like full employment and a labor market that is tight enough for workers to achieve wage gains.
For this reason many of us are focusing on emphasizing the problems with the labor market rather than trumpeting the comparisons with Reagan, although Krugman is right that the Reagan record is nothing to boast about.
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Catherine Rampell seems to want to turn trade issues between China and the United States into a he said/she said in a column citing complaints by Chinese businesses over U.S. practices. While there are undoubtedly many instances of U.S. practices that are protectionist, the overall picture is very clear.
China continues to run a large trade surplus. We usually expect fast growing developing countries to run trade deficits. The logic is that they offer a return on capital, leading to large inflows, which drive up the price of their currency. This makes their goods and services less competitive, causing them to run trade deficits.
China's central bank has bought trillions of dollars of foreign exchange in order to keep its currency from rising. This is why the country continues to run trade surpluses in spite of having a growth that far exceeds that of almost all of its trading partners.
Holding $4 trillion in reserves is not a subtle point. It is not affected by the fact that the United States may have unfair protections in a small number of industries.Add a comment
Of course it would, since deception is the only way to get large cuts in this incredibly popular program. This is why we find the Post applauding New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for his:
"cogent defense of his plan to trim old-age entitlement benefits for wealthy seniors, explaining that the system must be shored up for the poor."
Of course what Christie said was far from cogent. Christie first totally misrepresented the program's finances by saying that it held nothing by "IOUs." Actually, the program holds more than $2.8 trillion of government bonds. Mr. Christie may call government bonds "IOUs" but that is not the common term for them. In any case, the financial markets consider government bonds to be a very valuable asset which is why they pay a low interest rate. Unless the U.S. government defaults on its debt, the program would be able to pay all scheduled benefits through 2033 with no changes whatsoever.
After that date it could pay more than 75 percent of scheduled benefits indefinitely. If we imposed the same sort of tax increases as President Reagan did in the 1980s it would also be sufficient to keep the program solvent indefinitely.
Christie's proposal about taking away Social Security for people who earn above $200,000 a year was close to complete nonsense. There are very few people in this category. While this group does make lots of money, they do not collect much more Social Security than the rest of us. This is because the program has an income cap and a progressive payback structure.
In order to have any noticeable impact on the program's finances it would be necessary to redefine "wealthy" to something like $40,000. This is likely Mr. Christie's intention and the Post apparently wants to help him in that cause.Add a comment
In case you were wondering whether we can substantially improve the financing of Social Security by means-testing benefits, as Governor Christie advocated in the Republican candidate debate, CEPR has the answer for you. We did a paper a few years back on this very issue.
The key point is that, while the rich have a large share of the income, they don't have a large share of Social Security benefits. That is what we would expect with a progressive payback structure in a program with a cap on taxable income. When we did the paper, less than 0.6 percent of benefits went to individuals with non-Social Security income over $200,000. Since incomes have risen somewhat in the last five years, it would be around 1.1 percent of benefits today.
However we're not going to be able to zero out benefits for everyone who has non-Social Security income over $200,000, otherwise we would find lots of people with incomes of $199,900. As a practical matter, we would have to phase out benefits. A rapid phase out would be losing 20 cents of benefits for each dollar that the person's income exceeds $200,000.
This would mean, for example, that if a person had an income of $220,000, they would see their benefits reduced by $4,000. This creates a very high marginal tax rate (people are also paying income tax), which would presumably mean some response in that people adjust their behavior since they are paying well over 50 cents of an additional dollar of income in taxes. If this was a person who was still working and paying Social Security taxes, the effective marginal tax rate would be over 70 percent.
By our calculations, this 20 percent phase out would reduce Social Security payouts by roughly 0.6 percent of payouts, the equivalent of an increase in the payroll tax of around 0.09 percentage point. That's not zero, but it does not hugely change the finances of the program.Add a comment
This is the question that Neil Irwin raised in a discussion of efforts to reduce inequality by constraining C.E.O. pay. Irwin comments that Walmart CEO Douglas McMillion:
"makes more than $19 million a year (including unvested stock grants) to run Walmart, a company with 2.2 million employees and half a trillion dollars in revenue. That’s a lot of money, no doubt. But 26 Major League Baseball players make more than that. It is a safe bet that the future of the United States economy depends more heavily on how well Mr. McMillon does his job than how well Albert Pujols does his, even if Los Angeles Angels fans might disagree."
Asking whether the work of a CEO or a great athlete is more important to the country actually misrepresents the issues involved in the determination of CEO pay. We can grant the ensuring that Walmart is well-run is more important, but that is really beside the point. The question is how much to we have to pay to get someone to do a good job running Walmart.
If the New England Patriots did not have Tom Brady, there are few, if any, other people who could do a comparable job as quarterback. This means that they would either have to pay the Tom Brady substitute a comparable salary or get by with a quarterback who would not be nearly as effective in scoring points for the team. (We're ignoring the deflation problem here.)
By contrast, it is not clear that if Mr. McMillion left Walmart that the company could not find a comparably talented person to run the company. In this case, Walmart need only pay Mr. McMillion the amount that would be needed to attract another comparably talented person.
The example of firefighters can be seen as presenting a similar situation. Firefighters do incredibly important work, often at great personal danger. Certainly pulling people out of burning buildings has to be seen as more important than winning a football game. However firefighters do not receive multimillion dollar salaries because there are other people who are prepared to do this work at a relatively modest salary. This means that if any individual firefighter were to insist on a multimillion dollar paycheck, they could be replaced by someone who could do a comparable job at a far lower salary.
The argument on CEO pay is that the corporate governance system in the United States does not lead to the same sort of market pressures. Board members have little incentive to pressure CEOs to take pay cuts even when it is quite likely that they could get equally comparable replacements at a much lower wage.
Board members can count on six figure paychecks for attending a small number of meetings every year, even if they allow the CEO to be paid far more than is necessary. The fact that well-run and highly profitable companies in Europe and Asia typically pay their CEO's far less than companies in the United States suggests that it is not necessary to have such exorbitant CEO pay to attract competent managers.
Note: Brady's first name has been corrected to be "Tom" rather than Jim. Thanks to those who called my attention to this one.Add a comment
Everyone has heard about Donald Trump's soaring poll numbers as the current leader in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Many have also heard the explanation that he appeals to those who feel left behind by the economy. Unfortunately the way the media often tell this story has little to do with reality.
We got a great example of creative analysis yesterday in the Post's Wonkblog section. It tells us:
"Non-college grads have struggled since the turn of the century: Economist Robert Shapiro estimates that incomes stagnated or declined from 2002 to 2013 for American households headed by workers without a degree, a marked departure from prior decades."
Both parts of this are seriously misleading. First, it is not just non-college grads who have struggled since the turn of the century. Most college grads have seen little or no wage gains since the turn of the century. The second part is wrong also, since wages for non-college grads had also been stagnant since 1980, so the experience of the last 15 years has not been "a marked departure from prior decades."
Later the piece doubles down on this misleading picture:
"Trump is selling an economic message that unifies growing concerns among liberals and conservatives alike, 'which is that growing GDP doesn’t necessarily help people on the bottom,' said Mickey Kaus, the author of the Kausfiles blog... ."
The data clearly show that most people have been seeing little or none of the gains from economic growth over the last decade, not just people on the bottom.Add a comment
That was one explanation in an NYT article on the limited use of direct injection of chemotherapy into the abdomen, even though there is clear evidence of this being an effective way to extend the life of ovarian cancer victims. The article notes that there has been some increase in the use of this method since the National Cancer Institute made a clinical announcement promoting its merits in 2006, but still only 50 percent of patients receive the treatment.
The piece offers the use of generic drugs, which don't provide large profit margins as one explanation:
"Dr. Markman [the president of medicine and science at Cancer Treatment Centers of America] said that when a treatment involves a new drug or a new device, manufacturers eagerly offer doctors advice and instructions on its use. But this treatment involves no new drugs or devices, so no one is clamoring to educate doctors about it. They are on their own to learn, and to train their nurses, a commitment that will take time and money."
This is an interesting, if tragic, example of the ways in which patent monopolies reduce the quality of health care. They push people towards the use of patent protected drugs even in situations where they may not be the most effective form of treatment. This problem is widespread, even if the consequences may not always be as serious.Add a comment
This is an important piece of information that might have been worth including in a NYT article on premium increase requests by insurers in the state health exchanges. The Commerce Department reports that spending on personal health care services, which accounts for the overwhelming majority of health care spending, increased by 5.4 percent from the second quarter of 2014 to the second quarter of 2015. (The major item missing is prescription drugs, which did have a faster rate of increase.) This means that unless the insurers are facing a very skewed sample or they badly misunderstood the market, they should not need large premium increases to cover their costs.Add a comment
The NYT had an article reporting on Secretary of State John Kerry's promotion of the progress made in reaching a final agreement between the twelve countries on the terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). At one point the piece quotes Kerry:
"No country can expect its economy to grow simply by buying and selling to its own people .... It is just not going to happen. It defies the law of economics. Trade is a job creator and prosperity builder, period."
Of course no one is proposing that countries not trade, so this is sort of a bizarre counter-factual. It would be bit like responding to opponents of a highway plan by saying that people depend on cars to get around. The assertion doesn't have anything to do with the merits of the highway, just as the fact that countries trade has nothing to do with the merits of the TPP.
As a practical matter it is entirely possible that the TPP will lead to less trade. The rules that the United States is trying to impose on patents and copyrights and other forms of intellectual property claims will lead to considerably higher prices for the protected items. For example, the hepatitis C drug Sovaldi would sell for less than $1,000 per treatment without protection, but sells in the United States for $84,000 per treatment with patent protection.
As a result of these higher prices for a substantial category of goods, the total volume of trade may actually be lower with the TPP than without it. For this reason, those who want to see more trade may have good reason to oppose the TPP. (The various studies that analyze the impact of the TPP have not incorporated the impact of higher prices due to stronger patent and copyright related protections.)Add a comment
Actually, I want to skip over the minimum wage discussion (I'll come back to it) to address another issue in his column this morning. In his prelude to attacking the $15 an hour minimum wage Samuelson takes a swipe at the economic policies of the 1960s:
"Consider the 1960s. Economists convinced themselves — and the public — that, through government budgets and interest rates, they could minimize recessions and sustain “full employment.” Early success was astounding. By late 1968, unemployment was 3.4 percent. But this was simply an inflationary boom, not a sophisticated advance in economic management. Double-digit price increases soon surfaced. We spent 15 years (and four recessions) combating inflation."
This is close to incoherent. First, what does it mean to say "we spent 15 years (and four recessions) combating inflation." If he means that we had people in Washington concerned about inflation, he should probably had said 40 years. Much of the Republican party has been yelling about hyper-inflation even as the inflation rate remains stubbornly below the Fed's 2.0 percent target.
Does he mean inflation was a problem? Well perhaps it was higher than was desirable for much of the 1970s and the first few years of the 1980s, but that hardly makes it a crisis. After all unemployment has been higher than desirable (as measured by the Congressional Budget Office's estimate of NAIRU) for most of the last 35 years. Furthermore, the four recessions line also doesn't make any sense. We had four recessions in the fifteen years before 1960 also.
Furthermore, blaming the inflation on the 1970s on the policies of the 1960s is more than a bit bizarre. The more obvious cultpit would be the quadrupling of world oil prices in 1973-74 when OPEC first flexed its muscles and then again in 1979-1980 when the Iranian revolution shut off oil flows from what was then the world's largest oil exporter. The sharp reversal of oil prices in the early 1980s, as more oil came on line and demand fell, was a major factor slowing inflation.
In fact, the 1960s were a decade of rapidly rising living standards for large segments of the population. Productivity was growing rapidly and most workers were getting wage gains in line with productivity growth, or close to 2.0 percent annually. That's more than most workers have seen in the last fifteen years.
This brings us the Samuelson's "minimum-wage madness." In the period from 1938 (when the federal minimum wage was first established) to 1968 the minimum wage tracked productivity growth. This means that it not only kept pace with inflation, but minimum wage workers shared in the gains of the economy's growth. If this pattern had continued, the minimum wage would be $18.42 an hour today.
Undoubtedly there would be large-scale unemployment if we were to try to quickly move to that wage today. Much has changed in the economy over the last 37 years and besides, it would take time for businesses to adjust. However the more modest goal of $12.00 by 2020 is certainly a reasonable target.
As Samuelson notes, there would be somewhat fewer jobs with this wage, but it is important to understand what this means. The jobs affected by the minimum wage tend to be high turnover jobs. People often hold them for only a few months at a time. In this context, fewer jobs will mostly mean that it takes people more time to find a new job when they leave another job or when they first start looking for work. That could mean that low wage workers get to work somewhat fewer hours over the course of a year than they would have liked, but when they do work they take home 65 percent more than if they were working at the $7.25 an hour minimum wage. Most would probably consider this a pretty good deal.
Samuelson is right that the minimum wage levels can be set too high where the loss of jobs more than offsets the benefits of the wage gains. Some cities may be moving into this territory now, but certainly the U.S. economy can support a minimum wage in 2020 that is more than one-third lower relative to productivity than the 1968 minimum wage.Add a comment
Last week the Washington Post again editorialized in favor of reforming the Social Security disability program by either reducing benefits and/or raising disability requirements. The editorial noted the reallocation of funds from the Old Age and Survivors Insurance program to the Disability program twenty years ago and told readers;
"The last tax reallocation, 20 years ago, 'was intended to create the time and opportunity for such reforms,' as the Social Security trustees’ report puts it; it would seem that the time, and the opportunity, are finally here."
In fact, it is not clear that there is any fundamental problem with the disability program that requires reform. If we go back to 2008, before the collapse of the housing bubble brought the economy to its knees, the disability program was in far better shape. It was projected to be able to pay scheduled benefits through the year 2025. Its projected shortfall over the program's 75-year planning horizon was just 0.24 percent of covered payroll or just over 12 percent of the program's projected revenue.
But even this projected shortfall was largely due to something that had been unexpected back in 1983 when the Greenspan commission made their recommendations to Congress for reforming Social Security. The commission had expected that 90 percent of wage income would be below the tax cap set at the time and therefore subject to Social Security taxes. This turned out to be mistaken as there was a sharp upward redistribution of wage income in the 1980s which continued into the next two decades. As a result, the program took in considerably less revenue than had been projected.
The figure below shows the difference below shows the difference year by year between the revenue the program would have received if 90 percent of wages had been subject to the tax and the revenue actually collected by the Disability Insurance (DI) trust fund. (The calculations also add in 6 percent interest on past revenue, which was roughly the interest rate on government bonds at the time.)Add a comment
It really is amazing how the self-proclaimed intelligent people (in contrast to those who make "idiotic" arguments) are prepared to make arguments that are totally protectionist in their nature in support of the Export-Import Bank. Joe Nocera gives us a parade of greatest hits in his column today.
He starts by telling us that the Ex-Im "supports tens of thousands of good American jobs." Guess what folks? If we had a tariff on imported cars, the tariff would also support tens of thousands of good American jobs.
But wait, Nocera goes on to tell readers:
"The Ex-Im Bank that in its last fiscal year generated enough in fees and interest to turn over $675 million to the Treasury. Why would anyone in their right mind want to put such a useful agency out of business?"
Let's see, last time I looked tariffs also raise money. So Nocera convinced me, we should support tariffs on cars -- of course that would only be true if he were intellectually consistent.Add a comment
Steve Rattner is right that the baby boom generation failed millennials, but he has the reason wrong. He argues that we failed the millennials because they may have to pay higher taxes to support our and their Social Security and Medicare.
It's hard to see the story here. We baby boomers have to pay much more in Social Security and Medicare taxes than did our parents and grandparents. Did they do us some horrible injustice? We do enjoy higher living standards and longer life spans, so what's the injustice if we pay another 2-3 percentage points of our wages in taxes? If there is some moral wrong here, it's difficult to see.
On the other hand there is the real problem that most millennials are not seeing real wage gains. This has nothing to with Social Security, it has to do with the fact that baby boomers let incompetent Wall Street types run the economy for their own benefit. This crew gave us the stock bubble in the 1990s and the housing bubble in the last decade. They also have given us an over-valued dollar. This creates a trade deficit that makes it virtually impossible to get to full employment without bubbles.
The net effect of the Wall Streeters policies has been the weak labor market of the last 14 years, which along with other policies has led to the bulk of the gains from economic growth going to the top one percent. Baby boomers should apologize for this upward redistribution, but the burden of Social Security is a molehill by comparison. If so much money was not being redistributed upward, real wages would be rising by 1.5-2.0 percent annually, taking 5-10 percent of these wage gains to cover the cost of longer retirements would not pose any obvious problems.
I should have also pointed out that Rattner repeats the nonsense claim that Social Security could save any substantial amount of money by taking away benefits from wealthy seniors. If we define "wealthy" to be a non-Social Security income of $80,000 per person (less than half the cutoff for "wealthy" when President Obama raised taxes in 2013), the program could save just over 1 percent of its spending by phasing out benefits for higher income individuals. While it is possible to get lots of money by taxing rich people, it is not possible to get much money by taking away their Social Security since they don't get much more than the rest of us. Rattner's plan can only save much money for the program if he wants to take away benefits from middle income people.Add a comment
The Labor Department reported that the Employment Cost Index rose by just 0.2 percent in the second quarter. This brings the growth in the index over the last year to 2.0 percent. This undermines any claim that wage growth is accelerating.
With inflation still well under the Fed's target of 2.0 percent as an average rate of inflation (not a ceiling), and wage growth remaining flat or possibly even falling, the Fed would have little basis for raising interest rates to slow the economy. With this most recent report it seems likely that the Fed will put off a rate hike until the end of the year at soonest.Add a comment
And the Fed and corporate governance structures. That is the implication of his column where he describes the debate over inequality as a debate "between people who think you need strong government to defeat oligarchy and those who think you need open competition."
Actually, his side in this debate thinks you need a strong government to enforce patent and copyright monopolies, jailing any potential competitors. It believes you need a strong government, in the form of a central bank, to slow the economy any time the demand for labor gives ordinary workers enough bargaining power to push up wages and demand better conditions from employers. And Brooks believes that the government should set rules for corporate governance that essentially allow top management to set its own pay, since it effectively controls the boards that set their pay.
It is these and other man-made rules that have given us an economy in which a very small segment of the population enjoys the bulk of the gains from the economic growth of the last thirty five years. (You can get more of the story in The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive.) All of these rules could easily be different. For example, we could rely on tax credits rather than patent monopolies to fund research along with more direct funding through entities like the National Institutes of Health (which is strongly supported by the pharmaceutical industry).
It is undoubtedly convenient for Brooks' side to pretend that the rules put in place to redistribute income upward are simply the natural workings of the market, but it is not true. It's unfortunate that the NYT can't find a columnist who would defend these rules on their merits rather than make an absurd claim that they are somehow facts of nature.Add a comment
I'm not kidding, this is what he criticized Senator Bernie Sanders for in a Vox piece today. He apparently views it as outrageous that Sanders, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, doesn't think that the United States should open its borders so that every person who in the world who wants to come and work in the United States has the opportunity to do so.
On the one hand Matthews has a point, there is an injustice in that people who were born in the United States are able to enjoy a better and longer life than people who had the misfortune to be born in a poor country in Africa, Asia, or elsewhere in the developing world. On the other hand, it is hard to see that as a greater injustice than saying that people who were born in wealthy and educated families in the United States, that could give their children the wealth and social training to enjoy a high living standard, have a right to a better standard of living than children who were born to less privileged families. Of course these children of privileged families will benefit from having more less-educated immigrants in the country since it will mean they have to pay less for their nannies and to have their lawn mowed and their house cleaned.
This problem can be solved much more easily than worldwide inequality. For example, let's eliminate the patent and copyright monopolies that redistribute so much income upward to these privileged children. Let's alter the licensing restrictions that ensure doctors and lawyers get outlandish pay. (We can use a lot more immigrants in these areas and the gains are large enough to have repatriations of a portion so that the home countries of these foreigners benefit as well.) And we can have the Fed not raise interest rates to keep the less privileged children from getting jobs.
Anyhow, we all have to decide for ourselves which injustices we find most worth fighting.Add a comment