Blog postings by CEPR staff and updates on the latest briefings and activities at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

CEPR held their first Economist Office Hours. The low-key event was a big success, with attendees stopping by from all parts of Washington (and a caller from Washington State!). Refreshments were provided, and economists Dean Baker and John Schmitt fielded questions on issues ranging from the trade deficit to the French labor law protests. This event will be held again on the first Wednesday in May.

In the morning, Dean Baker visited the Hill to debate David Berson, Vice President and chief economist at Fannie Mae, about the future of the housing market at the invitation of the Congressional Economic Leadership Institute.

While Mr. Berson did not believe that there was a bubble in the nation's housing market, he did agree that housing in several markets is likely over-valued and could decline. He also noted the large increase in investor purchased homes over the last few years, as well as the surge in non-conventional pricing. Dean pointed out the unprecedented run-up in home sale prices, which cannot be attributed to any fundamentals on the supply or demand side. He also pointed out that there has been no substantial increase in rents during this period. If the run-up in home sale prices were explained by fundamentals in the housing market, it should affect the rental and sale market in  roughly the same way.

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Mark Weisbrot participated in a panel discussion of the book, Capitalism's Achilles Heel:  Dirty Money and How to Renew the Free-Market Systemby Raymond Baker, Guest Scholar at the Brookings Institution and a Senior Fellow at the Center for International Policy. The panel, which was sponsored by the World Bank, was convened at Bank headquarters and also included Branko Milanovic, Lead Economist for the World Bank research group, in addition to the author’s presentation. The discussion focused on the damage to developing countries caused by illegal and illicit international money flows. A webcast of this event is available online. Add a comment

Heather Boushey spoke on income inequality this afternoon at the Center for American Progress.  The panel discussion, Is the Rising Tide Lifting All Boats?, focused on the US middle class as compared with its relative position a generation ago. Richard Alm of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Diana Furchtgott-Roth of the Hudson Institute, and Jeff Madrick of The New School (NY) were other members of the panel.

In her wealth of research, Heather has repeatedly found increasing income inequality in the United States. Factors such as a stagnant minimum wage, high debt burdens, and low social support all weigh in against working families. Read CAP's event announcement and download Heather's slide presentation (available on CAP's website) for more information.

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Mark Weisbrot spoke to a group of students from Georgetown University who are working on stopping the genocide in Darfur. Add a comment

It's Sunshine Week -- a national initiative to improve the transparency of government records and data. Senior economist Heather Boushey took part in the initiative by speaking at a Heritage Foundation panel discussion, "What if the Answers Don't Add Up: Transparency and Government Data." She highlighted the importance of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), which is slated for elimination in the President's FY07 budget.

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The other panelists at the event were Mark Tapscott (not pictured), director of the Heritage's Center for Media and Public Policy and Kirk Johnson and David Mulhausen, both senior policy analysts at Heritage's Center for Data Analysis.

In other news for the day, Mark Weisbrot and Claudio Loser, visiting senior fellow at the Inter-American Dialogue, and former Western Hemisphere Director at the International Monetary Fund spoke at a press breakfast discussion entitled, Latin America’s Electoral Leftward Shift: The Importance of Economic Growth at the Old Ebbitt Grill. Economic and finance policy reporters from the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Reuters, and the Associated Press attended the event. (Read the transcript from the event.)

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CEPR Senior Economist Heather Boushey was invited to participate in a Wall Street Journal Online Feature debating the ramifications of persistent inequality in the US with Russell Roberts of George Mason University. Heather argues "Over the past 30 years, we have seen inequality rise along all three dimensions -- wages, incomes and wealth -- and it shows no signs of slowing. As a result, income and wealth is becoming increasingly concentrated in the hands of a relatively small, elite group." Add a comment
CEPR has been busy working to save the Survey for Income and Program Participation (SIPP), an extremely valuable source of data for social science researchers. The president’s FY07 budget calls for elimination of the Census survey, effective September 2006. To see what we've been doing to keep this data source, visit the “Save the SIPP” page on the ceprDATA website. On Wednesday, CEPR sent a letter to Congress from over 400 researchers opposing the survey's elimination. CEPR is currently collecting signatures for a similar sign-on letter from organizations. Add a comment

Mark Weisbrot presented on the current state of U.S.-Latin American relations and the 25-year economic failure in Latin America as part of the opening panel for the first National Solidarity Conference on Venezuela at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University. Other speakers on the panel included Antonio Gonzales, President of the Southwest Voter Registration Project and Bill Fletcher, President, TransAfrica Forum. Dan Hellinger, Chair of the Political Science Department at Webster University, moderated the panel. Mark also presented a more detailed workshop on the Latin American economies to an overflow crowd later in the day.

 

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Heather Boushey met with Netherland's Minister of Social Affairs and Employment, Aart Jan de Geus, and other Dutch officials to discuss her work on women’s labor force participation and childcare. They will be using CEPR's analysis to help create more family-friendly government policies in the Netherlands. Also in attendance were Maarten Anthony Ruijs, Secretary General for the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, Peter Stein, Head of Section Labor and Care, and Elke Merks-Schaapveld, First Secretary for Economic Affairs. Add a comment
Economist Heather Boushey and policy analyst Liz Chimienti escaped DC’s cold weather by meeting in Houston with our Texas partners in CEPR’s Bridging the Gaps project. This innovative program is investigating the "effective coverage" of social policy – by examining how many families eligible for social assistance are actually receiving benefits. While in Texas, Heather and Liz will be presenting initial findings on effective coverage and gathering feedback from our Texas partners for the next phases of research. Add a comment
Today, CEPR and the Institute for America's Future jointly released a report, The Excess Cost of the Medicare Drug Benefit. The report, written by Dean Baker, finds that provisions in the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act designed to benefit private insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry will cost taxpayers over $800 billion over the next decade. You can check out the press release by the Institute for America's Future here. Add a comment

thumb_detroit_news_2006_02_16CEPR made the front page of the Detroit News! "Auto Cuts Slam Blacks" (Feb. 16, 2006) highlighted our recent report, "The Decline in African-American Representation in Unions and Auto Manufacturing, 1979-2004," and its effect on local auto manufacturing employees. The report, by John Schmitt and Ben Zipperer, coincided with Ford's announcement of layoffs and has picked up a lot of media coverage. John has appeared on several radio shows, including WGNU in St. Louis and WBAI in New York.

In other news, John Schmitt is guest lecturing at Johns Hopkins University for a class in the Masters Degree in Public Health this afternoon. He will be talking about economic inequality in the United States and the economic and political forces contributing to it.

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Mark Weisbrot traveled to La Paz, Bolivia from February 16-19, to present CEPR’s analysis to hundreds of government officials, NGO’s, business people, and other members of civil society. Other presenters from the United States included Jeff Vogt, Senior Associate for Rights and Development for the Washington Office on Latin America, Lori Wallach, Executive Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, and Steve Suppan, Director of Research for the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.  Mark also met with other members of the government and NGOs. You can see CEPR's briefing paper on Bolivia's economic situation here. Add a comment
The President's FY2007 budget calls for the elimination the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP). CEPR is circulating a sign-on letter to researchers, particularly SIPP users, who are concerned about access to quality government microdata. If you are a social science researcher and would like to see the letter to consider signing it, please click here. Tentative closing for the sign-on letter is March 1, 2006.  Add a comment
Mark Weisbrot was back on Capitol Hill this afternoon to speak at a Congressional staff meeting sponsored by Congressman Raul Grijalva. The event, Venezuela, the United States, and the Americas: Fact and Fiction, was well attended, and staffers from over 20 Members of Congress (from both sides of the aisle) were present. Add a comment
Heather Boushey spoke today at the Business and Professional Women's 2006 Policy & Action Conference on the subject, How Research Impacts Policy. Having several examples to choose from, she discussed CEPR's work on Social Security, the minimum wage, and John Schmitt and Dean Baker's new paper on the Current Population Survey. Joining Heather on the panel were Sherryn Craig (American Cancer Society), Samir Luther (Human Rights Campaign Foundation), and Ana Unruh Cohen (Center for American Progress). Heather also presented a poster at the conference on her paper "Are Women Opting Out? Debunking the Myth," which was very well received. Add a comment
Mark Weisbrot traveled to Capitol Hill this afternoon to participate in the Georgetown Public Policy Institute's 12th annual public policy conference, Breaking Through the Noise of Democracy: Uniting Policy and Politics to Strike the Right Chord for Social Good. Mark spoke on a panel entitled, "How Can Uniting Local and Global Interests Advance Pro-poor Growth?" to a standing-room-only audience. Other panelists included Vijaya Ramachandran (assistant professor for public policy, Georgetown University), Robert Holzmann (Director for Social Protection, World Bank), Anwar Ibrahim (former Finance Minister of Malaysia), and Andrew S. Natsios (immediate past Director, USAID). Add a comment

In a small ceremony involving beer and brownies, CEPR's union and management this afternoon signed the much-anticipated 2006-2007 union contract. CEPR employees have been proud members of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, Local #70, AFL-CIO, since 2003. (Co-director Dean Baker was himself a founding member of Local 70 in the late 1990s.)

 

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Mark Weisbrot presented on the economic reforms of the last 25 years in Latin America, and the diminished influence of the IMF, at the 6th Polycentric World Social Forum – Americas and the 2nd Americas Social Forum that took place from January 25-29. Over one hundred people attended this workshop. Add a comment
More union news: CEPR released a briefing paper that details some of the effects of the shrinking auto manufacturing industry: "The Decline in African-American Representation in Unions and Auto Manufacturing, 1979-2004." The brief finds that layoffs in the auto industry will disproportionately hurt African Americans. You can find the accompanying press release here. Add a comment
CEPR produced a Union Byte, an analysis of the annual "Union Members" report, which is released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The report details union membership over the course of the previous year. John Schmitt and Ben Zipperer, co-authors of the Byte, point out some amazing news: For the first time ever, manufacturing workers are no more likely to be represented by a union than the average U.S. worker. This observation challenges the conventional perception that manufacturing workers are more likely to be members of a union than any other employment sector. Add a comment