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

Mark Weisbrot spoke at the First Annual Dialogue, The Economic Development Challenge and the UN, sponsored by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in cooperation with the International Development Economics Associates (IDEAS) and the United Nations- Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA). The event, which was held at the P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in Long Island City, New York, examined important issues in international development, including macroeconomic and industrialization policies, trade, international financial arrangements, institutional and structural transformation, financial markets, governance, and poverty and inequality. Prof. James K. Galbraith, Lloyd M. Bentsen Jr. Chair in Government/Business Relations and Professor of Government, University of Texas at Austin and Jomo K.S., Assistant Secretary General for Economic Development, UN- DESA, made keynote presentations. A number of economists from developing countries presented on some of the development policy issues facing their countries. Add a comment
Heather Boushey met with Dutch and German government officials about work-family policies here in the United States. Among the officials were Marije Laffeber (International Secretary of the Second Vice-Chair executive committee) and Patrick de Vries (First Secretary (Political) for the Royal Netherlands Embassy). Add a comment
This week, John Schmitt is in Denmark at the 2006 LoWER Annual Conference. LoWER (the European Low-wage Employment Research Network), the Center for Corporate Performance, and the Aarhus School of Business are jointly hosting this conference on the topic of Insecure Perspectives of the Low Skilled.  Participants are presenting current research from U.S. and European countries in order to discuss recent results in the field. John will be presenting a forthcoming paper, co-written with Heather Boushey, on the motherhood pay penalty and the effects of paid parental leave. It provides evidence that offering paid parental leave helps to offset the motherhood pay penalty. Add a comment
Dean Baker spoke at a panel discussion this morning at the University of Maryland School of Medicine: Improving Access to Medicines in the Developing World. Also on the panel were Dr. Allyn Taylor, a professor at the UMD School of Medicine in the Department of Epidemiology and Preventative Medicine, and Ken Gustavsen, manager of Global Product Donations for Merck & Co., Inc.  During the discussion, Dean pointed out that the only reason drugs are expensive is because of patent monopolies: "Drugs are cheap, patents are expensive." He also emphasized that because of patent monopolies, most research funding is wasted on copycat research. In addition, they also provide incentives to falsify results and conceal negative research findings. For these reasons, it is necessary to adopt a better system for financing prescription drug research. Add a comment
Heather Boushey was a featured participant in the UNC Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity Conference in Chapel Hill, NC. The conference, Challenging the Two Americas: New Policies to Fight Poverty, was attended by over 200 researchers and provided serious discussion on the state of poverty in America. Heather spoke on a panel, Creating Opportunities to Work, with Arne Kalleberg, professor for the UNC Department of Sociology, and Harry Holzer, professor of public policy and associate dean at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute. You can read an interesting review of the conference here.

Heather also participated in the unveiling of a new book: Inequality Matters: The Growing Economic Divide in America and Its Poisonous Consequences, for which she co-wrote a chapter with Christian Weller; "What the Numbers Mean." The book has been getting good reviews, such as this one in the Boston Globe.
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Mark Weisbrot spoke on Latin American debt and growth linkages as part of the workshop discussion One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: Latin American HIPC Countries after Debt Cancellation, sponsored by Eurodad and Oxfam Bolivia. Other speakers included Gail Hurley of Eurodad, Javier Gómez of CEDLA (Bolivia), Katy Murillo of Fundación Jubileo (Bolivia), Mauricio Díaz, FOSDEH (Honduras), and Adolfo Acevedo and Violeta Delgado of Coordinadora Civil (Nicaragua). Thomas Kruse of Oxfam Bolivia moderated the event and the Economic Policy Institute and Global Policy Network hosted it.  The event included a productive discussion about the challenges for debt relief in Latin America. Add a comment

Mark Weisbrot traveled to Massachusetts to speak at, and participate in, a conference, In the Name of Democracy: US Electoral Intervention in the Americas. The conference brought together a broad range of academics and NGOs, including Jennifer McCoy of the Carter Center, Daniel Wilkerson of Human Rights Watch, Gilbert Joseph, Director of Latin American and Iberian Studies at Yale; Greg Grandin from New York University; Atilio Boron of CLASCO and the University of Buenos Aires; author Naomi Klein, and representatives of the National Endowment for Democracy and the International Republican Institute.

There were a number of lively and informative discussions of the role and impact of U.S.-funded “democracy promotion” efforts in the Americas.

Mark’s panel included Marta Lagos, director of Latinobarómetro; and Anìbal Pérez-Liñan, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Pittsburgh. Over 100 people attended the conference.

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CEPR co-hosted a day-long conference on development, trade, and immigration with the Madrid-based think-tank Fundación Sistema (affiliated with the governing Partido Socialista Obrero Español) at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). CEPR co-directors Mark Weisbrot and Dean Baker spoke on “The Growth Slowdown in Developing Countries Over the Past 25 Years” and “Paths to Development: The Relative Impact of Trade Liberalization, Intellectual Property Protections, and Effective Industrial Policy,” respectively.

Other speakers included Branko Milanovic of the World Bank, Vicente Navarro of Johns Hopkins University, José Félix Tezanos of Fundación Sistema, Thea Lee of the AFL-CIO, Christina DeConcini of the National Immigration Forum, Rafael Simancas of the Partido Socialista Obrero Español, and Will Martin of the World Bank. Heather Boushey of  CEPR, Antonio Romero of the Fundación de las Ciudades, and Carlos Westendorp, the Spanish Ambassador to the United States, moderated the panels on growth and development, immigration, and trade, respectively.

CEPR economists and staff engaged in further productive discussion with the Spanish delegation over dinner the evening before the conference, and at a dinner and reception hosted by Ambassador Westendorp at the Embassy of Spain following the conference.

Presentations and papers from the conference are available on our website. Audio and video recordings will soon be available as well.

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At a press breakfast this morning, Dean Baker and David Walker, the head of the Government Accountability Office, exchanged views on the long-term deficit problem. Mr. Walker discussed the unsustainability of the current budget path and stressed the need for long-term accounting and budget controls as well as a need for a national debate over priorities. In response, Dean emphasized the unsustainable growth in health care spending, both government and private.

Citing the Congressional Budget Office, Dean argued that fixing our broken health care system would make the future path for government spending manageable. Alternatively, if the health care system is not fixed, health will impose an enormous economic burden, regardless of whether the government chooses to pay for it or not. Mr. Walker agreed that health care spending was the most important factor affecting long-term deficit projections. See Dean's papers: Medicare Choice Plus, the Answer to the Long-Term Deficit Problem and The Forty-Four Trillion Dollar Deficit Scare for further information on the topic.

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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.


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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