A report released yesterday by the United Nations’s Information Analysis Unit finds that more than “a fourth of Iraq’s young men are out of work, a situation that is likely to worsen and threatens the country’s long-term stability. … Overall, the country’s unemployment rate is 18%, but an additional 10% of the labor force is employed part time and wanting to work more.” In a country still struggling to attract private investment, government jobs now make up 60 percent of employment, a rate that will be unsustainable as oil prices drop.
Israel Grabs More Palestinian Land, Sets Stage for Further Illegal Colonization of Palestinian Territory
Meanwhile, in the Middle East’s only democracy, settlements continue to grow:
Some 1,700 dunams of land in the northern part of Efrat were declared state land last week, paving the way for the West Bank settlement to start the process of seeking government approval to build there.
The Civil Administration issued the declaration after rejecting eight appeals by Palestinians against the move. A ninth appeal was accepted, and the land covered by this appeal was consequently removed from Efrat’s jurisdiction.
Barack Obama and George Mitchell need to make a serious effort to stop this. Opposition to settlements has long been official United States policy, but the overwhelming tendency has been for U.S. administrations to turn a blind eye to settlement expansion. The expansion itself is an impediment to peace, and American unwillingness to stand behind our own policy commitments is devastating to our credibility in the region.
Incidentally, my understanding is that a dunam is equal to a square meter, meaning that we’re talking about around 18,300 square feet.
I thought yesterday’s Nicholas Kristof column hit almost all the right notes on the issues afflicting American education. He flagged the critical research by Claudia Golden and Lawrence Katz on the importance of improved performance from the school system to our future prosperity and the prospects for a decent mount of equality. And he rightly tags investments in early childhood education and using better methods of assessing and rewarding teacher effectiveness as keys to improvement.
But this part I didn’t like:
Perhaps we should have fought the “war on poverty” with schools — or, as we’ll see in a moment, with teachers.
For one thing, the war on poverty did a lot to improve education. If you don’t like how our current K-12 system is serving the disadvantaged, just ponder what it would look like without any Title I or IDEA. Our Johnson-era policy initiatives had their shortcomings, just as our school system has its shortcomings, but real improvements were made in this period that have made a lot of people better off.
But more importantly, it’s just incredibly frustrating to see this kind of effort to frame the country as facing a zero-sum choice between improving the performance of the school system and directly targeting poverty and related issues. Clearly, though, these are synergistic concerns. You can’t wait to make the schools better until we’ve gotten poverty down to Nordic levels. But when kids are hungry, that makes it harder for them to learn in school. When kids are sick, that makes it harder for them to learn in school. When kids live in violence neighborhoods, that makes it harder for them to learn in school. When kids’ mental development is being impaired by lead poisoning, that makes it harder for them to learn in school. When mom’s too exhausted after working two shifts to make ends meet to help her kids with their homework, that makes it harder for them to learn in school. This stuff isn’t brain surgery. And there’s ultimately no substitute for directly tackling these problems.
A friend asks via Twitter “assuming (for sake of arg) the stimulus stops the bleeding, what replaces the actual day to day GDP lost in finance and housing.” The answer, of course, is progressive blogs. Or, actually, I think the answer is that we’ll be making stuff for Chinese people:
In the short run, of course, we’re doing some fiscal stimulus. But if you want to be optimistic and assume that global coordination of fiscal policy plus “unorthodox” monetary policy plus banking reform puts the world back on course for growth, what needs to happen then is a rebalancing of global flows of trade and money. The United States will have about all the houses it needs, so employment in the building-trades sector will be lower. But the people and resources employed in that sector are still capable of doing useful work. But American households won’t have that much capacity to consume additional stuff. Americans will need to start making more products and services that people in East Asia and Germany and the oil-exporting countries want to buy. My understanding is that the main export goods we specialize in are airplanes, defense systems, and pop culture. Presumably if the dollar crashes far enough then other kinds exports become more competitive. But while I doubt progressive political blogs will ever become a really huge industry, it is the case that the software/media/creative fields appear to be one of our comparative advantages so presumably people will need to work in those sectors. Beyond that, hope for arms races.
A return to something like full employment would make everyone feel a lot better since unemployment and anxiety about unemployments have costs beyond the purely financial. But it might take some time after that for Americans as consumers of goods to return to the levels of consumption enjoyed in 2000 or 2007. We’ll need to be consuming less as a share of income, so incomes will need to get higher than they were back then.
U.S. News reports that the “crumbling economy” has “slowed” President Bush’s drive to raise $500 million for his presidential library at Southern Methodist University. One Bush friend acknowledged, “It’s a bad environment.” U.S News reports that “Bush is taking no chances: He’s making donor calls himself, and even his dad, the 41st president, is helping out, as are former aides like Karl Rove. In the future, say associates, look for Bush to host fundraising events in order to meet a goal of completing construction in 2013. But for now, ‘he’s laying low,’ says one.”
(ThinkProgress has been keeping a close eye on developments with the Bush library, and we will continue to do so. Read our related posts here.)
I think science has mostly told us what it can about the urgent need to act swiftly and strongly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avoid destroying the planet’s livability for the next thousand years.
Yes, more observations and more analysis are valuable — and I will keep reporting on the ever-worsening climate outlook — but right now we need much more persuasiveness (see Why scientists aren’t more persuasive, Part 1 and Part 2: Why deniers out-debate “smart talkers”). Since
Of interest to any fan of this blog will be Michael Lewis’ long New York Times Magazine article about Shane Battier, in which Battier becomes a jumping-off point for some discussion of analytic approaches to basketball. One thing about the article that bothered me probably had nothing to do with Lewis, but the piece has been given the headline “The No-Stats All-Star.” The implication being that statistics can’t measure Battier’s important contributions.
On the contrary, as Dave Berri observed in response to a similar claim back in November 2007 if you understand the statistics correctly they say Battier is very good. Stats say that Battier is an efficient scorer with his modest number of shots, and that his net possessions numbers resulting from steals and turnovers are very good. Battier also appears to be, as best as one can tell, an excellent on-the-ball perimeter defender. This last bit really is an aspect of the game that conventional statistics don’t do a good job of capturing, but certain statistical systems—including Wins Produced—indicate that Battier is a valuable player.
At any rate, lots of good stuff in the article, just wanted to highlight that one point.
I think a lot of people have the intuition that if you see a bubble followed by a bust and a recession, that the recession is sort of “making up” for the bubble and then soon enough things will snap back onto the righteous middle path. But as Felix Salmon observes this isn’t a real mechanism:
One important lesson, here, is that it’s foolish placing much faith in mean-reversion. There’s still a feeling out there that, yes, we had a few years of bubble and exess, and surely that bubble needs to be popped, but then we can get “back to normal”. Well, it’s been 20 years in Japan since its bubble burst, and it seems further away from recovery than ever.
And note that the only reason Japan’s been able to stabilize its economy after their initial downturn is that there was sufficiently robust consumption growth outside of Japan for the Japanese to have a robust export sector. Now that non-Japanese growth is gone, and they’re looking at a annualized GDP shrinkage of over 12 percent. The Germans, who’ve had a similar-but-not-as-severe situation of slow domestic growth plus robust exports are in a similar situation. The moral of this story is that there’s no extra economy outside of the planet earth that can help stabilize us with export-led growth if the U.S., Japan, China, and the E.U. all fall into simultaneous deep recession. That’s the bulk of world output right there, and everyone else will see the value of the commodities they export drop to nothing. There’s no law of nature that says these problems need to correct themselves—policymakers in the key countries need to do the right thing, and really they all need to do it, or else the whole pattern of global growth really could go L-shaped.
Yesterday I saw Andrew Sullivan on the Chris Matthews Show hypothesizing that at the end of the day Barack Obama is going to nationalize some large banks after all, and that the point of the complicated-and-somewhat-hazy Geithner plan is to try to convince people that he’s doing this because it’s genuinely necessary and not just a fit of left-wing ideology. An email correspondent suggested the same thing, also yesterday. And it seems that last night Josh Marshall rounded up a bunch of speculation along these lines.
I’ve been calling attention to the possibility of a backdoor path to nationalization since this plan was announced, so I’m definitely open to that possibility. That said, I’ve noticed an odd tendency in some quarters to, whenever Obama makes a move to the right and therefore attracts some criticism from the left, turn around and criticize those critics on the left for failing to recognize the brilliance of Obama’s secret left-wing plan. From where I sit, whether or not such a plan exists, its execution actually depends on moves to the right attracting criticism from the left. So rather than speculate as to whether or not this is “really” what the administration is planning to do, I’ll just say I think that would be the right thing to do.
The audience that needs convincing, however, isn’t really the public. Ultimately, this kind of bank system bailout is an elite-driven phenomenon. The constituency that matters is, broadly speaking, the executive class of the non-financial sectors of the economy. US business leaders have typically shown a very high degree of class solidarity such that back in 1993 businessmen from throughout the economy stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the particularist interests of insurance company executives to beat a health care plan that would have benefited many of their firms. Similarly, here in 2009 most firms would benefit from a maximally effective financial rescue program rather than from one that’s maximally deferential to the managers and owners of major financial services firms. If the managers of those firms choose the best interests of their own companies, then the political space for nationalization gets quite big. But if the managers of those firms choose to stand by the interests of their economy-wrecking colleagues at the banks then things get tough.
It’s important to understand that when people say that a move to a single-payer health care system isn’t politically feasible, they don’t mean that it would be unpopular. They mean that our political system is too broken and corrupt to deliver one. Via Atrios, a CBS/NYT poll shows people want government-run health care:
There was also this finding from about a year ago:
Long story short, President Obama has his reasons for adopting a health care reform agenda that, while ambitious, is less ambitious than this. But there’s no reason for him or anyone else to be particularly terrified of conservatives characterizing their vision as socialism or government takeover or whatever else it is they like to say.