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Archive for December 24th, 2012

Memo To Social Security Scaremongers: Productivity Gains Trump Demographic Change

Posted by Phoenix Woman on December 24, 2012

Dean Baker chart showing productivity growth trumps demographic change

Oh, dear. Fareed Zakaria doesn’t understand (or is paid not to understand, in finest Upton Sinclair fashion) why we silly liberals don’t understand that Grandma must be put out on an ice floe so Pete Peterson can have a few more swimming pools:

The American left has trained its sights on a new enemy: Pete Peterson. The banker and private-equity billionaire is, at first glance, an obvious target—rich and Republican. He stands accused of being the evil genius behind all the forces urging Washington to do something about the national debt.

[...]

The facts are hard to dispute. In 1900, 1 in 25 Americans was over the age of 65. In 2030, just 18 years from now, 1 in 5 Americans will be over 65. We will be a nation that looks like Florida. Because we have a large array of programs that provide guaranteed benefits to the elderly, this has huge budgetary implications. In 1960 there were about five working Americans for every retiree. By 2025, there will be just over two workers per retiree. In 1975 Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid made up 25% of federal spending. Today they add up to a whopping 40%. And within a decade, these programs will take up over half of all federal outlays.

Too bad that Zakaria’s much-touted facts are irrelevant to the discussion at hand.

In the course of spanking Zakaria, the CEPR’s Dean Baker points out a key fact that is quite relevant, which is that even modest gains in productivity growth far outweight the impact of demographics:

Note that even in the most pessimistic productivity story, the slowest rate of productivity growth of the post-war era, the impact of productivity in raising living standards is more than three times as large as the impact of demographics in reducing them. Furthermore, this takes 2035 as an endpoint. After that year there is little projected change in demographics for the rest of the century whereas productivity will continue to grow.

See also the chart above, from his article. The calculations backing it up are here.

If anyone out there still reads Time magazine, feel free to send this to the editors thereof.

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The faces of addiction

Posted by Charles II on December 24, 2012

Chris Arnade visited Hunt’s Point, NY and got to know the street people. He produced a remarkable series titled Faces of Addiction, with photographs and brief stories of the people he met.

(Via Julie Turkewitz, The Atlantic)

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Problem: not liking the truth. Solution: silence the people telling it.

Posted by Charles II on December 24, 2012

Via Barry Ritholtz, Arthur Kellerman and Frederick Rivara describe how the Republicans in Congress shut down research on the nature of gun violence:

The nation might be in a better position to act if medical and public health researchers had continued to study these issues as diligently as some of us did between 1985 and 1997. But in 1996, pro-gun members of Congress mounted an all-out effort to eliminate the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although they failed to defund the center, the House of Representatives removed $2.6 million from the CDC’s budget—precisely the amount the agency had spent on firearm injury research the previous year. Funding was restored in joint conference committee, but the money was earmarked for traumatic brain injury. The effect was sharply reduced support for firearm injury research.

To ensure that the CDC and its grantees got the message, the following language was added to the final appropriation: “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”

When other agencies funded high-quality research, similar action was taken….Congress extended the restrictive language it had previously applied to the CDC to all Department of Health and Human Services agencies, including the National Institutes of Health

These are not the only efforts to keep important health information from the public and patients.

For example,
* Florida and Washington State have sealed their records against the dangers of research.
* The National Defense Authorization Act forbids commanders from discussing private weapons with the servicemembers under their command, even if they fear suicide.

It’s very important that we not discuss the bodies piling up in shopping malls and schools. It’s very important that we silence any questioning of activities that lead to profits by the manufacturers of firearms.

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FOX’s Murdoch Tries Buying White House, US Media Won’t Sound The Alarm

Posted by Phoenix Woman on December 24, 2012

An obviously horrified Carl Bernstein, writing for the UK’s Guardian newspaper (probably because no US media outside of Huffington Post or maybe MSNBC would touch it), on the incontrovertible evidence that Rupert Murdoch was trying to buy himself the US presidency via control of his intended figurehead General David Petraeus, whose candidacy he and Roger Ailes intended to use FOX News to promote:

Indeed, almost as dismaying as Ailes’ and Murdoch’s disdain for an independent and truly free and honest press, and as remarkable as the obsequious eagerness of their messenger to convey their extraordinary presidential draft and promise of on-air Fox support to Petraeus, has been the ho-hum response to the story by the American press and the country’s political establishment, whether out of fear of Murdoch, Ailes and Fox – or, perhaps, lack of surprise at Murdoch’s, Ailes’ and Fox’s contempt for decent journalistic values or a transparent electoral process.

The tone of the media’s reaction was set from the beginning by the Post’s own tin-eared treatment of this huge story: relegating it, like any other juicy tidbit of inside-the-beltway media gossip, to the section of the newspaper and its website that focuses on entertainment, gossip, cultural and personality-driven news, instead of the front page.

“Bob had a great scoop, a buzzy media story that made it perfect for Style. It didn’t have the broader import that would justify A1,” Liz Spayd, the Post’s managing editor, told Politico when asked why the story appeared in the style section.

Buzzy media story? Lacking the “broader import” of a front-page story? One cannot imagine such a failure of news judgment among any of Spayd’s modern predecessors as managing editors of the Post, especially in the clear light of the next day and with a tape recording – of the highest audio quality – in hand.

[...]

And here let us posit the following: were an emissary of the president of NBC News, or of the editor of the New York Times or the Washington Post ever caught on tape promising what Ailes and Murdoch had apparently suggested and offered here, the hue and cry, especially from Fox News and Republican/Tea Party America, from the Congress to the US Chamber of Commerce to the Heritage Foundation, would be deafening and not be subdued until there was a congressional investigation, and the resignations were in hand of the editor and publisher of the network or newspaper. Or until there had been plausible and convincing evidence that the most important elements of the story were false. And, of course, the story would continue day after day on page one and remain near the top of the evening news for weeks, until every ounce of (justifiable) piety about freedom of the press and unfettered presidential elections had been exhausted.

So what spared us the prospect of a puppet President Petraeus mouthing Rupert Murdoch’s dogma? Apparently Petraeus himself turned down the idea. That, and that alone. Which was a good thing, because if we’d had to rely on the Washington (Hiatt) Post or the New York Times to do it, we likely would be watching Petraeus being sworn in as president by John Roberts in a few weeks.

Yet another nail in the “liberal media” myth coffin.

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