Archive for October, 2011

The big problem with having 7 billion people: They’re too old

The world’s population is expected to hit 7 billion sometime today. And the biggest part of the story, for me, is that we’ve reached this figure in large part by extending lifetimes rather than by having more babies.

Check out these two graphs — the first is from the Washington Post and depicts rising life expectancies at birth; the second is one I generated on Google with data from the World Bank, and it depicts falling birth rates:

Life expectancy at birth by region; graph produced by Washington Post with U.N. data

Life expectancy at birth by region; graph produced by Washington Post with U.N. data

Fertility rates world-wide and in top 5 economies; graph produced on Google Public Data Explorer with World Bank data

Fertility rates world-wide and in top 5 economies; graph produced on Google Public Data Explorer with World Bank data

These trends suggest some serious implications: for the use of resources, for the future strength of today’s strongest economies, etc. For today, I want to focus on what they mean for the systems the United States and other rich countries have built to redistribute wealth from the young to the old.

(And before someone objects, “Hey, I paid for …

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Remembering Bork, and the borkings we’ve endured since

Before this week ends, I want to point out one thing from last week: the anniversary of Senate Democrats’ defeat of Robert Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court. The New York Times’ Joe Nocera — always worth reading, but no one’s idea of a right-winger — made this observation:

The Bork fight, in some ways, was the beginning of the end of civil discourse in politics. For years afterward, conservatives seethed at the “systematic demonization” of Bork, recalls Clint Bolick, a longtime conservative legal activist. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution coined the angry verb “to bork,” which meant to destroy a nominee by whatever means necessary. When Republicans borked the Democratic House Speaker Jim Wright less than two years later, there wasn’t a trace of remorse, not after what the Democrats had done to Bork. The anger between Democrats and Republicans, the unwillingness to work together, the profound mistrust — the line from Bork to today’s ugly politics is a straight one.

(Links …

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Poll Position: Was Reed too fast or too slow vs. Occupy Atlanta?

They came, they camped, they got thrown in jail.

The Occupiers of Atlanta, or at least of Woodruff Park, logged nearly three weeks of unlawful “urban camping” before finally pushing their luck with Mayor Kasim Reed. About one week into a three-week extension of the permission he’d granted the Occupiers to stay in the park, Reed sent in the police. The mayor said some Occupiers had demonstrated they “were on a clear path to escalation.”

Unlike in Oakland, Calif., the arrests went peacefully. Now the Atlanta Occupiers say they’re moving on to a new location — and will eventually return to Woodruff, because it “is the people’s park.” (Sure it is. And the people’s duly elected representatives have made laws governing the people’s park.)

But the question remains: Were the Occupiers kicked out of Woodruff too soon, or too late?

How do you rate Kasim Reed’s actions toward Occupy Atlanta?

  • Kicked ‘em out too late. (125 Votes)
  • Kicked ‘em out too soon. (60 Votes)
  • Got it just …

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Contrary to what you may have heard, not only the rich are getting richer

The latest inequality statistics from the Congressional Budget Office have produced a funny reaction. Both liberals and conservatives have embraced them as proof that their ideology is right — liberals, because the gap has grown; conservatives, because earnings have risen across the board.

Conservatives say a rising tide lifts all boats, and that’s a good thing. Liberals can’t seem to get past the fact that some people have bigger boats than other people do.

But what interested me is the fact that the CBO report doesn’t give us an indication of mobility, other than to observe, “the population with income in the lowest 20 percent in 2007 was not necessarily the same as the population in that category in 1979.”

Yeah, no kidding.

Twenty-eight years passed between 1979 and 2007. The trajectory for most Americans is to start at the lower end of the income spectrum when they begin working and steadily move up until they peak, usually sometime in their 50s, after which their income …

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Obama’s small-change 2012 campaign tour

Barack Obama was back on the road this week. The tour bus was gone, but otherwise there was barely a hint he was doing anything other than taking another taxpayer-funded campaign swing through the states that will be key to the 2012 election.

You can tell it by his choice of destinations. Since Sept. 1, Obama has visited five of the six states where his 2008 margin of victory was narrowest: North Carolina (twice), Florida, Ohio (twice), Virginia (twice) and Colorado (twice). Add to that list Missouri, the site of his closest loss to John McCain, and potential battleground states Nevada, Michigan (twice), New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

But mostly you can tell it by his messaging. On this week’s trip out west, Obama broke out his latest three-word slogan: “We can’t wait” — for members of Congress to take the initiative. But, as Politifact recently reported, members of Congress have introduced dozens of bills related to jobs and the economy this year. It’s more like …

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Is laying the ‘intellectual foundation’ of OWS something one ought to brag about?

I got a chuckle when I saw this Associated Press story:

WASHINGTON — Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren is taking some credit for the Occupy Wall Street protests.

The Democrat and longtime consumer advocate says her work over the years against Wall Street abuses created much of the intellectual foundation for the demonstrators.

Because I immediately remembered reading this, from New York Magazine’s Daily Intel:

Over the past month, the crusaders at Zuccotti Park have braved the elements, tussled with police, and stood their ground against Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg. But how much do the protesters actually know about the economic system that they’re fighting to change? To find out, we asked 50 occupiers a series of questions about Wall Street, taxes, and government. The results were mixed.

To call the results “mixed” is to put it charitably. Here are some of the results:

  • Q: What is the Dodd-Frank Act? Most common answer: “Don’t know,” with 84 percent of the …

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2012 Tuesday: Out of many, one tax reform plan will emerge — and set the stage vs. Obama

To those who worry that the rough-and-tumble Republican primary will produce a nominee who’s damaged goods by the time he* faces President Obama, allow me to point to the plethora of tax-reform plans coming from the candidates.

Concurrent with the daily superficial dramas that come with a presidential campaign is a real, substantive, intellectual debate about how to repair a fundamental — and fundamentally broken — function of government: the way it funds all its other functions. And it all but ensures that the eventual nominee will come equipped with a thoroughly vetted, central policy proposal that will compare very well with Obama’s embrace of the current tax code with just a few “tax the rich” tweaks.

Consider the range of proposals:

  • Newt Gingrich was first on the board, back in May, with a plan that ends the capital gains and death taxes, lowers the corporate rate to 12.5 percent (the same as Ireland) while allowing full expensing of new equipment, and “moves toward an …

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A few reasons to think Georgia’s economic future is bright

If I worked for a chamber of commerce in this state, I would be inclined to highlight the recent report by IHS Global Insight Analysis that predicts Georgia will have the eighth-fastest job growth in the country during the next six years. You can see the data visually in this handy map produced by the Wall Street Journal. The factors in IHS’s forecast are, as an accompanying article puts it, the states’ “macroeconomic outlook, including demographic assumptions, historical and cyclical trends and other factors such as oil prices and tax policy.”

Then, I would be inclined to point to this analysis of the 50 states’ indebtedness, produced by the nonpartisan group State Budget Solutions. A closer inspection reveals Georgia is (barely) among the best one-quarter of states in terms of what we owe to creditors and retirees — current and future ones, accounting for the pension payments and other benefits, such as health care, they’re owed. At about $9,500 in state debt per man, woman …

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Now, even Huntsman seeks running room on Romney’s right

When Jon Huntsman entered the Republican presidential race, the conventional wisdom held that he would try to position himself as a centrist and challenge Mitt Romney for moderate GOP primary voters. That belief held up through the first several debates, when Huntsman staked out a not-so-hawkish view on foreign policy, stated support for civil unions, and accused his own party of “run[ning] from science**.”

But apparently, Huntsman has decided to portray himself instead as the more conservative of the two. At least, that’s the impression given from the “Open Letter from Jon Huntsman to John Sununu” his campaign released this morning, mildly scolding the New Hampshire governor for endorsing Romney instead of a true “conservative governor”:

* While Mitt Romney opposed the Bush tax cuts and raised taxes and fees by $750 million in Massachusetts, I signed the largest tax cut in Utah history which helped our state lead the nation in job growth.

* While Mitt Romney implemented …

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An about-face by an opponent of voter ID laws

There is a constant refrain from the opponents of voter ID laws: that it is an attempt by white Republicans to suppress the votes of black Democrats. I’ve never understood why these opponents are allowed to get away with making what strikes me as a bigoted statement on its face: that African Americans are somehow less capable or motivated when it comes to obtaining a state-issued photo ID. But they do get away with it.

That’s why I thought it noteworthy that someone who admits to making such an argument in the past has turned the argument on its head and explained why election fraud is the real suppression measure — and testified that such fraud does happen.

Here’s Artur Davis, a former Democratic congressman from Alabama, writing in the Montgomery Advertiser:

The truth is that the most aggressive contemporary voter suppression in the African American community, at least in Alabama, is the wholesale manufacture of ballots, at the polls and absentee, in parts of the Black …

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