CEPR News February 2011

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The following highlights CEPR's latest research, publications, events and much more.

Praise for CEPR’s work on Haiti
Here's a quote from The Notion, the Nation magazine's blog: ”Praise to the Center for Economic and Policy Research for being the only Washington think-tank to pay consistent, skeptical attention to Haiti. As usual, they have been doing invaluable work on the issue, including a statistical analysis of the stolen vote”.

CEPR's work continues to have a major influence on the debate over the Haitian elections. CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot has been all over the airwaves talking about the most recent developments in Haiti, including the ongoing debate over the election results and the return of former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Mark was interviewed by FAIR’s CounterspinAl-Jazeera and KPFA 94.1FM Berkeley.

He was also quoted numerous publications, including in this AP article. And he authored several columns on the elections and Aristide.

On Februaury 4th, the Haiti Democracy Project sponsored a presentation on the "Haiti Democracy Project Electoral Mission." Participants included CEPR’s Mark Weisbrot, Professor Fritz Scheuren, the 100th president of the American Statistical Association and member of the OAS Verification Mission to Haiti; Roger F. Noriega, visiting fellow of the American Enterprise Institute; Rudolph H. Boulos, board member of the Haiti Democracy Project; James Morell, founder and executive director of the Haiti Democracy Project; and Ernest Preeg, former US ambassador to Haiti and chair at the International Business Center at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).  In this video clip, Mark challenges Fritz Scheuren to answer CEPR's two main criticisms of the OAS report, which changed the result of Haiti's first round Presidential election. Scheuren's response confirms CEPR's criticisms.

CEPR on Public Sector Unions and Pensions
Budget “hawks” the nation over have lately been loudly demanding cuts in the pensions that go to public workers. Curiously missing from all these cutback demands: any talk about cutting the fees that go to the Wall Streeters politicians pick to “manage” public pension fund investments. Dean Baker estimates that “excessive Wall Street fees are costing public pension funds almost $15 billion a year.” Wall Street greed, Baker notes, helped caused the crisis that has devastated public employee pension fund assets. Instead of beating up on teachers and firefighters, he adds, states ought to be enacting fee limits strong enough to make sure “people at the top pay for the damage they have caused.”

CEPR’s latest release clears up many common misconceptions about these funds. The report, “The Origins and Severity of the Public Pension Crisis,” shows that the main reason public pension shortfalls exist at all is the downturn in the stock market following the housing crash in 2007-2009, not inadequate contributions. The paper demonstrates that if pension funds had just earned returns equal to the interest rate on 30-year Treasury bonds since 2007, their assets would be more than $850 billion greater than they are today.

On February 17, 2011, Rudy Fichtenbaum, Ph.D., from the Ohio Conference of the American Association of University Professors, cited CEPR’s paper in testimony before the Ohio Senate's Insurance, Commerce and Labor Committee. AFSCME in Wisconsin included a paragraph about CEPR’s paper in their memo to reporters and the National Council on Teacher Retirement included it in a press release. The paper was also featured on the American Rights at Work’s Labor Resource Roundup, and Dean discussed public employee unions in this interview on KCRW’s To the Point. On February 25th, Dean appeared on WNYC's the Brian Leher show, and CEPR Senior Economist John Schmitt appeared on NPR’s Tell Me More debating the current state of public sector unions with former White House official Linda Chaves.

More CEPR in the News
CEPR Co-Director Dean Baker was featured in various media outlets in February, from this interview in GQ to these two with Thom Hartman. He also authored this piece on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission findings for the Boston Review.

Dean was on the Diane Rhem show on February 8th discussing President Obama’s speech to the US Chamber of Commerce. Other panelists included Jared Bernstein and Bruce Josten of the US Chamber. Dean also discussed the economy on the Bloomberg News.

Paid Family Leave
CEPR Senior Economist Eileen Appelbaum’s study of California’s Paid Family Leave Act continues to receive attention from the media and from policymakers. It’s mentioned in this Associated Press article, and Eileen discussed the study on WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi show. On March 4, 2011, Eileen will participate in a policy briefing on paid family leave to be held at the New Jersey state capitol building.