CEPR News January 2013

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Written by Dawn Lobell   
Friday, 01 February 2013 14:15

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

CEPR on Haiti
Haiti Relief and Reconstruction Watch blogger and CEPR International Research Associate Jake Johnston was in Haiti for the month of January, providing first-hand accounts on many of the issues that the blog has covered since the earthquake devastated the country three years ago.

CEPR marked the January 12th anniversary of the earthquake, which killed over 217,000 people and left 1.5 million homeless with a series of blog posts offering a partial round-up of news, analysis and commentary. CEPR Co-director Mark Weisbrot also released a statement, noting that Haiti continues to struggle despite – and partly because of – failures of the international aid and reconstruction effort. Mark was interviewed by the Real News on Canada’s decision to suspend aid to Haiti, and was cited in this Los Angeles Times article and this piece from Mother Jones. Jake was quoted in this article from the Christian Science Monitor.


CEPR on Unions

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its annual summary of unionization in the U.S., reporting that the union-membership rate of wage and salary workers in 2012 was 11.3 percent. Fifty years ago, the figure was almost 30 percent. CEPR Research Assistant Kris Warner wrote an op-ed for Bloomberg's Echoes blog where he contrasts long-standing declines in the United States with higher and more stable unionization rates in Canada, which has labor law that is much friendlier to unionization. Senior Economist John Schmitt and Research Assistant Janelle Jones wrote this analysis of the overall numbers for the CEPR blog. John also wrote a blog post focusing on the decline of public-sector unions.

In CEPR’s latest issue brief titled State Union Membership, 2012, John, Janelle and CEPR Program Assistant Milla Sanes focus on the union membership numbers by state. In addition to presenting the official BLS estimates for overall union membership in each state, the short report also provide CEPR's own breakdown of state union membership in the private and public sector.

CEPR’s work received attention from the media. Kris’s op-ed was named one of the top op-eds of the day on the Washington Post’s Wonkblog. The Wall Street Journal mentioned CEPR, and the Huffington Post quoted John and ran one of CEPR’s graphs, as did an item on the Los Angeles AFL-CIO's web site. John was interviewed by KPFK radio in Los Angeles. The Associated Press used CEPR’s numbers for this article.


CEPR on Social Security and Medicare
In CEPR’s paper Raising the Social Security Payroll Tax Cap: How Many Workers Would Pay More?, authors CEPR Director of Domestic Policy Nicole Woo, Janelle Jones and John Schmitt find that just 1 in 20 workers -- the wealthiest -- would be affected if the Social Security payroll tax cap were eliminated entirely, and only 1 in 75 would be affected if the cap were applied to earnings over $250,000.  In addition, the share of workers who would pay more varies greatly according to gender, race, state and age.

CEPR continued to counter arguments that Social Security adds to the deficit, including this piece by Dean for the New York Times’ Room for Debate. Dean also continued to point out (here and here) that when people talk about “changes” to Social Security and Medicare, what they really mean is “cuts”.


CEPR on Venezuela
While many warn of political and economic crises in Venezuela as the uncertainty over President Chávez's health continues, Mark Weisbrot notes in op-eds for the New York Times’ Room for Debate and the Guardian that predictions of "gloom and doom" have been wrong for the past 14 years. Mark also discussed Venezuela on Al-Jazeera’s Inside Story and The Real News. CEPR Director of International Communications Dan Beeton also weighed in with these two CEPR blog posts.

Mark wrote this op-ed for Al-Jazeera calling out the New York Times, the New Yorker and Spain’s El Pais for running pieces that serve to vilify the Venezuelan president, without mentioning data or facts. In contrast, CEPR Senior Associate for International Policy Alex Main wrote this post for CEPR’s America’s Blog on an op-ed that appeared in the Guardian. “It is worth noting that this is probably the first time in at least a decade that the editorial board of a major Western newspaper has challenged the ‘conventional wisdom’ on Venezuela,” wrote Alex.


CEPR on the Fiscal Cliff
Dean wrote this op-ed on the fiscal cliff for CNN.com. Dean and AEI's Kevin Hassett's appeared on Bloomberg’s Surveillance program to talk about U.S. unemployment and prospects for co-operation in Congress after the passage of the fiscal cliff deal. (To lead off the show, host Tom Keene named Dean and Hassett’s May 2012 op-ed "The Human Disaster of Unemployment" his "Op-Ed of the Year."). Nicole Woo was interviewed by several radio stations on the topic, including WMNF’s Women’s Show and Let’s Talk About It!.

CEPR Senior Research Associate Shawn Fremstad notes in the CEPR Blog that the deal was “a raw deal for low-income and working class people.” Meanwhile, in two Beat the Press posts, (here and here) Dean points out that all reporters (and their favorite economic experts) who told us that uncertainty over the fiscal cliff was a drag on the economy in the second half of 2012 were… wrong.


CEPR on the IMF, the Eurozone and Greece
CEPR’s paper “Macroeconomic Policy Advice and the Article IV Consultations: An EU Case Study,” finds that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been pushing for reduced spending, shrinking government, and cutting social protections for broad sectors of the population in European Union member countries, often regardless of a country’s specific economic circumstances. The paper’s authors, Mark and CEPR Senior Research Associate Helene Jorgensen, examined recent IMF policy recommendations in 27 European countries to see whether these recommendations may have contributed to the ongoing crisis in Europe.

The paper was featured on Yves Smith’s blog Naked Capitalism and Mark was interviewed about the paper on Portland, OR’s KBOO. The paper received a great deal of coverage in Europe, including a feature article in the Greek paper Eleftherotypia and a mention on Dublin-based TASC ‘s website. CEPR’s Senior Research Associate Ha-Joon Chang strikes a similar note in this op-ed for the Guardian titled “Europe is haunted by the myth of the lazy mob”.

Mark traveled to New York on January 24th, where he discussed the challenges facing Greece and the eurozone. The evening featured the head of SYRIZA and Leader of the Greek Opposition, Alexis Tsipras, on SYRIZA's plans for national governance, as well as panels on financial reform and macroeconomic recovery. The event was sponsored by The Workers' Rights Student Coalition at Columbia Law School and INET.


CEPR on Paul Krugman…for Treasury Secretary
CEPR issued this press release on the grassroots effort to draft Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman for Secretary of the Treasury. Noting that a petition, created by actor, human rights activist and CEPR Board member Danny Glover received over 200,000 votes, Mark stated that “Never before has the public weighed in on who should be Secretary of the Treasury of the United States.”

The petition received notice in the press, and Mark and Dean both wrote op-eds and columns on the effort, including here and here, where Dean compares departing Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to Klemens von Metternich.  Dean wrote this piece on Obama’s eventual nominee Jack Lew. Dean also wrote an op-ed titled “Timothy Geithner Saved Wall Street, Not the Economy”.


News from the CEPR Blogosphere:

CEPR Blog

CEPR and the Economic Policy Institute published a series of four blog posts that assess the role of technological change and job polarization in wage inequality trends, based on a new paper by EPI’s Larry Mishel and Heidi Shierholz, and CEPR’s John Schmitt. Larry, Heidi and John are skeptical of the view that technology is responsible for rising wage inequality, arguing instead that specific policies (such as a declining value of the minimum wage, trade deals that hurt workers here and abroad, and tolerance of high unemployment) are the real culprits.

John summarized the key points in this CEPR blog post titled Job Polarization in the 2000’s, while Larry weighed in with Occupation Employment Trends and Wage Inequality: What the Long View Tells Us and Timing Matters: Can Job Polarization Explain Wage Trends and Heidi followed with Are the Job Polarization Data Robust?.

John also wrote this post on the positive interaction between the minimum wage and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), while Dean debunked the Clinton legacy.

CEPR Blog update:
In December, CEPR Senior Research Associate Shawn Fremstad wrote blog posts criticizing a New York Times column by Nicholas Kristof that called for cuts to Supplemental Security Income for disabled children. Kristof continued to defend his column, despite criticism from advocates for the poor and disabled. But on January 29th, the New York Times Public Editor backed Shawn and other critics, saying Kristof’s column “would have benefited from more rigorous reporting. “ She added, “I believe that some of the column’s assertions were based on too little direct evidence or used statistical information that is, at the very least, open to interpretation.”

The America’s Blog: Analysis Beyond the Echo Chamber
In this recent post, CEPR International Intern Arthur Phillips and Research Assistant Stephan Lefebvre look at IMF and World Bank predictions for Haiti and Venezuela and find no surprises.

CEPR Program Assistant Sara Kozameh takes a look at murder rates in Guatemala while Jake Johnston weighs in on Jamaica and the IMF. In this post, Dan Beeton critiques NPR’s coverage of Honduran “model cities” and in this piece Alex Main discusses John Kerry as Secretary of State.


In Other CEPR News...

--The article by CEPR Senior Economist Eileen Appelbaum and Carrie Leana of the University of Pittsburgh, “Improving job quality in low paying jobs:  Careworkers in the US,” was published in the edited volume, The Squeezed Middle. The book was published simultaneously by Policy Press in the UK and University of Chicago Press in the US.

--On January 23rd, Dean Baker testified before a joint session of the New Mexico State Legislature labor and education committees on public pension funds. Public Employee Retirement Association Executive Director Wayne Propst and Educational Retirement Association Executive Director Jan Goodwin also testified.

--Nicole Woo was one of 72 new scholars named to the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI). Members of the Academy are recognized as leading experts in the fields of Social Security, Medicare, health coverage, unemployment insurance and related social insurance and assistance programs.

--Mark was on Soujourner Truth radio talking about Obama’s cabinet picks and Venezuela.

--This article in the January 8, 2013 Columbia Journalism Review by David Cay Johnston cites Dean’s and CEPR Economist David Rosnick’s April 2011 paper “Representative Ryan’s $30 Trillion Medicare Waste Tax”.

--Dean was on CNBC’s Kudlow Report twice in January, here talking about growth and here discussing sequestration. Dean also appeared on WNUR’s This is Hell, talking about his op-ed on the life and death of computer whiz and political activist Aaron Swartz.

--In a post for the Roosevelt Institute's Econobytes, economist Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, argues there is no direct tie between the size of the budget deficit and our debt to China.

-- CEPR’s Housing Byte for January shows that the January reports on the housing market continue to show evidence of recovery. And in the recent GDP Byte, Dean notes that nominal health care spending rose by just 1.8 percent over the last year.

Tags: eurozone | Greece | Haiti | imf | inequality | medicare | minimum wage | Social Security | unemployment | unions | venezuela