CEPR News March 2011

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Written by Dawn Lobell   
Thursday, 31 March 2011 14:00

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

CEPR on Pensions and Budgets
CEPR Co-Director Dean Baker co-authored a report with the Center on Wisconsin Strategy that found that the Wisconsin retirement system is one of the healthiest in the country. The paper was mentioned in this Reuters article, among others.

Dean authored several op-eds on public pensions, and on March 15th he testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s Subcommittee on TARP, Financial Services and Bailouts of Public and Private Programs on state and municipal debt. A video of the testimony can be seen here. Dean also discussed cuts to state budgets on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show.

An earlier CEPR report shows that many of the problems facing state and local governments are due to the recession and not, as some have claimed, public worker compensation packages. CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot also weighed in on events in Wisconsin in this op-ed for The Guardian Unlimited.

Jean-Bertrand Aristide Returns to Haiti
CEPR's Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch live-blogged Haiti’s second round of elections on March 20, and also former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s return two days prior, with reports from on the ground, breaking news, and analysis. See also the Relief and Reconstruction Watch blog's past postings on the elections.

Mark Weisbrot had been one of the most vocal defenders in the international media of Aristide’s right to return to Haiti, having done numerous TV and radio interviews. Mark also penned op-eds and columns on the issue for The Guardian Unlimited as well the McClatchy Tribune Information Services (the McClatchy piece was published in numerous newspapers including the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Kansas City Star, the Sacramento Bee and the Times of India). Mark issued a press statement on the eve of Aristide’s return, stating that “No government should stand in the way of Haiti’s former president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, from returning to Haiti.” CEPR was mentioned in several articles on Aristide and the elections, including this piece in The Nation and this one in the Miami Herald.

CEPR also played a key role in making Aristide's return possible, working to make the issue of U.S. pressure on the South African government (to keep Aristide in South Africa) a high-profile story in the South African press. This in turn made it politically difficult for the South African government to be seen as giving in to more, high profile pressure - such as when President Obama phoned South African president Jacob Zuma. CEPR Board Member Danny Glover accompanied the former president on his flight from Johannesburg to Port-au-Prince, and then from the airport to Aristide’s house in Tabarre. Tens of thousands of people lined the roadways along the entire route, cheering and waving signs welcoming Aristide’s return.

CEPR’s International Outreach Associate Alex Main joined Mark for a panel discussion titled "Helping Haiti Rebuild with Dignity, Sovereignty and Justice" at the Left Forum, held in New York on March 18th through March 20th. 

Mark also participated in panel discussions titled the “Post-Financial Crisis: Neoliberalism and the Global Economic Recovery” and “Venezuela and the Chavez Government: Advances and Shortcomings.”


CEPR’s Congressional Social Security Accuracy Campaign
CEPR’s Congressional Social Security Accuracy Campaign got off to a rousing start in March with the introduction of the Social Security Monitor blog. Whenever a member of congress makes an inaccurate statement about Social Security, CEPR immediately sends a letter to the member correcting his or her errors. The letters, as well as other CEPR reports, op-eds and blog posts related to Social Security, are posted on the Social Security Monitor blog. In March, CEPR wrote letters to Representative Todd Akin, Senator Rand Paul, Senator Tom Coburn and Senator Richard Shelby.

CEPR also released a paper that looks into the politically popular idea of means testing, or reducing Social Security payments to affluent beneficiaries, and finds that savings are likely to be very limited unless the test is applied to people who are very much middle class by any reasonable definition. As Dean Baker points out, “The majority of Social Security beneficiaries are lower- to middle- income people. The number of beneficiaries who are by most standards considered affluent is too small to raise a significant amount of money via means testing.” The paper was mentioned in Andrew Sullivan’s "The Daily Dish” blog.


CEPR and the IMF
Both of CEPR’s Co-Directors debated International Monetary Fund economists in March. On March 16th, American University hosted a panel discussion on the impact the IMF has had on Caribbean countries' economies. Titled “The IMF in the Caribbean & Latin America: Love Affair or Bad Romance?”, the panel featured Mark Weisbrot; Therese Turner-Jones, Deputy Division Chief in the Western Hemisphere at the IMF; and Paul Nehru Tennassee, coordinator of international co-curricular programs at the University of the District of Columbia. For more information, visit the event's website. A video of the event can be found here. The discussion follows a February debate Mark had with the IMF’s Prakash Loungani on “The Role of The IMF in The Global Recession” that was broadcast on CaribNation TV.

Dean Baker was a panelist at an event held on March 28th at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Co-sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson Center and the Heinrich Böll Stiftung Foundation, the event featured a discussion on a new report produced by the Independent Evaluation Office of the IMF. The report’s lead author, Ruben Lamdany, deputy director of the IEO, presented the main findings and recommendations of the Report. In addition to Dean, the panel included Hugh Bredenkamp, deputy director of the strategic policy and review department at the IMF; and Damon Silver, director of the policy department at the American Federation of Labor-Council of Industrial Organizations. More information on the event can be found here.


CEPR on City-Wide Minimum Wage Laws: Good For Workers
CEPR’s recent paper, “The Impact of City-Specific Minimum Wage Standards,” analyzed the wage and employment effects of the first three city-specific minimum wages in the US - San Francisco (2004), Santa Fe (2004), and Washington, DC (1993). “The experience of the first three cities to implement city-wide minimum wages demonstrates that these laws can raise the earnings of low-wage workers with no negative impact on employment,” said CEPR Senior Economist John Schmitt, one of the study’s authors. The paper was the focus of this editorial in the New York Times.


CEPR On the Road

On March 28th, Dean Baker was a speaker on a panel titled “Balanced Housing Policy and the Mortgage Interest Deduction” at the National Low-Income Housing Coalition's 2011 Annual Housing Policy Conference and Lobby Day, along with Mark Calabria, Financial Regulation Studies, Cato Institute; and Sheila Crowley, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. For more information on the conference or program, visit the NLIHC site.

The following day Dean was featured on a panel discussing federal budget deficits and the national debt at the National Journal Insiders Conference and in the debut of National Journal’s Economic Insiders Poll, “a periodic poll of veteran experts on the policy and political dynamics of key issues in the economy,” which focused on what the U.S. economy “needs most urgently.”  (Answer: NOT immediate cuts in government discretionary spending.)

And on March 30th, Dean headed to Capitol Hill for a lunch briefing with Congressman Ted Deutch on “The Preserving Our Promise to Seniors Act.” Other participants included Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research Partners; Ross Eisenbrey, vice president of the Economic Policy Institute; and Eric Kingson, co-director of Social Security Works and The Strengthen Social Security Campaign.


Ha-Joon Chang’s “23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism”
CEPR Senior Research Associate Ha-Joon Chang visited Washington, DC last week for several crowded book events. His new book, 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, has received a great deal of praise and attention in the UK, South Korea (where it was a number one best-seller for 11 weeks), and elsewhere. While in DC he spoke at Busboys and Poets and at an event co-sponsored by CEPR and the New America Foundation, in between doing a number of TV interviews.


CEPR Deconstructs Structural Unemployment
CEPR released a paper co-authored by John Schmitt and CEPR Domestic Program Assistant Kris Warner that finds little support for current arguments that suggest that structural unemployment has been on the rise. Kris followed with this CEPR Blog post on other research on the topic.  CEPR Domestic Intern Sairah Hussain weighed in with this CEPR Blog post that was picked up by the Fiancial Times blog. Sairah joined John in writing this additional blog post that looked at the issue of housing lock (when unemployed workers can't move to where the jobs are because they can't sell their houses in depressed housing markets) and found that it does not look to be a factor that contributes to current high levels of unemployment.