CEPR News March 2012

Print
Written by Dawn Lobell   
Friday, 30 March 2012 14:30

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

CEPR Successfully Pushes for World Bank Reform
At the beginning of the month, CEPR Co-director Mark Weisbrot was among the first to applaud the reform candidacy of economist Jeffrey Sachs for World Bank president. Sachs' run was unprecedented in its openness, in that Sachs sought to be the “world’s candidate” and ended up being nominated by several developing countries, and for drawing attention to the fact that all previous World Bank presidents have had Wall Street, military, or political backgrounds, rather than economic development backgrounds such as Sachs. It also put the undemocratic nature of the selection process (the U.S. has traditionally hand-picked the World Bank president) under a microscope.

CEPR’s support for Sachs' challenge to the World Bank, through a press release, op-eds in The Guardian, Folha de São Paulo (Brazil), and radio interviews helped to bring it to the attention of U.S. and international media. CEPR likewise applauded the historic developing-country nominations of Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and former Colombian finance minister and former high-level UN official Jose Antonio Ocampo.

Because of these challenges – as well as an international grassroots campaign opposing likely U.S. nominee Larry Summers – the Obama administration was forced to nominate someone who would also gather international support. CEPR joined others in the development community in applauding the U.S. nomination of Dartmouth College president and Partners in Health co-founder Jim Yong Kim. In comments widely-cited in press coverage, Mark Weisbrot said of Kim’s nomination “This is a huge step forward. If Kim becomes World Bank President, he’ll be the first qualified president in 68 years,” “Kim’s nomination is a victory for all the people, organizations, and governments that stood up to the Obama administration and demanded an open, merit-based process.” Mark wrote about the victory that Kim’s nomination represents in this op-ed for Folha de São Paulo and CEPR’s Director of International Programs Deborah James provided her analysis as well, with this op-ed published on Common Dreams, as well as this interview with WBAI 99.5FM’s Wake Up Call. Deborah also discussed Kim’s nomination with Thom Hartmann on The Big Picture (RT).

CEPR on Right to Rent and B of A
Bank of America is the latest entity to get behind CEPR’s Right to Rent concept. B of A recently announced the "Mortgage to Lease" program, which will be available to 1,000 B of A customers selected by the bank in test markets in Arizona, Nevada and New York. Participants will transfer their home's title to the bank, which will then forgive the outstanding mortgage debt. In exchange, they will be able to lease their home for up to three years at or below the rental market rate.

CEPR Co-director Dean Baker issued a press release in support of the program, saying: “It is encouraging that Bank of America has decided to pursue this rental option on its own. It would have been desirable if Congress had taken steps to require lenders to offer a rental option to foreclosed homeowners. This is a simple form of relief that would have been costless to taxpayers. It would also be desirable for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac follow the lead of Bank of America and ease and extend the terms of their foreclosed homeowner rental option programs for the homes under their control.”

CEPR Senior Economist Eileen Appelbaum wrote an op-ed for the U.S. News and World Report. Dean Baker was quoted in this Wall Street Journal article and he was interviewed by MarketWatch. Dean also discussed the B of A plan with Jared Bernstein, video here.


CEPR on the Minimum Wage and Low-Wage Workers
CEPR Senior Economist John Schmitt released two issue briefs on the minimum wage in March. The first, “The Minimum Wage is Too Damn Low,” looks at how the minimum wage is now far below its historical level by all of the most commonly used benchmarks – inflation, average wages, and productivity. The second paper, by John and CEPR Domestic Intern Marie-Eve Augier, points out that the current minimum wage looks even worse when compared to two kinds of purchases strongly associated with a middle-class standard of living or the ability to move up to the middle class: health insurance and a college degree. The brief was picked up by Common Dreams and Truthout.

On March 7th, John participated in the discussion series on "Reinventing Low-Wage Work: Ideas That Can Work for Employees, Employers and the Economy" sponsored by the Workforce Strategies Initiative at the Aspen Institute. John joined Helen Neuborne, Director of Quality Employment at the Ford Foundation; Congresswoman Donna Edwards; Saru Jayaraman, executive director of Restaurant Opportunities Center United; Andy Shallal, owner of Busboys and Poets with for a discussion titled "From Fast Food to Fine Cuisine: A Discussion on Work in the Restaurant Industry.” Video of the event can be found here.

CEPR on the Unemployed
John and CEPR Research Assistant Janelle Jones released a paper that sheds light on the demographics of the millions of workers struggling with unemployment and under-employment. The paper, “Long-Term Hardship in the Labor Market,” breaks out workers considered long-term unemployed by the official BLS standard according to race and gender, education, and age. The authors also expand the conventional concept of long-term unemployment and capture further dimensions of long-term hardship including discouraged workers, workers marginally attached to the workforce, and workers who are part-time for economic reasons. "The recovery, which officially started in the summer of 2009, has provided almost no relief to those experiencing long-term hardship in the labor market," said John. The paper was picked up by both the AFL-CIO blog and Think Progress

CEPR on Haiti
Bill Clinton’s admission that US troops brought cholera to Haiti represents the first public acknowledgement of responsibility from a senior UN official, and follows more than a year of official UN denials -- despite a number of scientific studies that have shown that UN troops brought the bacteria into Haiti. As Mark Weisbrot noted in this press release, “President Clinton’s acknowledgement, as a UN official, should bring us one step closer to the UN taking responsibility for what it has done, and fixing it.” “The deaths and disease from the cholera in Haiti will only be eliminated, as they were from Latin America after the 1991 outbreak, when Haiti has adequate drinking water and sanitation,” he said. “Since the UN brought this disease to Haiti – through its own carelessness – it is now the United Nations’ responsibility to provide this infrastructure.” Mark also discussed recent developments in Haiti on KPFK radio’s Sojourner Truth program.

On March 27th, CEPR’s Senior Associate for International Policy Alex Main participated in a congressional briefing on Haiti’s Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps. Other panelists included Melinda Miles of Let Haiti Live and TransAfrica and Etant Dupain of Bri Kouri Nouvèl Gaye.  And CEPR’s Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch blog weighed in on the announcement of plans by the Red Cross to build a hotel on land they own in Haiti. The blog also published an exclusive interview with well-known survey researcher Athena Kolbe on the recent rise in crime in Haiti and factors that may be responsible, and published a series of posts examining gender-based-violence, access (and lack thereof) to basic services, and other important issues facing internally displaced women in Haiti, and how these women are speaking out about them.

CEPR on the Republican Budget
Dean Baker had a lot to say about the Republican budget plan offered by Representative Paul Ryan.  Here he points out that Representative Ryan and his cronies were so focused on the almost non-existent budget deficit that they missed the most predictable economic crisis in the history of the world, while here he states: “By throwing a piece of total garbage on the table and pretending it is a real budget plan, he allowed us to see who in Washington is serious about the budget and who just says things that will push their agenda.”

Dean also wrote about the Ryan plan in Beat the Press, here and here. And he sent Representative Ryan a letter, reminding him that there was no official document agreed upon and adopted by the President’s Fiscal Commission (also known as the Bowles-Simpson Commission), and suggesting that the Representative clarify that the report generated was that of the co-chairs, not the full commission.

Dean spoke at a “prebuttal” rally on March 20th, outside of the American Enterprise Institute, where Ryan presented his budget plan. He also appeared on Current TV’s the War Room with Jennifer Grandholm.

CEPR on Transaction Costs and Transactions Taxes
CEPR released a paper on “The Relationship Between Financial Transactions Costs and Economic Growth”. The paper, written by Dean Baker and CEPR Senior Research Associate Helene Jorgensen, reviews some of the arguments as to why higher transactions costs may actually lead to better working financial markets. The paper also examines the relationship between growth and transactions costs for a limited set of countries for which transactions cost data are available. It finds a strong positive relationship for this group of countries, with higher transactions costs actually being associated with higher growth.

In a related piece, Dean was quoted in this MarketWatch piece on Europe adopting a Financial Transactions Tax.

CEPR New and Noteworthy
-- Dean co-wrote this op-ed on living wages for home health aides that was published by Fox on 15th Street (a.k.a. the Washington Post).

-- Janelle Jones penned this commentary on the Council on Contemporary Families’ latest release on the gender pay gap.

-- Dean was on NPR’s Morning Edition talking about tax breaks for manufacturing and he was on PRI’s To the Point talking about housing. He was also interviewed on American Workforce radio. Dean’s sole appearance on Kudlow and Company this month was this show on Obamacare.

-- In this CEPR blog post, CEPR Director of Domestic Policy Nicole Woo takes a look at the new census brief, The Asian Population: 2010. Woo finds similarities between the Census report and CEPR’s 2011 release on Asian American and Pacific Islander workers. 

-- Dean traveled to Chicago for a town hall discussion "Need or Greed: Who's Responsible for the Global Economic Collapse?" The event was sponsored by Chicago Area Peace Action. Earlier this month, Dean took part in a panel discussion titled "How Does the Global Economy Impact WIC?" as part of the National WIC Association's 22nd Annual Washington Leadership Conference. Dean was joined on the panel by Robert Greenstein, director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

-- CEPR was well-represented at this year’s Left Forum, which took place from March 16 – 18 at Pace University in New York. Mark Weisbrot was on a panel titled: “The Eurozone Crisis and Alternatives to Austerity: Debating & Debunking the Prevailing Myths”. CEPR Senior Associate for International Policy Alex Main participated in a panel on Haiti titled “Accountability in Post Earthquake Haiti: Reconstruction Failures and the UN's Cholera Problem”.  And both Mark and Alex spoke on Latin America Unites and the Challenge to U.S. Hegemony.

-- Mark traveled to MA at the end of March. On the 26th he was at Harvard University for a discussion entitled “The D-Word: Can Default Save Greece? Or Is Austerity the Answer?”  Mark joined Harvard Kennedy School Professors Richard Parker and Jeffrey Frankel in assessing the path forward for Greece. Then on the 27th, Mark was at Brandeis University for a discussion on the prospects for Latin American development. The event, “The Latin American Spring”, was sponsored by The Latin American Working Group at Brandeis.

-- Eileen Appelbaum took part in a panel discussion at the University of Oregon Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics on "The Crisis of Care Labor and Family Leave Policies". The discussion was part of a larger conference on "Gender Equity and Capitalism." Other panelists included Victoria Lawson, professor of geography at the University of Washington; Debra Schwartz, SEIU 503 care provider division field coordinator; and Nancy Folbre, University of Massachusetts Amherst.

-- On March 29th Eileen chaired a presentation titled "Investment in Private Markets: Rewards, Risks and Implications for Economic Growth and Jobs - Good Jobs? - Creation" as part of Harvard Law School's 10th Annual Pensions and Capital Stewardship conference. Presenters included Tom Rotherham, director of Hermes Equity Ownership Services, Ltd.; Stephen Sleigh, fund director of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers National Pension Fund; and Michael Swack, professor at the University of New Hampshire and research faculty at the Carsey Institute. For more information, visit the event site.

-- On the 30th, Dean discussed the future of entitlements as part of the 2012 Annual Conference of the American Society on Aging, taking place March 28 through April 1. Session info can be found on the event's website.

-- CEPR’s Prices Byte for March made the Los Angeles Times.

-- CEPR welcomes a new board member. Lance Lindbloom, retired President and CEO of the Nathan Cummings Foundation. Welcome Lance!