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CEPR News, March 2013

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Written by Dawn Lobell   
Friday, 29 March 2013 14:40

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

CEPR on Venezuela
CEPR marked the March 5th death of Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez with op-eds, blog posts and articles on Chávez’s legacy. In this op-ed for Al Jazeera, CEPR Co-director Mark Weisbrot stated that Chávez will be remembered for the reforms he made to improve the lives of Venezuela’s poorest citizens. Mark followed up with another op-ed for Al Jazeera, noting the stark differences between the outpouring of honor and respect from his fellow leaders in Latin America and the cold statement from the White House that didn’t offer condolences to the Venezuelan people or to Chavez’s family.

CEPR also provided analysis in several posts on The Americas Blog. In this post, Mark corrected a New York Times article that misstates economic growth during the Chávez years. CEPR also contacted the New York Times and asked them to correct the story. After several requests from CEPR, the NYT issued this correction on March 27th: “An article on March 8 about the legacy of the Bolivarian revolution of President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, who died earlier that week, misinterpreted data from the World Bank about Venezuela’s rank in economic growth in relation to that of other countries. Venezuela ranked 13th of 18 countries in per capita economic growth from 1999 to 2011, according to statistics for Mexico and Central and South America. It did not have one of the lowest rates of economic growth in the region during the 14 years that Mr. Chávez held office.”)

In other blog posts, Program Assistant Sara Kozameh and Research Associate Jake Johnston penned this widely-circulated graphic representation of Venezuela’s economic and social performance under Chávez. CEPR also posted several pieces on responses from world leaders to the news of Chávez’s death, including this one by CEPR Senior Associate for International Policy Alex Main and thesetwo by Sara, while CEPR International Communications Director Dan Beeton asked whether the U.S. would seek to improve relations with Venezuela following Chávez’s death and Jake examined the Chávez government’s aid and support for Haiti, before and since the earthquake.

CEPR staff was interviewed numerous times for radio and TV programs. Mark appeared on on Al Jazeera’s Inside Story to talk about “Hugo Chávez's Economic Legacy” and Alex later discussed “Chávez and the media.” Mark was also on BBC Radio's Newshour, BBC World TV, Sky News, France 24, and FAIR’s Counterspin, Alex was on the Real News where he discussed who benefits from Venezuela’s oil wealth, and was also interviewed on Russia Today as well as The Richard Kaffenberger Show (KTOX 1340 AM), Alex and Mark were both on Sojourner Truth Radio (KPFK). Director of International Programs Deborah James appeared on Latin American TV network NTN24, while Dan gave several radio interviews, appearing on the Saturday Morning Talkies (KPFA 94.1, Berkeley, CA -- Dan joins the program at 18:20), Latino Media Collective (WPFW 89.3FM, DC) and the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Keep Hope Alive Radio Show.

In addition, CEPR was quoted in several publications about Chávez’s life and legacy, including Foreign Policy, the Boston Globe, Salon, The Hindu, The Namibian, Inter Press Service, and many others. CEPR was widely cited for its research on Venezuela’s economic performance under Chávez, noting that once Chávez got control over the oil industry, Venezuela's economy almost doubled over the next six years, poverty was reduced by half and extreme poverty by 70 percent.

In other Venezuela news, Mark was quoted in this Reuters article on the launch of Venezuela’s new Forex system, and he wrote this Guardian op-ed examining the recent currency devaluation.


CEPR on the Battle Between Baby Boomers and Babies, and the Fight to Protect Social Security
Much of CEPR’s work in March focused on setting the record straight on the myth that Social Security must be cut to “save our children”. Dean debunked the argument that Social Security and Medicare are going to bankrupt our children in this op-ed for Al Jazeera, pointing out that the upward redistribution of income is the real threat to future living standards.  

Dean also wrote about the issue in his blog Beat the Press, and he was quoted in this Real Clear Politics piece titled “The Silliness of Demographic Panic”.

CEPR also continued to point out the proposed changes in calculating benefits, the Chained CPI, amounts to real cuts in benefits. In this op-ed for Truthout, Dean called out the usual media culprits for not reporting on the passage of the Sanders Amendment, which put the Senate on record as opposing the Chained CPI. The op-ed received over 20,000 hits and was “liked” on facebook over 10,000 times. In this Beat the Press post he called out NPR for jumping on the “Peter Peterson Crusade Against Social Security and Medicare”. DeanCEPR Senior Research Associate Shawn Fremstad and CEPR Director of Domestic Policy Nicole Woo all penned posts on the chained CPI for the CEPR Blog. And Dean was quoted in this article on the Chained CPI that appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

On March 11th, Dean participated in congressional briefing on the Chained CPI and how changes being considered will impact a range of government programs that serve tens of millions of Americans. Sponsored by the AARP, the event also featured Stephen Goss, chief actuary at the Social Security Administration; Sita Slavov, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute; and Rebecca Vallas, staff attorney at Community Legal Services in Philadelphia. The briefing was presented live on C-SPAN. (A PDF version of Dean’s presentation is available here).

(And speaking of battles, it was Baker vs Forbes in the battle of the budget on Bloomberg TV. Click here and here to see the action.)


CEPR on the Minimum Wage

CEPR’s February 2013 paper, "Why Does the Minimum Wage Have No Discernible Effect on Employment?" by Senior Economist John Schmitt was cited in the March 2013 Economic Report of the President in support of the argument that the weight of economic evidence over the last decade points to little or no employment response to modest increases in the minimum wage. The report received extensive media attention and looks to be on its way to being one of CEPR's more cited reports.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren made some waves recently when she cited a March 2012 CEPR paper in her statement that the minimum wage would be nearly $22 an hour today if it had kept up with increased rates in worker productivity. Warren’s statement -and links to CEPR’s report – were well reported in the media, including pieces in MSN Money, the Huffington Post and UPI.



CEPR on Medicare Drug Benefits

CEPR’s recent issue brief “State Savings with an Efficient Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit”, draws from a previous CEPR report that focuses on potential savings to the federal government if Medicare drug costs were negotiated. The March issue brief written by Dean and Nicole finds the potential savings to states would be enormous, cumulatively between $31 billion and $73 billion over 10 years, and also each state individually could expect significant savings.


CEPR on Haiti
An article in Bloomberg Businessweek titled “It’s Time to Reform USAID” cited a March 2012 CEPR analysis that examined USAID contracts for reconstruction efforts in Haiti. CEPR has been examining various USAID contracts in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake. CEPR’s Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch blog also addressed problematic USAID contracts in Haiti in this post and in this one, which highlights an audit by the Inspector General of USAID that found significant problems with USAID’s programs there.

In addition, CEPR continued to focus attention on the U.N’s refusal to take responsibility for the cholera outbreak caused by its troops in Haiti. In this op-ed that appeared in the Caribbean Journal, Jake Johnston asked “When will the United Nations pay for its actions in Haiti?” CEPR staff also weighed in on the ongoing cholera epidemic – which has killed many more people so far in 2013 than during the same period last year - with several posts in the Haiti blog, including this one and this one.


News from the CEPR Blogosphere:
CEPR Blog

Shawn Fremstad wrote several CEPR Blog posts on poverty measures in March. In this post, Shawn critiques media coverage of poverty issues, while in this post he discussed poverty measures. Shawn talked about poverty measures and other related issues in this Huffpost Live segment called “Am I Poor?”

Shawn
joined Dean in critiquing a piece on disability insurance that appeared on This American Life. As Shawn and Dean pointed out, Ira Glass and colleagues “got the basics wrong” and “failed to recognize the actual importance of the economic collapse”. And Shawn joined John in critiquing a new report by David Autor and Melanie Wasserman issued by Third Way titled “Wayward Sons: The Emerging Gender Gap in Labor Markets and Education”. Shawn took issue with the authors’ hypothesis that boys suffer disproportionately compared to girls when they live in family structures that do not include their biological fathers, while John noted that an email from the Third Way overstated the paper’s findings.

The Americas Blog: Analysis Beyond the Echo Chamber

CEPR’s Americas Blog featured two posts by Dan Beeton on Honduras: This one on an Associated Press exposé of ongoing police death squad activity and this one on another article from the Associated Press that suggests that U.S. State Department officials may have deceived members of Congress in order to illegally fund Honduran police units even though some police – under the command of National Police Director General Juan Carlos "El Tigre" Bonilla - may be involved in the death squads. (Alex discussed the issue of police death squads on the Sojourner Truth show among others(KPFK). CEPR International Intern Arthur Phillips weighed in with this post on human rights violations related to the World Bank’s funding of biofuel projects in Honduras.

CEPR weighed in on what the Catholic Church’s selection of the first pope from Latin America will mean for the region in this post by Dan and Sara. Sara also wrote thesetwo posts on Argentina, while Mark penned this post about media bias in Brazil and this one on “Sean Wilentz and the Cold War Liberals.” Dan also wrote this post on the recent Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) reform debate.

In Other CEPR News…

--CEPR Senior Research Associate Ha-Joon Chang was one of 65 people listed in a poll of “World Thinkers” by Prospect magazine (U.K.) You can vote for Ha-Joon and two other candidates for the top ten by completing the poll, found on the Prospect’s website.

--CEPR Senior Economist Eileen Appelbaum participated in a discussion on economic security as part of an annual policy briefing hosted by the Working Group on Labor and Community Partnerships of the Neighborhood Funders Group. For more information, visit the event website.

-- Eileen wrote this op-ed on the change in business’ attitudes towards Paid Sick Days for U.S. News and World Report. Eileen also co-authored a paper titled “The Human Capital Dimensions of Sustainable Investment: What Investment Analysts Need to Know”. The paper, written by Eileen, Thomas Kochan, Carrie Leana and Jody Hoffer Gittell, identifies a number of questions that need to be answered if the growing interest in building investment portfolios of firms that follow socially and environmentally sustainable practices is to be successful in transforming the financial institutions and analysts from a liability to an asset in expanding the number of sustainable firms in the economy.

--Mark’s McClatchy column, “Why We Need a Financial Transactions Tax,” appeared in over 20 newspapers including the Kansas City Star and the Anchorage Daily News. Meanwhile, Dean critiqued a paper published by the CATO Institute last summer showing that a FTT would lead to a sharp decline in the trading of futures in this CEPR Blog post.

-- John Schmitt, Economic Policy Institute President Larry Mishel, and EPI economist Heidi Shierholz travelled to the University of California at Berkeley, where Larry presented their new paper that questions explanations of inequality that are based on technology (as opposed to conscious policies that reduce the bargaining power of workers). From Berkeley, John headed to Berlin, where he spoke at a conference on "Trans-Atlantic Prosperity" sponsored by the Hans Boeckler Foundation's IMK, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, and the AFL-CIO. John talked about the important role that full employment can play in reducing economic inequality.

--Dean traveled to Rhode Island on March 28th, where he was the keynote speaker at a conference titled “Rhode Map to Economic Progress: The State of Working Rhode Island”.The conference was aimed at presenting data and discussing policy solutions that would help working families get ahead.

--Dean was in the house on CNBC’s Kudlow Report last night (March 28th).  In this clip, he discusses the “Red State” model for governing, and in this clip he explains to the panel why so many Americans are on food stamps.

--On March 4th, Dean took part in a panel discussion titled "Beyond Deficit Reduction: How Has the Macroeconomic Environment Changed?" as part of the National WIC Association's 23rd Annual Washington Leadership Conference. Dean was joined on the panel by Robert Greenstein, director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Information can be found on the event's website.

--Dean was on NPR discussing the February jobs numbers and he appeared on CNBC to talk about the Fed and stimulus.

Tags: financial transactions tax | Haiti | Honduras | inequality | medicare | minimum wage | paid sick days | poverty | retirement | Social Security | venezuela

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