John Irons's Blog


Economic News, Data and Analysis

DeLong On the Media

Brad DeLong has devoted a good share of his Blog to beating up on the media… take a look at his latest…

Brad DeLong’s Semi-Daily Journal
The world is a complex and intricate place. How is anyone to understand it–even a particular piece of it, for example the United States government in Washington DC and its economic policies? It is a big problem, for the standard sources that I was taught (perhaps wrongly) as a child to rely on–the Washington Post, the New York Times, Walter Cronkhite on the evening news–are breaking down.
So it is time to build new institutions. And one way is to take advantage of the fact that those of us whom Jay Rosen calls The People Formerly Known as the Audience are no longer on the receiving end of a media system that runs one way only. We can talk back–fight ignorance with information, fight truthiness with truth, fight media narratives with the real story.

Filed under: Background

Showtime/Smithsonia Deal

In case you haven’t seen this. The Smithsonian is granting exclusive access and right of first refusal on documentaries using smisonain collections.

Filmmakers and Others Petition Against Smithsonian’s Showtime Deal – New York Times
Published: April 18, 2006
As the recent coupling between the Smithsonian Institution and Showtime Networks continues to roil the documentary film world, more than 215 filmmakers, television executives and academics have signed a letter demanding that the Smithsonian, a publicly financed museum, not only reveal financial details of the joint venture but also abandon it.

Filed under: Background

Good Advice

Let me echo the advice of Rubin/Thoma/DeLong…

Brad DeLong’s Semi-Daily Journal
Economist’s View
Mark Thoma transmits some good advice from Robert Rubin:

Economist’s View: Robert Rubin urges Democrats to define the nation’s fiscal problems broadly and not to fall into the trap of focusing solely on Social Security and Medicaid in formulating a solution:

Rubin Urges Democrats to Reject Bush Social Security Proposal, Bloomberg: Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin urged fellow Democrats to reject President George W. Bush’s plan for a bipartisan commission to examine solutions to the mounting costs of Social Security and health care. Rubin… said Democratic leaders in Congress should instead insist Bush join them in a “fiscal commission” to discuss all options for cutting the budget deficit, including rolling back Bush’s tax cuts. “It only makes sense substantively, in my judgment, to get together around this if everything is on the table, including the tax cuts,” Rubin … said… “Otherwise you have a one-sided approach to what is a very large problem.”…

Rubin is–as he almost invariably is–right. We don’t need an Entitlements Commission, we need a Fiscal Commission

Filed under: Background

National Retail Sales Tax

Looks like the president’s tax reform panel doesn’t like the idea of a national retail sales tax. I must say that I agree…

Tax Analysts Web Services: Tax Notes Today
For the retail sales tax, panel member Edward Lazear described options prepared by Treasury that showed rates of between 64 percent and 87 percent, depending on evasion levels, to replace the federal income tax with the sales tax and carve out exemptions for items such as prescription drugs, food, and clothing.
Lazear said that taxpayers in the lowest quintile would pay three times as much in taxes under such a plan. Also, he said, “the heart of the middle class would see a significant tax increase.”
With a partial replacement system, rates would range from 34 percent to 49 percent, depending on levels of evasion, if taxpayers were issued a “prebate” to help pay for necessities.
Lazear also said that it would cost $600 billion a year to implement a prebate.
Citing concerns over high rates and evasion, distribution, the cost of implementing the prebate, and complexity with states, Mack ruled the plan out.
“This is not an area which the panel wants to pursue,” he said.

Filed under: Background

New Blog – Podesta on Tonight

Center for American Progress is launching a new blog. Tonight, John Podesta will be giving live, real-time commentary throughout the state of the union…
See Think Progress.

Filed under: Background

Talking to Communists

Remarks by John S. Irons (Senior Policy Analyst, and Economist, OMB Watch)
Prepared for the Visit of the Delegation from the Ho Chi Minh National Political Academy (Vietnam) to Temple University
Wednesday, April 22, 2004
It is a pleasure to be here today. I hope I can give you a small taste of the kinds of work that citizen advocacy groups pursue here in the US. Rather than trying to summarize all the kinds of work undertaken by thousands of organizations, I thought it would be more useful to describe my organization in more detail. While each organization is unique and might focus on different policy areas, or take different tactics towards policy change, we often share a similar approach to policy advocacy.
My organization, OMB Watch, is an independent, non-governmental, nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote government accountability and citizen participation.
We believe that a responsive and responsible government must be accountable to the people and must operate in the open. Sound governmental and economic policy, as well as good decision-making, critically depends upon the public’s right to know what the government is doing; and it is important for citizens to provide input on policy choices and to hold their government accountable for their actions.
My organization is devoted to monitoring the activities of the federal government, including the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), other governmental agencies, and throughout the legislative process in Congress.
OMB Watch was formed 20 years ago to lift the veil of secrecy shrouding the powerful White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) – an agency which oversees much of the executive branch of government and which therefore has a large amount of power to affect the implementation of policy. We receive the vast majority of our funding from grants from private foundations, with private donations from individuals making up most of the rest – we do not receive funding from the government.
The organization’s mission centers on four main areas: regulatory policy; public access to government information; participation in the policy making process by nonprofit organizations; and the federal budget. We are primarily focused on domestic federal policy.
On the regulatory side, we work to monitor the federal government’s rulemaking process, and regulations, especially in the area of the environment. We believe that the government plays an important role in establishing sensible safeguards and protections for workers and the public.
In the area of public access to government, we operate a website called “RTK Net” which provides Internet access to government databases on the environment – the data allows citizens to assess the impact of factories on their local environmental conditions. We also chair an anti-secrecy coalition – made up of nonprofits, journalists, and others – which seeks to advance the public’s right to know and to reduce secrecy in government.
We also believe that an important means for citizen participation is through nonprofit organizations. As a result we also follow issues and policy that would affect the ability of nonprofits to be engaged in policy advocacy. We work to encourage organizations to be more engaged in the policymaking process, and to speak out on matters of importance to them.
As an economist, my work primarily involves the federal budget – both tax policy as well as government expenditures. This includes 1) policy research and analysis, 2) dissemination of government budget information, including explanations of the complexities of the government’s budget, as well as the implications of tax and budget decisions, and 3) organizing other non-profit organizations to effectively speak out on tax and budget issues. We believe that the federal government has a unique, important, and necessary role in society, and work to ensure that the government works in the best interest of all its citizens.
The success of our system of government requires that government operate in the open in order to be responsive to the public, to foster trust and confidence in government, and to encourage public participation in civic and government institutions.
We hope that our (small) organization makes a difference in keeping the government as open as possible, educates others about the importance of citizen participation, and contributes to a healthy and vibrant society.

Filed under: Background, Economics, Economists, Policy, Politics

Back from Honeymoon

I’m trying to readjust to city life after 2 weeks in Ireland (with most of the time spent on Cape Clear Island at the very southern tip of county Cork).

Filed under: Background