Friday, July 29, 2005

SO MUCH GOING ON... little blogging. What with the AFL-CIO divorce, CAFTA passed into law, and the WTO Doha round teetering on the brink of collapse, there's a lot going on in the world of global political economy. And yet, the rut is long and deep.

In the meantime, I'm working on ripping apart this report from the Fraser Institute of Canada on so-called "economic freedom." (For more about the Fraser Institute and for whom they are advocating freedom, see here). I should say that the researchers at Fraser have been exceedingly open and generous in discussing their methodology and sharing their data with me.

I should be wrapping this all up in a couple of weeks as summer is drawing to a close, as is my brief stint at CEPR. Oh will I miss the minions strut through Dupont Circle...

Thursday, July 21, 2005


What with all the news about China's exchange rate regime today, google is going crazy with people trying to figure out just what exactly the difference is between the yuan and renminbi (at least as far as I can tell from the page referrals).

This is what I wrote to explain the difference before. I think it still does a good job:

Once and for all, here is the difference between the yuan and the Renminbi. Renminbi, loosely translated as the people's notes, is the official name of China's currency. Yuan is the unit of account. This distinction confuses Western journalists to no end. So it would be proper to say that, "China may revalue the Renminbi," or that, "Average wages in Chinese manufacturing are 917 yuan per month." But not that, "China may revalue the yuan," or, "This bun bao costs 3 Renminbi." Get it? Okay. Now you know, and feel free to correct people--especially know-it-all journalists--when they screw it up.

Now that you've made it this deep into Sino-American monetary relations, I'm certain you have whet your appetite for more.

UPDATE: Paul Krugman doesn't care if there is a difference and if he's using the wrong term. He writes me:

My understanding is that yuan is to renminbi as pound - also a denomination - is to sterling. Very proper and correct people say the sterling exchange rate, but most people will have no idea what you're talking about, and the normal usage is pound. The same is quickly becoming true for China, and it would seem stuffy if I said RMB all the way.

Neither does Louis Uchitelle (a very good labor journalist) or the copy editors over at NYT, apparently.

But what do I know, I never won a Clark medal.


From yesterday's House Financial Services Committee hearing:

The apparent froth in housing markets appears to have interacted with evolving practices in mortgage markets. The increase in the prevalence of interest-only loans and the introduction of more-exotic forms of adjustable-rate mortgages are developments of particular concern. To be sure, these financing vehicles have their appropriate uses. But some households may be employing these instruments to purchase homes that would otherwise be unaffordable, and consequently their use could be adding to pressures in the housing market. Moreover, these contracts may leave some mortgagors vulnerable to adverse events. It is important that lenders fully appreciate the risk that some households may have trouble meeting monthly payments as interest rates and the macroeconomic climate change.

No bubble, just a little effervescence.


Bad pun. But today, China broke it's longstanding currency peg to the US dollar. I've spilled lots of ones and zeros dissecting the arguments surrounding the motivation for, practice of, and contention over China's choice of exchange rate regimes. Now, on their own and on their own timetable China is transforming the domestic institutions which shape its economic engagement with the rest of the world.

The US had previously called for a paltry 10 percent revaluation that paled in comparison to the size of the economic imbalances in question. China gave up today a mere 2.1 percent appreciation in the renminbi. The IMF exhorted China to move to a crawling peg banded +/- 3-5% of the official rate. China offered a 0.3% band.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


Don't know if it's the 90+ degree weather with humidity or the fact that a mere thirty to forty people stumble across this page every day by chance from Google, but I'm in a blogging rut. Who cares? Why bother? To what end...other than as an outlet for my selfish megalomaniacal tendencies?

Meanwhile, I've signed on to be a blogging contributor over here, though I am having second thoughts. Isn't my time better spent on things other than compiling news clippings for arm chair anti-imperialists? Sigh.

I've also launched a blog with some conspirators from my college-years radio days. Ours was a formless, inane, marginally entertaining, rambling talk show. It should translate well to the blog format some six plus years later. The radio show was called "The Show." So is the new blog. We're still feeling out how this thing might work.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005


No one can dispute, Wal-Mart is a powerful corporate behemoth. Wal-Mart is one of the largest employers in the U.S. and is a huge and growing lobbying presence in Washington; sales to Wal-Mart singlehandedly account for roughly ten percent of of all Chinese exports to the US.

The Chinese government knows Wal-Mart is a behemoth. That's why when Wal-Mart wanted to open retail stores in China, the government forced them to recognize China's official labor union. Not so for the US government. Wal-Mart is notorious in the US for union-busting; the company even went so far in Canada as to close down a store earlier this year when workers there voted to form a union and the dangerous demonstration effect this would have in the US. In 2000, when a small meatcutting department successfully organized a union at a Wal-Mart store in Texas, Wal-Mart axed its in-store meatcutting department company-wide rather than face unionization.

When workers seek to exercise their basic human rights to freely associate in unions and bargain collectively (not to mention to prevent discrimination and abusive child labor), Wal-Mart responds by:

*spying on its employee's emails and telephone calls to detect pro-union chatter
*harrassing and firing union-leaning workers
*flooding the workplace with anti-union propaganda
*dispatching a rapid response team of union-busting consultants.

In the last few years, well over 100 unfair labor practice charges have been lodged against Wal-Mart throughout the country, with 43 charges filed in 2002 alone. Since 1995, the U.S. government has been forced to issue at least 60 complaints against Wal-Mart at the National Labor Relations Board (quite amazing given that the NLRB is comprised of presidential appointees, most often not too labor friendly).

Not only is Wal-Mart violating fundamental human rights, they are hurting their own bottome line with their irrational fear of unionization. A (sort of) recent Business Week article pits wharehouse store competitor Costco against Wal-Mart's Sam's Club. As it turns out, Costco is unionized, pays its employees higher wages and provides better benefits, and yet (may be a surprise to some), Costco has much higher labor productivity and better operating income growth.

If you are still shopping at Wal-Mart, stop and think for a minute about the people producing the goods you are buying and just how it is that Wal-Mart can have such low prices.

When you are done with that, visit, sign the petition, join the fight. What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


This just in from the Globalize This! Capitol Hill Desk:

Republicans have just defeated Democrat's attempt to restore the real value of the minimum wage on a party-line vote in the House: 223 Rs against to 191 Ds for.

The last raise for those working at the minimum wage came way back in 1997, when the federal minimum rate got bumped up to a whopping $5.15/hr. Since September 1997, the minimum wage has fallen by some 17 percent in real terms to $4.28. Congressional Democrats proposed raising the rate in three steps to $7.25 over two years. (If the minimum wage had kept pace with inflation since the late 1960s, it would stand above $8 today).

The minimum wage ain't just about teenagers working after school at McDonalds. Adults make up the vast majority of workers who would benefit from restoring the real value of the minimum wage, almost half of whom work full time. Working single mothers would disproportionately benefit. More on the benefits of a minimum wage increase here.

But even the minimum wage is not enough. What people really need is a living wage.

Thanks to IW, a.k.a. Posh Spice, for the tip.

Monday, July 11, 2005


From the Globalize This! East Chicago Desk:

EAST CHICAGO, Ind. — City officials have turned off a streetlight that drew more than 250 people to see a shadow that some say resembles the image of Jesus Christ...

Read more.

Thursday, July 07, 2005


...but why aren't prosecutors subpoenaing that douche bag Robert Novak to testify about his anonymous sources?

Wednesday, July 06, 2005


I've been procrastinating all summer, but the day has finally come (tomorrow) for me to sit for my first comprehensive exam, this one in international economics. Despite what Daniel Drezner thinks of me, I am feeling well prepared in the relevant theories.

Then it is off to Maine for my big Sis's wedding. The forecast has been downgraded from sever thunderstorms to 30 percent chance of rain, so we're keeping our fingers crossed. Of course I got married in a blizzard this past January, so maybe it runs in the family.

I'll be back next week, a free man with more time for substantial posting. Hoping to get through a couple of articles on the origins of greed that I came across in recent editions of the Post-Autistic Economics Review. Also just picked up The End of Faith, which I'm looking forward to perusing in the coming weeks. Yep, that's my idea of beach reading.

Until then,



Tuesday, July 05, 2005


As if I need any more reasons to despise the Heritage Foundation, the WaPo reports this morning:

It began as a shouting match on a busy Capitol Hill street corner during the frenetic morning commute, a bike-vs.-car incident not uncommon in a big city.

But then the silver-haired, retired Navy lieutenant got out of his car, approached the red-headed ballet dancer riding a bike and allegedly shoved her to the ground, authorities said. He got back into his car and, as bystanders followed him, drove down the block to his nearby office, the bicyclist said.

The man was identified as Ted E. Schelenski, 64, vice president for finance and operations at the Heritage Foundation, a think tank that promotes conservative policies. He pleaded not guilty this week to a charge of simple assault.

The irony? If Heritage did not support did not support an anti-environment deregulatory agenda promoting unsustainable energy, transportation, and development policies, maybe traffic in DC would be much less rage-inducing for Lt. Schelenski on his morning commute.

Monday, July 04, 2005


The women's work is backbreaking - they have to carry heavy weights sometimes for a number of kilometres.

Blood-sucking leeches and poisonous insects in the plantations are a major problem.

But the supervisor will not allow a sick labourer to stop unless there is an emergency.

With working conditions like this, these guys are feeling quite bullish on the future of tea.

Friday, July 01, 2005


I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.

Read more from Frederick Douglass.