OECD

This week, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released a new forecast of the global growth for the next two years. The good news is that emerging markets might pick up slightly, but nothing to the levels seen before the global recession.

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It is increasingly well understood that cities are the primary location and mechanism of innovation and, in turn, prosperity (see “The Triumph of the City” or urban scaling). But which cities are the most innovative on earth? For a long time, getting sub-national economic data for a large number of countries was impossible, but no longer. New data from the OECD show which cities have the most inventors in the world, measured by those who apply for patent protection in multiple countries (under the Patent Cooperation Treaty).

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On March 9, Carnegie Mellon economist Allan Meltzer argued in the Wall Street Journal ("A Look At The Global One Percent") that income inequality is a global phenomenon and therefore not a problem that can be solved through changes in U.S. domestic policy. He's right about the first proposition and wrong about the second. Actually, he isn't even entirely right about the first. Yes, income inequality is occurring globally. But it isn't happening uniformly. Until recently it was declining in France, Ireland, and Spain. Now it's declining in Turkey and Greece, and it's basically flat in France.

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Finlandize Me

From Diane Ravitch's latest piece in the New York Review of Books: No nation in the world has eliminated poverty by firing teachers or by handing its public schools over to private managers; nor does research support either strategy. But these inconvenient facts do not reduce the reformers’ zeal. The new breed of school reformers consists mainly of Wall Street hedge fund managers, foundation officials, corporate executives, entrepreneurs, and policymakers, but few experienced educators.

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Paul Ryan's Blunder

Brian Beutler of Talking Points Memo reports that Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wisc.) committed a hilarious gaffe when he gave a speech yesterday about income inequality. Here's the problem passage: "In societies marked by class structure, an elite class made up of rich and powerful patrons supplies the needs of a large client underclass that toils, but cannot own. The unfairness of closed societies is the kindling for class warfare, where the interests of 'capital' and 'labor' are perpetually in conflict.

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Deficit hawks have tended to treat the notion of solving the medium-term fiscal probably entirely through taxes as some impractical left-wing scheme. Michael Linden and Michael Ettlinger point out that this would work perfectly well: The United States is an extremely low-tax country compared to the other economically advanced countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

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Silent Epidemic

In Moscow on Thursday, health ministers from around the world gathered to discuss a serious global health crisis: the rise of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like heart disease, stroke, depression, and cancer. Their goal is to replicate the successes of a similar meeting held nearly a decade ago, when the United Nations General Assembly convened a special session to combat HIV/AIDS.

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Abused by Hope

Famine and Foreigners: Ethiopia Since Live Aid By Peter Gill (Oxford University Press, 280 pp., $27.95) In the fall of 1994, James P. Grant, the executive director of UNICEF, sent a message in the name of his agency to the upcoming Cairo conference on population and development, in which he declared that the world had within its grasp the means to solve “the problems of poverty, population, and environmental degradation that feed off of one another in a downward spiral [bringing] instability and strife in its wake.” Grant was a great man, a giant of the development world.

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In January of 2009, the Council of Economic Advisers released an economic projection predicting unemployment with or without the stimulus: Of course, unemployment has risen even higher than the chart's worst case scenario. This fact has been cited by, well, pretty much every single Republican and/or member of the conservative movement as proof that the stimulus failed. What it actually shows is that the economy was in much worse shape than the government realized in January of 2009, though some economists predicted that the administration's forecast was too optimistic.

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As President Obama’s bipartisan fiscal commission gets set to convene, the Greek budget disaster has triggered the predictable flood of cautionary notes about how we’re spending too much and heading toward a debt crisis. Should these concerns illuminate the commission’s work—or are they merely alarmist?   Paul Krugman harbors no doubts: “Despite a chorus of voices claiming otherwise,” he writes, “we aren’t Greece.” But that’s not as encouraging as it sounds, he adds: “We are however, looking more and more like Japan. ...

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