Dean Baker

Recent Articles

Immigration ID Logic

Perhaps I'm missing something, but it seems that there is an obvious flaw with President Bush's proposal to have a tamper proof identification card for guest workers. As I understand it, under his program guest workers would be required to present this ID to employers when they get a job. The flaw in the logic is that all workers are already required to present ID to employers showing that they are either a U.S. citizen or have legal authorization to work in the United States. The problem is that the necessary documents can be readily forged, which is why so many workers are employed illegally. The question is, if the documents accepted for proof of U.S. citizenship can still be readily forged, what difference does it make that the ID for guest workers is relatively secure? If the flaw in the president's plan has been reported, I have not seen it. --Dean Baker

No Fun With Numbers: Another Cost of Intellectual Property

The Times had a piece this morning about how Major League Baseball is suing to prevent fantasy baseball games from using players' statistics without paying a licensing fee. The article tried to be fair in presenting the views of both parties as well as independent legal scholars. What is missing from the discussion is any independent economic analysis. The lack of economic analysis in articles on efforts to extend intellectual property has been an ongoing problem in the media (read the discussions of the legal battles over Napster and related services). This would be comparable to reporting on the debates over agricultural protections without ever referring to their economic costs. The economics profession has not been very good in its treatment of intellectual property (IP) issues, but that should not give the media an excuse to ignore the often sizable economic impact of IP controversies. --Dean Baker

Two Points on Health Care

Since questions continually arise on my health care postings, I will make a couple of points here that do not directly relate to the news coverage. First, health care costs have posed a problem everywhere, but nowhere do they pose as much of a problem as in the United States. If we look at the OECD data , in 2003 (the most recent year available) the United States spent 15.0 percent of its GDP on health care. The next three countries ranked by expenditure as a share of GDP are Switzerland, Germany, and Iceland at 11.5 percent, 11.1 percent and 10.5 percent, respectively. Canada clocks in at 9.9 percent of GDP, Sweden at 9.4 percent, and the United Kingdom at just 7.7 percent. The comparison of GDP shares actually understates the gap in expenditures. Per capita GDP is more than 20 percent higher in the United States than in Europe, primarily because we work more hours. The difference in current expenditure levels is attributable to much more rapidly growing costs in the U.S. than...

The Medicare and Social Security Hoax

Medicare and Social Security costs are projected to soar over the next decade as the baby boomers retire. Medicare and road maintenance costs are projected to soar over the next decade as the baby boomers retire. Health care costs in the United States are out of control, with per capita health care costs rising at rate that is more than 2 percentage points more rapid than the rate of growth of per capita income. If this pattern continues, health care costs will have a devastating effect on the private economy and also on the federal budget because of government health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid. The obvious policy response to the projections of exploding health care costs would be to find some way to fix the U.S. health care system (no other country has a problem of the same magnitude). It is dishonest to portray the issue as a problem of aging, we can afford the costs associated with aging, the problem is our health care system. When the media reports, as the Post did...

Copyrights and Consumers: Not at the Times

The New York Times had an article this morning about a new digital copyright law in France. The main features (according to the article) appear to be a requirement that music downloading services be usable on multiple devices (as opposed to Apple's Ipod monopoly) and a relatively small penalty for unauthorized downloading of copyrighted material. For comments on the law, the Times turned to a representative of Apple, a representative of the recorded music industry, a representative of the software industry, and a business consultant. This would be like writing an article on steel tariffs and only getting comments from the steel companies and their workers. Wouldn't it be appropriate to get some comments from consumer groups or at least economists who could discuss the potential benefits to consumers and the economy from lower prices? --Dean Baker