Michael Mandel for the Progressive Policy Institute: Since mid-2011, the import price of goods from China has fallen by 4 percent. That's the price paid by U.S. importers. Meanwhile, the price charged by U.S. factories for finished consumer goods, not including food and energy, has risen by 16 percent over the same period.
The continued lack of inflation in Chinese imports, despite sharply rising wages for Chinese factory workers, is the single most important "unknown" economic statistic for policy today. It explains why U.S. inflation has stayed so low, despite the low unemployment rate. At the same time, the growing gap between U.S. factory prices and Chinese import prices explains why it has been so hard for U.S. factories to get traction. In other words, we have been losing competitiveness.
We also must remark that the decline in the Chinese import prices is just hard to understand. ... It could be an enormous increase in Chinese factory productivity over a very short time, just as U.S. factory productivity growth has been slowing. Still, the gain in productivity would have to be improbably rapid to compensate fully for the higher wage rates.
At the moment when and if Chinese import prices do start to rise, that will be the sign that U.S. inflation is about to pick up again. It also will tell us something very important about U.S. competitiveness.Turning the dial toward better policy
Charles Hughes for E21: Toll-free numbers have distinct three-digit codes that can be called from landlines at no cost to the caller. The numbers can be useful for businesses and customer service, but the way they are allocated is inefficient and outdated.
In the current framework, numbers are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis by entities called "Responsible Organizations," often called "RespOrgs," that have access to a database with the current status of toll-free numbers. The system does not acknowledge that not all toll-free numbers are created equal, and certain numbers might be substantially more valuable to organizations. Companies may be willing to pay more for numbers that spell out memorable words or are related to what the company does. ... But companies that may be willing to pay more or value the numbers more highly have no recourse to obtain them.
The new system would use a competitive auction for about 17,000 such numbers in the new 833 code. Under the auction system, numbers would go to the RespOrgs that value them the most highly, and the Federal Communications Commission would allow prices to determine the allocation. The structure of the auction would deter gamesmanship or strategic bidding. The auctions would be a single round, with sealed bids, and the winner paying the second-highest bid. That format would lead to interested parties submitting bids in line with their actual value instead of trying to outmaneuver rivals.
By introducing prices into the allocation of limited, desirable resources, the FCC could increase the efficiency with which the numbers are distributed. Auctions also would deter RespOrgs from hoarding numbers that sit unused, because they would have to bid on any competitive numbers.
The improvement in efficiency would be the main contribution, but auction revenue also could be used to help pay for the administration of toll-free numbers.It's OK to talk about impeachment
Gene Healy for the Cato institute: Is impeachment really as grave as all that?
To be sure, you can find some of the Framers waxing solemn and sober about it: In Federalist 65, Alexander Hamilton writes of "the awful discretion, which a court of impeachments must necessarily have, to doom [the accused] to honor or to infamy." He also believed discretion to be necessary, periodically, as "an essential check in the hands of [the legislative] body upon the encroachments of the executive."
Other Framers weren't quite so dramatic. At the Philadelphia Convention, Massachusetts' Eldridge Gerry insisted: "A good magistrate will not fear [impeachments]. A bad one ought to be kept in fear of them." North Carolina's Hugh Williamson thought there was "more danger of too much lenity than of too much rigour towards the president." He was more right than he knew. ...
There's no denying that impeachment is in tension with pure democracy. ...
But impeachment isn't a "coup": It's a lawful, "indispensable" method for "displacing an unfit magistrate" when necessary. And it doesn't "reverse an election." The 12th and 25th Amendments have all but ensured that any president who is removed will be replaced by a member of his own party and usually his own ticket. In the as-yet unlikely event of Donald Trump's impeachment and removal, he would be replaced by his hand-picked, lawfully elected running mate, Mike Pence. Some "coup."
Compiled by Joseph Lawler from reports published by the various think tanks.