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Dean Baker has written extensively on the bubble economy over the last decade and was one of the first economists to recognize the stock and housing bubbles and explicitly warn of the risk of their collapse. Previously a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute and a consultant to the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress. Baker now co-directs the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. His blog at American Prospect, 'Beat the Press,' features commentary on economic reporting. In addition to Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy (PoliPointPress, 2008), he has written The United States Since 1980 (Cambridge University Press, 2007) and The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer (Center for Economic and Policy Research, 2006). His columns have appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, the Washington Post, the Financial Times, the Guardian, American Prospect, and Truthout. He received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Michigan.
This is a must read for anyone interested in getting prices right. The debate over prices concerns both public policy and pure economic research. The Boskin Commission claimed that the CPI overstates inflation and recommended that measures of inflation be ajdusted to correct for this. This recommendation was quickly embraced by many in the economics profession. It has also had an impact on public policy debate, particularly as regards indexation of social security. The first half of the book presents the Boskin Commission's findings verbatim, and supporters of overstatement are able to speak for themselves. The second half presents Dr. Baker's deconstruction of the Commission's findings. One part of his criticism involves the presentation of technical arguments and instances of CPI understatement. However, the most compelling part is Dr. Baker's reconstruction of recent U.S. economic history using Boskin's implied measure of prices. He shows that 50% of families were apparently living below the 1994 poverty level in 1960. This is implausible. Protagonists of the debate will no doubt continue slinging instances of over- and understatement of prices at each other. However, until supporters of CPI overstatement can explain away Dr. Baker's findings about implied poverty levels, their arguments will ring hollow.
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