A Washington Post editorial this morning criticized efforts in Maryland and other states to force large employers (especially Wal-Mart) to pay for their workers' health care. The article contrasted these efforts with the approach being followed in Massachusetts, which it asserts is "a state that is trying to responsibly address rising health-care costs."
David Cay Johnston has a great piece in today's NYT reporting on the Bush administration's plan to halve the number of lawyers who audit estate tax filing. According to the article, these lawyers generate an average of more than $2,000 per hour of work in revenue for the government. This implies, that unless they are paid more than $4 million a year, the government will lose money by laying them off.
What would the long-term federal deficit look like if the cost of the country's health care system continued to explode, so that in thirty years it costs four times as much per person as that of other rich countries? Well, if I had nothing else to do with my time, I might calculate these numbers.
The Sunday Times has an article reporting that many homebuyers who took out adjustable rate mortgages 3 years ago, are now refinancing to avoid higher mortgage rates. The article (actually the accompanying chart) also adds that many are refinancing with negative amortization loans, under which the outstanding principle increases through time. The chart tells readers that this could make sense, as long as house prices continue to rise.
Financial bubbles breed accounting fraud. Those of us who warned of the stock bubble in the late nineties were not surprised by the Enrons and WorldComs that surfaced when the bubble deflated. Bubbles make it possible to paper over all sorts of questionable accounting or outright fraud. When the bubble deflates, these practices can no longer be hidden.
In econ 101, we teach that when the government intervenes in a market to keep prices above marginal costs, it will encourage all sorts of undesirable and harmful rent-seeking behavior. This is one reason that all right-thinking economists are strong opponents of tariffs and quotas that can raise the price of things like shoes, shorts, and steel by 20-30 percent above the competitive market price.
ABOUT TIME. I finally got around to reading today's New York Times op-eds, and I have only one thing to say to Paul Krugman: "Thank you." Can we all please stop treating the neocons like serious people now? Also, in a media environment that rewards people for being provocatively wrong rather than quietly right, can we finally recognize that those who prefer attention over attentiveness are not serious actors, but clowns? Just because someone has a strong conviction, a lot of self-confidence, and some area studies knowledge does not make that person a serious thinker. It makes them dangerous. WritesKrugman:
JUST POSTED TAP ONLINE: COURTS DISMISSED. So should gay marriage proponents reallybegrateful that the New York Court of Appeals refused to overturn the state's gay marriage ban? The argument is a familiar one: judicial interventions into hot-button public debates invariably provoke a bigger public backlash than legislative actions. Scott Lemieux says it's bunk.
"The enemy declared war on us," Bush told a re-election rally in Cedar Rapids. "Nobody wants to be the war president. I want to be the peace president... The next four years will be peaceful years." Bush used the words "peace" or "peaceful" a total of 20 times.
JO-ANN MORT: DISPATCH FROM TEL AVIV The weekend begins on Friday in Israel -- and this weekend, the war is settling in. The initial shock and feeling of righteous justification have begun to yield to wonderment about where all this is going. The change in mood is slight so far, but questions are beginning to be asked, concerns beginning to be raised -- particularly as Israeli soldiers start taking casualties. (Unlike in the United States, every soldier who dies in a war or attack is written up in the media. Often, his family is interviewed on television). People in the North -- those still there -- are growing weary of life in bomb shelters. According to Israeli press reports, 30 to 50 percent of the residents in the North have left for the short term.