Tim Fernholz

Tim Fernholz is a former staff writer for the Prospect. His work has been published by Newsweek, The New Republic, The Nation, The Guardian, and The Daily Beast. He is also a Research Fellow at the New America Foundation.

Recent Articles


The price of a social safety net is low taxes for the wealthy. The cost is unsustainable.

Richard Romo hands in an employment questionnaire at a Maricopa County job fair. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Today, 800,000 people lost their unemployment-insurance benefits. Almost 2 million more will lose theirs in January if the government does nothing. Unemployed people are losing their insurance because Congress can't agree on a plan to extend benefits for people who have been jobless for more than 26 weeks. That's six and a half months of unemployment, which may sound long, but consider that there are 2.9 million job openings for 14.9 million unemployed people -- one job opening for every five applicants. Unemployment insurance doesn't provide lavish benefits. On average, an unemployed person collects $310 a week. That's barely above the poverty line for a single earner, and nowhere near it for anyone supporting a family. Yet opponents of the extension believe that the safety net is a disincentive to finding work -- people would rather scrape by on government payments than earn a living wage, an idea that's hard to reconcile with the realities the jobless experience. Even setting aside...

Andrew Sullivan and the Fiscal Commission.

Andrew Sullivan praises the Bowles-Simpson fiscal commission and the president, apparently trying to distance himself from the left: Some left-liberal anti-debt measures do not trouble me too much: a hefty tax on Wall Street would be fine by me, for example, and obviously Obama is going to have to incorporate some more liberal debt-reduction measures. But it is clear to me that the only debt plan that can fly is one where the spending cuts-tax hike mix is at least 2 - 1. Much of that has to come from Medicare. And a great deal could be won by eliminating tax loopholes, while not lowering overall tax rates quite as much as Bowles-Simpson. It's worth noting that most liberals complaining about the president's pay freeze idea are mostly echoing Sullivan's own critique -- that this is a tiny measure, made more for its questionable value as a political statement than its impact on the federal bottom line; it's not a real vision of responsibility. On a similar note, most of the liberals...

Bring on the High-Powered Money.

Given that Ben Bernanke has been repeating his name like a mantra, it shouldn't be a surprise that some sharp eyes have found an interview where famed monetary economist Milton Friedman endorses just the kind of creative policy the Fed has recently adopted -- i.e. purchasing long-term securities in attempt to stimulate the economy. Here he is talking about the Japanese case we often invoke today: During the 1970s, you had the bubble period. Monetary growth was very high. There was a so-called speculative bubble in the stock market. In 1989, the Bank of Japan stepped on the brakes very hard and brought money supply down to negative rates for a while. The stock market broke. The economy went into a recession, and it’s been in a state of quasi recession ever since. Monetary growth has been too low. Now, the Bank of Japan’s argument is, “Oh well, we’ve got the interest rate down to zero; what more can we do?” It’s very simple. They can buy long-term government securities, and they can...

Federal Employee Pay Freeze.

The president's decision to preempt his meeting with Republican leadership tomorrow for a surprise announcement -- a freeze in federal employee pay -- shows that Obama is finally turning his attention to the most pressing economic issue facing our country: The high pay earned by government employees. Just my little joke, of course, because federal employees are underpaid compared to folks in the private sector. But instead of offering an alternate vision of how to balance the budget -- not giving the wealthy tax cuts, cutting subsidies and tax expenditures, instituting a carbon tax -- the president is just reinforcing misguided, anti-government ideas that will, over a decade, reduce the budget deficit by a whopping .1 percent. Will Republicans reward this concession with a compromise of their own? Of course not! Obama can't go back on this idea now, and he isn't going to win a who-wants-smaller-government contest with Republicans. Don't worry, I'm sure the media and independent voters...

On Wikileaks II.

“Everywhere there’s a U.S. post, there’s a diplomatic scandal that will be revealed," wrote the suspected source of the newest batch of Wikileaks . “It’s open diplomacy. World-wide anarchy in CSV format. It’s Climategate with a global scope, and breathtaking depth. It’s beautiful, and horrifying.” Of course, the Climategate to which he refers, a 'scandal' that purported to reveal a global conspiracy to hide the truth about global warming, was a bust -- a third-party investigation exonerated the scientists, and climate science continues to be empirically verified . Similarly, reading the cables released thus far, it turns out that the U.S. government is doing ... pretty much what newspapers report that it does. As Dan Drezner wisely writes of reports that U.S. diplomats speak diplomatically , "If this kind of official hypocrisy is really the good stuff, then there is no really good stuff." If you needed to read these reports to know that the U.S. turns a blind eye to human-rights...