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

Our Obamacare, Ourselves.

Patrick Appel , referencing an argument from James Joyner , asks : Why is Obamacare so offensive to some liberals? Because, as a meme, it was invented to make healthcare reform efforts unpopular with voters by implying that the government, in the form of President Obama , was going to be making your health-care decisions. It's part and parcel with Politifact's Lie of the Year , "the government takeover of healthcare," because it replaces the traditional term for our health sector with the name of the head of the government . The term also plays into the oft-repeated "liberal overreach" message spread by the president's conservative opponents, who argued early and often that health-care reform was an ego play on the part of a self-obsessed president ignoring the public's wishes, rather than the inheritance of forty years of Democratic campaigning to fix a broken and unjust system. And by merging the terms for health care reform and the President's name, Republicans could attack both at...

Principal Write-Downs Drive Latest Nomination Dispute.

Joseph A. Smith , formerly North Carolina's Bank Commissioner, is the White House's nominee to run the agency that regulates federally-owned mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but he's facing some trouble: If the Senate confirms him for the job, he might adopt policies to help consumers, and that's enough to lead some Republicans to begin another round of obstruction . The policy in question is a program if principal write-downs for underwater homeowners -- those that owe more on their home loan than their home is actually worth in the wake of the housing bubble's collapse. Many economists think that principal write-downs are key to finding some stability in the mortgage market and halting the on-going wave of foreclosures, but because they involve lenders taking a haircut. But, as we've discussed in other settings, the idea that a lender has no responsibility for the outcome of a loan drives bad decisions . It also makes plenty of economic sense to keep borrowers in a...

Nocera Vs. Wallison

Perhaps the best response to last week's Republican "presponse" to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission comes from the New York Times' Joe Nocera , who focuses on commission member Peter Wallison : The only problem with Mr. Wallison’s theory is that it’s not, as they say, reality-based. Anyone who has looked at the role of Fannie and Freddie will discover they spent most of the housing bubble avoiding subprime loans, because those loans didn’t meet their underwriting standards. (Indeed, for most of their existence, Fannie and Freddie didn’t so much meet their affordable housing goals as gamed them.) What is most troubling is that the Republicans are going to try to create new policy based on Mr. Wallison’s analysis. ...Fannie and Freddie, they say (implausibly) in a recent position paper, “were the proximate cause of the financial crisis” and “at the forefront of a relentless push to drive down lending standards,” etc. etc. The solutions they offered were nice-sounding but...

Inequality, Poverty, and Prosperity.

Alan Blinder assesses the economic situation in today's Wall Street Journal , and the news ain't good: When it comes to wages, the basic story of recent decades is redolent of Scrooge. Real average hourly earnings (excluding fringe benefits) now stand roughly at 1974 levels. Yes, that's right, no real increase in over 35 years. That is an astounding, dismaying and profoundly ahistorical development. The American story for two centuries was one of real wages advancing more or less in line with productivity. But not lately. Since 1978, productivity in the nonfarm business sector is up 86%, but real compensation per hour (which includes fringe benefits) is up just 37%. Does that seem fair? No, it doesn't, and there's a lot of similar bad news in the piece. That's why, for all the value of Tyler Cowen's recent article on inequality , which traces out some serious problems in the financial sector, I was slightly offended that he chose to use himself, a university professor with best-...

Republicans Beat the Omnibus, Give More Power to Obama.

Last night, Republicans walked out of an agreement they had negotiated with Democrats in recent months, killing a spending bill that would have kept government functioning through the new year. Ostensibly, this is due to Republicans' new objections to earmarks, which mean that top Republicans like Mitch McConnell and Thad Cochran turned their back on a bill they had shaped with millions of dollars for their home states. Dave Weigel observes John McCain and newly elected Sen. Mark Kirk in a bout of gloating, and declares it a victory for them. Indeed, they got what they wanted. But they do realize that eliminating earmarks gives more power to the executive branch to target spending, right? By liberal lights, that looks just fine. But McCain et al.'s enthusiastic celebration of more power for the technocrats without meaningfully reducing the deficit sure confuses me. Meanwhile, the other news is that the Senate is expected to vote on "don't ask, don't tell" and the New START Treaty come...

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