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

More Evidence the Uncertainty Meme Is Nonsense.

Like Jon Chait , I think this from future House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is nonsense: "No one gets everything they want in a deal, but our top priority is to restore certainty to the private sector so that businesses small and large can start hiring again." It is not certainty to postpone an argument for two years when you could have decided it now, and when certainty was an option. As Ed Andrews and Jim Tankersley point out , "The deal worsens one of the tax code’s biggest underlying problems: almost every major part of it, from rates to breaks, is literally temporary." If Republicans really thought uncertainty was the problem -- "a big portion of the lack of job creation as a direct result of the uncertainty," Cantor said recently -- they would not have supported this policy. Well, actually, to draw a finer line: Either Cantor and his colleagues have been overselling the uncertainty case all along -- and there are many good arguments that uncertainty is simply a useful political...

Obama's Tax Deal.

Basically, in exchange for temporary extension of all the Bush tax cuts and a capitulation to the conservative Democrat-Republican consensus on the estate tax, President Obama will get 13 months of unemployment benefits, a yearlong pay-roll tax cut, extensions of tax credits in the stimulus, and some business-focused tax breaks. Basically, it's a tax-focused stimulus package -- if Congress votes on it. This deal showed exactly what kind of priority you need to target to get Republicans to make a legislative deal: Tax cuts for the wealthy bring them to the table every time. Of course, cutting taxes for the wealthy every time legislation has to move isn't a sustainable practice in the long term. The overriding fact about this deal is that we're unlikely to see any stimulus next year. In fact, we're likely to see budget cuts. The White House's calculation on this is that getting a decent amount of deficit-financed tax cuts out the door now -- in particular, the payroll tax cut -- is the...

Bad Arguments About Unemployment Insurance.

Greg Mankiw , claiming agnosticism about whether or not unemployment insurance should be renewed, offers some bad arguments against it: [W]hen I hear economists advocate the extension of UI to 99 weeks, I am tempted to ask, would you also favor a further extension to 199 weeks, or 299 weeks, or 1099 weeks? If 99 weeks is better than 26 weeks, but 199 is too much, how do you know? The simple answer to the question of when you stop extending unemployment insurance is when the job market is back to normal. Right now, with five job-seekers for every opportunity to work, we would still have abnormally high unemployment if every single open job were filled. I'm sure people would be happy to set a target based on ending long-term extensions after certain targets have been hit. But Mankiw thinks the real answer is, in fact, a plot to take money away from the wealthy: ... economists who strongly favor the extension of UI benefits, such as those who signed this letter , also tend to favor more...

WikiLeaks and Accountability.

Julian Assange has apparently prepared a poison pill of damaging classified files to release should WikiLeaks be threatened. However, it also appears that the files will be released if he is detained in response to sexual-assault allegations in Sweden. That's troubling, to say the least: If Assange's blackmail threat is taken seriously, he will have no accountability whatsoever -- for the actions of his organization or himself. While arguments about the need for transparency carry serious weight in times when institutions are losing the public's faith at breakneck speed, executing these ideas without proper planning can be damaging. It appears that the cash value of the diplomatic cables release, at least thus far, has been to increase the likelihood of conflict and diminish effective diplomacy. Assange's organization raises a serious who-watches-the-watchmen problem, especially when it is acting to both protect itself from institutional critics and protect its founders from...

Too Small to Save

Did the nation's largest community bank collapse because of its social-justice mission -- or its financial ambitions?

Mary Houghton, president and co-founder of ShoreBank Corp. and Ronald Grzywinski, chairman and co-founder (AP/Stacie Freudenberg)
Editors' Note: This piece has been corrected . Location is everything, especially in Chicago, where your neighborhood isn't just where you live but who you are. Rahm Emanuel, running for mayor, can't get any respect because he grew up in the suburbs. Barack Obama, Senate hopeful, won in part because he had liberal credibility from his home on the South Side and was able to raise money on the North Side. Politics and real estate can make an unsavory combination: More than one Chicago politician, including Obama, has found himself in hot water after accepting real-estate favors from politically interested friends. But Chicago also has a tradition of attempting to ensure location isn't everything -- at least when it comes to getting a loan or a job. The city's South Side was, until very recently, home to ShoreBank, the nation's largest community-development bank, with over $2 billion in assets. During the course of its 37-year existence, it invested millions in underserved, minority...

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