Ezra Klein

MY READERS IS SMARTER THAN I: GLOOMY BANKS EDITION.

An informed reader writes in.

Ezra,

A few quick notes on your housing market post. I’m in the affordable housing realm—mostly rental, occasionally ownership-- so I’d like to think I know something.

A FILIBUSTER-PROOF MAJORITY?

Over at Swampland, Karen Tumulty distinguishes a "filibuster-proof majority," which is what FDR had, from a Senate where one party or another controlled a theoretically filibuster-proof number of seats, which is what Carter had. Specter's defection, she suggests, is akin to FDR's situation rather than Carter's.

MORE PROBLEMS IN THE HOUSING MARKET.

buffalo-vacant-houses.jpg

The Financial Times has a good story today on a new twist in the mortgage market. Namely, banks have stopped offering mortgages in buildings that haven't already sold a sufficient quantity of units. In one case, a buyer with "stellar credit" and a 25 percent downpayment couldn't get a mortgage because the luxury development she wanted had only sold three of 46 units.

SO YOU SAY YOU WANT A CONFIRMATION?

Kathleen Sebelius is expected to win a fairly easy confirmation today. Some Senators have spoken of delay, but few suggest there's any hope of marshaling a consequential number of "no" votes. And so we will have our Secretary of Health and Human Services. Max Baucus's glowing statement follows the jump:

BREAKING: ARLEN SPECTER SWITCHING PARTIES.

specter.jpgThe Washington Post confirms:

Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter will switch his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat, according to sources informed on the decision.

BANAL THOUGHTS ON PORTFOLIO MAGAZINE CLOSING.

Thought the first: They blew through $100 million? Buh-buh-buh-buh-how? The magazine wasn't printed on gold leaf. It wasn't staffed by robots from the future. It didn't have a Mars bureau. My working assumption has been that the budget meetings went something like this:

MEXICO AND SWINE FLU.

xin_38204062612518281987123.jpgSwine flu is obviously a bad thing. But it's a bad thing with outrageously bad timing. Mexico, in particular, was in economic trouble before. The situation is dire now. The sort of policies you implement to quarantine a disease are the reverse of the sort of policies you implement to grow an economy. One requires an acceleration of transactions. The other requires a cessation of them.

GLOBAL WARMING IS SAD.

chusteven.jpgFareed Zakaria interviews Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who turns out to be a total downer:

Can we really prevent global warming? Or should we be thinking more about adaptation? Building coastal fortifications may be cheaper than halting the release of CO2.

CONSERVATIVES, ANALOGIES, AND APPOINTMENTS.

This is all getting a little silly. From Dave Weigel's article on the efforts of pro-life Kansans to derail Kathleen Sebelius's nomination:

According to [David Gittrich, the long-serving state development director of Kansans for Life.], when Brownback turns his sights on the governor’s race he’ll gave to “reestablish his credentials as a pro-lifer” and explain his vote. “All the pro-life votes in the world don’t make up for supporting Kathleen Sebelius,” said Gittrich. “This is like saying, ‘I’m against the Holocaust and Nazi Germany but I’d like Hitler to be in charge of the health care center.’”

THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION IS NOT ABOUT BEHAVIORAL ECONOMICS.

3362206077_5d6b5d0602.jpgI don't mean to be churlish about this, because the intellectual history in Frank Foer and Noam Scheiber's "Nudge-ocracy" is really quite good. But enough with the attempts to tie Obama to behavioral economics. The apparent influence of the nascent field on the actual policy proposals emerging from the administration is minimal.

SUMMERS TALKS ECON.

I'm loathe to describe Larry Summers' in terms that suggest a shy and retiring personality, but it is the case that we've heard a lot less from him than from folks like, say, Tim Geithner. Last Friday, however, he gave a talk to the InterAmerican Development Bank outlining his take on the financial crisis (and he did it, as he said, in "the language of economics"). Simon Johnson summarizes.

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