This is the second installment of our new feature: Curbside Consult. For the uninitiated, curbside consults are a venerable medical tradition, whereby a doctor seeks informal advice from an experienced colleague in treating a patient with a complex condition. In covering or understanding complex health and social policies, we need sometimes help too. Today’s interview is with Katherine Swartz, PhD. She is Professor of Health Economics and Policy at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Over the weekend, America's Health Insurance Plans circulated a study it commissioned from PriceWaterhouseCoopers. In a memo to AHIP members, reproduced here, president Karen Ignani explained its significance: The report makes clear that several major provisions in the current legislative proposal will cause health care costs to increase far faster and higher than they would under the current system.
Sitting in her lawyer's office at South Brooklyn Legal Services, her hands folded calmly in her lap, Sandra Barkley describes how she became the first person in her family to buy a home. The 52-year old single mother begins by speaking in a relaxed southern drawl, but as she comes to recount her experiences more fully, her voice rises, and her cool breaks. In the winter of 2002-2003, an acquaintance of Barkley's put her in touch with United Homes, a New York City-based company that specialized in fixing up and reselling homes purchased at foreclosure auctions and distress sales.
Last summer, when the price of oil was bobbing around the $100/barrel mark, the business press was rife with trend stories on how companies were rethinking the feasibility of their global supply chains. BusinessWeek, for instance, wondered whether sky-high shipping prices could neutralize China's labor-cost advantages and bring manufacturing back to the United States. Of course, by the fall, the world had entered a nasty recession, the price of oil had sunk down to manageable levels, and this supply-chain story vanished from the news for a bit. Or so it appeared.
If you don't know the answer to that question, don't worry. Just go read David Sanger's nice profile of him in today's Times. (Hint: He's the top White House aide overseeing the restructuring of GM and Chrysler--and the administration aide arguably most responsible for helping Chrylser avoid liquidation.) Update: It's probably worth quoting Sanger's summary of the Deese memo that kept Chrylser from being liquidated. It's a pretty important insight when you weigh the administration's approach to the auto industry generally: "Mr.
You know things are crazy when a partial takeover of the American auto industry by labor unions and the government is, at best, the day's third biggest story. But even with swine flu and Arlen Specter grabbing the headlines, it'd be a mistake to ignore what's happening in Detroit. It looks like the government is close to reaching a deal with Chrysler's creditors, under which they'd write down most of the company's debt.
If you haven't picked up on one of the dozens of recommendations from other blogs, I recommend reading Phillip Swagel's long and detailed account of the view of the financial crisis from his seat as assistant secretary for economic policy at the Treasury Department. It's particularly useful for people like me who make a habit of criticizing government officials. The writing is dry, but much of the subject matter is fascinating. It often explains or defends Treasury's actions during the crisis, but Swagel certainly owns up to plenty of mistakes or shortcomings.
Various outlets now have complete details on Obama's plan for Chrysler and GM, as provided in background briefings by administration officials. The gist is pretty simple: The administration believes that GM can survive--and, indeed, thrive--with the proper restructuring, so it will provide up to 60 days of working capital as the company revamps its management and negotiates with stakeholders. Chrysler, though, is another story. The administartion does not believe the company can ever be viable on its own.
....as usual. Today's effort: This [the current approach], then, is loss-socialisation in action – it guarantees a public buffer to protect creditors. This could end up giving the government a controlling shareholding in some institutions: Citigroup, for example. But, say the quibblers, this is not nationalisation. What then are the pros and cons of this approach, compared with taking institutions over outright? Douglas Elliott of the Brookings Institution analyses this question in an intriguing paper. Part of the answer, he suggests, is that it is unclear whether banks are insolvent.
In Hollywood, the one thing as inevitable as death and taxes is sequels. They roll them out, year after year, the 2s and IIs, the Returns and Revenges, and Strikes Backs and Strikes Agains. For decades, the first rule of making a successful sequel has been simple and unchanging: Figure out what you did right the first time and do it again. The problem, of course, is that this isn't always so easy. For every The Godfather: Part II there's a The Two Jakes; for every The Empire Strikes Back, an Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.