Where Will Growth Come From?
November 02, 2009

Looking at the GDP numbers last week, I wondered about possible sources of sustained GDP growth, given that so much of what drove the 3.5% third-quarter figure were one-off boosts like cash-for-clunkers. Well, today's Wall Street Journal has the beginning of an answer: Corporate cash stockpiles. Here's the Journal: In the second quarter, the 500 largest nonfinancial U.S. firms, by total assets, held about $994 billion in cash and short-term investments, or 9.8% of their assets, according a Wall Street Journal analysis of corporate filings.

Organizing for America--Bonus Pack!
October 30, 2009

Organizing for America is a complicated beast, and my story yesterday couldn’t quite contain some of the interesting things about it. For all the activism geeks out there, here are some outtakes. About elections: OFA doesn’t just exist to push the administration’s agenda.  If all of its issue campaigns failed, OFA would still serve the purpose of keeping volunteers engaged so they’re ready to help in 2012. "In '04, if you opened your door, it was a paid staffer coming to your door,” OFA deputy director Jeremy Bird told me.

Do The Dems Have What It Takes? We'll Find Out Soon.
July 19, 2009

You could make a credible argument that health care reform took enormous strides forward last week, given that legislation passed three of the five congressional committees considering it. But when President Obama stood at a White House podium on Friday, in order to discuss health reform, he seemed frustrated and a little drained. It’s possible he was just reacting to recent bad news on the economy. And it’s possible he was just, well, feeling tired.

Truth and Reconciliation

'Reconciliation" means "restoration of harmony." But as a term of art in budgeting, it has become an act of war. President Obama and most Democrats in Congress hope to include health and education reform in reconciliation instructions as part of the budget process. No mystery why. The sixty vote hurdle in the Senate of the filibuster could scotch these central components of their agenda via united Republican opposition. Bills considered under reconciliation cannot be filibustered and can therefore pass the Senate by majority vote.

The Oracle Is Upbeat
March 11, 2009

Warren Buffett, always the contrarian, takes a rather sanguine view of the banking sector. From his recent three-hour interview with CNBC: BUFFETT: Yeah, the interesting thing is that the toxic assets, if they're priced at market, are probably the best assets the banks has, because those toxic assets presently are being priced based on unleveraged buyers buying a fairly speculative asset.

Does Anybody Here Understand What A Tax Bracket Is?
March 03, 2009

My post about ignorant rich people who think they can have a higher after-tax income by holding their earnings under $250,000 a year brought on a follow-up from National Review's Stephen Spruiell: But these taxpayers have other reasons to be worried. Obama has proposed increasing the tax rate on capital gains and dividends from 15 to 20 percent for those taxpayers earning over $250,000 (married) and $200,000 (single).

Free Lunch On Wall Street
November 24, 2008

Judging by the market’s upswing today, Wall Street loves the Citi bailout. But pretty much everyone else hates it--Mark Thoma at Economist’s View has a handy collection of reactions from around the econo-sphere. Setting aside the problems with the deal itself--an 8 percent dividend is nice, but Warren Buffett got 10 percent from Goldman Sachs; plus, it requires almost no structural or leadership changes at the bank and addresses a mere 10 percent of its assets--is that it highlights how poorly Washington has dealt with the underlying causes of the crisis.

How Close Are We To Becoming The Uk? Or … Sweden?!?
October 14, 2008

Is the United States finally going the way of Sweden's 1992 bank nationalization plan, as some have been urging? And how does it compare with the UK's own recent plan to inject capital into its financial sector? The broad sweeps of the three plans are similar: The government pours money into a bank in exchange for shares, which it can hopefully sell off at a profit in a few years' time. But the differences are in the details, and they are significant. The first is relative size.

For Obama, Just What The Doctor Ordered
October 05, 2008

Health care has been conspicuously absent from the presidential campaign in the last few months. But Barack Obama is trying to change that. He's got the right idea--and, more important, the right message. Mostly. On Saturday, Obama gave a major health care speech in North Carolina. For the next few days, his surrogates will be fanning out to carry his message to local constituencies and to the media. The campaign is also running new ads, distributing a series of mailers, and organizing local events including a series of "Docs for Barack" gatherings.

The Death Knell
September 26, 2008

Perhaps because I just finished writing a book of history, I've been thinking a lot about how historians will look at the last few weeks in 25, 50, 100 years. This isn't a very useful frame--since we don't know what will happen tomorrow, we can't know the full context of events happening today. But it has pushed me to ask what really matters in the news cycle and what is just noise. One thing I think historians will look at is how the financial crisis has quickened the dissolution of modern conservatism.