finance

Financial Innovation We Can Believe In?
October 22, 2009

It's fairly well-established that people could save money over the long run by making their homes more energy-efficient—better insulation, say—or even, in some cases, putting solar panels on their roofs to generate their own electricity. But many of these upgrades never happen, for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the incentives are misaligned, if, say, the landlord owns the building but the tenant pays electricity and heating costs.

The Consensus on Big Banks is Beginning to Crack
October 21, 2009

Just when our biggest banks thought they were out of the woods and into the money, the official consensus in their favor begins to crack. The Obama administration’s publicly stated view--from the highest level in the White House--remains that the banks cannot or should not be broken up. Their argument is that the big banks can be regulated into permanently low risk behavior. In contrast, in an interview reported in the NYT this morning, Paul Volcker argues that attempts to regulate these banks will fail: “The only viable solution, in the Volcker view, is to break up the giants.

TNR Debate: Too Much Transparency? (Part VI)
October 19, 2009

I had hoped my essay, "Against Transparency," might have inspired something of a marriage between the transparency movement and campaign finance reform. To that end, I had offered something old and something new, something borrowed, and, as is my style, something blue. But like high school all over again, I have obviously fumbled on the first date Let's work this backwards. Something blue: Yes of course my piece is "worr[ied]" (Weinberger) and "gloomy" (Miller/Klein), even "dour" (Abrams), as the commentators say. Of course it is.

How Goldman Can Rehabilitate Itself: Go Private
October 16, 2009

I have to say, I'm underwhelmed by the ideas the company is tossing around so far. Per this morning's Times piece: Goldman said Thursday that it would donate $200 million to its charitable foundation (that figure represents 6 percent of its third-quarter profit, or about six days of earnings). Rumors are swirling on Wall Street that Goldman might donate even more money to charity, perhaps as much as $1 billion, in an effort to defuse public resentment directed at the bank. Mr. Blankfein has even urged his free-spending bankers to be mindful of conspicuous consumption.

How the Recession is Accelerating Retirement Plans
October 05, 2009

While the impact of falling stock prices on older workers' retirement decisions has received a lot of attention this downturn, the more important driver of retirement rates appears to be unemployment, according to new research by Courtney Coile and Phillip Levine. (Sorry, pay-version only.) Using 30 years of data on changes in home and stock prices and labor market conditions, they conclude: When the unemployment rate rises, more workers between ages 62 and 69 retire, particularly those with less education.

UPDATED: The Final Five
October 05, 2009

Sometime soon, maybe this week,* the Senate Finance Committee is expected to vote on the health care reform bill it spent the last two weeks debating. Inside and outside the committee, people following this process more closely than I am say the bill is likely to pass. But it's not yet a sure thing. The committee roster is thirteen Democrats, ten Republicans. Majority vote rules. Chairman Max Baucus can afford to lose one Democrat, even if all of the committee Republicans vote against it.

Trouble in Beantown
September 29, 2009

A month-old labor dispute in Boston has taken a curious twist. It began when on August 31, a hundred housekeepers at three Hyatt hotels in Boston were fired and replaced by workers from a Georgia company, Hospitality Staffing Solutions. The housekeepers, some of whom had worked for Hyatt for over twenty years, were making between $14 and $16 an hour plus health, dental, and 401(k) benefits. Their replacements were to make $8 an hour with no health benefits.

How Legitimate Is the G20?
September 29, 2009

Strong advocates of our new G20 process are convinced that it will bring legitimacy to international economic policy discussions, rule-making, and crisis interventions. Certainly, it’s better than the G7/G8 pretending to run things--after all, who elected them? But who elected the G20? The answer is: No one. And, in case you were wondering, there is no application form to join the G20 (although you can crash the party if you have the right friends, e.g., Spain). The G20 has appointed themselves as the world’s “economic governing council” (to quote Gordon Brown). Is this a good idea? Not reall

Taxpayers Already Subsidize Abortion Coverage. Maybe Even Yours!
September 29, 2009

For those who haven't followed the intersection between abortion rights and health care reform, today's New York Times sums up the situation: Abortion opponents in both the House and the Senate are seeking to block the millions of middle- and lower-income people who might receive federal insurance subsidies to help them buy health coverage from using the money on plans that cover abortion. And the abortion opponents are getting enough support from moderate Democrats that both sides say the outcome is too close to call.

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