The Price of Disgust – Freakonomics – Opinion – New York Times Blog

The Price of Disgust – Freakonomics – Opinion – New York Times Blog:

“But most people do not think like economists. When offered 10 percent or 20 percent or even 30 percent of the total, they are disgusted by the inequity — and willing to pay the price for that disgust by rejecting the offer.”

(Via Freakonomics – Opinion – New York Times Blog.)

Talk about “bounded rationality!”

Economists on the Bailout – Freakonomics – Opinion – New York Times Blog

Economists on the Bailout – Freakonomics – Opinion – New York Times Blog:

“The only thing that seems to be moving faster than the financial crisis is the policy debate. The latest development is a statement that summarizes what I think of as the emerging consensus from academic economists; it expresses concern about various aspects of both the Paulson plan in particular, and the policy process in general.”

(Via Freakonomics – Opinion – New York Times Blog.)

Slow down. Take a breath everybody. Who Caused the Economic Crisis? Who Caused the Economic Crisis?:

“So who is to blame? There’s plenty of blame to go around, and it doesn’t fasten only on one party or even mainly on what Washington did or didn’t do. As The Economist magazine noted recently, the problem is one of ‘layered irresponsibility … with hard-working homeowners and billionaire villains each playing a role.’ Here’s a partial list of those alleged to be at fault:

  • The Federal Reserve, which slashed interest rates after the dot-com bubble burst, making credit cheap.
  • Home buyers, who took advantage of easy credit to bid up the prices of homes excessively.
  • Congress, which continues to support a mortgage tax deduction that gives consumers a tax incentive to buy more expensive houses.
  • Real estate agents, most of whom work for the sellers rather than the buyers and who earned higher commissions from selling more expensive homes.
  • The Clinton administration, which pushed for less stringent credit and downpayment requirements for working- and middle-class families.
  • Mortgage brokers, who offered less-credit-worthy home buyers subprime, adjustable rate loans with low initial payments, but exploding interest rates.
  • Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, who in 2004, near the peak of the housing bubble, encouraged Americans to take out adjustable rate mortgages.
  • Wall Street firms, who paid too little attention to the quality of the risky loans that they bundled into Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS), and issued bonds using those securities as collateral.
  • The Bush administration, which failed to provide needed government oversight of the increasingly dicey mortgage-backed securities market.
  • An obscure accounting rule called mark-to-market, which can have the paradoxical result of making assets be worth less on paper than they are in reality during times of panic.
  • Collective delusion, or a belief on the part of all parties that home prices would keep rising forever, no matter how high or how fast they had already gone up.”


Fixing the Debt Crisis

Obama has come of the points I would include, equity stakes, tax cuts to middle class spenders. But I would also:

  1. Punish CEO’s and other executives. They failed. They get the boot. That’s how the market does it. We should do that here. Take a flat payout of say $2M and not a penny more and walk out the door scott free. Or they can take door #2: a shareholder lawsuit and/or a criminal investigation from the SEC and/or FBI on gross negligence of their fiduciary duty.
  2. Push board reform. These people were asleep at the wheel to get us in this position. Take the bailout and all board members associated with the CEO are out the door pending the work of a Search Committee’s efforts to replace them. Put a time clock on that. Demand that the CEO is never Chairman of the Board nor does he/she have connections to the Chairman.
  3. Push for pension and insurance reform. These speculative assets have no place in people retirement portfolios or backing insurance policies. They require prudence not greed. Period.
  4. Get rid of social engineering around mortgages. To increase home ownership of the indigent, the government should subsidize mortgage payments for the indigent, but that has to be in conjunction with other initiatives like job training to earn a better wage, etc. No more tax entitlements–I mean deductions. People should pay what they can afford. Period. Let the debt markets work as normal.
  5. Focus on how to properly price MBS’s/CDO’s/CMO’s. The government should use all the academic horsepower available in our higher ed institutions to solve this problem. Modern portfolio theory revolutionized the pension industry by redefining the “prudent man.” Theory around these financial instruments, which aren’t inherently bad, can solve this problem as well. If the theory is sound enough, we might consider them for conservative portfolios e.g. pension endowments

What would you do?

Sharing Prosperity: Obama’s Economic Plan for Small Business

Presidential candidate Barack Obama once spoke to CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo about the economy. Bartiromo made the usual comments an ideologically minded supply-sider might make, and Obama true to form, struck his usual centrist tone:

The one thing you can be assured of is I’m not going to be making these [economic] decisions based on ideology. I’m not a dogmatist…I believe in the market. I believe in entrepreneurship. I believe in opportunity. I believe in capitalism. And I want to do what works, but what I want to make sure of is it works for all America and not just a small sliver of America.

Obama does have quite the plan. It is a mixed bag to be sure, as anything political would be, but it is both a sound and refreshingly moral plan to help this economy work for all Americans. Instead of government spending per se, it consists of government investment, a key distinction from leftist ideological choices. It provides for targeted tax relief to the engines of our economy: the consumer and the more importantly small business. As a progressive he includes union protection, but departs from political pandering and opts for sensible regulation. See a pattern? I’ve said to my progressive/liberal friends that if they don’t get a pro-business, pro-growth policy that expresses their ideals and values, they might was well pack it in to conservatives whose policies smack of trickle down, faith based “economics.” No government in a free economy creates jobs. Businesses do and they don’t do so out of charity or good will. They do so out of necessity or incentive. So there has to be a system of carrots and sticks, that forces them to, as Taylor put it, “share in the surplus.” So to create jobs, you have to be pro-business in some way, and refreshingly Obama does not disappoint. More on this later.

Continue reading “Sharing Prosperity: Obama’s Economic Plan for Small Business”

A Product Transition: Giving MacBooks the iPhone Touch — RoughlyDrafted Magazine

A Product Transition: Giving MacBooks the iPhone Touch — RoughlyDrafted Magazine:

“That gives Apple the opportunity to blow away users with a feature that would clearly differentiate its mobile line for years, more closely associate its Macs with the iPhone brand, and jump from today’s 8 to 10% of the US market to a figure closer to 30% within just a year. We already know Apple has 66% of the consumer-oriented retail market for machines above $1000 in the US; why not take the rest?”

(Via RoughlyDrafted Magazine.)

The idea is crazy enough to be true.

Apple Just Makes Better PC’s Period

Mac vs PC – Benchmark and Speed Tests – PC versus Mac – Apple, Windows Reviews – Popular Mechanics:

“The Verdict: Apple
Mac: In both the laptop and desktop showdowns, Apple’s computers were the winners. Oddly, the big difference didn’t come in our user ratings, where we expected the famously friendly Mac interface to shine. Our respondents liked the look and feel of both operating systems but had a slight preference toward OS X. In our speed trials, however, Leopard OS trounced Vista in all-important tasks such as boot-up, shutdown and program-launch times. We even tested Vista on the Macs using Apple’s platform-switching Boot Camp software—and found that both Apple computers ran Vista faster than our PCs did. “

(Via Popular Mechanics.)