The Only Sure Way to Fund Universal Health Care

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During the presidential campaign, I thought Obama made only one big policy mistake. He criticized John McCain for proposing to tax all employer-provided health benefits. McCain’s overall health plan was regressive – he would have turned the savings into tax credits for purchasing health care – but he was right about where the revenues should [...]

A Modest Plan for Paying College Costs

falon_williams

I’m just about to head off to a commencement here at University of Califonria,  Berkeley. The news that keeps banging around in my head is that the state has just announced a whopping 9% increase in fees for next academic year, the third fee increase in three years. The average young person now graduating from [...]

The Health Care Cave-In

healthcare

“Don’t make the perfect the enemy of the better” is a favorite slogan in Washington because compromise is necessary to get anything done. But the way things are going with health care, a better admonition would be: “Don’t give away the store.” Single-Payer Plan Is Ideal Many experts have long agreed that a so-called “single-payer” [...]

The Truth Behind the Social Security and Medicare Alarm Bells

social-secuirty

What are we to make of yesterday’s report from the trustees of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds that Social Security will run out of assets in 2037, four years sooner than previously forecast, and Medicare’s hospital fund will be exhausted by 2017, two years earlier than predicted a year ago? Reports of these [...]

Obama and Pragmatism: Thinking Through Values

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I keep hearing the White House staff describe the President as a pragmatist. David Axelrod, one of his chief advisors whom I admire enormously, recently called him a “ruthless pragmatist.” Soon, I expect, he’ll be called a “take-no-prisoners pragmatist,” or perhaps a “remorseless, merciless, and unrelenting pragmatist.” I’m relieved the President is a pragmatist, but [...]

Why Obama is Taking on Corporate Tax Havens

loopholes

Why, one may ask, is Obama taking on yet another huge fight by taking aim at foreign tax havens? Yes, it’s unfair that multinationals pay an average tax rate of only 2 percent on their foreign revenues, and it’s unfair that some wealthy Americans are avoiding taxes altogether by parking their fortunes abroad. But, hey, [...]

The Auto Bailout Is Going Off the Road

chrysler

GM just announced it was laying of 21,000 more of its workers, as a means of assuring the Treasury Department the company is worthy of more bailout money. A Treasury official was quoted as saying approvingly that the goal is a “slimmed-down” GM. What? Having General Motors or Chrysler cut tens of thousands of jobs [...]

How Obama Can Succeed in the Next Hundred Days and Beyond

first-stone

Before Inauguration Day, President-elect Barack Obama said he wanted to hit the ground running. Instead, he hit the ground sprinting and hasn’t stopped. Consider: A $787 billion stimulus package. A 10-year budget including universal health insurance and a cap-and-trade system to combat global warming. Subsidies to help distressed homeowners stay in their homes. Public-private partnerships [...]

The Great Credit Card Battle To Come

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The next front in the banking wars will be over credit cards. Some of the nation’s biggest bankers — including representatives of Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, and other recipients of billions of taxpayer dollars — are meeting today with the President to ask him back off his move to reform credit-card lending practices. What’s happening [...]

We Need More Stimulus, Not More Bailout

patching panks

With only $110 billion remaining in the TARP bailout fund, all signs are that Tim Geithner is preparing to return to Congress seeking more bailout money. He’ll bring along the results of his bank “stress tests,” which will probably show many that big banks are still technically insolvent, along with bankruptcy scenarios for General Motors [...]

Why You Should Work for a Hedge Fund

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Just because I lost a big chunk of my total retirement savings over the last year doesn’t mean I should be upset that 25 hedge-fund managers reaped a total of $11.6 billion during the same interval, according to Institutional Investor’s Alpha Magazine — including $2.5 billion for James Simons of Renaissance Technologies and $2 billion [...]

It’s a Depression

good-old-days

The March employment numbers, out this morning, are bleak: 8.5 percent of Americans officially unemployed, 663,000 more jobs lost. But if you include people who are out of work and have given up trying to find a job, the real unemployment rate is 9 percent. And if you include people working part time who’d rather [...]

Congress’s Potemkin Populism

bushido

It’s nice to see that when the public gets sufficiently angry about something, Congress responds. In a rare show of bipartisanship, members are eagerly registering shock and outrage at AIG’s bonus payments by coming up with an assortment of ways to reclaim the bonanza, including taxing them away retroactively. Who says democracy is dead? But [...]

In the Wake of AIG: Obama’s First Priority

aig1

AIG is rapidly becoming a nightmarish metaphor for the Obama Administration’s problems administering the bailout of Wall Street. One central problem is the lack of transparency. According to some news reports, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner knew weeks ago that AIG was planning to issue the bonuses to executives in its notorious credit default swap unit, [...]

The Real Scandal of AIG

rich-cigar

The real scandal of AIG isn’t just that American taxpayers have so far committed $170 billion to the giant insurer because it is thought to be too big to fail — the most money ever funneled to a single company by a government since the dawn of capitalism — nor even that AIG’s notoriously failing [...]

Is Obamanomics Conservative or Revolutionary?

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There are two ways to see Obamanomics. The first, much preferred by the White House, is as a set of initiatives so modest as to hardly merit a raised eyebrow. Yes, steps must be taken to deal with the current economic crisis. But assuming the economy recovers next year, Obama’s budget projects that government spending [...]

Worse Than Expected on the Economy

Keep your eyes on the gap between what the economy could produce at full employment and the paltry level of aggregate demand (consumers plus businesses plus exports). That’s why the stimulus is too small — and why my bet is the President will be back for more stimulus. The Commerce Department reported Friday that the [...]

Finally, A Progressive Budget

obama-saves

President Obama’s new budget is, well, audacious — not just because it includes several big, audacious initiatives (universally affordable health care, and a cap-and-trade system for coping with global warming, for starters) but also because it represents the biggest redistribution of income from the wealthy to the middle class and poor this nation has seen [...]

Obama’s Goal: Halving the Budget Deficit by 2012. Really?

economy-under-water

The President’s message on fiscal responsibility — that he’ll cut the current one by half by the end of his first term — is smart politics right now, but it may be dumb politics by November of 2012, and doesn’t make much economic sense regardless. We’re in a deepening recession, in case you hadn’t noticed. [...]

The New Deal and the New New Deal: Countering Conservative Claptrap

gop-on-automatic

The stock market reached a six-year low today. Why? Some blame loose talk (including that of former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan) about nationalizing the nation’s banks. Others blame Obama’s new plan for helping homeowners who may not be able to pay their mortgages. But the real culprit is the accelerating decline in aggregate demand — [...]

And Now Homeowners

homeowners

The two most important features of the administration’s plan to help homeowners are, first, its support for amending bankruptcy laws to allow judges to modify mortgages. This will give homeowners bargaining leverage with mortgage servicers (and give the servicers more leverage with securitized creditors on up the line) to get better terms; and, second, a [...]

Why Republicans Won’t Support the Stimulus

sinkorswim

Why are Senate Republicans (all, that is, except the lonely moderates Collins, Snowe, and Specter) nixing the stimulus package, as House Republicans did? Not because Obama failed to compromise — he gave them the tax breaks they wanted, included a whopper for business. Not because Senate Democrats failed to bend — they agreed to trim [...]

Senate Republicans and the Stimulus: Playing Politics When the Economy Burns

reichtable

Friday’s job report is likely to be awful. January’s job losses could easily top half a million. We’re deep into the most vicious of economic cycles: Consumers are slashing their spending because they’re perilously in debt and worried about keeping their jobs. But as a result, businesses are facing shrinking sales of goods and services, [...]

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