November 26, 2008The bail-outs keep coming. Now it's the consumer credit market. I guess it's time to start using my credit card, so I can benefit. Reports the Los Angeles Times:
The federal government's new $800-billion initiative to revive the nation's credit markets and reverse the deepening economic crisis propels the government into risky territory -- the uncertain world of credit cards, student borrowing, auto loans and cash-strapped small businesses.
Most of the money in the plan announced Tuesday is aimed at making home loans cheaper and more readily available. To that end, the Federal Reserve plans to buy as much as $600 billion in debt and mortgage-backed securities held or issued by government-sponsored lenders such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
But on a separate front, the Fed...
November 26, 2008Like, oh, maybe 40 of the presidents before him, Barack Obama says that he wants to cut out wasteful programs. At least George W. Bush, the most spendthrift chief executive in decades, has made it easy in comparison. It will be hard for President Obama to outspend the Republicans.
Still, making a difference in the federal budget won't be easy. After all, the bail-outs almost certainly aren't over, and then there's billions or zillions or whatever in "stimulus" spending, which Congress will turn into the ultimate spending Christmas tree. And even if the president-elect is serious, well, the real budget numbers get in the way. <a href="http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/washingtondc/la-na-obama26-2008nov26,0,4578509.story">Reports the <em>Los...
November 26, 2008I was traveling last week and missed World Toilet Day. You didn't notice it either? Too bad. The toilet is a humble creation, one that we all take for granted. But it should be recognized as one of our greatest benefits, a splendid result of the creativity of the marketplace. Explains Margaret Wertheim:
As a thriving metropolis at the peak of an empire, London teemed with vitality. But all those productive citizens had to poop, and all that excrement had to go somewhere.
Where it went, generally, was into chamber pots and thence into the streets or one of the city's 200,000 backyard cesspits, which overflowed into basements, neighbors' yards and nearby streets. Most of it ended up in the River Thames as undiluted, putrid muck. The problem was perennial, but the...
November 24, 2008Any American who travels to Europe as I just did is likely to get hit with the argument that the United States is inhumane because the government does not "guarantee" access to health care. But look at the result of nationalized health care systems. Care may be guaranteed, but what kind of care? In Great Britain, for instance, the government's tender-loving care leaves thousands of cancer patients to die unnecessarily. Reports the Times of London:
Up to 11,000 lives a year could be saved if cancer survival rates in Britain were up with the best in Europe, campaigners will say today.
England, Scotland and Wales lag behind most other European countries for survival rates for the disease, something the Government says is due in part to patients not noticing the warning signs of...
November 15, 2008The term socialist got tossed around a lot in the recent presidential campaign. But Robert Higgs of the Independent Institute says we're already there. And both major political parties are responsible for the deed.
Reading the news has been exciting lately. Hardly a day passes without the announcement of some new government initiative to save the world. Bail out the mortgage lenders; bail out the big insurance company; bail out the banks; bail out the money-market funds; bail out the commercial-paper sellers; bail out the depositors in belly-up banks; bail out the automobile companies; bail out the deadbeats who didn't make their mortgage payments when they came due. When the Treasury bumps up against its borrowing limits, and interest rates begin to rise on its bonds, bail it out, too,...
November 14, 2008Ah, socialized medicine. Everyone is guaranteed care, right? And the government saves so much money that is wasted in America.
Well, so much for the free lunch. Despite a lot of money poured into the system by the Labor government, Britain falls behind Estonia and many of its neighbors. British care is on par with that provided in several former Soviet bloc states. Reports the Daily Mail:
Healthcare in Britain is worse than in Estonia even though
we spend four times as much on each person, according to a
Europe-wide league table.
And despite the billions poured
into the NHS by Labour, the standard
of care is on a par with the former
Communist states of the Czech
Republic and Hungary, which spend
far less on health.
Long waiting times and slow access to
November 14, 2008After having voted for or passively accepted some $2 trillion in federal bail-outs, a few congressmen seem be growing uneasy with the lengthening soup-line. The automakers want on board, but even Sen. Chris "take care of the housing industry and it takes care of you" Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, says that the automakers shouldn't count their federal handout dollars before they arrive. Reports ABC News:
ABC News' Z. Byron Wolf Reports from Capitol Hill: An architect of the original bailout bill said Thursday Democrats lack the votes to pass bill giving auto companies a piece of the $700 billion bailout pie next week.
"I want to help them...
November 14, 2008Amazing. The European Union actually responded to criticism. About one-fifth of European produce has to be dumped because it doesn't mean minimum EU standards, which have nothing to do with health. Under criticism for conducting a jihad against ugly veggies, the EU appears to be backing down--though the vote will be close. Reports the Times of London:
Knobbly fruit and amusingly shaped vegetables, the staple diet of local newspapers, caption competitions and That's Life!, are set to return to the shops in a reprieve from strict European Union laws.
The regulations covering the size and shape of 26 types of fruit...
November 13, 2008You have to love the timing. The federal government gives Wall Street billions of dollars just in time for Wall Street to pay out billions of dollars in bonuses.
According to ABC News:
The nation may be diving headlong into recession, but that's not stopping financial firms from a cherished year-end tradition: the awarding of bonuses.
Wall Street will distribute bonus checks come December because that is how Wall Street works, experts say.
Those checks will be smaller than the big payouts of recent years, however, according to Johnson and Associates, an executive compensation consulting firm, which has released a report estimating that Wall Street bonuses will be down as much as 70 percent compared with 2007.
The number of bankers who will share the bonus pool has also decreased because of...
November 13, 2008There are endless attempts to "clean up" politics--limiting campaign contributions, restricting lobbyists, and the like--as if the problem is a few self-interested individuals who want to ruin the otherwise pristine process of governing. But it is government that inevitably dirties the game. After all, the bigger, more powerful, and wealthier government becomes, the more important it is for everyone to seize control of the beast. When government hands out hundreds of billions of dollars, it becomes worthwhile to spend millions and even billions to try to get a share of the loot.
Consider the special interest bail-out rushed through Congress in September. It turns out the administration lied--the $700 billion was supposed to be used to buy "toxic" assets. Now, Treasury Secretary Paulson says, none of it will be used for that purpose. Oh, well ... . But the money will still be...