Free “enterprise” at work

It’s true that census confidentiality is imperfect and could be used to compromise civil liberties, but I can’t imagine any way that it could be used to steal one’s identity (especially if one is cautious enough not to provide name information on the form). IRS, that’s a different matter.  Anyway, Equifax has found another way to sell their protection racket.  If it’s “only $4.95” for the first month, how much is it thereafter?

taking advantage

Unnatural Causes

This broadcast documentary looks at the relationship between income (and other status considerations) and health, including life expectancy. Statistically, your income is strongly associated with how long you’ll live.   And recent statistics indicate that Americans’ life expectancy is lower than that of 29 other countries.

One of my favorite points regarding health care is made:

NICHOLAS CHRISTAKIS: But the vast majority of improvements in health in our society over the last century have had very little to do with medical innovation. What really counts is other kinds of things we can do, and those other kinds of things tend to be non-medical things. Like, thinking about the distribution of wealth in our society, or providing public health infrastructure, or better education for people, better housing – all of those things which aren’t medical phenomena. It’s all those that are really material for public health.

Social Security reportedly provides a higher monthly payment, relative to the amount put in, for lower income workers.  But because low income people have shorter lifespans, this doesn’t mean that it redistributes income downward.

And any post about income inequality, including this one, should include a disclaimer such as the following:

Any system of taxes and subsidies intended to equalize incomes will do so inefficiently if at all, and is likely to be perverted. An effective solution to the problems of poverty requires the elimination of privilege and the preservation of opportunity for people to earn a good living.

Originally broadcast last year, this seems to be a four hour program, and I’ve only read part of the transcript for the first hour. Thanks to Bob Matter for pointing it out.

Madagascar update

Last fall I mentioned a deal between Korean conglomerate Daewoo and the gov’t of Madascar, for the former to get half a Belgium’s worth of farmland at basically no charge. Turns out it was more controversial than I thought, caused a revolution, and the new government has revoked the deal. But, as the linked article explains, similar deals are proceeding in several other countries.

This information comes from farmlandgrab.org (“Governments and corporations are buying up farmland in other countries to grow their own food – or simply to make money”), via Alanna Hartzok.

How much fraud is there?

We have an estimate!

Fraud typically gobbles up around 7% of all big contracts.

This is from Watchdog Over Stimulus Spending Toes a Delicate Line, by Neil King, Jr., WSJ 3/9/09. Altho no source is cited, the implication is that this came from Earl Devaney, who according to the article heads the federal Recovery Act Accountability and Transparency Board.

I guess that’s just fraud.  Waste and inefficiency are things entirely different.

The Parasite Protection Act

That’s one of the names Josh Vincent suggests for New Mexico’s SB333, which would reduce real estate taxes on vacant land and make up the shortfall by raising taxes on homeowners and everyone else who actually owns (or rents) land with a structure on it. I imagine some land speculators find themselves in financial difficulty, but they still have enough to influence a few legislators, and I guess this is intended to bail them out. Perhaps they just want to get legally what owners of Cook County vacant land get in practice.

Maybe I don’t know how to search, but I can’t find anything about this bill anywhere on the Internet.

I guess we could name it the “Housing Prevention Act.”

"There was no credit crisis"

This isn’t from some radical leftwing, libertarian, or Georgist journal.

One reason things didn’t fall apart when Congress didn’t immediately act as Paulson and Bernanke demanded [in September ’08], may be that there wasn’t any danger of a meltdown in the first place. So say three senior economists working at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, who in October examined the Fed’s own data, and concluded in an article titled Facts and Myths About the Financial Crisis of 2008 that the claims that interbank lending and commercial lending had seized up were simply not true. “Bank lending to consumers and to non-financial companies had not ceased, and banks were lending to each other at record levels,” says V.V. Charri, an economist at the Minneapolis Fed.

— Dave Lindorff

Thanks to Econospeak.

Who understands global climate change?

Not me, that’s for sure. I’ve no doubt that command-and-control advocates would have trouble finding a better excuse to tell everyone what to do than to promise us that, if we don’t cooperate, we’ll all be flooded, starve to death, and die of thirst. Yet, maybe there is something to it. Continue reading Who understands global climate change?

Chicago "leasing" "parking" "meters"

Apparently the City is getting a one-time payment of $1.16 billion (yahoo says $1.15 billion, but what’s $10 million among friends?).  Hopefully this is entirely in cash and will be paid at the start of the “lease.” But what is being given up to one of Morgan Stanley’s financial devices for 75 years?  It’s not really the parking meters, because no meter could last more than a decade or two.  Is it the street space controlled by the meters?   Can the City reduce this space in the future if needed for a driveway, bus stop, hydrant?  What about spaces that currently lack meters but where they might be appropriate in the future?

While the Tribune says rates will quadruple, or more, by 2013, but what happens later?  This deal apparently runs to 2084.  Of course we can be sure it’s fair. The Tribune says

The mayor’s nephew, William Daley Jr., works for Morgan Stanley and lobbies state and Cook County officials on the firm’s behalf.

And according to Reuters

“I think it’s a fair price” for the parking meter system, said Dana Levenson, head of North American infrastructure banking for Royal Bank of Scotland, who helped negotiate the parking lot lease in his former position with the city.

The deal covers “more than 36,000 meters,” which seems to value each space at about $32,000.  Of course that’s a citywide average, surely spaces in outlying districts aren’t worth as much as those in the loop.

One thing that I don’t doubt: Chicago street parking has been underpriced and raising the rates is a smart move for the City.  HIgh Cost of Free Parking author Donald Shoup recommends

Charge market rates for curb parking.  He defines market rate as the parking price that will yield 85 percent occupancy

Clearly the City has been losing revenue for years, essentially subsidizing motorists while taxing retail purchasers, homeowners, renters, and the rest of us.

Federal Reserve Banks disagree about financial crisis

Minneapolis says the crisis affects only financial firms but other companies can get along OK, but Boston says no, it really is a serious crisis for everybody tho it’s hard to see. The article is from a couple of weeks ago, one way or another recent declines in retail sales and employment seem to mean the crisis has become real. Maybe ’cause folks are worried about what the government will do next.  Thanks to Tasgall for the link.