Saturday, June 30, 2012

Two More Cents on the Obamacare Decision

Update from the last post on the Supreme Court decision

There is in fact a huge difference between a tax on people without health insurance and a mandate enforced with a penalty.

A mandate is a mandate, a law that everyone must have health insurance. If the minor penalty envisioned in the ACA isn't sufficient (it's not) to get people to buy health insurance, it was entirely within HHS power to find more effective means of enforcement.  They could literally have sent inspectors around and drag you off to jail for not having health insurance.

A tax is only a tax.  If you pay the tax, there is nothing else they can do to you. And taxes have to be approved by Congress, not just HHS. And there is no way Congress is going to vote in a $10,000 head tax for not having health insurance. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

New Paper

In my "real" academic life, I just finished a new paper, "Continuous-Time Linear Models," find it here if you're curious.  It's a pedagogical piece really, showing how to do all the familiar discrete-time time-series tricks in continuous time.  Comments welcome. I thought of advertising it as evidence that blogging hasn't turned my mind to mush, but I'm afraid real continuous-time econometricians will see it as proof of the opposite proposition.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

My 2 Cents on the Supreme Court and Obamacare

I think the court did the right thing. And pretty much what I expected.

They overturned the mandate under the commerce clause. Hoorray! There is some limit to the commerce clause!  I think they had to do this. If they upheld the whole thing, they would have said there is no limit whatsoever to Federal power.

They upheld the mandate as a tax. Swallow hard, free-market friends.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sand in the gears

Today's Wall Street Journal has a beautifully informative editorial, "Employment, Italian Style." Snippets:
Once you hire employee 11, you must submit an annual self-assessment to the national authorities outlining every possible health and safety hazard to which your employees might be subject. These include stress that is work-related or caused by age, gender and racial differences. You must also note all precautionary and individual measures to prevent risks, procedures to carry them out, the names of employees in charge of safety, as well as the physician whose presence is required for the assessment.

Monday, June 25, 2012

McCloskey Wisdom

I recommend a gorgeous essay by Deirdre McCloskey, "Factual Free Market Fairness" (hat tip, Kyle N's comment on Sunday's post "Legal News").  Some choice bits:
I’m from economics and history, and I’m here to help you... The High-Liberal political philosophers... rely...on a factual story which they take to be so obvious as to not require defense.  I claim that on the contrary their master narrative is mistaken, as anthropology or economics or history.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Legal News

Two legal items in last week's news caught my eye: The legal challenge to Dodd-Frank, and a challenge to Virginia's "certificates of need" for new hospitals.  I've written about both from an economic, and slightly political-economy viewpoint. The legal challenges are a new and interesting angle.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Operation Un-Twist

This morning's WSJ has a great piece by Todd Buchholz, titled "Washington Should Lock in Low Rates" This is in the context of increasing speculation that the Fed will do another "operation twist," buying long term bonds and selling short term bonds in an effort to drive long term rates even further down.

Long term rates are absurdly low.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Bloomberg TV link

I did a Bloomberg TV interview this morning on Euro debt crisis. I can't seem to insert the video here, so you'll have to follow the link if you're curious.

Update: I figured out how to embed bloomberg vidoes!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A glimmer of hope?

Weekend Update.

On Monday the Greeks decide whether to vote for the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus to solve their fiscal problems. What is Europe planning to do next?

Sunday's New York Times had an unusually cogent article on European events over the weekend, reporting on events with thoughtful analysis:

Friday, June 15, 2012

Euro explosion

The European bank run is on, and with it the slow-motion train wreck  will move to high speed.

The Wall Street Journal reports €600 to 900 million  a day are flowing out of Greek banks, and  the outflow may rise above a billion euros per day. At the end of April there were only €166 Billion deposits to flow. Count the days.  And Greeks -- those who can't move money abroad or move themselves abroad -- are "hiding money in jars, under the bed, even burying it in the mountains."

In related news, I read last week say that payments are simply stopping in Greece. If there's a chance to pay in Drachma next month, why pay in euros now? Shipments are stopping -- if your invoice might get paid in drachma, no point in sending goods today. This is simple implosion.  Spain has already lost about € 100 billion of bank deposits and Italy is losing them quickly.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Crony Capitalism

Luigi Zingales has a nice Wall Street Journal oped today, decrying how crony capitalism has ruined Italy and is on its way to doing so in the US. A tidbit:
In Italy today, even emergency-room doctors gain promotions on the basis of political affiliation. Instead of being told to study, young people are urged to "carry the bag" for powerful people in the hope of winning favors.
Related, the University of Chicago Magazine had a very nice article by Dario Maestripieri explaining just how Italian academia works. Another tidbit:

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I almost agree with Summers

Larry Summers has an interesting pair of Opeds in the Washington Post and on Reuters. By picking and choosing just a bit, I can find a lot to agree with -- and I can point to the central factual question separating his view and mine.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Economist's Haiku for Europe

A lovely letter to the Economist says it all.

Leaving the euro zone is no option for Greece (“Fiddling while Athens burns”, May 19th). The new drachma would be valueless, as there would be no demand for it. A country that finds it difficult to run its fiscal affairs cannot manage a national currency. The restored drachma would stay in circulation only if the Greeks were denied access to foreign exchange, preventing the informal use of the euro. That would require draconian exchange controls of the type put in place by Germany after the first world war, which ensured the circulation of the depreciating mark during a period of hyperinflation.

What can Europe do for Greece? It can provide it with a stable monetary unit: the euro. What can Europe not do for Greece? Well, it cannot give it a sound fiscal system. The Greeks have to achieve that themselves if they wish to remain a sovereign country.

Ernst Juerg Weber
Associate professor of economics
University of Western Australia

Good news from Europe

This morning's Wall Street Journal article on renewed bank competition in Europe is one little bright spot. Apparently, large healthy international banks are competing for deposits in Greece, Spain and Italy.