James Pethokoukis

Wal-Mart and rent seeking

July 1, 2009

Government intrusion into the marketplace has so many unintended and unforeseen consequences — like Wal-Mart (!) coming out in favor of government mandate that employers provide health insurance. Why? Here is how a flabbergasted Heritage Foundation explains it:

The slim odds of cap-and-trade making it into law

July 1, 2009

A great point from Pete Davis over at Capital Gains and Games:

On April 1, 2009, 26 coal and manufacturing state Democrats joined all 41 Senate Republicans in favor of Senator Mike Johann’s (R-NE) amendment to the Budget Resolution, S.Con.Res.13, disallowing the use of “reconciliation” to pass a Climate Change bill.  “Reconciliation” would allow passage by a majority vote instead of the 60 votes normally needed to pass major bills.  It would also prevent extraneous killer amendments.  Some of those 26 Democrats may feel secure enough of their reelection chances to vote in favor of a Climate Change bill this fall, but many won’t.  That’s why I’d be surprised if the Senate can pass a Climate Change bill this year.  I could be proven wrong if President Obama can mount enough public pressure on those 26 Senate Democrats to turn them around, but that would be a tall order.

Why was Obama so wrongly optimistic on the economy?

July 1, 2009

So David Leonhardt of the NYT attempts to explain why the Obama administration was overly optimistic about the economy in its now-infamous “unemployment will not go above 8 percent” forecast:

Looking at the Consumer Financial Protection Agency

July 1, 2009

This is one of my favorite parts of the consumer protection bill:

The Agency shall have no authority under this section to declare an act or practice in connection with a transaction with a consumer for a consumer financial product or service to be unlawful on the grounds that such act or practice is unfair unless the Agency has a reasonable basis to conclude that the act or practice causes or is likely to cause substantial injury to consumers which is not reasonably avoidable by consumers and such substantial injury is not outweighed by countervailing benefits to consumers or to competition. In determining whether an act or practice is unfair, the Agency may consider established public policies as evidence to be considered with all other evidence.

Fed Succession Watch: Yellen the Dove

July 1, 2009

For SF Fed president Janet Yellen, it’s deflation first, inflation later:

I’ll put my cards on the table right away. I think the predominant risk is that inflation will be too low, not too high, over the next several years.  …  First of all, this very weak economy is, if anything, putting downward pressure on wages and prices. We have already seen a noticeable slowdown in wage growth and reports of wage cuts have become increasingly prevalent—a sign of the sacrifices that some workers are making to keep their employers afloat and preserve their jobs. Businesses are also cutting prices and profit margins to boost sales. Core inflation—a measure that excludes volatile food and energy prices—has drifted down below 2 percent. With unemployment already substantial and likely to rise further, the downward pressure on wages and prices should continue and could intensify.

Did Obama just raise your credit card rates?

July 1, 2009

Flood the White House switchboards! Considering that the government is about to be a 34 percent owner of Citigroup, couldn’t Team Obama have quashed the company’s decision to raise rates on 15 million cardholders — just as new curbs legislated by Congerss are about to kick in?