James Pethokoukis

Is system risk regulation even possible?

September 24, 2009

Arthur Levitt, former chairman of the SEC, wants a systemic risk regulator who can serve as an “early warning system” and “director appropriate regulatory agencies to implement action.” (This is his House Fin Serv testimony.) I am not sure, ultimately, even the WH thinks this kind of prescience is possible. Anyone who could do that should be running money rather than serving in government. Better to tweak capital and leverage rules and force the big banks to show how they could be unwound — the “living will” idea.

The Fed as systemic risk regulator

September 24, 2009

In his testimony before the House Financial  Services Committee, economist Mark Zandi draws light to a problem I have been talking about and then offers a solution:

White House taking a flexible approach to financial reform

September 24, 2009

It was a revealing performance that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner gave on Wednesday before the House Financial Services Committee. and an important one. While Geithner frequently journeys to Capitol Hill, his latest appearance comes as the administration begins a new renews a push for passage of sweeping financial regulatory reform.

More evidence of rising trade protectionism

September 24, 2009

As Reuters reports it:

The United Steelworkers union, fresh from persuading President Barack Obama to restrict tire imports from China, filed a new case Wednesday asking for duties on coated paper from both China and Indonesia. The action came just one day after Chinese President Hu Jintao complained to Obama about the tires decision in a meeting on the sidelines of a United Nations summit in New York. … The steelworkers union, which represents workers in a number of industries, sees itself in a battle against what it believes are unfair foreign trade practices that have led to the loss of millions of U.S. manufacturing jobs. They are joined in their latest trade case by paper manufacturers NewPage Corp of Miamisburg, Ohio; Appleton Coated LLC of Kimberly, Wisconsin; and Sappi Fine Paper North America of Boston, Massachusetts, which together employ about 6,000 union workers at paper mills in nine states. … Unlike the steelworkers’ petition in the tires case, this complaint will not land on Obama’s desk. Instead, the U.S. International Trade Commission, a U.S. federal agency, will have the final word on whether anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties will be imposed after an investigation by the U.S. Commerce Department.

Study: Income inequality in America is overstated

September 23, 2009

First the summary of new research from economist Robert Gordon:

The rise in American inequality has been exaggerated both in magnitude and timing. Commentators lament the large gap between the growth rates of real median household income and of private sector productivity. This paper shows that a conceptually consistent measure of this growth gap over 1979 to 2007 is only one-tenth of the conventional measure. Further, the timing of the rise of inequality is often misunderstood. By some measures inequality stopped growing after 2000 and by others inequality has not grown since 1993. This cessation of inequality’s secular rise in 2000 is evident from the growth of Census mean vs. median income, and in the income share of the top one percent of the income distribution. The income share of the 91st to 95th percentile has not increased since 1983, and the income ratio of the 90th to 10th percentile has barely increased since 1986. Further, despite a transient decline in labor’s income share in 2000-06, by mid-2009 labor’s share had returned virtually to the same value as in 1983, 1991, and 2001.

Sarah Palin speaks! Some thoughts on her speech in Hong Kong

September 23, 2009

So Sarah Palin gave her big speech in Hong Kong. She talked about eliminating cap gains and estate taxes, giving people tax breaks to buy their own health insurance, and took a few shots at the Fed. That section was particularly interesting. (A bit of video here.) Here is the WSJ’s take:

Geithner on the Hill (live blogging)

September 23, 2009

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner speaks before the House Financial Services Committee on financial regulatory reform this morning and I am there.

Can Obama spend US back into prosperity?

September 22, 2009

Presidents, particularly Democrats it seems, love to try and attach catchy titles to their agendas. FDR’s New Deal and JFK’s New Frontier made for powerful branding. Bill Clinton’s New Covenant, not so much.

Social Security may be in worse trouble than we think

September 22, 2009

Over at Hot Air, Ed Morrissey has gotten hold of an internal CBO report distributed to Congress that  predicts Social Security will start running a cash deficit next year as opposed to 2019. And even that, apparently , is based on some pretty rosy revenue projections.  Indeed, over the span of  2017, 2018, 2019, SS will run a $126 billion deficit, according to the CBO. Gee, and you wonder why the Chinese are getting skittish about the dollar?

TARP and the 2010 election

September 22, 2009

The following quote is from a Democrat, Rep. Peter DeFazio, but I would not be surprised to hear a lot of GOPers say a similar thing on the campaign trail (via The Hill):