Decades-long infatuation with financing our spending

By Cate Long
July 11, 2011

Decades-long infatuation with financing our spending

Sheila Bair, who served as Chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation for five years through the financial crisis, has completed her term. In a weekend op-ed in the Washington Post, she urges America to rid itself of its addiction to financing consumption and “growth” with debt. This is the core requirement for America to become financially stable again and to return to “real” growth. From Bair’s Washington Post oped:

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

By Cate Long
July 5, 2011

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Or “who watches the watchmen?” Credit-rating agencies are the main watchmen of the financial system.  But can we judge their performance, or are they just black holes filled with “opinions?”

The American Revolution was a beginning, not a consummation

By Cate Long
July 5, 2011

“The American Revolution was a beginning, not a consummation.” ~Woodrow Wilson

Muniland is the most transparent bond market

By Cate Long
July 1, 2011

Agnes Crane, a columnist for Reuters Breakingviews, wrote an interesting column today about ending the municipal-bond tax exemption. This tax exemption, granted at the federal level, makes the interest earned on municipal bonds free from taxation on the local, state and federal level if it’s owned by an investor residing at the place of issuance.

Don’t borrow in the dark, Governor Christie

By Cate Long
June 30, 2011

Every family encounters times when bills are due and they don’t have money. If this happens to a state or local government, they go to the municipal bond market where they can borrow short- or long-term. In the current market they are likely to find a lot of willing lenders.  These lenders will lend at very reasonable interest rates, and the terms of the borrowing will be made public so taxpayers can see what their obligations are.

The declining welfare rolls

By Cate Long
June 24, 2011

The ever-shrinking welfare rolls

Stateline has done some very good reporting on the decline of the welfare rolls. Welfare funding was switched to block grants in 1996, and the funding level has remained the same since then. From Stateline:

Standardizing AAA

By Cate Long
June 22, 2011

For many years, a AA-rated municipal bond did not have the same risk of default as a AA-rated corporate bond. In fact, the corporate bond was about 6 times more likely to default.

Auctioning off the infrastructure

By Cate Long
June 17, 2011


Fiscally-stressed municipalities have leased roads, airports and statehouses to private entities. I’ve never seen a good compendium of how these privatizations worked for various stakeholders. But it is fair to assume that private investors are attracted because there are ways to increase margins and make profits. A 2008 New York Times article identified some of the approaches used by investors:

Datapooloza

By Cate Long
June 8, 2011

The thing I hear most often about muniland is how murky the market is. It is rather astounding that the municipal market is so little understood given its size and its effects on state and local governments and tax rates. To help shake the market up and create more transparency, I thought it would be helpful to start gathering muniland data sets for people to start playing with. Have at it, friends. Please send over any interesting findings.

Tri-level sunshine

By Cate Long
June 2, 2011

Centers of power, by their nature, seek to control and hide information, but civil societies and stable governments require transparency to create the bedrock of confidence among their citizens. Every government must commit itself to open dealings and renew that commitment on an ongoing basis. We have good news from the state of Vermont that this commitment has spread to the state and local level.