Category Archives: Finance

Who is Treasury under secretary for international affairs?

The job of under secretary for international affairs at the US Treasury is a hugely important job which few people have ever heard of. It’s a political position, which means the decision as to who gets it is made not … Continue reading

Posted in Finance | 3 Comments

Race and mortgages

Everybody knows that American blacks pay more for their groceries than American whites do. The same, it seems, is true of mortgages. (Update: I just, you know, actually read this first sentence. And no, it doesn’t mean that American mortgages … Continue reading

Posted in Finance | 7 Comments

Stock and flow

I’ve already made it very clear what I think about credit cards: this post is an attempt to flesh out one theory of how and why they work the way they do – to the benefit of banks and the … Continue reading

Posted in Finance | 7 Comments

All counterfeiting statistics are bullshit

At the end of May, the US Congress passed the Stop Counterfeiting in Manufactured Goods Act. Faced with a huge and growing problem, the Congress acted decisively: simple possession of counterfeit labels can now mean the confiscation of an entire … Continue reading

Posted in Finance | 39 Comments

Is debt relief aid?

UK charity Action Aid has been getting quite a bit of press today with its report that only one-third of G7 overseas development assistance (ODA) is "real" aid. The rest, they say, is "phantom aid". (If you’re interested, the full … Continue reading

Posted in Finance | 4 Comments

Financial quacks

Whenever I rail against journalistic innumeracy, which is often, I tend to point out that journalists are normally creative arts-graduate types, who frequently have very little grasp of numbers. In turn, this means that they’re at risk of being taken … Continue reading

Posted in Finance | 9 Comments


Last year, I said some nice things about Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, or at least about an article they wrote in the New York Times Magazine: The best piece of all in the magazine, however, doesn’t look big, it … Continue reading

Posted in Finance | 27 Comments

Sweden and theWashington Consensus

Both Paul O’Mahoney and Stefan Geens link to a piece by Daniel Brook in Dissent magazine entitled "How Sweden Tweaked the Washington Consensus". It’s mainly interesting, I think, for confirming Stefan’s prejudice about leftists and their degree of understanding of … Continue reading

Posted in Finance | 6 Comments

232 Broome Street

I just got off the phone with a friend of mine. "You know everything, Felix," she said, perspicaciously. "Instead of buying a loft, would it be cheaper to buy a loft building and then convert it into lofts?" The answer, … Continue reading

Posted in Finance | 27 Comments

Tax deductions: Your questions answered

George W Bush would never raise taxes, oh no. But according to a trial balloon being floated today in the New York Times and a few weeks ago in the LA Times, he might eliminate tax deductions, especially those which … Continue reading

Posted in Finance | 14 Comments

Bootleg billions update

I wanted to ask the New York comptroller about the questions I raised in my bootleg billions blog, so I cast around for a respectable print publication I could do some reporting for. The New York Sun bit, and said … Continue reading

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Bootleg billions

Here comes that sales tax meme again. But whereas last year New York was losing $500 million a year in tax revenues due to trafficking of counterfeit trademark goods, this year that number seems to have doubled, to $1 billion … Continue reading

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Credit cards

The reason there was barely a recession at all following the US stock-market meltdown of 2000-2001 is usually explained by talk of "consumer spending". It would probably, however, it would be more accurate to thank credit cards instead. Most consumer … Continue reading

Posted in Finance | 10 Comments

Cheney’s $80 billion: The facts

Normally, this is a place for me to rant about stuff which I might care about, but can’t really claim to be any kind of an expert on. I’m breaking with tradition here, however, to pick on Dick Cheney for … Continue reading

Posted in Finance | 2 Comments

Blodget on Google

I was never a big fan of the Google IPO. I didn’t understand it when it was announced, and it looks even more stupid now that the prime reason for doing it – allowing big VC investors to monetize some … Continue reading

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Google IPO questions

I’m a financial journalist, but I’ve never pretended to understand the stock market. Bonds, yes; stocks, no. A recent Reuters story, for instance, includes this bizarre segue: “In a deal like that where it’s priced for perfection, anything that occurs … Continue reading

Posted in Finance | 14 Comments

Corporate profits

I got an email this morning pointing me to an entry at the Washington Monthly weblog, which essentially excerpted a longer post by Brad Delong. The heart of the argument is a graph, showing how corporate profits are going up, … Continue reading

Posted in Finance | 4 Comments

Postrel responds

Virginia Postrel has responded to my post of last week, on the subject of her take on federal highway spending. Basically, she doesn’t believe the numbers being bandied around Washington on the subject of how many jobs are created when … Continue reading

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Postrel, highways and jobs

One of the great things about blogs written by professional journalists is that they often contain a lot more information than gets printed. Newspaper columns, by their very nature, have to be a certain length and accessible to a wide … Continue reading

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Housing bubbles

Is the New York (indeed, the US) housing bubble going to burst? A look at the situation in the UK would suggest that it isn’t. Interest rates have already started rising there – but a new report says that 25 … Continue reading

Posted in Finance | 5 Comments

Globalisation’s commandments

Lance Knobel lists today Martin Wolf’s "ten commandments of globalisation," saying that "they make great good sense." I disagree: 1. The market economy is the only arrangement capable of generating sustained increases in prosperity, providing the underpinnings of liberal democracy … Continue reading

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Credit counselling services

The New York Times fronts a story today on not-for-profit credit-counselling services. Here’s the nut graf, which comes very high up for a NYT piece: The investigation could jeopardize the agencies’ nonprofit status and upend the industry just as a … Continue reading

Posted in Finance | 3 Comments

Why Bush should ignore the stock market

To keep my mind sharp, I like to spend a certain amount of time reading bloggers with whom I disagree, such as the estimable 2 Blowhards and the slightly less estimable Andrew Sullivan. Sullivan’s not so hot on rhetoric, but … Continue reading

Posted in Finance, Politics | 1 Comment

Eliot Spitzer vs Sandy Weill

New York’s attorney general, Eliot Spitzer, stood up in front of a Wall Street crowd last week to give a 20-minute speech. He started with a joke: he was glad he’d been invited, because he really wanted to put faces … Continue reading

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Krugman, Lewis and greed: an exchange

Although the entries on this website don’t get nearly as many comments as those of other bloggers, I do occasionally get an intelligent note in response to something I write. Such was the case yesterday evening, when Matthew Rose responded … Continue reading

Posted in Finance | 3 Comments