The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Archive for the ‘economy’ Category

What? People who care might impact budget?

with one comment

Nate Silver, the bright statistical analyst over at FiveThirtyEight, points out that left-leaning Democrats in the House may have more influence on the debt ceiling/budget cutting wars than it seems: Mr. Boehner may not be able to pass a bill without their help.

Any what might that look like?

The payroll tax cut could be a winner all-around. It’s something most liberal Democrats would like, particularly if it comes on the employee side rather than the employer side or if it is specifically tied to job creation. It is one of the few vehicles available to Mr. Obama to provide for economic stimulus. And, given that the accounting in any deal is likely to be fuzzy, it might give Republicans some cover to say they had voted for tax reform rather than a net tax increase.

Maybe it’s a way to bring a tiny grain of “the least, first” priority to negotiations that appear to bode ill for America’s poor and middle class.

It’s worth reading, here.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Advertisements

Written by Monte

July 7, 2011 at 6:51 pm

Posted in economy, Politics

Feds offer lower payments on some existing student loans

with one comment

Today’s New York Times includes a story detailing a new payment plan available to people with lower incomes who are paying off student loans.

Perhaps it would be a help to you, or to someone you know.  Here are a few excerpts and links:

clipped from www.nytimes.com

New Plan Ties Reduced College Loan Payments to Income

For the first time in years, there is good news for college students who borrow to pay for their education.
Starting Wednesday, the federal Education Department will begin offering a repayment plan that lets graduates reduce their loan payments, based on their income.
While the interest rate cut applies to new loans, the new repayment option is available to borrowers who took out federal loans or who used a federal consolidation loan to combine their higher-education debts.
The extended payment program, called “income-based repayment,” limits what borrowers have to pay to 15 percent of the difference between their gross income and 150 percent of federal poverty guidelines. After borrowers make payments on loans for 25 years, the balance is forgiven. (The Education Department already offered an “income-contingent” repayment plan, which was similar, but less generous.)
the Education Department has set up a Web site with a calculator
blog it

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

A dramatic graph: income growth by income quintile

with 2 comments

Here’s another great find by the Freakonomics blog.

Dark bars, below, represent income growth across the economic spectrum from 1947-1973.  The least grew the most (br-r-ravo!), and the middle and upper classes did pretty well, too.

The light bars tell a more troubling story.  In recent times (73-05), the smallest incomes grew (as a percentage) the least.  In fact, without exception, the more income a quintile received, the greater was the percent of increase in that quintile’s paycheck. The least (thus), benefited least. The first, the most.

Put another way:  the economy disproportionately rewarded high-income people.  And it hasn’t always been this way.

clipped from freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com

Economic Growth Across the Income Distribution

Yes, we already know the facts — income inequality has been increasing since the 1970’s. But it can be easy to lose sight of just how important this has been. This presentation of the data — by Claudia Goldin and my former thesis advisor Larry Katz, really hits home:

INSERT DESCRIPTION
Note: The figure plots the annual percentage growth rate in mean real family income by quintile and for the top 5 percent of families for 1947 to 1973 and 1973 to 2005. Incomes are converted to constant dollars using the Consumer Price Index Research Series (CPI-U-RS). The income concept used is the official U.S. Census Bureau measure of pre-tax, post-transfer money income.
Read the full Goldin and Katz posting, over at VoxEU, for a deeper understanding of why. (Hint: It’s education.)
[T]hese data remind us that for most of the distribution there hasn’t been much income growth.

Seeing it in graphic form is startling, eh?

Follow the link to the original article to explore the thesis that this all springs from education issues.

Thought-provoking! What’s your take?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Amazing Falkirk Wheel replaces 11 boat-lifting locks

with 2 comments

OK, this is not exactly “Least, First” theme material.  But this dazzling canal lock story from Treehugger.com is too good to pass up.

Trace the traffic in the photo: Boats enter from the pool in the foreground (through the semi-circle) or the canal in the background (across the bridge), then ride the wheel—in a tray gizmo full of water—upstream or down. Yes, those tiny little windowy things way down at the bottom are the boats – pleasure barges.

Spawned by a design competition, the wheel’s balance is so perfect that it uses (with each four-minute rotation) only about as much electricity as it might take to boil a few tea-kettles.

clipped from www.treehugger.com

falkirk wheel overall photo

falkirk wheel animation
When I showed the amazing Peterborough lift lock, a commenter and Kottke both pointed out that the Falkirk Wheel in Scotland goes higher, faster. It was built as part of an attempt to regenerate canals in central Scotland, and replaces 11 locks that had fallen into disuse. It also is another example of the clever and original results that come from design competitions- it is now a serious attraction.
Like Peterborough, it relies on Archimedes principle to stay balanced; the weight of the boat displaces the same weight of water.

falkirk ring gear photo
The British government made a big investment in their canal system, (£17.5 million on the Wheel, £84.5 million on the canal revitalization). Unlike the proprietors of the Erie Canal in the States, they see that canals have a role to play in tourism and transportation.

falkirk wheel panorama photo
blog it

Zow, that is neat.  Wanna go?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Ford CEO’s foresight may save the company

with 3 comments

When’s the last time you read an inspiring story about a U.S. automaker?

Today’s New York Times has one.

Turns out that Ford’s CEO, Alan Mulally, saw a crisis coming back in 2006.   He led the company into sweeping—and, no doubt, highly controversial—transformation:

clipped from www.nytimes.com

On Nov. 29, 2006, the Ford Motor Company made a surprising pitch to the nation’s biggest banks. In a packed ballroom at a New York hotel, Ford’s chief executive, Alan R. Mulally, said he would mortgage all the company’s assets for billions of dollars in loans to finance an overhaul of the troubled automaker.[…]
Although the economy was healthy then, Mr. Mulally said the money would give Ford “a cushion to protect for a recession or other unexpected event.” […]
[T]he $23.6 billion in loans it received turned out to be Ford’s saving grace […]
Ford, because of the money it borrowed in the private sector nearly three years ago, is in far better shape than its two crosstown rivals. The loans have kept it independent, and on a course to survive the worst new-vehicle market in nearly 30 years. […]
“It was a defining moment for us,” Mr. Mulally said in an interview. “But they never would have been willing to lend us the money if we weren’t on a different path.”  Ford has accelerated along that path, pursuing a top-to-bottom transformation into smaller cars, fewer brands, and a leaner cost structure. […]
blog it
Ford Motor Company

Image via Wikipedia

Pretty courageous, seems to me. There’s lots more to the story – follow the link for many more intriguing details – but the upshot is that Ford today gets to say things like this:

“From Day One, we had no desire to access the government money,” […]

“Ninety-seven percent of the people know that Ford is not taking taxpayer money to create a viable company,” Mr. Mulally said. “This is America. This is about making products people want and being self sufficient.” […]

Think this CEO deserves a bonus?  He’s no saint, and he gets paid way too much money, and no one knows for sure yet if Ford can survive plunging car sales.

But at least he’s doing his job.

N.B.: The leave a comment button has moved to the top of each post.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Why we need government to attack poverty, too

with one comment

In recessions, when more people need help, most donors have less to give.

Many not-for-profits simply collapse.  Those that remain often move away from long-term indepence-developing programs, crowded by the increase in immediate needs.

Richard Florida, the economic geographer who writes of places, people, and prosperity, described the situation like this:

clipped from www.creativeclass.com
Richard Florida, an American urban studies the...

Image via Wikipedia

I spent this weekend with a friend who’s a retired corporate CEO, has a personal foundation that
supports local and international projects, and is very savvy in business, finance, and nonprofits. He said he’s heard that as many as half of U.S. nonprofits (charities) will go out of business during the current downturn […]

  • Many foundations, having seen their endowments dive with the stock market, are cutting back on large grants. In addition, they’re moving from longer-range capacity-building grants to meeting people’s immediate needs (as one foundation director put it, from philanthropy to charity).
  • Arts organizations are seeing their donations and audiences shrinking. Seasons are being cut back, shows canceled. Some of the weaker players are seeking mergers or takeovers by larger organizations.
  • Safety net organizations like free clinics and food banks are flooded with not only the poor but the formerly middle class.
  • Capital building campaigns are dead in the water.
  • blog it

    I’m no economist, but I see no means to sustain an attack on poverty without resources that are more stable and more broadly shared than voluntary contributions alone could ever be.

    Do you?


    Tags: , , , , , , , Monte Asbury

    Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

    Obama asks GOP for more than ‘Just say no’

    leave a comment »

    President Obama asks those in Congress who object to specific budget proposals to work on “problem solving” rather than “point-scoring,” in yesterday morning’s “Statement on the Budget:”
    clipped from www.dailykos.com
    The answers don’t have to be partisan, and I welcome and encourage proposals and improvements from both Democrats and Republicans in the coming days.

    {{Potd/-- (en)}}
    Image via Wikipedia

    But the one thing I will say is this:  With the magnitude of the challenges we face right now, what we need in Washington are not more political tactics — we need more good ideas.  We don’t need more point-scoring — we need more problem-solving.  So if there are members of Congress who object to specific policies and proposals in this budget, then I ask them to be ready and willing to propose constructive, alternative solutions.  If certain aspects of this budget people don’t think work, provide us some ideas in terms of what you do.  “Just say no” is the right advice to give your teenagers about drugs.  It is not an acceptable response to whatever economic policy is proposed by the other party.

    The American people sent us here to get things done
    Let’s pass a budget that puts this nation on the road to lasting prosperity.
    blog it
    Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

    Written by Monte

    March 18, 2009 at 12:43 pm