Assorted Links (7/31/2010)

Here’s a list of articles that I have been reading lately:

Obama Declares Auto Bailout a Success –

“The president said last year’s $60 billion rescue of GM and Chrysler saved an estimated one million jobs… Alan Blinder of Princeton University and Mark Zandi of Moody’s, estimated that the rescue of GM during by the Bush and Obama administrations ultimately will cost taxpayers about $29 billion. They said the ultimate cost of helping Chrysler will come to $8 billion.”

If the Blinder/Zandi estimates are reasonably accurate, and if we take President Obama at his word (notwithstanding my previous critiques concerning the administration’s “jobs created or saved” metric), this comes out to a cost per job “saved” of $37,000.  It is important and quite necessary here that we distinguish between the concepts of “direct” and “indirect” costs.  The Blinder/Zandi estimates represent direct costs associated with the bailouts; i.e., actual net cash flow provided by taxpayers which can be attributed to the GM and Chrysler bailouts.  Unfortunately, we’ll have to live with the much larger “indirect” costs for many years to come. As the late economist Milton Friedman was fond of pointing out, capitalism is a profit and loss system. Profits encourage risk taking, whereas losses encourage prudence. However, when taxpayers absorb losses instead of investors, this encourages investors to engage in reckless and imprudent risk taking. For more on the corrosive effects of bailouts and crony capitalism, be sure to read Russ Roberts’ succinct (and non-technical) essay entitled “How Little We Know: The Challenges of Financial Reform” (see

Are Bonds Expensive? Stocks Cheap? Or Both? –

“After consistently lagging behind bond performance this year, stocks appear historically cheap compared to bonds, offering investors reason to favor stocks, particularly if they are optimistic about the economic outlook. But stocks may be cheap because the outlook is dim, meaning bonds—from Treasurys to corporate debt—could continue to outperform for the foreseeable future.”

Alternative Ways to Gather Census Data –

“The Census Bureau combines threats of penalties with painstaking follow-up to track down census evaders and gather a complete survey of the U.S. population. Some data experts say a European-style registration system would be more accurate and cheaper.”

The Democrats Have a Concentration Problem — The American, A Magazine of Ideas

“Will Republicans gain the net 40 seats they need for a majority in the House? Several factors will certainly help.”

Peak Water –

“The Wall Street Journal writes that solar power mandates can reduce water supply in Southwestern states.”

Ron Radosh: Oliver Stone’s ‘Empathy’ for Hitler –

In The Wall Street Journal, Ron Radosh writes that Oliver Stone’s new documentary on America’s ‘secret history’ will be just another far left narrative.

Afghanistan, July, 2010 – The Big Picture –

Kim Strassel: A GOP Energy Alternative –

“In The Wall Street Journal, Potomac Watch columnist Kimberley Strassel says Devin Nunes’s nuclear proposal would do more to reduce carbon emissions than any Democratic plan on the table.”

Peter Ferrara: Beware the Balanced Budget Deal –

“In the Wall Street Journal, Peter Ferrara of the Institute for Policy Innovation argues that Washington’s usual approach to balancing the federal budget never works. Instead, tax cuts and major entitlement reform are required.”

Joseph R. Mason: Congress’s Hugo Chavez Bailout Bill –

“In the Wall Street Journal, Joseph Mason writes that proposed changes to the tax code would cost U.S. jobs and strengthen foreign competitors like China and Venezuela.”

Peggy Noonan: Try a Little Tenderness –

“Peggy Noonan argues in The Wall Street Journal that Chris Christie, not the Tea Party, is the model for the Republicans.”

Newt Gingrich and David Merritt: Who Decides on Health Care Value? –

“In the Wall Street Journal, Newt Gingrich and David Merritt report that new rules to micromanage insurance companies could cost patients.”

Charitable Giving in a Recession – Freakonomics Blog –

“A new report, based on the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy’s Individual Giving Model (IGM), estimates that individual charitable giving was down 4.9% percent in 2009.”

Faithless Lawmakers –

“James Taranto on why the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact should die.”

Doctors fleeing faster | medicare, doctors, patients – Opinion – The Orange County Register

Quoting from this article’s conclusion: “The solution? Putting doctors and patients, not government bureaucrats, in charge of medical decisions. Congress must restructure Medicare to allow seniors more choice and control over their health spending, including allowing them to continue to join private plans with incentives for doctors to provide more efficient care, and to get paid enough to continue seeing patients.” The approach to reform outlined in this article is logically consistent with the approach that I outlined on my blog in August 2009 (see “My preferred approach for reforming health care…“).