Assorted Links (9/4/2010)

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

Amity Shlaes: How Government Unions Became So Powerful –

“In The Wall Street Journal, Amity Shlaes of the Council on Foreign Relations explains how the American workforce became divided between vulnerable private-sector workers and protected public-sector workers.”

Review & Outlook: Postcard From the NHS –

“The Wall Street Journal on Dr. Berwick’s health-care model at work.”

Is Your University Complying With the New Textbook Law? –

“University students are returning to campuses throughout the country. It is a migration that raises my spirits – seeing the energetic, eager faces tackling another course in contracts or intellectual property. But this year something is different. For the first time, a federal law has taken effect which requires “institution[s] of higher education receiving Federal financial assistance” to provide students with information on textbook pricing.”

‘Clunkers,’ a classic government folly

From the Department of Unintended Consequences: This article from the Boston Globe documents the effect of last fall’s “Cash for Clunkers” program on prices in the used car market today. Apparently used car prices are now higher because “…your Uncle Sam decided last year to destroy hundreds of thousands of perfectly good automobiles as part of its hare-brained Car Allowance Rebate System …or, as most of us called it, Cash for Clunkers. That was the program under which the government paid consumers up to $4,500 when they traded in an old car and bought a new one with better gas mileage. The traded-in cars – which had to be in drivable condition to qualify for the rebate – were then demolished: Dealers were required to chemically wreck each car’s engine, and send the car to be crushed or shredded…In short, Washington spent nearly $3 billion to raise the price of mobility for drivers on a budget.”

What Kinds of Tax Cuts are Best?

“With just two months until the November elections, the White House is seriously weighing a package of business tax breaks – potentially worth hundreds of billions of dollars – to spur hiring and combat Republican charges that Democratic tax policies hurt small businesses, according to people with knowledge of the deliberations.”

Interest rates and the US housing boom: A call for more research

“The debate over the cause of the US housing boom and bust is far from concluded. This column questions the explanation that low interest rates were a critical factor, arguing that it sits uneasily alongside theories of household behaviour and historical evidence. With the causes remaining uncertain, the authors call for more research in this area.”

A Lifetime of Career Changes – The Numbers Guy – WSJ

“Though it’s often said that the average American will have seven careers in a lifetime, there is no statistical support for that figure.”

Elaine Chao: Another Unhappy Labor Day –

“In the Wall Street Journal, former U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao writes that Americans are aware of the folly of Washington’s economic policies.”

Michael Boskin: Summer of Economic Discontent –

“Stanford University’s Michael Boskin writes in The Wall Street Journal that the Obama administration’s ‘summer of recovery’ has fizzled in almost every way imaginable. The growth rate is less than half what it was at this stage after the 1974-75 and 1981-82 recessions.”

Joe Queenan: Goodbye to the Clichés of Summer –

“In the Wall Street Journal, satirist Joe Queenan writes that somewhere among Julius Caesar, Edgar Degas, Lady Godiva and Lady Gaga, the word ‘legacy’ got hijacked.”

Where Columbia Beats Harvard: On the Battlefield of Curricula –

“James Piereson writes on The Wall Street Journal’s Taste page that away from the sports arena, Columbia beats Harvard on the battlefield of curricula. Excerpted from a longer version of his original article in the September issue of The New Criterion.”

Scott Brown: Want Middle East Peace? Deny Iran Nukes –

“In the Wall Street Journal, Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts writes that Israeli-Palestinian talks are good, but Tehran’s nuclear drive continues.”

The Small Business Tax Hike and the 97% Fallacy

“In the Wall Street Journal, Kevin A. Hassett and Alan D. Viard of the American Enterprise Institute write that the president’s plan to raise top marginal rates is holding back the very people who should be leading the economic recovery.”

Charles Krauthammer – Our distracted commander in chief

“Obama sees the war in Afghanistan as an unwanted interference with his true vocation.”

The Mosque’s Lesson on Loyalty

“Liberal charges of xenophobia reveal more about those making them than about those at whom they are aimed. This is not to say that those charges are merely cynical, that they are used only as weapons against the left’s political enemies. These charges, though misplaced, are sincerely made. And precisely because of their sincerity they shed light on contemporary liberalism, which is powerfully inclined to see xenophobia where it does not exist—or at least to regard as xenophobic thoughts and actions that most non-liberals regard as normal and just.”

The Generation That Can’t Move On Up: The Growing Gap Between Young Working-Clas

“Andrew Cherlin and W. Bradford Wilcox write on the Wall Street Journal Taste page about new statics and surveys that show a widening gap, both economic and social, between young people from working-class families, and the middle class.”

Bret Stephens: The Paula Abdul Theory of Foreign Policy –

“In the Wall Street Journal, Global View columnist Bret Stephens writes that self-esteem does not make for good policy (or singers).”

The Costs of War, Continued –

“As the Afghanistan conflict drags on, the costs of expected veterans’ benefits become a smaller fraction of the total cost of the conflict, an economist writes.”

Incentives Work for Pigeons. Can They Motivate American College Students? — The Amer

“How to improve the academic atmosphere of contemporary high schools and colleges.”

How to Tell When a CEO Is Lying –

“In a nifty piece of forensic analysis, two researchers claim to have figured out how to tell when executives are lying. David Larcker and Anastasia Zakolyukina analyzed 30,000 conference calls between 2003 and 2007 to see if certain “tells” during the call were associated with earnings that were later “materially restated.”

Build America Bonds

Here’s an interesting research paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research which provides a detailed assessment of the extent and nature of the federal subsidy given to state and local governments in the form “Build America Bonds” that were offered as part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: “In 2009, BABs offered an average yield of 3.69 percent. The federal subsidy brought down the cost of borrowing for states and local governments to 2.32 percent.”

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