Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Taking It Back

Bit by bit much of the "privatized" aspects of London's public transportation system have been clawed back, with the process likely to continue. One could ask why that's good for the place where all the powerful people in the country live, and not for most of the rest of the country, where, for example, privatized bus fares are ridiculous and service often horrible, but that would be very rude indeed.

We Don't Want To Be Like Manhattan

One of the weird cultural things in the US is the equation of "urban" with "downtown" and "downtown" with "Manhattan-like." Basically, the city is where the skyscrapers are. NIMBYism related to density in urban areas that experience it (San Francisco especially these days) always raises the specter of 2-3 story residential neighborhoods being turned into "Manhattan" (And by Manhattan they mean Midtown or Downtown. You know, where the skyscrapers are).

Not everybody wants to live in Manhattan! Fair enough. But not even Manhattan is the "Manhattan" of the imagination. More importantly, the choice isn't between 2-3 floor detached single family homes and Manhattan. There's a big range inbetween. Aside from taking the pressure off of rents (no, realistic supply increases aren't going to crater SF rents, but they will at least temper increases a bit), a bit more density can maximize the value of those expensive transit links, provide more local demand for local businesses, and decrease per capita car use. The latter is important because those cars take up a lot of space!

City-as-skyscraperville was a pretty modern American development. Really only recently have tall buildings gone up in central London, and many European cities have them only on the outskirts if at all. But those cities are cities.

Is That You, Alamo Girl?

Ah the 90s are back. So exciting.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tuesday Late Night

Tomorrow is...

This Blog Contains Multitudes

Unfortunately I've forgotten most of it. Fortunately I have readers with better memory than I have. The CEO of Mylan, the EpiPen Price Gouging Corporation, is Heather Bresch, the daughter of Senator Manchin. There was a bit of a controversy about her academics awhile back, though shockingly she's managed to do quite well in spite of it. Maybe that ethics class was one of the ones she missed.

(thanks to reader jh for the reminder)

The Only Way To Get A Good Resolution

The company that makes EpiPens has decided to gouge the hell out of people. There's nothing magical about the drugs. They're cheap and off patent. It's the delivery device. No one's having any luck getting a quality competitor past the FDA.

Will this crisis be solved? It probably depends on how many members of Congress have family members who need them.

Because that's how things work. Oh, and the CEO of the company that makes them just happens to be the daughter of another US senator. Because that's how things work, too.

Silly Paul

In New York City, all of the food is locally sourced and fresh local produce is available 11.5 months per year, much of it obtained through urban foraging, producing the finest possible native New York cuisine. How they do it just north of the New Jersey border is a bit of a mystery, I admit.

Afternoon Thread



I also generally have a dim view of the organized Good Government organizations/institutions. The general "money and politics" issue is one of whack-a-mole, and the long focus on federal campaign contributions (largely rendered moot by Citizens United and its legal and cultural consequences) never seemed to do much other than raise compliance costs, and therefore the entry bar, significantly. Admittedly my views were somewhat colored by the attempt to make talking about politics on the internet illegal.

Other reforms, such as top 2 primaries, seem to be an agenda without a purpose. This will be better. Why? Because it will. Why? Because it will reduce the role of political parties. Why would that be good? Because Mr. Smith can go to Washington then, or something. This process will lead to better outcomes. What would those better outcomes be? Well they'd just be better. Why? Because something. How do you define a better outcome? An outcome that is a consequence of this better process.

I Just Thought They Were Too Busy Buying Skinny Jeans

Such a mystery why those kids today behave in this weird incomprehensible fashion.
One, they’re putting off getting married, which many still see as a prerequisite to homeownership. (Though a large chunk of millennials, I should note, instead view homeownership as a prerequisite to marriage.)

Two — and this is part of the reason they’re delaying marriage, too — is that they’re poor.

Relative to earlier generations, today’s cohort of young people is making less money, given their levels of education; more indebted with student loans; more likely to be underemployed; struggling harder to sock away savings; and facing shallower income-growth trajectories.

In short: Millennials want to buy houses, but they simply can’t afford to.

Nah. Must be because they just aren't mature like We Were when we were The Kids Today. Built our homes ourselves, we did, after putting our way through college on summer jobs while taking care of 3 children.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Monday Night

Tomorrow is...

Dumped By Trump

I am curious what Chris Christie thought he'd get out of humping Trump's leg, and why Trump seems to have basically dumped him (not just for Pence as VP, but generally). Yah I know Christie popped up for Trump's national security briefing, or whatever, but it's hard to believe he's still one of The Donald's favorite sons. But even if Trump wins it doesn't seem like there will be many table scraps for Christie, and he probably won't win, so he continues to hang that anchor around his neck because...?

Trump Nation

Whatever happens this November, a scary number of people are going to vote for Trump.

Saw my first South Philly house with a (not ironic) Trump sign yesterday. There was also a pope display in the window (generic Catholic pope figure/St. Peter's model, not a specific pope .that I could tell).

Make America great again.

Afternoon thread


It's New

There are genuine difficulties - and of course costs - of maintaining legacy systems, but the JFK AirTrain is new. It shouldn't already be deteriorating to the point where headways need to be significantly cut. And the Port Authority can always find extra money in one of its several back pockets.

Let Us Know How That Worked Out In About 40 Years

In my dealings with people who were paid lots of money (and not) to think deep thoughts about retirement issues, there were 3 basic things I came across:

1) Expanding Social Security is unpossible and/or undesirable. As for the former, things in politics are unpossible until they aren't. And as for undesirable, the reasons were quite clear: ????? .

2) Even for people who weren't trying to (or in the wake of Bush's failure, didn't want to be seen as trying to) privatize Social Security, there was an obsession with people have a savings account that required some sort of personal responsibility. As in, you needed an account with your name on it and you needed to choose to put some money in it. Well, ok, that wasn't working, so we'll give you the option to opt out but you still have to choose not to opt out.

3) Since 401Ks had failed to provide for retirement, privatization wasn't (this week) going to happen, and Social Security expansion was unpossible and/or undesirable because ?????? what would be great is yet another exciting new program run by the states. One more account! One more thing to keep track of! One more pile of paperwork! But it will have your name on it! And you will choose to save! Or not save! Very Important! And it will be an account! With your name on it!

What's left largely unsaid is that the current system has failed, and the exciting plan to "fix" the failed system is run the same experiment, with minor tweaks, over for another 40 years and see how that works. Of course if you just grab your trusty envelope back and do The Math, the pittance people will save in these exciting new plans will be just that, a pittance.

Another benefit of the state-sponsored plans will be to allow more workers to benefit from the Saver’s Credit, a federal tax credit that goes to low- and moderate-income Americans who contribute to a retirement account. Under this credit, savers are eligible to receive up to $1,000 in what’s essentially a savings match. The National Institute on Retirement Security and the Aspen Institute estimates that nearly five million people living in the Secure Choice states could become eligible for the credit as a result of being enrolled in their state’s new plan. And if Congress ever decides to make the Saver’s Credit refundable, a move many policy experts and advocates endorse, the credit’s reach – and boost to savings – would be even larger.


The success of these efforts carries a potential dual prize: the ability of millions of hard-working Americans to save in their own retirement accounts for the very first time, and a potentially valuable model for how government can help solve the retirement crisis.

Their very own retirement accounts! A ONE THOUSAND DOLLAR MATCH requiring yet another line on the damn tax form, another bunch of paperwork to keep track of. Invest in GM stock now, in about 40 years those Cadillacs are going to be zooming out of the showroom, especially the self-driving ones. 20somethings will retire rich!

As for people near retirement now. Well, they fucked up. They trusted us!

The Real Story

No media figure did more to help Donald out during the primary than Morning Joseph did. He basically handed his show over to Trump. Such gratitude.

Anyone seen Chris Christie lately?

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Late Night

Rock on.



Afternoon thread


Borrow Everything You Can

In the late 80s-90s, the advice given to people going to college was to borrow every cent you were approved for. They were low interest loans and, you know, they were student loans! They were like nice loans with nice lenders. Practically free money!

Thanks for the advice, Old Economy Steves.

Maybe They Know Him

One amusing thing about this election is the consistent and unrelenting contempt the NY Daily News has had for Trump. All the way back to the beginning...