Tuesday, December 22, 2009


[] Paul Krugman gets a memo from the top...
Management wants me to make it clear that in my last column I wasn’t endorsing inappropriate threats against Mr. Lieberman.
... only appropriate ones.

[] General Motors to be saved by chrome. Apparently it takes the nationalization of a business to free the creative minds in it to think so ... creatively.

[] Stymied in your last minute Christmas shopping? Here's stuff white people like, and here is a guide from the New York Times about stuff giftees of color like. Of course, the former is a joke while the latter, being from the New York Times, is entirely serious.

[] Who gets arrested and pays the price when the federal government breaks the law?
...the National Debt as posted by the Treasury Department has - at least numerically - exceeded the statutory Debt Limit approved by Congress last February as part of the Recovery Act stimulus bill.

The ceiling was set at $12.104 trillion dollars. The latest posting by Treasury shows the National Debt at nearly $12.135 trillion.
But not to worry...
A senior Treasury official told CBS News that the department has some "extraordinary accounting tools" it can use to give the government breathing room in the range of $150 billion when the Debt exceeds the Debt Ceiling.
When the executives at Enron used "extraordinary accounting tools" to cover up nowhere near $150 billion they went to the slammer. But shhhh ... don't tell anyone.

[] Talk about intergenerational transfers: They mayor of Pittsburgh this week tried to drop a tax on tuition paid by college students to fund pensions for city employees...
The tax, which would take effect as early as July, would range from about $20 a year for students at cheaper schools like the Community College of Allegheny County to just over $400 for students at the city’s priciest university, Carnegie Mellon.

Politically, Mr. Ravenstahl risks few votes in leaning on universities for revenue because college students rarely vote in local elections...
They don't vote now. But if you want to motivate them to take their civic responsibilities more seriously, keep on this course -- which politicians will, you can be sure.

Meanwhile, on Monday, after considerable pushback, the tax proposal was withdrawn with the city's colleges agreeing to make a "volutary contribution" of an unspecified amount (reportedly "nowhere near" what the mayor wanted) instead.

This is just the tiny point of the topmost tip of the iceberg of intergenerational fiscal conflict coming into view, folks. The political dynamic of "oldsters vote, youngsters don't" has given politicians everywhere an incentive to make ever larger and larger unfunded promises of benefits to seniors that youngsters are going to have to pay -- now totalling, oh, $60 trillion or so at present value, and rising.

As long as the taxes have been low, the youngsters have gone along. But as the unfunded promises become due, forcing taxes to get higher and higher, as the youngsters themselves get older, if you tally up the incentives of all the parties, you can see for yourself how that may change.