Posts Tagged ‘wrvo’

New York State of Confusion

7 January 2010

Had the pleasure yesterday of being part of the local NPR station’s (the fabulous WRVO FM) coverage of New York Governor David Paterson’s State of the State address.  I was on as the “economic expert” regarding New York’s budget mess, a topic about which I admit to knowing very little (other than that I’m on both sides of the ledger, as a taxpayer and a SUNY professor).  Preparing for this stint was enlightening, but the enlightenment has a long way to go.

One thing I learned is that it’s maddeningly hard to get basic information about the New York State budget, like basic breakdowns of expenditures and receipts by category (a NYS equivalent of those pie charts that the IRS includes with the 1040 instructions would be most helpful).  Every line of the budget is published information, of course, so I’m not accusing anyone of suppressing it, but I have to think the public discourse about NYS’s fiscal mess would be better if people could find such basic information online.  (A colleague of mine said he’d read somewhere that New York does a much worse job than most other states of putting its budget info online.)  Once I get around to digging up this information in a library, I’ll post it.

In the meantime, here are some links that I found useful yesterday and some interesting things I learned:

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Symbiotic twin killings

11 June 2009

What caused the crisis?  It seems like most of the plausible answers I’ve heard come down to one of two basic explanations:

(1) “We were living beyond our means” — Congressman Dan Maffei (D-NY), in a WRVO Community Forum in Syracuse last week that included, um, me.  Sounded very reasonable coming from Congressman Maffei, less so coming from stockbroker/ investment advisor/ author Peter Schiff on the other night’s “Daily Show”, probably because of the diametrically opposite policy prescriptions the two draw.  Maffei backs the stimulus bill and wants to see the economy recover as soon as possible; Schiff is an adherent of the Austrian school and thinks a good old bloodletting (oops, “liquidation” or “correction”) is just what the doctor ordered.  Either way, this explanation has a lot going for it, as it explains the rash of subprime mortgage borrowing, home equity loans, maxed-out credit cards, etc.

(2) A “global savings glut” led to stock and housing bubbles, which finally burst — Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, Nobel economist / NYT columnist Paul Krugman.  The idea here is that while we spendthrift Americans were running up huge debts, people in other countries, notably China and Japan, as well as the minority of wealthy Americans with high savings rates, had large pools of savings seeking a good risk-adjusted return.   And they invested much of it here, in Treasury bonds, thereby keeping U.S. interest rates low; in the stock market, reinflating the late 1990s bubble; in the corporate bond market, lowering rates on all bonds, even junk bonds; and in real estate, largely through securitized collections of other people’s mortgages.  (By some accounts, demand created its own supply of mortgage-backed securities — after the 2001 stock debacle, investors were looking for an alternative to stocks and thought real estate looked promising.)  A particular problem here seems to be that many investors opted for wildly risky investment vehicles, like investing in “diverse” portfolios of dodgy mortgages or blindly handing their money over to a Bernie Madoff or a Robert Allen Stanford, without realizing they were risky.

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