Define “Fair”

Some think the mortgage interest deduction from our income taxes is unfair. After all, says one such,

I can easily construct a situation in which a taxpayer essentially enjoys no [mortgage related] tax benefits whatsoever. How about the single individual or possibly a married couple without children, who make just enough to make ends meet but still cannot save to buy a house? Or possibly, they prefer renting to the onerous commitment of home ownership. There doesn’t appear to be any tax breaks for them.

The Wrong Question

Jim Angle, of Fox News, usually does better than this.

“Right now the savings that was projected to pay for all this spending [on Obamacare] is not being collected as originally projected,” said Charles Blahous, of the Mercatus Center. He estimated the law will eventually cost $200 billion a year by 2020.


“There was about $100 billion that was supposed to come in over the next 10 years from penalties on individuals, if they did not carry health insurance, penalties on employers, if they do not offer health insurance, and to date, those penalties have not been enforced,” Blahous said.

A…Misunderstanding…on the Supreme Court

The liberal wing of the Supreme Court is at it again. The three women of the wing are furthering their demand that women generally are entitled to get their contraceptives via OPM, rather than with the women’s own money—apparently, it seems, because these three female Justices think women generally are too helpless to have their own money. These three also are continuing their demand that access to contraceptives must take priority over the religious tenets of the ones they would require to make the provision.

Contradictions of the Export-Import Bank

The Export-Import Bank is a hoary, old financial institution with the purpose of facilitating American exports by providing financing or guaranteeing loans for cross-border transactions in which the private sector declines to participate.

There’s a hint there.

It may be that such government involvement might have done some good in the bad, old days before widespread free trade agreements. It may be, too, that tariffs were a good idea a long time ago. Or maybe not.

Free trade agreements signed since those days have facilitated lower prices, more freely moving “factors”—economist-speak for the goods that companies take in and process into goods that they then sell—and more freely moving labor.

The Uselessness of Obamacare

Here’s another example of the ineffectiveness of the Obama administration—of government generally—as a business manager. HHS’ Office of the Inspector General conducted a review of ObamaMart’s performance last fall and early winter—from October through the end of December—although it didn’t include four ObamaMart centers that chose not to comply with the IG’s request for information.

As of the first quarter of 2014, the Federal marketplace [ObamaMart] was unable to resolve about 2.6 million of 2.9 million inconsistencies because the CMS eligibility system was not fully operational. It was unable to resolve inconsistencies even if applicants submitted appropriate documentation.


Some Empirically Determined Pipeline Benefits

A study prepared by the SMU/Cox’ Maguire Energy Institute for the Consumer Energy Alliance has some interesting data from the Keystone XL leg that connects Cushing, OK, with Nederland, TX (built because it’s a purely domestic leg and so did not require President Barack Obama’s personal approval). The figure below presents a map of the pipeline and some proposed adjuncts to it. The Gulf Coast Project is the section of the Keystone XL pipeline project that connects the two towns, and it was open for business last January, so the empirical data are current.Keystone-System-Map

Status of Obamacare Six Months In

The preliminary results are not promising. And unsurprising.

Among those health-law marketplace enrollees who have seen a doctor or other health-care provider in the first quarter of this year, around 27% have significant health issues such as diabetes, psychiatric conditions, asthma, heart problems or cancer, the data show. That is sharply higher than the rate of 16% for last year’s individual-consumer market over the same time frame, according to the data[.]

It is also more than double the rate among people who held on to their existing individual policies; among those enrollees, the rate was 12%.

In Which Russia Creates an Opportunity

Russia on Monday cut gas supplies to Ukraine as a payment deadline passed and negotiators failed to reach a deal on gas prices and unpaid bills amid continued fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine’s Naftogaz company head Andriy Kobolev said Russia had cut the supply of gas to Ukraine, but that Ukraine can manage without Russian gas until December.

There’s no reason at all we can’t fill this newly created market with American natural gas, even if it will take longer than next December to get the delivery chain up and running.

Our Economic Future

James Pethokoukis, at AEIdeas, has some thoughts. Oddly, so do I.

Pethokoukis first. He paraphrases Binyamin Appelbaum in New York Times:

…economist accept slower growth is partly the result of long-term trends…. [Y]ou have (a) the demographically-driven decline in labor force participation and (b) an apparent productivity slowdown starting in the mid-2000s as the pace of technological innovation and diffusion has slowed.

But these two are easily corrected. The “demographically-driven decline in labor force participation” is largely, if not primarily, the retirement of us Baby Boomers without associated replacement from births into existing and new families, much less an increase in that rate. (The long-term departure from the labor force by those who’ve given up finding work in this economy is a separate matter that policy corrections will resolve.)

“Green” Energy Loans Have Consequences

Fisker Automotive—the US electric car company that failed to repay roughly $139 million in federal loans [out of an original loan total of $192 million] before going bankrupt—is now owned by a Chinese company eager to unleash its cut-rate acquisition on the American auto industry.

The company’s assets were acquired earlier this year by China’s biggest auto parts supplier, Wanxiang Group, for $149.2 million in a US bankruptcy auction.


Wanxiang acquired A123 Systems [Fisker's battery supplier] in a 2012 bankruptcy sale, after the company failed to repay millions to the same federal loan program that helped Fisker.