Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Daily Dozen

  1. An easy-to-understand chart could simplify interest rates, card fees and payment terms for consumers. Rather than trying to regulate what forms and terms of credit banks can offer, the government would do far more good by passing regulations like the nutrition-label type of information to ensure transparency of information of credit terms to consumers and then let them decide if they want to eat accept them.
  2. What we know about the Apple tablet so far. More on what's cooking for Apple.
  3. Off the Wall: Astonishing 3D murals painted on the sides of buildings.
  4. Texting may be taking its toll. "Spurred by the unlimited texting plans offered by carriers like AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless, American teenagers sent and received an average of 2,272 text messages per month in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to the Nielsen Company — almost 80 messages a day, more than double the average of a year earlier. The phenomenon is beginning to worry physicians and psychologists, who say it is leading to anxiety, distraction in school, falling grades, repetitive stress injury and sleep deprivation."
  5. Better brain-wave analysis. A novel method of analyzing brain signals could guide stroke treatment.
  6. The Kindle file manager is awful. Agreed!!!
  7. Visualizing data in criminal justice.
  8. Can you believe it? New Yorker cover done on iPhone app.
  9. The memorial of the mind. "Ben Steele, one of the last surviving veterans from World War II’s Bataan Death March, still draws pictures from the war. These illustrations come from his sketchbooks from 1999 to 2008."
  10. When the Justices ask questions, be prepared to lose the case.
  11. Peter Leeson talks to Russ Roberts about the economics of 18th century pirates and what we can learn from their behavior. Check out Leeson's new book, The Invisible Hook.
  12. The healthcare-competitiveness fallacy. "A common argument, often made by ostensibly sophisticated commentators, is that the United States needs to reform its health care system to maintain its international competitiveness. Regardless of your views of health care reform, this particular argument is, to put it bluntly, nonsense." Indeed.


thinking said...

I agree about the need to simplify credit card disclosures, but that's also in the new credit card reform bill.

The law will require "Plain Language in Plain Sight" and model disclosures will be provided to credit card issuers.
Among other things, "pre-opening disclosures will highlight fees consumers may be charged and periodic statements will conspicuously display fees they have paid in the current month and the year to date as well as the reasons for those fees."

In addition credit card issuers will have to provide "real information about the financial consequences of decisions" including "how long it would take to pay off the existing balance – and the total interest cost – if the consumer paid only the minimum due."

We'll see how this plays out, but I do believe that out of this breakthrough new law we will see a far better disclosure than the mockup in that article. I am somewhat disappointed that the authors of that article could not bother to read the legislation to see that it goes beyond what they are calling for.

thinking said...

Respectfully, Mankiw is wrong.

CEPR: " If the United States could reform its health care system to be as cost-efficient as any of the 30 countries with longer life expectancies than ours, we would be projecting enormous budget surpluses rather than deficits."

CAP: "Americans spend twice as much per person as the average among other industrialized countries, and yet our life expectancy and infant mortality rates are below average."

CAP: "Rising health care costs put a particular burden on U.S. businesses, which have been the primary source of health coverage for nearly 75 years. Today, the majority of Americans—158 million people—receive health coverage from their job or a family member’s job."

If we can reform our healthcare system to deliver better results in a more efficient manner, and in the process lower our budget deficits, that has to improve our competitive position in the world.

Mankiw is a very bright guy, to say the very least, and deserving of much respect. But he also has the dubious distinction of having economic advisor to GW Bush on his resume, and was an unfortunate advocate of the Bush tax cuts when he knew better. He's on record for stating, among other things, that "under the president's proposals, the deficit will shrink from 4.2 percent of gross domestic product in 2004 to 1.7 percent in 2008."

As Matt Yglesias points out, Mankiw's views may be colored by the fact that he is "a former CEA Chair who hopes to work again in Republican Party politics."

To say it again, Mankiw is very smart and accomplished, but is hardly infallible.