Economics

"Time to Phase Out the Strategic Petroleum Reserve"

Absolutely! This is an especially good point:

In the EU, responsibility for meeting stockpiling obligations was largely delegated to oil companies. There is no reason why the same approach could not be followed in the United States. Indeed, oil companies have every financial incentive to hold sufficient reserves to accommodate a potential interruption. That is just good business planning. According to the Energy Information Administration, private crude oil inventories stand at 511 million barrels. Absent the SPR, investors and oil companies would be able to handle most if not all but the most extreme disruptions, such as closing the Straits of Hormuz.


"Desperate Pension Funds Mull Buyouts"

"Some of the nation’s most overburdened state and local governments are considering an unprecedented strategy for defusing their public sector pension time bombs: Offering workers lump-sum payments worth somewhat less than their pension guarantees in the hopes that enough will accept to meaningfully reduce long-term costs."

I wish 'em luck, but I'm pessimistic.


"Make America Small Again"

Review of Yuval Levin's recent book. I certainly like this:

In Levin’s view, the best politics for a decentralized society is one based in subsidiarity, a concept which holds that because society is a complex web of institutions, with the whole structured like concentric rings, political challenges should be tackled as close to the local level as possible.


"The Facts about Medicaid Fraud"

Here's another one for the government-is-the-name-we-give-to-the-things-we-do-together baloney file:

In September, the Department of Health and Human Services sent out a warning that improper payments under Medicaid have become so common that they will account this year for almost 12 percent of total Medicaid spending — just shy of $140 billion. 

Nearly $140 billion. And that's just what the government admits to.


"Ironies" and "Mal-investing as policy"

In two short posts Peter Gordon argues for taking great care before indulging the building enthusiasm for lots more "infrastructure" spending. Like so many--Most? Almost all?--Liberal proposals, the intention is fine, but there is a serious question about the results.

The blinders seem to come on when the old-time religion, more public spending, is evoked. One can excuse the pandering and posturing [of] Clinton and Trump, but the smart people are another story.

(Unlike the more generous Professor Gordon, I don't excuse the pandering and posturing of our politicians. I'd like them to  just stop lying.)

See also Edward Glaeser's "If You Build It . . . Myths and realities about America’s infrastructure spending":

None of this is right. While infrastructure investment is often needed when cities or regions are already expanding, too often it goes to declining areas that don’t require it and winds up having little long-term economic benefit. As for fighting recessions, which require rapid response, it’s dauntingly hard in today’s regulatory environment to get infrastructure projects under way quickly and wisely. Centralized federal tax funding of these projects makes inefficiencies and waste even likelier, as Washington, driven by political calculations, gives the green light to bridges to nowhere, ill-considered high-speed rail projects, and other boondoggles. America needs an infrastructure renaissance, but we won’t get it by the federal government simply writing big checks. A far better model would be for infrastructure to be managed by independent but focused local public and private entities and funded primarily by user fees, not federal tax dollars.