Penn IUR Launches New Public Finance Website

For the past year, I have been helping the Penn Institute for Urban Research develop a new website to serve as a repository for news, analysis, and data regarding state and local public finance, with a particular focus on underfunded pension liabilities. I am happy to announce that the website is now available for the public to access at www.PennIURPublicFinance.com.

Continue reading “Penn IUR Launches New Public Finance Website”

Reader Request: What Happened to All That Value?

I LOVE receiving feedback from readers, good or bad. Lately I’ve had trouble thinking of original ideas to write about. When I used to write every week for the Standard-Speaker, I never lacked for topics because readers emailed me all sorts of questions and opinions. I hope “Reader Request” will become a regular feature, but of course…that all depends on you, doesn’t it?

A reader asks: My 28-year-old son just purchased his first home. He has a job but makes very little money. Nonetheless, he was able to make this important first investment because the house was available for sale as a result of foreclosure. This economic circumstance reduced the price of the house to the point that, inspite of his meager means, he was able to afford it. Where did the difference in the foreclosed debt and the value in excess of the price he paid in the transaction come from? Ironically, he is entitled to the Government’s $8k tax credit for first-time home buyers which he did not need to affect the purchase. Continue reading “Reader Request: What Happened to All That Value?”

Don’t Ask a Journalist to Explain Real Estate Economics to You, Part II

No offense to Robert Samuelson, but I’m won’t be asking him to run the Treasury Department anytime soon.

Samuelson, a Washington Post columnist, calls Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac “economic mongrels” whose “losses stemmed from unrealistic ‘housing affordability goals’ [and] lax lending in pursuit of higher profits.” Not only is this statement factually incorrect, but nowhere in the entire op-ed does he explain why Fannie and Freddie exist in the first place. If you’re trying to criticize their policies and resolve the “question of what to do about” them, that’s kind of important.

In June 2009, I wrote one final op-ed for my most loyal readers. This one didn’t make it into the Hazleton Standard-Speaker, for which I had stopped writing a couple weeks earlier. Since there seems to be a lot of ignorance about the issues I discussed, let’s make it public:   Continue reading “Don’t Ask a Journalist to Explain Real Estate Economics to You, Part II”

29 Days To Go: Let’s All Take a Deep Breath

Black Friday is to many adults what Christmas is to children. We go crazy with credit cards as the little ones lose control over toys. As much as we’d like to think we’re more mature, we can be every bit as petty and myopic—and not just with Christmas shopping. From one of my columns in the Hazleton Standard-Speaker last December, consider this your Black Friday warning:

There’s one thing about Jdimytai Damour that I can’t get out of my head.

By now, you’ve heard Damour’s tragic story repeatedly. At the age of 34, the Wal-Mart worker was trampled to death by early-morning shoppers on Black Friday. You’ve probably heard all the moralizations, too—fingers wagged at the decline of moral values and the rise of consumerism—but here’s the part I just can’t shake: We killed him.   Continue reading “29 Days To Go: Let’s All Take a Deep Breath”