Trump's stealth attack on Social Security: "Chained CPI"

Trump was elected by old white people who are certain they'll be dead before climate change renders the planet uninhabitable, but who are also seriously invested in continuing to receive Social Security benefits, which is why Trump repeatedly promised to protect Social Security during the 2016 presidential race. Read the rest

Watch: Tim Wu debates trustbusting with Tyler Cowen, who just wrote "a love letter" to Big Business

Competition scholar Tim Wu (previously) is one of the most cogent, accessible voices in the antitrust debate; his recent book on the subject is a must-read; this week, he debated George Mason University scholar Tyler Cowen, proprietor of Marginal Revolution and one of the leading voices for the expansion of unfettered, unregulated capitalism -- he's the face of the notorious Mercatus Center, where rich donors choose the faculty and out pop arguments against universal health care and Net Neutrality. Read the rest

Buried in Uber's IPO, an aggressive plan to destroy all public transit

Uber is a wildly unprofitable company with no conceivable path to profitability in any universe, under any circumstances, but the company's founders and early investors (having already taken massive write-downs on their investments) are hoping to get at least some of their money back through the time-honored "greater fool" methodology. Specifically, they're floating the company on the stock market and hoping that naive investors hoping to wring above-inflation gains out of their 401(k)s and avoid being made into dog-food in their old age (we're waaaaay past the era in which impoverished old people get to eat dog-food) take their shares off their hands. Read the rest

In 2008 "synthetic CDOs" destroyed the global economy, and now they're back

"Collateralized Debt Obligations" (CDOs) are a financial derivative that is a kind of bond that pays out based on revenue generated by a pool of assets: for example, a giant hedge fund might buy thousands of homes whose owners went bankrupt and suffered through foreclosure, and then rent them out at the highest possible rent with the least possible maintenance, and this generates thousands of revenue streams. Small slices of the revenue streams from many properties are pooled together into individual CDOs and these are sold to investors: when you buy one of these, you get a little bit of the rent from each of the tenants in the hedge-fund's holdings (other assets can be pooled together too, like payments on car loans, student loans, etc etc). Read the rest

Chinese urbanization has left 25 million vacant homes in rural villages

China is undergoing the largest real-estate bubble in history, and things keep getting weirder and weirder, with the specter of a burst bubble looming overall. Read the rest

IPOs have sent Uber and Lyft fares skyrocketing, while driver pay plummets

The public markets are hungry: as Uber and Lyft look to IPOs to let their investors -- who have been subsidizing 40-50% of every ride -- redeem their shares through sales to the public capital markets, the companies are desperate for ways to reduce their unprofitability and increase those share prices. Read the rest

Brexit is cratering London house prices

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors' latest UK house price survey blames Brexit for continued declines in property prices in London and the southeast, "the worst slump since the financial crisis," with far more supply than demand. (via Naked Capitalism) Read the rest

The strange tale of Runescape's Communist republic

In 2007, a group of players in Runescape -- once billed as the world's most-played massively multiplayer game -- declared a Communist republic on Gielinor's Server 32, amid a revolution that saw 5,000 characters killed off in the fighting. Read the rest

Millennials are killing McMansions

It all seemed so innocent when architecture grad student Kate Wagner started pushing her charming brand of millennial snark on us with her acerbic critiques of gaudy, poorly executed monster homes, but architecture is no laughing matter. Read the rest

China's "pawn shops" have loaned $43B, mostly secured by real-estate

In reports of China's looming debt crisis, it's common to see references to the "shadow finance" or "shadow banking" system, but it's not always clear what these terms mean. Read the rest

A thorough defense of Modern Monetary Theory

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win" -- Gandhi's aphorism neatly describes the trajectory to date of Modern Monetary Theory, the latest incarnation of "chartalism," which holds that money comes into existence through government spending, and is taken out of circulation when the government taxes it back -- which means that without government deficit spending, there is no money, and which also means that the government doesn't have to fund its operations through taxes, but rather, it can issue as much currency as it needs to operate, within limits. Read the rest

Trump made history: introducing tax cuts made him LESS popular

Politicians love introducing tax-cuts, because they're reliable vote-getters, even if they're structured to blow up later by giving massive breaks to the super-rich and more modest breaks to middle-class voters, resulting in mounting deficits and eventual service cuts. Read the rest

Signs that China's real-estate bubble will burst and take the economy with it

China's real-estate bubble is the largest in human history, and despite years of warning signs, it has grown and grown, spilling over into the rest of the world. Read the rest

Thomas Piketty explains how Elizabeth Warren's wealth tax is American as apple pie

Last month, Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren proposed an annual tax on the largest fortunes in America, with some of the cash generated by the tax being funneled into the IRS to catch dodgers who move or hide their money to escape the tax. Read the rest

Bill Gates debates Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez 'tax the rich' policy

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates made some comments this week on the 'tax the rich' ideas making the rounds in America.

Taxing the rich is fine, he said in an interview with The Verge, and "more progressive" taxes on the ultra rich are okay.

Gates then went on to characterize Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as an 'extreme' politician who is missing the point by focusing on targeting high income brackets. Read the rest

If you work for a living, America taxes you at double the rate of wealthy investors with "unearned income"

Starting in the early 1990s with a Democratic Congress (and continued by other congresses, Republican and Democrat, since), the rate of tax on "passive, unearned income" has been in decline, but someone has to pay to keep Uncle Sam's lights on, so the tax on workers' wages have diverged, until today, when the tax bite out of a worker's wage is double the tax taken on wealthy investor with the same amount in "passive income." Read the rest

The Curse of Bigness: Tim Wu channels Brandeis on Big Tech (and Big Everything Else)

Tim Wu (previously) is best known for coining the term "Net Neutrality" but the way he got there was through antitrust and competition scholarship: in his latest book, The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age, Wu takes a sprightly-yet-maddening tour through the history of competition policy in the USA, which has its origins in curbing the near-limitless power of the robber barons in the name of creating a pluralistic, open society where anyone could participate, only to have this vision perverted by extremists from the Chicago School, who sold (with the help of wealthy backers) a wholly fictional version of what Congress intended with its antitrust rules. According to Chicago's version of things, the only thing antitrust should concern itself with is the highly technical and speculative question of "consumer harm" (in the form of higher prices) and not competition itself. Read the rest

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