Workers & Economic Inequality

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Detroit on the Road to Transit Ruin Thanks To Michigan Gas Tax Initiative

TCF policy associate Jake Anbinder goes over the dropping gas price repercussions in Detroit, saying that much of the city's transit service is motivated by divided political efforts. He says that funding for city-wide transportation systems is rare and the ability for local and state transit authorities to agree on policy is even rarer, leaving riders at a loss for effective, wide-spread transportation networks.

To some extent, though, it’s a problem that affects nearly every major American city. In the 41 urban areas in the U.S. with more than 1 million people, there are currently 247 distinct transit agencies, according to the American Public Transportation Association — an average of six per metro region. The rare areas with just one transit agency, Jacksonville and San Antonio among them, tend, unsurprisingly, to have fewer political divisions.

Read Anbinder's full article featured in US News & World Report.

Tags: transportation costs, transition programs, state funding, michigan, detroit bankruptcy

The Surprising Savings From Mortgage Refinancing

With the economy back in check and some modest growth happening, TCF fellow and economist Mark Thoma says "homeowners are missing out on billions of dollars in potential savings" and might consider refinancing their mortgages. Thoma gives a non-technical overview of what a refinancing might look like:

"... a household with a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage of $200,000 at an interest rate of 6.5 percent that refinances when rates fall to 4.5 percent will save over $80,000 in interest payments over the life of the loan, even after accounting for typical refinancing costs. With long-term mortgage rates at roughly 3.35 percent, this same household would save roughly $130,000 over the life of the loan by refinancing."

Read the full article featured in CBS Moneywatch.

Tags: mortgage refinancing, mortgage crisis, loan rates

Europe Stinks, Japan Re-Stinking, China Slowing: Alpert

TCF fellow and Westwood Capital Founder Daniel Alpert speaks on Bloomberg Surveillance's show "This Matters Now" about the role of the U.S. in the global economy.

Watch what Alpert has to say in his Bloomberg interview.

Tags: us treasury, global economy, federal reserve board, china

Will Low Gas Prices Hurt Mass Transit?

TCF policy associate Jake Anbinder explains some of the trends associated with the recent downturn in gas prices and what it means for public transit ridership. He says that there may be less correlation between gas price and transit use than was expected, with changes in ridership more likely to be associated with cultural changes. Anbinder also explains that changes in ridership is highly linked to location with uneven growth patterns across the country.

The key indicators for mass transit will come from those booming urban areas in the south and west of the country — cities in which people own cars, but where effective land use and transit planning have the potential to reduce the need for them.

It's in those cities, where low gas prices have the potential to do the most damage to nascent transit projects, that the war for the future of public transportation is being waged. And if the recent past is any precedent, they exhibit a troubling lack of consistency when it comes to the growth of mass transit.

Read Anbinder's full article.

Tags: transportation costs, public transit ridership, gas infrastructure

Low-income loans didn’t cause the financial crisis

TCF fellow Mark Thoma goes over the reasons typically cited for what caused the financial crisis including a lack of regulation, financial innovation that didn't live up to its promise, and low interest rates from the Fed. He says that it is a constant debate between "those who claim lack of financial sector regulation caused the crisis and those who claim overregulation." Thoma reports that today's evidence "points away from those who claim overzealous government regulation was at fault."

"While there was a rapid expansion in overall mortgage origination during this time period, the fraction of new mortgage dollars going to each income group was stable. In other words, the poor did not represent a higher fraction of the mortgage loans originated over the period. In addition, borrowers in the middle and top of the distribution are the ones that contributed most significantly to the increase in mortgages in default after 2007. Taken together, the evidence in the paper suggests that there was no decoupling of mortgage growth from income growth where unsustainable credit was flowing disproportionally to poor people."

Read Thoma's full article from CBS Monewatch.

Tags: regulation, interest rates, financial crisis

Foreign Policy Wins Obama Could Still Pull Off

Despite being called a "lame-duck" president for the remainder of his second term in office, President Obama has shown that he intends to throw some curveballs at Congress despite their clashing viewpoints on both foreign and domestic policy. TCF fellow Thanassis Cambanis suggests the daring president is capable of taking a stand on torture, reach a detente with North Korea, establish a deal-to-end-all-deals with Iran, and put some distance between the US and Israel.

Despite keeping his promises to end two wars and to reestablish America’s power to persuade, not just coerce, Obama has drawn some scorn as a foreign policy president. Poobahs across the spectrum from right to left have derided him for not having a policy (drifting on Syria, passively responding to the Arab Spring), for naively pursuing diplomacy (the reset with Russia, the pivot to Asia), for adopting his predecessor’s militarism (the surge in Afghanistan, the war on ISIS).

But, free from any future elections, the president may finally be at liberty to engineer bigger symbolic moves, like the recent rapprochement with Cuba. He can even try for politically unpopular policy realignments that would ultimately benefit his successor.

The full article was published in Boston Globe.

Tags: president obama, north korea, lame duck president, israel palestine peace, foreign policy, domestic policy


Workers & Economic Inequality

Workers & Economic Inequality

In recent decades, and especially since 2000, the richest Americans have enjoyed soaring income and wealth while the rest of the population's living standards have stagnated. The Century Foundation was one of the first institutions to raise serious concerns about these trends and propose ideas for improving economic conditions for all Americans- not just the fortunate few.

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