September 26, 2008

DT Friday Freakout: $700 Billion Dollars Worth Edition

Obviously, any freaking out you want to do over parenting and kid-related research pales in comparison to the seemingly thrown-together bailout of the global financial system. So let's cover that first, since our kids will still be paying for it 30 years from now:

  • This weekend's episode of This American Life will have an in-depth look at the momentary near-collapse of the commercial paper market, the B2B overnight financing system that is one of the bedrocks of the economy; it was this shock that prompted the US government's dramatic proposal of a $700 billion [or whatever] intervention. I'll add that link when it's available, but the excerpt of the report they played on NPR this evening was plenty riveting and all too easy to follow. []
  • Also, coming back from back to school night, I caught the last 20 or so minutes of a BBC special where global bankers, traders, and investment managers talked about details of the problems and possible solutions facing the world's financial systems. It was the most substantive discussion of this whole "crisis" I've heard all week, so different from the tone and content of politicians and US news commentators. The Goldman Asia guy in particular was sharp. The program was called, "BBC Debate: World Economy -- On the Brink." If you can, listen to the whole thing, do. [ via]
  • Everyone knows that vaccinations cause diabetes. If by "everyone," I mean some barely-a-doctor in Baltimore whose vaccine patent company is run out of his house and who publishes dubious-sounding research in "open" journals that draw inflammatory, over-reaching conclusions from correlative studies gleaned from other peoples' data. Seriously, you might as well use a BabyPlus to cure diabetes, people. Just sayin'. [thanks dt freakout correspondent sara]
  • A cohort study by researchers at NYU found that kids of women who were pregnant during the Six Day War in Israel had an increased likelihood of schizophrenia. Fortunately for kids born in the 21st century, the complete absence of war, terrorist attack, natural disaster, or financial collapse has eliminated all possible sources of prenatal stress, ushering in a blissful utopia. The study was published in the open journal [again with the open journal!] BMC Psychiatry [ via cnn video and so random]
  • Also, chlorinated swimming pools cause asthma. Especially with the young kids and their developing lungs. [abstract from May??: european respiratory journal; reuters/yahoo via sara]
  • A Catholic school in Manchester, England has banned its 12- and 13-year-old female students from receiving the NHS-sponsored HPV vaccine on campus. The school cites the vaccine's "possible side effects," like, I assume, lustful teenage whorishness. [telegraph uk via jj daddy-o]
  • I just have to stop there, I'm too freaked out.


    I'm glad they spent money on a study to say "war bad on children". I had no idea...

    So after your post I was thinking about this whole bailout thing in the shower, and I think I've got a better plan. Right now they are talking about using $700B to buy up a bunch of these bonds that are backed by junk mortgages. This helps the banks who don't want to (or can't afford to) hold junk anymore, but it doesn't address the underlying junkiness of the debt, or keep it from getting worse.

    Here's my idea: let's say there are 10 million mortgages in the US that are distressed (or potentially distressed). I'm pulling that number out of thin air- maybe it's more, maybe less. And let's further assume the average mortgage value on those properties is $300,000. That's $3T.

    How about if the government offered to pay down up to 25% of your mortgage- in exchange for 25% of the selling price of your house when you eventually sell?

    This would do a bunch of beneficial things: 1) Give a big capital injection to the banks holding these mortgages, 2) Greatly reduce the number of foreclosures, 3) Taxpayers would have a pretty good chance of getting most of that $750B back, 4) By freeing up several hundred dollars a month for people in these bad mortgages, we would inject a big chunk of cash into the economy, boosting spending.

    I think there would have to be some provision for refinancing people out of really terrible loans like option ARMs, but those are details. I've thought about this for 15 minutes, and I'm not an economist, but is this feasible?

    in a word, yeah. it sounds a bit like what Hillary Clinton proposed in the Wall St. Journal last week, a new version of the New Deal-era Home Owners' Loan Corporation, which did a combination of refinancing, writedowns, buyouts, and recapitalizations. I think that something like that would inevitably grow out of the current bailout, which still only kicks the question of troubled underlying mortgages down the field. If the US Govt ends up owning all these mortgages, they'll have to do something to avoid taking a total bath on them. I hope.

    Whoa dude, chlorine does NOT cause asthma. Chlorine disinfects pools from bacteria and all kinds of other nasty stuff like kids peeing in it -- Would you want to swim in a pool without chlorine?

    I'm pretty sure it's OK -- as evidenced by Olympic gold medal winner Michael Phelps.

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