As a topic, the economics of housing in North Dakota creates a significant amount of debate. This debate lacks consistency, ground rules, and facts. Most of the discussion takes place under the umbrella term of “affordable housing.” On numerous occasions I indicated the inadequacy of this term. The first problem is that it seems assumed the mere assertion of an “affordable housing” problem is adequate substitute for actual evidence of a problem. The second is a failure to recognize the differing nature of a potential problem when we are talking about a retired couple, a newly married young couple, or a family of five. An “affordable housing” problem for each of these three groups could look significantly different and require drastically different solutions. How much of a solution do we want? There are times it seems people want a 100% solution, by which I mean everyone that wants a house should have one in their price range. It is not that kind of world! Let’s make sure it is on the block they want too.
We reached that level finally. The straw man of a housing price issue in Grand Forks (and North Dakota for that matter)pushed us all into the merry old land of Oz. The article in the Grand Forks Herald (September 21, 2014 “A price problem?) is the latest effort in a litany of faulty economic reasoning.
Domestic abuse in the NFL seems to be the story that will not end. There are just too many plot twists or turns apparently. I have very little to say on the matter except I did discuss it with students so here is what I told them. First, I am amazed on the shock many have about this. This is a profession that heightens the aggression of the individuals and encourages them to physically dominate and overwhelm their opponent. Are NFL players expected to just turn this off when they go home? JT will laugh because, as I told my students, it seems like I can never turn off the economist in me. It is how I trained and what I do, whether at the office, at home, or out at the store. (That and JT tells me my brain works differently than others.) However, we expect NFL players to completely change into somebody else after the work day ends. So again, there is no justification or excuse for it, but it surprises me we do not hear about this more.
Thinking about fiscal policy dominates my time lately. Mostly my concern is with parsing the data in such a way to make sense of the various arguments out there about the proper course for fiscal policy. Recall that I doubt that anyone is willing to reduce spending by enough to balance the budget. So if we are to see balanced budgets at some point, the timing of that is a topic for another post, it seems likely to me that tax increases will be necessary. Anyway, those policy issues will be covered another day.
At least that is the case for the healthcare obligations of most states and local areas, though Robert Pozen points out that this is likely to change soon (available here). This is something I discussed when Detroit went through bankruptcy proceedings. Pension and healthcare obligations of the city made a contribution to the bankruptcy, but only because the broader electorate allow it. If we get accurate accounting and compel elected officials to use realistic discount rates there would be a better sense of the amount of these obligations. The proposed accounting changes are a step in the right direction, requiring more transparency and better assumptions.