Pages I refer to often

  • Income Distribution in the US
    How is our income distributed? Well, it is pretty concentrated. How concentrated? Take a look.
  • Progress and Poverty, by Henry George
    Here are links to online editions of George's landmark book, Progress & Poverty, including audio and a number of abridgments -- the shortest is 30 words! I commend this book to your attention, if you are concerned about economic justice, poverty, sprawl, energy use, pollution, wages, housing affordability. Its observations will change how you approach all these problems. A mind-opening experience!
  • Wealth Concentration Tables from 2004 SCF: Bottom 90%, Next 9% and Top 1%
    Aggregated data by net worth quantile, for various kinds of wealth. With calculations you won't find anywhere else!
  • Wealth Concentration Tables from 2004 SCF: 50-40-5-4-1
    These tables show how concentrated the ownership of various kinds of assets are. With calculations you won't find anywhere else! This version is less aggregated: Bottom 50%, Next 40%, Next 5%, Next 4% and Top 1%.


Books I Value

  • Henry George: Progress and Poverty: An inquiry into the cause of industrial depressions and of increase of want with increase of wealth ... The Remedy
    This is perhaps the most important book ever written on the subjects of poverty, political economy, how we might live together in a society dedicated to the ideals Americans claim to believe are self-evident. It will provide you new lenses through which to view many of our most serious problems and how we might go about solving them: poverty, sprawl, long commutes, despoilation of the environment, housing affordability, wealth concentration, income concentration, concentration of power, low wages, etc. Read it online, or in hardcopy.
  • Bob Drake's abridgement of Henry George's original: Progress and Poverty: Why There Are Recessions and Poverty Amid Plenty -- And What To Do About It!
    This is a very readable thought-by-thought updating of Henry George's longer book, written in the language of a newsweekly. A fine way to get to know Henry George's ideas. Available online at and

Where Else Might You Look?

Sites I enjoy

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« Let's talk about mortgages - #1 | Main | Those Shareholders who are being wiped out ... who are they? - or, "How's it trickling?" »

September 25, 2008


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ARMs (adjustable rate mortgages) are ONLY viable when interest rates are high (certainly above 6 or 7 percent).

In that environment, you're betting (wisely, I might add) that interest rates, long term, will probably decline, so you pay a very low rate up front and can often refinance a few years down the line at a lower fixed rate.

People who take on ARMs when interest rates are low, as they were between 2002 and 2006 are taking an incredible risk, as there's little question their rates (tied as they are to the Prime rate) WILL rise and it's NOT a wise bet to think that fixed rate mortgage rates will come down BELOW their historic lows any time soon.

AGAIN, there's no reason for a person to be "snookered." The research is OUR RESPONSIBILITY and EVERY bank and EVERY lender (mortgage broker) will give you the payback rates, etc.

I've bought three houses (and sold two) over the course of my life to date) and EVERY TIME, I did the research on what the costs would be (the repayment rates, the property taxes factored in monthly, average utility costs on that house, our living expenses, ETC.

EVERYONE involved in ANY process is there to MAKE MONEY. It's YOUR job and MINE to protect our own interests by doing "due dilligence" - the required research involved.


I can't disagree with anything you've said here.

But the time and ability to do the due diligence does not fit with everyone's aptitudes or ability to hire the sort of help it takes to do that DD.

The whole subprime experience leads me to wonder how soon it will be that someone proposes, again, that we should privatize Social Security and permit people who didn't have the time or skills or resources to research a mortgage fully to take full responsibility for investing their retirement funds themselves.

IBM's employees, for many decades, had specialists doing that. They didn't expect even their brightest computer scientists to also be experts in investments. (Now new employees are on their own, with 401(k)s. Likely theirs are better chosen than in many corporations, but I'm willing to bet that the aggregate results on those 401(k)s are far below what IBM's pension fund achieves year in and year out.)

Then, of course, one could hire someone for a mere 1.5% of assets each year. And probably not do too much better.

That will be another post.


Here's the thing, we ALL do that same "due dilligence" and research when we buy a car, or make any number of least MOST people do.

It really doesn't take all that much aptitude to figure out how much one takes home in total income and then begin deducting one's expenses new/upcoming or old/current ones and deciding if we can take on a certain mortgage or not.

You don't even need the banks to give you that payout sheet, as a rule of thumb 6% over thirty years is roughly $600/mth, take a percentage as "roughly" $100/mth gives you a rough and if anything, a slight OVER-estimation of your mortgage costs, then just add your new property taxes, utilities, etc.

The primary problem with the sub-prime mess was actually the REVERSE of what most Liberals are claiming it is - it's due to OVER-regulation, not any lack of regulation.

The push by the likes of Frank and Dodd to force banks to loan to "poorer Americans" by eviscerating traditional lending standards was the PRIMARY cause of the current crisis because it created an ethos of poor judgment and low standards.

The most recent collapse was brought on by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (two GSEs that SHOULDN'T even have existed) who bundled hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars in "BAD" or HIGH-RISK loans and sold them as "government-backed mortgage securities" to unsuspecting institutions on Wall Street.

When that "bad paper" began to have itstoxic effects, smart investors, like Hedge Funders took advantage of that situation by short-selling those financial stocks (Bear Stears, Merril, etc.) and as their stock prices went down, those companies couldn't get the loans THEY needed!

The result was the collapse of many major companies and the loss of tens of thousands of jobs.

Free Market supporters oppose the bailout on the grounds that "we should just let this Corporatist economy die its natural death" - ain't gonna happen, so the bailout will.

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