Monday, January 26, 2009

How the Government Dealt with Past Recessions

An interactive graph "How the Government Dealt With Past Recessions" appeared in the January 26, 2009 edition of The New York Times.

How the Government Dealt With Past Recessions

The January 26, 2009 New York Times article How the Government Dealt With Past Recessions provides an interactive graph to illustrate the U.S. economic recessions that began in 1960, 1969, 1973, 1980, 1981, 1990, and 2001:

Since the Great Depression, presidents have frequently experimented with Keynesian economics to combat recessions. Three economists chronicle the history of government policy during past recessions and explain what worked and what didn’t.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The National Retail Sales Tax: What Would the Rate Have To Be?

In "The National Retail Sales Tax: What Would the Rate Have To Be?", William G. Gale argues the tax rate would need to be 44%:
This report addresses a technical issue regarding the national retail sales tax: What would the required tax rate have to be? According to the report, the four principal results are:

First, as long as real federal revenues and real federal spending are maintained during the transition to a sales tax, the required sales tax rate would not depend on whether federal purchases are subject to tax or whether consumer prices rise after the sales tax is imposed.

Second, H.R. 25, a recent legislative proposal, would replace the existing income, corporate, payroll, and estate and gift taxes with a 23 percent tax-inclusive (30 percent tax-exclusive) sales tax on almost all private consumption, a significant portion 23 percent (tax-inclusive), the revenue loss would exceed $7 trillion over the next decade relative to current law.

Third, with plausible allowances for avoidance, evasion, and tax exemptions for some private consumption and some state and local purchases, both the required tax rates and the revenue loss from imposing a sales tax at a 23 percent tax-inclusive rate climb significantly higher.

Fourth, the commonly cited 23 percent tax-inclusive rate in H.R. 25 was derived using a set of assumptions about changes in the price level that are not consistent with each other and that lead to an estimated tax rate that is systematically and substantially too low.

The Fair Tax Act of 2007

The Fair Tax Act of 2007 - a plain English summary, provided by its proponents at FairTax.org, fails to specify who will pay more in taxes under this proposal and who will pay less.

A 2007 analysis by FactCheck.org provides the answer:
The Fair Tax “will collect more money from those earning between $15,000 and $200,000 per year and less from those earning more than $200,000 per year.”

Book Reviews: 'The Fairtax Book' and 'Flat Tax Revolution'

The New York Times review of 'The Fairtax Book' and 'Flat Tax Revolution' says:
November 13, 2005
'The Fairtax Book' and 'Flat Tax Revolution': 1040EZ — Really, Really EZ

By Joel Slemrod
Almost everyone agrees that our tax system could be a lot better - simpler, fairer and less of a drag on the economy. However, opinions about how to fix it vary widely. Earlier this month, a bipartisan reform panel created by President Bush presented two reform options that straddle the standard liberal and conservative positions. While the headlines focused on the reduction or elimination of popular breaks like the mortgage interest deduction, the report also suggested fundamental changes in how business and capital income are to be taxed.

These two new books, both coming from the right, suggest that merely reforming the current system is too timid. The correct policy medicine, the authors say, is to junk the income tax entirely and replace it with a consumption tax with a single tax rate for all Americans.

In "The FairTax Book," the syndicated radio host Neal Boortz and Representative John Linder, Republican of Georgia, claim that replacing all federal taxes - income, payroll and estate taxes - with a national sales tax would increase the average household's purchasing power by about 20 percent, end the need for the I.R.S. and turn April 15 into just another spring day. "Once the FairTax takes effect," they declare, "you'll be receiving 100 percent of every paycheck, with no withholding of federal income taxes, Social Security taxes or Medicare taxes - and you'll be paying just about the same price for T-shirts and other consumer goods and services that you were paying before the FairTax."

For a book that claims in its introduction to be "about honesty," this statement falls far short. No reputable economist of any political stripe would support it. The honest truth is that replacing the current tax system with any system that raises the same amount of revenue (as Boortz and Linder claim their plan does) may make us better off, but only by redirecting our resources away from dealing with complex filing requirements and improving our incentives to work, save and innovate - not by creating the kind of free-lunch miracle suggested here.

As for "saying goodbye" to the I.R.S., the authors' plan does so only by passing the responsibility for tax collection to the states. And what a responsibility it would be. In order to fully replace all federal taxes, the sales tax would probably have to be at least 40 percent - possibly even more than twice the 23 percent rate the authors claim, and certainly far higher than anything ever levied by any country. The enforcement problems would be different than those the I.R.S. now faces, but they would not necessarily be smaller. Even at an average rate of around 5 percent, state sales taxes are difficult to administer. Apparently the authors have not talked much to administrators who have to deal with, among other things, ineligible people declaring themselves to be businesses to qualify for the business exemption.

Oh, yes, Boortz and Linder's claim that their plan would make April 15 another ordinary day is true, because no individuals - just retail businesses - would have to file tax returns. Instead, every day is tax day as people pay their taxes on every trip to the grocery store, the car dealer or even the doctor, since the FairTax base extends to services that nearly all states exempt.

There's one more problem. Moving to a national sales tax would drastically shift the tax burden away from high-income families and toward low-income families. To remedy this, under the FairTax plan the government would send each taxpayer a monthly "prebate" based on family size, which would amount to $492 per month for a married couple with two children. But Boortz and Linder offer few details about the costs and complications of this vast system of transfers.

Steve Forbes is also pushing a tax plan, one he claims would "free America" from "the tyranny of the federal tax code." At first glance, his "flat tax" - which he has been pushing at least since his unsuccessful 1996 presidential campaign - looks like the current income tax, in that both businesses and individuals would file an annual return. But there are some big differences. Under the flat tax, there would be no deduction for mortgage interest, state and local taxes or charitable contributions. A 17 percent rate would apply to all taxable income, whether the taxpayer is Bill Gates, Steve Forbes or the mechanic who fixes their cars. Investment income would not be taxed at all under the individual tax, which by itself benefits predominantly higher-income taxpayers. The flat tax would indeed represent a significant simplification over the current system. (On the book's cover, Forbes is shown brandishing a postcard printed with "The Steve Forbes Flat Tax Form" - though, to be fair, the current 1040EZ would fit on the same card.) And cleaning up the tax base would, on balance, allow the economy to operate more efficiently and reduce the extent to which one's tax burden depended on arguably irrelevant factors such as whether one rented or owned a home. These benefits, however, have nothing to do with having a single tax rate. In fact, one of the architects of the flat tax, Robert E. Hall of Stanford University, now favors a plan, known as the X-Tax, that would apply a graduated rate structure to this simplified tax base.

Aspects of the flat tax deserve serious consideration. Unfortunately, Forbes's book does not provide it. Instead, like "The FairTax Book," it promises a free lunch. "Everyone" gets a tax cut under his plan. To guarantee that sound-bite feature, he would give people the choice of computing taxes under the flat tax or staying with the old tax system. That stunning concession guarantees that the nine million words of the current tax code and regulations would not go away after all but would be expanded by hundreds of thousands of new words laying out the flat tax rules and, inevitably, the new rules governing the consequences of going back and forth between the two systems. And then there's the hundreds of billions of dollars that Forbes's plan would add to the deficit. Forbes says that his plan will stimulate the economy so much that the apparent revenue shortfall doesn't materialize. If only this were true. Serious analyses suggest that a flat tax would be good for the economy, but would not produce the economic nirvana needed to close the huge revenue gap.

Tax reform deserves objective analysis of the sort these books do not provide. Fortunately, the president's tax reform panel has done a much better job. They considered the retail sales tax, but dismissed it. Both the proposals they outline simplify the tax base, though they retain a reduced mortgage interest break (in the form of a flat credit rather than an itemized deduction, which reduces the tilting of the benefits toward wealthier taxpayers). Both retain a graduated personal rate structure and try to maintain the current distribution of the tax burden. As the criticism following the panel report reminds us, truly revenue-neutral tax reform creates winners and losers, and the losers cry louder than the winners sing. To be sure, the Bush administration's tax cuts have in no way prepared Americans for fiscal sacrifice.

Contemplation of radical tax alternatives is exhilarating, and could help to avoid the kind of loophole-to-loophole combat that tax war veterans recall from 1986, the last time we made wholesale changes in the system. But much progress toward these goals - including eliminating the need for most Americans to file tax returns - can be made within the basic framework of the current system.

These books, to use the language on the jacket of "Flat Tax Revolution," are calls to join a crusade. We'd be better off just starting a conversation.

Joel Slemrod is a professor of economics at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan and the author, with Jon Bakija, of "Taxing Ourselves: A Citizen's Guide to the Debate Over Taxes."

Proposals for Tax Reform - Value-added Tax and National Sales Tax (Fair Tax)

President's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform. Final Report. Washington: GPO, 2005.

Options for Tax Reform - A Proposal fro the Cato Institute

"Options for Tax Reform" by Chris Edwards, the director of tax policy studies at the Cato Institute, claims:

President Bush has established an advisory panel to study federal tax reform options. The panel is headed by former senators Connie Mack of Florida and John Breaux of Louisiana. Congressional leaders, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Leader Tom Delay, have also pledged their support for reform.

Enacting a major tax reform bill will be a challenge, but the president has been remarkably successful with his tax agenda so far. Income tax rates have been reduced, dividend and capital gains taxes have been cut, and the tax rules on retirement savings vehicles have been liberalized.

However, the tax system remains terribly complex and inefficient. The number of pages of federal tax rules has increased 48 percent in the past decade. The complex alternative minimum tax will hit about 35 million households by the end of the decade if not repealed. The high-rate U.S. corporate income tax is under growing pressure as global investment capital has become more mobile.

This study looks at possible changes to address those problems. It identifies three goals for tax reform: simplification, efficiency, and limited government. The latter goal focuses on tax code features such as visibility and equal
treatment that cultivate an understanding of the high cost of government.

This study examines reform options including a flat tax, a national retail sales tax, and a savings-exempt tax in reference to those goals. It also proposes a new option: a “dual-rate income tax.” This revenue-neutral option would convert the individual income tax to a two-rate system that eliminates most deductions and credits and allows nearly all families to pay tax at a low 15 percent rate. A 27 percent rate would kick in for earnings above $90,000 (single) and $180,000 (married).

To promote growth, the maximum individual rate on dividends, interest, and capital gains would be 15 percent. The corporate tax rate would be dropped to 15 percent and interest made non-deductible. These changes would equalize and cut the combined top income and payroll tax rates on wages, dividends, interest, and small business income to just under 30 percent, compared with between 35 and 45 percent under current law.

The dual-rate tax plan would retain the standard deduction, an expanded personal exemption, and the earned income tax credit. The plan would create a simpler and more efficient tax code within the structure of today’s system and may be just the type of tax plan that the president’s advisory panel is looking for. ###

Taxing Sales Under the FairTax: What Rate Works?

In a 2006 paper entitled "Taxing Sales Under the FairTax: What Rate Works?", Paul Bachman, Jonathan Haughton, Laurence J. Kotlikoff, Alfonso Sanchez-Penalver, and David G. Tuerck conclude that based on 2006 levels of government spending (which have subsequently increased) the required national sales tax rate would be 31.27% on a tax-exclusive basis. This tax would be in addition to existing sales taxes that generate revenues for state and local governments.

The Fair Tax - A 2007 Analysis by FactCheck.org


According to a FactCheck.org analysis of the Fair Tax (as proposed by presidential candidate Mike Huckabee in 2007):
We stand behind our earlier analysis of the FairTax. The proposal to which Gov. Huckabee referred is not a 23 percent tax, but rather a 30 percent tax. And it is revenue-neutral only through an accounting trick. It will collect more money from those earning between $15,000 and $200,000 per year and less from those earning more than $200,000 per year. It is possible that the FairTax would make most people better off, but much of that gain would be a direct result of making the tax code less fair.

The Fair Tax - What Advocates Say


According to the FairTax.org website:
The FairTax plan is a comprehensive proposal that replaces all federal income and payroll based taxes with an integrated approach including a progressive national retail sales tax, a prebate to ensure no American pays federal taxes on spending up to the poverty level, dollar-for-dollar federal revenue neutrality, and, through companion legislation, the repeal of the 16th Amendment.

The FairTax Act (HR 25, S 296) is nonpartisan legislation. It abolishes all federal personal and corporate income taxes, gift, estate, capital gains, alternative minimum, Social Security, Medicare, and self-employment taxes and replaces them with one simple, visible, federal retail sales tax administered primarily by existing state sales tax authorities.

The FairTax taxes us only on what we choose to spend on new goods or services, not on what we earn. The FairTax is a fair, efficient, transparent, and intelligent solution to the frustration and inequity of our current tax system.

The FairTax:
Enables workers to keep their entire paychecks
Enables retirees to keep their entire pensions
Refunds in advance the tax on purchases of basic necessities
Allows American products to compete fairly
Brings transparency and accountability to tax policy
Ensures Social Security and Medicare funding
Closes all loopholes and brings fairness to taxation
Abolishes the IRS


The fairtax.org website does not explicitly say who will pay more in taxes under the Fair Tax proposal and who will pay less. A 2007 analysis by FactCheck.org provides the answer:

The Fair Tax “will collect more money from those earning between $15,000 and $200,000 per year and less from those earning more than $200,000 per year.”

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The U.S. Economy Went Into Recession in December 2007

A December 1, 2008 CNN story reports that the current economic recession officially began in December 2007:
It's official: Recession since Dec. '07

The National Bureau of Economic Research declares what most Americans already knew: the downturn has been going on for some time.

By Chris Isidore, CNNMoney.com senior writer
Last Updated: December 1, 2008: 5:40 PM ET
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The National Bureau of Economic Research said Monday that the U.S. has been in a recession since December 2007, making official what most Americans have already believed about the state of the economy .

The NBER is a private group of leading economists charged with dating the start and end of economic downturns. It typically takes a long time after the start of a recession to declare its start because of the need to look at final readings of various economic measures.

The NBER said that the deterioration in the labor market throughout 2008 was one key reason why it decided to state that the recession began last year.

Employers have trimmed payrolls by 1.2 million jobs in the first 10 months of this year. On Friday, economists are predicting the government will report a loss of another 325,000 jobs for November.

The NBER also looks at real personal income, industrial production as well as wholesale and retail sales. All those measures reached a peak between November 2007 and June 2008, the NBER said.

In addition, the NBER also considers the gross domestic product, which is the reading most typically associated with a recession in the general public.

Many people erroneously believe that a recession is defined by two consecutive quarters of economic activity declining. That has yet to take place during this recession.

This downturn longer than most
The NBER did not give any reasons or causes of the recession. But it is widely accepted that the housing downturn, which started in 2006, is a primary cause of the broader economic malaise.

The fall of housing prices from peak levels reached earlier this decade cut deeply into home building and home purchases. This also caused a sharp rise in mortgage foreclosures, which in turn resulted in losses of hundreds of billions of dollars among the nation's leading banks and a tightening of credit.

The current recession is one of the longest downturns since the Great Depression of the 1930's.

The last two recessions (1990-1991 and 2001) lasted eight months each, and only two of the 10 previous post-Depression downturns lasted as long as a full year, according to the NBER.

In a statement, White House Deputy Press Secretary Tony Fratto said that even though the recession is now official, it is more important to focus on the steps being taken to fix the economy.

"The most important things we can do for the economy right now are to return the financial and credit markets to normal, and to continue to make progress in housing, and that's where we'll continue to focus," he said. "Addressing these areas will do the most right now to return the economy to growth and job creation."

President-elect Obama's transition team did not have an immediate comment on the recession announcement. But other top Democrats said this is further proof of the need for another economic stimulus package, which Obama has advocated.

"With rising costs of living, rising unemployment, record foreclosures and depleted savings, we must do more to help families make ends meet," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in a statement. "With the cooperation of our Republican colleagues, we intend to send a plan to the White House as soon as possible following President-elect Obama's inauguration next month."

How long will it go?
Nonetheless, several economists said the real concern is that there is no end in sight for the downturn.

Some suggested that the best case scenario for the economy is that it would reach bottom in the second quarter of 2009. And even if that happens, that would still make this recession the longest since the Great Depression.

Rich Yamarone, director of economic research at Argus Research, said the only good news for the economy is that some of the steps already taken by the government earlier this year could start to spur growth soon. For example, he said interest rate cuts by the Federal Reserve, which started in September 2007, "should be working their magic any day now."

In February, Congress passed a $170 billion tax rebate meant to stimulate the economy. But that only boosted GDP during the second quarter.

The financial market and credit crisis worsened during this summer, prompting Congress, the Treasury Department and the Fed to pump trillions of dollars into the economy through a variety of programs, including a $700 billion bailout of banks and Wall Street firms and hundreds of billions of lending by the Fed to major companies and lenders.

But Lakshman Achuthan, managing director of Economic Cycle Research Institute, said that at this point, the only solution for the recession is time.

"All the hand waving and real cash that policymakers are throwing at the problem won't change the fact we're stuck in this nasty recession," he said. "The ultimate cure of a recession is letting it run its course."

Achuthan's research firm tracks weekly leading economic indicators that are supposed to signal a change in direction for the economy four or five months ahead of time. Those indicators are continuing to fall at a record pace.

Still, he said he's not worried about the current recession turning into a depression, as many Americans fear.

"Even with indicators in a tailspin, this still is only a very severe recession," he said. "There's lots of gloom, but we don't see doom."

U.S. Poverty Guidelines


THE 2009 HHS POVERTY GUIDELINES

The 2009 Poverty Guidelines for the 48 Contiguous States and the District of Columbia
Persons in family - Poverty guideline
1 $10,830
2 14,570
3 18,310
4 22,050
5 25,790
6 29,530
7 33,270
8 37,010
For families with more than 8 persons, add $3,740 for each additional person.

2009 Poverty Guidelines for Alaska
Persons in family - Poverty guideline
1 $13,530
2 18,210
3 22,890
4 27,570
5 32,250
6 36,930
7 41,610
8 46,290
For families with more than 8 persons, add $4,680 for each additional person.

2009 Poverty Guidelines for Hawaii
Persons in family - Poverty guideline
1 $12,460
2 16,760
3 21,060
4 25,360
5 29,660
6 33,960
7 38,260
8 42,560
For families with more than 8 persons, add $4,300 for each additional person.

SOURCE: Federal Register, Vol. 74, No. 14, January 23, 2009, pp. 4199–4201

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Big Mac index


The Economist magazine publishes the Big Mac index which "seeks to make exchange-rate theory more digestible. It is arguably the world's most accurate financial indicator to be based on a fast-food item."

According to Economist.com:
Burgernomics is based on the theory of purchasing-power parity, the notion that a dollar should buy the same amount in all countries. Thus in the long run, the exchange rate between two countries should move towards the rate that equalises the prices of an identical basket of goods and services in each country. Our "basket" is a McDonald's Big Mac, which is produced in about 120 countries. The Big Mac PPP is the exchange rate that would mean hamburgers cost the same in America as abroad. Comparing actual exchange rates with PPPs indicates whether a currency is under- or overvalued.

According to the magazine's January 22, 2009 print edition:
The dollar’s recent revival has made fewer currencies look dear against the Big Mac index, our lighthearted guide to exchange rates. The index is based on the idea of purchasing-power parity, which says currencies should trade at the rate that makes the price of goods the same in each country. So if the price of a Big Mac translated into dollars is above $3.54, its cost in America, the currency is dear; if it is below that benchmark, it is cheap. There are three noteworthy shifts since the summer. The yen, which had looked very cheap, is now close to fair value. So is the pound, which had looked dear the last time we compared burger prices in July. The euro is still overvalued on the burger gauge, but far less so than last summer.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Which is more effective as a fiscal stimulus: government spending or tax cuts?


"The Economic Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act" is a January 21, 2009 report by Mark Zandi that analyzes the effect of the federal government program of tax cuts and increased spending designed to stimulate the sluggish U.S. economy. According to the 18-page report:
The fiscal stimulus plan proposed by the House Democrats includes a reasonably designed mix of government spending increases and tax cuts. The spending increases total about $550 billion in 2009-2010, and there are $275 billion in tax cuts. While the timing has yet to be determined, the tax cuts are expected to occur largely this year and much of the spending would begin in 2010.

Increased government spending provides a large economic bang for the buck and thus significantly boosts the economy. The benefits begin as soon as the money is disbursed and are less likely than tax cuts to be diluted by an increase in imports. The most effective proposals included in the House stimulus plan are extending unemployment insurance benefits, expanding the food stamp program, and increasing aid to state and local governments. Increasing infrastructure spending will also greatly boost the economy, particularly as the current downturn is expected to last for an extended period. Most of the infrastructure money will be spent on hiring workers and on materials and equipment produced domestically.

Tax cuts generally provide less of an economic boost, particularly if they are temporary; on the other hand they can be implemented quickly. A particular plus for individual tax cuts included in the House stimulus plan such as the payroll tax and earned income tax credits is that they are targeted to benefit lower- and middle-income households that are more likely to spend the extra cash quickly. Investment and job tax benefits for businesses are less economically effective, but are not very costly and more widely distribute the benefits of the stimulus plan.

Income support

The House stimulus plan includes some $100 billion over two years in income support for those households under significant financial pressure. This includes extra benefits for workers who exhaust their regular 26 weeks of unemployment insurance (UI) benefits; expanded food stamp payments; and help meeting COBRA payments for unemployed workers trying to hold onto their health insurance.

Increased income support has been part of the federal response to most recessions, and for good reason: It is the most efficient way to prime the economy's pump. Simulations of the Moody’s Economy.com macroeconomic model show that every dollar spent on UI benefits generates an estimated $1.63 in near-term GDP.x Boosting food stamp payments by $1 increases GDP by $1.73 (see Table 2). People who receive these benefits are hard pressed and will spend any financial aid they receive very quickly.

Table 2: Fiscal Stimulus Bang for the Buck
Source: Moody's Economy.com

Tax Cuts
Non-refundable Lump-Sum Tax Rebate 1.01
Refundable Lump-Sum Tax Rebate 1.22

Temporary Tax Cuts
Payroll Tax Holiday 1.28
Across the Board Tax Cut 1.03
Accelerated Depreciation 0.25

Permanent Tax Cuts
Extend Alternative Minimum Tax Patch 0.49
Make Bush Income Tax Cuts Permanent 0.31
Make Dividend and Capital Gains Tax Cuts Permanent 0.38
Cut in Corporate Tax Rate 0.30

Spending Increases
Extending Unemployment Insurance Benefits 1.63
Temporary Increase in Food Stamps 1.73
General Aid to State Governments 1.38
Increased Infrastructure Spending 1.59

Note: The bang for the buck is estimated by the one year $ change in GDP for a given $ reduction in federal tax revenue or increase in spending

Another advantage is that these programs are already operating and can quickly deliver a benefit increase to recipients. The virtue of extending UI benefits goes beyond simply providing aid for the jobless to more broadly shoring up household confidence. Nothing is more psychologically debilitating, even to those still employed, than watching unemployed friends and relatives lose their sources of support.xi Increasing food stamp benefits has the added virtue of helping people ineligible for UI such as part-time workers.

x
The model is a large-scale econometric model of the U.S. economy. A detailed description of the model is available upon request.
xi
The slump in consumer confidence after the recession in 1990-1991 may have been due in part to the first Bush administration’s initial opposition to extending UI benefits for hundreds of thousands of workers. The administration ultimately acceded and benefits were extended, but only after confidence waned and the fledgling recovery sputtered.

The Economic Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody's Economy.com, analyzed the effects of the federal government stimulus spending program in the January 21, 2009 article "The Economic Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act ." Here are the conclusions of his report:
Conclusions

A long history of public policy mistakes has contributed to the financial and economic crisis. Although
there will surely be more missteps, only through further aggressive and consistent government action will
the U.S. avoid the first true depression since the 1930s.

In some respects, this crisis has its genesis in the long-held policy objective of promoting
homeownership. Since the 1930s, federal housing policy has been geared toward increasing
homeownership by heavily subsidizing home purchases. Although homeownership is a worthy goal,
fostering stable and successful communities, it was carried too far, producing a bubble when millions of
people became homeowners who probably should not have. These people are now losing their homes in
foreclosure, undermining the viability of the financial system and precipitating the recession.

Perhaps even more important has been the lack of effective regulatory oversight. The deregulation that
began during the Reagan administration fostered financial innovation and increased the flow of credit to
businesses and households. But deregulatory fervor went too far during the housing boom. Mortgage
lenders established corporate structures to avoid oversight, while at the Federal Reserve, the nation's most
important financial regulator, there was a general distrust of regulation.

Despite all this, the panic that has roiled financial markets might have been avoided had policymakers
responded more aggressively to the crisis early. Officials misjudged the severity of the situation and
allowed themselves to be hung up by concerns about moral hazard and fairness. Considering the
widespread loss of wealth, it is now clear they waited much too long to act, and their response to the
financial failures in early September was inconsistent and ad hoc. Nationalizing Fannie Mae and Freddie
Mac but letting Lehman Brothers fail confused and scared global investors. The shocking initial failure of
Congress to pass the TARP legislation caused credit markets to freeze and sent stock and commodity prices
crashing.

Now, a new policy consensus has been forged out of collapse. It is widely held that policymakers must
take aggressive and consistent action to quell the panic and mitigate the economic fallout. An unfettered
Federal Reserve will pump an unprecedented amount of liquidity into the financial system to unlock money
and credit markets. The TARP fund will be deployed more broadly to shore up the still-fragile financial
system, and another much larger and comprehensive foreclosure mitigation program is needed to forestall
some of the millions of mortgage defaults that will occur otherwise. Finally, another very sizable economic
stimulus plan is vitally needed. While there will be much more discussion about the size and mix of
government spending increases and tax cuts to include, the House Democratic plan is a very good starting
point. This is important, for while such debate is necessary it must be resolved quickly. Unless a stimulus
plan is implemented beginning this spring, its effectiveness in lifting the economy will be significantly
muted.

Fiscal stimulus does carry substantial costs. The federal budget deficit, which topped $450 billion in
fiscal year 2008, could reach $2 trillion in fiscal 2009 and remain as high in 2010. Borrowing by the
Treasury will top $2 trillion this year. There will also be substantial long-term costs to extricate the
government from the financial system. Unintended consequences of all the actions taken in such a short
period will be considerable. These are problems for another day, however. The financial system is in
disarray, and the economy's struggles are intensifying. Policymakers are working hard to quell the panic
and shore up the economy; but considering the magnitude of the crisis and the continuing risks,
policymakers must be aggressive. Whether from a natural disaster, a terrorist attack, or a financial calamity,
crises end only with overwhelming government action.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Economic Origin of Eating Fish on Fridays

Some religious doctrines and practices, such as eating fish on Fridays, have economic origins.

According to a history of the fishing industry:

"Fish consumption during the Middle Ages in Europe was promoted by the Catholic Church which ordered 166 days of fasting a year (including 40 days of strict fasting for Lent) during which fish could be eaten."

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Cuyahoga River fire of 1969


The infamous Cuyahoga River fire of 1969 inspired the adoption of significant pollution control laws in the United States, including the Clean Air Act and the Water Quality Improvement Act of 1970. It also inspired a song by Randy Newman:

"Burn On, Big River" (excerpt)
from the Sail Away album by Randy Newman:

...There's an oil barge winding
Down the Cuyahoga River
Rolling into Cleveland to the lake

Cleveland city of light city of magic
Cleveland city of light you're calling me
Cleveland, even now I can remember
'Cause the Cuyahoga River
Goes smokin' through my dreams

Burn on, big river, burn on
Burn on, big river, burn on
Now the Lord can make you tumble
And the Lord can make you turn
And the Lord can make you overflow
But the Lord can't make you burn

Friday, January 9, 2009

Will Obama's Stimulus Package Work?

In the January 9, 2009 TIME magazine article "Will Obama's Stimulus Package Work?," Justin Fox says:
How do you stimulate a stumbling economy? For decades, the consensus among economists was that this was a job best left to the Federal Reserve and to such automatic fiscal stabilizers as unemployment insurance. Passing laws in Congress to cut taxes or boost spending to stave off a downturn was seen as pointless at best. Such help would arrive too late or in the wrong place, the thinking went, or would have no impact at all.

That consensus has unraveled in the face of the current recession, which appears likely to be the worst in the U.S. in three-quarters of a century. When President-elect Barack Obama arrived in Washington at the beginning of the week and began lobbying for $775 billion in stimulus spending over the next two years, the nation's economists — at least the ones who are listened to in Washington — expressed near unanimous support. This support showed no signs of wavering when the Congressional Budget Office projected Wednesday that even before any new spending, the federal deficit will top $1.2 trillion this year. As Obama summed it up in a speech at George Mason University on Thursday, "There is no doubt that the cost of this plan will be considerable. It will certainly add to the budget deficit in the short term. But equally certain are the consequences of doing too little or nothing at all."

Yet this pro-stimulus consensus — "√©lite groupthink," as libertarian econo-blogger Arnold Kling, one of the dissenting minority, puts it — has its limits. Economists have neglected the subject for so long that their theories of how stimulus works are shockingly underdeveloped. Many of the arguments they make for one proposal or another are the product not so much of economics as of common sense, guesswork and ideology. The motley mix of tax cuts for families and business, aid to states, infrastructure spending, health-care spending and alternative-energy investment that constitutes Obama's stimulus plan is partly the product of campaign promises and political compromises. But it's also a good reflection of the current muddled state of economic thinking on stimulus.

The biggest split is over whether stimulus should take the form of tax cuts or government spending. The main argument for spending over taxes is that at a time when American consumers have turned suddenly frugal, they're more likely to save any extra cash they get than spend it. This may be the right thing for most people to do, but it won't stimulate the economy. Meanwhile, if consumers do spend the money on TVs and cars and such, much of the impact will leak out overseas to pay for imports.

Tax cuts have the advantage, though, that they can be put in place quickly. There's also the more ideological, if still possibly valid, argument that they don't encourage the growth of bureaucracy. And recent empirical research — some of it by Christina Romer, the University of California, Berkeley, economist who will be chairwoman of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers — indicates that tax cuts have been quite effective as stimulus in the past. All of which helps explain why 40% of the Obama stimulus consists of tax reductions.

Then there's government spending. One argument is that if you're going to stick future generations with added debt, you might as well put the money into something that will leave them better off — infrastructure, alternative energy, etc. But these projects take time to get up and running. If they're rushed, they're likely to be botched. That's where the case comes in for simply backstopping existing state- and local-government spending that would otherwise have to be cut back sharply. The Obama plan includes elements of both.

Is it the right mix? Who knows? But if it's any solace, the intellectual godfather of all economic-stimulus plans, economist John Maynard Keynes, didn't think the specific content mattered all that much. It would be better to do something "sensible" with the money, he wrote in the 1930s. But the economy would still be helped if government simply chose to "fill old bottles with banknotes, bury them at suitable depths in disused coal mines, which are then filled up to the surface with town rubbish, and leave it to private enterprise on well-tried principles of laissez-faire to dig the notes up again." So far, bottle-burying isn't an element of the Obama stimulus plan. But just wait till next week.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Corporate Control of the News


Corporate control of the news.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jODaS3cts3Q

http://www.truthout.org/article/dan-rather-slams-corporate-news-conference

http://digg.com/television/Dan_Rather_The_News_Stops_With_Making_Bucks

http://www.cyberpunkreview.com/news-as-cyberpunk/dan-rather-corporations-government-runs-newsrooms/

Alternative international media website outside corporate control.(Globalvision News Network)(www.mediachannel.org)

http://www.whoownsthenews.com/

The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) Deterred Irresponsible Lending

http://www.traigerlaw.com/publications/traiger_hinckley_llp_cra_foreclosure_study_1-7-08.pdf


The Community Reinvestment Act: A Welcome Anomaly in the Foreclosure Crisis

Indications that the CRA Deterred Irresponsible Lending in the 15 Most Populous U.S. Metropolitan Areas

January 7, 2008

Community Reinvestment Act had nothing to do with subprime crisis

http://www.businessweek.com/investing/insights/blog/archives/2008/09/community_reinv.html

The Community Reinvestment Act


http://www.city-journal.org/html/10_1_the_trillion_dollar.html

Howard Husock
The Trillion-Dollar Bank Shakedown That Bodes Ill for Cities
The Community Reinvestment Act funnels billions to left-wing activists, while threatening to destabilize lower-middle-class neighborhoods.
Winter 2000
The Clinton administration has turned the Community Reinvestment Act, a once-obscure and lightly enforced banking regulation law, into one of the most powerful mandates shaping American cities—and, as Senate Banking Committee chairman Phil Gramm memorably put it, a vast extortion scheme against the nation's banks. Under its provisions, U.S. banks have committed nearly $1 trillion for inner-city and low-income mortgages and real estate development projects, most of it funneled through a nationwide network of left-wing community groups, intent, in some cases, on teaching their low-income clients that the financial system is their enemy and, implicitly, that government, rather than their own striving, is the key to their well-being.

The CRA's premise sounds unassailable: helping the poor buy and keep homes will stabilize and rebuild city neighborhoods. As enforced today, though, the law portends just the opposite, threatening to undermine the efforts of the upwardly mobile poor by saddling them with neighbors more than usually likely to depress property values by not maintaining their homes adequately or by losing them to foreclosure. The CRA's logic also helps to ensure that inner-city neighborhoods stay poor by discouraging the kinds of investment that might make them better off.

The Act, which Jimmy Carter signed in 1977, grew out of the complaint that urban banks were "redlining" inner-city neighborhoods, refusing to lend to their residents while using their deposits to finance suburban expansion. CRA decreed that banks have "an affirmative obligation" to meet the credit needs of the communities in which they are chartered, and that federal banking regulators should assess how well they do that when considering their requests to merge or to open branches. Implicit in the bill's rationale was a belief that CRA was needed to counter racial discrimination in lending, an assumption that later seemed to gain support from a widely publicized 1990 Federal Reserve Bank of Boston finding that blacks and Hispanics suffered higher mortgage-denial rates than whites, even at similar income levels.

In addition, the Act's backers claimed, CRA would be profitable for banks. They just needed a push from the law to learn how to identify profitable inner-city lending opportunities. Going one step further, the Treasury Department recently asserted that banks that do figure out ways to reach inner-city borrowers might not be able to stop competitors from using similar methods—and therefore would not undertake such marketing in the first place without a push from Washington.

None of these justifications holds up, however, because of the changes that reshaped America's banking industry in the 1990s. Banking in the 1970s, when CRA was passed, was a highly regulated industry in which small, local savings banks, rather than commercial banks, provided most home mortgages. Regulation prohibited savings banks from branching across state lines and sometimes even limited branching within states, inhibiting competition, the most powerful defense against discrimination. With such regulatory protection, savings banks could make a comfortable profit without doing the hard work of finding out which inner-city neighborhoods and borrowers were good risks and which were not. Savings banks also had reason to worry that if they charged inner-city borrowers a higher rate of interest to balance the additional risk of such lending, they might jeopardize the protection from competition they enjoyed. Thanks to these artificially created conditions, some redlining of creditworthy borrowers doubtless occurred.

The insular world of the savings banks collapsed in the early nineties, however, the moment it was exposed to competition. Banking today is a far more wide-open industry, with banks offering mortgages through the Internet, where they compete hotly with aggressive online mortgage companies. Standardized, computer-based scoring systems now rate the creditworthiness of applicants, and the giant, government-chartered Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have helped create huge pools of credit by purchasing mortgage loans and packaging large numbers of them together into securities for sale to bond buyers. With such intense competition for profits and so much money available to lend, it's hard to imagine that banks couldn't instantly figure out how to market to minorities or would resist such efforts for fear of inspiring imitators. Nor has the race discrimination argument for CRA held up. A September 1999 study by Freddie Mac, for instance, confirmed what previous Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation studies had found: that African-Americans have disproportionate levels of credit problems, which explains why they have a harder time qualifying for mortgage money. As Freddie Mac found, blacks with incomes of $65,000 to $75,000 a year have on average worse credit records than whites making under $25,000.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas had it right when it said—in a paper pointedly entitled "Red Lining or Red Herring?"—"the CRA may not be needed in today's financial environment to ensure all segments of our economy enjoy access to credit." True, some households—those with a history of credit problems, for instance, or those buying homes in neighborhoods where re-selling them might be difficult—may not qualify for loans at all, and some may have to pay higher interest rates, in reflection of higher risk. But higher rates in such situations are balanced by lower house prices. This is not a conspiracy against the poor; it's how markets measure risk and work to make credit available.

Nevertheless, until recently, the CRA didn't matter all that much. During the seventies and eighties, CRA enforcement was perfunctory. Regulators asked banks to demonstrate that they were trying to reach their entire "assessment area" by advertising in minority-oriented newspapers or by sending their executives to serve on the boards of local community groups. The Clinton administration changed this state of affairs dramatically. Ignoring the sweeping transformation of the banking industry since the CRA was passed, the Clinton Treasury Department's 1995 regulations made getting a satisfactory CRA rating much harder. The new regulations de-emphasized subjective assessment measures in favor of strictly numerical ones. Bank examiners would use federal home-loan data, broken down by neighborhood, income group, and race, to rate banks on performance. There would be no more A's for effort. Only results—specific loans, specific levels of service—would count. Where and to whom have home loans been made? Have banks invested in all neighborhoods within their assessment area? Do they operate branches in those neighborhoods?

Crucially, the new CRA regulations also instructed bank examiners to take into account how well banks responded to complaints. The old CRA evaluation process had allowed advocacy groups a chance to express their views on individual banks, and publicly available data on the lending patterns of individual banks allowed activist groups to target institutions considered vulnerable to protest. But for advocacy groups that were in the complaint business, the Clinton administration regulations offered a formal invitation. The National Community Reinvestment Coalition—a foundation-funded umbrella group for community activist groups that profit from the CRA—issued a clarion call to its members in a leaflet entitled "The New CRA Regulations: How Community Groups Can Get Involved." "Timely comments," the NCRC observed with a certain understatement, "can have a strong influence on a bank's CRA rating."

The Clinton administration's get-tough regulatory regime mattered so crucially because bank deregulation had set off a wave of mega-mergers, including the acquisition of the Bank of America by NationsBank, BankBoston by Fleet Financial, and Bankers Trust by Deutsche Bank. Regulatory approval of such mergers depended, in part, on positive CRA ratings. "To avoid the possibility of a denied or delayed application," advises the NCRC in its deadpan tone, "lending institutions have an incentive to make formal agreements with community organizations." By intervening—even just threatening to intervene—in the CRA review process, left-wing nonprofit groups have been able to gain control over eye-popping pools of bank capital, which they in turn parcel out to individual low-income mortgage seekers. A radical group called ACORN Housing has a $760 million commitment from the Bank of New York; the Boston-based Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America has a $3-billion agreement with the Bank of America; a coalition of groups headed by New Jersey Citizen Action has a five-year, $13-billion agreement with First Union Corporation. Similar deals operate in almost every major U.S. city. Observes Tom Callahan, executive director of the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance, which has $220 million in bank mortgage money to parcel out, "CRA is the backbone of everything we do."

In addition to providing the nonprofits with mortgage money to disburse, CRA allows those organizations to collect a fee from the banks for their services in marketing the loans. The Senate Banking Committee has estimated that, as a result of CRA, $9.5 billion so far has gone to pay for services and salaries of the nonprofit groups involved. To deal with such groups and to produce CRA compliance data for regulators, banks routinely establish separate CRA departments. A CRA consultant industry has sprung up to assist them. New financial-services firms offer to help banks that think they have a CRA problem make quick "investments" in packaged portfolios of CRA loans to get into compliance.

The result of all this activity, argues the CEO of one midsize bank, is that "banks are promising to make loans they would have made anyway, with some extra aggressiveness on risky mortgages thrown in." Many bankers—and even some CRA advocates—share his view. As one Fed economist puts it, the assertion that CRA was needed to force banks to see profitable lending opportunities is "like saying you need the rooster to tell the sun to come up. It was going to happen anyway." And indeed, a survey of the lending policies of Chicago-area mortgage companies by a CRA-connected community group, the Woodstock Institute, found "a tendency to lend in a wide variety of neighborhoods"—even though the CRA doesn't apply to such lenders.

If loans that win banks good CRA ratings were going to be made anyway, and if most of those loans are profitable, should CRA, even if redundant, bother anyone? Yes: because the CRA funnels billions of investment dollars through groups that understand protest and political advocacy but not marketing or finance. This amateur delivery system for investment capital already shows signs that it may be going about its business unwisely. And a quiet change in CRA's mission—so that it no longer directs credit only to specific places, as Congress mandated, but also to low- and moderate-income home buyers, wherever they buy their property—greatly extends the area where these groups can cause damage.

There is no more important player in the CRA-inspired mortgage industry than the Boston-based Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America. Chief executive Bruce Marks has set out to become the Wal-Mart of home mortgages for lower-income households. Using churches and radio advertising to reach borrowers, he has made NACA a brand name nationwide, with offices in 21 states, and he plans to double that number within a year. With "delegated underwriting authority" from the banks, NACA itself—not the banks—determines whether a mortgage applicant is qualified, and it closes sales right in its own offices. It expects to close 5,000 mortgages next year, earning a $2,000 origination fee on each. Its annual budget exceeds $10 million.

Marks, a Scarsdale native, NYU MBA, and former Federal Reserve employee, unabashedly calls himself a "bank terrorist"—his public relations spokesman laughingly refers to him as "the shark, the predator," and the NACA newspaper is named the Avenger. They're not kidding: bankers so fear the tactically brilliant Marks for his ability to disrupt annual meetings and even target bank executives' homes that they often call him to make deals before they announce any plans that will put them in CRA's crosshairs. A $3 billion loan commitment by Nationsbank, for instance, well in advance of its announced merger with Bank of America, "was a preventive strike," says one NACA spokesman.

Marks is unhesitatingly candid about his intent to use NACA to promote an activist, left-wing political agenda. NACA loan applicants must attend a workshop that celebrates—to the accompaniment of gospel music—the protests that have helped the group win its bank lending agreements. If applicants do buy a home through NACA, they must pledge to assist the organization in five "actions" annually—anything from making phone calls to full-scale "mobilizations" against target banks, "mau-mauing" them, as sixties' radicals used to call it. "NACA believes in aggressive grassroots advocacy," says its Homebuyer's Workbook.

The NACA policy agenda embraces the whole universe of financial institutions. It advocates tough federal usury laws, restrictions on the information that banks can provide to credit-rating services, financial sanctions against banks with poor CRA ratings even if they're not about to merge or branch, and the extension of CRA requirements to insurance companies and other financial institutions. But Marks's political agenda reaches far beyond finance. He wants, he says, to do whatever he can to ensure that "working people have good jobs at good wages." The home mortgage business is his tool for political organizing: the Homebuyer's Workbook contains a voter registration application and states that "NACA's mission of neighborhood stabilization is based on participation in the political process. To participate you must register to vote." Marks plans to install a high-capacity phone system that can forward hundreds of calls to congressional offices—"or Phil Gramm's house"—to buttress NACA campaigns. The combination of an army of "volunteers" and a voter registration drive portends (though there is no evidence of this so far) that someday CRA-related funds and Marks's troop of CRA borrowers might end up fueling a host of Democratic candidacies. During the Reagan years, the Right used to talk of cutting off the flow of federal funds to left-liberal groups, a goal called "defunding the Left"; through the CRA, the Clinton administration has found a highly effective way of doing exactly the opposite, funneling millions to NACA or to outfits like ACORN, which advocates a nationalized health-care system, "people before profits at the utilities," and a tax code based "solely on the ability to pay."

Whatever his long-term political goals, Marks may well reshape urban and suburban neighborhoods because of the terms on which NACA qualifies prospective home buyers. While most CRA-supported borrowers would doubtless find loans in today's competitive mortgage industry, a small percentage would not, and NACA welcomes such buyers with open arms. "Our job," says Marks, "is to push the envelope." Accordingly, he gladly lends to people with less than $3,000 in savings, or with checkered credit histories or significant debt. Many of his borrowers are single-parent heads of household. Such borrowers are, Marks believes, fundamentally oppressed and at permanent disadvantage, and therefore society must adjust its rules for them. Hence, NACA's most crucial policy decision: it requires no down payments whatsoever from its borrowers. A down-payment requirement, based on concern as to whether a borrower can make payments, is—when applied to low-income minority buyers—"patronizing and almost racist," Marks says.

This policy—"America's best mortgage program for working people," NACA calls it—is an experiment with extraordinarily high risks. There is no surer way to destabilize a neighborhood than for its new generation of home buyers to lack the means to pay their mortgages—which is likely to be the case for a significant percentage of those granted a no-down-payment mortgage based on their low-income classification rather than their good credit history. Even if such buyers do not lose their homes, they are a group more likely to defer maintenance on their properties, creating the problems that lead to streets going bad and neighborhoods going downhill. Stable or increasing property values grow out of the efforts of many; one unpainted house, one sagging porch, one abandoned property is a threat to the work of dozens, because such signs of neglect discourage prospective buyers.

A no-down-payment policy reflects a belief that poor families should qualify for home ownership because they are poor, in contrast to the reality that some poor families are prepared to make the sacrifices necessary to own property, and some are not. Keeping their distance from those unable to save money is a crucial means by which upwardly mobile, self-sacrificing people establish and maintain the value of the homes they buy. If we empower those with bad habits, or those who have made bad decisions, to follow those with good habits to better neighborhoods—thanks to CRA's new emphasis on lending to low-income borrowers no matter where they buy their homes—those neighborhoods will not remain better for long.

Because many of the activists' big-money deals with the banks are so new, no one knows for sure exactly which neighborhoods the community groups are flooding with CRA-related mortgages and what effect they are having on those neighborhoods. But some suggestive early returns are available from Massachusetts, where CRA-related advocacy has flourished for more than a decade. A study for a consortium of banks and community groups found that during the 1990s home purchases financed by nonprofit lenders have overwhelmingly not been in the inner-city areas where redlining had been suspected. Instead, 41 percent of all the loans went to the lower-middle-class neighborhoods of Hyde Park, Roslindale, and Dorchester Center/Codman Square—Boston's equivalent of New York's borough of Queens—and additional loans went to borrowers moving to the suburbs. In other words, CRA lending appears to be helping borrowers move out of inner-city neighborhoods into better-off areas. Similarly, not-yet-published data from the state-funded Massachusetts Housing Partnership show that many new Dorchester Center, Roslindale, and Hyde Park home buyers came from much poorer parts of the city, such as the Roxbury ghetto. Florence Higgins, a home-ownership counsellor for the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance, confirms the trend, noting that many buyers she counsels lived in subsidized rental apartments prior to buying their homes.

This CRA-facilitated migration makes the mortgage terms of groups like NACA particularly troubling. In a September 1999 story, the Wall Street Journal reported, based on a review of court documents by Boston real estate analyst John Anderson, that the Fleet Bank initiated foreclosure proceedings against 4 percent of loans made for Fleet by NACA in 1994 and 1995—a rate four times the industry average. Overextended buyers don't always get much help from their nonprofit intermediaries, either: Boston radio station WBUR reported in July that home buyers in danger of losing their homes had trouble getting their phone calls returned by the ACORN Housing group.

NACA frankly admits that it is willing to run these risks. It emphasizes the virtues of the counselling programs it offers (like all CRA groups) to prepare its typical buyer—"a hotel worker with an income of $25K and probably some past credit problems," says a NACA spokesman—and it operates what it calls a "neighborhood stabilization fund" on which buyers who fall behind on payments can draw. But Bruce Marks says that he would consider a low foreclosure rate to be a problem. "If we had a foreclosure rate of 1 percent, that would just prove we were skimming," he says. Accordingly, in mid-1999, 8.2 percent of the mortgages NACA had arranged with the Fleet Bank were delinquent, compared with the national average of 1.9 percent. "Considering our clientele," Marks asserts, "nine out of ten would have to be considered a success."

The no-down-payment policy has sparked so sharp a division within the CRA industry that the National Community Reinvestment Coalition has expelled Bruce Marks and NACA from its ranks over it. The precipitating incident: when James Johnson, then CEO of Fannie Mae, made a speech to NCRC members on the importance of down payments to keep mortgage-backed securities easily salable, NACA troops, in keeping with the group's style of personalizing disputes, distributed pictures of Johnson, captioned: "I make $6 million a year, and I can afford a down payment. Why can't you?" Says Josh Silver, research director of NCRC: "There is no quicker way to undermine CRA than through bad loans." NCRC represents hundreds of smallish community groups, many of which do insist on down payments—and many of which make loans in the same neighborhoods as NACA and understand the risk its philosophy poses. Still, whenever NACA opens a new branch office, it will be difficult for the nonprofits already operating in that area to avoid matching its come-one, come-all terms.

Even without a no-down-payment policy, the pressure on banks to make CRA-related loans may be leading to foreclosures. Though bankers generally cheerlead for CRA out of fear of being branded racists if they do not, the CEO of one midsize bank grumbles that 20 percent of his institution's CRA-related mortgages, which required only $500 down payments, were delinquent in their very first year, and probably 7 percent will end in foreclosure. "The problem with CRA," says an executive with a major national financial-services firm, "is that banks will simply throw money at things because they want that CRA rating." From the banks' point of view, CRA lending is simply a price of doing business—even if some of the mortgages must be written off. The growth in very large banks—ones most likely to sign major CRA agreements—also means that those advancing the funds for CRA loans are less likely to have to worry about the effects of those loans going bad: such loans will be a small portion of their lending portfolios.

Looking into the future gives further cause for concern: "The bulk of these loans," notes a Federal Reserve economist, "have been made during a period in which we have not experienced an economic downturn." The Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America's own success stories make you wonder how much CRA-related carnage will result when the economy cools. The group likes to promote, for instance, the story of Renea Swain-Price, grateful for NACA's negotiating on her behalf with Fleet Bank to prevent foreclosure when she fell behind on a $1,400 monthly mortgage payment on her three-family house in Dorchester. Yet NACA had no qualms about arranging the $137,500 mortgage in the first place, notwithstanding the fact that Swain-Price's husband was in prison, that she'd had previous credit problems, and that the monthly mortgage payment constituted more than half her monthly salary. The fact that NACA has arranged an agreement to forestall foreclosure does not inspire confidence that she will have the resources required to maintain her aging frame house: her new monthly payment, in recognition of previously missed payments, is $1,879.

Even if all the CRA-related loans marketed by nonprofits were to turn out fine, the CRA system is still troubling. Like affirmative action, it robs the creditworthy of the certain knowledge that they have qualified by dint of their own effort for a first home mortgage, a milestone in any family's life. At the same time, it sends the message that this most important milestone has been provided through the beneficence of government, devaluing individual accomplishment. Perhaps the Clinton White House sees this as a costless way to use the banking system to create a new crop of passionate Democratic loyalists, convinced that CRA has delivered them from an uncaring Mammon—when, in all likelihood, banks would have been eager to have most of them as customers, regulation or no.

CRA also serves to enforce misguided views about how cities should develop, or redevelop. Consider the "investment" criterion—the loans to commercial borrowers rather than individual home buyers—that constitutes 25 percent of the record on which banks are judged in their compliance review. The Comptroller of the Currency's office makes clear that it is not interested in just any sort of investment in so-called underserved neighborhoods. Investment in a new apartment building or shopping center might not count, if it would help change a poor neighborhood into a more prosperous one, or if it is not directly aimed at serving those of low income. Regulators want banks to invest in housing developments built through nonprofit community development corporations. Banks not only receive CRA credit for such "investment"—which they can make anywhere in the country, not just in their backyard—but they also receive corporate tax credits for it, through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit. Banks have little incentive to make sure such projects are well managed, since they get their tax credits and CRA credits up front.

This investment policy misunderstands what is good for cities and for the poor. Cities that are alive are cities in flux, with neighborhoods rising and falling, as tastes and economies change. This ceaseless flux is a process, as Jane Jacobs brilliantly described it in The Economy of Cities, that fuels investment, creates jobs, and sparks innovative adaptation of older buildings to new purposes. Those of modest means benefit both from the new jobs and from being able to rent or purchase homes in once-expensive neighborhoods that take on new roles. The idea that it is necessary to flash-freeze certain neighborhoods and set them aside for the poor threatens to disrupt urban vitality and the renewal that comes from the individual plans and efforts of a city's people.

But keeping these neighborhoods forever poor is the CRA vision. CRA will help virtually any lower-income family that can come close to affording a mortgage payment to purchase a home, often in a non-poor neighborhood. Thanks to CRA-driven bank investment, poor neighborhoods would then fill up with subsidized rental complexes, presumably for those poor families who can't earn enough even to get a subsidized, easy credit mortgage. The effects of all this could be to undermine lower-middle-class neighborhoods by introducing families not prepared for home ownership into them and to leave behind poor neighborhoods in which low-income apartments, filled with the worst-off and least competent, stand alone—hardly a recipe for renewal.

It will take a Republican president to change or abolish CRA, so firmly wedded to it is the Clinton administration and so powerfully does it serve Democratic Party interests. When Senator Gramm attacked the CRA for its role in funding advocacy groups and for the burden it imposes on banks, the Clinton administration fought back furiously, willing to let the crucial Financial Services Modernization Act, to which Gramm had attached his CRA changes, die, unless Gramm dropped demands that, for instance, CRA reviews become less frequent. In the end, Gramm, despite his key position as the chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs (even the committee's name reflects a CRA consciousness) and his willingness to hold repeal of the Glass-Steagal Act hostage to CRA reform, could only manage to require community groups to make public their agreements with banks, disclosing the size of their loan commitments and fees.

A new president should push for outright abolition of the CRA. Failing that, he could simply instruct the Treasury to roll back the compliance criteria to their more relaxed, pre-Clintonian level. But to make the case for repeal—and ensure that some future Democratic president couldn't simply reimpose Clinton's rules—he might test the basic premise of the Community Reinvestment Act: that the banking industry serves the rich, not the poor. He could carry out a controlled experiment requiring no CRA lending in six Federal Reserve districts, while CRA remains in force in six others. A comparison of lending records would show whether there is any real case for CRA. In addition, CRA regulators should require nonprofit groups with large CRA-related loan commitments to track and report foreclosure and delinquency rates. For it is these that will reflect the true threat that CRA poses, a threat to the health of cities.

Rethinking Jimmy Carter


The Ludwig von Mises Institute was founded in 1982 as the research and educational center of classical liberalism, libertarian political theory, and the Austrian School of economics. Its website contains the following perspective on former President Jimmy Carter:

Rethinking Carter
Mises Daily by William L. Anderson | Posted on 10/25/2000 12:00:00 AM

As the political season stumbles to a close, we need to remember that the historical relationship between economic policy, economic performance, and political rhetoric can be wildly unpredictable. For example, all these years later, it is worth reconsidering the presidency of Jimmy Carter, from 1977 to 1981. Many of the reforms that took place under his watch are responsible for at least some of the current prosperity.

Now, sitting in gasoline lines in 1973 and 1979 was no fun, and inflation, unemployment and general economic uncertainty seemed to rule during much of that period. We especially remember that during Carter's presidency a number of these awful things occurred simultaneously. In fact, these economic calamities plus the humiliating Iranian Hostage Crisis in 1979 and 1980 certainly contributed to his 1980 electoral defeat by Ronald Reagan and to the general conclusion that Carter's term as President of the United States was marked by failure.

In one sense, this is true. I was truly ecstatic in voting against Carter in 1980 and cheered his exit from the Oval Office. In retrospect, however, I believe that my judgment of the man was too harsh. Carter does not receive the due that should be coming to him regarding his economic record, and in many ways he is the real architect of our current prosperity, not the present set of clowns in the White House. That he does not receive more credit, I believe, is mostly due to the fact that Carter is nearly clueless about his own accomplishments and has never sought to promote them. In other words, we had a chief executive who could not tell the good from the bad about his administration.

While we marvel about this "New Economy" (which really isn't very new, nor is it indestructible, as some may think), we forget some of the reasons why opportunities abound that did not exist a decade ago. Some fundamental changes were made by Congress and the President of the United States two decades ago. The era of deregulation - while hardly complete, especially from an Austrian point of view - has enabled us to vastly expand our economic boundaries.

Republicans like to point to the failures of the Carter Administration and then claim that Ronald Reagan brought us into the present era. Alas, while I prefer Reagan to Carter, I cannot say that the above statement is true. Granted, much occurred during the Reagan Administration that was good, but if truth be known, many of the important initiatives that enabled those boundaries to expand came from Carter's presidency.

To understand the magnitude of change we have witnessed in the last 20 years or so, remember that in 1980 the Interstate Commerce Commission regulated both trucking and the railroads. "Ma Bell" had a nationwide monopoly in which long distance calls came through copper wires, each strand with the capacity of carrying 15 calls. (A single fiber optic line in use today can carry 2 million calls.)

Airlines had been "deregulated" for only two years. Government controlled the pricing and allocation of oil in the United States. "Regulation Q" and other restrictions on banks and financial institutions kept capital formation in the doldrums. Another way of putting it was that many sectors of this economy were more socialistic then than they are now.

Carter's administration played a large part in many of the deregulation efforts. Unfortunately, he usually only got it half right, which reflected his core statist philosophy.

Take oil deregulation, for example. By 1980, the oil situation in this country was critical. On the left, Carter's Democratic challenger Ted Kennedy was advocating outright nationalization of the oil industry. On the other side, Republican Ronald Reagan was calling for complete decontrol. Carter took the "middle road."

First, he announced gradual decontrol of oil prices and the phasing out of the Keystone-Cops like government allocation system. However, Carter also pushed a "Windfall Profits Tax" on the belief that decontrol would bring higher prices and, thus, higher profits to oil companies that "really don't deserve them." The Wall Street Journal so opposed Carter's oil tax that it published an editorial, "Death of Reason," on the day Congress passed the tax, bordering the editorial in black.

Full decontrol was scheduled to take place in the spring of 1981, but Reagan upon taking office lifted controls almost immediately, thus receiving credit for what was mostly the action of his predecessor. While Carter was mistaken in his belief that decontrol would automatically increase oil profits (many investors also made the same error), one must also recognize the political heat he took for his actions, especially from the left. Ralph Nader, who had endorsed Carter as a "breath of fresh air" just four years earlier, denounced oil decontrol as "the greatest anti-consumer action of this century" and predicted $600 a barrel oil by 1990.

Because deregulation ultimately had the opposite effect that its detractors had predicted (both oil prices and profits fell during the first half of the 1980s), public anger directed against oil companies subsided and within a short time, Congress was able to quietly repeal the so-called Windfall Profits Tax.

After deregulating airlines, the Carter Administration looked then to doing the same for trucking and railroads. In fact, Reagan received the endorsement from the Teamster's Union in exchange for his promise that he would delay deregulation of trucking. While the ICC was ultimately dismantled during the Reagan years, it is safe to say that the one who sealed its doom was Jimmy Carter.

It was the Carter Administration that also pushed the antitrust suit against AT&T, a move that ultimately led to the breakup of the telecommunications giant and the advent of new technologies and cheap long distance. This is NOT an endorsement of that suit. A better way to bring competition into the industry would have been to have deprived AT&T of its legal monopoly status. (Better yet, the monopoly privileges should never have been granted in the first place.)

However, that being said, one can see how Carter's actions have benefitted our present economy. Were we still living under the old transportation, oil, and telecommunications regimes, we would not have the greatly expanded economy that we enjoy today. By helping to open the telecommunications field to new firms and new technologies, the Carter Administration at least indirectly helped bring about the application of fiber optics. The old transportation regimes would not have allowed for the retail discounting that is so common today.

I would even go as far as to say that if the old regulatory regimes were still in place, our economy could not have absorbed the monetary growth that the Fed has recently encouraged. No doubt, prices would be rising as fast or faster today than they did in 1980, when the Consumer Price Index shot up by more than 13 percent.

Granted, the Carter Administration also gave us incredible economic stupidity. Carter continued to blame the oil companies for the oil crises of the 1970s, and it was his administration that gave us the abominable antitrust action against the cereal companies. (The Federal Trade Commission charged them with having a "shared monopoly" and said that "brand proliferation" of ready-to-eat breakfast cereals was done in violation of the law.) Nor did Carter have the sense and courage to drop the awful antitrust action against IBM. It took the Reagan Administration to drop the IBM and cereal cases, and to ease government actions against mergers.

The Carter Administration also gave greater power to the Federal Reserve System through the Depository Institutions and Monetary Control Act (DIDMCA) of 1980 which otherwise was a necessary first step in ending the harmful New Deal restrictions placed upon financial institutions. In fact, it would be safe to say that Reagan probably would have taken the necessary deregulatory steps had Carter kept all of the regulatory regimes in place.

However, Carter actually made it easier for Reagan to take the actions he did. If the Democrats wish to lionize one of their own as the "creator" of the "New Economy," they should be looking to Jimmy Carter, not Bill Clinton.

William Anderson, adjunct scholar of the Mises Institute, teaches economics at North Greenville College.

Fannie Mae

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fannie_Mae

Glass-Steagall Act

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glass-Steagall_Act

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Constitution of the United States

The Constitution of the United States: A Transcription

Note: The following text is a transcription of the Constitution in its original form.
Items that are in italics have since been amended or superseded.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Article. I.

Section. 1.

All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

Section. 2.

The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.

No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New-York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.

When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies.

The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

Section. 3.

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.

Immediately after they shall be assembled in Consequence of the first Election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three Classes. The Seats of the Senators of the first Class shall be vacated at the Expiration of the second Year, of the second Class at the Expiration of the fourth Year, and of the third Class at the Expiration of the sixth Year, so that one third may be chosen every second Year; and if Vacancies happen by Resignation, or otherwise, during the Recess of the Legislature of any State, the Executive thereof may make temporary Appointments until the next Meeting of the Legislature, which shall then fill such Vacancies.

No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.

The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.

The Senate shall chuse their other Officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the Absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the Office of President of the United States.

The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

Section. 4.

The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.

The Congress shall assemble at least once in every Year, and such Meeting shall be on the first Monday in December, unless they shall by Law appoint a different Day.

Section. 5.

Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members, and a Majority of each shall constitute a Quorum to do Business; but a smaller Number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the Attendance of absent Members, in such Manner, and under such Penalties as each House may provide.

Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.

Each House shall keep a Journal of its Proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such Parts as may in their Judgment require Secrecy; and the Yeas and Nays of the Members of either House on any question shall, at the Desire of one fifth of those Present, be entered on the Journal.

Neither House, during the Session of Congress, shall, without the Consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other Place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.

Section. 6.

The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.

No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been encreased during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office.

Section. 7.

All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States: If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively. If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.

Every Order, Resolution, or Vote to which the Concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of Adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States; and before the Same shall take Effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the Rules and Limitations prescribed in the Case of a Bill.

Section. 8.

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;

To establish Post Offices and post Roads;

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;

To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;--And

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

Section. 9.

The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.

The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.

No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.

No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken.

No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State.

No Preference shall be given by any Regulation of Commerce or Revenue to the Ports of one State over those of another; nor shall Vessels bound to, or from, one State, be obliged to enter, clear, or pay Duties in another.

No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

Section. 10.

No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.

No State shall, without the Consent of the Congress, lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing it's inspection Laws: and the net Produce of all Duties and Imposts, laid by any State on Imports or Exports, shall be for the Use of the Treasury of the United States; and all such Laws shall be subject to the Revision and Controul of the Congress.

No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.

Article. II.

Section. 1.

The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows:

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by Ballot for two Persons, of whom one at least shall not be an Inhabitant of the same State with themselves. And they shall make a List of all the Persons voted for, and of the Number of Votes for each; which List they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the Seat of the Government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the Presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the Certificates, and the Votes shall then be counted. The Person having the greatest Number of Votes shall be the President, if such Number be a Majority of the whole Number of Electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such Majority, and have an equal Number of Votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately chuse by Ballot one of them for President; and if no Person have a Majority, then from the five highest on the List the said House shall in like Manner chuse the President. But in chusing the President, the Votes shall be taken by States, the Representation from each State having one Vote; A quorum for this purpose shall consist of a Member or Members from two thirds of the States, and a Majority of all the States shall be necessary to a Choice. In every Case, after the Choice of the President, the Person having the greatest Number of Votes of the Electors shall be the Vice President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal Votes, the Senate shall chuse from them by Ballot the Vice President.

The Congress may determine the Time of chusing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.

No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the Same shall devolve on the Vice President, and the Congress may by Law provide for the Case of Removal, Death, Resignation or Inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what Officer shall then act as President, and such Officer shall act accordingly, until the Disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.

The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.

Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:--"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Section. 2.

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.

Section. 3.

He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.

Section. 4.

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Article III.

Section. 1.

The judicial Power of the United States shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.

Section. 2.

The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;--to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;--to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;--to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;--to Controversies between two or more States;-- between a State and Citizens of another State,--between Citizens of different States,--between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.

In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.

The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed.

Section. 3.

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

Article. IV.

Section. 1.

Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.

Section. 2.

The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.

A Person charged in any State with Treason, Felony, or other Crime, who shall flee from Justice, and be found in another State, shall on Demand of the executive Authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having Jurisdiction of the Crime.

No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.

Section. 3.

New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.

The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State.

Section. 4.

The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened), against domestic Violence.

Article. V.

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.

Article. VI.

All Debts contracted and Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

Article. VII.

The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same.

The Word, "the," being interlined between the seventh and eighth Lines of the first Page, the Word "Thirty" being partly written on an Erazure in the fifteenth Line of the first Page, The Words "is tried" being interlined between the thirty second and thirty third Lines of the first Page and the Word "the" being interlined between the forty third and forty fourth Lines of the second Page.

Attest William Jackson Secretary

Done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independence of the United States of America the Twelfth In witness whereof We have hereunto subscribed our Names,

G°. Washington
Presidt and deputy from Virginia

Delaware
Geo: Read
Gunning Bedford jun
John Dickinson
Richard Bassett
Jaco: Broom

Maryland
James McHenry
Dan of St Thos. Jenifer
Danl. Carroll

Virginia
John Blair
James Madison Jr.

North Carolina
Wm. Blount
Richd. Dobbs Spaight
Hu Williamson

South Carolina
J. Rutledge
Charles Cotesworth Pinckney
Charles Pinckney
Pierce Butler

Georgia
William Few
Abr Baldwin

New Hampshire
John Langdon
Nicholas Gilman

Massachusetts
Nathaniel Gorham
Rufus King

Connecticut
Wm. Saml. Johnson
Roger Sherman

New York
Alexander Hamilton

New Jersey
Wil: Livingston
David Brearley
Wm. Paterson
Jona: Dayton

Pennsylvania
B Franklin
Thomas Mifflin
Robt. Morris
Geo. Clymer
Thos. FitzSimons
Jared Ingersoll
James Wilson
Gouv Morris