Tim Fernholz

Tim Fernholz is a former staff writer for the Prospect. His work has been published by Newsweek, The New Republic, The Nation, The Guardian, and The Daily Beast. He is also a Research Fellow at the New America Foundation.

Recent Articles

One More Reason to Dislike Berlusconi.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is a sleazebag of epic proportions, a corrupt leader whose name has become synonymous with amorality and thuggish governance. His career produced some good journalism, notably this GQ profile which contains perhaps the best kicker of the year. But, via Michael Scherer , this anecdote is another level of horrifying. At one of their most memorable appearances together, in Moscow, in 2008, a Russian journalist named Natalia Melikova asked [Russian President Vladimir Putin ] about his apparent marital trouble and rumored romance with the young and indecently plastic gymnast-cum-parliamentarian Alina Kabaeva . When asked about the liaison, Putin's face hardened. “There is not a word of truth in this story,” he said. Berlusconi, giggling, regarded the exchange. When Putin had finished answering, Berlusconi cocked his hands, and, imitating a gun, fired with a silent “Pow! Pow!” at Melikova. It had only been a year and a half...

Build America Bonds Set To Expire.

Senate Republicans are holding up all the chamber's business to push their top priority of giving the wealthy an unpaid-for tax cut. Meanwhile, the Build America Bonds program, which I have defended before , is set to expire at the end of the year. The bonds are unlike those normally issued by states and cities because they aren't tax-exempt, but rather have a tax credit, lowering costs and opening up the bond market to nonprofits; they also eliminate the incentives that have made many typical tax-exempt muni bonds into little more than glorified tax shelters. DCStreetsblog lays out what's at stake if the program is allowed to expire, including the hopes of both investors and municipalities that the program will be extended. Note to any Republicans who were impressed with Matt Continetti's recent argument in favor of long-term investment: This would be a good down payment on that agenda. -- Tim Fernholz

Even Jamie Dimon Realizes That We Need More Loan-Level Accountability.

We've talked before about critiques of the loan underwriting at the heart of the financial crisis; basically, the judgment needed to do good borrower evaluation dissappears when you take the human element out of underwriting, a problem compounded by the monetary incentives to produce and sell as many mortgage-backed securities as possible, regardless of the quality of their content. Even J.P. Morgan chief Jamie Dimon agrees: Dimon ruefully observed that the optimal way to deal with delinquent loans would be to evaluate customers one at a time — the way the bygone corner banker did when a borrower got sick or lost his job. Of course, corner banks disappeared when conglomerateurs like Dimon acquired them. But it’s important to remember that the mass production of mortgages was welcomed early in the decade, because it allowed more people to get credit. Society wants banks to make loans, only not with such improvidence that large numbers of borrowers end up defaulting. There...

Employment Situation Unchanged, and That's Bad.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has released its latest jobs report: Unemployment has notched up to 9.8 percent after the private sector gained some 37,000 jobs, a disappointing total considering we need to see monthly gains in the hundreds of thousands to start digging the country out of its unemployment hole any time soon. The most important labor statistic, the U-6 total unemployed, which includes folks who have given up finding jobs and those working part-time due to the economy, remains at 17 percent. Maybe the saddest fact? There are now 1.3 million discouraged workers, up nearly half a million from last year, who have given up on looking for jobs. It's probably no surprise that they feel that way -- there hasn't been much job creation, in large part because we haven't seen more fiscal stimulus from Congress, which everyone from economists to the Republican chair of the Federal Reserve thinks is necessary -- even the president's centrist fiscal commission recommends such a path,...

Can a Celtic Tiger Change Its Stripes?

According to Pat Garofalo's research, it can ! Ireland has long been a favored economic example for conservatives, who loved its ridiculously low tax rates -- so low that the country's role as a corporate tax shelter actually distorted measures of its economic growth. Now that Ireland has been caught up in the financial crisis, conservatives are changing their tune and saying Ireland's big government led to disaster. Here's CATO's Dan Mitchell , in 2002: Ireland already has shown that tax cuts are a recipe for prosperity. Thanks to Reagan-style tax-rate reductions, including a corporate income tax rate of just 10 percent, Ireland has become the “Celtic Tiger” and is now the European Union’s second richest country. And in 2010: There are lots of lessons to learn from Ireland’s fiscal/economic/financial crisis.There was too much government spending. Ireland also had a major housing bubble. And some people say that adopting the euro (the common currency of many...