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

Good Trade News From China.

After much wrangling, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk has negotiated some important agreements with China: Ranchers, effectively barred from the Chinese market since 2003 after a scare over mad cow disease, will get renewed access to China and potentially billions of dollars in new sales. Alternative-energy companies will no longer have to build demonstration projects in China before bidding on wind projects there; telecommunications firms will avoid rules that favor locally developed technology; government industrial catalogs will be rewritten so they are not biased against imported equipment and capital goods; and software companies should benefit as Chinese government agencies are pressed to use only legally licensed software. While much of the focus on the U.S.-China relationship concerns macrolevel debates over currency valuation and the balance of trade, the action is taking place on a microlevel. Barriers to trade come in all shapes and sizes, and it's easier to focus on one...

Congress to Allow iPads to the Floor?

Politico reports that Republican leaders may decide to relax traditional rules barring most technology from the floor of the House. While these items were banned to prevent any distraction from whoever held the floor, most people don't actually pay attention to congressional speeches anyway. On the other hand, from covering Congress, I can tell you that iPads -- or any other tablet that can display .pdf documents -- would be hugely useful to members and their staff. Rather than dealing with bills as three-inch (or higher!) stacks of paper, they would have manageable -- not to mention searchable -- legislative language easily to hand and could quickly and easily download and distribute amendments and remarks, rather than waiting for printed copies to be distributed by hand. Plus, you know John Boehner loves him some Angry Birds . -- Tim Fernholz

The Mortgage Mess Heats Up.

We've been covering the dysfunctional mortgage industry for a while now -- its systemic implications , what it means for troubled borrowers looking for modifications, and the big picture in Bob Kuttner's latest magazine feature. On Wednesday, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller , who is leading a national investigation into pernicious practices in the industry, had this to say: “ We will put people in jail . One of the main tools needs to be principal reductions, just like in the farm crisis in the 1980s. … There should be some kind of compensation system for people who have been harmed…And the foreclosure process should stop while loan modifications begin. To have a race between foreclosures and modifications to see which happens first is insane.” If anyone doubted the importance of these problems, those comments alone should focus their attention. But this is a complicated subject, with unique problems across a spectrum of stakeholders -- consumers, investors...

Varieties of Conservative Experience.

Over in the United Kingdom, Alex Massie congratulates Tory Chancellor George Osborne for his probity. Here's Osborne talking about tax cuts: Asked if he regards Britain as an over-taxed country, he hesitates: “That’s a good question. I would like to reduce taxes - so, in that sense, it would be good if we could bring taxes down. But I’ve always believed the only way to do that is to have sound public finances. I am a fiscal Conservative, I’m not a Reaganite deficit-funded tax cutter. I am actually in that sense more the model that Margaret Thatcher and Nigel Lawson pursued. That means sorting out the public finances - and if there is a surplus, then use that to reduce taxes. That’s what he did in the late 80s.” But by the Treasury’s analysis, there will not be a surplus in this parliament. Does that mean no tax cuts either? “Look, as I say, once we can bring some stability to the public finances, we can look at reducing the tax burden on...

CFPB Hires Former Ohio AG Richard Cordray.

The fledgling Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which now has almost 100 employees, just announced a new employee: Former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, whom you may remember from the robo-signing fiasco: He was one of the first state attorneys general to take mortgage servicers to court for attempting to foreclose on borrowers without legal standing. Now, Cordray will head the enforcement division of the CFPB's implementation team, the group of Treasury officials, headed by Elizabeth Warren , currently preparing the CFPB for the full assumption of its authorities in July. Cordray, whose narrow loss in November depressed consumer advocates, now finds himself with a potentially bigger stage to crack down on pernicious business practices and predatory lending. -- Tim Fernholz