Larry Kotlikoff’s Commentaries
Victory over COVID-19 doesn’t mean eliminating it. That’s impossible given its global spread and mutation. Victory means suppressing it in the same way we have suppressed measles.
Larry Kotlikoff says the FDA is foot dragging on approving vaccines for children, without any defensible reason. FDA-sanctioned adult vaccine trials began in March 2020. Given the crisis, safer and riskier adult-trial phases were run in parallel, with adolescent trials soon thereafter. But the FDA pushed a conservative approach for children, ostensibly to protect them. So pediatric trials were delayed until March 2021 — a full year beyond the start of adult trials. This delay has threatened every American child with long-term morbidity and even mortality.
Reasonable customer service is part and parcel of what one is purchasing from our increasingly small number of mammoth retail companies. But Laurence Kotlikoff writes, “Every so often I focus on what seems, from personal experience, to represent “customer support” bordering on consumer fraud.” Examples: AJ Madison, Anthropologie, and Apple.
At the very time leftist politicians are proposing to finance their programs with mammoth deficit spending, leftist economists are giving them cover with the argument the country may never have to pay off the debt.
But Goodman Institute Senior Fellow and Boston University Economist, Professor Laurence Kotlikoff and his colleagues challenge this conclusion in two papers posted at the highly prestigious National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper site. Deficits used to finance current consumption “are like Ponzi schemes,” they say.”
Lifetime spending inequity is one-third of wealth inequality. The main reason: government taxes and transfers, which make the system far more “progressive than we are led to believe. In 2018, for example, the top 1 percent of taxpayers paid 40.1 percent of all federal income taxes. The top 10 percent paid 71.4 percent. The bottom half of the country paid less than 3 percent of all federal income taxes.
John Goodman was the first person to note that health plans would respond to Obamacare incentives by imposing high deductibles (three times what is normal for employer plans) and narrow networks (as bad or worse than under Medicaid). Along with Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff, he has now proposed simple, straightforward reforms to both problems in an editorial published in the Hill.
Right now, the interest rate adjusted for inflation on government securities is negative. Today’s yields on TIPS (Treasury Inflation Protected Securities) are minus 1.81 percent out five years and minus 0.21 percent out 30 years. But Series I Saving Bonds issued by the US Treasury are offering a real rate of interest of zero fixed for 30 years. You can invest up to $10,000. You don’t receive interest until you cash in the bonds. And you don’t have to ay taxes on inflation-generated returns.
A far better, fairer and simpler student-loan reform is available. It lets students, as well as their parents, borrow at the government’s long-term Treasury bond rate. The current rate is 1.85 per cent. College students face a 2.75 per cent borrowing rate, graduate and professional students face a 4.30 per cent rate, and parents, who borrow to help finance their children’s education, face a 5.30 per cent rate. Hence, this proposal, which would permit federal and private loans to be refinanced federally at the prevailing 30-year rate, would substantially lower the cost of borrowing for higher education.
The long-run loss to the US capital stock is roughly 6 percent and the long-run decline in output is roughly 2 percent. We predict a roughly 2 percentage-point reduction in wages of US workers, with a larger reduction in the wages of high-skilled workers. Changes of this magnitude could significantly offset the micro gains to low-wage and middle-wage workers of Biden’s fiscal reforms.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Goodman Institute Senior Fellow Lawrence Kotlikoff and Harvard epidemiologist Michael Mina say the new point of care test developed by Abbott Labs is the right test at the right time.
Here is the disappointment. To conform with government regulations, this test has to be administered in the presence of a medical professional (such as a nurse). That means its value will be limited to schools, large companies, hospitals, etc. It won’t be useful for people who most need to be tested. We don’t insist on having a nurse present when a woman conducts her own pregnancy test. How is a Covid test any different?
What we really need are 150 million tests a day. In the home.