- 12:31 pm - Mon, Jan 24, 2011
Economics Of The Lawsuit Factory
For months now, the press has dissected the assembly line litigation model of the foreclosure boom, in which banks hustled foreclosures through the court system with less oversight than a busdriver collecting tickets. But there’s also a concurrent boom in consumer credit litigation, a crush of lawsuits aimed at squeezing out at least some fractional return from busted credit cards and consumer loans.
The most prominent players in this are probably not lenders but debt buyers, who buy charged off debt for a few cents on the dollar. In 2009, just one such company, the Encore Capital Group filed 385,000 lawsuits, the number I’ve highlighted here. Almost without exception, the debtors in these cases have no lawyers; the vast majority don’t even show up for a hearing, turning many state courts into factories for default judgments.
- 4:00 pm - Thu, Nov 4, 2010
They Might Not Be Giants
Last week NPR, pulling out an old chestnut of a story, replayed a canard about the amazing height of Dutch men I’ve long wanted to dissect. As American height, thanks to our crummy health system, has plateaued, NPR reports, the well cared for Dutch have grown to a startling six-foot-one.
Really? Well, no. That fact about the Dutch—as well as John Komlos, the researcher featured in NPR’s story and many others —may sound familiar to you from this New Yorker story. You’ve seen it other places: Google the average height of Dutch men and you’ll find a million sites listing it as 184.8 centimeters. That number is repeated so often that it seems not worth checking. Except that it’s total nonsense.
- 3:30 pm
Why The Haves Feel Like Have Nots
Despite the financial crisis and the great recession, it has turned out to be surprisingly hard for Democrats to sell the electorate on a populist platform focused on rage against the rich. Given the incredible increase in the proportion of income going to the wealthy over the last decades—Timothy Noah’s series in Slate makes an excellent primer—how is it possible that so many voters remain oblivious to this gap?
Consider though, the question of whether most of those at upper income levels are really feeling richer … or poorer. The number you see here, $341,800, is the price of admission to the top 1% of American households. That’s roughly 80% higher than what it took to get into that group in 1980 (and this is before you count stock gains—the data comes from Emmanuel Saez’s authoritative studies).
- 1:00 pm
We Only Test Those Who’ll Pass
In New York Magazine recently I wrote about New York’s school test scores and Harlem Village Academy. New York has embarked on an extensive experiment with charter schools. Of these HVA is the most highly hyped—if you want to see just how hyped, there’s a helpful slideshow of the key press mention right on the front page of their website.
Harlem Village Academy’s story is based on the idea that 100% of it’s 8th graders—many low income and underprepared when they start—achieve math proficiency. But of the 66 5th graders in the 2006-7 class, only 19 actually finished 8th grade this year.