The Flood Insurance Purchase Requirement

Here’s an interesting bit of flood insurance news. On May 24th, the Federal Reserve Board issued an order to SunTrust Bank for violations of the National Flood Insurance Act. The order itself does not provide a lot of detail, and I have no inside information, but I can only assume SunTrust was extending loans for property in the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) without enforcing the flood insurance requirement, mandated by statute. This type of adjudicatory order is rather rare, but here are two examples from the Comptroller of the Currency, both from 2015: Amory Federal Savings & Loan Association

Students and Customers

This semester, I’ve been teaching a course I don’t normally teach. This has been an interesting experience. The course is wholly online, so we have “homework,” and “quizzes,” and “tests,” but these are not really different from each other. They are all open book and open Google. Except for the final exam, which has a 72-hour window, all material is given at least a week before it is due. Because of these constraints, it can be difficult to construct assessments that meaningfully gauge a student’s ability. What I have done this semester is use the standard homework problems for “homework.”

Tax-Incremental Financing and Downtown Columbia

The Howard County government has recently proposed a tax-incremental financing (TIF) plan that would pay for certain amenities in downtown Columbia, including a parking garage. As usual, there are a great deal of discussion about this and whether or not a TIF is appropriate. Part of this focuses on how TIFs are used to improve blighted areas and no reasonable person could call downtown Columbia blighted. And downtown Columbia is not blighted. But just because TIFs have historically been misused for economic development (also, so have port authorities), does not mean it is not the right answer, here. TIFs are

Again, I am Going to Mars…

Society’s 2016 Convention. Following up on the principles I outlined in my talk from last year on governing future Martian colonies, this year I will be outlining the complexity of funding public works projects on Mars. Here’s my abstract, for the technically inclined: A mission to Mars, manned or unmanned, requires substantial infrastructure in place to accomplish. This infrastructure is composed of communications, flight, and other components necessary to support a mission. A permanent outpost on Mars, or the Moon, also requires infrastructure for communications, water, power, and other things we consider public utilities on Earth. Financing such infrastructure is

Expanding the Market Through Fear

There’s a good article in Vanity Fair about the scandal at Valeant, the pharmaceuticals maker. NPR has also covered this for those not interested in reading. The part that has everyone up in arms has to do with their pricing strategy. The examples given are Syprine and Cuprimine, for treating Wilson’s disease: [F]or years, Merck, the big pharmaceutical giant, owned these drugs and sold them for a dollar a pill. And then Merck sold these two drugs to another firm, who then in turn sold them to Valeant, and Valeant began to hike the price of the drugs. Today