Monthly Archives: October 2018

Links: Young people don’t want construction jobs, how to focus, why there’s an affordable housing crisis, the nature of education, and more!

* “Young People Don’t Want Construction Jobs. That’s a Problem for the Housing Market.” Given what happened to construction workers in 2008, this is not entirely surprising. From what I’ve read, 50% or more of all construction workers were out of work in 2008, and construction didn’t pick up again in earnest for three to four years. Who wants to bear that kind of brutal career risk?

* Alzheimer’s risk 10 times lower with herpes medication. This should also increase interest in herpes vaccines; right now there is basically no reason, save finances, we don’t have one: “Clark said a phase III trial would have cost $150 million and taken three years. In the end, the company’s board and investors were ‘unwilling to take on the investment.'” You should be outraged when you read this. There are also live attenuated versions that show promise.

* “In Some US Cities, There Are Over Ten Times More Parking Spaces Than Households.” Should you be wondering why the rent is too damn high and the commuting times too damn long, this is part of the answer.

* “San Francisco’s zoning makes it illegal to build apartments in 73.5% of the city.” And that, friends, is another part of the reason the rent is too damn high.

* People Are Bad at Being Productive in a Limited Time.

* “Fighting Back Against the War on Homeless Shelters.” Everyone is in favor of homeless shelters in someone else’s neighborhood. See also our post, “Los Angeles’s Prop HHH Funding for homeless facilities meets NIMBYs.”

* “California teacher pension debt swamps school budgets.” Given the poor educational outcomes for most CA public schools, maybe this doesn’t matter?

* “New York City Study Shows Literacy Coaches Had No Effect on Low-Income Second-Graders.”

* The Education Department to require colleges to publish data on graduates’ debt and earnings by major. Good, and long overdue, like that library book the college requires you to pay for prior to receiving your diploma.

* Anti-Vaccine Activists Have Taken Vaccine Science Hostage. Outrageous and true.

* Unions’ Fees Take a Hit After Decision From Supreme Court.

* Does Television Kill Your Sex Life? Microeconometric Evidence from 80 Countries. “Under our most conservative estimate, we find that television ownership is associated with approximately a 6% reduction in the likelihood of having had sex in the past week, consistent with a small degree of substitutability between television viewing and sexual activity.”

* “The Toll of America’s Obesity.”

* Electric scooters will work in NYC. This is obvious, but it’s also amazing to see the small-c conservative NYT editorial board figure it out. Also, “The Real E-Scooters Story Is Much More Boring Than Media Coverage Suggests.” They mostly work out well, and venture capitalists are footing the bill. A win for everyone!

* Rich Absentee Landlords Make a Killing from California’s Prop 13. This is congruent with “L.A. digs a hole more slowly than economics fills it back in: The Proposition HHH Facilities Program RFP.”

* “The Modern Automobile Must Die: If we want to solve climate change, there’s no other option.” More of the obvious, but here it is.

* “What Does Knee Surgery Cost? Few Know, and That’s a Problem.” We need price transparency now.

* “His $109K Heart Attack Bill Is Now Down To $332 After NPR Told His Story.” Another example of why we should be working harder towards price transparency in healthcare.

* “The Nuclear Power Plant of the Future May Be Floating Near Russia.”

* The weirdness of online mobs.

* Radical open-access plan could spell end to journal subscriptions. Good.

* ‘For me, this is paradise’: life in the Spanish city that banned cars.

* Canadian marijuana stock soars to $12 billion. The headline is too celebrity-gossip for me, but the content is of interest as a sign of social change.

* “Why Is the Home Building Industry Stuck in the 1940s? Embrace pre-fabricated, adaptable homes!”

* How San Francisco demolished the California dream via its own housing laws.

* Iron Ox, a new autonomous farm, wants to produce food without human workers.

* Why the novel matters in an age of anger.

* “The Case for Making Cities Out of Wood,” things I had not considered but that are very interesting.

* “Two Students Hooked Up. It Was Clearly Consensual. He Still Spent $12,000 Defending Himself.” Maybe universities ought to get out of the student housing business, which might curtail some of these absurdities.

* The Student Loan Debt Crisis Is About to Get Worse. Having observed the U.S. college system up close for a long time, I find it baffling that it’s managed to persist as long as it has.

The weakness of the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Program, in a paragraph

We’re fans of the Community Development Financial Institutions Program (CDFI), which usually has tens (or hundreds) of millions of dollars available annually “to promote economic revitalization and community development” through investment in local startups and businesses. The CDFI Program—notice the capital “P”—is separate from the CDFIs themselves, which are local organizations that offer loans and investments in local companies and are certified as CDFIs by the Department of the Treasury.

I was thinking about CDFIs when I read “How the 22-year-old founders of Brex built a billion-dollar business in less than 2 years,” which is an interesting story in its own right but also says this:

As founders themselves, Dubugras and Franceschi were hyper-aware of a huge problem entrepreneurs face: access to credit. Big banks see small businesses as a risk they aren’t willing to take, so founders are often left at a dead-end. Dubugras and Franceschi not only had a big network of startup entrepreneurs in their Rolodex, but they had the fintech acumen necessary to build a credit card business designed specifically for founders.

Those “Big banks” are exactly who CDFIs are supposed to compete with. Yet the CDFI program has been operating since 1994 and was a much-ballyhooed part of President Clinton’s domestic policy agenda. Over the years, the CDFI Program has largely faded from view, although we still write CDFI proposals every couple years. Still, access to credit remains a massive problem—and one that the Brex founders have tackled, even though CDFIs were (and are) well-placed to do exactly what Brex did.

It’s distressing that, even after decades of CDFI, high-quality entrepreneurs are still struggling to get capital out of existing financial institutions. If I were a CDFI manager in charge of the next program application, I would both cite this article and describe how my CDFI will avoid the traditional Catch-22 of banking and loans: the only entities that can get the loan are the ones that don’t really need it. Venture capital is one way to break that Catch-22. But there ought to be others.

CDFIs have potential. The “weakness” in the title of this post is not meant to be a sign of just another person on the Internet, calling names. It’s meant to be addressed by CDFIs themselves in the next funding round.

I’ve never heard of a startup applying for funding from a CDFI. Doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened, but it is notable. If you know of any that have, please leave a not in the comments.

In addition, it’s notable that most corporate credit cards are still… not very friendly, to speak euphemistically. We know from experience. Maybe we’ll be applying for a Brex card in the near future.