Nebraska Interest Cap Regulation Reduced Consumer Payday Loan Options

(p. A1) Nebraska’s payday lenders have all shut down in the two years since voters capped the interest rate they could charge.

The last handful gave up their delayed-deposit services business licenses in December [2021], according to records kept by the Nebraska Department of Banking and Finance.

Just six months earlier, there had been 19 such businesses.

. . .

. . ., Ed D’Alessio, executive director of INFiN, a national trade association representing delayed-deposit businesses, said the closures were predictable, based on the experience of other states that have imposed similar rate caps.

“Nebraska’s 36% rate cap on delayed-deposit loans was never about consumer protection,” he said. “It was about activists’ thinly veiled desire to eliminate a regulated service valued by many.

“But Nebraskans’ need for credit did not go away. Instead, they have been left with fewer options for managing their financial obligations,” D’Alessio said.  . . .

Payday loans, also known as cash advances, check advances or delayed-deposit loans, are a type of short-term, high-cost borrowing that people use to get small amounts of immediate cash.

For the full story, see:

Martha Stoddard. “Payday Lenders Disappear From State After Rate Cap.” Omaha World-Herald (Tuesday, Sept 13, 2022): A1-A2.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Oct. 18, 2023 [sic], and has the title “Payday lenders disappeared from Nebraska after interest rate capped at 36%.”)

Highly-Taxpayer-Subsidized Lincoln Airline Collapses After Three Months

The “American Rescue Plan Act” was also called the “Covid-19 Stimulus Package” or the “American Rescue Plan.” (To paraphrase Shakespeare on a rose: a “boondoggle” by any other name smells just as foul.)

(p. B2) LINCOLN — Red Way, the startup airline that had been providing service from Lincoln to destinations such as Las Vegas and Orlando, is ceasing operations at the end of the month.

. . .

The Lancaster County Board issued a written statement Wednesday [Aug. 23, 2023], saying it “is deeply disappointed and troubled at this unexpected and sudden turn of events.”

The board said there are “many unanswered questions regarding the Red Way project, (and it) looks forward to receiving a full accounting of this situation as the Lincoln Airport Authority charts a new path forward to serve our community.”

Board member Matt Schulte lamented the $3 million in lost American Rescue Plan Act funds — $1.5 million each from Lancaster County and the City of Lincoln — but called the air travel experiment a chance worth taking.

“I personally voted for this project believing that the air service would develop long term service,” he said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t work. I hope this failed experiment does not have a negative impact on the ability to expand service to the city of Lincoln.”

. . .

Airport officials had seemed optimistic about the airline’s prospects, noting that it had sold 10,000 tickets in just its first two weeks of operation.

In fact, Red Way flew just over 13,000 total passengers in June and July.

But cracks had started to show recently.

Red Way announced in July that it was dropping seasonal flights to Atlanta, Austin and Minneapolis in early August, months earlier than planned, because of poor ticket sales. That news came just two days after the airline had announced new flights to Tampa and Phoenix over the winter months.

Nick Cusick, who resigned from the Airport Authority Board in July after serving more than 10 years, confirmed to the Lincoln Journal Star on Wednesday that Red Way had already burned through most of a $3 million incentive fund provided through ARPA dollars.

It used more than $900,000 in the first month and it withdrew even more in the second month, Cusick said.

For the full story, see:

MATT OLBERDING, Lincoln Journal Star. “Red Way Airline Ceasing Operations.” Omaha World-Herald (Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023): B2.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Sept. 30, 2023, and has the title “Lincoln’s Red Way ceasing operations less than 3 months after inaugural flight.”)

Towns Flourish When Entrepreneurs Want to Live in Them

(p. B1) SIDNEY, Neb. — The forest green roof and pair of bronze stags frozen in combat are impossible to miss as you drive down Interstate 80.

. . .

For 54 years, Cabela’s made its home here, a juggernaut that kept the town humming. But in 2017, the sporting goods store sold for $5 billion to Bass Pro Shops — a takeover that eventually made 2,000 jobs vanish in a town of roughly 6,600 residents.

. . .

But Sidney’s staying power still surprises experts, who say it’s driven by two factors.

One: Former Cabela’s employees opening their small businesses, diversifying the economy in a formerly one-company town.

Two: A recent influx of new (p. B3) residents, both retirees and remote workers.

. . .

Each spring, high schoolers from Nebraska and neighboring states flock to Sidney searching for the perfect prom dress. Their destination: Charlotte & Emerson, a downtown boutique — and one example of Sidney’s rebirth from the ashes of Cabela’s.

Co-owner Sarah Kaiser and husband Kurt Kaiser both worked at Cabela’s. When the company was swallowed by Missouri-based Bass Pro, the family relocated there as Sarah Kaiser ran the combined company’s human resources.

But in 2020, they decided to return to Sidney, her hometown. Sarah Kaiser opened Charlotte & Emerson with her sister. Her husband launched an online fitness store, Frost Giant Fitness. They’re two of many Sidney-based companies run by ex-Cabela’s employees who decided to stick around and start something new.

“The corporate experience of these young folks really was key to this particular recovery,” said David Iaquinta, a Nebraska Wesleyan University sociology professor who has researched Sidney’s economic development. “. . . they combined that talent with a strong desire for the lifestyle that they had. They said, ‘We’re here. We’re rooted here.’”

Budding companies are being boosted by E3, a Nebraska Community Foundation program meant to aid entrepreneurship in rural Nebraska.

Already, new businesses have remodeled once-dilapidated buildings, said Sarah Sinnett, the program’s community lead.

. . .

Economic development in Nebraska “used to be about cheap land, cheap labor and cheap incentives” to nab big companies, Stinnett said.

Now: “If you want small towns to start thriving … really it needs to be focused on entrepreneurship,” she said.

For the full story, see:

Natalia Alamdari, Flatwater Free Press. “Sydney Shows Staying Power.” Omaha World-Herald (Sunday, April 23, 2023): B1 & B3.

(Note: ellipses between paragraphs, and bracketed date, added; ellipsis internal to paragraph, in original.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated April 28, 2023, and has the title “Six years after ‘Cabela’s debacle,’ Sidney’s lights are still on.”)

Lives Lost to Covid-19 Due to Slow Regulatory Recommendations

(p. B1) In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nebraska Medical Center was at the forefront of an international clinical trial of the drug remdesivir, . . .

. . .

By April 2020, the early trial showed that remdesivir shortened the time it took for all patients hospitalized for COVID-19 to recover by five days overall, compared with those who received a placebo.

. . .

A study published last week in the British medical journal The Lancet Respiratory Medicine confirmed findings of the initial NIH trial.

Dr. Andre Kalil, who led the Omaha-based arm of the trial, said it’s always important to see studies replicated by other (p. B2) researchers.

But Kalil, in an invited commentary on the Lancet study, noted that a number of public health and medical bodies delayed acting on the early beneficial results and recommending the drug in guidelines for clinicians.

The National Institutes of Health and the Infectious Diseases Society of America guidelines for nearly two years recommended remdesivir only for hospitalized patients who received supplemental oxygen. Only after that time did the groups recommend it for patients who were hospitalized but did not need supplemental oxygen.

The World Health Organization didn’t recommend remdesivir for patients hospitalized with COVID-19 until late 2022.

“Regrettably, the delays in recommendation of remdesivir for patients — even after the initial remdesivir shortage was resolved — adversely shaped antimicrobial policy in hospitals around the world, preventing patients from receiving timely remdesivir,” wrote Kalil, a University of Nebraska Medical Center professor and an infectious diseases physician with Nebraska Medicine, the health system that includes the Nebraska Medical Center.

In an interview, Kalil said he believes more lives could have been saved if the guideline panels had been more timely in making their recommendations. All three now recommend remdesivir for hospitalized patients.

For the full story, see:

Julie Anderson. “Delays on Remdesivir May Have Cost Lives.” Omaha World-Herald (Sunday, March 5, 2023): B1-B2.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the same date as the print version, and has the title “Could earlier adoption of remdesivir have saved lives during the COVID pandemic?”)

A Plant Entrepreneur Saw a Use for the Unused

(p. B1) In the summer of 1978, Allen Wilke slammed the brakes.

He did this often. A true plantsman, he observed everything but the road itself. He would spy a flowering prickly pear in the ditch, a wild grapevine. He would double back without warning, often sending his son and daughter — half-asleep in his gutted cargo van’s backseat — tumbling forward with their luggage.

This time, the plantsman was alone. He was puttering through the Sandhills on Nebraska Highway 91, a mile (p. B2) west of Taylor, when a tall, skinny evergreen — like an Italian Cypress, he thought — punctured his periphery. He slammed the brakes. He doubled back. And like he had so many times before, the owner of the Wilke Landscape Center in Columbus knocked on a stranger’s door.

“Would you mind?”

Rancher Marlin Britton led the plantsman to that eastern redcedar on the hill, rising like a steeple behind snot-nosed cattle. To Britton, the tree wasn’t remarkable. But to Wilke, scrambling up the bank for a closer look, it was a perfect fit for Nebraska’s landscaping industry. He took a few 10-inch cuttings, shook Britton’s hand and hit the road.

By the early 1980s, Wilke began retailing this new type of tree he called the “Taylor Juniper,” a play on both its origins and its naturally tailored appearance.

. . .

. . ., the Taylor Juniper is ubiquitous across Nebraska, from the town square in Taylor to the capitol grounds in Lincoln; from The Gardens at Yanney Park in Kearney to the track at Hastings College. They fill the nurseries come spring and sell out come fall — each a perfect clone of that single mother tree in Britton’s pasture.

For the full story, see:

Carson Vaughan Flatwater Free Press. “Tale of the Taylor Juniper, Tree That’s Everywhere in Nebraska.” Omaha World-Herald (Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022): B1-B2.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Nov. 15, 2022, and has the title “Taylor Junipers stand tall across Nebraska.”)

NU President Carter May Earn $1.5 Million Per Year by 2023

(p. B1) LINCOLN — The University of Nebraska Board of Regents extended President Ted Carter’s contract by three years on Thursday, potentially keeping the university’s top leader in Nebraska through 2027.

Carter’s new contract, approved unanimously, also raises his base salary by 3% this year and adds a second deferred compensation package to incentivize the president to stay at NU.

In all, Carter’s total compensation could top $1.5 million beginning in 2023.

. . .

Regents also awarded Carter, a former superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, a $105,000 performance bonus for the (p. B1) 2021-22 academic year.

That amount is less than the $140,000 he was eligible to receive; Carter hit 89% of the benchmarks set for him by the board last year after first- to second-year retention numbers fell at several NU campuses.

For the full story, see:

CHRIS DUNKER, Lincoln Journal Star. “NU President Given Raise, Extension.” The Omaha World-Herald (Friday, August 12, 2022): B1-B2.

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Sept. 18, 2022, and has the title “Regents approve contract extension, pay raise for NU president.”)

Omaha Streetcar Will Look More Like St. Louis Failure Than Kansas City Success

(p. A1) After decades of stops and starts, Omaha is the closest it’s ever been to the development of a modern streetcar line.

But where city officials and local developers see an asset for economic development connecting midtown to the riverfront, one transit professional urges caution.

Tom Rubin knows a few things about public transportation and finance, having worked as the chief financial officer for the large transit system serving Los Angeles. And the Omaha native is skeptical of the plans for a streetcar in his hometown that he fears could financially run off the rails.

He’s concerned that rising inflation and interest rates could raise the cost of building the system and at the same time reduce the private development that’s being counted on to pay for it.

He questions why the city has not thought further about pursuing federal dollars to help defray the construction costs.

(p. A3) And he thinks there needs to be much more independent study of its financial feasibility beyond the lone review to date that was written by an engineering firm in the business of designing streetcars.

. . .

Rubin is not an Omaha taxpayer. But the Omaha native, who has more than four decades of experience in public transit as a senior executive, consultant, auditor and author, has taken an interest in the Omaha proposal.

Rubin founded the transit practice of what is now accounting firm Deloitte, formerly served as CFO of the nation’s third-largest public transit system in Los Angeles and has served as a consultant to numerous federal, state and local transit agencies and planning organizations.

He also has written papers and studies on transit issues for groups as varied as the Environmental Defense Fund and the free-market Reason Institute. He has said he may seek to publish a paper on the Omaha project.

. . .

“What is the magic that will make people decide to put their new office building along the streetcar route?” he said. “I’m far from convinced that putting tracks down generates development.”

Streetcar supporters disagree, often pointing to the Kansas City streetcar as a shining example of the development potential.

. . .

But there are other systems built in recent years that Rubin holds up as less than ideal. He mentioned St. Louis, where a streetcar shut down shortly after going into service. In that city, the line’s developers chose a route that did not have nearly enough ridership to support it.

Rubin said the current economic environment also raises concerns about bonding the Omaha project. Inflation could raise building costs, and higher interest rates figure to raise the cost of borrowing.

“It’s a lot easier to show you can make the debt service with a 2.5% bond than a 5% bond,” he said.

And higher interest rates also could slow development along the streetcar line. Less development would mean fewer TIF dollars to pay the bonds.

Another concern Rubin raises is the high cost of the streetcar system, which he said makes it hard to justify as a mode of transit. It is much more expensive per rider, for example, than Metro’s new ORBT rapid bus transit service.

Rubin said that prior to a major investment in a streetcar, an independent and unbiased analysis of the alternatives is needed. The HDR draft analysis at this point isn’t enough to convince him the streetcar is either a good idea or financially feasible for Omaha.

He noted Omaha-based HDR has long been a heavy hitter in the world of massive transit projects, including streetcars. On the Omaha project, the company did some initial design work on the streetcar route, utility coordination, the location of the streetcar vehicle maintenance facility and vehicle specifications.

. . .

Rubin acknowledged the Kansas City streetcar is working well but questioned whether Omaha could replicate that success. He’s not sure the Omaha route would be as viable as the one in Kansas City, which links the city’s riverfront and downtown with the arena district and Crown Center.

“They have a good route and some things that work well for them,” Rubin said. “I don’t think Omaha, even best case, could be as successful as Kansas City.”

For the full story see:

Jessica Wade and Henry J. Cordes. “Transit Consultant Skeptical of Omaha’s Streetcar Project.” Omaha World-Herald (Sunday, June 5, 2022): A1 & A3.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the article was updated Aug. 5, 2022, and has the title “Public transit consultant skeptical of Omaha’s streetcar project.”

The “Intellect” and “Bravado” Behind the Success of Thiel, Musk, and the “PayPal Mafia”

(p. C7) Next week marks the 20th anniversary of PayPal becoming a publicly traded company. The IPO valued the online payments processor at nearly $1 billion—an eye-opening sum at the time. Back in the day, technology firms marked such occasions with glitzy celebrations. PayPal took a different path. Its youthful employees gathered in the parking lot of their Palo Alto, Calif., office building, where the company’s enigmatic chief executive, Peter Thiel, performed a keg stand and then played 10 simultaneous games of speed chess, winning nine of them.

Jimmy Soni tells that story and many others in “The Founders,” a gripping account of PayPal’s origins and a vivid portrait of the geeks and contrarians who made its meteoric rise possible. His richly reported narrative includes corporate intrigue, workplace hijinks, breakthrough innovation and first-class nerdiness.

. . .

Julie Anderson, one of’s early employees, dropped the company’s California-based telephone customer-service provider and relaunched the service in Nebraska. Why there? Because many of her relatives lived there.

. . .

Confirming a cliché, staffers do spend all night at the office—sometimes sleeping under their desks, though not always. “There’s this massive value that you harness when you’re doing an all-nighter,” says Mr. Levchin, “when you’ve gone for presumably seven or eight hours of work, and you’re really getting up to a point when something’s about to be born—and then you go for eight more hours! And instead of stopping to go to sleep and letting these ideas dissipate, you actually focus on the findings you’ve made in the last few hours, and you just go crazy and do some more of that.”

. . .

Why did PayPal thrive when others—eMoneyMail, PayPlace, c2it—failed? One key was limiting the losses from fraud. If the company had taken a traditional approach, observes a member of the fraud-analytics team, it “would have hired people who had been building logistic regression models for banks for twenty years but never innovated.” Instead it turned to young, open-minded engineers who devised unorthodox methods.

. . .

. . . “The Founders” makes crystal-clear that PayPal’s human capital—a potent cocktail of intellect, bravado and competitiveness, complemented by the occasional keg stand—laid the foundation for success.

For the full review, see:

Matthew Rees. “Making the Future Click.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022): C7.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date February 11, 2022, and has the title “‘The Founders’ Review: Making the Future Click.”)

The book under review is:

Soni, Jimmy. The Founders: The Story of PayPal and the Entrepreneurs Who Shaped Silicon Valley. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2022.

Diamond to Teach Economics of Entrepreneurship Seminar in Fall 2022

Prof. Art Diamond, Economics
College of Business Administration
University of Nebraska Omaha
Seminar Meets in Mammel Hall 116
Fall 2022, Tuesdays, 6:00 – 8:40 PM
First Session: Aug. 23, 2022

ECON 4730-001, ECON 8736-001

Some Questions to Be Discussed:

• How can policies encouraging innovative entrepreneurship help us create a more dynamic growth economy with more and better jobs, more and better innovations, and more choice and opportunity?
• Are innovative entrepreneurs smarter, or more courageous, or less risk-averse, or more intuitive, or more determined, or more frugal, or more arrogant, or more hard-working, or greedier, than the rest of us?
• Can economic historian John Nye defend his claim that successful entrepreneurs are “lucky fools?”
• What is the role of entrepreneurship in the process of economic dynamism, and what is the role of economic dynamism in making our lives longer and better?
• Would labor be better off in an economy in which innovative entrepreneurship is encouraged?
• Why did economist Will Baumol believe that too much higher education can discourage successful innovative entrepreneurship?
• Can unbinding entrepreneurs in medicine bring us more cures and longer lives?

Socialist Mayor’s Environmental Bicycles Turn Paris Streets into Risky Chaos

(p. 4) PARIS — On a recent afternoon, the Rue de Rivoli looked like this: Cyclists blowing through red lights in two directions. Delivery bike riders fixating on their cellphones. Electric scooters careening across lanes. Jaywalkers and nervous pedestrians scrambling as if in a video game.

Sarah Famery, a 20-year resident of the Marais neighborhood, braced for the tumult. She looked left, then right, then left and right again before venturing into a crosswalk, only to break into a rant-laden sprint as two cyclists came within inches of grazing her.

“It’s chaos!” exclaimed Ms. Famery, shaking a fist at the swarm of bikes that have displaced cars on the Rue de Rivoli ever since it was remade into a multilane highway for cyclists last year. “Politicians want to make Paris a cycling city, but no one is following any rules,” she said. “It’s becoming risky just to cross the street!”

The mayhem on Rue de Rivoli — a major traffic artery stretching from the Bastille past the Louvre to the Place de la Concorde — is playing out on streets across Paris as the authorities pursue an ambitious goal of making the city a European cycling capital by 2024.

Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who is campaigning for the French presidency, has been burnishing her credentials as an ecologically minded Socialist candidate. She has earned admirers and enemies alike with a bold program to transform greater Paris into the world’s leading environmentally sustainable metropolis, reclaiming vast swaths of the city from cars for parks, pedestrians and a Copenhagen-style cycling revolution.

For the full story, see:

Liz Alderman. “PARIS DISPATCH; Europe’s New Cycling Capital, or a Pedestrian’s Nightmare?” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021): 4.

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Oct. 4, 2021, and has the title “PARIS DISPATCH; As Bikers Throng the Streets, ‘It’s Like Paris Is in Anarchy’.”)