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The mortgage modification debacle

Marketplace Money has long followed the mortgage modification debacle. And that's a polite word for the mess.

A Congressional watchdog says the $30 billion program has largely failed. There is a lot of human tragedy in this story by Marketwatch. It didn't have to be like this, either.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act--called Obamacare by its opponents--is the most significant improvement in America's social safety net since Social Security in 1935 and Medicare in 1965. The passage of the health reform bill should make it easier for households to create a margin of safety over time. Still, the legislation is under political and legal assault.

On the legal front, Judge Henry Hudson of the Federal District Court in Richmond struck down the mandate that people get health care insurance as unconstitutional. Get used to it. There will be much turmoil surrounding the law over the next several years. Commentator Ezra Klein weighs in with a thoughtful analysis on why reform advocates aren't too upset with Judge Henry. The ruling is less of a threat than the headlines suggests.

Anything Burton Malkiel writes on money and investing is worth reading. The finance professor at Princeton University and author of the best-selling investment book, *A Random Walk Down Wall Street *makes the case on the opinion pge of the Wall Street Journal for investors to own a stake in China's future:

One of the most common mistakes detracting from investment performance is the "home country bias" that afflicts both individual and institutional investors. Investors in the United States tend to limit their portfolios to U.S. stocks and bonds. Investors abroad do likewise.
As an investment strategy, that doesn't make sense. In our increasingly global economy......Neglect of China is a striking example of the lack of adequate diversification.

It's a persuasive argument. But the investment ride will be wild.

The latest data show that consumers are spending at least a bit more this holiday season. That means we may at some point over the next few weeks be offered a warranty deal on a major purchase. Should you take it? Kiplinger offers some tips. Odds are you won't need it (that's tip #2).

About the author

Chris Farrell is the economics editor of Marketplace Money.

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