Friday, August 20, 2010

8/20/10 Post


News
Census Survey Asks Too Much, G.O.P. Says
The Republican National Committee is demanding that the Census Bureau stop being so nosy, or at least stop requiring that Americans comply.
Paper chains
Tight policies in surplus countries helped undo the gold standard, which is a lesson for the euro.
Obama had facts wrong about visit here
A local project that President Barack Obama cited during a visit Wednesday to Columbus as an example of how the federal stimulus package has worked isn't actually being funded with stimulus dollars.
Social Security Cuts Weighed by Panel
A White House-created commission is considering proposals to raise the retirement age and take other steps to shore up the finances of Social Security, prompting key players to prepare for a major battle over the program's future.
Sales taxes are highest in ...
Tennessee has the highest combined state and average local sales tax rate of any U.S. state, at 9.44%.
A bitterly divided Congress, fanned by the White House
On Capitol Hill, a new layer of bitterness and distrust will haunt Congress when it returns after Labor Day to stare down a deep, dark well of troubles -- jarringly high unemployment, a mounting debt that threatens the nation's fiscal solvency, immigration fears creating emotion-charged divisions.
Feeling flush: Virginia's budget surplus doubles
After facing a $1.8 billion shortfall in the middle of the year, Virginia closed its fiscal 2010 budget with a $403.2 million budget surplus.
California close to issuing IOUs - again
The state's financial crunch stems from the fact that it does not have a budget for the current fiscal year, which began July 1. The governor and lawmakers continue to squabble over how to close an estimated $19 billion shortfall.
401(k) withdrawals surge, says Fidelity
62,000 people made hardship withdrawals from their 401(k) workplace plans during the second quarter, compared to 45,000 during the prior quarter, a 37 percent increase.
What's missing for back-to-school? 135,000 teachers
Tight fiscal times are forcing school districts to lay off teachers, enlarge class sizes, cut programs and charge for services that were once free.
Budget analysts sees $1.3T deficit this year
This year's federal deficit will surpass $1.3 trillion, a slight improvement over last year's record red ink, Congress' top budget analysts said Thursday.
CBO: Tax Cut Extensions Will Yield Mixed Results
Permanently renewing most of the tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003 under former President George W. Bush would provide a short-term lift to the economy, but a long-term drag on the nation's finances.
Obama Announces Four Recess Appointments
President Obama announced Thursday that he plans to make recess appointments for four of his nominees who have waited an average of 303 days for Senate confirmation.
Obama Urges GOP to Back Small-Business Bill
Obama gave a final push to Senate Republicans to get behind a stalled small business jobs package before heading out the door for a 10 day vacation.
The new battle: What it means to be American
Obama has sparked an even more visceral values debate about whether he's moving the country toward socialism and over the very definition of what it means to be American.

Blogs
Pay Gap Puts Feds on the Defensive
The Obama administration has been on the defensive about exorbitant federal pay ever since a Heritage Foundation report revealed government workers earn significantly more money than their private-sector counterparts.
Outside the Beltway: Who are We Bailing Out?
A report that came out last week notes that some of the states who received the bailout funds were never actually in danger of having to lay off teachers.
We Can’t Spend Our Way to Recovery
$3 billion in Cash for Clunkers bailouts, $10 billion in government union bailouts, $16 billion in Medicaid bailouts, $13 billion in home buyer tax credits, and $814 billion in stimulus act spending later the nation’s unemployment rate stands at 9.5%.
Weekly Unemployment Claims Exceed Expectations
Weekly unemployment claims hit 500,000. To be consistent with an economy adding jobs coming out of a recession, the number needs to fall to the 400,000 level.
Market Fails at 50 Day Moving Average
At the same time, Fronteer Gold came out with its best drill results yet at its Long Canyon Project, which is being viewed as one of the greatest high-grade gold discoveries in Nevada.
State Unemployment Rates: Generally unchanged in July
Eleven states now have double digit unemployment rates. A number of other states are close.
Why Wasn’t United States v. Arizona Filed in the Supreme Court from the Outset?
Why has United States v. Arizona — the case in which the U.S. is challenging the constitutionality of Arizona’s law dealing with illegal immigrants — hasn’t been filed from the outset before the United States Supreme Court. Article III, section 2 of the Constitution provides, in relevant part.
Live Free Or Die
The lives of individuals are the property neither of any government nor of officious “public interest” groups.
LA Times Ranks Teachers
The LA Times investigative report on teacher quality is groundbreaking. The teacher's union has already started a boycott but, as the shock recedes.
On National Education Policy
Imagine what would happen if education policy were decentralized. In order to have influence, a self-styled education expert would have to convince families that the expert has helpful ideas about how their children ought to be educated.
Geraldo Rivera as Coase
Property rights tend to solve problems.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Chinese Economic Tiger
There are roughly 10 times as many people in China as there are in Japan, so the fact that total gross domestic product in China is now bigger than total gross domestic product in Japan is hardly a sign of Chinese economic supremacy.
U.S. Debt: An Expensive Habit
If the US keeps borrowing money to finance large budget deficits, will the rest of the world have enough money to lend?

Research, Reports & Studies
Consumer Power: 5 Lessons from Utah’s Heath Care Reform
Utah’s specific model could yield positive results in other states, but states should adapt Utah’s broader approach to their own individual markets and conditions.
Developing a Strong Border and Immigration Policy
Americans are demanding a border and immigration policy that will keep the U.S. free, safe, and prosperous—not an amnesty that simply exacerbates the problem.
Holding Terrorists Accountable
The United States is at war. Since the September 11, 2001, attacks, the United States has detained alien unprivileged belligerents under the law of war and the congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force.
Leading Economic Index Signals Slow Growth
Positive contributions from the interest rate spread and vendor performance offset drags from consumer expectations and building permits, which allowed the Leading Economic Index to notch up slightly in July.
Housing Boom and Bust
American housing starts eked out a minor gain in July reaching an annual rate of 546,000. But even that small movement was evident only because the prior month was revised down to 537,000 from 549,000.

Economists’ Comments & Opinions
China Wealthy? That's Rich!
It was big news around the world: China has "overtaken" Japan as the world's second-richest economy. Except, well, it's not really news, it's not really big, and it's not entirely true.
Top of the Ticket
Obama now blames poor job numbers on congressional inaction. Wait! His party runs Congress.
Dr. Keynes Killed the Patient
Right now, economic quackery - in the form of Keynesianism - has overtaken Washington.
U.S. deficit forecast masks true scope of problem
If America ran its books more like a business, the real state of its finances would be clearer. U.S. budget scorekeepers now predict a $1.34 trillion deficit for 2010, a tad less than forecast in March. Still, it’s an enormous gap. And the headline number lowballs the shortfall.
We can't afford this government
Costs of bureaucracy spread like a deadly virus.
How Wall Street Is Screwing up the Recovery
Huge Question: Are we recovering? Or is we not? And whoa! Did you see those employment numbers? What a shock! Why are they still so BAD?
Did Stimulus Work?
When you combine middling and hard-to-prove results with the fact that the stimulus we got was so obviously wrapped up in the political agenda of the Democratic Party, I think that the case for stimulus has gotten weaker.
Why Small Banks Are the Key to Recovery, Part 2
The failure of some banks to deal with delinquent CRE loans may lead to their demise.
After the Bond Bubble, Cash Will Be King
It's not likely that money will head into stocks. Instead there will be an unprecedented rush for cash -- T-Bills, physical cash, you name it.

Graph of the Day
New CBO Budget Baseline Shows that Soaring Spending Risks Drowning America in Debt
See: Government Motors no more
See: Wiggle it. Just a little bit

Book Excerpts
“To prohibit a great people ... from making all that they can of every part of their own produce, or from employing their capital and industry in the way that they judge most advantageous to themselves, is a manifest violation of the most sacred rights of mankind"–Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations (1776)

Did You Know
The City of Cleveland plans to sort through curbside trash to make sure residents are recycling-- and fine them $100 if they don't. The city next year plans to release new trash and recycling carts embedded with radio frequency identification chips and bar codes. The chips will show city officials how many times residents bring their recycling to the curb for collection. If the chips shows that the recyclable cart has not been rolled out to the curb for collection in a long time, city officials will sort through the trash for recyclables. The City Council recently voted to spend $2.5 million on high-tech carts for 25,000 households in the city.