Friday, December 17, 2010

Budget News Dec. 13 - 17

Senate Democrats give up bid to pass $1.1 trillion spending bill
In a dramatic twist played out on the floor of the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid conceded Thursday night he lacked the votes to bring up a $1.1 trillion spending bill designed to fund the federal government for the rest of the current fiscal year.
TARP cost will be a 'fraction' of original price tag
Geithner told the Congressional Oversight Panel that the cost of TARP, the Troubled Asset Relief Program, will be no more than the amount spent on the program's housing initiatives.

Medicaid Budget Challenges Continue To Plague States, Threaten Safety Net
States across the country continue to face challenges related to their Medicaid budgets and their abilities to provide care to a growing population of poor and disabled people.
Congress faces imminent deadline to pass a spending plan
With time running out on the government's authority to spend money, the Senate is expected to vote this week on a $1.1 trillion bill that would settle the issue for the rest of the fiscal year.

Democrats' budget bill: $1.1 trillion; 1,900 pages
Included is an $840 million increase for Head Start and $550 million for Obama’s signature Race to the Top education initiative.
Reid threatens to keep Congress into next year
New spending bill totals $575.13 million per page.
Federal spending clash looms
Once again, Congress is facing intense deadline pressure to pass a spending bill to fund the federal government.
Omnibus Looks Strong in Senate
Congress is facing some pressure: The current stopgap measure expires Dec. 18.

INFOGRAPHIC: Is Obama a Secret Tax Cutter?
President Obama's net spending increase totals to $1.1 trillion, while his net tax cuts total to $505.2 billion.

Economist Comments
Closer Fiscal Union: A Collective Guarantee
Debt restructuring could be one part of the longer-term resolution of the crisis, together with a move toward deeper European integration to harness the region's collective strength.
Euro Defaults Need to Be Carried Out Quickly: Elena Carletti
Far from being irrational, markets are quite right this time to be concerned about the current crisis in the euro area.

Examiner Editorial: Lame-duck Dems jam spending bill with 6,600 earmarks
The 2,000-page omnibus bill contains 6,600 earmarks worth $8.3 billion, including funds for such national priorities as termite research...
The 111th Congress's Final Insult
Bluto Blutarsky must have been an Appropriator.

Public-Sector Pains Put Strain on Recovery
It turns out government really is part of the problem.
BILLINGSLEY: Education payouts lack payoff
Canada has no federal education ministry or department and no federal Cabinet official for K-12 education. At the federal level, Canada spends virtually nothing on K-12 education and on a per-student basis, spends about 20 percent less than the United States. Yet Canada is outperforming the United States.
States Slow to Face New Fiscal Reality
...yet now, with only about $40 billion in stimulus money still in their bank accounts, states face as much as another $100 billion in deficits next year.
RIEDL: Deficit commission wants too much tax, too little reform
Measured against a current-policy base line (which assumes todays tax rates and spending policies continue), the report proposed $3.3 trillion in tax increases, $3.5 trillion in spending reductions and $1.3 trillion in net interest savings through 2020. This would leave the highest federal tax burden in American history (21 percent of the economy), and still not balance the budget until 2035.

How to Control State Spending
Balanced-budget rules work better than tax-and-expenditure limitations.
The Municipal Debt Bubble
As cities and states boost their debts by 800 percent, a housing-like crisis looms.
The US Treasury Debt Trap
Interest paid on national debt for the fiscal year 2010, which ended in September, was $414 billion or about 20% of tax revenues. That interest was against debt that was averaging about $13 trillion.

New Ways And Means Chair: Spending Cuts, Not Tax Increases
He said he's for making the tax code simpler, something he and President Obama can agree on.
The Averting-Disaster Syndrome
While defaults are not good news for a country, it is important to remember that they are the symptom and not the disease itself. Sometimes default, rather than systematic bailouts, can be the opportunity for a country to get in better shape. It’s not painless, but there isn’t another way.

Secondary Sources: National Debt, EU Crisis, Broadway Economics
The Congressional Budget Office looks at the cost of servicing the national debt.
McCain Details Omnibus Pork on Senate Floor
According to the Constitution, the public's money should be spent only on those things that benefit everyone (i.e., the "general welfare," a clause that has sadly been repeatedly ignored or conveniently misinterpreted), and should not be taken from taxpayers for the purpose of giving it to particular groups or narrow interests.

Bailouts or Bankruptcy for State and Local Government Pension Problems?
Congress should provide a mechanism to make the process more direct, giving the states the flexibility to address their fiscal problems consistent with federalism and the principles of limited constitutional government.

Visualizing the U.S. National Debt: 1791-2010
It's time to update our U.S. national debt history visualization project, bringing it fully up to date through Fiscal Year 2010.
Setting a Regulatory Budget
Congress is far too prone to pass legislation forcing private companies to pay for something that would never be undertaken if the voter had to pay for it. But the voter does pay for it--indirectly, through lower growth and lost opportunities.
Tim Pawlenty on Public-Sector Unions
Giving public employees control of their own savings is essential for any kind of fair relationship between governments, their employees, and the taxpayers. An accurate accounting system is crucial to any fiscally responsible discussion.

Encouraging Polling Data on Spending Restraint vs. Deficit Reduction
By a 57-34 margin, they say that reducing federal spending should be the number-one goal of fiscal policy rather than deficit reduction. And since red ink is just a symptom of the real problem of too much spending, this data is very encouraging.
Remember the deficit-shrinking plans?
Three budget proposals all found ways to shrink the deficit. Where did they find common ground?

Getting an Accurate Picture of State Pension Liabilities
Recognizing the unsustainable future of current public pension plans, many state legislatures are considering pension reform. Unfortunately, most proposed reforms are insufficient to fill the funding gap because government accounting standards continue to underestimate the true debt.
The Political Advantage of Restraining Spending
A number of studies over the past 20 years seem to suggest that, all things being equal, there is no systematic relationship between spending cuts and adverse political outcomes. In fact, the opposite may be true: there may instead be a political advantage to restraining spending.

Employment News Dec. 13 - 17

Nevada jobless rate rises to 14.3 percent
Nevada's jobless rate increased in November, even as new statistics show improvements in important wage indicators.
China's labor market: Valuable asset or economic albatross?
Even as pundits sharply debate China's economic future, most agree that much of it is riding on the stability of its working population. And depending on who you talk to, the Chinese labor market is either Beijing's biggest asset or its ultimate albatross.

Jobless Claims in U.S. Unexpectedly Fell to 420,000 Last Week
Fewer workers than forecast filed claims for unemployment benefits last week, pointing to a drop in firings that signals the U.S. job market is improving.
How states fared on jobless claims, at a glance
Applications for unemployment benefits dipped by 3,000 to 420,000 in the week ending Dec. 11. That's the third drop in the past four weeks and evidence that layoffs are declining. Here are states with the biggest increases and declines in claims, with some reasons for the changes. The state data is for the week ending Dec. 4, one week behind the nationwide data.
Obama Pushes CEOs on Job Creation
At Blair House Meeting, President Continues Charm Offensive to Repair Frayed Relations With Corporate America

Yahoo layoffs: 600 jobs cut in long-rumored move
Yahoo cut about 600 jobs Tuesday, the company confirmed, finally swinging the ax on layoffs that had been widely rumored for weeks.

What happens when the jobless give up?
Whatever the right mix of reasons, the fallout is crippling. Economically, long-term joblessness means fewer dollars for consumption. For deficit control, it means fewer taxpayers contributing to government revenues and tens of billions more spent on unemployment insurance. Then there is the psychological toll on individuals and families -- and on the nation.

Economists Comments
Why Unemployment Will Remain High for Years, Part 2
Most of the increase in money supply is coming from quantitative easing. This suggests that real capital is weak, economic growth will be hindered, and new jobs won't be created.

Why Unemployment Will Remain High For Years (Part II)
Why aren’t jobs being created?
99ers and the continual decline
What will happen to Americans whose unemployment benefits have totally run out?
Unemployment Extension Won’t Help 99ers
The extension for unemployment benefits that is part of the compromise tax deal is good news for many of the unemployed, but it won’t provide aid to anyone who’s been out of a job over 99 weeks.

Why Unemployment Will Remain High For Years – Part I
There are 15.1 million workers unemployed in America (U-1). Another 9 million are working temp for economic reasons, and another 2.5 million are marginally attached or discouraged from the work force (U-6). That is about 26.6 million people in trouble. We can argue about the “true” number of unemployed but for the purpose of this article, the fact that it is high under any measure is sufficient.
Unemployment Benefits, Inequality and Finance, Larry Summers
A roundup of economic news from around the Web.

Secondary Sources: Struggling Men, QE2, Fiscal Follies
A roundup of economic news from around the Web.
Charting America's Transformation To A Part-Time Worker Society, Following 6 Straight Months Of Full Time Job Declines
It is surprising that over the past several years very little has been said in the popular media about the fact that America is slowly (but surely) transforming from a full-time to part-time employed society. And while much has been said about the temporary and now past impact of census hiring, and government jobs on the workforce, there are still few mentions in mainstream media that since the depression started in December 2007, America has lost 10.5 million full time jobs, offset by a 2.8 million increase in part time jobs.

Here come the '99ers
As I mentioned last week, the proposed tax legislation provides no additional help for the so-called "99ers". The "extension of the unemployment benefits" is an extension of the qualifying dates for the various tiers of benefits, and not additional weeks of benefits.
Are Jobs Growing Or Stagnant?
Recent reports on the employment in America have generally been disappointing. The numbers are all over the board depending on who you wish to believe. The BLS is negative, Gallup is positive.

A Free Enterprise Prescription: Unleashing Entrepreneurs to Create Jobs
The Obama Administration’s $862 billion stimulus bill was an expensive failure that increased the federal deficit, contributed to America’s deteriorating fiscal health, and failed to reduce unemployment. Instead of repeating this mistake, Congress should alleviate business fears and economic uncertainty by maintaining the current tax policy (extending the 2001 and 2003 tax rates) and freezing costly new regulations. Then, Congress should rescind unspent stimulus funds, suspend federal regulations that unnecessarily suppress economic activity, conclude pending free trade agreements, and adopt other pro–free market steps. By enacting these reforms, Congress can unleash substantial economic growth, reduce unemployment, and reduce the deficit without spending a dollar of taxpayer money.

Monetary News Dec. 13 - 17

IMF chief worried about Europe domino effect
The head of the International Monetary Fund said on Thursday he was worried that EU leaders' piecemeal approach to Europe's debt crisis was encouraging markets to pick off weak countries one by one.
Fed Proposes Lower Store Fees on Debit Purchases
The Federal Reserve proposed on Thursday lowering the fees that merchants must pay when shoppers use debit cards, a move that could reduce retail prices but result in higher banking fees for consumers.
Fed Proposal on Debit Card 'Swipe Fees' Could Cost Banks Billions
Taking a whack at one of the banking industry's biggest cash cows, the Federal Reserve Board proposed today to slash the "swipe fees" that debit card companies charge retailers for every transaction they process, a move that could cost Mastercard, Visa, and banks billions of dollars.
Vending machine spits out gold bars and coins
"If you're a shopper looking for something sparkly to put under the Christmas tree, you could skip the jewelry and just go for the gold. Thomas Geissler, CEO of Ex Oriente Lux and inventor of the Gold To Go machines, expects the majority of buyers will be walk-ups taken by the novelty. But he says the machines are also convenient for more serious investors looking to bypass the hassle of buying gold at pawn shops and over the Internet.

European Central Bank will raise capital to fight debt crisis
The European Central Bank said Thursday that it will almost double its capital base to euro10.76 billion ($14.3 billion) — money that will buttress its efforts to contain the continent's government debt crisis.
Dollar gains as euro falls, pushing stocks lower
The euro fell 1% against the dollar after Moody's said that it may lower Spain's credit rating. The stronger dollar hurts U.S. companies that do a lot of business overseas. The Standard & Poor's 500 index, the broadest measure of large U.S. companies, fell 0.3%.

Prices edge up, inflation still at bay
The Consumer Price Index, a key measure of inflation, increased 1.1% over the past 12 months ending in November, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said. And the more closely watched core CPI, which strips out volatile food and energy prices, rose just 0.8% over the year.
Read the Fed statement
This is the statement of the minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee meeting released Dec. 14, 2010.
Fed Sticks to Bond-Buying Policy
Central Bank Keeps Rates Low, Says Economy Recovering but Not Fast Enough to Cut Jobless Rate.
New Fed lineup next year could mean more dissents
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will likely face more pressure from some his own colleagues next year to scale back the Fed's $600 billion bond-buying program to rev up the economy.

Bernanke Options May Be Limited Amid Republican Scrutiny
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke may find his options for reducing unemployment near a 26-year high are constrained after Republicans take control of the House of Representatives next month.
The Dollar Gains
The dollar gained against the euro and yen before the outcome of the Federal Reserve’s meeting to review its policy of debt purchases to bolster the U.S. economy.

Fed remains in the hot seat
The Federal Reserve has been in the hot seat since its last meeting. Economists and other Fed watchers expect the central bank's statement to be somewhat more upbeat than a month ago, acknowledging some signs of improvement in the economy.
Chinese inflation spikes on food costs
Higher food prices continue to be the main driver of inflation in China, raising the likelihood of an imminent interest rate hike as the country tries to reel in its red-hot economy.

Economists Comments
Rising Interest Rates Signal a Bullish Recovery
There has been much hand-wringing in the business press lately about the recent rise in interest rates. The fear is often expressed that this will choke off the economic recovery and decimate further the still-weak housing industry. But in fact, rising interest rates are an extremely bullish sign; tangible evidence that the economy may have finally turned the corner and is poised for a sharp rise in growth.

Bernanke's bold QE2 finally explained
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is using further quantitative easing to lift the US economy. But there's a big difference between creating more money and creating more value.
The Unintended Consequences of Monetary Policy
QE2 is not helping consumers or the housing market, but it is helping banks with a steeper yield curve. Was that the plan all along?
The Future of Our Asymmetric Recovery
The inflation versus deflation debates are interconnected with the nature of the economy's recovery because the key to the former debate is held in the answers to the discussion of the latter.

Three ways to stabilize the euro
The European debt crisis has weakened the euro considerably, but there are opportunities to help put it back on even ground before it's too late.
China's 'death grip' on the dollar
Will China's addiction to dollars lead the global economy into a bruising showdown with inflation?
How Fed's policymakers hold power over your purse
The Federal Reserve's chief policymaking group has vast power over the finances of ordinary people, businesses and investors. The consequences of its interest rate decisions range wide: from people's ability to get affordable lonas to the price of cereal at the grocery store or gasoline at the corner station.
FOMC Discusses QE2 Progress, Unemployment
The future of quantitative easing and whether or not it should have the dual mandate of price stability and full employment are primary topics in this last meeting of 2010.
QE2 Is a Failure: Higher Yields Will Hurt Overbought Stocks
The Fed shouldn't have taken the federal funds rate below 3%, because 0%-1% rates for Wall Street simply ignite commodity speculation and create bubbles.
Five Ways Inflation in China Can Affect the US
The era of goldilocks in China is over; the era of trade-offs and tough choices for the Chinese has begun.

Federal Reserve Lending Programs
The Federal Reserve recently released detailed data on its financial rescue activities as required under the new Dodd-Frank Act. The information covers nine special lending and related facilities and the programs related to the acquisition of Bear Stearns and assistance given to AIG during the financial crisis. The data covers more than 21 thousand transactions and trillions in loans and assets purchases. However, comparable information was not provided on its discount window lending.
Stress Testing the Fed
The Federal Reserve has recently announced its intention to purchase an additional $600 billion of securities as part of a second round of quantitative easing. Security sales and other methods of generating increased interest rates entail significant interest rate risk for the Federal Reserve and could result in either economic or book value insolvency long before interest rates rise and return to normal.

Can the euro survive its 'hair shirt'?
It's not looking good, says longtime euroskeptic Desmond Lachman.
Why Inflation in China Could Get Out of Control
Price controls, subsidies will serve as temporary palliatives at best; the only way to control inflation in China is through methods that substantially slow the economic growth rate.
Fed Has Only Temporarily Beat Deflation
John Williams calls for the "Hyperinflationary Great Depression," but it's easy to see that the US will hop in and out of deflation for the foreseeable future.

Keep calm and carry on?
Having learned that inflation ticked up to 3.3% in November, making yet another month in which price increases ran ahead of target, Britons may be wondering when the Bank of England will begin hitting its monetary brakes.
National Currency With State Implications
The Obama administration hopes to double exports within five years, and a weaker U.S. dollar would help lift foreign demand.
Happy on the sidelines
In October David Cameron, the British prime minister, collected the support of 12 other countries to limit next year’s European Union budget to a rise of 2.9%. After an ill-tempered fight with the European Parliament, Britain (and the other net-contributors) got its way.
Regional Fed Surveys Flag Seeds of Future Inflation
Economists looking at the November consumer price index released Wednesday couldn’t reach agreement on whether inflation is about to rise or ebb even further toward deflationary levels.

Nominal GDP Targeting
For the Fed, a target represents a justification for taking action. Some people may be upset with what your action does to the exchange rate or the interest rate. Having a target allows you to justify your action.

Parsing the Fed: How the Statement Changed
The Fed’s statement following the December meeting was little changed from the previous month when the central bank announced a new round of bond buying.
The Lone Dissenter: Kansas City’s Hoenig Goes Out With A Record
It’s eight for eight — a perfect dissent streak — for Thomas Hoenig. The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City President concluded his final meeting as a voting member of the Federal Open Market Committee as expected, dissenting against his colleagues’ stance on monetary policy

Is Ron Paul Good for Monetary Policy?
Paul will ultimately be good for monetary policy because he will actually bring some oversight to the Fed, which has been sorely lacking.
Fed independence is the worst solution except for all the others
How to best achieve the Fed mandate remains up for debate.


Tax News Dec. 13 - 17

13M get unexpected tax bill from Obama tax credit
About 13.4 million taxpayers may be getting unexpected tax bills because they were awarded too much money under President Barack Obama's Making Work Pay tax credit, a government audit said Thursday.
Accountants on Edge Waiting for Tax-Cut Changes
The tax-cut bill that gained final approval in Congress late Thursday, coming so late in the year, has whipped up a mild panic for accountants, payroll staffs and anyone else who handles taxes.
Congress Sends $801 Billion Tax Cut Bill to Obama
The vote sealed the first major deal between President Obama and Congressional Republicans as Democrats put aside their objections and bowed to the realignment of power brought about by their crushing election losses.

Tax cut deal: How it affects you
With the Senate's passage Wednesday of Tax Hike Prevention Act of 2010, it now goes to the House for consideration and a vote.
Japan Adopts Tax-Overhaul Plan
...for the beleaguered government of Prime Minister Naoto Kan, the next part will be the hardest: gaining the necessary backing from increasingly hostile opposition parties.
Tax Deal Steams Closer to Approval
ongress moved toward final approval of President Barack Obama's tax plan on Wednesday, as the Senate approved it by a wide bipartisan margin and House leaders worked to keep liberal critics from derailing its passage.
Tax revenues fall across industrialised world
Tax receipts across the industrialised world have fallen to their lowest level since the early 1990s…

Sweeteners' in tax cut bill called 'politics as usual'
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates the tax bill will cost $893 billion, and Taxpayers for Common Sense recently unveiled its list of "hobo provisions trying to catch a ride" inside it.
Democrats' Opposition Fades as Tax Vote Nears
The final obstacle to President Barack Obama's tax deal—the opposition of House Democrats—appeared to be melting away Tuesday as strong Senate support for the legislation turned up pressure on liberal critics to concede.
Tea Party groups divided on tax cut deal
Before all the details were known, Tea Party Express initially supported the package. Russell said last week he thought the compromise was not ideal, but the group was willing to accept "small victories."
Democrats resist estate-tax provisions
President Obama's first postelection effort to strike a deal with Republicans is on the line in the tax-cut debate, where he finds himself fighting House Democrats who say he conceded too much to the GOP on an estate-tax cut.
Save the Children Breaks With Soda Tax Effort
In October, Save the Children surprised activists around the country with an e-mail message announcing that it would no longer support efforts to tax soft drinks.
Tax Deal Paves Way for Reform
This week's great debate over the fate of the Bush-era tax cuts is doing something more important than determining tax levels for a couple of years: It's helping set the table for a fundamental reform of the tax system.
Tax Deal Possibly Endangered by Error in Legislation
...a program to extend low income housing tax credits for people who lost homes during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita was left out of the bill even though it was a deal that all sides approved.

Tax-cut deal clears Senate hurdle
An agreement between President Barack Obama and Republicans on extending Bush-era tax cuts cleared a key procedural hurdle in the Senate on Monday, setting up a vote on final Senate passage this week.
Soda Tax Would Boost Government Revenue, Not Solve Fat Problem, Study Says
Imposing a 40 percent tax on soda and non-carbonated drinks would raise $2.5 billion a year and translate to an average annual weight loss of 1.3 pounds per person, researchers wrote in the Archives of Internal Medicine yesterday.
Moody's Warns It May Cut US Rating if Tax-Cut Deal Becomes Law
Moody's warned Monday that it could move a step closer to cutting the U.S. Aaa rating if President Barack Obama's tax and unemployment benefit package becomes law.

Senate set to debate tax plan compromise
Senators are expected to open debate on the tax compromise reached by President Barack Obama and Republicans Monday, but House Democrats will likely try to change the deal, one of their leaders said.
The State of the Estate Tax
At Long Last, It Appears That Washington Has Agreed on New Estate-Tax Rules. Here's What You Need to Know
Cost of the Senate Tax Bill
The tax cut measure scheduled for a Senate vote Monday would cost $857.8 billion over 10 years, according to an estimate from the Joint Committee on Taxation.
Payroll tax cut worries Social Security advocates
President Barack Obama's plan to cut payroll taxes for a year would provide big savings for many workers, but makes Social Security advocates nervous that it could jeopardize the retirement program's finances.
Democrats Signal Tax Deal Will Pass House
Van Hollen says Democrats won't stand in the way of passage.
Bill Clinton: Tax deal the best we can reach
Former President Bill Clinton took to the White House podium Friday and delivered a ringing endorsement of the tax compromise struck earlier this week by President Obama and Republican lawmakers.

Economist Comments
Do Estate Taxes Matter?
Estate taxes have long generated political heat. Would other kinds of taxes work just as well?

Romney: Tax deal, bad deal
Of course, delay now is better than an immediate tax hike. But because the extension is only temporary, a large portion of the investment and job growth that characteristically accompanies low taxes will be lost.
Van Hollen: Deal Will Pass Even Without Estate Tax Revision
The bill passed by the Senate pegs the rate at 35 percent, with a $5 million exemption.
What Are Taxes For?
Should the primary purpose of taxation be to support the government or maximize economic growth?
Opposing view on inheritances: 'Death tax' is unfair
The economic question is simple: Does the estate tax help create jobs, grow the economy or improve our country. In every case, the answer is no.
For Family-Run Small Businesses, Estate-Tax Uncertainty Adds Costs
What's unavoidable to many family businesses, however, is the cost of lawyers, accountants, family business advisers and business appraisers—and all that, owners say, has increased in the past decade as the estate-tax rate has continually changed.
MILLOY: Tax on coal in nation's stocking
New greenhouse rules do nothing but unravel red tape.

Tax deal makes everyone unhappy -- except most Americans
What most economists agree on is that raising taxes in January, which will happen if this deal isn't passed, will cause further economic damage.
The 'Tax The Rich' Con, Part III
It's a classic bait-and-switch that eventually leads to higher taxes for everyone.
Cracking the tax code
The countless exemptions, credits and deductions cost the government more than $1 trillion annually in foregone revenue. It's time for an overhaul.
Billionaires On the Warpath'?
Thus the heart of the tea party's objections to the Beltway status quo is fundamentally a moral one: that Washington is arrogant about how it takes and spends our money.

RAHN: Tax facts and fantasies
The rich already pay more than their fair share.
Temporary' Tax Code Puts Nation in a Lasting Bind
In the late 1990s, there were typically fewer than a dozen tax provisions that had just a limited lease on life and needed to be renewed every year or so… Today there are 141.
FEULNER: A misdeal on tax cuts
As tax-cut deals go, the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010 was never a winner.
Democrats Are Right to Attack Obama's Tax Deal: Amity Shlaes
The payroll tax break of 2011 encapsulates what’s wrong with our entire tax system. This one piece of the compromise plan also explains why growth after next year is likely to be weaker, not higher, than the current optimistic predictions.
The Tax The Rich Con Part II
The middle class will foot the bill for higher taxes on the rich.
Welcome to tax reform redux
Barack Obama is not the first president to use sweeping reform of the income tax as a way of distracting attention from more urgent, if not more important, issues. But early signs are that he is going about it all wrong.

Government Unions vs. Taxpayers
The moral case for unions—protecting working families from exploitation—does not apply to public employment.
Obama May Tackle the 800 Pound Gorilla—Tax Reform
By embracing tax reform, President Obama opened the door to a long and contentious debate over the cumbersome and loophole-ridden U.S. tax code.

The Reality of the Tax Deal
It is an interesting topic because it showcases the enormous gulf between what makes good political sense and what policies are economically beneficial.

In Support of the Tax Compromise
The main reason why is that I don’t necessarily see an extension of the Bush tax laws as a tax cut. American individuals and businesses have been living with the current rates for nearly a decade. And its not that there will be a cut into the current state of revenues.
U.S. to have Highest Corporate Tax Rate in the World
Japan’s reduction will leave the U.S. in the uncomfortable position of having the highest corporate income tax rate in the industrialized world.
Why Democrats Should Support the Extension of the Bush-Era Tax Rates
The attitude switch won’t be so hard once they actually look at the data, since it shows that the main impact the rate reduction had in the first place was to make the rich pay an even bigger share of taxes that they paid before.

Would a Permanent Extension of Tax Rates Really Create Certainty?
Even if the Congress were to make current tax provisions permanent, there would still be an enormous amount of uncertainty in current tax policy. This is because, over the long run, government expenditures are on an unsustainable path and by the simple arithmetic of budgeting, taxes will eventually have to go (way) up or spending will have to go down.
Tax Compromise Makes Reform More Urgent, Not Less
...a temporary extension of tax rates not only kicks the can down the road on comprehensive tax reform, but itself inserts uncertainty into the marketplace.
How to Fix the Tax Code: Five Pro-Growth Policies for Congress
Among the many undue burdens that the current tax code places on American taxpayers and the economy, five stand out as particularly detrimental to job creation, investment, and economic recovery.

Killing Obama’s ‘Build America Bonds’ Is a Big Reason to Like the Tax Deal
The tax deal ends the “Build America Bonds” tax preference, which was one of the most destructive provisions of Obama’s so-called stimulus. Here’s an excerpt from a Bloomberg report.
Rep. Paul Ryan: Tax Deal Not a Stimulus Package
Speaking with WSJ’s Jerry Seib, Congressman Paul Ryan (R, WI) insisted that the deal between Republicans and the White House on the Bush Tax Cuts was not a second stimulus and that the agreement would promote growth despite adding to the deficit.
Mayor Bloomberg Imposes a Victim Tax on New Yorkers
Firefighters will begin charging accident victims for their emergency services to the tune of hundreds of dollars, even if the victim was not at fault.

Uncertainty and Taxes
As this paper will show, tax reform is necessary. However, given our current tax structure, any increase in marginal income-tax rates will actually retard economic growth and stall recovery further.

Health Care News Dec. 13 - 17

More Americans Without Employer-Provided Coverage
Approximately 44.8 percent of adults reported having employer-based insurance in November, a new low in a general decline from 50 percent in January 2008.
Young People Can Be Enticed to Buy Health Insurance
Contrary to popular belief, many of the healthier, typically younger Americans who shun insurance do so because of cost concerns, not because they think they will avoid illness or injury.

Health care reform: Battleground shifts to Florida courtroom
The legal battle over health care reform is destined for the Supreme Court, analysts say. On Thursday a US district judge in Florida hears arguments in a case brought by 20 States.

New Rule Requires Hospitals to Report Infections
Hospitals are set to begin reporting bloodstream infections to the federal government starting January 1 in an effort to reduce preventable infections and death; by 2012, hospitals will begin reporting surgical site infections.
U.S. to Appeal Health Ruling
Move Advances Constitutional Struggle Likely to Reach Supreme Court by 2012.
Baby Boomers Will Benefit Most from Health Reform
Baby boomers will likely reap the most benefits from health care reform according to a new report from the Commonwealth Fund. According to the report, 6.8 million of the 8.6 million uninsured Americans aged 50-64 will gain insurance through the expansion of Medicaid in 2014.

Despite conservative victory Monday, experts say Obamacare debate ultimately headed to Supreme Court
President Obama's health care reform law was dealt a serious blow Monday when the part of the law that requires Americans to purchase health insurance was deemed unconstitutional by a federal court in Virginia. But analysts largely agree that the final battle over the law will ultimately be waged at the Supreme Court.
What health care ruling means
A Virginia judge found a key part of the health care legislation unconstitutional; namely, the part that says Americans without health coverage must purchase their own, starting in 2014. Here's what that means for you:
Medicaid cuts: teeth pulled, transplant called off
Across the country, state lawmakers have taken harsh actions to try to rein in the budget-busting costs of the health care program that serves 58 million poor and disabled Americans. Some states have cut payments to doctors, paid bills late and trimmed benefits such as insulin pumps, obesity surgery and hospice care.

Va. Judge to Rule on Health Care Legislation
Judge Considers Constitutionality of 'Individual Mandate' in Health Care Law.
Firms Feel Pain From Health Law
Big employers faced with incorporating the first round of health-care changes next month are grappling with how to comply with the long list of new rules.
Voter Support for Generic Medicaid Drugs
With state legislators facing another tough year of budget gaps, Medicaid has once again become a target for cost cutting. But at least one interest group is using the recent focus on slashing Medicaid’s costs to generate momentum to change how the government plan does business, saving money without reducing benefits.
Republicans say nix to Democrats' health law fix
Republicans rebuffed a Democratic effort to repeal health reform’s universally panned 1099 IRS reporting requirements as a piggyback in the tax cut deal. The move leaves 1099 rollback in play for the next Congress, giving Republicans an easy target in an otherwise challenged landscape for health reform repeal.

Economist Comments
Why social sharing of medical data is a good idea
Concerns over digital privacy, especially of medical records, have never been higher. Yet startup PatientsLikeMe says there's much to be gained from the crowdsourcing of ailments -- and treatments.
Obamacare will hurt low-skill workers
Come 2014, the health care law will make it more costly for employers to hire low-skill workers. And, as workplaces around the country prepare to implement the new law, employers are considering how best to comply.
Can Congress Force You to Be Healthy?
Judge Hudson explained that whatever else Congress might be able to do, it cannot force people to engage in a commercial activity, in this case buying an insurance policy.

When the Supreme Court takes up the Obama health-care law 'mandate'
Justice Kennedy will probably be the swing vote on a case concerning the individual mandate. Here is what he may well say against this linchpin of the Obama health-care law.
Enforcement and the health care law
Conservative promises to thwart “Obamacare” by cutting off funds needed for implementation sets up a dangerous precedent that Americans — Republican and Democrat - -should be wary of.
On Health Law, Check Back in a Generation
Whether or not the Supreme Court ultimately upholds or rejects the idea of a government mandate to buy health insurance, the various facets of the new law will be subject to myriad challenges over the next several years — not only in the courts, but on the floor of Congress and inside the agencies that will establish a truckload of new regulations.
Mr. President, tear down this law
Mr. President, the centerpiece of your domestic agenda, the health care overhaul that bears your name, has just been declared unconstitutional. I celebrate this victory for freedom and for limited government, and I invite you to consider the opportunity it offers you.

Romney Agrees Health Care Law Is Unconstitutional
“The court ruling supports Mitt Romney’s view that 'Obamacare' is an unconstitutional power grab by Washington,’’ said Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom. “We should repeal the law and return to the states the power to determine their own health care solutions."
Obamacare oblivion
Fast-track needed for Supreme Court review.

Why the Health-Care Law Got Slammed
Early versions of the health reform law specifically called the individual mandate payment a "tax" but the final version of the law specifically changed this terminology to "penalty" not "tax".

Graham: U.S. competitive without medical monopoly
The November election made a bull's-eye out of Obamacare, which some Republicans want to repeal. Obamacare is a worthy target because it is a significant lurch toward so-called "universal" health care.
Kicking the Medicare Can -- Again
Since 2003, as health-care costs have skyrocketed and Medicare's finances grown worse, the SGR has dictated reimbursement cuts every year. And every year, Congress intervened to postpone those cuts.
Obamacare must be repealed
The American people have spoken, and the message they sent to Washington is clear: Americans want Obamacare ripped out of the U.S. Code by the roots. With their actions, America's voters have shown that they want the 112th Congress to make Obamacare repeal a reality.
Following the Money, Doctors Ration Care
Unequal access to health care is hardly a new phenomenon in the United States, but the country is moving toward rationing on a scale that is unprecedented here.

It's a Penalty ... It's a Tax ... No, It's SUPERMANDATE!
So the latest talking point I'm seeing is that the individual mandate is no big deal--just a tax dodge like we've always had.  The government is raising taxes, and then giving a deduction of equal size to those who buy health insurance.
ObamaCare Challenges Gain Steam
Today’s hearing in Pensacola built on Monday’s ruling out of Richmond: Judge Roger Vinson is likely to hold the individual mandate unconstitutional.
Government Arguing That Health Insurance Premiums Are Really Taxes?
The arguments on the health care mandate in Florida went forward today, with the government trying to clarify how the mandate is a tax, and not an attempt to grossly exceed the enumerated powers of the legislature.
NYT got it wrong on the health care big picture
With regard to health care, the major reason for the high prices and dislocations are government restrictions, programs, and interventions of all sorts. This is the reason for the existing problems. More government intervention will do nothing to correct them but instead will lead to ever more rationing, technological stagnation, and deprivations of all kinds.
Will National Health Care Improve Our Economic Health?
During the latter half of the debate over the health care bill, you started to hear an intriguing argument about the effects of the bill.  Where conservatives claimed that it would stifle the economy, liberals countered that in fact, it would unleash the entrepreneurial power of people "locked into" their jobs by fear of losing their health coverage.

Medicare Entitlement Crowd Out: We Told You So
Any time Congress creates a health care entitlement, it “crowds out” (i.e., displaces) private coverage, replacing private sector spending with increased taxpayer spending. The end result: Private spending and coverage contract while government entitlements, dependency, and spending grow.
Breaking Health Care Research
Deficit reduction is in vogue right now thanks to the recent efforts of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, but Representative Paul Ryan’s (R–WI) “Roadmap for America’s Future Act” started it all as the first proposal to offer comprehensive solutions to the nation’s pending fiscal crisis, balancing the budget and eliminating national debt while also fixing the health care system.

Medicare Variation Revisited
Health economists and policy analysts have long known that Medicare spends much more, per patient, in some parts of the country than in others.
Breast cancer drug offers glimpse of death panels
OnFriday, the Food and Drug Administration could doom thousands of breast cancer victims. The FDA will be considering the unprecedented step of revoking approval for Avastin, a drug that represents the last hope for women with late-stage breast cancer.

Judge Rules Health Reform Mandate Unconstitutional
This has naturally attracted a lot of electrons, and ink, but it's not a surprise--his earlier comments on the mandate, when he ruled against the government's motion to dismiss, seemed to indicate that this was coming.  This is going all the way to the Supreme Court, and ultimately, it will depend on whether our swing justice wants to make history by affirming the law, or by overturning it.
Judge Rules Obamacare Mandate Goes Beyond Letter and Spirit of the Constitution
After declaring the individual mandate and the alleged tax (really a penalty) unconstitutional, the judge had to confront two remedial issues.
Breaking Health Care Research: A New Way Forward in Medicare Reform
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) will impact every corner of the health care system, especially Medicare. Unfortunately, the new law speeds the program’s travel in the wrong direction by building upon existing problems and creating new ones.
Another Victory on the Road to Repeal
Obamacare simply may not survive that long. It is already collapsing under its own financial and bureaucratic weight.

Follow the reimbursement rates

A large number of doctors, for instance, do not accept Medicaid patients and that is because the Medicaid reimbursement rate is lower than Medicare or private insurance.  It's a key question how the queueing of Medicaid patients (and to some extent Medicare patients) will proceed as the demand for health care rises.
Number of Waivers Grows As a Result of Obamacare Authors’ Sloppy Handiwork
Jamie Dupree recently reported for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the number of waivers granted by the Obama Administration for a certain provision in the new health care law has now reached 222. That’s double the amount of just three weeks ago.

How to Fix Medicare: A New Vision for a Better Program
Medicare is an entitlement program intended to secure health care for senior and disabled citizens. But its current design, based on government central planning and price controls, falls far short of guaranteeing access to high-quality care for current and future retirees. With no budgetary limit, program costs have soared and will become unaffordable for future taxpayers. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) reinforces bureaucratic micromanagement and price regulation and makes the program’s current problems even worse.

General Economic News Dec. 13 - 17

White House has stake in Internet vote
Next week’s Federal Communications Commission vote on net neutrality could hand President Barack Obama a much-needed policy victory — or another fistful of frustration on a stubborn issue that’s been lingering since the start of his presidency.
Approval of Internet traffic rules likely-analysts
Contentious Internet traffic rules facing a vote next week are likely to be adopted without radically veering from a proposal unveiled earlier in the month, telecommunications policy analysts said on Wednesday.
Latest Airline Fee: $9 to Lock in Airfare
Continental Airlines Introduces New Fee to Hold Airfare
Another bubble?
Some tech start-ups look over-valued
Strong week for economy raises optimism for 2011
Buoyed by a string of hopeful government reports on layoffs, factory production and consumer spending, economists are predicting that hiring and even housing will pick up in 2011 and make it a better year after all.
McDonnell: State workers should pay for retirement
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell proposed Thursday that all state employees begin paying into the state's retirement system starting in July 2011, the first time workers would be required to do so since 1983.
Implosion at the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission
GOP members fire a torpedo at its report before it's published.
Pay freeze could heat things up at the exits
Actions have consequences. One unintended consequence of the two-year pay freeze President Obama asked Congress to impose on federal workers is the impact it may have on higher income employees and those eligible to retire.

Mapping America: Every City, Every Block
Browse local data from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey, based on samples from 2005 to 2009.
10 Best Data Visualization Projects of the Year – 2010
So here are the top 10 visualization projects of the year, listed from bottom to top.
Housing bust? So what? We still want to own
The American Dream is still alive and kicking, including within immigrant and minority communities, according to a survey from mortgage giant Fannie Mae.
U.S. Economic Confidence Declines in Early December
Confidence declines equally across upper-income and middle- and lower-income Americans
American Airlines starts a trend: Higher airfares
Airfares kept low by the weak economy may now be a thing of the past.
Average 30-year fixed mortgage rises to 4.83 pct.
Rates on fixed mortgages surged for the fifth straight week, reflecting higher yields on long-term Treasurys.
Not Really 'Made in China'
The iPhone's Complex Supply Chain Highlights Problems With Trade Statistics
Record plunge in foreclosures, thanks to robo-signers
The number of foreclosure notices filed in November plunged 21%, the biggest month-over-month drop ever recorded by RealtyTrac, the online foreclosure marketer. Filings fell 14% compared with November 2009.

Factory output up; inflation tame; housing still depressed
Factory output grew for a fifth month in November, adding to evidence that manufacturing remains an engine of economic growth, while inflation remained tame. But home builders are still mired in a depression.
Violent protests as Greeks strike over austerity cuts
Huge crowds of protesters, upset about stringent Greek economic reforms, marched past the Greek Parliament in Athens Wednesday as police in white helmets tried to keep them from getting any closer.
Obama brainstorming with 20 CEOs
President Obama said Wednesday that a meeting with 20 CEOs will help "find new ways to spur hiring, put Americans back to work and move our economy forward."
U.S. Industrial Production Rises More Than Forecast
Industrial production in the U.S. increased more than forecast in November and consumer prices slowed, indicating the recovery is gaining momentum without generating inflation.
U.S. Consumer Prices Rose 0.1% in November, Below Forecast
The cost of living in the U.S. rose less than forecast in November, indicating higher prices for commodities such as fuel aren’t filtering through into other goods and services.
$4.3B haul spurs calls for airlines to disclose 'hidden' fees
A New Jersey senator said Tuesday that much of the record $4.3 billion U.S. airlines took in for checking bags and changing tickets the first nine months of the year were "hidden" fees that caught passengers by surprise.
Deal may unleash corporate cash
Beneath the surface of Wednesday’s White House summit with corporate America lies an increasingly pointed dispute about how to unlock the record high $1.9 trillion in cash that businesses have piled up recently.

U.S. retail sales in November rise 0.8%
Consumers spent more money on gas, clothes, hobby items and online goods to boost U.S. retail sales in November for the fifth straight month, government data showed Tuesday.
Confidence at U.S. Small Companies Increases to Three-Year High
Confidence among U.S. small businesses rose in November to the highest level since the recession began three years ago as more companies projected the economy and sales will improve, a private survey found.
Oct. business inventories up 0.7%, below forecasts
Inventories at U.S. businesses rose 0.7% in October, below expectations and slower than the 1.4% increase in sales. The inventory-to-sales ratio, an indication of demand, slipped to 1.27 in October from 1.28 in September.
Producer Prices in U.S. Rose 0.8% in November; Core Up 0.3%
Wholesale costs in the U.S. rose in November by the most in eight months, led by higher prices for gasoline, heating oil and fruit.
Effort to help troubled borrowers largely failed
A $30 billion Obama administration program set up to help troubled homeowners modify mortgages has failed to help the vast majority of homeowners facing foreclosure.
Obama and CEOs: The great thaw
Last week, the administration said that 20 CEOs will meet with President Obama on Wednesday for a discussion that will cover trade, clean energy, the deficit and tax code reform.
Fewer Homes 'Underwater' as Foreclosures Increase
The number of U.S. homeowners who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth fell in the third quarter, but the decline stemmed from banks getting more aggressive on foreclosures, not from home values going up.
Americans' Wellbeing Remains at 2010 Low
Drop in healthy behaviors are principle source of decline since May.

Are Americans as Poor as They Feel?
It depends on what they buy. While some big-ticket expenditures have skyrocketed, the relative cost of many necessities has dropped.
Will rising mortgage rates spur home sales?
Historically low mortgage rates didn't encourage new home sales, but rising rates could finally push home-buying fence-sitters into the market.
Fewer Homes `Underwater' Last Quarter as Foreclosures Rose
The number of U.S. homes worth less than the debt owed on them dropped in the third quarter, largely because of mounting foreclosures rather than a rise in property values, according to CoreLogic Inc.
Economic Reports for the Week of Dec. 13
Data this week will include retail sales and the Producer Price Index for November and business inventories for October (Tuesday); Consumer Price Index and industrial production for November (Wednesday); weekly jobless claims, housing starts for November, current account deficit for the third quarter and the Philadelphia Fed’s manufacturing index for December (Thursday); and leading economic indicators for November (Friday).
Economists Predict Growth in 2011
Economists have grown more optimistic about the outlook for U.S. growth next year, predicting the expansion will accelerate as 2011 progresses, according to the latest Wall Street Journal forecasting survey.
Risky Borrowers Find Credit Available, At a Price
Credit card offers are surging again after a three-year slowdown, as banks seek to revive a business that brought them huge profits before the financial crisis wrecked the credit scores of so many Americans.
Child-Poverty Rate Expected to Grow Drastically
Report: Nearly 1 million more children will be classified as poor by 2010's end.

Economist Comments
The Feds' Fat Factory
First, kill all the farm subsidies! That should have been President Obama's mantra if he truly wanted to curb the nation's child-obesity "epidemic." Instead, on Monday he signed into law the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.
The Coming College Education Bubble
Higher education's price-earnings ratio looks like Nevada housing circa 2007.
Obama's double bubble
Lax lending policy could blow up housing market again

Too Much Attention Paid to Moody's Swing
The media are touting a rating agency's schizophrenic claim that keeping the Bush tax rates helps the economy, but hurts the country's credit standing. Are ratings firms even relevant anymore?

Housing is the forgotten crisis
The U.S. economy has made a lot of progress since the dark days of September 2008 — investors are happy, bankers are secure, markets are functioning and businesses are flush. No depression here.
Unequal lesson for Social Security
The coming debate over Social Security may well be a preview of U.S. politics in the 21st century: 99 percent of Americans fighting over reduced benefits and increased taxes, while the richest 1 percent of them remain blissfully unaffected.
Silencing voices of Internet dissent
FCC's 'net neutrality' puts new Congress to the test
Forget the Great Recession; We're Facing the Next Great Depression
Bernanke's monetary policy will likely spike inflation high enough to collapse the economy again, and global stock markets will enter another devastating bear market.
Education payouts lack payoff
Redundant federal agencies create target-rich environment

Austerity, Wall Street-Style
Booking Yachts Is Out, Carpooling on Private Jets Is In as Boffo Pay Ticks Lower.
Principles to Guide the Implementation of the Orderly Liquidation Authority Called for Under the Dodd-Frank Act
The Dodd-Frank Act recognizes that investor understandings about endgame rules influence a firm’s appetite for risk and that, without changing existing rules, higher capital requirements on systemically important financial institutions (SIFIs) cannot by themselves end creditor perceptions that in most circumstances SIFIs are economically, politically, and administratively too difficult to fail and unwind.
Why Do the Poor Stay Poor?
Prosperity is impossible without property rights.
The US Treasury Debt Trap
Once interest payments take 30% of tax revenues, a country has an out-of-control debt-trap issue.
Nine Reasons 2011 Could Be a Repeat of 2010
Many pundits in the business media are signaling that the economy will perform much better in the coming year. Here, a look at why that's unlikely.

Irish Sovereign Debt Default Would Be Far from Armageddon
The world's economic policy makers have talked up a zero-tolerance attitude toward sovereign-debt defaults. For every troubled national borrower, there seem to be a dozen central bankers ready to hand out cash, always to avoid Armageddon.
Human Nature and Capitalism
The model of human nature one embraces will guide and shape everything else, from the economic system one prefers to the political system one supports.
Let a vigorous economy fight the War on Poverty
Whatever its original nobility of purpose, government data demonstrates that LBJ's War on Poverty has been lost. Despite everything Washington has done, the official poverty rate stubbornly stays within a range of 11 percent to 15 percent of the national population, year in and year out.
Economic Growth Beginning to Materialize
The rise in interest rates, copper prices, and crude oil is suggestive of stronger economic strength than is currently envisioned.

Making commuters' lives easier
Early this month, a massive new railway tunnel opened for the first time. It was finished six months early and nearly 10% under budget. So by now you know this didn't happen in America (or Britain, for that matter.)
Lies, Damned Lies, and Trade Statistics
If you want to understand how global integration and cross-border investment have left U.S. trade policy in need of a new purpose, check out today’s Wall Street Journal article about the Apple iPhone’s complex production-supply chain.  (And then see this analysis for more depth and detail.) The story is both testament to the benefits of globalization and the latest indictment of a decrepit international trade flow accounting system that nourishes misleading trade skeptics and misinforms policy.
Google ngram: the word "liberty"
For the pointer I thank Kevin Edwards.  The link here allows you to see the full graph.
Banks Are Lending, but to Whom?
A recurring concern we have heard since the financial crisis erupted is that banks are simply not lending, and that this is holding back economic activity.  If only banks would lend, the economy would grow.  As usual, the truth is a little more complex. 
Mark Thoma and I see the world differently
Politicians of both parties move back and forth between Washington and Wall Street. Was that the intent? Or was it just a series of bad luck and mistakes?
‘Politicians’ Top 10 Promises Gone Wrong’
That’s the title of an upcoming FOX News Channel feature program with John Stossel, in which Cato Executive Vice President David Boaz and Director of Health Policy Studies Michael F. Cannon weigh in on some of the hidden, unforeseen, and unintended consequences of the attempts to deliver on promises our politicians make.
Mass prosperity
David Leonhardt on the philosophical debate over ObamaCare.
Has England eliminated the gender pay gap?
Women in their 20s earn more than men the same age, according to a new study from the UK, but women's earnings drop below men's in their 30s.
What is Happening with Income Mobility?
As far as I am concerned, the important thing is to have a dynamic and growing economy with plenty of opportunities for those who are the least well-off among us. We can debate about whether or not ours is that sort of economy—especially given the current economic climate—but a simplistic analysis of income groups gives us very little information on this score.
Recovery Risks, Financial Overhaul, Voodoo Economics
A roundup of economic news from around the Web.

Bacon prices got you scared? Join the club.
Bacon of the month clubs let you lock in the price for a full year of gourmet breakfast meat. It's not exactly cheap, however.
IPhone Adds $1.9 Billion to U.S.-China Trade Deficit
One widely touted solution for current U.S. economic woes is for America to produce more of the high-tech gadgets that the rest of the world craves.
Worlds apart: a firsthand look at emerging market growth
Emerging markets have vigor and energy that the huge American market seems to lack.
EPA Regulations Killing Clean Energy
In sharp contrast to the pro-nuclear energy rhetoric of the Administration, some nuclear power plant owners are considering shutting down their facilities. Exelon, owner of the New Jersey Oyster Creek nuclear power plant, recently announced that it plans to close the plant 10 years early because of EPA regulations aimed at reducing the environmental impact of plants’ cooling water intake systems.
Lisa Jackson, Winner of the First Economic Darwin Award
We still need to designate an appropriate award for Ms. Jackson. Maybe a trophy depicting a shattered window (made from 100% recyclable materials of course)? 

Transfer fees
The cost of sending money home.
Naughty and Nice
The only “nice” companies are those, like the PB@T Bank, that tried NOT to take the money.  The “naughty” are the government -- Bush and Obama officials -- who gave out your money.  Because even if every penny is paid back, the economy still lost.
Don’t Get Fooled By Accounting Conventions
In my latest column in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, I grapple again with the issue of America’s trade deficit – doing so in a way that addresses some of the (many) objections that I’ve encountered over the years.  Here are the opening few paragraphs:
A Short History of Social Security Retirement Ages
This year, Social Security paid out more money than it took in for the first time since 1983. If the economy rebounds, Social Security is expected to be in the black by 2012 and will stay that way until 2015. But starting in 2016 Social Security will be in the red for as long as the Social Security Trustees can see.

Public Sector Inc.
Reform of public sector unionism is sure to be a major policy issue facing the states in the coming decade.
The Illustrated History of the U.S. Credit Collapse
The collapse in credit issuance/borrowing began in 2008 and would have been net negative without the Federal government. In 2009, for example, the Federal government was 141 percent of total net credit borrowings.
Credit Card Companies Seeking to Expand Lending?
The value of outstanding revolving credit balances (read credit card debt) is falling because people are actually paying down balances, which means that credit card issuers have gone from losing money on bad debt, to losing money on people who don't carry such large balances any more.
Unions That Won’t Take ‘No’ for an Answer
Part of living in a democracy involves accepting election results. Americans know to move on when their side loses. Someone should tell that to the union movement.

The ‘Consumer Spending’ Myth
Journalists talk endlessly these days about the need for more consumer spending to revive the economy, and for government programs to juice consumer spending. Economist Steven Horwitz takes on the assumption that spending is the key to economic activity:
Mortgage rates at highest level since July
Mortgage rates surged to 4.66 percent for 30-year fixed, the highest they've been since July 28, according to the Mortgage Bankers' Association.
Unofficial Problem Bank list at 919 Institutions
Here is the unofficial problem bank list for Dec 10, 2010.
People Produce (and Export) Only in Order to Consume (and Import)
Those who applaud Americans getting lots of money for their exports, but who then criticize Americans for importing, or who regard greater American imports as a detriment to America – that is, those who are critical of Americans for using their export earnings to improve their living standards – are inconsistent and confused.
Schedule for Week of December 12th
This will be a very busy week. The current plan is for the Senate to vote on the tax legislation on Monday at 3:00 pm. The House of Representatives is expected to vote later in the week, and then Congress plans to adjourn for the year on Friday.
What's Your U.S. Income Rating?
Did you ever wonder just where you fit in among all income-earning Americans?

Foreign Purchases of U.S. Securities Slow in October
Net purchases of U.S. securities slowed noticeably in October. While private investors were net buyers of long-term securities, foreign official investors were net sellers. Less demand for Treasurys pushed yields up.
Congress Should Block Union Transparency Rollback
The Obama Administration recently rolled back union financial transparency reforms. New regulations will exempt many union trust funds, such as strike funds and apprenticeship programs, from financial disclosure laws. These regulations also end financial reporting for many government unions.

Retail Sales Rose in November; Good Start to Holiday Season
Sales at the nation’s retailers rose 0.8 percent in November, largely due to increases in gasoline, clothing and sporting goods. “Core” sales, which exclude autos, gas and building materials, rose 0.9 percent.

Export Controls and the Hard Case of China
It is clearly in the interests of the United States to maintain some degree of control over its exports, if only to safeguard security-related technologies and deny them to its potential adversaries, as well as to support other aims such as nonproliferation. However, the United States has an equally high interest in supporting a healthy U.S. economy and fostering international political links, which require sustaining a robust portfolio of exports.

Economics Group
Weekly Economic & Financial Commentary