Thursday, March 10, 2011

General Economics

CNN Money | Debit cards: $50 spending limit coming?
Declined! Your debit card may soon be denied for purchases greater than $100 -- or even as little as $50.
Reuters | Gasoline cost to jump $700 for average household
The average U.S. household will spend about $700 more for gasoline in 2011 than it spent last year, bringing total motor fuel expenses up 28 percent to $3,235, based on an annual pump price of $3.61 a gallon, the department's Energy Information Administration said.
CNN Money | U.S. gas prices are a joke ... in Norway
While Americans tear their hair out at the pump, Europeans watch them enviously from across the Atlantic.
Bloomberg | Pimco’s Gross Eliminates Government Debt From Total Return Fund
Bill Gross, who runs the world’s biggest bond fund at Pacific Investment Management Co., eliminated government-related debt from his flagship fund last month as the U.S. projected record budget deficits.
CNN Money | Is China's economy slowing too fast?
It's starting to look as if everybody's worst fears about China's economy may finally be coming true. China is slowing down.
Yahoo Finance | January trade deficit jumps to $46.3 billion
Trade deficit widens to $46.3 billion in Jan.; foreign cars, oil prices cause imports to surge
CNN Money | Foreclosures plunge 27% - biggest drop on record
Is our long national foreclosure nightmare ending?

Econ Comments                                                                                                             
RCM | Wisconsin Provides a National Model
After three weeks of demonstrations in Madison, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a newly-elected Republican, will soon be able to sign a bill limiting public sector collective bargaining and raising public employees' health and pension contributions. This could be a model for other financially-strapped states to follow.
Ludwig von Mises Institute | Accounting for the Unaccountable: The Case of Externalities
This article demonstrates that, even if one accepts this ethical principle, the usual choice of externality-generating actions that are believed to justify state intervention is purely arbitrary.

Zero Hedge | US Trade Deficit Surges To $46.3 Billion On Expectations Of $41.5 Billion: Downard GDP Revisions Coming
And another piece of bad news for both the US economy and US exporters in particular, even despite prevailing dollar weakness over the past several months: the January US trade deficit printed at $46.3 billion, on imports of $214.1 billion ($10.5 billion higher M/M) and exports of $167.7 billion ($4.4 billion higher). This was the worst number since August 2010.
Mercatus Center: Neighborhood Effects | Pension accounting narratives
The controversy over just how expensive public pension plans are, and are likely to be, is growing more contentious. The reason is that some defenders of the current system cavalierly dispense with insights of financial economics in favor of a story that unravels on closer inspection.
Zero Hedge | Chinese February Trade Surplus Drops So Much It Becomes Deficit, Largest In 7 Years
After China was expected to post a $4.9 billion February trade surplus, the centrally planned economy demonstrated just how easy it is to shut all CNY "undervaluation" critics up, by posting a miraculous $7.3 billion trade DEFICIT in February, which just happened to be the largest in 7 years, following January's surging surplus.
Cato@Liberty | A Happy Birthday to The Wealth of Nations
Today marks the 235th anniversary of Adam Smith's An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, otherwise known as The Wealth of Nations. I chatted with GMU economics professor Russ Roberts on the book and its enduring impact.
Ludwig von Mises Institute | Free Market Critique of LBJ’s Great Society
Much of the current budgetary and related debt crisis confronting the United States has its origin in Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs of the 1960s. Many of these supposedly “untouchable” entitlement programs that are at the core of the fiscal conflicts going on right now in Washington, D.C. and in the state capitals around the country were created or were greatly expanded in the Great Society era.

RCM: Wells Fargo | Economics Group
Monthly Outlook

Health Care

CNN Money | Health care coverage: Big changes in 2012 - Exclusive
Charging higher contributions for dependent coverage and dropping retiree accounts, are among the steps companies are considering as they fight rising medical costs and new expenses tied to health reform.
NationalJournal | Must-Pass Bills Could Be Used to Defund Health Care Law
House Republicans laid the foundation to repeal mandatory spending in the health care law on Wednesday, holding a hearing that could be the first stop in attaching defunding language to vital bills.
Time | Admin Wants Swift Ruling on Health Care
The Obama Administration is asking a federal appeals court in Atlanta to act swiftly on a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of govenrment's health care overhaul.
NationalJournal | Keeping Medicaid May Mean Doing Less With Less
States that are struggling to maintain their Medicaid programs are going to have to slash more than just dental and vision – they may have to make painful cuts, the executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors said on Tuesday.
Time | Personal and Partisan Battles in the Legal War Over Health Reform
Although federal district judges have already dismissed or ruled against some plaintiffs, many are appealing in a long march toward the Supreme Court, which is expected to ultimately decide the fate of the law.

Econ Comments                                                                                                             
WSJ | Medicaid Is Worse Than No Coverage at All
New research shows that patients on this government plan fare poorly. So why does the president want to shove one in four Americans into it?
NRO | Real Health-Care Reform
We don’t' need top-down, centralized health-care reform; we need governance reform.
Fiscal Times | Medicare Fraud: A $70 Billion Taxpayer Ripoff
Medicare could wrench as much as $70 billion a year in savings by cracking down on fraud, experts told Congress this week. But the key is preventing scam artists and fake firms from doing business with the senior citizen health care program in the first place — not chasing them down after the fact.
NRO | Those Magic Billions
Imagine that you have $500 in your left pocket. You shift it to your right pocket. Can you now buy $1,000 worth of merchandise at your favorite store? Of course not.
Ludwig Von Mises Institute | The Myth of Free-Market Healthcare
While most people believe that our healthcare industry is one comprised of free markets, it is anything but. The industry is completely distorted by government manipulation

Volokh Conspiracy | Maine Gets a Waiver
The U.S. Health and Human Services department said in a letter it would waive the requirement that insurers spend 80 cents to 85 cents of every premium dollar on medical care and quality improvement. Instead, the letter said, the state could maintain its 65 percent standard for three years, with the caveat that HHS intends to review the figures after two years.


ABC News | 10 Counties With the Highest Property Taxes in the Country
Businesses in Westchester County, a suburb north of Manhattan, pay the highest property taxes in the nation. And they are saying, "Enough is enough."


Bloomberg | Fed Gives Markets Clues on Exit From Unprecedented Easing
In the week after the Federal Open Market Committee’s Jan. 25-26 meeting, policy makers issued three announcements about expanding the number of counterparties for transactions that will help drain the record amount of cash added to the financial system.
Bloomberg | Euro Weakens as Spain's Credit Downgrade Revives Debt Concerns in Region
The euro fell to the lowest level in a week against the dollar after Moody’s Investors Service lowered Spain’s credit rating, increasing pressure on European leaders to find a solution to the region’s debt crisis.

Econ Comments                                                                                                             
Minyanville | Worldwide Inflationary Economic Collapse Under Way
Inflation is already raging and it is destroying the world economy.
CNN Money | Higher oil, higher inflation? The Fed can't decide.
Higher oil prices are igniting a fierce debate inside the Fed: Will continuing QE2 lead to higher inflation, or will it prevent it?
Ludwig Von Mises Institute | Bust Looms As China Booms
Shortly before the American housing bubble burst, pundits across the globe argued that the world had reached a new plateau of economic growth, where the old rules of economics no longer applied — "this time it's different." The same has been said about the current boom in China, specifically with regards to its large degree of top-down state control over the economy, which somehow enables it to ignore the laws of economics.

Mises Economic Blog | Deflation Disaster in Memory Prices
This is not a disaster but a blessing courtesy of the free market.


WSJ | Deficit Proposal Picks Up New Allies
The effort of a bipartisan group of senators to attack the long-term budget deficit has won notable new support in recent days, raising lawmakers' hopes of reaching a deal within weeks.
Fox News | Rainy day' funds sit unused in handful of states
...a handful of states with billions of dollars socked away in "rainy day" funds for troubled financial times are discovering they can't use that money to offset their cuts.

Econ Comments                                                                                                             
Antony Davies | To understand the magnitude of the Federal budget…
...let’s scale down the Federal government to the size of the average U.S. household.
CNN Opinion | Gang of Six' may solve U.S. debt mess
Washington has been preoccupied with the prospect of a federal government shutdown.
NRO | The Procrastinating Generation
The Obama administration appointed a national-debt commission — only to ignore (so far) its recommendations because they’re seen as too painful.
Cato Institute | Budget Policy Talk in the Dark
Yet the White House's Office of Management and Budget is keeping secret the detailed and long-term budget projections and parameters that it uses to forecast the deficit in future years…
RCM | Short-Term Budget Thinking by Rs and Ds
Democrats like John Kerry believe that a cut of $61 billion in a nearly $4 trillion budget is "dangerous," while some Republicans appear to believe that this cut is meaningful.

NRO: The Corner | $862 Billion Over 10 Years
$61 billion x 10 years (+ interest) = $862 billion
Ludwig von Mises Institute | What's Wrong with Government Debt
...after [2018], the deficits get progressively bigger, not merely in absolute dollar terms but even as fractions of the economy.
Heritage Foundation | Budget Deficits Undermine U.S. Trade Policy Agenda
Budget deficits require the government to borrow money that otherwise could be spent on U.S.-made exports or invested in our economy’s productive private sector
NRO: The Corner | There’s No State Pension Crisis After All!
...some states’ pension funds are scheduled to run out as soon as 2017.

Heritage Foundation | Government Shutdown 101: A Slowdown, Not a Shutdown
The term “shutdown” substantially overstates the matter. Even if Congress and the President fail to reach agreement, the most essential services continue, such as: (1) providing for national security, (2) conducting foreign affairs, (3) providing for the continuity of mandatory benefit payments, and (4) protecting life and property.


CNN Money | AOL cuts 900 jobs after HuffPo buy
AOL CEO Tim Armstrong said Thursday the company is cutting 200 jobs in the U.S. and 700 in India following its $315 million purchase of the Huffington Post.
Bloomberg | Jobless Claims in the U.S. Rose 26,000 Last Week to 397,000
First-time claims for jobless benefits rose last week from an almost three-year low, highlighting the uneven nature of the improvement in the U.S. labor market.
CNN Money | Initial jobless benefit filings in big jump
The number of Americans filing first-time claims for unemployment benefits climbed in the latest week, with the figure coming in just below the key 400,000 level.

Econ Comments                                                                                                             
Fortune | Federal jobs fast becoming an endangered species
Federal agencies are imposing hiring freezes, eliminating openings, and preparing for severe budget cuts, dashing the hopes and prospects of many upcoming graduates and other jobseekers.
Cato Institute | Immigration Doesn't Hurt Native-Born Workers
There is simply no evidence that immigration drives up the U.S. unemployment rate or that it drives down wages for American workers

Political Calculations | Visualizing the Characteristics of Minimum Wage Earners in 2010
We're going to visualize a portion of the BLS' very-recently released data on the characteristics of U.S. minimum wage workers in 2010.
Heritage Foundation | Government Unions vs Middle Class Jobs
Are these papers so out of touch that they think anyone opposes “good middle-class jobs” for Americans? They have at least been taken in by the idea that unions’ greatest concern is for the jobs of their members. That is simply untrue.
NRO: The Corner | Education Levels and the Public/Private Compensation Differential
Comparing compensation between private and public employees is a tricky business. While there is no doubt that there is an important compensation gap, especially when measured per hour worked, some argue that it can be explained by the fact that public employees are more educated than private-sector ones.
Time: Curious Capitalist | Gas Price Spike: A Long-term Job-Killer?
The recent spike in gas prices is getting some economists nervous. Higher gas prices, it seems, could mean fewer jobs.