Thursday, June 16, 2011

General Economics

News                                                                                                                             
Market Watch | June Empire State index plunges to negative figure
Manufacturing activity deteriorated sharply in the New York region in June, raising concern that the slowdown seen in the factory sector that started in May could have marked the start of a contraction rather than a temporary soft patch.
NYT | States Want More in Pension Contributions
First came the pay freezes and unpaid furloughs. Then came the higher contributions for health insurance. Now, in the most definitive sign yet that the era of generous compensation for public-sector employees is ending, workers in more than half the states face the prospect of paying more of their salary toward their pensions.
Market Watch | May housing starts rise 3.5% after rough April
Ground-breaking on new U.S. housing units recovered a bit in May after a sharp drop in April, but remained well below levels that would provide any boost to the economy.
Market Watch | 30-year fixed-rate mortgage inches to 4.5%
Mortgage rates changed little this week, with the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage inching up to 4.5% from last week’s 4.49% average rate, according to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of conforming mortgage rates, released Thursday.
Bloomberg | Consumer Expectations in U.S. Drop
e Bloomberg gauge of economic expectations dropped to minus 31 this month, the lowest level since March 2009, from minus 16 in May. The Consumer Comfort Index, issued weekly, improved to minus 44 in the period to June 12, the highest level since mid April, from minus 45.9 as fuel prices kept falling.
Fox News | Recovery Summer? Mission Accomplished
May saw the fastest increase in U.S. consumer prices since 2006. That’s cause for real concern because rising prices can either be a symptom of economic growth or da drag on a weak economy, and this sure ain't the former.

Econ Comments                                                                                                             
Barron's | Derivatives Disaster Deferred -- For Now
Do benefits exceed costs of Dodd-Frank? Delay provides more time to determine.
Politico | The case for sensible patent reform
The latest unemployment report should serve as a wake-up call to both political parties. Economically and politically speaking, the nation needs sustainable job growth — and fast.
RCM | Mark Zandi: Always Quoted, Often Wrong, Never In Doubt
It's accepted wisdom in certain quarters that we should never believe what we read. With journalists pressed to report on all manner of subjects about which they often lack knowledge, it's inevitable that their news reporting will be slanted in ways that misinform the reader.
Politico | The answer isn't taxes but growth
Contrary to all expectations, congressional negotiators working with the administration and Vice President Joe Biden are reportedly making progress in finding some common ground on a package of measure to cut the deficit as part of a plan to potentially raise the debt ceiling.

Blogs                                                                                                                             
WSJ: Real Time Economics | Business Lobby Tells Fed Big-Bank Rules Can Hurt Economy
The largest business lobby in the U.S. complained to the Federal Reserve that rules requiring big banks to hold more money to protect against potential losses could hurt the wider economy, though Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has indicated he doesn’t agree.
Cato Institute | Bailouts Beget More Bailouts
The objection to the auto bailout was not that the federal government wouldn't be able to marshal adequate resources to help GM and Chrysler. The most serious concerns were about the consequences of that intervention — the undermining of the rule of law, the property confiscations, the politically driven decisions and the distortion of market signals.
WSJ: Real Time Economics | Shiller Sees ‘Substantial’ Probability of Recession
Noted economist Robert Shiller said Wednesday there was a “substantial” probability the U.S. could lurch again into recession.
Noting weak global data — including a stubbornly depressed U.S. housing market — were flashing warning signs, the Yale University economist said the economy right now faced a “tipping point.”
Forbes | Addressing The Fallacious Views Of Contemptuous Keynesians
It doesn’t seem to occur to Progressives that the reason that Americans “…don’t buy Keynesian economics” might just be because Keynesian economics doesn’t work.
Calculated Risk | May Update: 2012 Social Security Cost-Of-Living Adjustment
The Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) increased 4.1 percent over the last 12 months to an index level of 222.954 (1982-84=100). For the month, the index rose 0.5 percent ..."

Health Care

News                                                                                                                             
National Journal | MedPac Report Has Something to Irritate Everyone
The independent board assigned to advise Congress on the Medicare program released proposed changes to the politically popular entitlement program that will likely attract the ire of hospital, doctor, and specialty groups alike.
National Journal | Docs Demand Permanent Medicare Pay Fix In Debt Talks
Physician groups are circulating a strongly worded letter demanding Congress address the perennial problem of how much doctors are paid under Medicare in ongoing negotiations over raising the government’s debt ceiling.
WSJ | Negotiators Consider Medicaid Cutbacks
The Medicaid program for the poor is facing significant cuts in an emerging bipartisan budget deal as Republicans seek to shrink entitlements and Democrats protect other priorities.

Econ Comments                                                                                                             
WSJ | The ObamaCare Bad News Continues
Projected costs escalate and tens of millions will lose their current coverage.
Minyanville | Why Cost Containment in Health Care Is Impossible
The government can't get cost control without goring the oxes of patients, physicians, pharmaceutical companies, insurers, device manufacturers and hospitals.

Blogs                                                                                                                             
Cato @ Liberty | ObamaCare’s Main Coverage Vehicle Makes Kids Wait for Care
Half of ObamaCare‘s projected coverage gains (16 million out of 32 million U.S. residents) comes from expanding the Medicaid program.
Heritage Foundation | Ezra Klein’s F on Medicare Part D
At the time of its enactment in 2003, the Medicare drug benefit—known as Medicare Part D—had many critics. Some said the program, which is built on consumer choice and vigorous competition among private plan options, wouldn’t work because private plans would decline to participate.
Atlantic: Megan Mcardle | Most Illinois Specialists Won't Take Medicaid Patients
Proponents of health care reform are gnashing their teeth, while opponents grimly say "I told you so", at the news of a study from Illinois showing that children in Medicaid/SCHIP have difficulty getting specialists to treat them:

Monetary

News                                                                                                                             
Bloomberg | Euro Pares Drop Against Dollar as EU Officials Work on Greece Debt Crisis
The euro pared its decline against the dollar after reaching a three-week low amid speculation an agreement between the European Union and the International Monetary Fund may allow Greece to avoid a debt default.
CNN: Money | Fed could soon set inflation target
This should not be a big surprise. Recent comments by Fed members suggest policymakers are getting closer to the setting the kind of explicit inflation target used by many other central banks around the world. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is a long-time advocate of such a measure.
Market Watch | U.S. consumer prices climb 0.2% in May
The price of consumer goods rose in May as the cost of food, clothing, autos and housing all accelerated, offsetting the first drop in energy prices in 11 months.

Econ Comments                                                                                                             
Market Watch | Fed boxed in as U.S. slouches toward stagflation
With the economy softening in the past few months and inflation accelerating, you hear a lot of talk about stagflation — that ugly combination of low growth and high inflation that plagued the economy for much of the 1970s and early 1980s.

Blogs                                                                                                                             
WSJ | Worry About Growth or Inflation, Not Both
The underlying inflation rate has moved substantially higher in recent months, but worries about its direction in coming months should be based on a consistent economic story.

Reports                                                                                                                         
RCM: Wells Fargo | CPI: Core Inflation Strengthens in May
While the drop in gasoline prices restrained the headline’s 0.2 percent gain, core CPI increased a stronger-than-expected 0.3 percent in May. Inflation continues to eat into consumers’ purchasing power.

Employment

News                                                                                                                             
Market Watch | Applications for jobless benefits fall 16,000
The number of U.S. workers who filed new applications for unemployment benefits continued to drift downward after spiking in late April, according to the latest government data.

Econ Comments                                                                                                             
Daily Caller | Killing jobs: Obama holds FTAs hostage
As scholars at The Heritage Foundation note, TAA provides overly generous benefits for just a small fraction of laid-off workers.

Blogs                                                                                                                             
EconLog | Policies for Structural Unemployment
If the government has $50,000 to spend creating jobs, it would be better to pay a subsidy of $10,000 per job for five private-sector jobs than to create a single $50,000 job.

Reports                                                                                                                         
Heritage Foundation | Same Worker, Higher Wage: A Study of Workers Who Switch from Private to Federal Employment
The 1999 Handbook of Labor Economics provides a good overview of the relevant studies, which have usually found a federal wage premium of 10 percent to 20 percent.

Budget

Econ Comments                                                                                                             
Washington Times | BIRNBAUM: Time for work, not crazy talk
But there is an alternative: putting in place a new process that will force changes in law if deficit targets are not met over the next decade.
Cato Institute | The Real Budget Problem
According to the CBO, the federal government is on track to consume 42 percent of GDP by 2050.