Wednesday, February 29, 2012

General Economics

CNN Money | Gas prices spike 8% in February
February has been one heck of a month for American motorists, who have been hit with an 8% spike in the price of gas. And things are expected to get worse during the summer driving season, when gas prices could break their current record.
Washington Times | Consumers upbeat despite reports
The U.S. economy sent some mixed signals on growth Tuesday, with bad news on housing prices and durable goods orders, but consumer confidence jumping to its highest level in years and the Dow Jones index closing above 13,000 for the first time since May 2008.
WSJ | U.S. Growth Revised Up
The U.S. economy grew faster than initially thought as the recovery picked up steam in the during the final quarter of last year.
CNBC | What Can US Do to Halt Rising Gas Prices? Not Much
Rising gas prices are always a bad thing for an incumbent president, especially one heading into a tough re-election battle.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
CATO | Don't Blame the Depression on the Gold Standard -- But Don't Expect It Back Either
Two of America’s Republican candidates — Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul — have dared to toy with the idea of bringing back the gold standard.
WSJ | Geithner and the 'Privilege' of Being American
Last week Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said that the "most fortunate Americans" should pay more in taxes for the "privilege of being an American."
Washington Times | Keystone XL rejection weakens America and strengthens her enemies
The United States is by far the world’s leading oil importer. Thus, it follows that when the price of oil goes up, our economy is severely taxed and, therefore, it goes down. Indeed, every oil price increase for the past four decades, including those in 1973, 1979, 1991, 2001 and 2008, has been followed shortly afterward by a sharp rise in American unemployment.
Forbes | The "On Your Own" Economy
“From cradle to grave.” So goes the motto of the entitlement state, whose creator Otto von Bismarck said: “Give the working-man the right to work as long as he is healthy, assure him care when he is sick, assure him maintenance when he is old.”
Washington Times | Natural gas export ban would be costly
Despite the private sector’s willingness to invest billions of dollars in our country to develop the physical infrastructure necessary to export this “made in the USA” product, some in Washington are seeking to derail this economic boost by encouraging denial of export permits by the Obama administration’s Department of Energy.
WSJ | Money-Market Funds Aren't What You Think
The Securities and Exchange Commission is reportedly finishing a proposal to increase regulation on money-market funds, the $2.7 trillion industry that provides corporations with an important short-term funding source and individuals and institutions with an alternative to traditional bank deposits.

Heritage Foundation | Wind Subsidies vs. Oil Subsidies
In sharp contrast to wind turbines, the wind lobby is spinning at 100 percent capacity—in order to keep the industry in the taxpayers’ pockets. Their dizzying logic makes you wonder if they have been riding the blades instead of examining the facts.
Library of Economics | Peter Thiel on Regulation and Progress
Peter Thiel gave an interesting talk at the International Students for Liberty Conference earlier this month. In it, he claimed that few sectors other than the relatively unregulated IT sector have had substantial progress decade by decade.
The American | Everything you need to know about the power of economic freedom in 3 charts
The West was quite poor heading into the 1700s and then it got richer. A lot richer. Real fast. Its embrace of economic freedom and creative destruction, both legally and culturally—what economist Deirdre McCloskey calls the idea of bourgeois dignity and liberty—led to a rise in real income per head in 2010 prices from about $2-3 a day in 1800 worldwide to over $100 today.
Library of Economics | How Real Wage Increases Have Been Understated
Over the years, In discussing the alleged decline in real U.S. median wages, I've pointed out that there are two important ways in which the growth in real wages has been understated

Health Care

CNN Money | Feds level charges in largest Medicare fraud
Dr. Jacques Roy, a Dallas area physician, allegedly led a scheme that bilked Medicare for nearly $375 million over five years, in the largest healthcare fraud committed in the United States, federal authorities announced Tuesday.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
CATO | Sickening Regulation
The Department of Health and Human Services has announced that it must delay implementation of new reimbursement codes for Medicare. Those new regulations would have increased the total number of reimbursement codes from the current 18,000 to more than 140,000 separate codes.
Heritage Foundation | The "Doc Fix" Dilemma Calls for Immediate Medicare Reforms
Once again, Congress stopped a scheduled 27 percent payment cut to physicians who serve Medicare patients. This frequent exercise serves as a perfect example for the need to move Medicare away from its current price-control model toward a market-based, premium support model.


Market Watch | ECB allots $713 billion to banks in LTRO
European banks grabbed a larger-than-expected 529.5 billion euros ($713.4 billion) in cheap loans Wednesday, in the European Central Bank’s second and possibly last long-term refinancing operation.
CNN Money | Fed turns $2.8 billion profit on AIG bonds
"The completion of the sale of the Maiden Lane II portfolio has resulted in significant gains for the public and marks an important milestone in the wind-down of the extraordinary interventions necessitated by the financial crisis," William Dudley, president of the New York Fed, said in a statement.
Politico | Federal Reserve should focus more on inflation, bill says
Arguing that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke isn’t taking the threat of inflation seriously enough, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) is building support for a bill that would make managing inflation the central bank’s sole mission.


Bloomberg | Obama Plan Uses Three Numbers With Four Definitions for $250,000 Tax Line
Obama’s simple 2008 campaign pledge to prevent tax increases for all but the highest earners has been transformed into tax-code arcana. The dividing line in his speeches - -$250,000 a year for married couples and $200,000 for individuals -- is established in his policies with four separate definitions and three different numbers.
Politico | Hill weighs tax trade-offs
To judge from the Republican presidential field, the answer is “no.” But converging political and economic forces could yet lead to a swap: raising capital gains and dividend rates for shareholders while lowering the corporate rate to help U.S. companies compete in global markets.
National Journal | Donovan Says Bank Tax Could Be Dropped to Advance Refi Plan
The administration would consider other ways to pay for the latest effort to improve the housing market by broadening refinancing opportunities, Housing and Urban Development Department Secretary Shaun Donovan said on Wednesday.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Washington Times | Virginia’s taxing governor
With the Republican National Convention less than six months away, candidates vying for the GOP nod are starting to give thought to possible running mates. In discussions of how best to achieve geographic and ideological balance on a ticket, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s name frequently pops up. Based on his recent actions, it shouldn’t.
WSJ | The Other GM Bailout
President Obama appeared at a United Auto Workers tent revival meeting Tuesday, and he made several notable claims. Critics of the Detroit bailout of 2008-09 are motivated, apparently, by their antipathy to American workers. The alternative to a government rescue was letting the entire auto industry "die." But one particular claim stood out.
AEI | Puzzling cheers for higher taxes
I have long been puzzled by the enthusiasm with which many young liberal bloggers cheer on proposals to raise tax rates on high earners. I can understand why they might favor them, but not why they seem to invest so much psychic energy in the issue.
CATO | Spain Becomes One of Europe's Highest Taxed Countries
The main reason for the tax hikes, according to Spain's new leadership, was that the government would miss its budget deficit target for 2011. While the previous Socialist Party government had promised the figure would be 6 percent of GDP, the revised data showed a budget deficit of 8 percent, a difference of approximately 20 billion euros ($26.3 billion).
CATO | Minnesota's Cigarette Tax: Trouble from the Beginning
Earlier this month, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced that it had broken up a ring that smuggled millions of packs of cigarettes from Virginia to New Jersey, where state officials estimate that bootleg cigarettes constitute 40 percent of the market.


WSJ | U.S. Pushes Target for Hiring the Disabled
Employers and business groups are trying to stop an Obama administration effort that calls for federal contractors to hire a minimum number of disabled workers and could penalize those who don't by revoking their contracts.
Bloomberg | Germany’s Jobless Rate Lowest in Two Decades
Germany’s unemployment held at the lowest in more than two decades in February, adding to signs Europe’s largest economy is regaining some strength after shrinking in the fourth quarter.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Real Clear Markets | Growing List of Winners, Losers Among the States
When the jobs economy was still humming along back in February of 2007, the performance of individual states seemed relatively uniform.


Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Washington Times | Congress needs rehab
In treating addiction, experts say admitting there is a problem is the first step to recovery. Steps Two through 12 require stopping the drug of choice and taking action not to start again.
Heritage Foundation | President Obama’s 2013 Budget Delivers Tax Hikes, More Spending, More Debt
The President’s 2013 budget, released on February 13, repeats the stale and unsuccessful policies of the past three years. The Administration’s apparent vision is one of bigger government, more spending, higher taxes, and deeper deficits. At a time when runaway spending and swelling deficits must be reversed, President Obama increases both