Friday, March 2, 2012

General Economics

WSJ | Economy Picks Up Pace, but Risks Remain
After more than two years of frustrating fits and starts, the U.S. economy is showing signs of moving onto firmer ground.
Market Watch | Manufacturing expansion slows in February
For the first time in four months, growth slowed down at U.S. manufacturers in February, according to data released Thursday that rattled markets and raised questions about U.S. economic strength.
Bloomberg | U.S. Housing Lays Foundation for Recovery
After several false starts, housing is flashing the strongest signals yet of a sustainable rebound. While foreclosures continue to depress prices, buyers are wading back into the market
Politico | Beyond Keystone pipeline: The real climate debate
The Keystone XL pipeline debate and the entire oil sands discussion is being framed as a choice between energy security and climate security. This false dichotomy masks the real issue
CNN Money | Ohio manufacturing: Good times are back (sort of)
The health of Ohio's economy will be on the minds of many residents as they head to the polls on Super Tuesday to pick a Republican nominee for president.
Market Watch | Wage gains lift incomes by 0.3% in January
Americans dipped into their savings slightly to keep buying goods in January as incomes continued to advance, though consumer spending remained flat for the third month in a row.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
WSJ | A Flex-Fuel Mandate Is Pro-Market
The current election cycle and the rising price of gasoline have rekindled interest in energy security and how best to achieve it. We've had these spasms of interest and hand-wringing before—many times.
FOX News | Jobs picture brightens, but economy awaits liftoff
A flurry of economic reports issued Thursday captured some solid recent gains: Companies are hiring. Factories and department stores are busier. Americans are buying more cars.
CNBC | US Facing a 'Savings Gap' : BlackRock CEO
Americans are facing a "savings gap" and need an investment strategy with a "time horizon that is not a day, not a month, not even a year," BlackRock CEO Laurence Fink told CNBC Wednesday.
NBER | Climate Change, Crop Yields, and Internal Migration in the United States
We investigate the link between agricultural productivity and net migration in the United States using a county-level panel for the most recent period of 1970-2009.

WSJ | For Lasting Recovery, Savings as Important as Spending
Even with faster income growth and more confidence in the labor markets, U.S. consumers are not rushing to shop.
Calculated Risk | U.S. Light Vehicle Sales at 15.1 million annual rate in February
Based on an estimate from Autodata Corp, light vehicle sales were at a 15.1 million SAAR in February. That is up 14.1% from February 2011, and up 6.9% from the sales rate last month (14.13 million SAAR in Jan 2012).

Health Care

National Journal | Senate Votes Down Contraception Amendment
The Senate easily defeated a Republican amendment on Thursday that would have let employers opt out of providing any health care coverage that they say violates their conscience or religious beliefs, agreeing to set it aside by a vote of 51 to 48.

Atlantic | Explaining the U.S. Home Health Care System
Yesterday's post on early hospital discharges has triggered a lot of interesting discussion.  Two questions came up over and over:  why can't we do this more like European countries, who have single-payer systems--and why can't we do this more like our ancestors, who regarded caring for family members as an important part of familial duties?
CATO | American People: Of Course the Individual Mandate Is Unconstitutional
Cato senior fellow Randy Barnett (also, of course, a Georgetown law professor and the “intellectual godfather” of the Obamacare litigation) blogs the results of a new USA Today/Gallup poll: 72% of Americans (including 56% of Democrats and 54% of those who think “the healthcare law is a good thing”) think the individual mandate is unconstitutional.
Scott Granis | The seven fatal flaws of ObamaCare
I opined that "the defects of this legislation are so massive and pervasive that it will never see the light of day." Arguably, that's still true today, especially as we can now add one more fatal flaw to the list, thanks to an amicus brief recently filed by the Institute for Justice
CATO | Latest Federal Health Fraud: $375 Million
The Washington Post reports that a doctor in Texas bilked Medicare and Medicaid out of $375 million. That’s a lot of money, but improper payments represent somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of total spending on these two health programs. Thus, more than $100 billion of taxpayer funds could be going down the drain each year.


Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Bloomberg | Fed’s Williams Says Central Bank Should Keep Applying Stimulus Vigorously
Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco President John Williams said the Fed should maintain an “extraordinarily supportive policy” to reduce an unemployment rate that will probably exceed 7 percent for years.
Forbes | The Price of Low Interest Rates? Weaker Economic Recoveries
The great Austrian School economist Friedrich Hayek had an important insight in Prices and Production which should cause us to be on the lookout for some severe economic pain

WSJ | Fed’s Lockhart: Benefits of Low-Rate Policy Outweigh Costs
The benefits of the Federal Reserve‘s low-rate policy “outweigh the costs,” a top central banker said Thursday at an annual banking outlook conference in Atlanta.
Global Macro Monitor | Fed’s “Rent Control” Policies Starting to Distort
We’ve posted many pieces (see here,  here and here) on how the Fed’s manipulation of the yield curve through QE and Operation Twist is distorting long-term interest rates — the most important price in the world, in our opinion
CATO | Some Consequences of Government Ownership of Banks
Despite the substantial and continuing repayment of TARP bank assistance, the U.S. government maintains an equity interest in 371 banks.  A small number of those banks actually have the government as a majority owner. 


CNN Money | Taxing the rich is not enough
Even if marginal income tax rates were almost 100% for the richest Americans, that still might not yield enough new revenue to keep debt under control.

Heritage Foundation | Morning Bell: Obama’s Hidden Tax Hikes
In a new report, Heritage’s Curtis Dubay uncovers Obama’s hidden tax hikes and finds that the President’s proposed $1.561 trillion tax increase over 10 years is much bigger than advertised


WSJ | Vital Signs: U.S. Manufacturers Hiring
The Institute for Supply Management’s employment index fell 1.1 points from the previous month to 53.2. Readings above 50 indicate expansion


Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
National Journal | Bernanke Urges 'Primary Deficit' Gone Within 15 Years
The United States should eliminate its "primary deficit" -- the budget deficit save interest payments -- within 10 to 15 years, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said on Thursday.
Washington Times | State pensions in the red
Like the retirement programs of other state and local governments nationwide, the Empire State’s program is in the red, and it’s looking for $750 million in loans this year
Politico | Obama hasn't learned on spending
Three years later, it’s time to declare President Barack Obama’s $800 billion stimulus a failure. The stimulus may have the distinction of being the most money wasted by a piece of legislation in history.
Washington Times | Forget kids - today’s debt hurts adults
Fiscal conservatives unwittingly sabotage themselves by invoking “the children” when explaining the dangers of America’s ballooning national debt. They should spend lots more time discussing how federal red ink harms adults today.
Washington Post | The trillions the government doesn’t account for
Accounting standards may seem like a sleep-inducing subject to many people. But when retirement promises are improperly accounted for, companies and governments can go bankrupt, and hardworking Americans who have relied on the promises can suffer.