Wednesday, March 7, 2012

General Economics

News                                                                                                                             
CNN Money | Obama cuts refinance costs for some mortgages
Borrowers with some federally insured mortgages will be able to refinance into lower interest rate loans more easily and cheaply under a plan unveiled Tuesday by the Obama administration.
Bloomberg | Productivity in U.S. Cools as Labor Costs Jump
The productivity of U.S. workers rose at a slower pace in the fourth quarter and labor costs jumped, indicating businesses are reaching the limit of wringing efficiency from their workforce.
NY Times | The Geography of Government Benefits
The share of Americans’ income that comes from government benefit programs, like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, more than doubled over the last four decades, rising from 8 percent in 1969 to 18 percent in 2009.
CNN Money | Lehman Brothers: The final chapter
Defunct investment bank Lehman Brothers moved into its final chapter Tuesday, but it will take years before the 161-year-old financial firm will close the book on its storied history.
Market Watch | Obama says he wants lower gas prices
President Barack Obama said Tuesday he was concerned higher gas prices were hurting consumers and his administration was trying to find short-term steps to bring prices lower.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
CBO | How Much Does the Federal Government Support the Development and Production of Fuels and Energy Technologies?
The federal government has used both tax preferences and spending programs to provide financial support for the development and production of fuels and energy technologies in recent decades.
Washington Times | Convention to bolster exports and jobs
Our political parties remain locked in fierce debate over whether the U.S. economic recovery should be financed by increased tax revenues or cuts in government spending. With the presidential campaign in high gear, there is little reason for optimism that this ideological logjam will be broken soon.
Forbes | Foreign Industrial Investment Is Reshaping America
Declinism may be all the rage in intellectual salons from Beijing to Barcelona and Boston, but decisions being made in corporate boardrooms suggest that the United States is emerging the world’s biggest winner.
Politico | The right way to fund transportation
Word that the House Transportation bill is running off the rails might be the best news yet for transit.
WSJ | America Is Stuck With the Mideast
The Middle East is on fire. As waves of populist, ethnic and religious unrest sweep the region, long-established regimes totter like ninepins, violent conflicts explode in once-quiet countries, and all the rules seem up for grabs.
FOX Business | China Blasts U.S. Trade Bill, Says Won't Adjust Yuan
A U.S. trade bill targeting Chinese imports goes against international rules and Beijing will not adjust the value of its currency to try to bridge a trade deficit that is Washington's problem to fix, China's commerce minister said on Wednesday.

Blogs                                                                                                                             
Heritage Foundation | Politics and a New Trade Bureaucracy
President Obama just announced plans to borrow millions of dollars from countries likeChinato create a new federal bureaucracy tasked with policing the trade practices of countries likeChina. The new bureaucracy is more about politics than trade.
Library of Economics | Paul Krugman on IS-LM
The immediate problem was a huge shortfall of demand, as the private sector moved from large financial deficit to large financial surplus.
CATO | Corporate Welfare: A Bipartisan Love Story
I have previously discussed how multiple levels of government work together to provide businesses with taxpayer money (see here and here). And while Republican policymakers have enjoyed making political hay out of the Obama’s administration’s Solyndra problem, the truth is that both parties are willing partners in the corporate welfare racket.
Daily Capitalist | The U.S. Economy Can Handle $4 Per Gallon Of Gasoline
S&P’s “Lookout Report” from its Global Markets Intelligence division released a study yesterday that, while not exactly agreeing with me, says that  gasoline prices won’t hurt the economy unless it gets to $5 p/g.

Health Care

News                                                                                                                             
National Journal | Sebelius Makes Budget Case to House Appropriators
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told Capitol Hill appropriators on Tuesday that she hopes the 2010 health reform law will help control the federal deficit, but was attacked by Republicans and Democrats alike for her 2013 budget request.
National Journal | Tricky Infection at All-Time High, CDC Says
An often deadly and hard-to-treat infection called Clostridium difficile is at an all-time high in the United States and hospitals must act urgently to get it under control, federal health officials said on Tuesday.

Blogs                                                                                                                             
NCPA | How Much Should Health Insurance Cost?
If you buy insurance for items you could easily afford to pay for out of pocket, you will almost certainly be throwing money away. Check out the premiums for standard insurance products in the area where you live. I can almost guarantee that first dollar coverage will never make any financial sense.

Monetary

News                                                                                                                             
Bloomberg | Bernanke Seen Accepting Faster Inflation as Fed Seeks Jobs Boost
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke spent six years pushing for an inflation goal. Now that he has it, some investors are betting he’ll breach the 2 percent target in the short run to lower unemployment.

Taxes

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Real Clear Markets | Warning: Obama Proposes Tripling Dividend Tax Rate
In the summer of 2008, the Obama campaign's two top economists proudly proclaimed that their candidate favored a dividend tax rate of 20 percent, "lower than all but five of the last 92 years." Well, that was then.
AEI | The Interaction of Tax and Financial Accounting on Tax Reform
While reducing statutory rates would provide a benefit to existing investments and improve the valuation of the company from the point of view of the shareholders, expanding expensing and accelerated depreciation provisions would generate returns over the lifetime of the company by improving cash flows and thereby enhancing firm value.

Blogs                                                                                                                             
National Review | I Hope You Like Your Wine with Taxes on the Side
The $56 million Value-Added Marketing Grant program is a pretty small outlay in a $3.8 trillion federal budget. However, it’s not so much the size of the program that’s the problem.

Employment

News                                                                                                                             
Bloomberg | ADP Says U.S. Added 216,000 Jobs in February
Companies in the U.S. added more workers in February than a month earlier, another sign of labor market strength, data from a private report based on payrolls showed today.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Bloomberg | Misled by Myths About Moonlighting in America
The surprising reality of second jobs in America underscores the importance of using real data to examine the labor market. Casual guesses can be misleading.
FOX Business | Job Fuel: Oil, Gas Industries Created 9% of New Jobs in 2011
A booming U.S. oil and gas sector was responsible for generating some 9 percent of all new jobs last year, with three indirect jobs for every one directly involved in the industry, a study released on Wednesday found.

Budget

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Roll Call | House GOP Leaders Look to Lower Budget Number
Under increasing pressure from conservatives, House GOP leaders are poised to lower budget levels below what appropriators have said they need to pass spending bills this year.
CATO | Hitting the Ceiling
Last summer’s agreement, you will recall, raised the federal government’s debt limit from $15.194 trillion to $16.394 trillion in exchange for promised future reductions in spending.

Blogs                                                                                                                             
Tax Foundation | Academics Find Tax Progressivity Makes for More Debt and Higher Entitlement Spending
In the latest volume of the Independent Review, Jody W. Lipford and Bruce Yandle present both a theoretical and empirical case for why the increased tilting of the federal tax burden to higher-income earners makes for unstable governance.
Daily Capitalist | Historically High US Debt Bomb
Here is data from the Mercatus Center’s Veronique de Rugy on U.S. public debt. Not an encouraging scenario
NY Times | Study Finds a Growing Student Debt Load
A federal report released this week “suggests that as many as 27 percent of the 37 million borrowers have past-due balances of 30 days or more,” Andrew Martin and Ron Lieber report.