Monday, April 9, 2012

General Economics

Market Watch | Gas prices, inflation under the microscope
One of the biggest threats to the U.S. economy is higher gas prices, but so far the cost of filling up has not slowed the recovery.
National Journal | After Public Spectacle, Nuclear Agency Struggles to Get Back in the Shadows
Until the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident in Japan and a very public internal feud late last year, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was a fairly obscure federal agency with primary responsibility for regulating the nation’s 104 nuclear power plants.
Politico | Brazil-U.S.: Time for bolder partnership
The Brazilian and U.S. policymakers set to meet this week could make meaningful headway on the crucial economic and business issues at hand, and build a bolder partnership.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
AEI | Private investment for infrastructure
Every serious study of U.S. infrastructure has reached the same conclusion: More investment is needed - and fast.
WSJ | Walter Russell Mead: The Myth of America's Decline
The world balance of power is changing. Countries like China, India, Turkey and Brazil are heard from more frequently and on a wider range of subjects. The European Union's most ambitious global project—creating a universal treaty to reduce carbon emissions—has collapsed, and EU expansion has slowed to a crawl as Europe turns inward to deal with its debt crisis.
Politico | Brazil's energy policy powers economy
With the focus on the presidential campaign, you may have missed the news that California is no longer the world’s eighth largest economy. Brazil, whose president, Dilma Rouseff is in Washington this week, recently leapfrogged the Golden State in terms of economic size
WSJ | The Real Causes of Income Inequality
In the stagnant days of the Carter administration, when inflation was approaching 13.5% and interest rates were peaking at 21.5%, income was more evenly distributed than in any period in 20th-century America. Since the days of that equality in misery, the measured income of the top 1% of income tax filers has risen over three and a half times as fast as the income of the population as a whole.
Washington Post | Would Roosevelt recognize today’s Social Security?
After all, Social Security is considered the New Deal’s signature achievement. It distributes nearly $800 billion a year to 56 million retirees, survivors and disabled beneficiaries. On average, retired workers and spouses receive $1,839 a month — money vital to the well-being of millions.
WSJ | Who Deserves Credit for the Improving Economy?
Three years after a severe recession, the economy remains stuck in a modest recovery. More than 12 million Americans actively seek work. Many citizens, particularly the younger and less-educated, find themselves detached, demoralized and defeated. Many others, gainfully employed with some trappings of success, question whether the promise of America will endure for the next generation.
The American | Titanic and the 1%
The 100th anniversary of the launching and loss of the Titanic presents many questions. Inequality, for example: Was it about the victimization of poor, immigrant third-class passengers by the callous White Star Line and the arrogant 1 percent in first class? That has become the classic popular story

WSJ | Consumers Cut Credit-Card Debt, Add to Auto and Student Loans
U.S. credit card debt fell for the second month in a row, a sign consumers could be trying to pare back on some expenses.
Minyanville | Random Thoughts: Weighing the Rally Against an Economic Recovery
The Federal Reserve released the "minutes" from its most recent meeting last week and hinted that the punch bowl of synthetic stimulus may soon be removed. Given that financial assets have relied on this "fix" since the first phase of the financial crisis, Wall Street was none too pleased.
WSJ | More Americans think It’s a Good Time to Buy a Home
Nearly three-quarters of Americans said they thought it was a good time to buy a home last month, with expectations that rental and purchase prices will rise over the next year and as consumers’ views of their finances stabilized, according to a monthly survey by mortgage finance company Fannie Mae (FNMA).
Calculated Risk | Schedule for Week of April 8th
The key reports for this week are the February Trade Balance report, to be released on Thursday, and the March Consumer Price Index (CPI), to be released on Friday.

Health Care

National Journal | Report: Obesity in Pregnant Mothers Linked to Autism
New research suggests that obesity during pregnancy may increase the chances of a child having autism, the Associated Press reports.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
WSJ | Providential Design
In his parade of Republican horribles, President Obama poured special scorn this week on the idea of handing Medicaid to the states with a fixed annual federal payment. He says it wouldn't save money without hurting "poor children" and "middle-class families who have children with autism and Down's Syndrome." Someone needs to tell Mr. Obama about the results of Medicaid reform in Rhode Island.

The American | Fact checking the fact checker on Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform plan
On Tuesday, President Obama attacked what he claimed is the Republican Medicare plan.  Jim Pethokoukis points out that Obama criticized a plan that no one has actually proposed.  Today, Glenn Kessler (the Washington Post’s “Fact Checker”) takes on Obama’s claim that Paul Ryan’s plan would not protect seniors from the rising cost of health care.  Kessler quotes me, and gets it partly right.
Library of Economics | Should Medicare Be Cut?
One of the things that I thought I had in common with my free-market allies was our views on Medicare. But some postings from some friends on Facebook (and, because it's FB, I will respect their privacy and not name them) have made me wonder.


Market Watch | China March CPI rises a more-than-expected 3.6%
China's consumer prices climbed at a faster-than-expected rate of 3.6% in March from the year-ago period, according to official data released Monday.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Bloomberg | End Double Mandate to Save Fed’s Independence
There’s one prediction that can safely be made about the decision that the Supreme Court will render on the Affordable Care Act: The final vote will almost certainly be along party lines.

WSJ | The Big Uncertainty And The Fed
The notion of an uncertain economic outlook for the U.S. is expressed so often by policy makers and pundits that it loses all meaning. It’s a given; boilerplate to the broader discussion.


Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Daily Caller | Taxing America out of competition
Americans are the most productive, innovative and hardest-working people in the world. It is not the quality of the American people that is limiting economic growth. With a 35% tax on our job-creating business, the federal government is taxing America out of the competition and the American workers and consumers are paying the price.
AEI | Big oil, targeted taxes, and the rule of law
In recent years, politicians have frequently directed harsh rhetoric toward particular corporate taxpayers that earn high profits. At times, this rhetoric has been accompanied by substantive policy proposals that single out a narrow set of profitable and unpopular taxpayers for disparate treatment.
Forbes | The Overbearing Rule Book Is What Blocks True Tax Reform
As the U.S. seeks faster growth, several reforms are imperative. We need sound money to attract capital, immediate federal spending restraint from the President, his cabinet, and OMB, and a replacement for the debt limit so that it controls spending and debt rather than facilitating them.

National Review | Two Wrongs Don’t Make A Right
I wonder how taxpayers feel about seeing their dollars use to help companies that do not need help: Boeing is America’s biggest exporter and Delta is the second-largest U.S. airline. For all the talk about hating the 1 percent of taxpayers, I don’t see much anger directed at the biggest companies in America that are benefiting from government handouts.


CNN Money | Jobs report was bad. But not QE3 bad.
There was nothing good about the Good Friday jobs report. But was the slowdown in hiring in March bad enough for the Federal Reserve to once again consider more stimulus for the economy?
FOX Business | Sony to Cut 10K Jobs
Sony will slash 10,000 jobs, or about 6% of its workforce, according to reports, as the Japanese electronics maker moves forward with an overhaul that will help it return to profitability after four years of losses.
CNN Money | Obama's jobs countdown
The American economy only has to add another 740,000 jobs to get back to where it was in January 2009, when the president was sworn in.
NY Times | Federal Funds to Train the Jobless Are Drying Up
With the economy slowly reviving, an executive from Atlas Van Lines recently visited Louisville, Ky., with good news: the company wanted to hire more than 100 truck drivers ahead of the summer moving season.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Bloomberg | U.S. Employment Growth Seen Rebounding From Slump
The March setback in hiring will prove temporary as the U.S. economy, in its third year of expansion, now is better equipped to overcome a slowdown in Europe and rising fuel costs, economists said.
NBER | What explains high unemployment? The aggregate demand channel
A drop in aggregate demand driven by shocks to household balance sheets is responsible for a large fraction of the decline in U.S. employment from 2007 to 2009.
Heritage Foundation | Heritage Employment Report: March Report Mixed, on Balance Disappointing
The labor market made some gains in March, although the 120,000 new jobs were well below expectations of 200,000-plus. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also announced that the unemployment rate ticked down another tenth to 8.2 from 8.3 percent, largely due to rounding.
WSJ | James Bovard: The Wrong Way to Help the Disabled
The Obama administration is on the verge of compelling most of the largest corporations and universities, as well as many smaller businesses, to adopt a 7% hiring quota for disabled job applicants—lest they be debarred from doing business with the federal government. This radical personnel policy could raise costs and slash the productivity of almost 200,000 companies with U.S. government contracts.
Real Clear Markets | Obama's Employment "Hunger Game" Continues
The sickening crunch heard at 8:30 AM EST on Friday was the sound of the American Job Creation Express crashing into the brick wall of Obama's anti-investment economic policies. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that total employment (Household Survey) actually fell by 31,000 during March 2012.

WSJ | Number of the Week: How Long Before Job Seekers Give Up?
21.4: The median number of weeks before someone unemployed leaves the labor force.
WSJ | Government Job Losses Flattening Out
The government sector has added 6,000 jobs through the first three months of this year, according to the Labor Department’s jobs report Friday. That’s a miniscule figure in a nation with 133 million non-farm jobs, but it marks a turning point for a crucial sector that has been cutting jobs for three years.
WSJ | Small, Medium-Sized Businesses Find Jobs Hard to Fill
The Institute for Supply Management-New York said this week that 20% of its members say the shortage of skilled labor is an obstacle to business. On Thursday, the National Federation of Independent Business reported a rising share of small business owners who say they have jobs that are hard to fill.
WSJ | Jobless Claims Keep Getting Revised Up
News Thursday that the U.S. Department of Labor revised upward its weekly initial jobless-claims number for the previous week didn’t cause much of a huge stir on financial markets, but it represented the latest in an unusual string of adjustments to the closely followed data.


CNBC | Government Spending Cuts Will Create Economic Boom: Art Laffer
President Obama’s recent criticism of the Republican budget plan misses the mark, former Reagan economic advisor Art Laffer told CNBC Thursday.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
WSJ | Treasury's Run Around DeMarco
If you can't roll over Ed DeMarco, run around him. That's the Obama Administration's latest ploy, as it tries to arrange one more election-year housing bailout.
CBO | Monthly Budget Review
The federal government incurred a budget deficit of almost $780 billion in the first half of fiscal year 2012, CBO estimates—$53 billion less than the shortfall during the same period last year. Revenues were about 4.5 percent higher and outlays slightly lower than the amounts recorded in the first six months of fiscal year 2011.
CATO | Obama's And Paul Ryan's Conflicting Budget Visions
With his speech to news editors and executives this week, President Obama has made it clear that he plans to run a starkly ideological campaign, contrasting his vision for the future of the country with that of his Republican opponents.

Heritage Foundation | Chart of the Week: Obamacare’s Bundle of Budget Gimmicks
President Obama has touted reports from the Congressional Budget Office claiming his health care law would actually decrease the deficit. But due to a bundle of budget gimmicks and other legislation, calculations show that Obamacare actually adds $698 billion to the deficit. This week’s chart outlines each of those budget gimmicks.
The American | Sure, Obama has a debt plan. Here it is …
Testifying before the House Budget Committee today, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner told Chairman Paul Ryan the following: “We’re not coming before you to say we have a definitive solution to that long-term problem. What we do know is we don’t like yours.”