Friday, April 20, 2012

General Economics

CNN Money | Housing recovery still sputters
The housing market continued to struggle in March, despite low home prices and record low interest rates, an industry report revealed Thursday.
Bloomberg | German Business Confidence Unexpectedly Increased
German business and investor confidence has beaten forecasts every month this year, suggesting the strength of Europe’s largest economy may have been underestimated.
CNN Money | Social Security, Medicare report card on tap
Critical to reining in the United States' long-term debt will be finding ways to control the burgeoning costs of Medicare and Social Security, both of which will face serious funding shortfalls over the next two decades.
Washington Times | Firm submits revised route for Keystone XL
Officials unveiled a new preferred route Thursday for the Nebraska portion of the stalled Keystone XL oil pipeline that avoids the state’s groundwater-rich Sandhills region and ratchets up the political pressure on President Obama over the project’s future.
WSJ | Economic Reports Fan Fears
Rising layoffs, falling home sales and slowing manufacturing activity are sparking fears that the economic recovery is headed for a springtime stall for the third year in a row.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
WSJ | Financial Regulation Is Hurting New York
As I've campaigned around New York state over the past two months, one thing has become clear: Whether they work on farms or in financial institutions, New Yorkers everywhere are being crushed by federal regulation.
National Journal | IMF Chief Urges U.S. Mortgage Reform
The head of the International Monetary Fund on Thursday called for the U.S. government to enact widespread mortgage reform, urging that “the housing issue needs to be addressed forcefully and really steadily” to improve the U.S. economy.
WSJ | The EPA's Fracking Miracle
The Environmental Protection Agency once again invited itself to do tangible economic harm—this time to the hydraulic fracturing that is transforming American energy—and somehow . . . it didn't

Heritage Foundation | Morning Bell: What if Fannie and Freddie Were Eliminated?
For the past several years, it’s not been an uncommon sight in Anytown, USA, to drive down the street and see home after home for sale after going through foreclosure. They are the still-lingering hangover from the housing crash that began in 2007.
CATO | World Bank: Anti–Money Laundering Rules Hurt the Poor
I’ve complained many times about the pointless nature of anti–money laundering laws. They impose very high costs and force banks to spy on their customers, but they are utterly ineffective as a weapon against criminal activity. Yet politicians and bureaucrats keep making a bad system worse, and the latest development is a silly scheme to ban $100 bills!
The American | Looks like the housing bust has been even worse than you think
How much have U.S. house prices fallen since their peak in mid-2006? It depends on whether you measure them in nominal or inflation-adjusted terms. According to the S&P/Case-Shiller National House Price Index, the fall has been about 34 percent. That’s in nominal terms, and that’s a lot. But since inflation has continued, the fall in real terms is even bigger.
Neighborhood Effects | New Research on Freedom and Entrepreneurship
Here are a few findings from my recent paper with Joshua Hall and John Pulito titled “Freedom and Entrepreneurship: New Evidence from the 50 States”

Health Care

Politico | Study: Many face gaps in insurance coverage Twenty-six percent of American adults were uninsured for a period of time in 2011, a new study by The Commonwealth Fund shows — and for the most part, people went without health insurance because they lost or switched jobs.
National Journal | Sebelius: No Government Takeover Here The Obama administration’s top health official said that states and individual hospitals and doctors are leading the most significant changes to the health care system, even though the government has put huge chunks of federal dollars toward those efforts.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Real Clear Markets | Needed: A Real Market For Health Insurance The oral arguments over ObamaCare have concluded at the Supreme Court, but they continue in the media with defenders of the unpopular law trying to patch together responses that they complain the government's attorneys couldn't muster in the courtroom.


Market Watch | Japan's ruling party to review central bank law Japan's ruling party plans to discuss possibly increasing political control over the nation's central bank, though any actual legislative changes are unlikely in the near term, the business daily Nikkei said Friday.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
WSJ | How the Fed Favors The 1% A major issue in this year's presidential campaign is the growing disparity between rich and poor, the 1% versus the 99%. While the president's solutions differ from those of his likely Republican opponent, they both ignore a principal source of this growing disparity.


Bloomberg | Mortgage-Tax Break Curbed by Housing Slump The cost of one of the country’s most expensive individual tax breaks is shrinking as the number of Americans who own homes declines and mortgage rates hover near historic lows.
NY Times | State Tax Collections Pass Peak From Recession’s Start State tax collections, which during the recession experienced their steepest and longest drop since at least the Great Depression, have been climbing back for the last two years and finally surpassed their previous peaks as 2011 drew to a close, according to a report issued on Thursday.
National Journal | House Passes Small Business Tax Cut; Senate Democrats Push Alternative The House passed a 20 percent tax cut for small businesses on Thursday, a bill panned by Democrats as a handout to millionaires but one that could live on as the Senate considers a more narrow alternative.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Forbes | Team Obama: Tax Predators On The Prowl According to the Internal Revenue Service, a record number of people renounced their U.S. citizenship last year—with many experts citing excessive taxation as the cause of the exodus—yet their renunciation may not provide the tax haven they seek.
NBER | The Incentive Effects of Marginal Tax Rates: Evidence from the Interwar Era This paper uses the interwar period in the United States as a laboratory for investigating the incentive effects of changes in marginal income tax rates.
WSJ | Bipartisan Tax Gimmickry Senate Democrats lost their latest attempt at tax flim-flam on Monday when their 30% minimum tax (the Buffett rule) went down to easy defeat. House Republicans plan to counter as early as today with their own tax gimmick, albeit a business tax cut. They are both walking advertisements for tax reform.

The American | Geithner inadvertently makes the case for anti-tax absolutism Always more. Never enough. Here’s a fun fact: Annual federal spending on Medicare, Social Security, income security, and various education and training programs—in inflation-adjusted terms—rose by 175% to $1.4 trillion from 1977 to 2007. Yep, a wafer-thin safety net.
Library of Economics | The "Buffett Rule's" Marginal Tax Rates I've been trying to figure out what marginal tax rates would be if the so-called "Buffett Rule" were passed. There's an actual Senate bill out there but, as with almost all bills, you have to look at previous law--and know how to read dense laws--to understand what it means.


CNN Money | Obama unveils new help for unemployed The Obama administration Thursday launched the effort, which will permit up to 10 states to use administrative funds or their trust funds to implement pilot programs that expedite the return of the unemployed to work.
WSJ | A Bedraggled 'Celtic Tiger' Struggles to Retrain Workers Michael Brennan once earned as much as €1,000 ($1,300) a week as a carpenter installing roofs during Ireland's housing boom. But after about three years without steady work, the 29-year-old is starting over in a freezing meat hall here, trying to carve out a new—and much less lucrative—future.

WSJ | Recovery Downshifts but Doesn’t Break Down A mild winter pulled forward some activity. To get a true handle on the economy’s strength, the best strategy would be to average real-gross-domestic-product growth in the first and second quarters of 2012.
Calculated Risk | State and Local Government Payroll Employment Stabilizing? This graph shows total state and government payroll employment since January 2007. Note: Some of the stimulus spending from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act probably kept state and local employment from declining faster in 2009.


CNN Money | Surprise! Budget mess rolls on Congress and the White House took another few steps away from conducting a well-reasoned, bipartisan budget process on Wednesday, as Democrats and Republicans let loose another round of ultimatums and rhetorical bombs.
Market Watch | Congress continues smoke-and-mirrors on budget Senate Democrats have opted for a smoke-and-mirrors strategy on the budget, as committee chair Kent Conrad this week resurrected the “bipartisan” Bowles-Simpson plan for discussion in lieu of proposing any real spending or tax measures.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
CBO | The Economic Impact of the President's 2013 Budget Each year, after the President releases his annual budget request, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analyzes the proposals and, using its own estimating procedures and assumptions, projects what the federal budget would look like over the next 10 years if those proposals were adopted.
Politico | Senate gets bipartisan on spending levels With the blessing of top Republican leaders, the Senate Appropriations Committee gave quick approval Thursday to spending allocations for the coming year—consistent with the August debt deal but also significantly higher than the levels set by the House GOP for domestic programs.

Heritage Foundation | Chairman Conrad’s Embarrassing Quasi-Budget The Senate Budget Committee stretched a few definitions in announcing yesterday’s “Mark-Up of the Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2013.” Turns out it’s not really a budget resolution, per se, and there will be no formal committee action on it—no amendments, no vote, no real committee-adopted fiscal plan. Thus, April 29 will complete the third full year since the Senate last passed a budget resolution.