Friday, August 3, 2012

General Economics

CNN Money | Drought may cost billions in U.S. food exports
The drought baking Midwest corn and soybean crops will likely cost the U.S. food export industry billions in lost revenue.
USA Today | Drought forces farmers to sell livestock; feed is too costly
Some farmers are selling off their livestock herds because they can't afford to buy feed, marking a new level of fallout from the drought that will affect consumers and possibly the entire U.S. economy.
CNN Money | Seniors wait to get bigger Social Security benefits
Americans have gotten the message that patience pays, at least where Social Security is concerned.
Bloomberg | Service Industries in U.S. Expanded at Faster Pace in July
Service industries in the U.S. expanded in July at a faster pace than a month earlier, helped by a pickup in orders.
CNN Money | Mortgage rates rise, ending record streak
Rates on 30-year fixed mortgages climbed slightly higher this week, breaking a run that saw rates match or set new record lows for 13 out of the past 14 weeks.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
WSJ | A Market Alternative to Libor
By now, it should be clear that the current mechanisms designed to inform markets what banks charge each other to borrow—the London interbank offered rate being chief among them—are broken. Benchmarks such as Libor that rely on subjective assessments made by interested parties—regardless of any potential wrong-doing—simply cannot accurately reflect market realities.
Forbes | With Most Of Europe Still On Its Back, Sweden Tries Policies That Actually Work
The headlines from across the pond read “Europe Rejects Austerity” as the French and Greeks elected socialists and even some neo-national socialists to office.
WSJ | Who Really Gets Rich Off High Gas Prices?
With the average price of gas in America hovering around $3.50 per gallon for regular unleaded, it costs more than $50 to fill a typical car's 15-gallon tank this summer. Why does gas cost so much?
Market Watch | How to manage volatility as the fiscal cliff looms
As they say with foreboding in the popular television series Game of Thrones, “Winter is coming.”
WSJ | Venezuela Faces Economic Hangover
From free housing and food to straight up cash for senior citizens and pregnant mothers, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has been showering his constituency through a number of social programs over the past year to shore up support ahead of his hotly contested October re-election bid.

Heritage Foundation | Economic Freedom: The Freedom to Choose
The percentage of people who think it is more important that the “state guarantees nobody is in need” aligns roughly with the percentage who believe that “success in life is determined by forces outside their control.” This is no coincidence.
WSJ | Lawns, the Quiet Victims of Recession
Cautious consumers often look for places to cut, but one quiet victim of the recession has the opposite problem. Even amid recovery, lawns are often left untended.
Neighborhood Effects | Want Money Out of Politics? Eliminate Government Discrimination
In my work on government-granted privilege, I have repeatedly emphasized the surprising degree of harmony between left and right on this issue. Both abhor the tawdry nexus between corporate power, money, and politics.
WSJ | House Republicans Seek More Cost Analysis From Regulators
Two powerful U.S. House lawmakers are pressuring Wall Street’s self-policing body and two other self-regulatory groups to do more work to justify their rules.
Heritage Foundation | Rise in Food Stamps Part of Growing Dependence on Washington
America was supposed to be the land of self-government. Citizens were to govern themselves politically and morally. But such an independent citizen is proving to be less common every year.
Marginal Revolution | Investment vs. the Warfare-Welfare State
In Launching the Innovation Renaissance and my Atlantic article The Innovation Nation vs. the Warfare-Welfare State I showed that the Warfare-Welfare state has crowded out federal investment in research in development.

Health Care

National Journal | IRS Chief Defends Implementation of Health Care Law
Former IRS Commissioner Mark Everson expressed worries that the law had created “so much confusion, so many moving pieces,” that a failure might damage IRS general tax administration. He also was concerned about privacy violations, citing recent hacking of credit-card companies and the scandal over WikiLeaks’ publication of secret government documents.


Bloomberg | ECB-Politicians’ Anti-Crisis Bargain Starts to Emerge
After 2 1/2 years of incremental crisis management and false starts, a bargain is beginning to emerge between Europe’s politicians and central bankers over how to calm bond markets and end the debt tumult that threatens the euro’s survival.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
NBER | Innocent Bystanders? Monetary Policy and Inequality in the U.S.
We study the effects and historical contribution of monetary policy shocks to consumption and income inequality in the United States since 1980.
Real Clear Markets | There Is No Money In Monetary Policy Anymore
It is hard this week not to think about Milton Friedman. As those that appreciate the powerful abilities of free markets to advance the cause of humanity celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth, it is fitting and proper to revisit his work. Friedman's greatest achievement was certainly in changing conventional wisdom about the Great Depression.

Daily Capitalist | QE3′s Looming Failure Means Ben’s Days Are Numbered
The above-the-fold headline of  [last week's] Wall Street Journal, “Fed Moves Closer to Action”, signals an impossibly deluded Federal Reserve utterly blind to the damage its machinations are bringing to the U.S. and global economy. 
WSJ | A Brief Etymology of the Phrase ‘Closely Monitor’
The Federal Reserve sent some strong messages in its policy statement Wednesday that it is moving toward new easing measures. Among the more obscure lines that has gotten the attention of some investors was its remark that it would “closely monitor incoming information on economic and financial developments.”


CNN Money | IRS pays billions in refunds to identity thieves
The IRS has been doling out billions of dollars in fraudulent tax refunds to identity thieves, according to a report released Thursday.
National Journal | Why This Summer’s Tax Fights Matter Later
Republicans and Democrats have faced off over the past two weeks on a series of symbolic votes that will set the stage for the tax debates to come, both on the campaign trail and in the six-week “lame duck” session of Congress that will follow the election.

Tax Foundation | The Two Hardest (But Most Important) Sales Tax Reforms
Ernst and Young recently released a report on state and local business taxes, and one of the charts in it is fairly illustrative of a pattern we’ve noticed a lot in the sales tax reform debate: one of the hardest (but most important things) to change about the sales tax base is to remove sales taxes on business inputs.


USA Today | What do jobless do when unemployment checks run out?
Since abruptly losing her $312 weekly unemployment check in June, Laurie Cullinan has depleted her savings, sought food from the Salvation Army and lit candles to save electricity.
Market Watch | Jobs market is treading water, and that’s not bad
Treading water doesn’t get you very far, but it does prevent you from going under.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Washington Times | Obama’s jobs council a total flop
When President Obama's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness last gathered in January, he boasted, “This has not been a show council. This has been a work council. I have been tracking implementation of [the council‘s] recommendations. And we’ve seen substantial progress across the board.”
Real Clear Markets | U.S. Housing Policy and Its Impact On Unemployment
Though there's no singular way to calculate the level of joblessness stateside, the roughly 8% rate brought to us by the Labor Department speaks to something very unnatural revealing itself in the U.S. economy.

AEI | July jobs report: America’s labor market depression continues
Only in a world of lowered, New Normal expectations was the July jobs report anything less than another disaster for U.S. workers. Nonfarm payrolls rose 163,000 last month as the unemployment rate rose to 8.3%. In addition, employment for May and June was revised by 6,000 jobs.


Bloomberg | Fiscal Cliff Crisis Rooted in Senate Ploy to Pass Bush Tax Cuts
In early 2001, Paul O’Neill, the new Treasury secretary, began work on a plan for radical tax reform. He wanted simpler forms and fewer deductions, which would make it easy for people to prepare their taxes and cost the government less to process them. He presented a five-inch-thick binder of research to a senior White House official.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Washington Times | Dodd-Frank’s small-business lending time bomb
After two years of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, a few of the landmines hidden in its hundreds of pages are starting to come to the surface.