Tuesday, August 21, 2012

General Economics

Bloomberg | Americans Having Fewer Babies Crimping Consumer Spending
Americans have had fewer babies each year since the 2008 financial meltdown, with births falling to a 12-year low in 2011, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The low birth rate and reduced immigration resulted in the smallest gain in population since World War II.
USA Today | Gas prices rise for seventh-consecutive week
Gasoline prices rose for the seventh week straight, hitting an average $3.744 a gallon for self-serve regular in the government's weekly survey just released. That's up 2.3 cents since last Monday.
WSJ | Europe Bank Quashes Bond-Buy Talk
The ECB, Backed by Germany, Curbs Yield-Target Speculation and Damps Spain's Push for Purchases.
Bloomberg | Commodities Headed for Bull Market as U.S. Drought Withers Crops
Commodities are poised to enter a bull market led by surging grain futures amid the worst U.S. drought in half a century and on mounting optimism growth in the U.S. and stimulus from China will boost demand.
CNN Money | Consumer agency's spending under fire
The agency responsible for watching over your money is now getting its own finances examined.
WSJ | Amid Acres of Wilting Stalks, Farmers Stand Tall
The mystery is not why we have devastating droughts but how so few Americans are able to produce so much food.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Washington Times | RAHN: Stop global economic malpractice
Most of the major democratic countries are headed for a fiscal cliff because they have been increasing government spending at a rate far higher than economic growth for the past several years. | Recent Evidence Shows Real Capitalism Beats Crony Capitalism
In the span of two weeks we have seen a success of capitalism and a growing failure of state capitalism.
Washington Times | EDITORIAL: Big Brother’s enablers
Absent such a clear legal framework, government authorities can operate without restraint, free to track everyone’s every move. Though the initial intent in such surveillance will be crime-fighting, that can change over time when there’s no third-party oversight.
RCM | Tapping the SPR Is a Bad Idea Every Time
On January 20, 2009, when Mr. Obama was inaugurated, the average price of gasoline was $1.84 per gallon and the price of oil was about $39 for a 42-gallon barrel. On Monday refiners had to pay about $96 for a barrel of West Texas Intermediate and the average price of regular gasoline was $3.72, up from $3.45 a month earlier. | Even '60 Minutes' Misses The Real Story Of The Subprime Disaster
Fact is, subprime mortgages permeated all our credit markets, and as long as home prices were rising, there was no crisis. When the housing bubble burst and home prices started falling in 2006 and 2007, the wheels came off.
Project Syndicate | A Flock of Black Swans
The most worrisome financial threat is that currently over-priced bond markets will crash. In theory, inflation could precipitate a collapse. But this seems unlikely. Default in some euro countries or political dysfunction in the US is a much more likely trigger
WSJ | The Hidden Flaw of 'Energy Efficiency'
Lowering the price of something means more of it will be consumed.
CNN Money | Why oil bulls may get burned
Bullish fund managers are outnumbering bearish ones by five to one, but it's not clear why -- there are more signs that oil prices will retreat than continue to advance.

Calculated Risk | Research: Loan-to-income guidelines could have "forestalled much of the housing boom"
The researchers looked at the house bubble and several possible policy responses. It appears the most effective policy - for limiting the bubble - would have been to require lenders to focus more on loan-to-income.
Café Hayek | Taxi Scientism
New York City is considering increasing its legal taxi fleet from 13,000 to 15,000. The 2,000 new cabs would be wheelchair accessible and the sale of the medallions for the right to drive those cabs are expected to raise $1 BILLION in revenue for the city.

Health Care

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
NBER | Income, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and Infant Health
This paper evaluates the health impact of a central piece in the U.S. safety net for families with children: the Earned Income Tax Credit. Using tax-reform induced variation in the federal EITC, we examine the impact of the credit on infant health outcomes. We find that increased EITC income reduces the incidence of low birth weight and increases mean birth weight.

Heritage Foundatoin | Bringing Medicaid into the Debate
Medicare is an emotionally charged program because it provides health insurance coverage for the elderly. But Medicaid covers America’s poor and disabled—and no one wants to see them harmed, either. However, like Medicare, Medicaid is also in desperate need of reform if it is to continue serving the people it was designed to serve. Nearly one-third of America’s doctors are already opting out of treating Medicaid patients—because their costs often outweigh what the program pays for care.


Market Watch | Dollar down after ECB, Bundesbank comments
The euro held slim gains against the dollar Monday, after the European Central Bank called “misleading” a news report that it was planning to cap government-bond yields in the euro zone.

The Economist | Currency options
The existence of informal currencies suggests that it might be possible for some euro-area countries to use both the euro and some other currency at the same time. The idea would be to adopt the parallel currency to promote a slow switch away from the euro, thus avoiding the costs a country would face if it tried to switch suddenly.
Daily Capitalist | Hang ‘em High
What is striking about the banks is not that, with Libor class actions hanging over the sector like gigantic clouds made out of ordure, they seem to be hopelessly accident-prone and run by crooks.


Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Daily Finance | Tax Hikes Have Already Happened: Will Congress Help You Dodge Them?
Millions of taxpayers are afraid about the fiscal cliff of tax hikes scheduled to happen at the beginning of next year. What many of those people don't realize, though, is that some big tax increases have already taken effect this year.
Heritage Foundation | Tax Extenders Bill a Good Start—Except for the Tax Increase
The tax extenders bill approved by the Senate Finance Committee on August 2 took important, albeit small, bipartisan baby steps: two forward followed by one big step back.

AEIdeas | So let’s talk about those oil and gas subsidies…
As debate rages regarding the extension of the wind-power production tax credit, the Wall Street Journal ran a great article last Friday examining the question of energy subsidies: Who’s really pulling in the sugar from Uncle Sam?
AEIdeas | Carbon-tax would hobble our economy
Thanks to advanced drilling technologies and an abundance of gas from shale deposits, natural gas has accounted for more than 80 percent of new electrical generating capacity in the United States.


Fox Business | Siemens Reportedly Plans Thousands of Job Cuts
German engineering conglomerate Siemens is in early internal talks to cut thousands of jobs in response to a weakening economy, particularly in Europe, a German newspaper reported.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Daily Finance | US Unemployment: A Skills Mismatch or a Cyclical Disruption?
Before you can fix something, it's good to know exactly what the problem is. The persistently high US unemployment rate is one of those problems that has defied an exact description.
WSJ | The Truth About Cat and Jobs
If your employer manages to get along without you for more than three months, should you continue to make contract demands? On Friday, union workers at Caterpillar's Joliet, Illinois factory concluded that the answer is no.


Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Forbes | Where to Cut the Federal Budget? Start by Killing Corporate Welfare
Most politicians want to cut the federal budget in theory. Few want to cut it in practice. So it is with corporate welfare, which is enthusiastically supported by Democrats and Republicans alike.
Washington Times | RAHN: Stop global economic malpractice
Most of the major democratic countries are headed for a fiscal cliff because they have been increasing government spending at a rate far higher than economic growth for the past several years. Only seven of the 38 largest middle- or high-income economies that are non-petroleum-state democracies that the Economist reports on each week can be said to have their fiscal houses in order...

Cato@Liberty | The Cost of Government
...if the government is still going to engage in “sustained deployments” of our military across the globe, and provide retirement income and health care to tens of millions of people, then the size of government isn’t going to shrink. But surely those are the issues we should be debating.