Tuesday, December 18, 2012

General Economics

CNN Money | For sale: U.S. highways and bridges
State and local governments are in desperate need of cash for all manner of road, building and bridge repair, and are increasingly turning to private money for funding.
Washington Post | US current account trade deficit fell to $107.5 billion in third quarter, lowest since 2010
The U.S. current account trade deficit narrowed in the July-September quarter to the smallest level since late 2010, but the improvement may not last.
Market Watch | Dec. NAHB builder confidence highest since 2006
A gauge of confidence among home builders rose in December to the highest level since April 2006, with respondents encouraged by declining inventory and good sales conditions, according to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index released Tuesday.
Bloomberg | China Foreign-Investment Declines for 12th Time in 13 Months
Foreign direct investment in China fell for the 12th time in 13 months, suggesting the nation’s economic-growth rebound has yet to attract a fresh influx of capital spending from abroad.
WSJ | Struggling Greeks Face Harsh Winter
The spread of economic hardship is fraying Greece's social fabric and straining its political cohesion as the country enters the harshest winter of its three-year-old debt crisis. Even the tightknit Greek family—an institution that has helped the population to absorb a collapse in employment—is under pressure as household incomes dwindle.
WSJ | U.S. to Sell Bulk of TARP Banks
The Treasury in 2013 hopes to clear out its portfolio of banks that took bailout funds during the financial crisis, including scores of institutions that have missed dividend payments owed to the government.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Washington Times | EPA regulates water
The environmentalist movement has gone off the deep end. It’s bad enough that the courts have allowed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to declare carbon dioxide, one of the essential components of life on this planet, to be a pollutant. Now the same bureaucratic zealots are going after water itself.
Mercatus | Regulatory Benefits: Examining Agency Justification For New Regulations
This study attempts to shed some light on whether the benefits claimed by the federal agencies are likely to be achieved. In contrast to other validation studies, the study focuses on the agencies’ benefit claims rather than the actually measured benefits.
Washington Times | Obama’s money misunderstanding
In times past, political leaders would lay out their domestic and foreign policies in clear, coherent terms. President Obama talks about getting our fiscal house in order but fails to propose any meaningful spending cuts.
Washington Times | Next generation won’t inherit the American dream
President George W. Bush was fond of saying that he would not be around when the real history of his administration was written. Whether that is true in the digital age is unclear.

Economist | At the top of an underperforming class
For those who started out the year optimists on American growth (such as me), 2012 was sobering. It looks like America will end the year having grown about 2%, according to Deutsche Bank, marginally below the average pace since the recovery began in mid-2009.

Health Care

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
WSJ | ObamaCare's Faux Federalism
Having failed to persuade 26 states that participating in ObamaCare is a good deal, the liberals behind the law are denouncing these dissident Governors as federalist hypocrites. A few critics on the right are chiming in and arguing that the 26 are inviting worse results once the feds swoop in.
Mercatus | Medicaid Reforms and Emergency Room Visits: Evidence from West Virginia's Medicaid Redesign
Federal and state governments are under increasing pressure to limit Medicaid spending without negative health consequences. We examine a unique policy effort in West Virginia aimed at reducing spending and improving health through personal responsibility and preventive care.

Heritage Foundation | 12 Days of Obamacare Surprises: Exchange Subsidies
Not all surprises are good. When it comes to Obamacare, the original projections are turning into unfortunately different realities. For the next 9 days, Heritage is going to highlight one of the various changes in Obamacare projections (i.e. cost, enrollment, etc.) from when the law first passed until now.


MSN Money | Fed drops the pretense, buys bonds
Our redoubtable Federal Reserve was front and center last week as it continued its wildly aggressive monetary policy ways.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
WSJ | ECB Chief Defends Austerity Measures
European Central Bank President Mario Draghi urged governments to build on "painful progress" they have made on narrowing budget deficits and overhauling their economies, despite the near-term damage these policies have inflicted on business activity and unemployment.
Hussman Funds | Roach Motel Monetary Policy
While we continue to observe some noise and dispersion in various month-to-month economic reports, the growth courses of production, consumption, sales, income and new order activity remain relatively indistinguishable from what we observed at the start of the past two recessions.
CATO | Basel’s Capital Curse
In the aftermath of the financial crisis, the oracles of money and banking have been beating the drums for “recapitalization” — telling us that, to avoid future crises, banks must be made stronger.


CNN Money | Tax bite on the rich if rates go up
The fiscal cliff may not be resolved yet. But after the latest round of offers and counteroffers, it's fair to assume that tax rates will be going up on the rich in some fashion.
CNN Money | Parents await fate of four key tax breaks
As the countdown to a fiscal cliff reaches its final days, four key tax breaks for parents are hanging in the balance.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Washington Times | ‘Cliff’ aside, expired breaks set to slam taxpayers
While much of Washington is consumed by the debate over tax increases scheduled to take effect next year, big tax hikes already have gone into effect for millions of families and businesses this year.
Real Clear Markets | The GOP Must Move The Tax Debate From Fairness to Facts
The current battle in Washington over how to avert the fiscal cliff (or even if we should) has the two sides talking past each other more than talking to each other.

Heritage Foundation | The Obama Tax Plan: Undercutting Economic Growth
The President and his advocates in Congress argue that raising taxes on all taxpayers would damage the economy but that raising taxes on only “high-income” households is supposedly not economically destructive. This line of reasoning is simply mistaken.


Washington Post | Why the unemployment rate might soon stop falling
Over the past year, the U.S. unemployment rate has fallen rapidly, from 8.7 percent last November to 7.7 percent today. But a new paper from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco suggests that this decline could soon stall out.

WSJ | Closer Look at Union vs. Nonunion Workers’ Wages
Over the weekend, the Journal reported on the economics of “right-to-work” rules. The conclusion: It’s complicated, especially when it comes to proving cause and effect. But at a very basic level, right-to-work states have lower unemployment rates and faster job growth, but also lower wages.


Bloomberg | Boehner to Push Budget Bill While Continuing Talks
House Speaker John Boehner said he will push a budget “plan B” measure that will include tax increases on income of more than $1 million a year, while he continues to negotiate with President Barack Obama.
CNN Money | Debt ceiling a big question in fiscal cliff deal
With just two weeks to go before the end of the year, the fiscal cliff remains unresolved and the country's debt is just $63 billion shy of the $16.394 trillion legal borrowing limit.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Politico | Deficit solution must preserve the American dream
For families still struggling to get by, the holiday season is a time for hope that the coming year will bring new opportunities. While our economic recovery has seen significant progress, there is still much more to be done to get Americans back to work and expand our middle class.
WSJ | Face-Off: Two Views on the Deficit Debate
Two economists from opposite ends of the political spectrum offer their takes on how Congress should tackle the federal deficit.

Neighborhood Effects | Maryland’s budget troubles continue into the New Year
Each year a committee made up of Maryland state legislators gets together to set a spending growth limit for Maryland’s general fund budget.
Washington Post | Making progress on a ‘fiscal cliff’ deal?
Maybe the White House and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) really are getting somewhere on the “fiscal cliff” deal.