Thursday, February 14, 2013

General Economics

CNN Money | Foreclosure filings fall to lowest level since 2007
Foreclosure filings in January plunged to their lowest level since April 2007.
Bloomberg | Euro-Area Economy Shrinks Most Since Depths of Recession
The euro-area recession deepened more than economists forecast with the worst performance in almost four years as the region’s three biggest economies suffered slumping output.
CNN Money | Japan's economy contracts for third straight quarter
The world's third-largest economy failed last quarter to pull out of a mild recession, further raising prospects of aggressive fiscal and monetary stimulus.
CNBC | Mortgage Mess Still Mires Housing Recovery
President Obama says he wants more Americans to be able to save money by refinancing their mortgages. The trouble is that mortgage rates are rising, now at their highest level since September of last year, before the Federal Reserve announced it would buy more agency mortgage-backed securities in order to drive rates down. Last week applications to refinance fell 6 percent from the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Washington Post | Growth isn’t enough to help the middle class
Two kinds of middle-class Americans are struggling today — people who can’t find any work or enough work, and full-timers who can’t seem to get ahead.
Real Clear Markets | The Dangerous Partnership Between Big Business and Government
President Obama's greatest strategic accomplishment during his first term was his recruitment of big business to join the existing collection of special interest groups within the Democratic Party.

WSJ | Make Smoother Trade, Not Currency War
World leaders are raising the stakes in the exchange markets and threatening a currency war. Japan is trying to weaken the yen. U.S. politicians cast stones at China’s yuan policy. And in the past, Latin American politicians have criticized the impact on the dollar by the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing.
Marginal Revolution | An EU-U.S. trade pact?
U.S. officials have been concerned that Europe’s complex politics — of the 27 EU nations, some are avowed free-trade supporters while some veer towards protectionist industrial policy — would make for protracted and perhaps futile negotiations.
WSJ | Consumer Cutbacks May Get Worse
There’s now clear evidence higher tax bills are prompting Americans to cut back — but it’ll be months before we know the full impact on the economy.

Health Care

Politico | Obamacare deadline looms for holdout states
Friday is the day when states are due to declare whether they’ll partner with the White House to build Affordable Care Act health insurance exchanges. After that, the sprint to the finish begins.
National Journal | President Takes Credit Too Soon for Spending Slowdown
In his State of the Union address this week, President Obama was quick to take credit for a perplexing, but welcome, trend: the recent slowdown in health care spending. “Already, the Affordable Care Act is helping to slow the growth of health care costs,” Obama said.

Heritage Foundation | How to Fix the Medicare Physician Payment Problem
The congressional formula that determines the annual Medicare payment update for physicians, the sustainable growth rate (SGR), was supposed to cut Medicare doctors’ pay each year starting in 2002. But that congressional formula is so flawed and unworkable that every year since 2003, Congress has stepped in to stop it from going into effect. In 2013, without another congressional “doc fix,” the physicians would have had a pay cut of 26.5 percent.


Bloomberg | Activism Shows Rise of Whatever-It-Takes Central Bankers
As the world’s advanced economies grow at half the speed of the pre-crisis years amid persistently high unemployment, governments are turning to a new set of monetary-policy makers who in word -- and they hope deed -- are more aggressive than their predecessors.


FOX Business | Do You Qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit?
In 1975, Congress introduced the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) as an incentive for folks to go to work and to help relieve the burden of Social Security taxes. This tax credit is designed for low-income workers, especially those with children. The amount of credit one can receive is on a sliding scale depending on the amount of earned income received and the number of children the taxpayer claims as dependents.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Mercatus | Soaking the Rich
In January, as part of a deal to avert the fiscal cliff, Congress increased marginal tax rates on higher-income earners to Clinton-era levels while preserving existing Bush-era rates for most taxpayers. 

Neighborhood Effects | When politicians can’t see their own loopholes
According to a 2008 IRS report, the Federal Tax Code “has grown so long that it has become challenging even to figure out how long it is.”


CNN Money | Falling jobless claims could be blizzard related
Fewer Americans filed for their first week of unemployment benefits last week, but economists were hesitant to say that the decline is solely due to an improving job market.
Market Watch | Bringing U.S. manufacturing jobs back home
President Barack Obama loves to talk about bringing manufacturing jobs back home, but the number of companies that are “in-shoring” or “re-shoring” is hardly more than a trickle.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
WSJ | The $9 Minimum Wage That Already Exists
On Tuesday night, President Obama used his State of the Union address to call for a 24% increase in the federal minimum wage, to $9 an hour from its current $7.25. He left out an important detail: For many low-wage employees, single parents in particular, the minimum wage is already above $9 an hour.
Washington Post | Weak job creation has become the new normal
As President Obama said on Tuesday: The hardest economic challenge facing the country doesn’t involve tax reform or fiscal cliffs. The critical question is: What has happened to the strong job creation that was the economic norm in the United States from the 1950s through the 1990s?
Washington Times | Making workers unemployable
Perhaps one of the most disastrous policies President Obama called for in his Tuesday night address was a hike in the minimum wage. Raising this government mandate from $7.25 to $9 an hour by 2015 is the surest way to ensure Americans who are down on their luck have no chance to escape the unemployment lines.


Politico | House GOP crafting new spending bill
With a governmentwide spending bill due to expire next month, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers is proposing to substitute a modified version that puts defense and veterans programs on more permanent footing and better able to deal with threatened across-the-board cuts March 1.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Real Clear Markets | Global Debt Accumulation Reaches Record Levels
The current global debt accumulations are unprecedented. In fact, it can be observed that at no time in the history of the human race, other than during periods of war, has debt accumulation on the planet ever been greater. And the most rapid debt accumulators are the world's sovereign nations.
AEI | Learning to love the sequester
In his State of the Union address Tuesday, President Obama played on Congress' fears that an abrupt spending sequester at a rate of about $110 billion per year ($1.1 trillion over 10 years) scheduled to begin March 1 would devastate the economy. "These sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts," warned Mr. Obama, would "slow our recovery and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs."
Heritage Foundation | Budget Cuts Would Not Harm the Economy
The Congressional Budget Office projects that the federal budget deficit will exceed three-quarters of $1 trillion in 2013. The U.S. economy continues to badly underperform, leaving millions of Americans out of work, depressing wage gains and restricting opportunities.
CATO | Why in the World Are We All Keynesians Again? The Flimsy Case for Stimulus Spending
Passed in February of 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) came with a price tag of $831 billion. Yet the economy has not returned to a path of robust economic growth and unemployment has stubbornly remained high; only in September of 2012 did it dip (barely) below 8 percent. This has not stopped the Obama administration from pushing for further fiscal stimulus.