Friday, January 31, 2014

General Economics

Bloomberg | Business Activity in Chicago Area Expanded More Than Forecast
Business activity in the Chicago area expanded more than forecast in January, adding to signs that manufacturing gains will be sustained in 2014.
Politico | John Boehner blasts Barack Obama on trade
House Speaker John Boehner jabbed at President Barack Obama on trade policy Thursday, accusing the president of doing too little to get his own party to clear the way for a pair of blockbuster deals that Republicans already support.
Bloomberg | Consumer Spending in U.S. Increases More Than Forecast
Consumer spending in the U.S. climbed more than forecast in December even as incomes stagnated, showing the economy needs to generate bigger gains in employment to boost the expansion.
Market Watch | 5 misleading figures investors should ignore
We live in a world of “big data.” And while I love arcane baseball sabermetrics and the endless amount of FRED charts that clog my Twitter stream... not all the numbers in our lives are useful.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Fortune | Why stronger GDP growth isn't creating more jobs
Over the past decade, a percentage point jump in GDP has created about 115,000 extra jobs a month. These days it's about half that.
Politico | Keystone XL pipeline report coming Friday
The State Department is set to release a final environmental analysis of the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline on Friday, according to sources, setting the stage for a months-long endgame in one of the Obama administration’s most intractable environmental controversies.
WSJ | Less Government, Faster Growth
It's a sign of how lackluster the current economic recovery has been that Thursday's news of 3.2% growth in the fourth quarter of 2013 was greeted with cheers and relief. The economy has now grown at 2.5% or faster for three quarters, and the pace in the last six months is the fastest since 2003-2004 following George W. Bush's tax cuts on capital gains, dividends and top incomes.
Real Clear Markets | Laughing Off 'Year Of Recovery' Pretense
With the advance release of the fourth quarter's GDP figure estimated at just above 3%, it contrasts very sharply with the estimates of payroll growth, particularly in the latter weeks of that quarter.
Washington Times | Freeing children from bad teachers
California is a national trendsetter, and usually not in a good way. A trial now under way in Los Angeles gives the state a chance to redeem itself by changing a system that offers iron-clad job security to the laziest and most incompetent teachers.
Boston Globe | Income gap? Not many are worried
The president has been banging this populist drum for years. As a candidate in 2008, he famously told “Joe the Plumber” that it was good for everybody when the government acts to “spread the wealth around.”
NBER | Marry Your Like: Assortative Mating and Income Inequality
Data from the United States Census Bureau suggests there has been a rise in assortative mating. Additionally, assortative mating affects household income inequality.

WSJ | Mortgage Volumes Hit Five Year Low
The volume of home mortgages originated during the fourth quarter fell to its lowest level in five years, according to an analysis published Thursday by Inside Mortgage Finance, an industry newsletter.
Library of Economics | Confusion about Income Inequality
Economists can offer explanations for why inequality has risen and what might reverse it, but they cannot advance positive reasons for what the right level of inequality is; this is [a] function of social preferences outside the realm of empirical or even theoretical economics.

Health Care

National Journal | Where Obamacare Is Succeeding… and Where It’s Falling Short
Two months before the close of the Obamacare open-enrollment period, exchanges in some states are picking up high portions of eligible members, according to new analysis by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. But elsewhere, the exchanges are flailing.
National Journal | HHS Reports $380M in Obamacare Savings
An Obamacare program designed to alter America's health care delivery system has saved hundreds of millions of dollars in health care expenditures, the Obama administration said Thursday.
CNN Money | Obamacare deadbeats: Some don't pay up
Around one in five people who picked health insurance policies on the state and federal exchanges last year haven't paid their first month's premiums, according to insurers polled by CNNMoney. These folks will likely see their policy selection canceled and they'll be left uninsured.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
CRS | Medicaid: An Overview
Medicaid is a means-tested entitlement program that in FY2012 financed the delivery of primary and acute medical services as well as long-term services and supports to an estimated 57 million people, and cost states and the federal government $431 billion.
CATO | The ACA: A Train Wreck and a Lie
In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Obama repeated one of the biggest lies behind the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and it wasn’t that you could keep your health-care plan or your current doctor. In fact, most people don’t even know it’s a lie.

Heritage Foundation | Uninsured Americans' Hardening View of Obamacare
Two new public opinion polls show uninsured Americans—a group considered critical for Obamacare’s success—are hardening their views about the President’s health care law.


Market Watch | Euro-zone inflation unexpectedly falls to 0.7%
Inflation in the euro-zone dropped to 0.7% in January, marking an unexpected decline and adding more pressure on the European Central Bank to act to fight deflationary tendencies.
WSJ | U.S. Banks Start to Ease Limits on Lending
Big banks are beginning to loosen their tight grip on lending, creating a new opening for consumer and business borrowing that could underpin a brightening economic outlook.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
NY Times | Bernanke Should Be Thanked
Ben S. Bernanke ascended to the chairmanship of the Federal Reserve eight years ago as a little-known — albeit distinguished — Princeton economics professor who had notched just three years of federal public service.


Market Watch | Bundesbank floats idea of wealth tax — for others
Debtor countries in southern Europe have every reason to be grateful to the rich lender countries in the north: they are full of free advice.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Washington Times | A century of tax turmoil from IRS
Because the income-tax amendment didn’t become effective until late February 1913, it meant that the first filing in 1914 was based upon only 10 months of income (March through December), not the entire year of 1913.


Politico | President Obama to focus on long-term unemployed
President Barack Obama on Friday will call on companies to help the long-term unemployed find jobs and issue a presidential memorandum pledging the federal government to do the same.
CNN Money | Minimum wage since 1938
When the federal minimum wage first became law in 1938, it was 25 cents. Adjusted for inflation, that would be worth $4.13 today. Scroll over the chart to see historical minimum wage amounts, and their corresponding values in today’s dollars.
Market Watch | Fourth-quarter Employment Cost Index rises 0.5%
The employment cost index, which measures the price of U.S. labor, rose 0.5% in the fourth quarter. Economists polled by MarketWatch expected a seasonally adjusted 0.4% gain, following a 0.4% increase in the third quarter.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Forbes | Almost Everything You Have Been Told About The Minimum Wage Is False
The Democrats, their union supporters, and liberals in general are making a hard and concerted push for an increase in the minimum wage. President Obama mentioned the subject prominently in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night and even promised to take executive action to increase the minimum wage federal contractors must pay their workers starting in 2015.


FOX Business | Public Pension Liabilities Swell
More than a quarter of U.S. states had public pension liabilities that were greater than their total revenues in fiscal 2012, Moody's Investors Service said in a report on Thursday that also indicated the struggle to pay for public employee retirement had peaked.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
CRS | Federal Employees' Retirement System: Benefits and Financing
Most civilian federal employees who were hired before 1984 are covered by the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS).

CATO | We Need a Debate about the Size of Government, but It Helps to Understand Basic Fiscal Facts
Self awareness is supposed to be a good thing, so I’m going to openly acknowledge that I have an unusual fixation on the size of government.