Wednesday, February 19, 2014

General Economics

Bloomberg | Builders in U.S. Begin Work on Fewer Houses Than Forecast
The pace of U.S. home construction declined more than forecast in January, indicating an unusually harsh winter probably played a role in slowing projects.
Bloomberg | Waning Mortgage Refinancings Make New Deals Safer, Moody’s Says
A trend of fewer homeowners refinancing their mortgages as interest rates climb is helping to curb sales of home-loan bonds without government backing. It’s also making new notes being issued safer, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Real Clear Markets | 1% v. 99%? No, It's Affluent, Squeezed, and Entrenched Poverty
The inequality debate is dominated by binary thinking. Scholars typically worry about the gap between rich and poor, the ‘haves' and ‘have nots' or - most recently - between ‘the 99% and the 1%.'
Reason | Why It’s So Hard to Figure Out What the Stimulus Did
Five years after the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the biggest fiscal stimulus in the nation’s history, the debate over its success hasn’t changed very much.
Market Watch | Crash of 2014: Like 1929, you’ll never hear it coming
Imagine, you’re in the exciting new 21st century. Civilization still exists on Planet Earth. Wall Street’s still in business. But you’re still asking: Why can’t we hear the next crash? Are we deaf? No. The warnings are always long and loud. So why can’t we “hear” them? In fact, it’ll get worse. Here’s why ...
CATO | Welfare, Here and Abroad
How bad have things become? The British newspaper the Telegraph recently looked at the growth in welfare spending in industrialized nations and found that such spending (including health-care and pension programs) had grown faster in the United States since 2000 than in any country in Europe except Ireland, Spain, and Portugal.

WSJ | Tech Gains Won’t Offset Future Growth Slowdown, Argues Economist
For Robert Gordon, an economics professor at Northwestern University, the U.S. economy’s best days, economically speaking, are in its past.
Library of Economics | Bastiat just rolled over in his grave
The Administration has released a report defending the ARRA program, and it's every bit as embarrassing as you might expect.

Health Care

Bloomberg | Employers Turning to Private Health Exchange to Cut Costs
One-third of U.S. employers plan to move their workers’ health-care coverage to a private exchange in the next few years, a survey found, following the lead of companies like Walgreen Co. (WAG) seeking to reduce costs.
WSJ | Health Law's Impact Has Only Begun
On Jan. 1, the key provisions of the Affordable Care Act took effect. Americans gained access to new health plans subsidized by federal dollars. Insurers no longer can turn away people with existing conditions. Millions are now eligible for new Medicaid benefits.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Washington Times | Seniors are losing ground under Obamacare
One of the most troubling aspects of President Obama’s takeover of health care is the more than $200 billion in cuts that Obamacare is taking from the Medicare Advantage (MA) program, which more than 15 million seniors and individuals with disabilities have chosen to enroll in across the United States.


FOX Business | Producer Prices Edge Up in January
U.S. producer prices rose for a second straight month in January, pushed up by an increase in the cost of goods, but there was little sign of a broad pick-up in inflation pressures at the factory gate.
WSJ | Fed Sets Rules for Foreign Banks
The Federal Reserve on Tuesday asserted its authority on global financial groups, passing new rules that could force some large foreign banks to add billions of dollars in capital.

WSJ | 5 Things to Know about Incoming Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester
Loretta Mester, 55, director of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, has been tapped to become the next president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, effective June 1. She’ll immediately have a vote on the Fed’s policy committee, making her views of great interest to investors. Here are five things worth knowing about her.


Politico | IRS headaches mean pain for taxpayers
All in a few years, Congress has saddled the Internal Revenue Service with the biggest expansion of federal benefits in a generation and a sweeping crackdown on offshore tax-dodgers, on top of its more mundane responsibilities of processing tax returns.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
WSJ | A Better Path to Corporate Tax Reform
Last week Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden became the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Even as a liberal Democrat, he has supported two key goals of corporate tax reform: reducing the U.S. corporate tax rate and repatriating corporate profits held abroad. Sen. Wyden's challenge will be implementing these goals without increasing the federal debt.


Politico | Jobless benefits: The GOP’s search for an exit
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has vowed to press the GOP on unemployment benefits — forcing them to keep taking votes on a bill to extend aid to the long-term unemployed. But Republicans have rejected it twice since the program expired on Dec. 28.
CNN Money | Raising minimum wage would ease poverty but cost some jobs
Supporters of raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour say it will increase productivity, lower turnover and increase wages for 28 million workers.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Bloomberg | Teenagers Spurn Working as School in U.S. Takes Priority
Akil Alvin, 19 and from Detroit, is struggling to land a job as he competes with older, more skilled applicants. Alex Lothspeich, 17 and from Charlotte, North Carolina, is choosing not to enter the workforce to focus on high school.
WSJ | Hurting the 0.3%
White House economic policy can be more than a little confusing these days. Among its novel claims of late have been that paying people longer not to work is a jobs stimulus, and that ObamaCare's incentives not to work are a virtue. Now comes news that a higher minimum wage is splendid even if it throws half a million poor people out of work.
CBO | The Effects of a Minimum-Wage Increase on Employment and Family Income
Increasing the minimum wage would have two principal effects on low-wage workers. Most of them would receive higher pay that would increase their family’s income, and some of those families would see their income rise above the federal poverty threshold. But some jobs for low-wage workers would probably be eliminated, the income of most workers who became jobless would fall substantially, and the share of low-wage workers who were employed would probably fall slightly.


Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Fortune | American debt explosion: The good, the bad, and the ugly
Americans are taking on significantly more debt than they have in recent years. A look at what this means for the U.S. economy.
CRS | The Debt Limit Since 2011
The Constitution grants Congress the power to borrow money on the credit of the United States—one part of its power of the purse—and thus mandates that Congress exercise control over federal debt.

WSJ | Is China at Risk of a Debt Crisis? Not Really, Bank Says
Is China headed for a debt crisis? That has emerged as a pressing question over the past year as the country’s overall debt level rises quickly and the recent specter of defaults in the shadow banking system rattles financial markets in China and abroad.
Heritage Foundation | A Look Back: 7 Instances of Wasteful Spending in the Stimulus Package
Five years ago this week, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—the stimulus package—into law. Here’s a quick reminder of how some of this $862 billion of taxpayer money was spent.