Friday, February 28, 2014

General Economics

CNN Money | Now on your restaurant bill: Obamacare fee
Diners at eight Gator's Dockside casual eateries are finding a 1% Affordable Care Act surcharge on their tabs, which comes to 15 cents on a typical $15 lunch tab. Signs on the door and at tables alert diners to the fee, which is also listed separately on the bill.
FOX Business | Freddie Mac Rakes in $8.6B in 4Q Profits, Repays $71.3 Billion Bailout
Freddie Mac revealed on Thursday it hauled in $8.6 billion of profits during the fourth quarter, paving the way for the government-controlled mortgage giant to return another $10.4 billion to taxpayers.
CNN Money | Housing inequality: The tale of two communities
Home values in the top 10% wealthiest communities are worth more than six times that in the bottom 40%, a new survey has found.
Bloomberg | Economy in U.S. Expanded at Slower Pace Than First Estimated
The economy in the U.S. grew at a slower pace in the fourth quarter than previously estimated, giving the expansion less momentum heading into 2014.
CNN Money | Identity theft tops consumer complaints...again
Identity thieves were once again consumers' greatest gripe last year, followed by pesky debt collectors and frustrating banks and lenders.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
WSJ | Higher Ed's Illusions
For years, polling data has shown that Americans hold the U.S. Congress in low esteem, with the Members' approval often sinking into the teens. So guess which American institution is on course to join them? It's our colleges and universities. Congress at least admits it's doing a poor job. The colleges don't.
Washington Times | How Obama drowns Main Street in regulations
A prescription for a more robust American economic recovery is not a mystery — the catalyst of job growth is small business. At a time when small businesses should be at the heart of our nation’s comeback, America’s best job creators deserve leaders who create an environment where businesses can thrive.
NY Times | A Dire Economic Forecast Based on New Assumptions
The part of the past that you deem most relevant can be critical in determining your outlook for the future. And nowhere is that clearer than in the changing economic forecasts that come out of the Congressional Budget Office.
CATO | Minimum Wages: A Poor Way to Reduce Poverty
While alleviating poverty is a widely shared goal, raising the minimum wage is a very inefficient means of achieving this objective and is likely to hurt many low-skilled workers.

WSJ | Vital Signs: Demand for Capital Goods Flattens Out
Thursday’s durable goods report was a mixed bag, but of particular interest to the economic outlook is the trend in orders for capital goods that contribute to the business-investment sector of gross domestic product.

Health Care

National Journal | Obama's Cut to Medicare Program Gets an Estimate: 5.9 percent
The insurance industry Thursday protested the Obama administration's planned cut to a Medicare program, saying it would cost seniors when it came time to pay their insurance premiums.
WSJ | Health Plans Rush to Size Up New Clients
Insurers are rushing to gather health information from the new customers they won on public marketplaces in a high-stakes outreach effort crucial to their hopes of profiting from the health-care law.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Forbes | Behind the '4 Million Obamacare Enrollees' Facade Is An Uncomfortable Truth
The White House has proudly announced that 4 million Americans are now enrolled in Obamacare.  More astute analysts rightly point out that being “enrolled” doesn’t mean enrollees have made their first premium payment, which could be a big hurdle.  But the even bigger question is: In the volatile individual health insurance market, how many will continue to pay their premiums?
CATO | What Governors Can Do to Lower Health Care Costs
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell recently wrote to GOP governors asking them for ideas to reform the Affordable Care Act. Clearly governors are seen as key to Republican efforts to identify reforms Americans support. However, the governors are in a position to make an even bigger impact at the state level. Much of what could be done to increase access to care and reduce costs is illegal in many states.


WSJ | Fed's Fisher Could Support Faster Bond Tapering
Dallas Federal Reserve President Richard Fisher said Thursday that if the pace of economic growth were to pick up in the U.S., he would be open to accelerating the Federal Reserve's reduction of bond purchases.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Real Clear Markets | The Fed Has Become a Frankenstein of Epic Proportions
In what increasingly seems like both a recurring nightmare and an unfortunate case of deliberate short-term memory, the Chinese banking system is exhibiting dysfunction that is far too reminiscent of global dollar markets in late 2007.
CNN Money | Ben Bernanke grilled on AIG bailout
Former Fed chairman Ben Bernanke was grilled on Thursday about some of his toughest days in the job.
Mercatus | How Are Small Banks Faring Under Dodd-Frank?
This paper presents the results of the Mercatus Center’s Small Bank Survey, which include responses from approximately 200 banks across 41 states with less than $10 billion in assets each, serving mostly rural and small metropolitan markets. The initial analysis suggests that Dodd-Frank significantly affects small banks and their customers.

WSJ | 5 Things Janet Yellen Said That Distance Her From Others’ Views
The main takeaway from Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen’s testimony before the Senate Banking Committee was that central bank policy is on cruise control until officials get a better read on the economy’s performance. The Fed will continue to gradually reduce its monthly bond  purchases unless officials decide the economy has slowed substantially. A recent spate of bad weather in parts of the country make it hard to form a judgment now, Ms. Yellen said.


Politico | Wall Street threatens GOP on bank tax
Rep. Dave Camp’s tax proposal — which jacked up taxes on banks and threatens the bottom line of some major private equity players in New York — has infuriated donors in high finance.
Bloomberg | California Carbon Tax Would Be First at the Gas Pump
California would be the first U.S. state to impose a “carbon tax” directly on motorists at the fuel pump under a plan by a leading Democratic lawmaker to ease greenhouse-gas pollution.
AEI | One step closer to tax reform
Yesterday, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Michigan) unveiled the most sweeping, elaborate, and aggressive income tax reform proposal in a generation.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Market Watch | Dave Camp’s tax plan doesn’t go far enough
I had high hopes for House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp’s tax reform plan. Those hopes were dashed.
The Fiscal Times | Camp’s Courageous Tax Plan Is Bashed by All Sides
In putting out a comprehensive rewrite of the nation’s sclerotic and inefficient tax code, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) displayed a degree of political courage virtually unheard of in recent years, if measured only by the number of constituencies he pissed off.  - See more at:
Fortune | Dave Camp's pitch to overhaul U.S. taxes: An impossible dream?
Unlike many previous Republican proposals to cut taxes, the Michigan congressman specifies how government would pay for them. This is critical, but it's not pretty.


WSJ | Jobless Claims Rise More Than Expected
The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits jumped last week, the latest indication of volatility in the nation's job market.


Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
CRS | Federal Trust Funds and the Budget
The federal budget consists of four basic fund groups—the general fund, special funds, revolving funds, and trust funds. The first three are often referred to as the federal funds group. Trust funds are an accounting mechanism that records revenues, offsetting receipts, or collections earmarked for the purpose of the specific fund.