Thursday, April 3, 2014

General Economics

Market Watch | 30-year-mortgage rate rises to 4.41%
The average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage ticked up to 4.41% in the week that ended April 3 from 4.40% in the prior week, according to a Thursday report from federally controlled mortgage-buyer Freddie Mac
FOX Business | U.S. Trade Gap Widens as Exports Slump
The U.S. trade deficit unexpectedly widened in February as exports fell to their lowest level in five months, further signs economic growth slowed in the first quarter.
CNN Money | Homebuyers getting priced out in cities across U.S.
In big cities across the country, home buyers are growing increasingly frustrated as rising home prices and stiff competition shut them out of the market.
Bloomberg | Consumer Comfort in U.S. Climbed Last Week From Two-Month Low
Consumer confidence climbed last week from an almost two-month low, paced by improving perceptions of personal finances and the buying climate that signal shoppers will return to U.S. retailers as temperatures warm.
Market Watch | ISM non-manufacturing index rises to 53.1% in March
Growth picked up last month for the U.S. service sector and other non-manufacturing companies, according to data released Thursday.
WSJ | 'Wealth Effect' Drives Vacation-Home Sales
Sales of vacation homes are surging again, the result of rising wealth in higher-income households and renewed confidence in the housing market.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Washington Times | Closer than ever to tapping Alaska’s natural gas
The current unrest in the Crimean Peninsula has focused a bright spotlight on the world’s ever-growing need for safe, reliable and friendly sources of energy.
WSJ | I'm Fighting to Restore a Free Society
I have devoted most of my life to understanding the principles that enable people to improve their lives. It is those principles—the principles of a free society—that have shaped my life, my family, our company and America itself.
Bloomberg | Capitalism Is Messy. Let's Keep It That Way.
Free-market capitalism is a success because it does the most efficient possible job of allocating a society's resources, or so goes the prevailing logic. But what if capitalism's true value lies elsewhere? What if its most important attribute is actually inefficiency?
Barrons | Bubble or No Bubble?
So are we in a stock-market bubble or not? I think the answer depends on what data points you're using to support your narrative.

Health Care

Politico | Behind the Obamacare surprise
There was a word White House officials had for Monday, the final day of Obamacare enrollment: “S—t-tastic.” “S—t,” because they couldn’t believe that the website had crashed again, and they couldn’t get it back for hours. “-Tastic” because this time, the problems were actually because of traffic so high that it caught even the most optimistic people in the White House by surprise.
WSJ | Medicare to Publish Trove of Data on Doctors
The Obama administration said it would publish as early as next week data on what Medicare paid individual doctors in 2012, aiming to boost transparency and help root out fraud.
Market Watch | As Obamacare arrives, a CEO shows how to do it better
Open-enrollment season under the Affordable Care Act has finally, mercifully, ended — at least in theory. And by any reasonably accurate reckoning, it’s the biggest policy success in decades — technology glitches and all. Someone really came from Washington to help. Go figure.
WSJ | Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal Proposes Alternative to Affordable Care Act
Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, trying to distinguish himself from other potential presidential candidates, outlined a replacement for the Affordable Care Act that he said would expand health coverage to more Americans by making insurance more affordable.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Mercatus | Medical Cost Containment: A Microeconomic Approach
Health care costs, which already consume roughly one-sixth of the US economy, are projected to surge as aging baby boomers begin flooding the medical system. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) does little to stem this tide; it mainly shifts costs among taxpayers, insurance carriers, and medical providers. Further reforms are critical to ease the mounting pressure of health care costs—but what, specifically, can be done?
Mercatus | The Strange and Very Expensive World of Prescription Drugs
Like many male baby boomers, I am in the process of saying goodbye to my hair. To extend the farewell, I decided to take Propecia, a prescription drug that combats male pattern baldness. But delaying the inevitable has substantial costs-costs that are exaggerated by our nation's Byzantine prescription drug system.

Heritage Foundation | Marylanders on Hook for Millions More to Revamp Obamacare Site
The board overseeing Maryland’s online health insurance exchange voted unanimously last night to scrap its $125.5 million website and use technology implemented in Connecticut.


CNN Money | ECB considers Fed-style stimulus
ECB President Mario Draghi was in Athens this week. Greece is one of a handful of European countries where prices are falling as companies seek to restore competitiveness.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Market Watch | Fed's Williams: Rates should rise second-half 2015
San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank President John Williams said the U.S. central bank should start raising rates in the second half of 2015, but do so only gradually.


Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Washington Times | Warren Buffett’s liberal display of tax-increase hypocrisy
While liberalism’s terminus is failure, its first stop is hypocrisy. Higher-tax advocate Warren Buffett recently illustrated this with his reported use of a tax strategy to avoid — you guessed it — higher taxes.
NBER | The Behavioralist As Tax Collector: Using Natural Field Experiments to Enhance Tax Compliance
Tax collection problems date back to the earliest recorded history of mankind. This paper begins with a simple theoretical construct of paying (rather than declaring) taxes, which we argue has been an overlooked aspect of tax compliance.


Politico | Harry Reid not budging on minimum wage
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is in no mood to deal on the minimum wage — or take questions about whether a deal is in the making.
Bloomberg | Jobless Claims in U.S. Rose 16,000 Last Week to 326,000
The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits rose more than forecast last week after reaching a six-month low, a sign that progress in the labor market remains fitful.
Bloomberg | Obama Minimum Wage Plan Made as Pitch to Young Voters
President Barack Obama is pitching his economic proposals as a boon to younger voters, who Democrats are counting on to help avert electoral losses in November.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
CRS | Federal Minimum Wage, Tax-Transfer Earnings Supplements, and Poverty
The minimum wage affects workers regardless of their family status. A full-time, year-round worker at the current minimum wage would gross $15,080 in the year. A worker's poverty status, however, depends on family circumstance, specifically family size.

WSJ | Grand Central: Fate of the Long-Term Unemployed Matters in Fed Debate
Between December 2007, when the recession started, and April 2010, the number of people unemployed for six months or longer surged from 1.3 million to 6.8 million. This number has declined 2.9 million since, accounting for a substantial portion of the overall decline in unemployment since the recession ended.
Library of Economics | Is Welfare a Band-Aid for Nominal Wage Rigidity?
The minimum wage deprives the unfortunate workers shown in red of their ability to support themselves.  Given this involuntary unemployment, the case for welfare is suddenly easier to make.  What happens if the government in its mercy puts the unemployed on the dole? 


Politico | Paul Ryan budget faces bumps amid GOP dissent
As Rep. Paul Ryan was laying out his Path to Prosperity budget Wednesday, Republican leadership was working behind the scenes to make sure there was a path for passage.
CNBC | US Republican budget proposes deep cuts in domestic programs
Rep. Paul Ryan, the leading Republican voice on budget policy, rolled out a new fiscal blueprint on Tuesday that calls for deep cuts in domestic programs, increased defense spending and a goal of erasing annual deficits in 10 years.