Wednesday, April 16, 2014

General Economics

CNN Money | Fears grow over China property flameout
The risks of a blow up in China's property market are rising, threatening a slowdown that could hurt global growth.
FOX Business | U.S. Housing Starts Rise Less Than Expected, Permits Fall
U.S. housing starts rose less than expected in March and building permits fell, pointing to underlying weakness in the housing market that could persist despite better weather.
CNN Money | Detroit reaches deal with retired police and firefighters
Detroit's emergency manager and retired police and firefighters hammered out a deal Tuesday that marks a big step forward in the city's efforts to exit bankruptcy.
Bloomberg | Factories Lead U.S. Economic Rebound as Housing Lags
Gains in manufacturing are helping power the U.S. out of the winter doldrums, while homebuilding shows signs of lagging behind.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Forbes | The Year's Big Investment Winner? Tax Shelters
As I told my friend Neil Cavuto, the big investment winner year-to-date is tax shelters, namely tax-free municipal bonds. That’s what the Obama tax increases have wrought; an increase of the top income tax rate to almost 40%, plus added Obamacare taxes on top of that, causes the highest income group to do the obvious thing: move their capital out of economy-growing private equity markets and into tax-favored municipals. What did you think — that they’re idiots who would stand still for the public shearing?
Politico | CBO says food stamp costs could drop by $24 billion
After the buckets of political blood spilled over food stamps this past year, the Congressional Budget Office has quietly lowered its cost estimate for the nutrition program by $24 billion over the next decade.

CATO | Revisiting Central Clearing for Derivatives
The Dodd-Frank requirement that over-the-counter derivatives be centrally cleared is one of the (slightly) less controversial provisions of the Act, at least in spirit if perhaps not always in substance. But for a time, a few observers have worried - myself included - that concentrating derivatives clearing activities in one or two single-purpose entities may increase, rather than reduce, the risk to the broader economy posed by the default of a counterparty.

Health Care

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Mercatus | We Can Find Consensus on Health Care Cost Reforms
With the Affordable Care Act’s open enrollment period now closed, perhaps there is an opportunity for constructive, bipartisan policy discussion on health care reform. One thing that both Obamacare supporters and opponents can agree on is that our health care system remains inefficient. And, although health care inflation slowed in recent years, informed observers from across the political spectrum realize that population aging will produce a new bout of cost escalation – unless something else is done. 

CATO | Kathleen Sebelius Sticks American People With Higher Costs, Fewer Choices, and Lost Jobs
Congress passed the misnamed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act four years ago.  It was a signal political achievement.  Alas, ObamaCare is proving to be a policy bust as Kathleen Sebelius leaves her job as Secretary of Health and Human Services. 


Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
WSJ | In Going Long, the Fed Is Short-Sighted
Stock and bond traders spent most of last year in a state of high anxiety over what would happen when the Federal Reserve began "tapering" its monthly $85 billion purchases of Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities. But when the tapering was actually announced in December, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose sharply, apparently out of relief from all the suspense. Today, after various fluctuations including last week's swoon, the Dow is pretty much where it was back then.
WSJ | Fed Official More Worried About Deflation Than Inflation
Despite gradual economic recovery, inflation doesn't appear to be a pressing concern now, or in the near future, said a Federal Reserve official Tuesday.

WSJ | Fed’s Lockhart Sees First Rate Hike in Second Half of 2015
The Federal Reserve will likely not begin raising interest rates until the second half of 2015 as it waits for confirmation that its forecasts for stronger U.S. economic growth bear out, Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart said.


National Journal | How the Makers of TurboTax Are Trying to Keep Doing Your Taxes Annoying
Imagine a world where, instead of having to manually fill out the same boxes on your tax forms every year, the IRS filled out your paperwork for you in advance and told you how much they think you owe, using information the IRS already gets from banks and employers. If you agreed with their estimate, you could just sign the paperwork and return it. If you disagreed with their estimate, you could file your taxes the way you have been doing.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
FOX Business | Corporate Cash Kings Escape U.S. Taxes
Walgreen isn’t the only company under pressure, including by shareholders such as Goldman Sachs, to move its headquarters overseas due to high U.S. taxation.
Real Clear Markets | A Truly Absurd Tax Code Illustrates the Need for Rational Reform
Tax season is over for all but the greatest procrastinators among us. Two-thirds of taxpayers are celebrating their forthcoming refunds while tens of millions of others have grudgingly written a check to the IRS. Either way, this is the time of year when Americans are most acutely aware of the federal income tax system and all its flaws.
Fortune | How to get Americans to save more at tax time
Reminding people of the risks of unexpected financial shocks, such as unemployment and hospitalization, may not be as big of a motivator as automatically enrolling people in a savings plan.

Heritage Foundation | 2014 Tax Day Chart: Who Pays the Most?
Despite calls for more taxes on the rich, the Heritage chart shown above reveals that the recent tax increases disproportionately affect the working wealthy. The top 10 percent of all income earners paid 71 percent of federal income taxes in 2010, yet they earned 45 percent of all federal income. Compare that to the bottom 50 percent of earners, who earn 12 percent of income yet pay only 2 percent of federal income taxes.


CNN Money | Oklahoma bans local minimum wage hikes
Gov. Mary Fallin signed the measure Monday. The new law also bars localities from requiring that employees receive a certain number of sick or vacation days, either paid or unpaid.
Bloomberg | Tight Job Market in U.S. Cities Prompts Higher Pay
To hire 10 to 15 project coordinators this year, Sabre Commercial Inc. has boosted pay 10 percent and added a 401(k) retirement plan.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
WSJ | Obama to Announce Targeted Job-Training Initiatives
The White House on Wednesday will announce $500 million in grants aimed at increasing coordination between community colleges and industry groups and another $100 million to expand access to apprenticeships to boost job training, administration officials said.
CRS | Returning to Full Employment: What Do the Indicators Tell Us?
Until recently, the economy and labor market were experiencing an unusually slow recovery from the longest and deepest recession since the Great Depression compared to other expansions since World War II. The rapid decline in the unemployment rate from 7.9% in January to 6.7% in December 2013 (where it remained in the first quarter of 2014) would seem to indicate that the labor market is returning to normal. The current unemployment rate is only 0.5 to 1.5 percentage points higher than the consensus range of full employment.

Market Watch | Companies say it’s tougher to keep skilled employees, New York Fed survey finds
Here’s another sign that the labor market is tightening: A growing number of firms are finding it difficult to retain skilled workers.
WSJ | Recession’s Lingering Scars Could Include Lower Labor-Force Participation
The recession left deep scars on the U.S. economy, and two features of the lackluster recover – sluggish productivity growth and lower labor-force participation – may persist for years to come.


Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
WSJ | The Spending Bender Also Known as the 'Tax Extender'
A $250-a-year subsidy for those who commute to work using New York's "bike share" program. Breaks for Broadway plays like "Of Mice and Men" starring James Franco and Chris O'Dowd, up to $15 million per production. A $71 million benefit for Nascar facilities. Billions in credits for the wind-energy industry.