Wednesday, May 14, 2014

General Economics

FOX Business | Buying a Home Could Become Easier for Some
The Federal Housing Finance Agency acknowledged on Tuesday what many frustrated mortgage applicants have been saying for several years – credit terms have become so stringent that many deserving applicants are getting rejected.
Bloomberg | Recession-Baby Millennials Shun Stocks After U.S. Slump: Economy
“They thought that this was an incredibly risky proposition,” said O’Shaughnessy, 29, of O’Shaughnessy Asset Management in Stamford, Connecticut, which has about $7 billion under management. “I found pretty universal skepticism.” He plans to publish a book this year on young people’s finances.
WSJ | Obama to Speed Infrastructure Permits, Highlight Highway Funding Squeeze
President Barack Obama on Wednesday will announce plans to speed up permits for building roads, bridges and other infrastructure, part of a broader effort to highlight the administration's focus on transportation as a highway trust fund runs dry.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Alhambra Investment Partners | Best Way' To Create Systemic Poverty
The primary argument in favor of “aggregate demand” policies, or at least attempts at demand-side “stimulus”, amounts to putting more money into the economy as spending. You hear it all the time, as in give money to people that do not have it now and they will spend it, thus creating a “pump priming” that stirs the economic engine as a whole to full health and circulation. In other words, spending begets more spending, and then investment and so on.
Politico | Sallie Mae agrees to $97M settlement over servicemembers’ student loans interest rates
Student loan servicer Sallie Mae and formerly affiliated companies have agreed to pay a total of $97 million to settle claims that it charged members of the military too much interest on their loans — and the Education Department will review whether additional federal action, including termination of its contract with Sallie Mae, is necessary.
Fortune | Where can the middle class actually afford to buy a home?
Buying a home is still cheap relative to renting in much of the country, but for the middle class living in America's most desirable cities, homeownership is a pipe dream.
Washington Times | Obamanomics: It’s not working
This time it was in a political speech in Los Angeles to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, in which he claimed that since 2007, the GOP had mounted hundreds of filibusters to block legislation that would have helped the middle class.
WSJ | Stopping Keystone Ensures More Railroad Tank-Car Spills
The Keystone XL Pipeline got another nail in its coffin Monday, in the form of a Senate energy vote that excluded the pipeline issue. But Keystone was already near death thanks to the Obama's administration's recent decision to ignore the evidence of a definitive government study—and instead keep listening to environmentalists' dubious claims. The upshot will be more political fires in Washington caused by train derailments in the absence of a pipeline to transport oil more safely.
Fortune | The bigger beef between Tim Geithner and his critics
Former Mitt Romney adviser Glenn Hubbard claims that Tim Geithner's book contains false information on Romney's tax plans. But the bigger point of contention between the two has to do with saving struggling homeowners during the financial crisis.
CATO | Inequality Myths
From President Obama to Paul Krugman, ThomasPiketty to Elizabeth Warren, the Left has adopted “inequality” as the cause of the day. They paint a picture of a new Gilded Age in which a hereditary American gentry becomes ever richer, while the vast majority of Americans toil away in near-Dickensianpoverty. It’s a compelling political narrative, one that can be used to advance any number of policy proposals, from higher taxes to increases in the minimum wage.

WSJ | U.S. Economy Contracted In First Quarter, Latest Figures Show
A couple weeks ago, the Commerce Department said U.S. economic output expanded at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 0.1% in the first three months of the year. A near-stall for the economy, for sure, but at least it wasn’t worse.
Market Watch | New Fannie, Freddie goals may boost Wells Fargo, J.P. Morgan Chase, analysts say
New guidelines for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will support Wells Fargo, J.P. Morgan Chase and other lenders, with a regulator directing the federally controlled mortgage-finance giants to support credit access and curb banks’ exposure to mortgage risk, analysts noted Wednesday.
WSJ | Drop in Food Stamp Enrollment Picks Up Steam
The number of Americans receiving food stamps is now falling at a faster clip, with more than 1.2 million people moving out of the program between October and February, according to federal data.
Library of Economics | Shall we obey unjust regulations?
"One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws," so goes the old, venerable quote by Martin Luther King. But what about unjust regulations? Typically businesses play by the rules. Some of them play with the rules, by engaging in the political process.

Health Care

Bloomberg | UnitedHealth Leads Plan to Reveal Health Prices to Consumers
UnitedHealth Group (UNH) Inc., the largest U.S. health insurer, will lead an industry effort to throw a spotlight on the prices paid for health-care services, making their costs available to consumers on the Internet.


Bloomberg | Wholesale Prices in U.S. Increase by Most in More Than a Year
Prices paid to American factories and service producers rose in April by the most in more than a year, indicating a diminishing risk of deflation as demand improves.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Heritage Foundation | Behold the Power of the Fed
Janet Yellen’s latest testimony before the Senate Budget Committee confirmed one of my long-held beliefs about the Federal Reserve: People give the institution way too much credit.


CNN Money | Firms warned: Don't leave U.S. for lower taxes
The Senate's chief tax writer, Ron Wyden, wants U.S. companies looking to move abroad for a lower tax bill to understand one thing: "[T]hey won't profit from abandoning the U.S."
CNN Money | IRS said to make $13B in improper refunds
The U.S. government doled out more than $13 billion last year in improper payments of a tax credit meant to help the working poor, according to a government watchdog.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
AEI | Expert's take: Tax extenders debate
While the fundamental structure of the federal tax system is permanent law, there are roughly four dozen temporary tax provisions that expired at the end of 2012. These tax breaks are commonly referred to as “tax extenders” because Congress regularly (and often retroactively) extends them for a year or two.


CNN Money | Washington state defies minimum wage logic
Small businesses, often called the engine of the U.S. economy, find themselves at the heart of the debate. Critics of a wage hike say that raising the minimum wage too high and too fast could put them out of business.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Real Clear Markets | America's Increasingly Irrelevant 'Unemployment Rate'
Once upon a time in America, grown men were expected to work a job, women were expected to stay home with the kids, and families were expected to cover expenses with their own earnings. There was no welfare state to step in for the unfortunate, or the feckless. This was the land for which the "unemployment rate" was invented.


Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
WSJ | U.S. Household Debt Increases
Americans made more progress in repairing their postrecession finances and have increased their overall borrowing, yet they are also showing an aversion to credit cards and new mortgages that could hinder the economic recovery.

Heritage Foundation | What the 2014 Deficit Tells and Doesn’t About the U.S. Budget Gap
The deeply troubling reality is that current levels of deficits and debt tell us only so much about the U.S. budget situation. The real fiscal gap is getting bigger each and every year that lawmakers fail to enact structural budget reforms.