Friday, May 16, 2014

General Economics

Bloomberg | Consumer Confidence in U.S. Unexpectedly Declined in May
Consumer confidence unexpectedly fell in May from a nine-month high, showing Americans are being shaken by rising grocery bills and elevated fuel costs.
FOX Business | Housing Starts Up Sharply; Permits Highest Since 2008
U.S. housing starts jumped in April and building permits hit their highest level in nearly six years, offering hope that the troubled housing market could be stabilizing.
WSJ | U.S. Hits GM With Maximum Penalty for Ignition-Switch Defect
General Motors Co. will pay a $35 million fine and admit to violations of federal vehicle safety laws as part of a deal to settle a U.S. investigation of the auto maker's delayed recalls of 2.6 million vehicles world-wide equipped with faulty ignition switches.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
WSJ | More Detroits Are on the Way
The most significant step taken after New York City's near-bankruptcy in 1975 was to curb creative-accounting practices. How was that accomplished? Through a state requirement that the city balance its budget in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles. The city has not had a fiscal crisis since.
Real Clear Markets | Without True Price Signals, Finance Lacks Meaning
When you criticize the current state of economic affairs, there is a tendency to make generalizations for the sake of expedience. That is, of course, true of nearly everything we do and think about, but it can lead to misunderstanding that actually decays your argument. In the context of the current monetary regime, quarrelling vehemently about the state of financial relationships in the US and elsewhere captures not just basic policy but also its structure and operation.
Mercatus | The Political Economy of State-Provided Targeted Benefits
Competing for businesses by offering companies targeted benefits is a popular policy among the governments of American states. Targeted benefits come in many forms, including business tax credits for investments, property tax abatements, and reductions in the sales tax paid by the recipient businesses. Policymakers sometimes establish “enterprise zones” to facilitate these benefits, granting them to companies that hire people and invest in the zones. 

WSJ | Spring Thaw? The State of Housing in Five Charts
Friday’s report on housing starts didn’t provide overwhelming evidence that the housing sector is recovering after a cold winter, but neither did it provide conclusive evidence that a stall was growing worse. Here’s a look at some key points from the report.
CATO | More Infrastructure? Cut Business Taxes
Infrastructure is in the news as policymakers face a deadline to pass a new highway bill. President Obama visited the Tappan Zee Bridge yesterday and said that “rebuilding America … shouldn’t be a partisan issue,” and then cast blame on the Republicans.

Health Care

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Bloomberg | Fast-Food Workers Stage Worldwide Protests Over Minimum Wage
Fast-food workers seeking higher pay protested around the globe at chains such as McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s amid a broader debate about raising the minimum wage.
FOX Business | How to Evaluate Long-Term Care Facilities  
Making the decision to move a loved one to a long-term care facility is never easy. However, once the decision has been made, another challenge awaits: finding the right facility, and figuring out how to finance the care.

Heritage Foundation | States Begin to Face Overwhelming Obamacare Reality
The Medicaid news is not good. Lots of people signing up? Yes. Is that a good thing? No – it’s bad for poor Americans who need health insurance and bad for taxpayers everywhere.


Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Fortune | Larry Summers: Stormy weather ahead for the Fed
Former Treasury Secretary and top advisor to President Obama said today's low interest rates will probably make income inequality worse.
Market Watch | America is being damaged by low rates, weak dollar
Five years after the beginning of the economic recovery, after rock-bottom interest rates and trillions of dollars of quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve, the economy is growing about 2%.

WSJ | Cleveland Fed’s Expected Inflation Gauge Stirs Toward Higher Readings
The bank said Thursday the public’s expected rate of annual inflation 10 years out was 1.87% during the month of May, down from 1.88% in April but up from 1.74% in March and 1.77% the month before.


Politico | GOP kills Senate tax cut bill
The legislation, which would revive a raft of expired tax breaks, failed to clear a procedural hurdle amid widespread objections from Republicans that they had not been allowed to offer amendments, including one targeting an Obamacare medical device tax.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Mercatus | Tax Breaks to Big Business are a Loser
With over half a billion dollars grossed worldwide, "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" is one of the summer's biggest blockbusters. It's also the largest film production ever made in New York, and as a result, the largest beneficiary of its tax breaks for movie makers. Every year, New York gives roughly $420 million in tax breaks to the film industry alone. Louisiana comes second at $236 million.


Bloomberg | Fast-Food Workers Stage Worldwide Protests Over Minimum Wage
Fast-food workers seeking higher pay protested around the globe at chains such as McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s amid a broader debate about raising the minimum wage.
National Journal | The Most Influential Jobs Bill You've Never Heard Of
When the Workforce Investment Act was signed by President Clinton in 1998, the idea was to consolidate what had typically been separate state offices—the unemployment office, the job-listings office, the training-services office, sometimes even the welfare office—into One-Stop Career Centers, in order to help more Americans connect with employers' needs. But Congress has ignored the law since it went into effect in 2000, and lawmakers and advocates say it badly needs a face-lift. Its focus on short-term training and rapid reemployment for laid-off workers is outdated, according to the National Skills Coalition, a job-training advocacy group.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Fiscal Times | U.S. Job Market Has Changed Dramatically in 15 Years - See more at:
The U.S. labor market has undergone huge changes in recent years. Unemployment has swung from a low of 3.8 percent in April 2000 to 10 percent at the height of the Great Recession and back down to 6.3 percent as of last month. The percentage of Americans ages 16 and older with jobs has plunged, from above 64 percent in 2000 to below 59 percent. And the shifting economy has led to big swings in employment across key sectors. - See more at:

WSJ | How Some Companies Are Bridging the Skills Gap
More attention is being paid to labor shortages. A new survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia looks into what companies are doing about it. Lifting wages is only one solution.


Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Market Watch | Student loans preventing millennials from buying homes
Student-loan debt could indeed be keeping more young adults from buying a home of their own, according to an analysis posted on Tuesday.
National Journal | The Plan to Let Americans Refinance Their Student-Loan Debt—and What Democrats Hope to Gain From It
Senate Democrats want to let people refinance their student-loan debt through the federal government, and they're counting on voters paying attention to their efforts come November.

WSJ | Congratulations to Class of 2014, the Most Indebted Ever
As college graduates in the Class of 2014 prepare to shift their tassels and accept their diplomas, they leave school with one discouraging distinction: they’re the most indebted class ever.