Friday, February 13, 2015

General Economics

Market Watch | U.S. import prices sink 2.8% in January on lower oil costs
The prices the U.S. paid for imported goods fell sharply again in January mainly because of much cheaper oil, a trend that's keeping inflation under wraps.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Wall Street Journal | Economists See Cheap Oil Weighing on Capital Investment
Low oil prices will continue benefiting consumers and the broader U.S. economy this year, but economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal are forming a clearer picture of one downside from cheap oil: slower business investment that offsets a slice of the economic gains.
Forbes | This Economy Is Yearning For The Policy Mix
The economy appears to be improving, at long last seven years into the recovery from the Great Recession. Jobs are being added at the Ronald Reagan-era average, even if the population is a quarter larger than in the 1980s. Job openings are cracking above the pre-Great Recession level. And the doughty old blunderbuss statistic, Gross Domestic Product, is inching ever closer to 3 percent.
Real Clear Markets | Modern Economics Is Based On Desperate Misconceptions
I think the Wall Street Journal said it best, with the headline of its article on the latest G-20 conclave shouting, "Currency Warriors Get a Boost at G-20 Meeting." Apparently these leaders, including the head of the IMF (which is ironic because the IMF's first job at its inception was fostering stability), are dissatisfied with everything from employment to inflation to structural overhauls, whatever that might mean in terms of government spending on something. Whatever form, the idea was that there needs to be "mass" monetarism in 2015.
New York Times | How Mortgage Fraud Made the Financial Crisis Worse
The financial crisis was caused in part by widespread fraud, which may seem like an obvious point. But it remains surprisingly controversial.

Wall Street Journal | Winter Snow Weighs on First-Quarter GDP
Brace for blizzards and other bad weather to hit the economy again this winter, though perhaps not as deeply as last year.

Health Care

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Market Watch | Three ways Obamacare must finish the job
With Obamacare’s second open-enrollment season ending this weekend, the giant law’s Job 1 — expanding health-care access — is all but done. The nation’s uninsured rate had been cut by a quarter through December, and will fall more by Sunday. Nearly three-fifths of the 11-point drop in the percentage of Americans without health insurance that the Congressional Budget Office predicted would happen by 2019 is done. And Florida and Texas haven’t expanded Medicaid eligibility under the law yet.
Forbes | Medicare's Biggest Little Secret: Seniors Can Have A Medical Savings Account
When I first became eligible for Medicare I went through the Pennsylvania version of the booklet “Medicare & You,” looking for the Medicare Advantage plan that would be the best choice for me. This is an annual autumn ritual for anyone who wants a private “Medicare Advantage” plan. This year in Pennsylvania there were 19 pages in all, describing 129 different plans, with brief descriptions of each.


Market Watch | Fed will pause rate hikes at end of year, top forecaster says
The Federal Reserve will start raising interest rates this summer as wage growth accelerates, but will likely pause for quite a while after pushing rates up to about 1%, the winner of the Forecaster of the Month award for January says.


Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Forbes | Student Loan Forgiveness Could Be Expensive Education For Taxpayers
Student loan debt has become a major economic policy issue in the country. Total student loan debt has been climbing sharply over the last decade and has now reached about $1.3 trillion. This has been deemed a crisis by many and has spurred numerous calls for student loan forgiveness, government subsidized loan interest rates, and other actions designed to lift the supposedly heavy burden from all these poor students’ shoulders. Student loan debt has even been blamed for the slow housing recovery and a slowdown in car sales. Yet the real problem with student loan debt at the moment is that taxpayers just got stuck with a $22 billion bill for expected non-payment of student loans.


Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Bloomberg Business | Finally, Good News for Workers at the Bottom
It’s taken too long, but the U.S. economic expansion is finally benefiting people at the bottom of the ladder. Consider these stats from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ January jobs report: Employment of people without a high school degree rose 6 percent over the past year. Employment of black teens rose 18 percent. Employment of the disabled rose 20 percent.
Forbes | Unemployment Is Dropping, Thanks To A Republican Policy That Obama Opposed
In January, in his annual State of the Union address, President Obama bragged that “our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999.” It’s great news, to be sure. But according to a new paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, the recent improvement in the labor market may be due to a policy change that Obama adamantly opposed: ending extended unemployment benefits.


Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Fox Business | Federal Government’s ‘Hall of Shame’
Every two years, before Congress is set to begin its session, the Government Accountability Office releases a list of the federal programs most at risk of fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement. The GAO, a Congressional watchdog agency, is charged with monitoring the effectiveness of the federal government, whose programs it says cost U.S. taxpayers $3.5 trillion in fiscal outlays.
Mercatus | In Washington, 'Austerity' Is a 67% Budget Increase
It is lamentation season for the few financial regulatory agencies that do not have carte-blanche authority to set their own budgets. The annual ritual should include a mandatory listen to the Rolling Stones: "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need." Adding to the existing list of questionable interpretations of the song, financial regulators should hear a comforting message in those lyrics: you may not get the budget you ask for, but-with a little more effort on your part to spend carefully-you might just find that the budget you get is big enough to do your job.
Mercatus | President Obama's Fiscal Year 2016 Budget: Tax and Spend
President Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2016 envisions the federal government collecting and spending an increasing amount of taxpayer money over the next ten years. For the upcoming fiscal year, the president expects to spend a tick under $4 trillion while hoping to collect revenues worth $3.525 trillion. The resulting deficit of $475 billion in 2016 would be smaller than the projected deficit for fiscal 2015, but deficits would soon begin to climb again under the president’s policies.