Economy

Spin Without Limits

The economic genius makes a point. (Flickr/Marion Doss)

A few times in recent elections, a debate moderator has said to the candidates, "There's been a lot of negativity in this race. Is there anything nice you can say about your opponent?" To which they usually reply, "He's got a lovely family." But the inability to admit that the other guy ever in his life did anything right just makes you look like a phony, or a jerk, or both. To wit...

The Worst is Over?

Today's Balance Sheet: Is Europe finally on the way up?

The Wall Street Journal

Fears that the euro crisis will cross the Atlantic have started to ease after European leaders took precautions to stave off default in Greece and shore up other ailing economies. “In the past few months, financial stresses in Europe have lessened, which has contributed to an improved tone of financial markets around the world, including in the United States,” said Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner agreed: “The European economies at the center of the crisis have made very significant progress.”

Hard Work Doesn't Pay for Home-Care Workers

Home-care workers aren't casual babysitters, and it's time to make sure they don't get paid like one.

(Flickr/Steve Rhodes)

Say you’ve got a booming industry, one that already employs 2 million workers in the U.S. and is poised to add 1.3 million additional jobs by 2020. Imagine that the jobs cannot be off-shored, that the work helps decrease federal deficits, and millions of Americans depend on the industry just to get through their daily lives.

Now ask yourself: Should it be legal to pay the workforce of this thriving and essential industry less than the minimum wage?

Sunshine Dystopia

By blocking efforts at equal pay and electoral voices, Florida legislators aren't instilling much hope in the conservative brand.

Flickr

Had enough of Republican presidential candidates spinning vague ideas for America’s future? In the Florida state house, Republican legislators are being far more concrete with their plans. Rather than focusing on laws to support working families and small business growth, Florida Republicans are hell-bent on protecting big businesses and discouraging participation in our democracy.

Underdogs Lose the Money Crutch

Today's Balance Sheet: Is the GOP primary finally petering to a close?

The Economist

Big states that are expensive to have a campaign presence in are up next in the GOP primary, and they aren't going to be too friendly to the candidates' dwindling coffers. Seven primaries were held in February, and the contenders drained their funds in order to perform well in the high-stakes contests: Romney spent over $12 million while raising $11.5 million; Santorum raised $9 million, but spent $7.6 million; and Newt Gingrich spent $1.5 million while raising $2.6 million. 

Preventing Wall Street’s Latest Sucker-Punch

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Mercifully, the misnamed JOBS Act did not sail through the Senate yesterday as expected. The Republican-sponsored “bipartisan” act is a Wall Street wish list of exemptions from investor protections that would allow some 80 percent of new stock offerings to avoid the usual disclosures. Except for its Orwellian, contrived acronym (Jumpstart Our Business Startups) JOBS has nothing to do with jobs. More likely, it stands for Just Obfuscate with B.S.

The bill would even undo the Sarbanes-Oxley rules, enacted after the Enron scandal, prohibiting “stock analysts” from touting shares in order to help investment bankers get underwriting business.

Makers and Takers

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)

If you want to know the priorities behind Paul Ryan’s latest budget, “The Path to Prosperity,” look no further than the line he delivered to the audience at the American Enterprise Institute. “We’ve become a nation of net takers versus makers,” said the House budget chair.

An Exercise in Contrasts

(Federal Reserve)

From Representative Paul Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity”:

The United States is facing a crushing burden of debt – a debt that will soon surpass the size of the entire U.S. economy and ultimately capsize it if left on its present course.

From reality:

This graph shows the amount the United States pays per year on interest for its debt. If this is what being “crushed by debt” looks like, then we’re doing pretty well.

The Budget Plan Cometh

Today's Balance Sheet: Budget Day is Here!

Economist

Representative Paul Ryan, chair of the House Budget Committee, plans to unveil his 2013 budget plan this morning, much to the excitement of Democrats and to the chagrin of Republicans, who remember how last year's budget negotiations turned out for them (not well). Although the details of the plan have yet to be released, changes to the tax code and Medicare will be the proposal's big-ticket items.

Three Things to Know About Paul Ryan's New Budget

(Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Later this morning, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan will unveil his latest budget plan, “The Path to Prosperity.” Like the “Roadmap” released last year—and passed by House Republicans—the Path to Prosperity fits neatly within Ryan’s self-described Randian ideology: It would slash social and entitlement spending and direct the savings to lower taxes on rich people and corporations. Despite this, as Matthew Yglesias points out, Ryan has a habit of portraying his policies as somehow beneficial to the broad majority of Americans. I plan to be in the audience for Ryan’s unveiling, but in the meantime, here are a few things to remember and look out for as Ryan tries to sell his program to the public.

Pick Me! Pick Me!

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Why does Larry Summers have more lives than a cat?

He was fired as president of Harvard, did not exactly serve President Obama brilliantly as economic policy czar, and now seems to be in line for the presidency of the World Bank, a post traditionally chosen by the president of the United States.

The deadline for the selection is this Friday, March 23. The appointment is supposed to be made official at the April meeting of the World Bank.

Earlier this month, the White House leaked a short list of three names, Summers plus U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry—neither of whom want the job. Brilliantly subtle signaling, that. 

Romney Gets Abstract On the Economy

President Obama in a Chevy Volt (official White House photo by Pete Souza)

or a long time, commentators noted that Barack Obama was going to have a hard time persuading the public with his argument about the economy, since it would come down to, "It could have been worse." Saying that unemployment may still be over 8 percent, and it peaked at 10 percent in October of 2009, but if it hadn't been for the stimulus we passed things would have been much, much worse, isn't going to be a consolation if you're unemployed. The fact that most economists say that the stimulus did in fact have a substantial positive effect on the economy doesn't really matter when it comes to getting people to vote for your re-election. When times are bad, "It could have been worse" is small comfort.

That was the story up until recently. But the last few months have shown strong job growth, and most everyone is expecting that the economy will continue its upward trajectory. And guess what that has done to Mitt Romney: made him argue the mirror image of what everyone said Obama couldn't argue persuasively. Romney's case on the economy now comes down to "It could have been better"...

What Do You Do with a Pile of Cash?

Today's Balance Sheet: Investors and the stock market are likely to be in a good mood after Apple's big announcement.

The Washington Post

Apple—the world's most valuable company—announced today that it plans to use some of its $97 billion cash stockpile toward paying a regular dividend of $2.65 per share starting in the fourth quarter, and a stock buyback of up to $10 billion.

Relative Optimism

Gallup

This week begins with a little positive news about economic expectations: according to Gallup, 19 percent of Americans say that this is a “good time” to find a “quality” job, the highest since September 2008:

Of course, the larger lesson is that “good” is relative. Five years ago, before the economy collapsed in a horrible mess, 45 percent of Americans said that it was a good time to find a quality job. But the labor market is far worse than it was then, and at the moment, things are actually looking up if one in five Americans think that they could find a decent job in this environment.

The Age of Double Standards

American Airlines can declare bankruptcy and wipe away debt. But you can’t—and that’s just the beginning.

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

“But, Yossarian, suppose everyone felt that way.”

“Then,” said Yossarian, “I’d certainly be a damned fool to feel any other way, wouldn’t I?” —Joseph Heller, Catch-22

 

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