Monday, April 30, 2012

What We’re Reading, 4/30/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. What we’re reading over our first coffee: public job loss, arguments for inflation, and a very unscientific analysis of one writer’s grocery costs. 

"Domestic Violence Rises in Sluggish Economy, Police Report," by Kevin Johnson (USA Today). Some disturbing numbers in a new report from the Police Executive Research Forum: 56% of surveyed police agencies say that the economy is contributing to more domestic violence, up from 40% two years ago.

"Threat from Mounting Public Job Loss Tested Obama’s Economic Strategy," by Zachary Goldfarb (Washington Post). State and local governments lost more than half a million jobs during Obama’s tenure, which hugely impacts the economy — and the Obama campaign. Goldfarb quotes Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics: “The job losses at state and local governments is the most serious weight on the job market.”

"No End in Sight," by James Surowiecki (The New Yorker). Speaking of job loss, Surowiecki has a great, wide-ranging overview on unemployment’s costs to both individuals and the economy.

"How Apple Sidesteps Billions in Taxes," by Charles Duhigg and David Kocieniewski (New York Times). In short: They keep a small office in Reno. (And Ireland, the Netherlands, the British Virgin Islands … )

"The 2% Catastrophe: How One Number Explains the Miserable Economy," by Matthew O’Brien (The Atlantic). O’Brien makes an impassioned — occasionally caps-locked (!) — argument for more inflation. A sample: “The Federal Reserve is crucifying the U.S. economy on a cross of two-percent inflation.” Your friendly curator would not necessarily call the economy “miserable,” but it’s a thought-provoking read.

In other news: An Australian billionaire plans to build a second Titanic, the treasury secretary changed his signature to make it neat enough to sign on bills, we may be witnessing the birth of a fake fine wine epidemic, and a Billfold blogger says Whole Foods is cheaper than you think. Also, in case you haven’t already overdosed on coverage of last weekend’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, GQ has a colorful recap — complete with Instagrams!

Happy reading, Tumblers.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

What We’re Reading, 4/26/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. On our iPads and in our inboxes this morning: educational slowdown, Costco mortgages, and another reason for the gender wage gap.

"Education Slowdown Threatens U.S.," by David Wesel and Stephanie Banchero (Wall Street Journal). Historically, almost every generation has been more educated than the one that came before it. But for today’s 20- and 30-somethings, that’s no longer true: Rising tuition means that fewer kids finish college.

"Chasing Fees, Banks Court Low-Income Consumers," by Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Ben Protess (New York Times). Big banks are adopting tactics typically left to payday lenders: high-fee prepaid debit cards, emergency loans, money wire services. Banks say it’s an effort to attract low-income consumers — but it looks more like an attempt to recoup income lost on fee reforms.

"Romney’s Radical Theory of Fairness," by Jonathan Chait (New York). Romney’s fundamental economic philosophy, according to Chait: “Fairness is defined by market outcomes.”

"Ready for the Fight," by Jann Wenner (Rolling Stone). Rolling Stone’s second lengthy interview with President Obama covers Wall Street, the Middle East, and the upcoming campaign. Of note: Obama reads Paul Krugman and “all of the New York Times columnists,” and your friendly curator cannot believe he has the time.

"Occupy’s Big Stakes on May Day: Relevance," by Josh Harkinson (Mother Jones). Heard anything about Occupy lately? Neither have we! The movement hopes to make headlines again with a May 1 protest on the Golden Gate Bridge. Its current and future relevance might be at stake.

"Why Women Make Less than Men," by Kay Hymowitz (Wall Street Journal). If you believe Hymowitz, it’s not institutional sexism that drives the gender gap — it’s women cutting hours in order to have kids. “Today, childless 20-something women do earn more than their male peers,” she writes. “But most are likely to cut back their hours after they have kids, giving men the hours, and income, advantage.”

"Mitt Romney’s Dark Knight," by Jason Zengerle (GQ). Mitt Romney’s right-hand man once worked for a Boston tabloid and very nearly fought a Massachusetts mayor who didn’t like state budget cuts.

In other news: Greece is selling off islands to raise money, Costco is selling mortgages through 11 different lenders, and Rep. Todd Akin basically thinks student loans are socialist.

Happy reading, Tumblers! 

Monday, April 23, 2012

What We’re Reading, 4/23/12

Good morning, Tumblrs! Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. What we read over the weekend: hidden problems at Lehman Brothers and Wal-Mart, universities as entrepreneurial hubs, and the many struggles of making $5 million a year.

"It’s Still the U.S. Economy, Stupid," by Ben White (Politico). Ignore the sideline debates on dogs, moms and Etch a Sketch. The deciding issue in the 2012 election will still be the economy, White argues — five economic issues specifically, like whether things are getting better and who connects with the middle class. (Our take on this: “5 Economic Issues that Will Drive the 2012 Presidential Election.”)

"The Case Against Lehman Brothers" (60 Minutes). We don’t usually link to TV transcripts, but this one is fascinating. Four years after the collapse of the world’s fourth-largest investment bank, no one has been held accountable — despite allegations that Lehman’s financial reports were unfair and misleading.

"Vast Mexico Bribery Case Hushed Up By Wal-Mart After Top-Level Struggle," by David Barstow (New York Times). Wal-Mart dominates the Mexican market, but it appears that the mega-chain didn’t win that position through low-priced goods and red-tagged “rollbacks.” A New York Times investigation revealed widespread bribery between Wal-Mart and Mexican officials, totaling more than $24 million. (Shares have dropped since this news surfaced over the weekend.)

"Romney’s Healthcare Plan May Be More Revolutionary than Obama’s," by Noam Levey (L.A. Times). Romney has made healthcare reform one of the hallmarks of his campaign. But Levey’s analysis suggests that “repealing and replacing Obamacare,” as Romney campaign posters tout, could actually prove more disruptive than Obamacare itself, introducing more risk for consumers and leaving a large number of adults uninsured.

"Get Rich U," by Ken Auletta (The New Yorker). Stanford’s focus on launching entrepreneurs has made a lot of students rich (and netted more than $1 billion for the university itself). But the university’s priorities and its close relationship with Silicon Valley speak to deeper issues about why students go to school and what education means in this economy.

"An Athlete and His Money Don’t Have to Part," by Noah Davis (GQ). Your friendly curator struggles to sympathize with the financial “woes” of pro athletes who can’t manage their multimillion-dollar salaries. Still, the second installment of GQ’s series on athletes and money proves an interesting read — if for the pie charts, alone.

"What Makes Some Cities Greener than Others?" By Richard Florida (Atlantic Cities). The Atlantic’s urban-economist-in-residence examines the correlations between high CO2 emissions and the economy. Hint: Bike lanes and granola types would seem to factor in.

In other news: Presidential eating habits are now a campaign issue (good thing Shake Shack opened last year), tax refunds shrunk in 2012, and a store in Brazil has added an electronic display of Facebook “likes”  to its hangers in an effort to drive Mother’s Day sales. 

What are you reading?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

What We’re Reading, 4/12/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. On our radar: foreclosure, factories, and the “income tax cocktail.”

"The Great American Foreclosure Story: The Struggle for Justice and a Place to Call Home," by Paul Kiel (ProPublica). Banks have foreclosed on more than 4 million homes since 2007 — and 6 million loans remain in danger of foreclosure. Kiel’s beautifully reported long-read on the foreclosure crisis is a poignant look at what homeownership means now.

"Mitt Romney is the New Al Gore," by Marin Cogan (GQ). No, he didn’t invent the Internet. But Romney and Gore both display what columnists the world over have called a certain robotic stiffness — a definite unfamiliarity “with human customs,” in the words of New York’s Dan Amira.

"Forget the Factories," by Matthew Yglesias (Slate). We noticed a lot of our fellow finance writers tweeting this one this morning — Yglesias claims that a return to American manufacturing, that distant dream touted by the Obama campaign, would actually make America poorer and less competitive in the global market.

"David Foster Wallace’s Tax Class," by Seth Colter Walls (The New Yorker). “ACCOUNTANTS ARE COWBOYS OF INFORMATION.” “PASSIVE a big word for IRS.” And other notes from DFW’s time in a tax class, researching The Pale King.

We’ll wrap with a trio of light-hearted tax news, since you have five days left to file. The ever-irreverent Awl has launched a personal finance blog, and it took tax questions yesterday. (We’re following said blog with great curiosity.) Good has a recipe for an income tax cocktail. (Appropriately, it sounds bitter.) And mag reporter Susannah Snider tells us that “safe drivers shouldn’t drink, text or think about filing taxes behind the wheel” — fatal accidents spike on tax day.

What are you reading today?