Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What We’re Reading, 5/15/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. What we’re perusing over coffee this morning: Wall Street reform, European volatility, and the woes of the modern brickmason. 

"In Washington, Mixed Messages Over Tighter Rules for Wall Street," by Ben Protess and Ed Wyatt (New York Times). If you hoped the J.P. Morgan fiasco would end with Wall Street reforms, Ben Protess and Ed Wyatt are here to disappoint you. A number of bank regulators are less than excited about passing new regulations to control risky trades.

"Faith Fades in Eurozone Firewall," by Robin Wigglesworth and Miles Johnson (Financial Times). European markets are growing ever choppier over fears that Greece will drop the euro — and that the repercussions will shake Italy and Spain. Says Luke Spajic of Pimco: “It’s looking alarming right now … The market is effectively trying to price in a disorderly exit for Greece.”

"Taxmageddon Sparks Rising Anxiety," by Lori Montgomery and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post). While your friendly curator thinks we could do without all these armageddon “puns,” the scary sentiment still stands: After the November election, a lame-duck Congress will have a mere two months to sort out the spending gridlock. Hospitals and government contractors are prepping for “chaos.”

"Facebook Hikes IPO Range to Raise $12.1 Billion," by Olivia Oran and Alexei Oreskovic (Reuters). Facebook raised its price target range to $34 to $38 a share, which will push the company’s value between $93 and $104 billion.

"Taxpayers Fund $454,000 Pay for Collector Chasing Student Loans," by John Hechinger (Bloomberg). Your tax dollars at work: Joshua Mandelman makes $454,000 (!) as a student-loan debt collector, and his company scores government commissions every time he collects on a defaulted student loan.

"The Toughest Guy on Wall Street," by Shawn Tully (Fortune). Much has changed for James Dimon since this profile ran six years ago, but if you’re trying to get into the head of the recently shamed CEO, it’s still a good place to start. From the editor’s note: “For six years, Dimon grew J.P. Morgan into a banking powerhouse, and he emerged from the financial crisis unscathed while most of his bank CEO counterparts were shown the door. He’s been known as one of Wall Street’s best risk managers — until last week, when he disclosed a $2 billion trading loss … Now Wall Street is judging its toughest guy.”

"The Economic Case for Same-Sex Marriage," by Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers (Bloomberg). Regardless of your views on same-sex marriage, Wharton professors Stevenson and Wolfers have penned a fascinating editorial on the household as “economic institution” — and how that unit functions today.

"Why Are Teen Moms Poor?" By Matty Yglesias (Slate). Some counter-intuitive new research suggests that question should actually be the other way around: Teenagers aren’t poor because they have babies — they have babies because they’re poor.

"Heavy Lifting," by Aaron Leaf (Good). Writer goes to one of Canada’s top universities, becomes a warehouse laborer, lives to tell about its economic implications.

And in other news: Newt Gingrich is America’s most indebted politician, brick masonry is America’s fastest-dying profession, 0% unemployment does exist somewhere, and beware of Greeks bearing gifts outside the European Central Bank. (Don’t worry, the last one’s a joke.)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What We’re Reading, 4/24/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. Making the round this morning: Social Security, youth unemployment, and health insurance “hustlin’.”

"Social Security Heading for Insolvency Even Faster," by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar (Associated Press). We, like most of the Internet, are still reeling from the new government forecast that predicts the Social Security Trust Fund will run dry in 2033, three years earlier than previously predicted. The Medicare prediction stayed steady at 2024. (Politics editor David Morris emailed with this comforting note: “The payroll tax from employers and employees would still bring enough to pay 75 percent of the full benefit at that point, even if no changes are made between then and now. So a benefit cut, yes, but not a benefit elimination. The problem will be fixed, at some point. It always is. Too risky politically to let the reduction come about, and still plenty of time to fix it.”)

"Report Finds Wave of Mexican Immigration to U.S. Has Ended," by Paloma Esquivel and Hector Becerra (LA Times). America’s sluggish economy hasn’t just impacted its homegrown workforce. A new report from the Pew Hispanic Center finds that Mexican immigration has slowed to a “standstill,” largely because of the economic downturn.

"53% of Recent College Grads Are Jobless or Underemployed — How?" By Jordan Weissman (The Atlantic). A recent AP analysis found that one in two young college graduates are out of work or underemployed. Mitt Romney seized on the report as evidence of Obama’s failure on economic policy. But Weissman has another take: He argues that, economically speaking, college just isn’t for everyone.

"Of the 1%, By the 1%, For the 1%," by Joseph Stiglitz (Vanity Fair). An unusually lyrical look at what income inequality means now — and how it could topple the economy in the future. Regarding the Middle East protests, Stiglitz writes: “As we gaze out at the popular fervor in the streets, one question to ask ourselves is this: When will it come to America? In important ways, our own country has become like one of these distant, troubled places.”

"No Sympathy for the Creative Class," by Scott Timberg (Salon). On the economics of making it as an artist. (They’re not great.) And on that note…

"Out of Work, Out to California," by Rachael Maddux (The Billfold). A music critic reflects on the time she spent unemployed after her magazine folded.

In other news: Some state governments save money by legalizing fireworks, one Good writer goes to extraordinary lengths to make it without health insurance, and Forbes has some interesting advice for job-seeking young men. (Your friendly curator likes number two: “Don’t be a bro.”)

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?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

What We’re Reading, 4/4/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. Making the office rounds this morning: Romney, income inequality and the so-called “war against youth.”

"Romney, Obama Get Ready to Rumble," by Jonathan Martin (Politico). Martin’s lede says it all: “It’s really, truly over,” he writes of the Republican primary battle that seems to have stretched on forever. Romney’s wins in Wisconsin, Maryland and D.C. last night effectively made him the nominee. 

"The Reckoning: Romney After Wisconsin," by John Cassidy (The New Yorker). The primary may effectively be over, but what happens next? “This is an interesting analysis of what the morning after is really looking like for the Romney campaign,” says Letter reporter Neema Roshania. Interesting and, dare we say, pretty down on Mitt.

"Income Inequality is Killing the Economy, Obama Says — Is He Wrong?" By Derek Thompson (The Atlantic). In a speech yesterday, Obama blamed income inequality for “drag[ging] down our entire economy.” Thompson handily rounds up the arguments on both sides.

"Paul Ryan Betrays His Own Views on Income Inequality," by Ezra Klein (The Washington Post). Speaking of income inequality, Rep. Paul Ryan’s recently passed budget plan proposes $5.3 trillion in budget cuts. But where are those cuts coming from — and what does that say about Ryan’s values? “Paul Ryan has been a champion of social mobility, but his budget plan encourages just the opposite,” says Kip’s social media maven Amanda Lilly. To quote Klein: “No millionaire’s child will find that Ryan’s budget ends her hopes of a college education. But plenty of lower-income children will.”

"We Need ‘Imported from Detroit 2.0,’" by David Kiley (The Huffington Post). We’ve all seen those gritty new Chrysler ads: the city scenes, the snowy sidewalks, the gleaming Chrysler cruising under a pro-Detroit voiceover. The ad campaign’s catchphrase — “imported from Detroit” — might say more than we think. “This is a nice exploration of Detroit’s complicated relationship with the car industry, written from a advertising perspective,” says digital director Doug Harbrecht. “Dave Kiley has covered both autos and advertising for decades.”

"Women Funding Women Opens the Door to Responsible Investing," by Alex Goldmark (Good). Here’s a novel take on socially responsible investing: Through the WIN-WIN initiative, women investors can fund women-owned businesses for as little as $20.

"The War Against Youth," by Stephen Marche (Esquire). Marche’s provocative essay breaks down the widening economic gap between the young and the old — and doesn’t shy away from assigning blame. Look no further than the sub-headline: “The recession didn’t gut the prospects of American young people. The Baby Boomers took care of that.”

"The Secret to Germany’s Low Youth Unemployment," by Eric Westervelt (NPR). Speaking of young people and prospects, maybe Marche would appreciate this approach: Germany’s medieval-style apprenticeship system has earned it the highest youth employment rate in Europe.

What are you reading today?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What We’re Reading, 3/21/2012

Every day, we round-up the staff’s favorite financial, economic and political stories. On their radars as they came in this morning: Buffett’s bets, home ownership, and how food trucks impact the economy. 

"Buffett Seizes Lead in Bet on Stocks Beating Hedge Funds," by Katherine Burton (Bloomberg). It’s a bet only Buffett could make, says copy editor Liz Whitehouse: In 2008, Buffett bet $1 million that stocks would outperform hedge funds over a decade. So far he’s winning. “So that’s how the super-rich bet,” quips Liz. “When you have Warren Buffett’s knowledge of the stock market, why not?” To say nothing of his billions …

"Employers Ask Job Seekers for Facebook Passwords," by Manuel Valdes and Shannon McFarland (AP). We’re still reeling from this story, which dropped yesterday: Some employers now want to see even private and password-protected social media accounts, which law professor Orin Kerr calls “an egregious privacy violation.”

"How The Other Half Saves: Financial Planning on $2 a Day," by Derek Thompson (The Atlantic). The typical Chinese family saves 30% of its income; the typical Indian family saves 15%. Thompson looks at how the world’s poor manage to save so much more than we do.

"Home Buying Much Cheaper than Renting," by Les Christie (CNN Money). New data from Trulia finds that buying is cheaper than renting in 98 of the top 100 housing markets. We’re reminded of the recent Planet Money episode on the 12-year-old who bought her own house.

"Unemployment Rises for Afghanistan and Iraq Era Veterans," by David Lerman (Bloomberg). Reporter Neema Roshania sent us this sobering read. “It’s a reminder that while the nationwide drop in the unemployment rate is certainly good news, we still have a lot of work left to do to ensure veterans are being extended the same opportunities,” she says.

"Why We Need Food Trucks in a Recession," by Nona Willis Aronowitz (Good). While restaurant-owners in several cities have criticized food trucks for hurting business, Aronowitz has another take: they’re “softening the blow of our economic reality” by providing cheap food and entrepreneurial opportunity, she writes. 

"Leftovers: Tasty or Trash?" By Sarah Nassauer (The Wall Street Journal). We like this useful lifestyle bit from WSJ, and not just because your friendly curator recently got food poisoning from a leftover sandwich. “The average U.S. family of four spends $500 to $2,000 a year on food they never eat,” points out social media manager Amanda Lilly. 

What are you reading today?