Thursday, September 20, 2012 Saturday, July 14, 2012 Thursday, June 14, 2012 Wednesday, May 16, 2012 Tuesday, April 3, 2012

What We’re Reading, 4/3/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. Cue up your Instapapers, Tumblr-fans: Today’s a great day for long reads. 

"When Corporations Abandoned the 99%," by William Lazonick (Salon). Lazonick, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts, is penning a five-part series on the history of American corporations. In part one: how companies shifted their loyalties from employees to stockholders. “I’m curious about the assumption that stockholders aren’t part of the 99%,” says mag reporter Susannah Snider. “I mean, how many people rely on GM stock performing well in their retirement portfolios?”

"Good Jobs," by Paul Osterman (Boston Review). Why do so many Americans work low-wage jobs? If you believe Osterman, it has little to do with education and much to do with policy.

"Sideswiped," by Maria Aspan (American Banker). On the little-discussed fee war between banks and retailers, and what it could mean for the way we pay.

"On Tipping in Cuba," by Chris Turner (The Walrus). A casual exchange at a Cuban restaurant leads one (very thoughtful) vacationer to question the economics — and the ethics — of a cheap beach trip. “There’s something about Cuba that brings the arbitrary nature of wealth and power and material comfort into especially high relief,” he writes.

"David Gergen, Master of the Game," by Michael Kelly (New York Times magazine). Political editor David Morris dug through the Times archives for this one — and for good reason. “Gergen, one of America’s great political communicators, is still around,” David says. “He’ll be on CNN tonight when the Wisconsin and Maryland returns come in. Kelly, one of the great storytellers of our time, died nine years ago today, covering a war for The Atlantic. Looking at the messy Republican primary, and the bigger fight for the heart and soul of the GOP, I can’t help but wonder, WWMW: What would Michael write?”

And to end on a lighter, shorter note: How Starbucks lures European coffee-drinkers, pet-friendly entrepreneurs at Japan’s “cat cafes,” and the “outrageous consumer crassness" of Britain’s richest living artist. (That last link and description courtesy mag reporter John Miley, who calls himself "a huge Hirst fan.")

What are you reading today?

Monday, April 2, 2012

What We’re Reading, 4/2/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. What we’re talking about on this nice Monday morning: seniors’ student debt, deficit reduction and the odd persistence of pennies.

"Senior Citizens Continue to Bear Burden of Student Loans," by Ylan Q. Mui (The Washington Post). According to new research from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, seniors owe $36 billion in student loans — and more than 10 percent of those loans are delinquent. “What a disconcerting picture,” says magazine reporter Susannah Snider. “Student debt really is an inescapable ball-and-chain.”

"New York Tops London as City with Most Global Clout," by Henry Goldman (Bloomberg). A Bloomberg analysis of the business, cultural and political activity in 66 urban centersranked New York first among global business hubs. It came right ahead of London, Paris and Tokyo; L.A., Chicago and D.C. also crack the top ten.

"No Deal: Why Last Week Might Have Killed Deficit Reduction for the Year," by James Kwak (The Atlantic). Supreme Court arguments and the Ryan budget drowned out the Simpson-Bowles vote last week. But the decisive, bipartisan defeat of the latest deficit-reduction plan indicates something important, Kwak writes: “There is no apparent political path that leads to a solution to our long-term deficit problems.”

"How Billionaires Destroy Democracy," by Linda McQuaig and Neil Brooks (Salon). Had it come out a few months earlier, McQuaig and Brooks’ takedown of the super-rich — excerpted from their forthcoming book, “Billionaires’ Ball” — might have been a text for the world’s Occupiers. Instead, it’s a withering look at how the wealthiest Americans manipulate the government and the economy.

"Penny Dreadful," by David Owen (The New Yorker). Canada’s recent decision to pan the penny got us wondering why the U.S. hasn’t done the same. To wit, a 2008 New Yorker article that seeks to answer the question — “why do pennies persist?”

"A Long View: Goldwater in History," by Richard Hofstadter (New York Review of Books). While we’re pulling from the archives, senior political editor David Morris sent in this story from — get ready, Mad Men fans — 1964. “I’m captivated by a piece of political writing nearly 50 years old,” he says. “Hofstadter writes about conservative Barry Goldwater’s attempts to reinvent himself as a more moderate general election candidate in that year’s race against President Johnson. The strategy is playing out again in the 2012 campaign, but Hofstadter portrays Goldwater as the original Etch-A-Sketch candidate.”

What are you reading today?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

What We’re Reading, 3/29/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. Making the office rounds today: campaign spending, the Facebook IPO, and student loans … for kindergartners.

"Obama Outspends Republican Campaigns by Millions," by Jack Gillum (AP). This number is worth a thousand words: Obama has spent $135 million on his campaign operations, versus the combined $132 million spent by his challengers. “What can a long primary season mean to an opponent?” Asks Letter editor Ken Bazinet. “Well, while Mitt Romney makes his long and sometimes suspect slog towards the magic number of 1,144 delegates, the Obama campaign has hired 500 staffers and opened campaign offices in nearly all 50 states, including five offices in unlikely battleground state Arizona.”

"Facebook Targeting May IPO," by Shayndi Raice and Randall Smith (Wall Street Journal). Facebook made headlines when it filed for its initial public offering in February. Now it looks like the social media monolith will go public in May, becoming the biggest IPO in history.

"Bain Gave Staff Way to Swell IRAs by Investing in Deals," by Mark Maremont (Wall Street Journal). How did Mitt Romney build his multimillion-dollar IRA? New analysis of Bain Capital’s internal documents reveals a co-investing strategy that helped employees multiply their accounts many dozen times over. Unfortunately for Romney, he’ll still get hit with a 35% capital gains tax upon withdrawal.

"Student Loans on Rise — for Kindergarten," by Annamaria Andriotis (Smart Money). Parents, especially high-income parents, increasingly take out loans for private K-12 education. “As if mounting college student-loan debt weren’t bad enough,” says staff writer Lisa Gerstner.

"Larry Summers and the Technology of Money," by Conor Myhrvold (Technology Review). The former U.S. Treasury secretary talks Amazon, Square and the rise of e-commerce — which he says is the most important innovation in information technology currently impacting the market.

"Mitt’s 1 Percent Moments," by Steve Kornacki (Salon). A collection of things that make Romney look like an “out-of-touch rich guy.” We almost forgot the NASCAR incident. 

"Outside the Supreme Court, the Health-Care Party’s Over. Now What?" By Laura Vozzella (The Washington Post). The Supreme Court arguments over health care reform attracted hordes of reporters, protesters — and a cast of professional line-standers and other characters just out to have a good time. “In Washington, we have politicians, lobbyists, staff and, well, these guys,” quips web editor David Muhlbaum.

"Marx at 193," by John Lanchester (London Review of Books). Tackle this thought-provoking essay after a few cups of coffee — in it, Lanchester analyzes what Marx got right (and wrong) about capitalism.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What We’re Reading, 3/28/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. On our collective radar today: debt deal #longreads, Gingrich staff cuts, and the true cost of fine dining.

"Obama vs. Boehner: Who Killed the Debt Deal?" By Matt Bai (The New York Times magazine). Bai’s much anticipated 9,700-word story might be the conclusive take on the so-called “grand bargain” that collapsed last summer. “If we understand what really went on last July, then we’ll have a better sense of how difficult it will be for the two parties to stave off the coming political calamity and why, too, the situation may not be quite as hopeless as it seems,” writes Bai.

"Gingrich Cuts Staff, Aims for Tampa," by Mike Allen and Ginger Gibson (Politico). Gingrich slashed his staff by a third this morning in what Politico calls an attempt to save his “flailing” campaign. Kiplinger’s Richard Sammon explained last week why Gingrich is still hanging in the race, despite his losses.

"Diane Sawyer Sits Down With Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke" (ABC World News). Sawyer grilled the Fed chairman on gas prices, the housing market and unemployment during last night’s World News. His response in a nutshell: “I think that our economy’s gonna recover and continue to grow and be a world leader. But we’ve got a lot of challenges, and there’s no covering up that fact.”

"Why More Americans Are Living Alone" (PBS NewsHour). While we’re talking transcripts, here’s another interesting segment that aired last night: Eric Klinenberg, a sociologist at New York University, breaks down “the biggest social change of the last 50 or 60 years” — more Americans live alone. It could have huge implications for urban planning and economies in the future.

"High-End Food, Low Wage Labor," by Laurie Woolever (Dissent magazine). Woolever dissects restaurant economics, where chefs and executives take home big paychecks — but most employees make about $274 a week. The story is paywalled on, but still available (where else!) on Woolever’s Tumblr.  

"What Does the Health-Care Law Mean to Me?" By Wilson Andrews and Karen Yourish (The Washington Post). We aren’t reading this interactive, per se, but it explains the implications of health care reform better than many a story on the subject. “Answer a few questions and get a quick overview of how the health care law will impact you,” says Kip reporter Neema Roshania. “It’s pretty cool!”

What are you reading?

Friday, March 23, 2012

What We’re Reading, 3/23/12

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: Jim Yong Kim, energy independence, and a very good day for Etch a Sketch.

"First Responder," by Kai Falkenberg (Forbes). This morning, President Obama tapped Dartmouth College president Jim Yong Kim to run the World Bank — a surprise pick to many, and an unknown name to some. Here, your Jim Yong Kim primer: A profile that Forbes ran last November, when Kim was just an ambitious college president with a very long resume. 

"Fannie and Freddie: Slashing Mortgages is Good Business," by Jesse Eisinger and Chris Arnold (ProPublica). Here’s more surprising news, this time on the mortgage front: Private analyses by housing giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac found that loan forgiveness will not only keep more homeowners in their houses — it will also save Fannie and Freddie money.

"Hello, Cruel World," by Nathaniel Penn (The New York Times Magazine). Penn tracked down 226 graduates from Drew University’s Class of 2011 and interviewed them about their job search. The results are sad and telling — only 39% have full-time jobs.

"The Case Against Google," by Mat Honan (Gizmodo). Gizmodo has an unsettling long read on your data and what Google does with it. “It needs you to reveal your location, your friends, your history, your desires, your finances; nothing short of your essence,” Honan writes.

"U.S. Inches Toward Goal of Energy Independence," by Clifford Krauss and Eric Lipton (The New York Times). America produces more gas than ever, and Americans use less of it. The eventual result, if this trend continues: “Independence from foreign energy sources, a milestone that could reconfigure American foreign policy, the economy and more.” 

"The Coming ‘Hunger Games’ Short Squeeze," by Laura Mandaro (MarketWatch). Hollywood insiders expect this weekend’s Hunger Games opening to rank among the top 10 U.S. openings in history. “Hunger Games (need I say more?)!” Writes Kip reporter Neema Roshania. “It’s a positive economic indicator that movie ticket sales are up overall, though. When people are feeling thrifty they tend to stick to renting or using streaming services at home.”

And to end on a lighter note — it is Friday, after all! — Goldman Sachs is scouring its emails to see if anyone actually calls clients “muppets,” and Etch a Sketch stock surged yesterday after Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom mentioned the toy on CNN. 

What are you reading?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

What We’re Reading, 3/22/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round-up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. In our inboxes and on our iPads this morning: Student debt, North Dakota boom times, and a new name for everyone’s favorite brand of macaroni and cheese.

"Too Big to Fail: Student Debt Hits a Trillion," by Rohit Chopra (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau). Chopra calls it “sobering,” but we’ll call it staggering: A blog post by the CFPB’s student loan ombudsman claims that U.S. student debt tops $1 trillion — 16% higher than an estimate released by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York earlier this year.

"Mitt Romney’s Evangelical Problem," by Ryan Lizza (The New Yorker). Forget Romney’s Etch-a-Sketch drama — his real struggle is with evangelical voters, who have failed to embrace him in any contest thus far. This line from Lizza’s analysis is telling: “The single best predictor of whether Romney loses a state is the percentage of voters who describe themselves as evangelical.”

"How Far Would You Go for a Comeback?" By Ann Carrns (The New York Times). You may not have heard of Williston, North Dakota. But the town of 15,000, “ground zero in North Dakota’s petroleum explosion,” is attracting thousands of people who can’t find work elsewhere.

"The Nonprofit 1 Percent," by Steven Thrasher (The Village Voice). This week’s Voice cover story makes a surprising claim about salaries and excess at New York nonprofits: “In the nonprofit world, things don’t turn out to be so different than in places like Wall Street.”

"Kraft’s Top Lawyer Says Let’s Rename the Company ‘Mondelez,’" by Jim Edwards (Business Insider). Kraft’s apparently renaming its international division — with some interesting outcomes. “I don’t know what kind of weight Kraft’s name pulls in, say, Mexico or England, but you have to wonder at this decision,” jokes Kip reporter Susannah Snider. “At least they nixed ‘Tfark.’”