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! 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What We’re Reading, 4/17/12

Happy Tax Day, Tumblr! Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. This being the, ahem, holiday it is, we’re focusing on tax stories. We assure you they’re less taxing than filing your returns.

"Obama’s Politically Astute Tax Returns," by Allan Sloan (Fortune). Much has been made of Romney and Obama’s (very different) tax returns. Sloan has an intriguing hypothesis: “the more I look at Obama’s return, the more it strikes me as being much more a political document than a financial document.”

"For Two Economists, the Buffett Rule Is Just the Start," by Annie Lowrey (New York Times).  Meet the guys behind the current tax fairness frenzy: Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty, left-leaning French academics who claim that income inequality is almost as bad as before the Great Depression.

"A Family’s Billions, Artfully Sheltered," by David Kocieniewski (New York Times). Journalism’s version of the Oscars went down yesterday afternoon, and Times business reporter David Kocieniewski walked away with a Pulitzer for explanatory reporting. This fascinating 2011 piece on tax shelters is from his prize-winning series “But Nobody Pays That.” 

"What My Television Says About Our Broken Tax Code," by Rachel Black (Mother Jones). The tax system pays out $1 trillion in the form of reduced tax bills and refunds. (That’s more than Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.) But the code’s structure disadvantages 70 percent of taxpayers, paying far more to households that make $100,000 or more.

"Tax Time Pushes Some Americans to Take a Hike," by Atossa Araxia Abrahamian (Reuters). Here’s a novel way to avoid paying taxes — renounce U.S. citizenship all together. Nearly 1,800 people did so last year, eight times more than in 2008.

"Some Tax Breaks Unavailable to Same-Sex Couples," by Tara Siegel Bernard (New York Times). A new study shows that gay couples pay more taxes than their heterosexual peers and face a lot more hurdles in that already painful paperwork. (This is part of the Times’ excellent "Cost of Being Gay" series, which your friendly curator recommends in full.)

In other, less taxing news: Mental Floss has rounded up six stories of kids’ lemonade stands versus the law, baseball attendance is a solid economic indicator, and this video of a military veteran returning to the NYSE trading floor will “warm your heart,” says Business Insider. (“Not many opportunities to call events on the NYSE trading floor ‘heartwarming,’” adds web editor Stacy Rapacon.)

What are you reading?