Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What We’re Reading, 5/22/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. What we’re talking about for Tuesday: Facebook, the cult of Glass-Steagal, and what the Greek gods would think about their country’s present woes.

"As Facebook’s Stock Struggles, Fingers Start Pointing," by Michael de la Merced, Evelyn Rusli and Susanne Craig (New York Times). Facebook’s third day of trading is off to a rough start — so rough, in fact, that investors are agitating to know who’s to blame. The most likely candidate? Morgan Stanley, the IPO’s lead banker, though Nasdaq and Facebook are also taking some heat.

"Obama Keeps Bain in His Crosshairs," by Laura Meckler (Wall Street Journal). Speaking of heat, Obama continues to attack Romney’s private equity firm, Bain Capital, even as his allies condemn the attacks. Your friendly curator likes this tweet from Slate’s Matt Yglesias: “Bain debate is the perfect lazy pundit’s controversy, all affect with no policy content.” (We’re on the record as pro-private equity, in case you wondered.)

"Rivals Go to Lunch on J.P. Morgan’s Losses," by Gregory Zuckerman and Lisa Rappaport (Wall Street Journal). Someone’s enjoying Jamie Dimon’s downfall — and I don’t mean all the finance reporters fiendishly covering this beat. J.P. Morgan’s loss will benefit a dozen banks, including Bank of America and Goldman Sachs, to the tune of $500 million or $1 billion. 

"Reinstating an Old Rule is Not a Cure for Crisis," by Andrew Ross Sorkin (New York Times). Call it the cult of Glass-Steagal: Thousands of people, including Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, have idolized the Depression-era law they think could have stopped the financial crisis. Sorkin’s take? “The facts — basic facts — just aren’t that convenient.”

"Once Made in China: Jobs Trickle Back to U.S. Plants," by James Hagerty (Wall Street Journal). Outsourcing — what outsourcing? A number of manufacturers are finding they can make and sell goods more cheaply in the U.S. (But don’t celebrate yet. The impact on job creation has been minimal.)

"The Cost of College," by Nicholas Lemann (New Yorker). On the economics of American higher education, where too many schools compete for students, too much money is spent on failing programs, and — according to Lemann — too little tuition is charged at top schools.

"George Romney for President, 1968," by Benjamin Wallace-Wells (New York). We’ve already dug through the candidates’ pasts, dredged up their high school dramas, and examined their tax records, which leaves only … psychoanalysis! Wallace-Wells’ long read on George Romney’s failed presidential run examines not only the elder Romney and the ‘68 campaign, but how it might have impacted Mitt.

"Go Small: Why Washington Must Give Up the Illusion of a Grand Bargain," by David Gordon and Sean West (The Atlantic). The argument for small, practical compromises over wide-sweeping meetings of the mind.

"Boomers and Millennials: Who’s Got It Worse in the Workplace?" By Matthew Philips (Businessweek). Your friendly curator doesn’t want to spoil the big surprise, but let’s put it this way — some boomers still have pensions.

And in other news (there’s a lot today!): Video game consoles account for one percent of all energy use in the U.S., some Congress members are only slightly smarter than fifth graders, Mark Zuckerberg lost $2 billion on Facebook’s second day of trading, Fortune now has a “Fantasy Executive League,” for the really nerdy among us, and the Hairpin imagines how the Greek gods would react to that country’s current crisis.

Happy reading, Tumblers!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

What We’re Reading, 5/17/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. On our radars this fine Thursday: a boatload of stuff about tomorrow’s Facebook IPO. (Plus more bad news from J.P. Morgan and Justin Bieber, the investor.)

"Facebook Insiders Boost Plans to Cash Out in IPO," by Shayndi Raice, Anupreeta Das and Lynn Cowan (Wall Street Journal). Well, this looks less than promising! Just days after Facebook raised its expected IPO price range, some of the company’s biggest investors announced plans to sell as much as half their stakes.

"Facebook: The Ultimate Dot-Com," by John Cassidy (New Yorker). The dream of the nineties is alive in Facebook, which Cassidy considers the quintessential “dot-com.” “The bursting of the bubble discredited the term ‘dot-com,’ which was understandable but, in a way, unfortunate, because the term itself had come to be the expression of an attitude that saw in online communication and online commerce boundless possibilities,” he writes. “Facebook’s I.P.O. represents a return to that mindset.”

"The Mystery of the Vanishing IPO," by Matthew Yglesias (Slate). Between 1980 and 2000, an average of 311 companies went public per year. Since 2000, that number’s dropped to 102. Blame start-up culture, Yglesias argues — it’s not what it was 15 years ago.

"J.P. Morgan’s Trading Loss Is Said to Rise at Least 50%," by Nelson Schwartz and Jessica Silver-Greenberg (New York Times). That puts the loss at $3 billion or more, for those of you who are counting. The White House reacted with a call for tougher reforms

"Experts Try to Chart Path for Exit from Currency," by Gabrielle Steinhauser (Wall Street Journal). Europe’s abuzz with rumors that Greece may drop the euro and return to a local currency. But here’s the big question: Is that legally possible? And if it is, can Greece bow out without further wrecking its economy? (Answers on both counts: Probably not.)

"What Mitt Romney Is Really Worth," by Edwin Durgy (Forbes). In short, roughly $230 million. (Perspective: That would buy 6.4 million shares of Facebook, or 19 million Etch A Sketches.)

"Ted Sarandos’ High-Stakes Gamble to Save Netflix," by Nick Summers (Newsweek). Netflix has seen plenty of drama over the last few years, as controversial decisions by CEO Reed Hastings caused customers to flee and share prices to plummet. But the company’s chief content officer plans to save Netflix with a different kind of drama — risky, big-budget, all-star original programming, of the kind you usually see on HBO.

"Google Revamps Search with Massive ‘Real World Map of Things,’" by Ryan Singel (Wired). Your friendly curator was casually Googling Game of Thrones last night when she chanced upon a strange, picture-based results page. Lo and behold, Google’s launched a new widget that it thinks will map the relationships between results — and change the way we search.

"Pinterest Raises $100 Million with $1.5 Billion Valuation," by Pui-Wing Tam (Wall Street Journal). Facebook? Old news! Picture-sharing site Pinterest raised a whopping $100 million in its latest financing round.

In other news: In Zimbabwe, a bus ticket runs about 100-trillion dollars; in the Bay Area, Facebook’s upcoming IPO packs upscale restaurants and boutiques; in Hollywood, Justin Bieber sings, dances, makes pre-teens cry … and, apparently, invests; and finally, across the Internet, caffeine addicts rejoice over research claiming that coffee might actually help us live longer. (Says mag writer Susannah Snider: “Thank goodness!”)

Happy reading, Tumblers!

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.

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 19, 2012

What We’re Reading, 4/19/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. What we’re discussing in the break room today: campaign debts, the ethics of Target, and the post-cubicle office.

"The Business of Ending a Presidential Campaign," by Julie Bykowicz (Businessweek). Santorum ended his campaign with $1 million in debt. Hillary Clinton still owes nearly half a million dollars on her presidential run. While candidates may fade from the public spotlight, their expenses live on long after someone else has won.

"Closing the Gender Gap," by Margaret Talbot (New Yorker). "What do women want? Didn’t Mel Gibson answer that?" Jokes magazine writer Susannah Snider (who, your friendly curator is pleased to announce, recently made the jump from mag reporter). Jokes and congratulations aside, ladies tend to lean Democratic — and the Romney campaign is struggling to determine how to reach them. 

"The Inequality Obsession, by Holman Jenkins (Wall Street Journal). Nary a day goes by when we don’t see a headline about the 1% and 99% — heck, we post a lot of them on this Tumblr. Jenkins claims it’s reached the level of cultural obsession. “I never thought about it that way,” said Kip.com’s social media guru, Amanda Lilly. “I also love the part where he asks why we’re so concerned with ‘getting even’ with the 1%, rather than improving everyone’s opportunities.”

"Mitt Romney, American Parasite," by Pete Kotz (VIllage Voice). Kotz’s colorful long read on Romney’s work at Bain Capital unearths, in his words, “everything you hate about capitalism.” (In related news, Nate Silver thinks Romney’s poor favorability ratings don’t really matter in the long run.)

"Are All Mega-Chains the Same?" By David Sirota (Salon). When Sirota asks if all chains are the same, he’s not talking about quality — we all know Trader Joe’s has better hummus than Wal-Mart. Rather, he’s curious about their effects on labor unions, small business and the local economy, the issues of so-called “ethical consumers.” 

"Insurance-Coverage Gaps for 48 Million Americans in 2011," by Louise Radnofsky (Wall Street Journal). A new study finds that one in four working-age adults suffered a gap in health insurance coverage last year. “This cuts right to the heart of universal health care,” says magazine reporter John Miley. “There are such huge numbers of people who go uninsured. The study began a year ago — it makes you wonder what things look like today.”

"Talks With Instagram Suggest a $104 Billion Valuation for Facebook," by Evelyn Rusli (New York Times). A million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? $104 billion. 

And in other news: Some companies are killing cubicles to save cash, Justin Peters wonders why there aren’t more beards in politics, office drinking didn’t end in the Mad Men days, and a group in D.C. is trying to give workaholics a break — by organizing events like pie-throwing parties. (“I really like this, minus the pie in the face,” says mag writer Susannah Snider. “I prefer cake.”)

What are you reading?

Monday, April 16, 2012

What We’re Reading, 4/16/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. On our radar for Monday: income inequality, the yuan, and what IRS commissioner Doug Shulman has to do with Macy Gray.

"Buffett Rule or Not, Most Rich People Already Pay," by Richard Rubin (Businessweek). Rubin runs the numbers on Obama’s “Buffett Rule,” a tax reform that Congress will vote on (and likely vote against) today. An interesting sample: “The median effective tax rate for the middle 20 percent of U.S. taxpayers is 13.3 percent, including income, payroll, and corporate taxes. The top 1 percent of taxpayers pay a median rate of 29.6 percent.”

"Inequality 101: The Picket Fence and the Staircase," by John Cassidy (The New Yorker). Income inequality is hardly a new issue, but John Cassidy sure can turn a phrase.  ”No one writes and reports in a prettier way than the scribes at the New Yorker,” says Letter editor Ken Bazinet. Bottom line: “There is income disparity in this country and a deep need for tax reform.”

"Traders Greet China’s New Yuan With a Yawn," by Kevin Carmichael (The Globe and Mail). China loosened controls on its currency last week, allowing its value to move a bit more with the market’s. But so far, the impact has been … underwhelming. (Kudos to the headline-writer at the Globe and Mail.)

"Declining as a Manufacturer, Japan Weighs Reinvention," by Martin Fackler (New York Times). As political discourse in the U.S. shifts toward more manufacturing, Japan — with its aging population and long-declining industrial sector — is moving away from it.

"Bank of New York Case Tests IRS Power to Halt Foreign Tax Abuses," by Megan Murphy, Vanessa Houlder and Jeff Gerth (ProPublica). Several banks used abusive tax shelters called STARS to deny the government some $1 billion in tax revenue. Now the IRS is bringing a case that could determine how the government deals with tricky corporate tax planning in the future.

Speaking of taxes, tomorrow is tax day — and to mark it, NPR asked IRS commissioner Doug Shulman for his favorite motivational jams. Fifty thousands dollars will buy you a spot in Mitt Romney’s “inaugural retreat.” (Or will it?) And to round out the reads for your Monday morning, some lawyers now score a whopping $873 an hour. Yes, your curator regrets her career choice, too.

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?