Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What We’re Reading, 6/6/12

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: further Fed stimulus, the human price of austerity, and the marketing pros/cons of canned and packaged margaritas.

"Fed Considers More Action Amid New Recovery Doubts," by Jon Hilsenrath (Wall Street Journal). Ben Bernanke & Co. are weighing another round of economic stimulus ahead of their June 19 meeting. There was no such talk at the Fed’s last meeting, when things looked rosier … but in light of Europe’s shenanigans, dour jobs reports, and all the other things we round up here each day, the Fed may make some small, cautionary moves. 

"Save Us, Ben Bernanke, You’re Our Only Hope," by Matthew O’Brien (The Atlantic). This story is accompanied by a photo of Ben Bernanke as Jedi, which everyone should click to for laughs alone. Beyond that, things get a bit more serious (though, er, no less gimmicky). O’Brien’s argument: The Fed is our last hope to improve the faltering economy, and so far, it’s failed to do so. Manipulating interest rates could help.

"Euro Zone on the Brink," by Roger Altman (Washington Post). Another day, another flood of bummer news from Europe. Today, Greece is pretty close to running out of cash, Spain tells the world straight-up that it really needs that bail-out, and Germany struggles to figure out just what role it wants to play in the whole ordeal. Altman suspects this is mounting to another bump in the recession, a la the Great Depression relapse of 1937. Fortunately, he has a three-step plan! (That seems simple, doesn’t it?)

"Children Lose to Bailed-Out Bankers as Crisis Forces Cuts," by Ben Sills and Rodney Jefferson (Bloomberg). In Spain, this is what austerity looks like: crowded emergency rooms and children who can’t get access to crucial medications. In fact, the handicapped and terminally ill are suffering across Europe, where safety nets are falling out from underneath them.

"Senate Republicans Again Block Pay Equity Bill," by Jennifer Steinhauer (New York Times). The Paycheck Fairness Act fell six votes short of the 60 it needed to pass the Senate yesterday. The law would make it easier for women to sue in instances of gender discrimination — an issue that, incidentally, we take on in the June issue!

"Growing Economic Inequality ‘Endangers Our Future’" (Fresh Air). Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz dropped by the Fresh Air studio to talk lobbying, tax policy and student loans with Terry Gross. Fun fact: He’s largely credited with popularizing the phrase “the 1%,” which we will now never be rid of. 

"The Fortune 400," by David Cay Johnson (Reuters). Speaking of tax policy and the 1%, six American families with incomes over $200 million (each!) paid no federal income taxes in 2009. Cue the Occupy outrage!

"Most Recent High School Graduates Not in College Lack Full-Time Job, Study Says," by Bonnie Kavoussi (Huffington Post). Three out of four high school graduates who took the working route do not actually have jobs, according to a sobering new study by Rutgers’ Center for Workforce Development. 

And in other news: Warren Buffett graduated from D.C.’s infamous public schools, New York magazine has some “advice” for Wall Street interns, and a business battle is brewing canned and packaged margaritas. (In a war like this, everybody loses.) Also, the Internet now has 340 trillion trillion trillion addresses (that’s a number?) and Michelle Obama was on Letterman last night

Thursday, May 31, 2012

What We’re Reading, 5/31/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. On our collective radar for Thursday: More euro-drama, the incomprehensible wealth of Walmart, and the relative pros/cons of keeping an ATM in the kitchen.

"Europe Fears Bailout of Spain Would Strain Its Resources," by Landon Thomas Jr. (New York Times). If you thought the Greek bailout was stressful, Spain is a problem of an entirely different scale. It’s Europe’s fourth-largest economy, which means a theoretical Spanish bailout would leave very few funds in the EU’s $867-billion emergency fund. Added complication: These endless economic spats are weakening the ties between euro-zone countries. (But look, optimism! The Peterson Institute’s Jacob Kirkegaard sees signs of European progress.)

"After Facebook, Kayak IPO Stalls," by Anupreeta Das, Gina Chon and Brett Philbin (Wall Street Journal). Will the Facebook fallout ever end?! Early evidence suggests that the botched offering was bad not only for small investors, but for the state of California, the stock market, and now, new IPOs — Kayak is stalling its offering until things look up.

"Older Americans Learn New Trades in Tough Jobs Market," by Lucia Mutikani (Reuters). A quarter of Americans aged 50+ lost their life savings during the recession, and 43% of those still haven’t earned it back. That’s led many to seek a new job (or jobs) in unconventional, often minimum-wage fields. Bad news for job-seekers of all ages: HR software may be working against them.

"On Campus, New Deals With Banks," by Andrew Martin (New York Times). Despite reforms, financial institutions are creeping into schools — and they’re banking on students for new customers and profits. Student IDs double as credit cards, banks disburse financial aid, and consumer advocates predictably freak out.

"Woman Who Couldn’t Be Intimidated by Citigroup Wins $31 Million," by Bob Ivry (Bloomberg Markets). Sherry Hunt is the unlikely woman who sounded the alarm on bad mortgages at Citigroup, where she worked as a senior manager for more than eight years. Intriguingly, Hunt grew up in rural Michigan, married at 16, and never went to college. Now she’s won $31 million in a highly publicized lawsuit against her former employer.

"The One Percent’s Problem," by Joseph Stiglitz (Vanity Fair). The combined wealth of the six Walmart heirs equals the combined wealth of the bottom 30% of Americans. (… I’ll just let that sink in for a second.) That’s obviously a bummer for we little folk, Tumbling away for starting salaries. But Stiglitz argues it’s rough on the top earners, as well — in the long-term, inequality will make their lives and work more difficult.

"Facing Down the Bankers," by Annie Lowrey (New York Times). On Dennis Kelleher: Wise guy and powerful finance-reform lobbyist.

"Some Teens Aren’t Liking Facebook as Much as Older Users," by Jessica Guyn and Ryan Faughnder (L.A. Times). Lyke ZOMG, Tumblr is the new Faceook, guys.

And in other news: Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t tip, despite his billions, Michael Bloomberg tries to ban sugary sodas, and the Nets’ Deshawn Stevenson has an ATM in his kitchen.

Happy reading, Tumblers!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

What We’re Reading, 5/30/12

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: Spain, Greece, India, and Amercia (sic).

"Spain Rattles Markets, Greeks Warned of Catastrophe," by Julien Toyer and Karolina Tagaris (Reuters). Oh look, Spain is the new Greece — but in this case, it’s not a fashionable distinction. Spain’s fourth-largest bank is on the brink of collapse, and the European Central Bank rejected a plan to bail it out. Meanwhile, Greece’s biggest bank warned that living standards, incomes and employment would suffer dramatically post-euro. (Considering all that pathos, a lot of investors have begun banking on U.S. treasury notes instead.)

"Most Aid to Athens Circles Back to Europe," by Liz Alderman and Jack Ewing (New York Times). Europe gave Greece 130 billion euros in bailout funds. But like a recent college grad with too many loans, Greece can only use that money to pay off interest on its debts — and not, you know, provide basic services to its beleaguered citizens.

"India’s Economy Slows, With Global Implications," by Jim Yardley and Vikas Bajaj (New York Times). In case all this talk of Europe is boring you, inflation and deficits are also up in India, where government officials only recently predicted growth rates of more than nine percent.

"Romney Clinches Nomination," by Ginger Gibson (Politico). Surprise, surprise. The real story here is Donald Trump, who tagged along but kept mercifully mum on Obama’s “disputed” birthplace. 

"As Governor, Romney Picked Winners and Losers of His Own," by Andy Sullivan (Reuters). New Romney ads skewer Obama for granting tax breaks and extended loans to favored industries. The problem? As governor of Massachusetts, Romney granted similar favors to firms like Bristol Myers-Squibb and Spherics Inc. — the latter of which shut down and defaulted on its loans.

"Campaigns Mine Online Data to Target Voters," by Beth Fouhy (AP). TV ads and direct mail are so 2008. Now, Obama and Romney are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to target online ads to tiny niches — and collect data on the people in them. Writes Fouhy: “The 2012 election could be decided by which campaign is best at exploiting voters’ Internet data.” 

"Could Latino Voters Turn Deep-Red Texas Democratic by 2020?" By Jason Margolis (The Atlantic). Some thought-provoking demographics, in light of Romney’s Texas win: Fifty percent of the state’s youth are Latino, and Latinos overwhelmingly vote for Democrats.  

"Networks Built on Milliseconds," by Anton Troianovski (Wall Street Journal). To some people, high-frequency trading isn’t frequent enough. A number of firms are developing microwave relays between Chicago and New York, which will work even faster — 2.3 milliseconds faster — than the current fiberoptic system. That could work out to an extra .08 cents per share traded, by some estimates.

"Apple’s Cook Says Focus Remains on Products," by Dan Gallagher (Marketwatch). Apple CEO Tim Cook sat down for an extensive interview at this week’s All Things Digital conference, with some telling revelations for Apple investors and fans. Among them: Cook wants to move more manufacturing to the U.S., and Apple’s hard at work on that fabled TV. (A more detailed live blog from All Things D is here.)

And in other news: Jaguar was pleasantly surprised by its Mad Men cameo, the author of the Black Swan thinks a euro breakup would be no big deal, and someone on the Romney staff is about to lose her job — the campaign’s “With Mitt” iPhone app misspelled America and inspired a parody Tumblr.

Happy reading, Tumblers!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What We’re Reading, 5/29/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. Our our radar as we return from a lovely three-day weekend: unemployment benefits, stock market woes, and the sweet relationship between weird ice cream and the economy.

"U.S. Winds Down Longer Benefits for Unemployed," by Shaila Dewan (New York Times). If you thought Congress extended long-term employment benefits back in February, then you didn’t read the fine print. New restrictions will unexpectedly shorten aid for half a million people — more than 70,000 in June alone. The drop could put an extra drag on the economy, potentially contributing to a recession next year.

"Stock Market Loses Face," by Joe Light (Wall Street Journal). Some small investors are dumping stocks in the wake of Facebook’s messy IPO. Like all jilted exes, they’re feeling vindictive: Small investors pulled $3 billion from U.S. stock mutual funds in the week that ended Wednesday, which, if you’re keeping score, is about how much money J.P. Morgan lost.

"Spring Revival for America’s Housing Market," by Leah Schnurr and Jilian Mincer (Reuters). Finally, some good news! Home sales and prices indicate that the troubled housing market may be ticking up. But don’t call your realtor just yet — even a solid recovery will take some time.

"Dewey & LeBoeuf Files for Bankruptcy," by Linda Sandler, Sophia Pearson and Joe Schneider (Bloomberg). Dewey & LeBoeuf once employed 1,300 lawyers in 12 countries, advised the L.A. Dodgers on their restructuring … and accumulated $245 million in debt. The high-powered firm’s Chapter 11 filing earns it the dubious honor of being the largest law-firm collapse in U.S. history.

"Hope: The Sequel," by John Heilemann (New York). A new election issue seems to spring up every day: private equity, jobs reports, dogs on roofs, “interceptions.” But from where Heilemann sits, the only factors that matter for Obama are how the economy fares and where demographics fall. Says one very confident strategist: “If you’re a woman, you’re Hispanic, you’re young, or you’ve gotten left out, you look at Romney and say, ‘This … guy is gonna take us back to the way it always was, and guess what? I’ve never been part of that.’” In related news, Talking Points Memo suspects that many voters are a bit more split than that — especially in swing states.

"Obama’s ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will," by Jo Becker and Scott Shane (New York Times). The second (very lengthy) installment in the Times’ series on Obama’s record takes us into the White House Situation Room, where Obama personally approves every entry on a military hit list — and oversees unprecedented amounts of the war on al Qaeda. His record is “paradoxical,” to say the very least.

"Mitt Romney’s Economic Failure in Massachusetts," by Michael Tomasky (Daily Beast). While we’re talking political records, Tomasky has a damning column on Mitt Romney’s job-creation history as governor of Massachusetts. It isn’t worse than Obama’s necessarily, he writes — but Romney’s “record here is so lame from any ideological perspective … [he] can make no claim whatsoever that he has access to some magic tonic that grows jobs.”

"College Dropouts Have Debt But No Degree," by Ylan Mui and Suzy Khimm (Washington Post). Just when we thought the student debt situation couldn’t get any scarier, it turns out that nearly 30 percent of students who take out loans later drop out of school.

And in other news: This semi-grating "super intern" scored 47 job offers after a four-month interning stunt, this man has ridden an ostrich (and thus thinks you should vote him into Congress), and these chains think sushi, pizza and hamburger ice cream are the key to sales in a slow economy.

Happy reading, Tumblers! 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What We’re Reading, 5/23/12

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: Private equity, Facebook fall-out, and why college students don’t study.

"Both Parties Struggling with How to Talk About Private Equity Industry," by David Fahrenthold and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post). Romney’s Bain Capital tenure has pushed private equity into the spotlight, and even within parties, every politician seems to have a different take. Does it create jobs? Does it kill them? (Does anybody know the difference?) A Post editorial claims that Obama wants it both ways.

"Tall Tales About Private Equity," by Steven Rattner (New York Times). Steven Rattner: Frequent op-ed writer, former Obama Treasury advisor, private equity apologist. “That’s not wrong; it’s part of capitalism,” he says of job cuts under Bain. “Whatever its flaws, private equity has made a material contribution to sharpening management.”

"Inside Fumbled Facebook Offering," by Shayndi Raice, Anupreeta Das and Gina Chon (Wall Street Journal). The size and hype of Facebook’s IPO weren’t the only things setting it apart from other recent offerings. According to WSJ, Facebook Chief Financial Officer David Ebersman also stayed unusually involved in the plans — even green-lighting the last-minute share boost that kept first-day prices low. (In related news, Facebook’s once-hot IPO may officially have crossed into hot mess territory: Both the SEC and Massachusetts regulators are investigating.)

"Facebook Stock Collapse Contributes to Mistrust of Wall Street," by Mark Gongloff (Huffington Post). The Facebook IPO is a symbol of everything people hate about Wall Street, Gongloff writes: “Media and analyst cheerleading? Check. The destructive influence of high-speed trading? Check. A system built for insiders to profit while retail investors pick up scraps? Duh.”

"The Facebook Fallacy," by Michael Wolff (Technology Review). Where was Michael last week, when everyone came down with Facebook fever? He argues that Facebook’s business model is fundamentally flawed — and thus likely to fade out, a la Yahoo or AOL. 

"Doubts Over EU Summit Send Shares, Euro Lower," by Richard Hubbard (Reuters). Between the crises at Facebook and JP Morgan and the drama around Bain Capital, we’ve had little attention to spare for our beleaguered friends in the EU. But they are indeed beleaguered, and hopelessly so: A summit in Brussels is expected to yield little beside Merkel-Hollande bickering, and European markets have reacted poorly. (The Dow doesn’t seem to like the stalemate much, either.)

"Two Cheers for Our Peculiar Politics: America’s Political Process and the Economic Crisis," by Pietro Nivola (Brookings). One reason to pay more attention to the Europe — the U.S. economy looks magnificent, by comparison!

"Obama Spending Binge Never Happened," by Rex Nutting (Marketwatch). Government spending hasn’t grown much under Obama; in fact, his 1.4% growth rate is the lowest since the early ’80s, when Reagan expanded spending by 8.7% per year.

"History Shows U.S. Can Cut Now, Stimulate Later," by Peter Orszag (Bloomberg). Orszag’s latest editorial argues that stimulus and austerity aren’t necessarily at odds — a refreshing perspective to anyone who’s followed the bitter debates both in Congress and overseas. “Enacting more stimulus today and more deficit reduction to take effect later is exactly what the U.S. needs,” he writes. “It’s also what makes the ongoing jobs-versus-austerity debate so frustrating. What we really need is to be bolder on both jobs and austerity, by pursuing a combination policy.”

"New Rules for Prepaid Debit Cards," by Ben Protess and Jessica Silver-Greenberg (New York Times). At last! Thank the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for this one.

And in other news: Facebook wrecks marriages, college students don’t study, and the Pentagon cozies up (too much?) to Hollywood.

Happy reading, Tumblers!

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.)

Monday, May 14, 2012

What We’re Reading, 3/14/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. On our radars this morning: Toms shoes, student debt, and boatloads of next-week analysis on the J.P. Morgan loss.

"J.P. Morgan May Lose Sway in D.C.," by Scott Patterson and Victoria McGrane (Wall Street Journal). The fall-out from J.P. Morgan’s massive trading loss continues: as if the big-name executive departures weren’t bad enough, a number of the firm’s political allies are also backing away. Patterson and McGrane quote an unnamed banking lobbyist, who says J.P. Morgan’s loss “sets us all back.”

"Obama’s Wall Street Problem," by Ben White (Politico). Banks aren’t the only ones feeling the J.P. Morgan sting. Wall Street’s suffering image might also hurt Obama, who claimed to shake up Wall Street after the 2008 collapse. 

"How Wall Street Killed Financial Reform," by Matt Taibbi (Rolling Stone). No one can say with any certainty that more strident financial reforms would have prevented the latest Wall Street drama. But Dodd-Frank is certainly weaker than it could be — and Rolling Stone has a stinging, longform history to prove it. Taibbi’s true to form: “The giant reform bill turned out to be like the fish reeled in by Hemingway’s Old Man – no sooner caught than set upon by sharks that strip it to nothing long before it ever reaches the shore.”

"Analysis: The Core Problems with J.P. Morgan’s Failed Trades," by David Henry and Carrick Mollenkamp (Reuters). If you’re still wondering how J.P. Morgan managed to lose that startling $2 billion, Reuters has a solid rundown on the firm’s bad investments (and investment strategies). Also worth a read: Maureen Farrell’s take on J.P. Morgan and “massive speculative bets,” which major banks still make en masse.

"Missing: Stats on Crisis Conviction," by Jean Eaglesham (Wall Street Journal). How many executives landed in jail for their role in the financial collapse? Good question! No one knows. 

"A Generation Hobbled by the Soaring Cost of College," by Andrew Martin and Andrew Lehrin (New York Times). Ninety-four percent of B.A. students take out loans to go to school — more than double the borrowing rate a mere 20 years ago. (In more optimistic news, however, this year’s graduates will also see better job opportunities than the three classes before them.)

"Can the Euro Avert Collapse?" By Andy Robinson (The Nation). Robinson weighs the euro’s future from Spain, where debt and unemployment look particularly tough.

"Here Be Dragons: Anthony Bolton," by Robert Cookson (Financial Times). ”Britain’s Warren Buffett” composes classical music, can’t use chopsticks, and struggles to recoup two years of poor returns. 

In other news: the economics of Toms shoes, a super PAC for the under-30 crowd, and why you should keep your baby off Facebook.

Happy reading, Tumblers!

Friday, May 11, 2012

What We’re Reading, 5/11/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. On our minds this Friday morning: a million J.P. Morgan stories.  (Plus Abraham Lincoln and hamburgers.)

"J.P. Morgan’s $2 Billion Blunder," by Dan Fitzpatrick, Gregory Zuckerman and Liz Rappaport (Wall Street Journal). Serious drama at J.P. Morgan — a bad bet in the bank’s Chief Investment Office lost it some $2 billion in the past six weeks, and it could lose an additional $1 billion in the second quarter. A statement from CEO James Dimon pretty much says it all: The strategy was “flawed, complex, poorly reviewed, poorly executed and poorly monitored,” he said, and the mistake “egregious” and “self-inflicted.”

"J.P. Morgan’s Loss: The Explainer," by Heidi Moore (Marketplace). A super-readable FAQ on the loss, for those of us unversed in the intricacies of corporate bonds. You friendly curator doesn’t want to belabor this story much further, but two other relevant reads, for the curious: "A Shock from J.P. Morgan is New Fodder for Reformers" (Nelson Schwartz, New York Times) and "Wall Street’s Go-To Guy Trips Up" (Robin Sidel, Wall Street Journal).

"Jobs and the Election: A Weekly Tracker," by David Leonhardt (New York Times). The Times, in collaboration with Moody’s Analytics, is launching a weekly report that predicts job growth and unemployment over the course of the election. This week’s numbers: 182,000 new jobs a month from now until October, 7.9 percent unemployment in October.

"Super PACs: Follow the Money — If You Can," by Marcus Stern, Kristina Cooke and Alexander Cohen (Reuters). While we’re talking money and politics, this Reuters story is worth a read. Some super PACs are organized as a series of shell companies, making it nearly impossible to figure out where money comes from or where it goes. 

"Empire of the Bun," by Lesley Bargar Suter (Los Angeles). How one devout-foodie-turned-entrepreneur built an LA restaurant empire. (Your friendly curator suggests reading after lunch.)

And in other news: Abraham Lincoln did not really invent Facebook, The Times looks into the fanatic, frenetic, Twitter-heavy life of finance blogger Joe Weisenthal, and in Nevada, Google’s car can drive itself.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What We’re Reading, 4/18/12

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 rainy Wednesday: big banks, millenials, and the economics of urban bike-shares.

"Banks Seen Dangerous Defying Obama’s Too-Big-to-Fail Move," by David Lynch (Bloomberg). JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and Goldman Sachs held $8.5 trillion in assets — or 56 percent of the U.S. economy — at the end of 2011. That’s twice (!) as big as 10 years ago, despite Obama’s vow that banks would no longer be “too big to fail.”

“‘Not If, But When’ For Spanish Bailout, Experts Believe,” by Luke Baker (Reuters). While the European crisis is looking less critical elsewhere, Spain still struggles with deep unemployment and a collapsed property market. Some economists predict it will require euro zone rescue funds within the next six months.

"Competition Needs Protection," by Eduardo Porter (New York Times). The Justice Department filed a price-fixing suit against Apple and several top publishers last week, much to the anguish of bookstores, writers, and publishers themselves. The good news for consumers: This will likely make books cheaper. The good thing for the market: At least according to Porter, it will protect and encourage innovation on the web.

"This Year’s Fight Over Taxing the Middle Class — and the Rich," by Linda Killian (The Atlantic). Pundits are predicting a pre-election tax showdown, with Democrats and Republicans each attempting to win the upper hand in the public opinion war. But after the election, Killian writes, we could see real tax reform — at least if historical patterns hold true.

"Can Politics Catch Up With Technology?" By Michael Lind (Salon). The IT revolution irreversibly changed commerce and communications, but the government still lags behind. “Our politicians could take a lesson from Apple or Facebook,” jokes mag reporter Susannah Snider.

"Generation Lost? Millenials Come of Age," by Chris Taylor (Reuters). Oh good, there’s hope for your friendly curator’s much-pitied generation. Not much hope, admittedly. But there are some silver linings to growing up in a recession, higher lifetime investment earnings among them.

"What It Cost Eight Women Writers to Make It In New York," by Brent Cox (The Awl). Ignore that headline — this story is much more about inflation and changing living costs than cutting it as a writer. An interesting sample: Dorothy Parker’s midtown one-bedroom cost $981.31 a month in 2012 dollars. (“If you see a Midtown one-bedroom for less than a thousand dollars I suggest you take it,” Cox snarks.)

"Temple for Rent: Italy Hopes Sponsoring Can Save Cultural Treasures," by Fiona Ehlers (Der Spiegel). Italy, like many of its neighbors, has slashed its culture budget to confront the European crisis. But where the government left off, corporate interest began. Companies can now rent or buy monasteries, villas and other historic landmarks across the country, and some Italians aren’t happy about it.

And finally, in other news: bike-sharing systems don’t generate revenue for cities (including Washington D.C., where a few Kiplinger employees bike-share to work), blame H&R Block for complicated tax forms, and food-truck talk with a small business expert.

What are you reading?