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!

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 10, 2012

What We’re Reading, 4/10/12

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: the Buffett Rule, Instagram, and Budweiser as luxury beer.

"White House Makes Case for ‘Buffett Rule,’" by James Politi (Financial Times). The Obama administration has begun to push in earnest for a 30 percent tax on millionaires, but don’t expect the rule to make it into the tax code. “It’s an effort to demonstrate to voters how out-of-touch Mitt Romney and the GOP are with the middle class,” says Letter editor Ken Bazinet. “About two-thirds of Americans say they want to see the rich pay more, but that won’t stop the GOP-controlled House from blocking the bill.” Related reading: “The Numerical Weak Spot of Obama’s ‘Buffett Rule.”

"In Praise of Crowdfunding," by Andrew Leonard (Salon). The JOBS Act has been roundly criticized by reform-minded liberals like Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibi, who recently wrote that it “couldn’t suck worse.” But not so fast, says Leonard: the law’s crowdfunding provision could provide enormous opportunity for small businesses. Kickstarter, anyone?

"Health Care Law Will Add $340 Billion to Deficit, New Study Finds," by Lori Montgomery (Washington Post). Well, there’s a headline that speaks for itself. The study, released today, comes from conservative policy analyst Charles Blahous. 

"It’s Time to Accept the Existence of a Social Media Bubble," by Rebecca Greenfield (The Atlantic). Instagram sold to Facebook for a whopping $1 billion yesterday, just weeks before Facebook’s much-anticipated (and highly valued) IPO. How is Instagram possibly worth $1 billion? Greenfield argues that “speculative mania” is driving up valuations for Internet companies — and that investors suffer when the bubble bursts.  

"The Amazing Matzo Stimulus," by Adam Davidson (New York Times Magazine). Magazine reporter Susannah Snider has been eating a sad lunch of matzo and brussel sprouts all week — perhaps why she flagged this story. “Can a company thrive on a product that 2% of the population is forced to buy one week per year?” She asks. Apparently, yes!

And finally, in lighter news: a tweet is worth a tenth of a cent (a Yelp review or Foursquare check-in, considerably more); New York City income inequality, as graphed by its supermarkets; and Budweiser as a luxury — in China, anyway.

What are you reading?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What We’re Reading, 3/15/2012

Making the office rounds this morning: Goldman Sachs satire, cashless living and cheesy grits. Below, a round-up of recommendations from the Kiplinger staff.

"Why I Am Leaving the Empire" (The Daily Mash). ”Greg Smith’s skewering of ex-employer Goldman Sachs yesterday was ripe for satire,” says senior editor Bob Frick. So ripe, in fact, that we’ve been reading little else. There’s also “Why I am Leaving the Knicks,” “Why I Am Applying for an Executive Director Position at Goldman Sachs,” and ”Greg Smith’s Letter to Goldman Sachs is Straight Out of Mad Men.” (That last one is less a parody and more a clever critique, says our social media specialist Amanda Lilly.) But in more serious responses …

"The Vampire Squid Spills Its Ink," by William Cohan (Financial Times). Cohan literally wrote the book on Goldman Sachs, and considers Smith’s controversial resignation an “existential moment” for the firm.

Yes, Mr. Smith, Goldman Sachs Is All About Making Money” (Bloomberg). The lede to Bloomberg’s scathing editorial: “Apparently, when Greg Smith arrived at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) almost 12 years ago, the legendary investment firm was something like the Make-A-Wish Foundation — existing only to bring light and peace and happiness to the world.” 

"The Devil Wears Pinstripes," by Heidi Moore (Marketplace). Here’s an interesting take: Moore reads Smith’s resignation less as a protest against a morally bankrupt corporate culture and more as “the objection of the underclass of younger bankers and traders stymied by a lack of career mobility.”

"Can You Enjoy a Strip Club Without Cash?" by Seth Stevenson (Slate). Web editor David Mulhbaum reminded us that Greg Smith is not the only news of the day. On Slate, Seth Stevenson’s attempting to live without cash. “It takes a turn for the amusing here,” David notes, not untruthfully.

"A Plan C for Afghanistan," by Doyle McManus (LA Times). Says political editor and Kiplinger sage Ken Bazinet: “It’s becoming clear that in a post-Bin Laden world the mission in Afghanistan is muddled. LA Times wise Washington sage Doyle McManus says it’s time for a ‘Plan C.’”

"Bank of America: Too Crooked to Fail," by Matt Taibbi (Rolling Stone). The provocative Taibbi takes on Bank of America bail-outs, at great length.

"What Every Woman Should Tell Her Daughter About Money," by Sheryl Nash-Nance (Forbes). Says web editor Andrea Browne: “I love the fact that the financial pros featured in this piece are teaching their daughters at a young age the importance of being able to fend for themselves financially as adults.”

"Wolf Blitzer Can’t Get Enough Cheesy Grits," by David Daley (Salon). Today’s token political media story comes courtesy copy editor Liz Whitehouse, who is “tired of newscasters taking one slice of a story and blowing it up. Salon’s David Daley provides a sharp critique of a recent example.”

Did we miss anything? Tweet us your favorites!