Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What We’re Reading, 4/24/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. Making the round this morning: Social Security, youth unemployment, and health insurance “hustlin’.”

"Social Security Heading for Insolvency Even Faster," by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar (Associated Press). We, like most of the Internet, are still reeling from the new government forecast that predicts the Social Security Trust Fund will run dry in 2033, three years earlier than previously predicted. The Medicare prediction stayed steady at 2024. (Politics editor David Morris emailed with this comforting note: “The payroll tax from employers and employees would still bring enough to pay 75 percent of the full benefit at that point, even if no changes are made between then and now. So a benefit cut, yes, but not a benefit elimination. The problem will be fixed, at some point. It always is. Too risky politically to let the reduction come about, and still plenty of time to fix it.”)

"Report Finds Wave of Mexican Immigration to U.S. Has Ended," by Paloma Esquivel and Hector Becerra (LA Times). America’s sluggish economy hasn’t just impacted its homegrown workforce. A new report from the Pew Hispanic Center finds that Mexican immigration has slowed to a “standstill,” largely because of the economic downturn.

"53% of Recent College Grads Are Jobless or Underemployed — How?" By Jordan Weissman (The Atlantic). A recent AP analysis found that one in two young college graduates are out of work or underemployed. Mitt Romney seized on the report as evidence of Obama’s failure on economic policy. But Weissman has another take: He argues that, economically speaking, college just isn’t for everyone.

"Of the 1%, By the 1%, For the 1%," by Joseph Stiglitz (Vanity Fair). An unusually lyrical look at what income inequality means now — and how it could topple the economy in the future. Regarding the Middle East protests, Stiglitz writes: “As we gaze out at the popular fervor in the streets, one question to ask ourselves is this: When will it come to America? In important ways, our own country has become like one of these distant, troubled places.”

"No Sympathy for the Creative Class," by Scott Timberg (Salon). On the economics of making it as an artist. (They’re not great.) And on that note…

"Out of Work, Out to California," by Rachael Maddux (The Billfold). A music critic reflects on the time she spent unemployed after her magazine folded.

In other news: Some state governments save money by legalizing fireworks, one Good writer goes to extraordinary lengths to make it without health insurance, and Forbes has some interesting advice for job-seeking young men. (Your friendly curator likes number two: “Don’t be a bro.”)

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?

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? 

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?

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?

Friday, March 30, 2012

What We’re Reading, 3/30/12

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 on this lovely Friday afternoon: record-breaking lotteries, record-breaking gas prices, and where we rank on the global pay scale.

"Big Payout, Big Suckers?" By Jordan Ellenberg (Slate). We probably don’t have to tell you that a record $640-million lottery drawing is going down tonight, but you might be interested in your odds. Slate resurfaced this 2001 column by mathematician Jordan Ellenberg — in it, he calculates his odds of winning a $280-million Powerball drawing. ($280 million? Child’s play!) “Is it really worth a buck to a buyer?” Asked digital director Doug Harbrecht after reading. “Depends how much you want the money.”

"Why Even Skeptics Are Buying a Mega Millions Ticket," by Bill Briggs (MSNBC). A look inside our psychological urge to defy even hopelessly poor odds.

"Everyone’s a Winner? The Role of Cognitive Biases in Lottery Playing," by Mark Griffiths. Senior editor Bob Frick dug up this fascinating academic analysis by gambling psychologist Mark Griffith. “It addresses an issue on everyone’s mind right now, and it’s a great summary of lottery psychology,” he says. Well, it’s clearly on your friendly curator’s mind. In other news…

"Full-Court Press" (The Economist). The arguments have ended and a decision’s months away, but that won’t stop us from ruminating on the implications of the health care reform case. Here, The Economist predicts it will “transform the power of the federal government” forever.

"Healthcare History: How the Patchwork Coverage Came to Be," by Bob Rosenblatt (LA Times). An intriguing explainer on the history behind our current insurance system — much of which can be traced back to World War II.

"The Great Gas Mystery: Higher Prices, But Continued Growth," by Andrew Leonard (Salon). Historically, less driving and economic disaster go hand in hand. But Americans are driving far less as gas prices edge toward four dollars a gallon — and the economic outlook seems pretty rosy. What’s going on? Leonard’s theory involves smartphones and social media, of all things.

"Barry Ritholz on the Causes of the Financial Crisis" (The Browser). Barry Ritholz is a noted Wall Street money manager and the man behind The Big Picture. Here, he recommends five books on the financial crisis — and a lot of colorful commentary on where and how the system collapsed.

"Where Are You On the Global Pay Scale?" (BBC). If you do one thing today, try out this quick interactive from the BBC. Your curator was heartened to see how far her entry-level paycheck will stretch abroad.

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.

Friday, March 16, 2012

What We’re Reading, 3/16/2012

On our iPads and in our inboxes this morning: foreclosure, the 40-hour work week, and the strange ties between vasectomies and NCAA basketball. Here are some recommendations from the Kiplinger staff.

"Bring Back the 40-Hour Work Week," by Sara Robinson (Salon). Just in time for the weekend, a new argument for why working fewer hours makes us happier and more productive. Quips web editor David Muhlbaum: “Should I feel guilty for having read this at work?”

"Can It Be … the Recovery?" (The Economist). “The Economist cover story confirms what The Kiplinger Letter has forecast,” says political editor Ken Bazinet. “Yes, there is a global recovery, but it’s not exactly a scorcher.”

"Housed," by Aimee Phan (Guernica). The daughter of a Vietnamese refugee loses her house — and her mother’s American Dream. “After getting turned down for loan modifications, I realized I was not afraid of the possibility of our bank or creditors calling us, demanding their money,” Phan writes. “I was scared of my mother.”

"Young Adults OK With Moving Back Home," by Elizabeth Shell (NewsHour). NewsHour’s Business Desk has a handy take on Pew’s “Boomerang Generation" report, which found that three in 10 young adults have recently lived at home — and three in four of them felt okay about it.

And to end with a little levity — it is Friday, after all! — J.K. Rowling is no longer a billionaire, and more men get vasectomies during March Madness.

As always, please tweet us your reads!

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!