Thursday, April 5, 2012

What We’re Reading, 4/5/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. What we’re talking about over our coffee this morning: China, billionaires and psychopath investors. (Oh, and the four-year low in new jobless claims, which is good news all around.)

"The Dragon’s New Teeth" (The Economist). China’s defense spending could overtake America’s by 2035 — and the implications of that growth are far from theoretical. “Don’t be fooled into believing a Reaganesque arms race will leave China broke and divided as it did the Soviet Union. Beijing is ready for that scenario,” says Letter editor Ken Bazinet. “It’s another argument for wrapping up business in the Middle East and preparing for potential conflict in the Far East.”

"The 401(k): Americans ‘Just Not Prepared’ to Manage Their Own Retirement Funds," by Jia Lynn Yang (The Washington Post). Americans need their 401(k)s now more than ever. Unfortunately, most Americans also need the financial know-how to manage their accounts — and advocates aren’t quite sure how to teach them.

"A Lot of Gas," by Elizabeth Kolbert (The New Yorker). Gas prices have become a major point of rhetoric for Republican candidates, who accuse Obama of failing to bring them down. The problem? “Oil, as it is well known, is a global commodity traded on a global market,” Kolbert writes. “… the Obama Administration gas-price-hike conspiracy theory is nearly a hundred-per-cent hokum.”

"How Investing Turns Nice People Into Psychopaths," by Lynn Stout (The Atlantic). We’re won’t endorse this headline — none of us are psychopaths, after all (!) — but the excerpt from Stout’s recent book takes a very interesting turn through investor psychology. “What, exactly, do shareholders value?” she asks. And how did those values evolve?

"Low Ratings Could End Cable Deal for Gore’s Current TV," by Peter Lauria (Reuters). Have you watched Current TV lately? Neither have we. The channel’s ratings are so low, in fact, that they barely meet the requirement to stay on Time Warner Cable. 

"Twitter, Facebook Now Tools for Big Brother," by David Saleh Rauf (Politico). Mind your Tumbles — Uncle Sam now mines Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and a host of other social networking sites for intelligence information. ”Keep in mind they only mine data you make public,” says reporter John Miley. Then he adds, as an ominous aside: “… well, or so they say.”

"Living Like a Billionaire, If Only for a Day," by Kevin Roose (The New York Times). Roose takes on your friendly curator’s dream assignment: He spends one day living like the Wall Street execs he typically covers, then comes back and writes about it. Chaffeurs, private planes and operas are involved.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What We’re Reading, 3/27/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round-up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. What we’re talking about in the break room this morning: the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court, and … the Supreme Court. Plus a little bit about pop-up kitchens.

Department of Health and Human Services, et al., vs. Florida, et al. — Day 1 Transcripts (PDF). “After reading a lot of analysis with the same feel last night, I went straight to the source this morning — the court-provided transcripts of Monday’s argument,” says David Morris, Kiplinger’s senior political editor. “The transcripts generally take up to a week to land on the SCOTUS website. It’s remarkable that we can see these the same day.”

Also worth reading on this issue:

"Health Care Law: 5 Supreme Court Takeaways," by Jennifer Haberkorn and Josh Gerstein (Politico). A helpful breakdown of the first day’s arguments, with sub-headings and lots of quotes — in case you don’t want to dig through that aforementioned PDF.

"Public Still Opposes Health Care Mandate," by Ronald Brownstein (National Journal). Some interesting context as the debate continues: National Journal’s latest opinion poll finds that only 28 percent of Americans actually support the mandate currently before the court.

"Health Law Accelerates Industry Changes," by Phil Galewitz (Kaiser Health News). Private practices, patient records, and health care plans are changing — regardless of the outcome of this week’s case. 

In other news…

"Russian President Lobs ‘Hollywood’ Charge at Romney," by Gabriella Schwarz (CNN). "It’s the biggest political story of the day," says Letter editor Ken Bazinet, regarding comments that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev made in South Korea on Tuesday. Romney called Russia "a geopolitical foe" on CNN’s "The Situation Room" yesterday — which, as Ken points out, "kind of left him open to a history lecture on the Cold War."

"Gray Nation: The Very Real Economic Dangers of an Aging America," by Derek Thompson (The Atlantic). A disconcerting new paper by economists James Stock and Mark Watson forecasts deeper recessions and slower recoveries as America’s demographics shift.

"A Game Explodes and Changes Life Overnight for a Struggling Start-Up," by Brian Chen and Jenna Wortham (The New York Times). The success of Draw Something, a Pictionary-like smartphone app, could prove game-changing for young entrepreneurs.

"Pop-Ups Are Taking Over the Kitchen," by Katy McLaughlin (Wall Street Journal). Thanks to the steep cost of starting a small business, pop-ups are the new food trucks. Or restaurants. Or both.

What are you reading?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What We’re Reading, 3/20/2012

Good morning, Tumblr! Every day, we round up the favorite morning reads of the Kiplinger staff. On the list this sunny Tuesday: Budget proposals, Madoff’s prison letters, and what your hair has to do with the economy.

"The GOP Budget and America’s Future," by Paul Ryan (The Wall Street Journal). Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan released the GOP budget proposal this morning to great fanfare. He also penned this hefty WSJ editorial, which lays out the Republicans’ “new Path to Prosperity.” The Washington Post sums it up here.

"U.S. War Game Sees Perils of Israeli Strike Against Iran," by Mark Mazzetti and Thom Shanker (The New York Times). We’re all following the Iran/Israel conflict, but no one more closely than Ken Bazinet, who covers politics for the Letter. “This spells out the perils of an uncertain strike against Iran’s nuclear sites and why the Pentagon isn’t sure an attack will work,” he says. “But there is still a belief that Israel could launch a strike in the next year.”

"The Secret Madoff Prison Letters," by Diana Henriques (Forbes). Madoff’s best-known biographer drops several pages of emails Madoff sent her from jail — his attempt, she says, to rewrite his history.

"Vatican Bank Image Hurt as JP Morgan Closes Account," by Philip Pullella and Lisa Jucca (Reuters). Staff writer Lisa Gerstner sent this link with a note: “Apparently the Holy See is too opaque for JP Morgan Chase, which shut down one of the Vatican’s bank accounts for lack of transparency.” We’ll leave further puns to you.

"Breaking Down the Mortgage Settlement: How Far Does $26 Billion Go?" By Cora Currier (ProPublica). ProPublica lays out the numbers from last week’s settlement over mortgage servicing abuses, with some interesting results. For instance: Only five percent of underwater mortgages will qualify for modification.

"How Do Racial Attitudes Affect Opinions About the Health Care Overhaul?" By Shankar Vedantam (Morning Edition). A new paper by Brown University researcher Michael Tessler suggests that attitudes toward race and health care policy are linked.

And to end on a light note, as we often do: Disney’s John Carter may rank among Hollywood’s biggest flops of all time, costing the studio some $200 million. In better news, beauty salon sales are up, which indicates a growing economy. 

Did we miss anything? Tweet us your links!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What We’re Reading, 3/14/2012

The web serves up millions of articles every day — and while we can’t guess what portion of those relate to finance, we’re guessing it’s more than you could read in one sitting.

So every morning, your friendly Tumblr curator will tap into the Kiplinger hive mind and ask the staff for the best business and economic journalism they’ve read that day. On this afternoon’s reading list: Goldman Sachs, Atlantic City and what Obama’s drinking.

"Why I am Leaving Goldman Sachs," by Greg Smith (The New York Times). ”The interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money,” Smith writes in his bridge-burning resignation. Related reading: “Why I am Leaving the Empire.” 

"The Unpersuaded," by Ezra Klein (The New Yorker). Says magazine reporter John Miley: “The president puts so much effort into campaigning for issues. How much influence does he really have? It’s sort of a reality-check question.”

"On the Market," by Alice Gregory (n+1). A former Sotheby’s researcher takes us into the ultra-luxurious and much-maligned world of the fabled auction house, which recently reported the most profitable quarter in its 267-year history — and became a target of the Occupy Wall Street protests.

"Employers Dangle Carrots for Behaviors That Help Lower Costs," by Ann Carrns (The New York Times). Web editor Andrea Browne likens the trend to reality television: “Think about all of the weight loss competition shows that are on TV these days!”

"The Man Who Broke Atlantic City," by Mark Bowden (The Atlantic). Three casinos, four months, $15 million. We’re betting that even non-gamblers will appreciate this take on blackjack economics.

"Obama’s Wine List Corked After $100-Plus Bottle Served," by Margaret Talev (Bloomberg). The White House stopped disclosing the types of wine served at state dinners; drama ensued. For more levity, we also like this Bloomberg piece: “Gap’s Targeting of Broke Young Hipsters Viewed as Flawed.”

Did we miss anything? Tweet us your picks!