Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Here at Kiplinger, we expect lawmakers to reach a temporary agreement before the end of the year to avoid plunging over the cliff. There are likely to be short-term extensions of all expiring tax cuts, buying time for a grand bargain sometime in 2013. As Kiplinger’s Ken Bazinet says, “it’ll be another punt, but not a permanent failure.”
See the full survey by the Pew Research Center and The Washington Post.

Here at Kiplinger, we expect lawmakers to reach a temporary agreement before the end of the year to avoid plunging over the cliff. There are likely to be short-term extensions of all expiring tax cuts, buying time for a grand bargain sometime in 2013. As Kiplinger’s Ken Bazinet says, “it’ll be another punt, but not a permanent failure.”

See the full survey by the Pew Research Center and The Washington Post.

Monday, June 4, 2012

What We’re Reading, 6/4/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. On our radar as the week starts up: economic slowdown, existential crisis, and the many money problems of the ultra-rich and famous.

"Investors Brace for Slowdown," by Jonathan Cheng, Charles Forelle and E.S. Browning (Wall Street Journal). Well, the week is off to a less-than-thrilling start. Investors are getting antsy as Europe, China and the U.S. show fresh signs of economic turbulence. Just a smattering of the rough market news: Asian markets are down sharply, European stocks slumped last week, and on Friday, the Dow dropped to its lowest point in six months. Happy Monday, everyone!

"Euro Zone is Lurching to a Crossroad," by Landon Thomas Jr. (New York Times). The euro zone faces an existential crisis of the most massive (and massively expensive) kind. Key to the region’s proverbial angst: Should it seek greater fiscal unity or just break up? While Spanish and Italian leaders called for euro bonds and central authority this weekend, they face political opposition from the likes of Angela Merkel, who hesitates to bail Spain out. (If this is all starting to sound rather dizzying and Game-of-Thrones-esque, the Times has helpful interactive charts on the timeline of the crisis and the players in it.)

"Remarks at the Festival of Economics," by George Soros (GeorgeSoros.com). While your friendly curator can think of no festival more dull-sounding than the “Festival of Economics” — are there demand-curve roller-coasters? Keynesian funnel cakes? — Soros’ remarks in Trento, Italy are certainly worth a read. The billionaire investor argues, in grandiose TED-talk fashion, that the foundations of economic theory fail to account for human mistakes. Significantly, he also says the eurozone has about three months to right itself. If that seems dense, CNBC has the Spark Notes

"The Mayor of Mayors," by Gabriel Sherman (New York). He banned trans fat! He shrinks your soft drinks! Michael Bloomberg may be the most visible mayor in the U.S., and certainly one of the most controversial — which leads Sherman to the question, where will he go next?

"Who Has the Spine to Fix the U.S. Economy?" By Fred Hiatt (Washington Post). Spoiler alert: No one. “It’s hard to be optimistic,” Hiatt writes. “Obama has the eloquence, but neither Obama as president nor Romney as governor showed much patience for legislative jawboning or relationship-building … It would be nice to think that the forthcoming campaigns will focus on this issue enough to give voters a basis on which to do more than guess. Judging by the debate so far, any optimism on that score seems even more naïve than refusing to give up on a grand bargain in 2013.”

"Small Fish Burned in Facebook IPO Knew Better," by William Cohan (Bloomberg). Critics railed against Wall Street, Morgan Stanley, Nasdaq, and Facebook itself — but if you fall in Cohan’s camp, small investors who lost big can only blame themselves.

"Life After the NFL a Struggle for Many Former Players," by Jeffri Chadiha (ESPN). Today in people-we-don’t-feel-very-sorry-for: “Terrell Owens hasn’t officially retired yet, and he already has blown the $80 million he earned during his career. Warren Sapp recently filed for bankruptcy. Former first-round picks Michael Bennett and William Joseph currently face federal charges of tax fraud and identity theft.” Apparently uber-rich ex-athletes can’t manage their millions! Seventy-eight percent of NFL retirees are bankrupt or financially strained.

"Mitt Romney Reports He’s Worth Up to $255 Million," by Reid Epstein (Politico). In other breaking news, Mitt Romney’s still rich. (More interestingly, Obama’s tax plan would cost him $5 million. Mo’ money mo’ problems, as they say.)

And in other news: Bernie Madoff’s son can’t get an apartment, these moms raised $1.57 million through the school PTA, and Facebook wants to share the joys of social networking with little kids

Happy reading, Tumblers!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

What We’re Reading, 5/24/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. On the agenda this morning: Europe’s crisis spills over, Google does evil, and the economics of all-you-can-eat buffets.

"Euro Woes Will Cross Pond," by David Wessel (Wall Street Journal). Fun fact: Greece’s economy is roughly the size of Massachusetts’. Less fun fact: If Greece drops the euro and  Europe suffers, we’ll feel a crunch in credit and imports here at home. (WSJ has also rounded up the forecasts and suggestions of several major banks; they vary in their pessimism. Deutsche Bank recommends the creation of a parallel currency called the “Geuro,” which sounds ugly, if nothing else.)

"Facebook’s IPO Debacle: Fear, Greed, Hubris …," by Heidi Moore (Guardian). If you read one more Facebook IPO autopsy, make it this clever, biting takedown from Marketplace’s Heidi Moore — she considers the failed IPO “a tale of financial chaos fit for the history books.” Why, you ask? “At nearly every junction where wisdom, care and moderation ought to have intervened, they did not.” Welp.

"Some Big Firms Got Facebook Warning," by Gina Chon, Jenny Strasburg and Anupreeta Das (Wall Street Journal). Not all investors are created equal. Before the Facebook IPO — and, more importantly, before IPOs in general — major firms score access to reports and warnings that the average investor never sees.

"Can Anything Take Down the Facebook Juggernaut?" By Steven Johnson (Wired). We’re a week late to this, but it makes especially interesting reading after all the Facebook fallout. Short answer: Yes, another service could displace Facebook. Slightly longer answer: Yes, but Johnson remains upbeat about the social network’s prospects. (Perhaps too upbeat: “… the company charges toward what will likely be the most successful public offering in the history of capitalism,” he writes.)

"As Computing Changes, Hewlett-Packard Struggles to Follow," by Quentin Hardy (New York Times). From one digital meltdown to another … the old-school stalwart HP just underwent a major restructuring, cutting 7.7% of its global workforce. (That’s a sobering 27,000 jobs.) But there’s a silver lining! HP’s shares rose sharply after the cuts. 

"Google Privacy Inquiries Get Little Cooperation," by David Streitfeld and Kevin O’Brien (New York Times). Google Street View made life easier for travelers and stalkers the world over. Unfortunately, those cute little camera cars aren’t just taking photos — they also collect data from personal, unprotected Wi-fi networks, downloading as much as 250 kilobytes of information per network. Moral of the story: Put a password on it!

"Vallejo, Calif., Once Bankrupt, is Now a Model for Cities in the Age of Austerity," by Ariana Eunhung Cha (Washington Post). You might remember Vallejo as the setting of Michael Lewis’ stark 2011 story on economic collapse in California. Well, there’s good news on that front: Four years after the city declared bankruptcy, it’s used technology, referendums and an increased sales tax to scrape its way toward solubility. Now, for the first time since 2007, “the city expects to have enough money to do such things as fill potholes, clear weeds, trim trees and repair tennis courts.” (Hey Greece, didja see this?)

"How We Got the Crash Wrong," by William Cohan (The Atlantic). Stop talking about leverage, start talking about risk.

"Writing Chapter One in Life’s Sequel," by Lindsay Cunningham (The Local). The Times’ Local project picked up a quirky, pseudonymous and rather sad new columnist. From her bio: Lindsay had “a great job, a good apartment in Fort Greene and a life in the fast lane of young Brooklyn. But then she lost her job and her boyfriend — and now she’s doing this column.”

In other news: All-you-can-eat buffets should not exist (according to econ), “extreme fear” is driving the market right now (according to CNN’s new “Fear & Greed” index), and $24 omelettes are fueling New York’s rich and powerful (according to this 27-slide “Power Breakfast” slideshow, which your friendly curator, God help her, clicked through in full.)

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!

Monday, May 21, 2012

What We’re Reading, 5/21/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. On our radar this drizzly Monday: Nasdaq, higher ed, and the economic benefits of a rocking music scene.

"Nasdaq’s Facebook Problem," by Jenny Strasburg, Jacob Bunge and Gina Chon (Wall Street Journal). I know, I know — we’re all sick of Facebook. But Nasdaq still has some explaining to do re: the embarrassing technical difficulties that held up Friday trading. The exchange may reimburse investors who lost money on glitchy trades. Still, Nasdaq says it’s not to blame for the stock’s lackluster performance. (As of this posting, shares have fallen below their $38 issue price.)

"Mitt Romney Could Best Obama in Fundraising," by Chris Cillizza (Washington Post). Both Romney and Obama raised around $40 million in April, meaning Romney’s campaign funds could eclipse the president’s. You know what they say: Money is power!

"The Battleground," by Alec MacGillis (New Republic). Fun fact: No Republican has won the White House without winning Ohio. This year, that critical swing state could also determine who’s in power on the Hill.

"College Graduates Enjoy Best Job Market in Years," by Michael Diamond (USA Today). Finally, some good news for grads! The unemployment rate is down, hiring is up, and college job fairs saw an attendance surge this spring. (To which this 2011 grad says — aren’t you lucky.)

"How Competition is Killing Higher Education," by Mark Taylor (Bloomberg). College rankings are meant to help students find the school that’s right for them. (We make some great college rankings ourselves.) But Taylor, a department chairman at Columbia and the author of a book on college reform, argues that universities big and small are trying hard to game the system — and ultimately, that it’s students who lose out.

"Jumping Through Hoops," by Michael Joseph Gross (Vanity Fair). Among the bills London must foot to host the 2012 Olympic Games: 40,000 hotel rooms, 250 miles of Olympic-dedicated traffic lanes, and 500 air-conditioned limousines (plus uniformed chauffeurs!). The price tag will top $14.5 billion, leading some to question whether it’s all worth it.

"How Apple and Microsoft Armed 4,000 Patent Warheads," by Robert McMillan (Wired). A team of engineers in Ottawa takes apart routers, smartphones and other consumer electronics, looking for proof of patent infringement. It sounds like a pretty fun job. Unfortunately, it could also stifle innovation and entrepreneurship elsewhere. 

"CEO Pay Moves with Corporate Results," by Scott Thurm (Wall Street Journal). That’s a shift from 2010, when CEO pay and share prices were not closely correlated.

"When a Music Scene Leads to a Boom," by Michael Seman (Atlantic Cities). A handful of good bands and a big-time music festival have changed the economic tune in Denton, Texas.

And in other news: headphones are the new office walls and no one really has any idea if coffee is good or bad for you.

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.)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

What We’re Reading, 5/10/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. What we perused over lunch: Mitt Romney’s (tortured?) past, the recession’s “true lessons,” and the mysterious case of a $14 Picasso. 

"Mitt Romney’s Prep School Classmates Recall Pranks, but Also Troubling Incidents," by Jason Horowitz (Washington Post). Remember that “young Obama” story that Vanity Fair dug up last week? Now Romney is having his own unpleasant blast-from-the-past moment. As a high schooler, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee led a number of “pranks” against fellow students and teachers, including an attack on a classmate the Post suggests was gay. Romney has since apologized.

"Obama Evolves on Gay Marriage," by Doyle McManus (LA Times). President Obama publicly affirmed his support for gay marriage on ABC News yesterday afternoon — a move that, unsurprisingly, has people from the right and the left riled up. Looming large among the criticisms: Why did Obama do it now? McManus has a few ideas.

"The True Lessons of the Recession," by Raghuram G. Rajan (Foreign Policy). According to Rajan, the slow economic recovery has less to do with austerity and stimulus and more to do with unsolved structural issues. “Governments need to address the underlying flaws in their economies,” he writes. “In the United States, that means educating or retraining the workers who are falling behind, encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation, and harnessing the power of the financial sector to do good while preventing it from going off track.”

"The Woman Who Lived in a Shed: How London Landlords Are Cashing In," by Amelia Gentleman (The Guardian). And your friendly curator thought her rent was steep — desperate renters in London pay as much as $566 a month to live in sheds, shanties and walk-in freezers.

"Scamworld: ‘Get Rich Quick’ Schemes Mutate Into an Online Monster," by Joseph Flatley (Verge). In the age of internet marketing, “get rich quick” scams have evolved way beyond the point of fruitless envelope-stuffing and fake work-at-home jobs. Now national syndicates trick their victims out of tens of thousands of dollars before disappearing into the digital ether.

And in other news: Loews CEO James Tisch sings The Supremes, Esquire.com’s style editor analyzes the hidden meanings of Mark Zuckerberg’s Wall Street wardrobe, and an Ohio man accidentally buys a Picasso print at a thrift shop — then resells it for $7,000.

Happy reading, Tumblers!

Friday, May 4, 2012

What We’re Reading, 5/4/12

Happy Friday, Tumblers! Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. On our agenda as the week wraps up: Job numbers, #Julia and J.P. Morgan coffee sleeves. 

"Economy Adds 115,000 Jobs in April; Unemployment Rate Drops to 8.1 Percent," by Peter Whoriskey (Washington Post). The latest jobs report is a bit of a bummer, to say the least — economic growth has slowed, and even the slight drop in unemployment has more to do with job-seekers giving up the search. For a quicker (and slightly snarky) summary, we direct you to the Billfold: “Everyone Still Needs Jobs.”

"Jobs Report Will Provide Fodder for Campaigns," by Laura Meckler and Sara Murray (Wall Street Journal). What the new numbers mean for Obama and Romney.

"Facebook Sets IPO Share Price at $28-35," by Matt Krantz (USA Today). At that price, the IPO will raise about $10.6 billion, or enough to make Facebook the fifth-largest IPO in U.S. history. The company, valued at $86 billion, is also the most valuable U.S. company to ever go public.

"More Americans Stashing Cash in Home Safes," by Charles Passy (Smart Money). Some safe manufacturers have announced sales jumps of more than 40 percent in the last few years. Writes Passy: “Experts say that many savers and investors feel a lingering sense of insecurity in their finances — a hard-to-shake fear borne out of the jolting recession and, at times, wobbly recovery — which is helping to spur the new safeguarding mentality.” 

"Conservatives Mock Obama’s ‘Julia,’" by Tim Mak (Politico). If you were anywhere near Twitter yesterday, you saw a barrage of tweets about some mysterious woman named #Julia. Said woman does not actually exist — she’s a graphic, meant to illustrate Obama’s policies — and many conservatives are not fond of her.

"This Is Why I Hate Big-Money Art Auctions," by Jerry Saltz (Vulture). New York mag’s chief art critic argues that auctions ruin art: “The bad magic here is that people can no longer see this work as a painting. Now people look at The Scream or Van Gogh’s Irises or a Picasso and see its new content: money.” 

And in other news: The Red Sox “sellout” streak is actually a sales tactic, Pepsi partnered with Michael Jackson’s estate to put his face on pop cans, and J.P. Morgan made Facebook coffee sleeves to celebrate the social network’s impending IPO.

Enjoy your Friday, 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.

Friday, April 27, 2012

What We’re Reading, 4/27/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. On our radar this fine Friday: GDP growth, Spain’s S&P downgrade, and the sales benefits of resurrecting deceased rappers.

"Economy in U.S. Grew Less than Forecast First Quarter," by Shobhana Chandra (Bloomberg). We, like most of the free world, are closely following the news that the U.S. economy grew only 2.2 percentage points in the first quarter — .8 percentage points less than the previous quarter, and .3 percentage points less than forecast. 

"The ‘Small’ Numbers on the Student Loan Interest Rate Hike," by Jason Delisle (Ed Money Watch). We’ve all heard the apocalyptic rhetoric on the student loan interest rate hike — or at least seen Obama “slow-jamming” about it on Jimmy Fallon. But Delisle looked into some of the numbers surrounding the rate hike, and the stakes actually look pretty low.

"Lehman Elite Stood to Get $700 Million," by Walter Hamilton, Andrew Tangel and Stuart Pfeifer (LA Times). Lehman Brothers paid its 50 top employees more than $700 million in the year before the firm’s collapse. (Think yearly salaries in the $15- to $50-million range.) The Times quotes one expert saying “many people are going to be stunned at how well some people were being paid.” Consider your friendly curator stunned. 

"Spain, S&P and the Austerity Growth Debate," by Peter Spiegel (Financial Times). The S&P downgraded Spain’s credit rating from A to Triple B Plus yesterday, putting it in the unhappy league of Italy and Ireland. Spiegel’s take: It’s a condemnation of austerity programs.

"The Competitiveness Crisis," by Uri Dadush (Foreign Policy). Must-read context on Europe’s ongoing economic woes, especially in light of Spain’s recent downgrade. Writes Dadush: “The real root of the euro crisis is the gap between Europe’s core and periphery — and it’s getting wider.”

"How to Get Food on Every Table," by Bjorn Lomborg (Slate). A new paper from the International Food Policy Research Institute proposes an economic solution to world hunger. Food production figures heavily.

"Twitter Becomes a Key Real-Time Tool for Campaigns," by Karen Tumulty (Washington Post). Twitter was around for the 2008 election, but Tumulty says it “came into its own” this election cycle, shaping the political debate in occasionally surprising ways. (#tumblr2016?)

And in other news: Everything you ever wanted to know about how they plan the menu at the White House Correspondents Dinner, that creepy Tupac hologram boosted his album sales, and Groupon’s young CEO said the company needs to grow up — immediately after apologizing for drinking too much beer. (“Is Andrew Mason to beer what Steve Jobs was to turtlenecks?” Jokes mag reporter Susannah Snider. “Only time will tell … “)

Happy reading, Tumblers!