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

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!

Friday, May 25, 2012

What We’re Reading, 5/25/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. On our minds this morning: beaches, barbecues, and the impending three-day weekend. (Er — make that oil prices, Tim Cook and really rich CEOs.)

"Gas Prices Moderately Lower as Driving Season Starts," by Clifford Krauss (New York Times). Some good news to get you in the Memorial Day mood: Gas prices are modestly lower now than they were a year ago, which should make traveling easier for all you weekend road-trippers. Even better, tensions with the Middle East have relaxed, making oil prices less volatile overall. Now for the bad news!

"New Signs of Global Slowdown," by Jon Hilsenrath and Joshua Mitchell (Wall Street Journal). A number of brow-furrowing economic reports dropped this week: U.S. business spending on long-term goods is down, business sentiment in Europe declined, manufacturing around the world dropped off and several international organizations cut their 2012 growth forecasts. “A new economic threat is emerging,” Hilsenrath and Mitchell explain, “… activity is slowing in sync around the globe and not just in a few markets with their own isolated problems.”

"J.P. Morgan Gave Risk Oversight to Museum Head Who Sat on AIG Board," by Dawn Kopecki and Max Abelson (Bloomberg). The guys who oversaw risk at J.P. Morgan are about as qualified for the job as your friendly curator — which is to say, not qualified at all. Of the three, none have worked at banks or as financial risk managers. Only one has Wall Street experience, and it is 25 years (!) out of date.

"Obama Stumbles Out of Gate," by Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei (Politico). The race to the 2012 election is a long one, and things that seem to matter now could fade by November. But there’s no ignoring the fact that President Obama is off to a slow start: Between sluggish fundraising and the Bain back-and-forth, he might lose the edge that Democrats expected.

"CSI: Housing Bust," by Beth Raymer (The Atlantic). While your friendly curator doubts that Digital Risk boasts the theme music and cheesy punchlines of a primetime crime show, the company’s work is pretty intriguing. Analysts there look for evidence of bust-era fraud — as in the case of a Las Vegas man who applied for 15 mortgages in a week, or a Michigan woman who refinanced her house five times in five years (and didn’t tell her lender she didn’t have a job).

"The Choice" (The Economist). While the “Grexit” was on everyone else’s minds, The Economist dreamt up another solution to Europe’s fiscal woes: a semi-federalist “superstate,” where countries rely on each other more than they do now. (What horrible portmanteau can we devise for this? The Euperstate, perhaps?) 

"How Tim Cook is Changing Apple," by Adam Lashinsky (Fortune). Apple’s new CEO worked in an Alabama paper mill, eats in the company cafeteria, and cares far more about investors than Steve Jobs did. 

Johns Hopkins Commencement Speech,” by Tim Geithner. Treasury Secretary Geithner talked economic recovery, Barack Obama and public image to graduates at the Nitze School. An excerpt: “If you are going to make a difference, especially in public life, you need to be willing to get close to the flame. You need to be willing to take risk and feel the heat … There was no precedent and no playbook available to any of us, other than the graveyard of mistakes from other crises. But we knew we had to act.”

And in other news: Jack White could teach econ 101, the FTC has its eyes on your POM, people rob banks to pay for dentures, and the country’s highest-paid CEO made — wait for it! — $137.2 million last year.

Happy reading, Tumblers!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What We’re Reading, 5/22/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. What we’re talking about for Tuesday: Facebook, the cult of Glass-Steagal, and what the Greek gods would think about their country’s present woes.

"As Facebook’s Stock Struggles, Fingers Start Pointing," by Michael de la Merced, Evelyn Rusli and Susanne Craig (New York Times). Facebook’s third day of trading is off to a rough start — so rough, in fact, that investors are agitating to know who’s to blame. The most likely candidate? Morgan Stanley, the IPO’s lead banker, though Nasdaq and Facebook are also taking some heat.

"Obama Keeps Bain in His Crosshairs," by Laura Meckler (Wall Street Journal). Speaking of heat, Obama continues to attack Romney’s private equity firm, Bain Capital, even as his allies condemn the attacks. Your friendly curator likes this tweet from Slate’s Matt Yglesias: “Bain debate is the perfect lazy pundit’s controversy, all affect with no policy content.” (We’re on the record as pro-private equity, in case you wondered.)

"Rivals Go to Lunch on J.P. Morgan’s Losses," by Gregory Zuckerman and Lisa Rappaport (Wall Street Journal). Someone’s enjoying Jamie Dimon’s downfall — and I don’t mean all the finance reporters fiendishly covering this beat. J.P. Morgan’s loss will benefit a dozen banks, including Bank of America and Goldman Sachs, to the tune of $500 million or $1 billion. 

"Reinstating an Old Rule is Not a Cure for Crisis," by Andrew Ross Sorkin (New York Times). Call it the cult of Glass-Steagal: Thousands of people, including Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, have idolized the Depression-era law they think could have stopped the financial crisis. Sorkin’s take? “The facts — basic facts — just aren’t that convenient.”

"Once Made in China: Jobs Trickle Back to U.S. Plants," by James Hagerty (Wall Street Journal). Outsourcing — what outsourcing? A number of manufacturers are finding they can make and sell goods more cheaply in the U.S. (But don’t celebrate yet. The impact on job creation has been minimal.)

"The Cost of College," by Nicholas Lemann (New Yorker). On the economics of American higher education, where too many schools compete for students, too much money is spent on failing programs, and — according to Lemann — too little tuition is charged at top schools.

"George Romney for President, 1968," by Benjamin Wallace-Wells (New York). We’ve already dug through the candidates’ pasts, dredged up their high school dramas, and examined their tax records, which leaves only … psychoanalysis! Wallace-Wells’ long read on George Romney’s failed presidential run examines not only the elder Romney and the ‘68 campaign, but how it might have impacted Mitt.

"Go Small: Why Washington Must Give Up the Illusion of a Grand Bargain," by David Gordon and Sean West (The Atlantic). The argument for small, practical compromises over wide-sweeping meetings of the mind.

"Boomers and Millennials: Who’s Got It Worse in the Workplace?" By Matthew Philips (Businessweek). Your friendly curator doesn’t want to spoil the big surprise, but let’s put it this way — some boomers still have pensions.

And in other news (there’s a lot today!): Video game consoles account for one percent of all energy use in the U.S., some Congress members are only slightly smarter than fifth graders, Mark Zuckerberg lost $2 billion on Facebook’s second day of trading, Fortune now has a “Fantasy Executive League,” for the really nerdy among us, and the Hairpin imagines how the Greek gods would react to that country’s current crisis.

Happy reading, Tumblers!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What We’re Reading, 5/9/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. On our agendas for this afternoon: moderate Republicans, CEOs, and unpaid interns.

"Moderate Republicans Fall Away in the Senate," by Nate Silver (New York TImes). In case you missed it, six-term Indiana Senator Dick Lugar was defeated by a Tea Party-backed challenger in primary elections yesterday. (He went on to write a fascinating 1400-word screed about partisanship.) The Times’ Nate Silver ran some numbers and found that Lugar’s race, while dramatic, is by no means unique: Moderate Republican Senators have an attrition rate of 78 (!) percent.

"CEOs: Don’t Raise Taxes on Dividends" (Politico). The CEOs of 18 major corporations — including UPS, Verizon and Xcel Energy — penned a Politico op-ed re: Obama’s proposed tax hike on dividends and capital gains. An excerpt: “Dividend-paying stocks offer investors a bright spot in a challenging financial marketplace … The threat of looming tax increases on dividends and capital gains could also increase volatility in the stock market this year.”

"Private Jobs Increase More with Democrats in the White House," by Bob Drummond (Bloomberg). If you believe Bloomberg’s latest analysis, almost two-thirds of private sector job growth occured under Democratic presidents over the past 50 years.

"Morgan Stanley’s Grimes Is Where Money and Tech Meet," by Evelyn M. Rusli (New York Times). Silicon Valley’s “banker of choice” wears leaf-print ties, knows computer science, and helps tech companies like LinkedIn, Groupon and Facebook go public.

"How to End This Depression," by Paul Krugman (New York Review of Books). Krugman goes long on austerity, stimulus and the “moral imperative” of getting people back to work. 

"Why College Football Should Be Banned," by Buzz Bissinger (Wall Street Journal). As if that Krugman essay weren’t controversial enough, Friday Night Lights author Buzz Bissinger is tackling the economic consequences of college football. “College football has no academic purpose. Which is why it needs to be banned,” he declares early on. “A radical solution, yes. But necessary in today’s times.” 

And in other news: Sacha Baron Cohen “endorsed” Mitt Romney, The Billfold weighs the cost of various summer blockbusters, and The Atlantic collects stories from unpaid interns.

Happy reading, Tumblers!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

What We’re Reading, 5/3/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. What we’re reading this Thursday (besides the latest jobless claims numbers, of course): Fed rebellions, crazy couponing, and why big brother’s watching you eat.

"Boom Time for the Going-Broke Industry," by Pietra Rivoli (New York Times). Someone has to care for those old factories and warehouses when business shuts down. Your friendly curator is reminded of a quote from the Muppet Christmas Carol: “One might say that December is foreclosure season. Harvest time for the money-lenders.”

"A Rebellion at the Federal Reserve?" By Matthew O’Brien (The Atlantic). ”Rebellion” seems too strong a word — we’re talking about bankers, after all — but Chicago Federal Reserve president Charles Evans has championed a number of controversial strategies for the Fed, like more monetary stimulus and greater inflation. “Evans doesn’t look the part of a heretic,” O’Brien writes. “But in the cozy, conservative club that is central banking, he certainly qualifies.”

"The 99 Percent Wakes Up," by Joseph Stiglitz (Daily Beast). What do Wall Street campers have in common with government-toppling movements in the Middle East? If you follow Stiglitz’s argument, both resulted from youth disillusionment — and reflect some kind of major generational epiphany.

"Honey, I Got a Year’s Worth of Tuna Fish," by Amanda Fortini (New York Times). “Coupon clipping as the key to economic rebirth.” Need I say more? (Well, yes: Here’s a clip from Extreme Couponing.)

"Wall Street Doesn’t Know How to Value Private Equity Firms," by Dan Primack (Fortune). Primack’s argument: Wall Price serially misprices private equity firms, and investors stand to benefit. 

"Your Favorite Restaurant’s Secret Ingredient: Data, and Lots of It," by Joe Ray (Wired). You’ve heard of data mining on Facebook and at retail stores. Now restaurants are getting into the data game as well, tracking each sale (“down to the last malbec, martini and red quinoa pilaf”) and using the numbers to sell more stuff.

And in other news: Edvard Munch’s "The Scream" cost $119.9 million, Ann Romney’s zany bird-print shirt cost $990, and Ben Bernanke’s beard is — well, priceless.

Happy reading, Tumblers! 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

What We’re Reading, 5/2/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. Our top picks for Wednesday: Fundraising, Wall Street, and love letters from Obama.

"Obama’s Not-So-Hot Date with Wall Street," by Nicholas Confessore (New York Times). By January 2008, Obama had raised $7 million from Wall Street. Fast-forward four years, and he raised only a fraction of that amount. Confessore quotes a top Romney bundler, talking about banks: “Most of them are scared stiff of the president … including the ones on our side.”

"Money, Power and Wall Street" (Frontline). The last part of PBS’ much-feted financial documentary aired yesterday, and all four episodes are now available online. If you’re not the documentary type, the accompanying timeline of the meltdown and the live chat on stopping it are also worth checking out.

"How Elite Colleges Still Feed Wall Street’s Recruiting Machine," by Laura Newland (New York Times). Newland graduated from Duke in 2010, landed a “coveted offer” on Wall Street, and walked away from it all — a response to a culture she calls “toxic.” Her reasoning: If we want Wall Street to change, students and universities have to change first.

"Is Gen Y’s Live-at-Home Lifestyle Killing the Housing Market?" By J. Maureen Henderson (Forbes). In a nutshell, yes — a phenomenon that plenty of outlets have written up before. But Henderson argues that greater cultural shifts among young people might also effect the market long-term: “If the housing industry is waiting for Millennials to get back on their financial feet and take their rightful place as America’s next generation of homeowners, they might be in for a surprise,” she writes.

"Becoming Obama," by David Maraniss (Vanity Fair). The Internet is abuzz with gossip from Obama’s youth — thanks largely to an ex-girlfriend, who surfaced all kinds of letters, poems and journal entries from his twenties. Your friendly curator hopes none of her exes are ever so inclined.

"Big Maconomics: How McDonald’s Explains the World," by Derek Thompson (The Atlantic). Lessons in innovation, currency valuation and marcoeconomics — courtesy everyone’s favorite late-night snack!

"IamA Nobel Prize-Winning Economist and New York Times Columnist," by Paul Krugman (Reddit). Krugman departed the Ivory Tower of his popular econ blog and treated the masses to a lengthy Reddit Q&A yesterday. Of note: His favorite “minor innovation” is the self-flushing toilet, which “has made life significantly less disgusting.” Times economic policy reporter Annie Lowrey also did a great Reddit session last month.

And in other news: Hillary Clinton shot down Jason Segel, some California college students have launched a hunger strike to protest rising costs, and some Occupy protesters planned to take their complaints all the way … to a series of Lower East Side nightclubs.

Happy reading, 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.

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?

Monday, April 23, 2012

What We’re Reading, 4/23/12

Good morning, Tumblrs! Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. What we read over the weekend: hidden problems at Lehman Brothers and Wal-Mart, universities as entrepreneurial hubs, and the many struggles of making $5 million a year.

"It’s Still the U.S. Economy, Stupid," by Ben White (Politico). Ignore the sideline debates on dogs, moms and Etch a Sketch. The deciding issue in the 2012 election will still be the economy, White argues — five economic issues specifically, like whether things are getting better and who connects with the middle class. (Our take on this: “5 Economic Issues that Will Drive the 2012 Presidential Election.”)

"The Case Against Lehman Brothers" (60 Minutes). We don’t usually link to TV transcripts, but this one is fascinating. Four years after the collapse of the world’s fourth-largest investment bank, no one has been held accountable — despite allegations that Lehman’s financial reports were unfair and misleading.

"Vast Mexico Bribery Case Hushed Up By Wal-Mart After Top-Level Struggle," by David Barstow (New York Times). Wal-Mart dominates the Mexican market, but it appears that the mega-chain didn’t win that position through low-priced goods and red-tagged “rollbacks.” A New York Times investigation revealed widespread bribery between Wal-Mart and Mexican officials, totaling more than $24 million. (Shares have dropped since this news surfaced over the weekend.)

"Romney’s Healthcare Plan May Be More Revolutionary than Obama’s," by Noam Levey (L.A. Times). Romney has made healthcare reform one of the hallmarks of his campaign. But Levey’s analysis suggests that “repealing and replacing Obamacare,” as Romney campaign posters tout, could actually prove more disruptive than Obamacare itself, introducing more risk for consumers and leaving a large number of adults uninsured.

"Get Rich U," by Ken Auletta (The New Yorker). Stanford’s focus on launching entrepreneurs has made a lot of students rich (and netted more than $1 billion for the university itself). But the university’s priorities and its close relationship with Silicon Valley speak to deeper issues about why students go to school and what education means in this economy.

"An Athlete and His Money Don’t Have to Part," by Noah Davis (GQ). Your friendly curator struggles to sympathize with the financial “woes” of pro athletes who can’t manage their multimillion-dollar salaries. Still, the second installment of GQ’s series on athletes and money proves an interesting read — if for the pie charts, alone.

"What Makes Some Cities Greener than Others?" By Richard Florida (Atlantic Cities). The Atlantic’s urban-economist-in-residence examines the correlations between high CO2 emissions and the economy. Hint: Bike lanes and granola types would seem to factor in.

In other news: Presidential eating habits are now a campaign issue (good thing Shake Shack opened last year), tax refunds shrunk in 2012, and a store in Brazil has added an electronic display of Facebook “likes”  to its hangers in an effort to drive Mother’s Day sales. 

What are you reading?