Thursday, April 12, 2012

What We’re Reading, 4/12/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. On our radar: foreclosure, factories, and the “income tax cocktail.”

"The Great American Foreclosure Story: The Struggle for Justice and a Place to Call Home," by Paul Kiel (ProPublica). Banks have foreclosed on more than 4 million homes since 2007 — and 6 million loans remain in danger of foreclosure. Kiel’s beautifully reported long-read on the foreclosure crisis is a poignant look at what homeownership means now.

"Mitt Romney is the New Al Gore," by Marin Cogan (GQ). No, he didn’t invent the Internet. But Romney and Gore both display what columnists the world over have called a certain robotic stiffness — a definite unfamiliarity “with human customs,” in the words of New York’s Dan Amira.

"Forget the Factories," by Matthew Yglesias (Slate). We noticed a lot of our fellow finance writers tweeting this one this morning — Yglesias claims that a return to American manufacturing, that distant dream touted by the Obama campaign, would actually make America poorer and less competitive in the global market.

"David Foster Wallace’s Tax Class," by Seth Colter Walls (The New Yorker). “ACCOUNTANTS ARE COWBOYS OF INFORMATION.” “PASSIVE a big word for IRS.” And other notes from DFW’s time in a tax class, researching The Pale King.

We’ll wrap with a trio of light-hearted tax news, since you have five days left to file. The ever-irreverent Awl has launched a personal finance blog, and it took tax questions yesterday. (We’re following said blog with great curiosity.) Good has a recipe for an income tax cocktail. (Appropriately, it sounds bitter.) And mag reporter Susannah Snider tells us that “safe drivers shouldn’t drink, text or think about filing taxes behind the wheel” — fatal accidents spike on tax day.

What are you reading today?

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.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

What We’re Reading, 4/4/12

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: Romney, income inequality and the so-called “war against youth.”

"Romney, Obama Get Ready to Rumble," by Jonathan Martin (Politico). Martin’s lede says it all: “It’s really, truly over,” he writes of the Republican primary battle that seems to have stretched on forever. Romney’s wins in Wisconsin, Maryland and D.C. last night effectively made him the nominee. 

"The Reckoning: Romney After Wisconsin," by John Cassidy (The New Yorker). The primary may effectively be over, but what happens next? “This is an interesting analysis of what the morning after is really looking like for the Romney campaign,” says Letter reporter Neema Roshania. Interesting and, dare we say, pretty down on Mitt.

"Income Inequality is Killing the Economy, Obama Says — Is He Wrong?" By Derek Thompson (The Atlantic). In a speech yesterday, Obama blamed income inequality for “drag[ging] down our entire economy.” Thompson handily rounds up the arguments on both sides.

"Paul Ryan Betrays His Own Views on Income Inequality," by Ezra Klein (The Washington Post). Speaking of income inequality, Rep. Paul Ryan’s recently passed budget plan proposes $5.3 trillion in budget cuts. But where are those cuts coming from — and what does that say about Ryan’s values? “Paul Ryan has been a champion of social mobility, but his budget plan encourages just the opposite,” says Kip’s social media maven Amanda Lilly. To quote Klein: “No millionaire’s child will find that Ryan’s budget ends her hopes of a college education. But plenty of lower-income children will.”

"We Need ‘Imported from Detroit 2.0,’" by David Kiley (The Huffington Post). We’ve all seen those gritty new Chrysler ads: the city scenes, the snowy sidewalks, the gleaming Chrysler cruising under a pro-Detroit voiceover. The ad campaign’s catchphrase — “imported from Detroit” — might say more than we think. “This is a nice exploration of Detroit’s complicated relationship with the car industry, written from a advertising perspective,” says digital director Doug Harbrecht. “Dave Kiley has covered both autos and advertising for decades.”

"Women Funding Women Opens the Door to Responsible Investing," by Alex Goldmark (Good). Here’s a novel take on socially responsible investing: Through the WIN-WIN initiative, women investors can fund women-owned businesses for as little as $20.

"The War Against Youth," by Stephen Marche (Esquire). Marche’s provocative essay breaks down the widening economic gap between the young and the old — and doesn’t shy away from assigning blame. Look no further than the sub-headline: “The recession didn’t gut the prospects of American young people. The Baby Boomers took care of that.”

"The Secret to Germany’s Low Youth Unemployment," by Eric Westervelt (NPR). Speaking of young people and prospects, maybe Marche would appreciate this approach: Germany’s medieval-style apprenticeship system has earned it the highest youth employment rate in Europe.

What are you reading today?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

What We’re Reading, 3/22/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round-up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. In our inboxes and on our iPads this morning: Student debt, North Dakota boom times, and a new name for everyone’s favorite brand of macaroni and cheese.

"Too Big to Fail: Student Debt Hits a Trillion," by Rohit Chopra (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau). Chopra calls it “sobering,” but we’ll call it staggering: A blog post by the CFPB’s student loan ombudsman claims that U.S. student debt tops $1 trillion — 16% higher than an estimate released by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York earlier this year.

"Mitt Romney’s Evangelical Problem," by Ryan Lizza (The New Yorker). Forget Romney’s Etch-a-Sketch drama — his real struggle is with evangelical voters, who have failed to embrace him in any contest thus far. This line from Lizza’s analysis is telling: “The single best predictor of whether Romney loses a state is the percentage of voters who describe themselves as evangelical.”

"How Far Would You Go for a Comeback?" By Ann Carrns (The New York Times). You may not have heard of Williston, North Dakota. But the town of 15,000, “ground zero in North Dakota’s petroleum explosion,” is attracting thousands of people who can’t find work elsewhere.

"The Nonprofit 1 Percent," by Steven Thrasher (The Village Voice). This week’s Voice cover story makes a surprising claim about salaries and excess at New York nonprofits: “In the nonprofit world, things don’t turn out to be so different than in places like Wall Street.”

"Kraft’s Top Lawyer Says Let’s Rename the Company ‘Mondelez,’" by Jim Edwards (Business Insider). Kraft’s apparently renaming its international division — with some interesting outcomes. “I don’t know what kind of weight Kraft’s name pulls in, say, Mexico or England, but you have to wonder at this decision,” jokes Kip reporter Susannah Snider. “At least they nixed ‘Tfark.’”

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!