Daily Digest - April 30: Canceling the Cable Monopolies

Apr 30, 2013Tim Price

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The Next Elizabeth Warren (TNR)

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The Next Elizabeth Warren (TNR)

If you've ever been annoyed by your Internet provider, return the favor by reading John Judis's profile of Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford, who's taking on the telecom giants and fighting to make high-speed Internet access as ubiquitous as electricity.

The United States of Sequestration (MoJo)

Timothy Murphy highlights how sequestration has affected all 50 states in the six weeks since its $85.4 billion in cuts began to kick in. From closed Head Start programs to furloughed workers, nothing brings the whole country together quite like terrible policy.

Sequestration 101: If a Budget Cut Doesn't Affect the Wealthy, Congress Won't Fix It (The Nation)

Bryce Covert argues that there's a reason flight delays consumed the media and Congress's attention while other cuts are ignored: policymakers actually listen to rich people's complaints, whereas everyone else sounds like one of Charlie Brown's teachers.

Meals On Wheels Sequestration Cuts Taking Effect (HuffPo)

Case in point: With Meals On Wheels set to deliver as many as 19 million fewer meals this year due to funding cuts, Arthur Delaney reports that some recipients are actually questioning whether it's worth feeding them if it means that others will go hungry.

Washington's Backward Retirement Policy: So Wrong, and Yet So Easy to Fix (The Atlantic)

James Kwak argues that there would be plenty of money to shore up Social Security's finances without cutting benefits if the government stopped giving it to people who don't need it (and don't particularly care if they get it) in the form of 401(k) and IRA subsidies.

Are Democrats Moving Away from "Debt Crisis" Rhetoric? (Prospect)

Jamelle Bouie writes that instead of offering voters a choice between lots of enthusiastic austerity and a little less regretful austerity, even moderate Democrats seem to be realizing that they're betting off drawing a clear distinction and emphasizing growth instead.

House Republicans Eyeing New Hostage Opportunity (NY Mag)

Jonathan Chait notes that Republicans are once again plotting to force a debt ceiling showdown, but instead of tying it to deficit reduction like last time, they're now demanding a version of tax reform that makes deficit reduction the only thing you can't do.

No Rich Child Left Behind (NYT)

Sean Reardon writes that while the racial achievement gap in education has been narrowing, the income-based achievement gap is widening as rich parents sink more resources into giving their little darlings that leg up that a trust fund alone can't provide.

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Daily Digest - April 29: The Fed Keeps Rolling That Rock Uphill

Apr 29, 2013Tim Price

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The great economic experiment of 2013: Ben Bernanke vs. austerity (WaPo)

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The great economic experiment of 2013: Ben Bernanke vs. austerity (WaPo)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal writes that U.S. economic policy has become a "punch me as hard as you can!" bar bet in which the Federal Reserve makes a big push to stimulate the recovery and lawmakers push back with spending cuts and tax hikes.

Latest GDP Report Shows U.S. Economy Still Waiting for Liftoff (Bloomberg View)

Matthew C. Klein notes that the last quarter's growth, which came in below expectations, was driven largely by personal consumption, which can't keep going unless people get more money, and stunted by austerity, which can evidently keep going no matter what.

The Story of Our Time (NYT)

With the austerity narrative looking shakier by the day, Paul Krugman offers a synopsis of the progressive alternative: the government isn't like a family that needs to tighten its belt; it's the spender of last resort that keeps your family from cutting off its circulation.

The Unluckiest Generation: What Will Become of Millennials? (The Atlantic)

Derek Thompson argues that while Millennials had the bad fortune to be born at precisely the right time to inherit an absolute economic mess when they came of age, they do at least have cheap food, clothing, and streaming video to help keep their spirits high.

Loans Borrowed Against Pensions Squeeze Retirees (NYT)

Older Americans aren't faring much better than the younger ones, as Jessica Silver-Greenberg reports that retirees lured in by the promise of "pension advances" sometimes wind up paying up to 106 percent interest and turning over their life insurance to lenders.

How to Lose the Sequestration Fight (TPM)

Brian Beutler argues that Congress's quick fix for flight delays isn't just bad policy because it gives special treatment to the rich; it's also bad strategy inasmuch as it proves Democrats don't actually have one for holding Republicans accountable for the sequester.

Everything Is Rigged: The Biggest Price-Fixing Scandal Ever (Rolling Stone)

Matt Taibbi notes that in addition to messing with Libor, the international interest rate benchmark, the big banks may also have manipulated ISDAfix, a benchmark for pricing interest-rate swaps, making it the bacon cheeseburger pizza burger of financial scandals.

How One Tweet Almost Broke US Financial Markets (MoJo)

Nick Baumann writes that after one hacked tweet about a White House bombing sent the stock market plunging, critics of high-frequency trading software have new concerns about SEC oversight and how these computers would react to some real bad news.

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Daily Digest - April 26: Who Needs Facts When You Have Money?

Apr 26, 2013Tim Price

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The 1 Percent's Solution (NYT)

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The 1 Percent's Solution (NYT)

Paul Krugman argues that the embarrassing collapse of austerity's intellectual justifications might not mean that austerity itself is over, since there isn't a lot of deep thought involved in wealthy elites tapping policymakers on the shoulder and saying, "Hey, do this."

Four ideas for fixing the long-term unemployment crisis (WaPo)

Brad Plumer writes that proposed solutions include job training, wage subsidies, direct hiring, and (in Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal's case) full employment, but like America's 4.7 million long-term unemployed, the current approach definitely isn't working.

Why Kids Still Can't Have It All (Prospect)

Monica Potts notes that working families are struggling as states cut back on child-care subsidies, and sequestration is adding to the pain with cuts to programs like Head Start. Soon even high-powered moms may not be able to afford a stylish leather tote for their kids.

Senate Democrats' Shameful Cave on Flight Delays (TNR)

Noam Scheiber calls out Congress for predictably scrambling to fix one part of the sequester that has proven mildly irritating to business travelers when the best they can muster in response to, let's say, a series of horrific shooting sprees is a resigned shrug.

Banks Continue to Scaremonger Over Nonexistent Down Payment Requirements (MoJo)

Kevin Drum writes that, contrary to banks' claims that their hands are tied by new Dodd-Frank rules, they're still allowed to issue any kind of loans they want. But if they wind up with a pile of garbage, they can't just dump it all on someone else's lawn and run away.

Big Banks' Tall Tales (Project Syndicate)

Simon Johnson examines the two competing narratives that dominate the debate around financial reform: The first one, preferred by bankers, is that we've already had all the reform we need and all is well. The other story, about the ongoing threat of TBTF, is nonfiction.

Texas Explosion: Gov't Shared Info for Anti-Terrorism, But Not Workplace Safety (In These Times)

Mike Elk notes that Americans are 270 times more likely to die in a workplace accident than from terrorism, but Homeland Security's budget is 84 times the size of OSHA's. Luckily, the phone call that could have prevented the fertilizer plant explosion is pretty cheap.

Congressman Finally Takes Action to Remove Needless Requirement Bankrupting the Postal Service (Think Progress)

Annie-Rose Strasser writes that Rep. Peter DeFazio has introduced a bill that would authorize the USPS to stop hitting itself and end the requirement that it pre-fund 75 years' worth of retirement benefits so it can actually pay its employees to keep working instead.

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Daily Digest - April 25: A Lonely Place to Testify

Apr 25, 2013Tim Price

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The Poorly Attended Hearing on One of the Economy's Toughest Problems (National Journal)

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The Poorly Attended Hearing on One of the Economy's Toughest Problems (National Journal)

If there's a congressional panel on long-term unemployment and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Niraj Chokshi writes that the Joint Economic Committee might have discovered the answer yesterday if not for Amy Klobuchar's presence.

Possible Fed Successor Has Admirers and Foes (NYT)

Binyamin Appelbaum profiles Janet Yellen, a likely candidate for Fed chair when Ben Bernanke finally departs from the Grey Havens, who's made enemies among the GOP by suggesting that a little inflation might go a long way toward helping the economy.

Banking Regulation: Closed for Business (Prospect)

David Dayen writes that while Senators Brown and Vitter have just introduced a bipartisan plan to end "too big to fail," Treasury officials insist they needn't have bothered, since that's all been fixed already. No, really, it has. Why are you giving them that look?

The Immigration Bill's Forced-Labor Problem (MoJo)

Adam Serwer notes that in the midst of a heated debate about whether to give undocumented immigrants a path to become full citizens, a more difficult question may be how to ensure that the guest workers who are here legally are treated like full human beings.

Study: There may not be a shortage of American STEM graduates after all (WaPo)

Jia Lynn Yang highlights a study from EPI which finds that America's dilemma isn't really that it has too small a pool of available workers who know how to fix a computer or do a math problem, but that it doesn't have a whole lot of work for many of them to do.

Why Obama's Stealth Social Security Cut Is Bigger Than It Seems (TPM)

Brian Beutler flags a CBO report on Chained CPI which shows that while standard criticisms apply, it hits seniors particularly hard if you account for the fact that they don't have the same spending habits as their grandkids (as any gift-giving occasion will reveal).

Obama Administration Is Right to Hold Fliers Hostage (Bloomberg)

Josh Barro argues that despite all the moaning about how across-the-board furloughs have delayed flights, the White House should keep critics grounded until a comprehensive sequester fix is in place. There's no such thing as first class in economic policy.

The Preferences of the Wealthy and Their Role in Our Politics (On the Economy)

Jared Bernstein writes that until we stem the flow of money in politics, deciding what goals we want to achieve as a society will take a backseat to another question: what do the millionaires think? And the answer is usually, "we should cut social spending."

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Daily Digest - April 24: The Terrible Twitter Traders

Apr 24, 2013Tim Price

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Austerity doctrine is exposed as flimflam (WaPo)

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Austerity doctrine is exposed as flimflam (WaPo)

Katrina vanden Heuvel isn't expecting an apology from the austerians who have pushed destructive policies based on bad information, but if they'd go stand in a corner and think about what they've done, at least it would get them out of the way while we fix it.

Make Wall Street Choose: Go Small or Go Home (NYT)

Senators Sherrod Brown and David Vitter introduce their new bipartisan plan to end "too big to fail" by raising capital requirements so the largest banks must either play it safe or break into smaller pieces, which can then feel free to fail to their heart's content.

False White House tweet exposes instant trading dangers (Reuters)

Steven C. Johnson writes that when the hacked AP Twitter account announced that President Obama had been injured in an explosion, the only real damage done was to the stock market. Choose your hashtags carefully; the global economy may depend on it.

Financial Regulators To Warn About Student Debt Risks (HuffPo)

Shahien Nasiripour notes that the Financial Stability Oversight Council will warn that America's $1 trillion student debt burden poses a real threat to economic growth in its latest annual report, entitled "Here Are Some Things You Probably Already Figured Out."

Wyden in line for coveted Finance gavel (The Hill)

Max Baucus's decision to retire after next year leaves the chairmanship of the Senate Finance Committee up for grabs, but if Democrats manage to hold the Senate, it could go to Ron Wyden, who's acquired a dangerous reputation for working with people on things.

The Texas fertilizer plant explosion cannot be forgotten (WaPo)

Mike Elk argues that while the Boston bombings have absorbed the media's attention, the explosion of a Texas factory that killed 14 people and injured 160 tells an important story about workplace safety and lax regulation. If we're lucky, we'll get to hear it one day.

Fast food walkout planned in Chicago (Salon)

Josh Eidelson reports that 500 fast food and retail workers in the Windy City have walked off the job, hot on the heels of a similar strike in New York. They're demanding higher wages and union representation, and maybe some functioning drive-through speakers.

S.E.C. Gets Plea: Force Companies to Disclose Donations (NYT)

Nicholas Confessore writes that the SEC is under pressure to issue rules that would require publicly traded corporations to reveal their political contributions, though Republicans argue this would infringe on free speech rights that apparently only companies have.

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Daily Digest - April 23: The Deficit Crisis That Forgot to Happen

Apr 23, 2013Tim Price

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The Incredible Shrinking Budget Deficit (NYT)

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The Incredible Shrinking Budget Deficit (NYT)

Annie Lowrey notes that Goldman Sachs economists predict the deficit will shrink dramatically due to lower spending and higher revenues. Pop the champagne and kiss your sweetheart; our long national nightmare is over. Now about that economic growth...

Getting Back to Full Employment (On the Economy)

Moving back to the list of things real people worry about, Jared Bernstein writes that jobs are still priority one, and if the private sector isn't supplying enough of them on its own, we could try pulling the dropcloth off the federal government and firing it up again.

The Grad Student Who Took Down Reinhart and Rogoff Explains Why They're Fundamentally Wrong (Business Insider)

Thomas Herndon, co-author of the paper that exposed the flaws in Reinhart-Rogoff, explains that he isn't suggesting the economists intentionally skewed the data that screwed up their findings, but that doesn't mean their findings aren't seriously screwed up.

Who Is Defending Austerity Now? (The Atlantic)

Matthew O'Brien writes that while actual austerity policies have brought nothing but disaster in places like the U.K. and southern Europe, support for them has really begun to fade now that you can't wave a paper in someone's face to show they work In Theory.

Immigration Raises Incomes in America (Slate)

Matthew Yglesias notes that it's so difficult to show that increased immigration would hurt the economy that even staunch opponents now claim the problem is that most of the benefits would go to immigrants. Which is a problem, if you don't like immigrants.

Abenomics Will Boost Japan's Economy By Helping Its Women Workers (Think Progress)

Bryce Covert writes that Japanese PM Shinzo Abe's aggressive new approach to economic stimulus includes making use of one of the country's untapped natural resources: namely, the half of its population that's almost nowhere to be found in its executive suites.

A Day Without Care (Jacobin)

Sarah Jaffe writes that the kind of flexible work that was supposed to help women now requires them to be contortionists, and women in care work find it difficult to strike for higher wages. But shortening the work week may be an answer everyone can get behind.

Panel Blocks CFPB's Chief (WSJ)

Alan Zibel reports that Jeb Hensarling, chair of the House Financial Services Committee, refuses to let Richard Cordray testify because of his recess appointment, which is slightly more mature than interrupting him with "What? Who's there? Is someone speaking?"

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Daily Digest - April 22: Economists Are Only as Good as Their Data

Apr 22, 2013Tim Price

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Reinhart/Rogoff-gate isn't the first time austerians have used bad data (WaPo)

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Reinhart/Rogoff-gate isn't the first time austerians have used bad data (WaPo)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal notes an odd contradiction: Keynesians who favor more government intervention rely on market data, while austerians favor data from government sources they otherwise wouldn't trust to tell them the time of day.

Meet the 28-Year-Old Grad Student Who Just Shook the Global Austerity Movement (NY Mag)

Kevin Roose interviews Thomas Herndon, who co-authored a paper that undermined one of the key arguments for austerity and toppled two of the biggest names in economics, setting a high bar for the rest of the papers he has due in the spring semester.

The Rogoff-Reinhart data scandal reminds us economists aren't gods (Guardian)

Heidi Moore writes that while we might wish economists were offering us the secret wisdom of the ages, the truth is they're mortals prone to mistakes and often have almost as little idea what they're talking about as the policymakers who flog their research.

The Jobless Trap (NYT)

Paul Krugman argues that in contrast to FDR's declaration that we had nothing to fear but fear itself, a little more fear about the consequences of long-term mass unemployment would make for a nice change of pace from the current devil-may-care approach.

Only the Apocalypse Will Stop Simpson and Bowles (Businessweek)

The sun is shining, the tulips are blooming, and there's another Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan to help us mark the passing of the seasons. Joshua Green writes that this version is a lot like the others, especially insofar as Congress is likely to ignore it.

Fitch Downgrades Britain. No One Cares. (Bloomberg View)

Joshua Barro notes that the U.K.'s credit rating downgrade is an easy target for critics of its austerity policies, but like the U.S. downgrade, it's having little effect on investors, who already have firm opinions about whether the country will continue to exist.

This Week in Poverty: Ignoring Homeless Families (The Nation)

Greg Kaufmann looks at The American Almanac of Family Homelessness, which shows that while single adult homelessness is down, family homelessness is rising, and the policy response has been to treat them like single adults with a slightly bigger appetite.

The Underground Recovery (New Yorker)

James Surowiecki notes that a recent study shows as much as $2 trillion may be changing hands under the table due to factors ranging from the changing nature of work to old-fashioned anti-government paranoia, offsetting some pain from the weak economy.

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Daily Digest - April 19: Austerity's Excel-lent Excuse

Apr 19, 2013Tim Price

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The Excel Depression (NYT)

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The Excel Depression (NYT)

Paul Krugman writes that Reinhart-Rogoff became the sacred text of the austerity movement, but they've been exposed as false prophets. Now policymakers will need to find some other thinly veiled excuse to keep doing what they were going to do anyway.

Let Cities Build Better Internet-Access Networks (Bloomberg)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford notes that Georgia voted down a bill that would have blocked cities from investing in access, and it could be a turning point in the effort to stop state legislators from acting as paid freelancers for AT&T and Time Warner.

The Debt We Shouldn't Pay (NYRB)

Robert Kuttner argues that debates over public debt have become a sideshow distracting from the privately held debt that actually triggered the Great Recession, as if someone shouted, "Hey, look over there!" and we all proceeded to stare at nothing for four years.

Did underwater mortgages kill the economy? (WaPo)

Housing may finally be bouncing back (though if you had a dime for every time someone's said that, you could buy a house), but Zachary Goldfarb highlights research that shows the biggest problem may have been household debt, not just falling home prices.

The Fed's Foreclosure-Relief Fail (Prospect)

David Dayen explores the strange odyssey of Debbie Marler, a woman who was kicked out of her home, foreclosed on twice more for good measure, asked to pay upkeep on the property she no longer lived in, and received a whopping $800 for her troubles.

This Is the Reality of Austerity: Greek Children Are Starving (The Atlantic)

When critics say austerity is taking food out of people's mouths, they're not speaking metaphorically. Derek Thompson flags a report of children going hungry and families burning furniture for warmth as Greece pays the price for being a member of the EU.

Kansas Passes Law to Drug-Test Welfare and Unemployment Recipients (Think Progress)

What's the matter with Kansas? If you believe Republican Governor Sam Brownback, it's that everyone's been getting high instead of working. Nicole Flatow notes that Kansas just became the ninth state to require drug tests for recipients of public benefits. 

Costly and Wrong: Background Checks for Social Services in North Carolina (Policy Shop)

Ilana Novick writes that North Carolina's legislature approved background checks for recipients of food stamps, but there's no such scrutiny for richer citizens who receive government grants. ("Are you now or have you ever been a member of a yacht club?")

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Daily Digest - April 18: United We Stand, Except When We Don't

Apr 18, 2013Tim Price

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The Dis-Uniting of America (Robert Reich)

Reich writes that while Americans still demonstrate their ability to come together and help one another when a sudden tragedy strikes, as it did in Boston, prolonged economic misery and soaring childhood poverty don't seem to set off the same alarm bells for us.

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The Dis-Uniting of America (Robert Reich)

Reich writes that while Americans still demonstrate their ability to come together and help one another when a sudden tragedy strikes, as it did in Boston, prolonged economic misery and soaring childhood poverty don't seem to set off the same alarm bells for us.

Are the Good Jobs Gone? (NYT)

Thomas Edsall reviews the debate about whether government policy can bring back disappearing middle-class jobs and argues that while President Obama may not have a New Deal in him, he might at least be able get the wheels of progress unstuck from the mud.

Is the successor to manufacturing jobs... manufacturing? (WaPo)

Jim Tankersley notes that the Obama administration is launching a small pilot program to provide grants to communities that develop a strategy for creating a local manufacturing renaissance. Suggested program title: the We've Got Nothing, But Maybe You Do? Fund.

Republicans Accuse Labor Nominee of Fighting for Civil Rights (CAF)

Dave Johnson looks at the GOP's effort to sink Thomas Perez's nomination by exposing the dark secrets of his time with the Justice Department, like how he tried to avoid giving the Roberts Court an excuse to strike down civil rights laws with a Slumlords United case.

Why Republicans Suddenly Became Afraid of Their Own Budget Shadow (TPM)

Brian Beutler notes that Republicans spent four years demanding that Senate Democrats produce a budget, but now that they got what they asked for, they're reluctant to move forward with the process until they're sure they won't have to accept anything in it.

Regulatory Rockstar (TNR)

Elizabeth Warren may be new to the Senate, but she's not your typical back-bencher. Jeff Connaughton writes that by using her seat on the Senate Banking Committee to subject hapless regulators to ritual flaying, she may just scare them into doing their jobs.

Foreclosure Settlement Checks Bounce in Latest Setback for Troubled Program (HuffPo)

As if it weren't embarrassing enough that the average payout for a wrongful foreclosure is roughly $20 and a coupon for half off your next purchase at Target, Ben Hallman notes that some of the first recipients weren't even able to cash the checks they received.

Forever Blowing Bubbles (ProPublica)

Jesse Eisinger writes that despite the Fed's efforts to jumpstart the economy with extraordinary monetary policy, those efforts don't seem to be helping the average American as much as they're encouraging speculators to drop some money on the roulette wheel.

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Daily Digest - April 17: The World's Most Dangerous Spreadsheet

Apr 17, 2013Tim Price

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The Great Debt Delusion: How Math Keeps Proving Austerity Wrong (The Atlantic)

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The Great Debt Delusion: How Math Keeps Proving Austerity Wrong (The Atlantic)

When will deficit hawks learn to Konczal-proof their research? First there was the Alesina-Ardagna paper. Roosevelt Fellows Mike Konczal and Arjun Jayadev poked holes in that one. Then Reinhart-Rogoff became the new holy grail. See how well that worked out?

How influential was the Rogoff-Reinhart study warning that high debt kills growth? (Quartz)

Tim Fernholz notes that Reinhart-Rogoff was the little Excel error that could. Cited by everyone from Paul Ryan to Tim Geithner, it's shaped the economic debate in the U.S. and Europe. With a result that useful, who has time to worry about "data" or "methods"?

How the IMF became the friend who wants us to work less and drink more (WaPo)

Neil Irwin writes that while the International Monetary Fund has traditionally played the heavy when it comes to advocating "tough" fiscal measures, policy's gone so far off the rails that it's been forced to step in and suggest countries ease up on the self-flagellation.

At Least the Big Banks Are Kickin' It... (On the Economy)

Jared Bernstein notes that banks like Goldman Sachs are adjusting well to increased regulation, as their multibillion-dollar quarterly profits would attest. But Main Street's not getting totally left behind: weekly earnings for middle-wage workers jumped 0.1 percent!

Big Corporations Won't Be Sweating the IRS This Year (MoJo)

Stephanie Mencimer writes that although corporations have faced increased public scrutiny for their tax-dodging, cutbacks at the IRS mean there will be 18 percent less effort devoted to auditing them. Time to get those creative juices flowing, accounting teams.

Taking the 'service' out of the service sector (WaPo)

Harold Meyerson writes that the experience of companies like J.C. Penney, Wal-Mart, and McDonalds, which have tried to boost profits by cutting staff and holding down wages, suggests that miserable workers don't leave customers whistling a happy tune.

How student debt is holding back the housing market (Think Progress)

Bryce Covert writes that college grads who might have once dreamed of setting out and buying their own homes have been forced to scale back their ambitions to perhaps buying their own futons, decreasing demand for construction of single-family homes.

The Hell of American Day Care (TNR)

Jonathan Cohn looks at the state of America's formal child care system, such as it is: unsafe, unregulated, unavailable or prohibitively expensive to many, but also the only option many working parents have until policymakers notice that it's no longer 1953.

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