Daily Digest - March 8: There's No Rabbit in the GOP's Hat

Mar 8, 2013Tim Price

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A Republican Magic Trick (Harper's)

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A Republican Magic Trick (Harper's)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Jeff Madrick argues that deficit hawks have mastered the art of distraction -- but when they start pointing to shiny objects like the CBO's dubious 20-year budget forecasts, you should check to make sure you still have your wallet.

The Market Speaks (NYT)

Paul Krugman writes that conservatives have predicted the market would visit a swift and terrible justice on the unbelievers for years now, but with the Dow soaring despite their prophecies of doom, it looks like they're rather poor interpreters of their chosen oracle.

What We Have Here Is a Failure to Communicate. Sort Of. (Prospect)

Paul Waldman notes that while partisans on both sides often assume their opponents are clueless, it turns out congressional Republicans really don't have any idea what's going on with the budget debate unless the president personally explains it in small words.

Wireless Competition That AT&T and Verizon Need (Bloomberg)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford looks at how the FCC's free Wi-Fi proposal challenges duopoly control over the wireless spectrum and how we could do more to ensure that getting a good signal on your mobile device doesn't require you to be immobile.

We've Moved Backward in Closing the Gender Wage Gap (Forbes)

NND Editor Bryce Covert highlights a new study that shows the gender wage gap in the U.S. actually increased in 2012, a reversal that comes on the heels of a broader stagnation in gains made over the last two decades. P.S. Happy International Women's Day!

No, the United States Will Never, Ever Turn Into Greece (The Atlantic)

Pundits often claim the U.S. is "becoming Greece" and that failure to rein in the national debt will smash our economy to pieces like plates at a wedding ceremony, but Matthew O'Brien argues there's no proven risk for countries that control their own currency.

Higher and Higher Ed (TNR)

Timothy Noah notes that President Obama has floated the idea of withholding federal aid to impose cost controls on college tuition, but in American politics, having the backing of the president and a generation of college students doesn't count as a constituency.

Who are Democrats and Republicans Representing, Anyway? (Salon)

David Sirota flags a study that shows both Republicans and Democrats overestimate how conservative their constituents are, which illustrates the danger of electing elites who figure they can just imagine what voters think instead of deigning to speak to them.

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Daily Digest - March 7: To Be Continued?

Mar 7, 2013Tim Price

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A way out of our budget wars (WaPo)

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A way out of our budget wars (WaPo)

Now that the House has passed a continuing resolution to fund the government, E.J. Dionne writes that President Obama is looking to strike a broader deal with Senate Republicans in the hope that even they are tired of hearing themselves moan about the budget.

What Young Republicans Want: Government as a Force for Good (NYT)

Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network director Taylor Jo Isenberg writes that with research (including our own new report) showing Millennials support an active government, the GOP should stop trying to sit them on their knees and tell them about the road to serfdom.

Expand Social Security (USA Today)

Duncan Black argues that Social Security has come to serve as the last crutch for retirees instead of being one leg of a "three-legged stool," and if they haven't saved enough in their working lives, they don't get to declare their lesson learned and request a do-over.

The War on Entitlements (NYT)

Thomas Edsall notes the clear divide between what the general public wants to do about Social Security and Medicare (make the people with all the money pay more for them) and what those with influence want to do (turn them into Welfare: Large-Print Edition).

Infographic: How Universal Preschool Is an Economic Boon to Working Mothers (The Nation)

NND Editor Bryce Covert writes that amid all the talk about how universal pre-K could benefit children, there's been less attention paid to how it would help mothers, who, outside of magazine covers, can't just stuff their kids in their purse and get on with their day.

With Positions to Fill, Employers Wait for Perfection (NYT)

Catherine Rampell reports that despite an abundance of openings and applicants, employers are still only window-shopping for new hires due to fear the economy will contract again. But remember, interviewees: you only get one chance to make a sixth impression.

Wealth inequality will keep growing unless workers demand better (Guardian)

Mark Price argues there's no excuse for the growing disparity between high- and low-earners or the disconnect between productivity and wages, but unless workers organize for change, there's no solution that policymakers don't have a vested interest in ignoring.

Holder: Big banks' size complicates prosecution efforts (The Hill)

Testifying before Congress, AG Eric Holder admitted that "too big to jail" is more than just a convenient rhyme for headline writers: he worries that some financial institutions have become so big that prosecuting them would be like pulling the pin from a grenade.

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Daily Digest - March 6: Dow or Don't

Mar 6, 2013Tim Price

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Why There's a Bull Market for Stocks and Bear Market for Workers (Robert Reich)

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Why There's a Bull Market for Stocks and Bear Market for Workers (Robert Reich)

Reich notes that while giddy market analysts treated yesterday's Dow gains as a sign that happy days are here again, an economy's health is measured by the well-being of its flesh-and-blood people, not the corporate pod-people who are currently rolling in money.

The GOP Budget Divide: Don't Know vs. Don't Care (NY Mag)

Jonathan Chait writes that Republicans have decided to either pretend they don't know what President Obama is offering or deliberately avoid finding out, since exposure to heavy doses of reality has been proven to have harmful side-effects for their arguments. 

Paul Ryan Ups the Ante (TNR)

Jonathan Cohn writes that Ryan's plans to further gouge spending with once off-limits Medicare cuts show the GOP's not looking for a middle ground. There's where we are now and a point way off on the right that will one day be considered a leftist compromise.

Fear and the New Deal (Prospect)

Scott Lemieux writes that Ira Katznelson's Fear Itself, an account of how Southern Democrats shaped the New Deal, serves as a reminder of the political constraints that even FDR had to face, not a "gotcha" that proves the last 70 years of progress didn't count.

It's time to tax financial transactions (WaPo)

Katrina vanden Heuvel argues that instead of slashing basic government services through sequestration, we could be raising billions by taxing Wall Street's excess. If they even notice the money missing, they'll probably just assume they should be hushing it up.

To serve and protect... banks? (Salon)

David Dayen notes that there's clear evidence that banks have repeatedly broken the law by foreclosing on active duty service members serving overseas, but despite the criminal penalties in place, jail cells remain as empty as the service members' former homes.

He Who Makes the Rules (Washington Monthly)

Haley Sweetland Edwards looks at how the implementation of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law has become less of an exercise in rule-making and more of an elaborate brain-teaser for industry lawyers hired to make words mean the opposite of what they say.

GOP Senator Suggests New Way for Republicans to Gum Up Wall Street Reform (Think Progress)

Travis Waldron notes that Richard Shelby, a top Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, wants to submit all new financial regulations to a cost-benefit analysis. You know, just on the off-chance that any of them cost more than the $22 trillion financial crisis.

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Daily Digest - March 5: Giving the Budget 40 Whacks

Mar 5, 2013Tim Price

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The Sequester's Hidden Danger (NYRB)

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The Sequester's Hidden Danger (NYRB)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Jeff Madrick argues the real danger of the sequester isn't the cuts themselves but the dangerous mindset of austerity advocates who see the lemmings rushing off the cliff in Europe and think, "Oooh, I wonder what's down there."

Charity Case (Washington Monthly)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Georgia Levenson Keohane looks at how donors and taxpayers get fleeced for $40 billion a year to prop up failing nonprofits that can only charitably be referred to as charities, no matter how much their directors enjoy the resulting trip to Vegas.

Controversial activist takes on the telecom industry (WaPo)

Cecilia Kang talks to Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford about her new book, Captive Audience, and why our cable and cell phone bills are too damn high. (Hint: If telecom giants like Comcast don't face any competition, who's going to lower them?)

As Automatic Budget Cuts Go Into Effect, Poor May Be Hit Particularly Hard (NYT)

Annie Lowrey notes that even with programs like CHIP and TANF protected from sequestration, there are still billions of dollars of cuts slated for programs that help needy families. On the plus side, once their aid is cut off, Republicans might finally admit they're poor.

Regulators and Prosecutors Gird for Sequester Cuts (Compliance Week)

Joe Mont warns that while the Fed, FDIC, and OCC have been spared, regulators like the SEC, CFPB, and CFTC aren't so lucky, meaning the full implementation of financial reform rules will be delayed. No hurry; the global economy will just be over there waiting.

Republican goal to balance budget could mean deep cuts to health programs (WaPo)

Lori Montgomery reports that with budgetary blood already in the water, the House GOP may soon go into a full-on feeding frenzy: Paul Ryan is drafting a plan to balance the budget within 10 years by cutting into Medicare benefits -- even for the over-55 untouchables.

Nothing New Under the Wingnut Sun: Reckless Spending Cuts (The Nation)

Rick Perlstein writes that while President Obama may have thought the sequester beyond the pale even for the GOP, conservative icons like Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan have shown that when handed an axe, they will go full Lizzie Borden on the budget.

The Maximum Impact of the Minimum Wage (Prospect)

Harold Meyerson takes on Christina Romer's claim that raising the minimum wage is a half-measure compared to raising the EITC and instituting universal pre-K, because as we know, most major vendors accept cash, credit, or your kids' education as payment.

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Daily Digest - March 4: One Nation Under Sequestration

Mar 4, 2013Tim Price

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Does Dodd-Frank really end 'too big to fail'? (WaPo)

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Does Dodd-Frank really end 'too big to fail'? (WaPo)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal examines the three biggest ongoing debates surrounding the financial reform law and whether it has really changed the system enough to keep it from blowing up in our faces or simply lengthened the fuse a bit.

Just Because the World Didn't End Doesn't Mean That Sequestration Isn't Scary (TNR)

Jonathan Cohn notes that the design of the law and agency management will ensure that the full extent of sequestration isn't felt all at once, but it's still the economic equivalent of that scene where the cowboy gets shot, walks five paces, and then falls over.

Sequester Real Talk: The 3 Dumbest Things About This Truly Dumb Law (The Atlantic)

Derek Thompson highlights three major issues with sequestration, like how it's an intentionally bad solution to a problem we don't have and how Responsible Centrists have decided it's all Obama's fault for not riding to the rescue on his golden pegasus.

Stop the Madness (Prospect)

Paul Waldman writes that Congress can't have a constructive budget negotiation until Republicans agree to lay down their weapons, including the sequester, shutdown threats, and the debt ceiling. What are they supposed to do then? Just talk about stuff?

Recovery in U.S. Lifting Profits, Not Adding Jobs (NYT)

Nelson Schwartz reports that while corporate profits and stock prices are soaring, lifting the Dow Jones to near record highs, workers aren't seeing wage increases to match -- especially with several million people eager to take their place at a moment's notice.

American Conservatism's Crisis of Ideas (Project Syndicate)

Brad DeLong warns that conservatives are going to have an uphill battle winning converts to their cause as long as they continue to push the message that the worst thing government can do is create an easier, more secure, and comfortable life for them.

Mooching Off Medicaid (NYT)

Paul Krugman argues that Rick Scott gave away the game by accepting Obamacare's Medicaid expansion on the condition that it be run by private insurers, suggesting that the real debate isn't how much we should spend but whose palms we should grease.

This Week in Poverty: Gangnam-Style Counting With Senator Jeff Sessions (The Nation)

Greg Kaufmann analyzes a thought-provoking new report from conservative firebrand Jeff Sessions, which purports to show that poor people in America actually make more money than the middle class if you just add random numbers to the aid they receive.

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Daily Digest - March 1: Austerity Strikes at Midnight

Feb 28, 2013Tim Price

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The Sequester and the Tea Party Plot (Robert Reich)

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The Sequester and the Tea Party Plot (Robert Reich)

Reich writes that the sequester is a product of the grander plans of radical Tea Party-ing conservatives who seek to breed fear, anger, and hate in order to win converts to their cause -- which also happens to have been the Emperor's strategy in Star Wars.

We're headed for the sequester -- but it won't even do much to reduce the deficit. (WaPo)

Jamelle Bouie notes that some are trying to find a silver lining to sequestration, arguing that these may not be the cuts we want, but at least they're cuts, which help shrink the deficit! Except when they slow the economy and shrink revenue instead. Oh well.

Ben Bernanke, Hippie (NYT)

Paul Krugman argues that opposition to austerity is now treated with the same kind of incredulity and suspicion as opposition to the Iraq War once was, but in his congressional testimony this week, the Fed chairman reeked with the patchouli oil of dissent.

Will a Government Shutdown Threat Determine the Winner of the Sequestration Fight? (TPM)

What's better than sequestration? How about sequestration plus the expiration of the continuing resolution that funds the government, resulting in another knock-down, drag-out budgetary battle? Can we work the debt ceiling in here and go for the hat trick?

So much for 'economic uncertainty' (Maddow Blog)

Steve Benen notes that while the GOP used to blast President Obama for creating "economic uncertainty" by passing laws and stuff, they've dropped that line since they took back the House and started tying the economy to the railroad tracks on the regular.

Everything You Need to Know About the Italian Election Threatening the World Economy (The Atlantic)

Matthew O'Brien looks at the political turmoil in Italy, where an amateur comedian (Berlusconi) and a former professional comic (Grillo) hold the balance of power, sowing doubts that the country will continue to destroy itself so the ECB will agree to save it.

How the recession turned middle-class jobs into low-wage jobs (WaPo)

Brad Plumer highlights a recent San Francisco Fed presentation on NELP data showing that mid-wage jobs made up 60 percent of losses during the recession but only 27 percent of gains during the recovery, and not because the rest are living like kings.

The Six-Month Recovery (TNR)

Timothy Noah notes that new data suggest median income stagnated last May after a brief growth spurt beginning in fall 2011, meaning the average American experienced half a year of half a recovery. At least we'll always have the memories to cherish.

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Daily Digest - February 28: The GOP's Own Goal

Feb 27, 2013Tim Price

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Conservatives Hindered by Ownership-Society Ideal (Bloomberg)

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Conservatives Hindered by Ownership-Society Ideal (Bloomberg)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal argues that the GOP is still guided by its vision of an "ownership society" in which public risks are shifted onto private individuals. But having taken this model for a test drive, Americans can tell they're being sold a lemon.

Feminism's unfinished business (NY Daily News)

NND Editor Bryce Covert writes that Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique sparked a cultural transformation, but even with women making up half the workforce, our policies still assume they're literally cooking dinner rather than figuratively putting it on the table.

The Titanic Wealth Gap Between Blacks and Whites (Prospect)

Jamelle Bouie notes that a recent study shows the wealth gap between white and black families has tripled in the last 25 years and writes that the government must work to promote upward mobility, even if the Supreme Court rules that racism is officially over.

Senate, in a More Affable Mode, Backs Treasury Nominee (NYT)

Perhaps sensing it would be a stretch to tie him to Benghazi, the Senate confirmed Jack Lew as Treasury Secretary by a vote of 71 to 26, allowing Republicans to take the next step in the grieving process of admitting they didn't win the last presidential election.

Sequestration stupidity (WaPo)

Harold Meyerson notes that when the economy collapsed in the 1930s, FDR showed the world that public investment was the way out of the hole. But Europe's leaders and their GOP sympathizers must have skipped that history class, because they just keep digging.

6 Ways the Sequester Will Mess Up the Environment (MoJo)

Zaineb Mohammed looks at the environmental impact of looming budget cuts, from the inconvenient (delayed opening of national parks) to the truly unappetizing (cutbacks to food safety inspections). Maybe if we're lucky the job creators will start hiring food tasters.

Will the Sequester Start Another Recession? (TNR)

Perry Stein surveys a range of leading economists on the potential results of sequestration, and the general consensus is that it's a really dumb policy that will act as a drag on much needed growth. So it's pretty much meeting design specifications, then.

Economists think minimum wage is worth it (WaPo)

Ezra Klein highlights yet another survey of top economists that shows they don't really agree about the downsides of raising the minimum wage, but they do think the benefits outweigh the costs, whatever those may be. Thanks for clearing that up for us, guys.

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Daily Digest - February 27: A Fiscal Distraction

Feb 27, 2013Tim Price

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Sequestering common sense (WaPo)

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Sequestering common sense (WaPo)

Katrina vanden Heuvel writes that with the sequester looming, all eyes in Washington are on the manufactured budget disaster, which saves deficit hawks the trouble of shouting "Hey, look over there!" when confronted with real problems like mass unemployment.

12 Ways the Sequester Will Screw the Poor (MoJo)

Like peasants sent to the front lines so the noble knights wouldn't need to get their armor dirty, the poor are fated to absorb the brunt of the pain from spending cuts. Erika Eichelberger writes that everything from public housing to special ed is on the line this time.

Austerity Kills Government Jobs as Cuts to Budgets Loom (NYT)

Binyamin Appelbaum notes that the sequester will bring even deeper cuts to a federal government that's already shrinking faster than it has since the end of the Cold War. Forget about drowning it in a bath tub; it might just wind up disappearing down the drain.

Beyond the Sequester Panic (Washington Monthly)

Ed Kilgore writes that if any good comes from the current budget debacle, it might finally help more voters realize that the phrase "government spending" describes things they care about and isn't just their cue to boo and hiss during Republican stump speeches.

Mismeasurement of Federal Spending, Investment and Saving (NYT)

Bruce Bartlett argues that our deficit debate is distorted by the notion that there's no difference between short-term consumption and investing in the future, which suggests the only true measure of responsibility is paying for everything in cash like a drug dealer.

Dependents of the State (NYT)

Amia Srinivasan notes that the worst thing anyone can do according to modern political rhetoric is depend on the state, so it's odd that we don't demand that the rich forsake government support and go back to carting all their stuff around in a wheelbarrow.

U.S. banks in 2012 post highest profits since '06 (Reuters)

Emily Stephenson reports that new data released by the FDIC shows 2012 was a very good year for finance, but they're worried about the effects of an economic slowdown caused by the sequester. What about the banks? Won't someone think of the banks?

Senator Warren: Why Isn't Wall Street Paying Back Taxpayers For Being 'Too Big To Fail'? (Think Progress)

Ben Bernanke faced some tough questions from Elizabeth Warren yesterday about the subsidy big banks receive due to expectations that they'll be bailed out, but he displayed wisdom uncommon among his peers by agreeing with her that it's pretty messed up.

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Daily Digest - February 26: Lean Too Far and You're Bound to Fall

Feb 26, 2013Tim Price

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Lean In, Trickle Down: The False Promise of Sheryl Sandberg's Theory of Change (Forbes)

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Lean In, Trickle Down: The False Promise of Sheryl Sandberg's Theory of Change (Forbes)

NND Editor Bryce Covert challenges the theory that simply having more women at the top will make things better for all women. Case in point: Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, who just decreed that a woman's place is not in the home, but in the cubicle. Always.

Why Obama Must Meet the Republican Lies Directly (Robert Reich)

Reich argues that it won't do President Obama any good to pin the blame for the sequester on Republicans without debunking their underlying claims that austerity is beneficial and growth starts at the top. The Up-is-Down caucus needs a lesson on gravity.

House Republicans are over the moon about sequestration (WaPo)

Dana Milbank notes that with just days left before the sequester kicks in, the House GOP is devoting its time to serious matters like renaming NASA facilities. They may one day address the cuts as long as there are no sports teams they have to congratulate.

Fix the Debt's Fuzzy Math (The Nation)

Dean Baker writes that the surest way to be deemed "unserious" in the deficit debate is to acknowledge the economic crisis that actually caused most of the deficit. And if you bring up aggregate demand, you might as well don greasepaint and a big red nose.

Split Vote in Italy Sends One Clear Message: No to Austerity (NYT)

Rachel Donadio reports that the Italian elections failed to produce a clear governing coalition, raising renewed fears of a euro crisis. If only the wise men of the EU could somehow make voters understand that what's worst for them is what's best for everyone.

Americans Still Don't Want to Cut Any Actual Government Programs (WaPo)

Brad Plumer highlights a chart from a Pew survey that shows most Americans favor cutting spending unless it affects any government programs they like, which are all of them. But they're willing to haggle over the <1% of the budget that goes to foreign aid.

Treasury Pick Tries to Cast His History as Right for the Job (NYT)

Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Annie Lowrey write that Treasury nominee Jack Lew is walking a tightrope in his confirmation hearings, stressing that he understands high finance but isn't beholden to it. Meanwhile, Chuck Hagel doesn't even want to hear it.

Happy Birthday, Dear Income Tax (Prospect)

Sam Pizzigati and Sarah Anderson note that the Sixteenth Amendment just turned 100 years old, which makes it one of those newfangled ideas that the GOP isn't quite sold on. But it's proven it can do great things if progressives are willing to fight for it.

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Daily Digest - February 25: How the Sequester Hits Home

Feb 25, 2013Tim Price

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Eight Ways the Sequester Could Ruin Your Life (Daily Beast)

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Eight Ways the Sequester Could Ruin Your Life (Daily Beast)

Caitlin Dickson explains why your spring getaway should take place in a bunker with a well-stocked library and a freezer full of beef if the sequester takes effect. Though even if the sequester's canceled, it doesn't sound like the worst way to spend a weekend.

The state-by-state impacts of sequestration (WaPo)

The Obama administration has released a state-by-state breakdown on the effects of looming budget cuts, from teacher layoffs to fewer vaccinations. And we can only afford to keep one of the Dakotas running, so their governors will have to draw straws.

The Lindbergh-Baby Economy (TNR)

Timothy Noah argues that commentators who blame the White House for creating the sequester are forgetting it was a ransom they paid to end the debt ceiling crisis, while the GOP's rhetoric was one step above cutting and pasting letters from magazines.

Austerity, Italian Style (NYT)

Paul Krugman writes that in the current Italian elections, Mario Monti, Germany's PM-by-proxy, is running behind both Silvio Berlusconi and an actual comedian. It seems Italian voters have decided the proper response to austerity is to laugh rather than cry.

The recession was her fault (Salon)

David Dayen notes that the Justice Department has successfully prosecuted and jailed Lorraine Brown, the one woman responsible for inventing mortgage fraud all by herself. How could you do it, Lorraine? Those poor mortgage servicers were counting on you.

The 2% Mystery: Why Has QE3 Been Such a Bust? (The Atlantic)

Matthew O'Brien argues this round of quantitative easing hasn't been effective because the Fed doesn't want it to be, which is why it says it will accept slightly higher inflation in the same tone you use to tell your partner you're okay with the in-laws coming to visit.

White House directs open access for government research (Reuters)

Mark Felsenthal reports that the Obama administration is siding with critics who believe taxpayers deserve free access to the results of the research they're funding, though there will still be a one-year embargo to make sure we don't all innovate our faces off.

This Week in Poverty: How Obama Can Fight Hunger Now (The Nation)

Greg Kaufmann highlights a new report that outlines executive actions President Obama can take to advance his pledge to end childhood hunger and offset sequestration cuts that would otherwise leave many low-income Americans fighting for scraps.

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