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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Daily Digest - February 22: If At First You Don't Succeed, Make Everyone Else Suffer

Feb 22, 2013Tim Price

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Sequester of Fools (NYT)

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Sequester of Fools (NYT)

Paul Krugman writes that two years after the quest for a grand bargain ended with the flame-out of the Simpson-Bowles commission, the only fiscal crisis we face isn't the one they warned about, but the one that was designed to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

We're All Women Workers Now: How the Floor of the Economy Has Dropped for Everyone (The Nation)

NND Editor Bryce Covert argues that while the workforce is now roughly evenly split between men and women, the nature of work has shifted heavily toward old-fashioned girly jobs -- look nice, smile, earn a little pocket money, and don't get too comfortable.

Obama Fleshes Out Plans for Infrastructure Projects (NYT)

John Schwartz reports that the president has a three-part infrastructure investment plan, including a public-private National Infrastructure Bank, a streamlined permit process, and $50 billion to fix all the bridges being held together with duct tape and good thoughts.

Too Little, Too Late: Why? (NYRB)

To some, TARP was the worst mistake made during the financial crisis. To others (mostly its architects), it paid off in spades. Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Jeff Madrick plays claims adjuster and provides a full damage assessment of the Geithner legacy. (Note: subscribers only.)

Why Should Taxpayers Give Banks $83 Billion a Year? (Bloomberg)

Big banks like to claim their size gives them some sort of edge, but an editorial argues they wouldn't be turning a profit without the lower borrowing costs that result from the government standing by to perform first aid in case they collapse under their own weight.

A Tax That May Change the Trading Game (NYT)

Floyd Norris writes that Europe looks ready to embrace a financial transactions tax to help rein in high-frequency trading and recoup its losses from the financial crisis, and like all European fashions, they're hoping it will catch on in America in the next few years.

Financial Reform's Triple "F" Rating (Prospect)

David Dayen examines Dodd-Frank's failure to overhaul the credit rating system in which issuers pay ratings agencies big bucks to evaluate the quality of their securities, or, more accurately, to tell investors what a safe and amazingly profitable bet they are.

Despite Aid, Borrowers Still Face Foreclosure (NYT)

Jessica Silver-Greenberg reports that out of the homeowners who have seen some relief from last year's big foreclosure settlement, only 13 percent got help with their primary mortgage. That explains why the banks signed the settlement papers with a ;-).

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Daily Digest - February 21: Has the Unthinkable Become Unavoidable?

Feb 21, 2013Tim Price

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Budget Cuts Seen as Risk to Growth of U.S. Economy (NYT)

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Budget Cuts Seen as Risk to Growth of U.S. Economy (NYT)

Binyamin Appelbaum and Annie Lowrey report that forecasters predict the sequester will shave about half a percentage point off GDP, but policymakers intentionally designed the whole thing to have horrible consequences, so maybe it's best not to encourage them.

The GOP's Budget Denialism (TNR)

Jonathan Cohn argues that Republicans must accept that the government is going to keep growing and revenue must grow with it. Otherwise they can either print more money (nope) or simply maintain that we shouldn't pay for things, an ethos shared by shoplifters.

New study badly undermines GOP position on sequester (WaPo)

Greg Sargent highlights a study from a Congressional Research Service analyst who finds that the single greatest driver of inequality over a period of 15 years has been income from capital gains and dividends, or as the GOP's constituents refer to it, income.

Unemployed would lose benefits if federal budget cuts go through (CNNMoney)

Tami Luhby notes that the sequester will cut extended federal unemployment benefits by almost 10 percent, which some members of Congress no doubt view as an added incentive for recipients to go get a job before Congress is finished destroying them all.

Connecting Entitlement Reform to Immigration Reform (Robert Reich)

Reich writes that one of the biggest fiscal challenges for Social Security and Medicare is that there will be fewer young workers supporting more retirees in coming years. Luckily, we have tons of immigrant workers eager to lend a hand if we'd stop slapping it away.

A jump-start for American wages (WaPo)

Harold Meyerson notes that there are big deals going down in the corporate world, from Comcast buying NBC to Warren Buffett buying a liftetime supply of ketchup, but workers still aren't seeing a dime, and they won't unless the government sets wage standards.

Why Degree Inflation Hits Women Workers Hardest (Businessweek)

Sheelah Kolhatkar writes that as bachelor's degrees become a requirement for administrative jobs, women are having a harder time getting a foot in the door -- though our research finds those jobs disappearing, so the entrance might be bricked over anyway.

Friends in Low Places: Where the Real Lobbying Happens (ProPublica)

Jesse Eisinger argues that despite the controversy over top-level regulatory nominations like Mary Jo White, the real action takes place in the back rooms, where a bunch of lobbyists-turned-staffers whom you've never heard of are deciding which master to serve.

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Daily Digest - February 20: Diving Into the Deep Cuts

Feb 20, 2013Tim Price

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Homeless, Hungry, Hung Out to Dry (Prospect)

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Homeless, Hungry, Hung Out to Dry (Prospect)

With just over a week to go before Sequestration Day (Have you made your party plans yet? Bought the budget piñata for the kids?), NND Editor Bryce Covert looks at the people and programs that will be affected by deep discretionary spending cuts.

Moving the Goal Posts: Simpson and Bowles Renege on Their Own Plan for More Revenue (Think Progress)

Jeff Spross notes that Simpson-Bowles 2: Simpson-Bowles Harder would build on existing deficit reduction measures by adding a lot more spending cuts and just a little more revenue, bringing it more in line with the imaginary version Republicans support.

One on One: Susan P. Crawford, Author of 'Captive Audience' (NYT)

Brian Chen talks to Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford about how the deregulation and merger of telecom giants is stifling competition and high-speed Internet access, making it that much harder to watch the Gangnam Style parodies your aunt sends you.

The Real Problem With the Big Banks (New Yorker)

James Surowiecki argues that if you strip away all the incomprehensible derivatives schemes and make banks more transparent, they're still going to be banks, which, even in their vanilla form, require much stricter regulation than your corner drug store.

Prosecutors, Shifting Strategy, Build New Wall Street Cases (NYT)

Ben Protess reports that the Justice Department plans to start taking a tougher approach with financial fraud cases, emphasizing guilty pleas over fines and promises of good behavior. In layman's terms, this strategy is known as "trying to win the case."

Ten Things You Should Know About #TheRealTANF (The Nation)

Greg Kaufmann clears up common misconceptions about the low-income financial assistance program as it comes up for renewal, highlighting key facts about how it works, who it's reaching, and why it's failing. Spoilers: They're all pretty depressing.

Southern poverty pimps (Salon)

Michael Lind argues that, like so much in American culture, our economic debate is all about the North-South divide -- specifically, between the northern model that invests in people and the southern model that relies on treating them as poorly as possible.

How the ultra-rich are pulling away from the 'merely' rich (WaPo)

Dylan Matthews notes that new data from Piketty and Saez show inequality is increasing even at the very top, where people are getting so rich that they're discovering previously unknown categories of richness, like the Lewises and Clarks of affluence.

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