Daily Digest - May 14: The Slim Communications Barrier

May 14, 2013Tim Price

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Mexico's Lucky to Have Just One Man Blocking Internet Equality. We've Got a Bunch (Wired)

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Mexico's Lucky to Have Just One Man Blocking Internet Equality. We've Got a Bunch (Wired)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford writes that Carlos Slim uses his Mexican telecom monopoly to extract billions from customers. In America, we'd never let one man have all that power -- companies like Comcast and Verizon have already called dibs.

Why Washington Saved the Economy, Then Permanently Destroyed the Labor Market (The Atlantic)

Derek Thompson argues that while the government's swift response to the financial meltdown saved the economy from depression, the long-term unemployed have been abandoned because they don't have the kind of money needed to buy a lawmaker's time.

Half of All Jobs Created in the Past 3 Years Were Low-Paying (HuffPo)

Mark Gongloff highlights a new study reinforcing the evidence that the so-called recovery is creating a ton of low-wage retail and hospitality jobs. Even if you're able to find work, the closest you may get to making a living is by stealing from the cash register.

The Care and Feeding of Small Business (NYT)

Nancy Folbre writes that instead of going hunting for jobs by handing out subsidies and incentives to big corporations, states should pursue an economic gardening strategy and invest in local small businesses that will set down roots while the herd moves on.

The Partial Faith and Dubious Credit Act (WSJ)

Alan Blinder looks at the problematic House GOP bill designed to prioritize Treasury debt payments and Social Security checks in case someone gets the crazy idea to force the U.S. to hit the debt ceiling. But really, what are the odds of that happening... again?

Labor's Plan B (Prospect)

Abby Rapoport writes that as collective bargaining dies off along with dues-paying union membership, organized labor is pursuing experimental new strategies to achieve policy change. It could destroy unions as we know them, but time was doing that anyway.

Millions of Americans live in extreme poverty. Here's how they get by. (WaPo)

Dylan Matthews notes that while the global extreme poverty rate has been cut in half since 1990, research shows that 1.65 million U.S. households are still living on less than $2 a day per person. Without the safety net, they'd be on an all-chewing-gum diet.

This Week in Poverty: Twelve Things You Can Do to Fight Poverty Now (The Nation)

Greg Kaufmann talks to leading anti-poverty activists like Sister Simone Campbell and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers about what the average American can do to get engaged in fighting poverty while many elected leaders are busy fighting the poor.

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Daily Digest - May 13: Education for All -- and Some Money, Too

May 13, 2013Tim Price

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Student Debt and the Crushing of the American Dream (NYT)

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Student Debt and the Crushing of the American Dream (NYT)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow and Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz argues that in order to strengthen the recovery and remove the boot from the foreheads of Americans trying to climb the economic ladder, we need to rethink how we finance higher education.

Thinking Utopian: How about a universal basic income? (WaPo)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal examines what the left might do next if it actually ended poverty by establishing a basic guaranteed income for all Americans, and why that's worth considering even if the checks would have to be airmailed via flying pig.

After Rana Plaza (New Yorker)

James Surowiecki writes that the garment factory collapse in Bangladesh is more proof that despite self-policing efforts by Western companies, workers' lives will remain as cheap as the products they make unless governments enforce better labor standards.

How Austerity Kills (NYT)

David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu write that between cuts to public health and nutrition programs making people sicker and high unemployment driving them to despair and suicide, austerity economics has become a global health crisis. Luckily, there is a cure.

Austerity and the Unraveling of European Universal Health Care (Dissent)

While American progressives may envy Europe's health care systems, Adam Gaffney notes that conservatives across the Atlantic are treating the economic crisis as an opportunity to dismantle them, like a doctor removing your leg during an appendectomy.

Fed Maps Exit From Stimulus (WSJ)

Jon Hilsenrath writes that some Federal Reserve officials are optimistic that they can begin winding down its bond-purchasing program as early as this summer, but to paraphrase Mike Konczal, they're worried we'll all be devoured by the expectations dinosaur.

What Is the Fed Thinking? (Bloomberg)

Evan Soltas notes that the Fed also recently introduced the possibility of expanding its stimulus program, and with jobs and GDP weak, inflation still low, and sequestration hanging over the economy like a poison cloud, it may want to keep its options open.

The Facts Are In and Paul Ryan Is Wrong (NY Mag)

Jonathan Chait writes that recent evidence contradicts everything the GOP's budget mastermind has been saying about austerity and health care costs, but no matter how loudly critics point out that the emperor has no clothes, he just keeps on strutting his stuff.

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Daily Digest - May 10: Where Are You, Jobs?

May 10, 2013Tim Price

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What's Wrong With the U.S. Job Market? (Businessweek)

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What's Wrong With the U.S. Job Market? (Businessweek)

Peter Coy tries to answer the million-dollar question from the supply and demand angle, also noting solutions like Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Jeff Madrick's call for companies to pay workers enough to buy their own products. Built-in marketing!

Economists See Deficit Emphasis as Impeding Recovery (NYT)

Jackie Calmes and Jonathan Weisman report that the Serious People are starting to corroborate what the filthy hippies have been saying for four years, as economic growth reports consistently include regretful footnotes about what Washington's up to.

Bernanke, Blower of Bubbles? (NYT)

Paul Krugman argues that there's little evidence of a bond or stock bubble emerging despite the misgivings of Ben Bernanke's critics, who wish the Fed would forget the unemployment thing and focus on other problems, even if they don't actually exist.

Congress Moves to Weaken Dodd-Frank Reforms That Officials Want Strengthened (Think Progress)

Travis Waldron notes that the House Financial Services Committee has advanced a package of six bills that would weaken derivatives regulations and ensure that federally insured banks don't feel like we're asking too much in exchange for our money.

Unions to Banks: Pay Up (Prospect)

Sarah Jaffe highlights a new plan embraced by labor leaders fighting cuts to public employees' pensions: close state budget gaps by making banks pay back what they stole through LIBOR-rigging and shady muni deals. Better check the silverware, too.

Fed says some were underpaid in U.S. foreclosure settlement (Reuters)

First the initial round of checks issued to victims of foreclosure abuse bounced. Now it turns out that about 96,000 checks issued in the second round were made out for less than what borrowers were owed. Go home, Rust Consulting. You're drunk.

How colleges are wooing the rich and sticking the poor with the bill (WaPo)

Dylan Matthews notes that while colleges are receiving massive federal subsidies intended to make higher education more affordable, a new report suggests they're shifting that money around to lure in future wealthy alumni rather than needy students.

The Price of Safety: Why Cheap Regulation Creates Expensive Crises (The Atlantic)

James Kwak writes that when it comes to airplane inspections or financial chicanery, regulators lack the resources to provide adequate oversight, and leaving it up to firms to monitor their own risk is like letting a four-year-old come up with his own meal plan.

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Daily Digest - May 9: A Political State of Emergency

May 9, 2013Tim Price

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Overthinking Obama (Washington Monthly)

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Overthinking Obama (Washington Monthly)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Mark Schmitt argues that while many authors try to construct a Grand Theory of Barack Obama, he's really a typical democratic reformer, except that he a) got elected and b) did so during the worst possible economic moment.

Chaos governing (WaPo)

Greg Sargent notes that Republicans are openly admitting that they refuse to negotiate on the budget until they can use the debt celing as leverage, but they've also proved they won't follow through on their threats. So their bargaining position is just "we win"?

Boehner Accidentally Explains Why His Deficit Position Is Phony (Bloomberg)

Josh Barro unpacks the Russian nesting doll of fallacies in John Boehner's warnings about government debt, including the idea that something that's happened for 55 of the last 60 years is unsustainable and that businesses don't take on debt as they grow.

Elizabeth Warren Q&A: Students "deserve the same break that big banks get" (Salon)

David Dayen talks to Elizabeth Warren about her plan to stop the Stafford loan interest rate hike and offer students the same discount rate that banks pay to borrow from the Fed, signaling that student debt is officially as much of a rolling disaster as Wall Street.

Working Poor Face Long Odds: 'You Have to Just Wait Your Turn, But That Turn May Never Come' (HuffPo)

Saki Knafo writes that working hard is no longer a ticket to success, as Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren notes that traditional job ladders have disappeared in the new economy, if they'd even reach the top of the sinkhole many Americans are now in.

Stock Markets Rise, but Half of Americans Don't Benefit (NYT)

Catherine Rampell notes that although the stock market reached record nominal highs this week, only 52 percent of Americans actually have investments. The rest either can't afford to buy in or feel that their money would be safer elsewhere, like in the fireplace.

Labor wrestles with its future (WaPo)

Harold Meyerson writes that unions are getting creative about collaborating to support workers' interests and redefining who counts as a member when most workers can't join. Just leave the flower pot turned over and they'll know you need to file a grievance.

Underfunded and Under Five (Prospect)

Sharon Lerner examines how the recession has affected early education, causing states to cut half a billion dollars in funding for pre-K in the last year alone. Most of that comes from teachers, who are now just doing it for the joy of cleaning up finger paints.

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Daily Digest - May 8: For Austerians, Failure is the Only Option

May 8, 2013Tim Price

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Budget austerity proved a joke, but the US and Europe won't change course (Guardian)

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Budget austerity proved a joke, but the US and Europe won't change course (Guardian)

Dean Baker writes that despite recent setbacks, deficit hawks are making two arguments against a policy shift: the recovery's getting stronger on its own (there, did you see? It twitched a little bit) and no one knows how to spend money to create jobs (sorry, FDR).

Extended Benefits Didn't Keep People from Taking Jobs (WSJ)

Many conservatives have taken it as an article of faith that unemployment benefits encourage people to be lazy and let those fat $300 checks roll in, but Amy Schatz notes that a new study by the San Francisco Fed shows they keep workers in the job market longer.

Churn, baby, churn: The labor market won't be healthy until people feel like they can quit their jobs (WaPo)

Neil Irwin argues that while layoffs are stable, we won't know the economy is really back on track until a lot more people start moving freely between jobs, or to put it another way, until they stop clinging to their current jobs like a kitten dangling from a tree branch.

In the Long Run, Niall Ferguson, Keynes Was Right (Bloomberg)

Matthew C. Klein makes the case that despite the homophobic comments made by some of Keynes's critics, what really makes them uncomfortable is that they have no answers to immediate human suffering, not that gay economics will destroy the human race.

Yanking Broadband From the Slow Lane (NYT)

Eduardo Porter writes that while high-speed Internet access is the key to innovation, expansion and improvement of U.S. broadband networks has been about as slow as a dial-up connection, and monopolies are so strong that Google looks like a scrappy upstart.

Lew Slams Wall Street Deregulation Bills (MoJo)

If it ain't broke, don't fix it -- and if you can't tell, ask someone who knows what they're doing. As Erika Eichelberger notes, that's the message Jack Lew sent to the House Financial Services Committee this week as it considers nine (cough) "fixes" to Dodd-Frank.

No, the Gang of Eight Immigration Bill Won't Cost You $6.3 Trillion (Slate)

Matthew Yglesias writes that the Heritage Foundation's report on immigration reform makes some strange assumptions, like the idea that legal status itself has no economic value, which is too bad for Republicans who were hoping to make an informed decision.

Many Americans say they can't retire until their 70s or 80s (LA Times)

A Northwestern Mutual survey finds that most Americans are less financially secure than they thought they'd be and more than 40 percent expect to work past their 60s. We haven't raised the legal retirement age, but the mental retirement age is another story.

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Daily Digest - May 7: The More FinReg, the Merrier

May 7, 2013Tim Price

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Dodd-Frank is finally being implemented. Will that be enough? (WaPo)

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Dodd-Frank is finally being implemented. Will that be enough? (WaPo)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal argues that Brown-Vitter's capital requirements could be a smart addition to Dodd-Frank even if the latter works well. Just because banks can fail doesn't mean they should feel free to do so as hard and as often as possible.

2 Big Banks Face Suits In Mortgage Pact Abuses (NYT)

Jessica Silver-Greenberg reports that New York AG Eric Schneiderman is suing Bank of America and Wells Fargo for violating the mortgage settlement's terms by mishandling modification requests. Suddenly folding paperwork into funny hats is against the rules?

Why Left and Right Economists Can't Just Agree (NY Mag)

Jonathan Chait writes that finding economic beliefs shared by liberals and conservatives is tough because you're not comparing two people driven by data; you're comparing one person driven by data and one person who read somewhere that government is bad.

How Our Incredible Shrinking Government Raises Unemployment and Hurts the Recovery (The Atlantic)

Derek Thompson notes that even without the sequester, unemployment could be as low as 6.3 percent now if the government hadn't spent the last few years cutting back on spending when we need investment and laying off workers like it's going out of business.

Congress Helps Air Travelers, Ignores Victims of Rape and Domestic Violence (MoJo)

Tim Murphy writes that despite lawmakers' quick and decisive action to protect weary business execs from flight delays, they don't seem too interested in restoring the $20 million cut from VAWA grants that help protect the victims of abuse and sexual assault.

How Low Can Part-Timers' Hours Go? (Prospect)

Harold Meyerson notes that in response to an Affordable Care Act rule intended to make employers insure employees who work 30 hours a week, many part-timers are being bumped back to 29 hours or less. You win this round, nonsensical health care system.

Rising Health Care Costs Are Quietly Strangling the Middle Class (RealClearPolicy)

Benjamin Landy argues that while conservatives claim workers' compensation is on the rise because health benefits are getting pricier, that's all money that employees aren't seeing in their paychecks, and Aetna's not going to pay their mortgage for them.

GOP pushes bogus workplace bill from 1996 (Salon)

Alex Seitz-Wald notes that House Republicans are bringing us the freshest ideas of the Gingrich era with a plan to let workers convert their overtime pay into paid time off, so the only thing they need to do if they want to work less is to start working more.

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Daily Digest - May 6: Learning by Doing Badly

May 6, 2013Tim Price

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The Lessons of the North Atlantic Crisis for Economic Theory and Policy (IMFdirect)

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The Lessons of the North Atlantic Crisis for Economic Theory and Policy (IMFdirect)

Roosevelt Institute Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz argues that the crisis has given us a chance to rethink broken models, so instead of tinkering at the edges and hoping the markets somehow fix themselves, we can break out the full repair kit next time around.

The Chutzpah Caucus (NYT)

Paul Krugman writes that although many cynics seem to think any government stimulus will lead to a liberal spending spree that bankrupts the nation, the real problem is usually that stimulus gets cut off too soon, and the bankrupting is left to conservatives.

The College Grad Recovery Continues (The Atlantic)

Matthew O'Brien notes that the latest jobs report tells the same story of painfully slow but steady job growth that we've been hearing since the recovery began. Except for those without college degrees, who file that story under the creative fiction category.

The Idled Young Americans (NYT)

David Leonhardt writes that lack of new job creation has caused the U.S. to go from having the biggest share of young workers employed among wealthy nations to having one of the smallest. But they're still optimistic about one day being able to pay a bill.

McJobs recovery continues in latest job figures (MSNBC)

Ned Resnikoff writes that while April's report shows the recovery is slowly adding jobs, it also shows that they're some of the worst jobs around, with a third of growth concentrated in retail and hospitality while stable union work goes the way of the dinosaurs.

The Loss of Government Jobs Is Holding Back the Economy (Think Progress)

Bryce Covert notes that the public sector has lost 718,000 net jobs since 2009, including 11,000 sacrificed on the altar of austerity in April. And not to get too technical, but continually subtracting jobs from the economy makes the total number of jobs smaller.

The Hollowing Out of Government (Robert Reich)

Reich argues that whether it's OSHA enforcing safety standards or the IRS collecting taxes, Republicans deal with any law or government function they don't like but can't repeal by starving it of resources and then complaining about how it doesn't work right.

This Week in Poverty: Florida Gives Workers a Smackdown (The Nation)

Greg Kaufmann highlights the Florida legislature's raft of anti-worker legislation, designed to override local ordinances establishing benefits like paid sick leave and wage theft protection and leave it up to the state government to not implement them instead.

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Daily Digest - May 3: Wall Street's Latest Greatest Fear

May 3, 2013Tim Price

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This Is How Wall Street Is Fighting the Brown-Vitter Bill (NY Mag)

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This Is How Wall Street Is Fighting the Brown-Vitter Bill (NY Mag)

Kevin Roose writes that despite Brown-Vitter's slim chances of passing, the fact that banks have already started freestyling their fear-mongering -- how's "too-big-to-fail is a good thing!" working for you? Okay, what if it's already fixed? -- makes him root for it.

Turns out the much-hyped settlement still allows banks to steal homes (Salon)

David Dayen notes that banks still illegally foreclose on thousands of homes using tactics like robo-signing that they swore off as part of the $25 billion National Mortgage Settlement, but the settlement terms recognize that it's tough to go cold turkey on criminality.

Not Enough Inflation (NYT)

Paul Krugman writes that despite conservatives' warnings that we should stock up on gold coins and canned beans before the Fed's money-printing causes hyperinflation, the real danger is in having the dollar become a collector's item when demand is already low.

The Austerity Delusion (Foreign Affairs)

Noting that austerity has proven to be a singularly useless and counterproductive economic policy wherever and whenever it's been tried, Mark Blyth looks at why western leaders continue to be lured in by the siren song of "common sense" that's anything but.

U.S. Spending Cuts Seen as Key in Slowing Growth (NYT)

Are you sitting down? Okay, get this: Nelson Schwartz reports that economists think the combination of higher payroll taxes and sequestration will drag down the recovery and hurt job creation. Why didn't anyone warn Congress sooner? Egg on their faces, for sure.

Expert: Obama's Housing Nomination Is Good News for Poor People (MoJo)

Erika Eichelberger reports that affordable housing advocates back Mel Watt, current House Democrat and would-be FHFA director, citing his support for principal reduction and lending to low-income and minority borrowers. Just don't call it community reinvestment.

More Obama appointments: Pritzker at Commerce; Froman for trade representative (WaPo)

Zachary Goldfarb notes that hotel heiress Penny Pritzker, the president's pick to head the Commerce Department (official motto: Google us!), could be the wealthiest Cabinet secretary ever. Meanwhile, Paris Hilton continues to wait for her call to serve.

The Face of Pregnancy Discrimination (RH Reality Check)

Annamarya Scaccia looks at how employers exploit vulnerable workers and creative interpretations of the law to fire pregnant employees, put them on unpaid leave, and otherwise deny them opportunities, just like their own mothers dreamed they'd grow up to do.

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Daily Digest - May 2: DeMarco's Days Are Numbered

May 2, 2013Tim Price

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A Mortgage Agency Pick Is Likely to Cause Conflict (NYT)

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A Mortgage Agency Pick Is Likely to Cause Conflict (NYT)

Peter Eavis and Annie Lowrey report that critics are displeased that the president is nominating Mel Watt, who supports mortgage writedowns to help struggling homeowners, to replace Ed DeMarco, who's been doing his best pet rock impression as acting FHFA director.

Federal Reserve ponders possibility of increasing stimulus (WaPo)

Ylan Q. Mui notes that the Fed explicitly acknowledged for the first time yesterday that the economy could get bad enough to convince it to ramp up its bond-purchasing program -- and if it does, the central bank doesn't mind telling anyone that it will be Congress's fault.

GOP's Census Bill Would Eliminate America's Economic Indicators (HuffPo)

Tired of bad economic news? Maybe we'd be better off with no news at all. As Michael McAuliff writes, that seems to be the position taken by Republican lawmakers who want to ban the Census Bureau from collecting data used to calculate unemployment and GDP.

American job prospects make for dim May Day celebration (MSNBC)

Ned Resnikoff notes that yesterday was International Workers' Day, but it was a lot like any other day for American workers, marked by historically low labor force participation and union membership, declining job quality and safety standards, and the looming threat of layoffs.

Big Banks are Victims of Their Own Success (ProPublica)

Jesse Eisinger argues that the Brown-Vitter bill banks are decrying as a punitive measure that will destroy the financial system is the bad cop to Dodd-Frank's good cop. Wall Street may live to regret stripping the latter of its badge and its gun and drumming it off the force.

Banks on the Run (Continued) (The Nation)

Greg Kaufmann writes that banks are learning another valuable lesson about the consequences of indiscriminately throwing people out of their homes: no matter where they hold their shareholder meetings, angry activists keep turning up like a roll of bad pennies.

It's a 401(k) World and It Basically Sucks (Slate)

Matthew Yglesias thinks Tom Friedman's "401(k) world" metaphor is an apt description of modern America, but it's a barren, inhospitable world for anyone except the wealthy and the few middle-class workers who manage to invest wisely and adequately.

The New Study That Republicans Who Reject Medicaid Must Read (TNR)

While some conservatives are doing an end zone dance over a new study that shows Medicaid access has limited health benefits for the poor, Jonathan Cohn argues that keeping beneficiaries out of crippling medical debt -- and clinical depression -- isn't nothing.

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Daily Digest - May 1: Uncertainty, Unprincipled

May 1, 2013Tim Price

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The studies behind austerity are weak. The study behind 'uncertainty' is worse. (WaPo)

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The studies behind austerity are weak. The study behind 'uncertainty' is worse. (WaPo)

Ezra Klein notes that the "policy uncertainty is hurting the economy" meme is back in the headlines, and as Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal has shown, that's apparently all the proof that the researchers making that claim think they need in order to back it up.

How Wall Street Defanged Dodd-Frank (The Nation)

Gary Rivlin explains why passing financial reform in 2010 might have been the easy part compared to the all-out war lobbyists have been waging against it ever since. Schoolhouse Rock left out the part where the Bill turns up dead with a knife sticking out of his back.

Banks Resist Strict Controls of Foreign Bets (NYT)

Eric Lipton notes that the current focus of bankers' ire is a proposal that would give U.S. regulators more oversight on overseas derivatives trades, since it's not like there's any chance someone like the London Whale could wind up beaching on American shores.

House Financial Chair Hensarling Goes on Ski Vacation with Wall Street (ProPublica)

Justin Elliott reports that the GOP's top man on the House Financial Services Committee hit the slopes with industry reps who have generously donated thousands to his PAC. He's so dedicated to his work that he just can't help but bring it with him on vacation.

As Jobs Lag, Fed Is Viewed as Unlikely to Do More (NYT)

As the Fed wraps up a two-day policy meeting, Binyamin Appelbaum writes that they probably won't back away from their current stimulus program, but they won't do much to expand it, either. They're aiming for a solid "Needs Improvement" on their job evaluation.

For the unemployed, no reprieve on budget cuts (CNNMoney)

Jeanne Sahadi notes that sequestration will force cuts in unemployment benefits for 3.8 million Americans starting this week, and the longer states wait to make the cuts, the more they're going to hurt. They're just buying time for Congress to, er, leap into action.

How to ease economic anxiety (WaPo)

Harold Meyerson writes that with polls showing most Americans feel their fortunes are on the decline, the only response (besides eating a whole tub of ice cream) is to organize for higher wages and against trade agreements that undercut American workers.

CEO Pay 1,795-to-1 Multiple of Wages Skirts U.S. Law (Bloomberg)

Many companies continue to resist Dodd-Frank's requirement that they disclose their pay ratios, so Bloomberg crunched the numbers itself and found that the average CEO's making 204 times as much as his average employee. Time to ask for that raise.

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