Daily Digest - September 6: Five Years of Fiscal Failure

Sep 6, 2013Tim Price

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Years of Tragic Waste (NYT)

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Years of Tragic Waste (NYT)

As the anniversary of the Lehman Brothers collapse approaches, Paul Krugman reflects on the federal goverment's abject failure to pump enough money into the economy to create the jobs Americans desperately need, either at the outset of the Great Recession or in the five years since.

  • Roosevelt Take: Check out the video and proceedings from our conference on the jobs emergency, presented by the Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative, to see experts discuss how we can turn this policy around.

Turnover at Federal Reserve adds uncertainty to interest rate and QE3 promises (WaPo)

Ylan Q. Mui notes that while Ben Bernanke's departure and the search for his successor might be grabbing most of the attention, fully half the members of the Fed's policy committee could leave next year, which raises doubts about how much stock we can put in the agenda they've set.

Want to Move Kids Out of Poverty? Then Protect the Middle Class (The Atlantic)

Jordan Weissman looks at a new study that finds American children have a much better chance of being able to escape poverty when there's actually a large and healthy middle class around for them to escape into, though class segregation in major metro areas also plays an important role.

A Map of Who's Got the Best (and Worst) Internet Connections in America (Gizmodo)

Reuben Fischer-Baum writes that the data on relative Internet connection speeds show that Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford is right: there is a deep communications inequality in the U.S., and it seems to be driven not just by geography or population density but by income levels.

24 Walmart Protesters Arrested at Demonstrations in New York and Los Angeles (HuffPo)

Caroline Fairchild writes that several protesters who tried to deliver their demands for better pay to a Walmart board member were led away in handcuffs, but a company spokesperson insists that the protesters aren't real Walmart employees anyway, except for the ones who are.

JPMorgan to stop making student loans (Reuters)

David Henry reports that JPMorgan Chase will no longer be accepting applications to its already-restricted private student loan program as of mid-October, having decided there's no room for growth in the market now that it has to deal with direct federal lending and increased oversight.

To Dodge Law, High-Cost Lender Offers Cash for Free (ProPublica)

Paul Kiel notes that short-term, high-cost lenders in Texas are trying to get around new regulations on their shady business practices by offering borrowers zero-interest loans for nothing but the title to their car, and maybe something in the fine print about their firstborn. Don't worry about it.

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Daily Digest - July 26: The Trouble with Summers's Silence

Jul 26, 2013Tim Price

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Should Obama pick Larry Summers to head the Fed? (Politico)

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Should Obama pick Larry Summers to head the Fed? (Politico)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal writes that while Ben Bernanke led the Fed through a crisis, his successor will need to build consensus and establish the central bank's new normal. That's a problem given that Summers hasn't said a word about the biggest debates he'll have to settle.

Even as economy rebounds, income inequality festers (MoneyWatch)

Charles Wilbanks notes that most American remain deeply dissatisfied with an economy in which workers at the bottom see their wages fall while those at the top are making money hand over fist. And to add insult to injury, taxpayers are forced to subsidize their bosses' raises.

The day the right lost the economic argument (Salon)

Michael Lind argues that President Obama's Knox College speech offered a strong and broadly appealing summary of progressive economic theory focused on manufacturing, innovation, infrastructure, and education, while the House Republicans' alternative plan offered nothing in particular.

Some Democrats Look to Push Party Away from Center (NYT)

Jonathan Martin writes that as Democrats contemplate their future post-Obama, many are advocating for a populist approach to economic policy, financial reform, and rising inequality rather than the murky middle ground that the party's leaders have settled for since the '90s.

White House hardens stance on budget cuts ahead of showdown with Republicans (WaPo)

Zachary Goldfarb and Paul Kane report that the Obama administration may force a government shutdown come September if Republicans in Congress refuse to undo sequestration and continue to demand deeper cuts to a budget they've already carved to the bone.

Congress to Fed: End Too-Big-to-Fail Already! (MoJo)

Erika Eichelberger notes that Dodd-Frank requires the Fed to implement rules to scale back its emergency lending powers, but three years since the law was passed, the central bank still just says it's working on it. Things like this don't happen overnight. Or even over 1,095 nights.

Why 17 liberal senators voted against the student loan "deal" (MSNBC)

Suzy Khimm writes that while the Senate finally passed legislation to address the doubling of federal student loan interest rates, progressives weren't willing to swallow a compromise that lowered students' rates now while guaranteeing they'll have to pay even more in the future.

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Daily Digest - June 28: Crossing the Border to a Better Economy

Jun 28, 2013Tim Price

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Will Immigration Reform Work for the U.S. Economy? (HuffPo)

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Will Immigration Reform Work for the U.S. Economy? (HuffPo)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Annette Bernhardt and Haeyoung Yoon argue that comprehensive immigration reform is not only the right thing to do, but a road to citizenship, worker protections, and smart integration of future immigrants would also provide huge economic benefits.

Cyprus Fiasco Could Undermine the Euro Zone (INET)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Rob Johnson writes that the "bail-in" that rescued Cyprus proved the euro zone nations still suffer from a fear of commitment, and it showed depositors across Europe that when their countries are in trouble, so are their bank accounts.

The Supreme Court: Corporate America's Employees of the Month (Businessweek)

Most Americans might have mixed feelings about the Supreme Court after recent rulings that gutted voting rights but advanced gay rights, but Paul Barrett notes that when it comes to cases that involve corporate liability, the good news for CEOs just keeps on coming.

Mandatory Federal Cuts Hurt Private Sector, Too (NYT)

Catherine Rampell reports that the $85 billion gouged out of the economy by sequestration has led to tough times for private sector companies that rely on federal funds, ranging from military suppliers to custodial services. Maybe Congress will fix it once the plumbing goes.

Time is running out before student loan rates double (MSNBC)

Suzy Khimm writes that the July 1 deadline for Congress to act on Stafford loans is just around the corner, but even though the House, Senate, and White House all agree the interest rates shouldn't spike, none of them can agree on a plan to keep that from happening.

Forced to Work Sick? That's Fine With Disney, Red Lobster, and Their Friends at ALEC (MoJo)

Stephanie Mencimer points out that the U.S. is one of the few industrialized nations that doesn't provide mandatory paid sick leave, and notorious corporate front group ALEC is pushing state-level laws to ensure that your ailing co-workers keep coughing all over you.

The Expendables: How the Temps Who Power Corporate Giants Are Getting Crushed (ProPublica)

Michael Grabell writes that the June jobs report showed that the U.S. economy includes more temp workers than ever before, but while the work they're doing may be temporary, the poverty and bad working conditions they experience have proved to be anything but.

When Fed Transparency Fails, Go Zen (NYT)

Jared Bernstein argues that since the Federal Reserve's attempts at clearer communications have led confused investors to overreact and left Ben Bernanke tongue-tied over what it is he actually plans to do, this may be a case where less is more.

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Daily Digest - May 20: Why the Internet Moves at the Speed of Indifference

May 20, 2013Tim Price

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Telecom's Big Players Hold Back the Future (NYT)

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Telecom's Big Players Hold Back the Future (NYT)

David Carr profiles Roosevelt Institute Fellow Susan Crawford and explores her crusade against the telecom monopolies that offer high fees instead of high speeds. Every time you wait for a video to buffer, you're experiencing the magic of the market at work.

Sheila Bair: Dodd-Frank really did end taxpayer bailouts (WaPo)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal talks to the former director of the FDIC about why skeptics are wrong to doubt the agency's commitment to winding down failed banks and why it's important to raise leverage requirements so it doesn't have to prove it.

Obama Urged to Make Economy a Bigger, Bolder Topic (AP)

Jim Kuhnhenn reports that with the CBO projecting a lower deficit and the GOP scrounging for scandals in the couch cushions, Obama advisers and critics are asking the president to change the conversation by laying out a real second-term economic agenda.

The 1 Percent Are Only Half the Problem (NYT)

Timothy Noah argues that while runaway wealth at the top contributes to rising inequality in the U.S., there's also the growing educational divide and resulting skills-based gap. But if the left and right discuss both problems, they risk an agreement breaking out.

Boom or Bubble? (New Yorker)

James Surowiecki has good news (1) and bad news (2) for analysts who think stock prices are overinflated because GDP isn't keeping up with corporate profits: (1) corporate profits are only barely connected to the real American economy these days, and (2) see (1).

Global Capital and the Nation State (Robert Reich)

Reich notes that big corporations are hiding their money from tax collectors while extorting sweetheart deals from national and local governments, but right-wing nationalist parties are convincing more and more voters that cooperation is the new exploitation.

Food Stamps Get Licked by Cuts (Prospect)

Monica Potts writes that the House and Senate farm bills would make food stamp funding less generous and kick millions off the rolls even as more Americans are going hungry. In other words, let them eat cake, just as long as they're paying for it out of pocket.

This Week in Poverty: Fighting Poverty Through Wall Street Accountability (The Nation)

Organizer and activist Stephen Lerner tells Greg Kaufmann that one of the challenges in fighting poverty is that there are so many different root causes, but one advantage of focusing on Wall Street is that behind most of these big problems there's a big bank.

Note: After three years writing the Daily Digest, I'll be handing the reins to Rachel Goldfarb, a talented new addition to the Roosevelt Institute communications team, starting tomorrow. While I will continue to provide editorial oversight and support, I'm confident Rachel will make the Digest her own and ensure that it remains a fresh and engaging resource for progressive economics news and analysis over the next three years and beyond. Thanks for reading!

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Daily Digest - May 17: It's Gatsby's World, They're Just Working In It

May 17, 2013Tim Price

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Gatsby and the McJobs Rebellion (KC Star)

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Gatsby and the McJobs Rebellion (KC Star)

Roosevelt Institute Fellow Dorian Warren notes that the new adaptation of The Great Gatsby is timed nicely with fast food and retail workers' push for fairer wages. The story of unbridled greed keeps being retold, but this time they plan to write their own ending.

Millennials reject 'lazy, entitled' label: 'Who are they talking about?' (Today)

Roosevelt Institute | Pipeline Fellow Nona Willis Aronowitz writes that while pundits sneer at Millennials, members of the generation that came of age during the Great Recession are too busy working to improve the bad hand they've been dealt to have time for haters.

84 Percent of NYC Fast Food Workers Report Wage Theft in a New Survey (The Nation)

Josh Eidelson highlights a new report that finds many fast food restaurants are pulling a fast one on their workers, who are forced to work without pay or denied breaks and overtime. Even the Hamburglar himself would never have stooped to this kind of petty thievery.

That's a 'Depression': Europe's Double-Dip Is Officially Longer Than Its Great Recession (The Atlantic)

Matthew O'Brien notes that GDP data prove Europe's response to the recession has been worse than the recession itself, but polls still show widespread support for the euro and austerity, so the continent may just have an unusually large population of masochists.

Surprise! Inflation is too low almost everywhere on earth (WaPo)

Neil Irwin writes that in contrast to inflationistas' repeated warnings that quantitative easing would lead to a grim, dark future in which there is only Bitcoin, none of the leading central banks have even been able to hit the 2 percent inflation rate they were aiming for.

Foreclosure Crisis Cost U.S. $192.6 Billion in Lost Wealth Last Year, Study Finds (HuffPo)

Jillian Berman writes that even as the housing market rebounds, millions continue to lose their homes or struggle in vain to save them, with minority borrowers hit particularly hard. Is there no "moral hazard" in leaving enough people underwater to re-settle Atlantis?

The real IRS scandal: Targeting by class (Salon)

David Dayen points out that unfairly scrutinizing one group over another isn't new behavior for the IRS. That's why the working poor get audited while big corporations get away with just about anything as long as they employ a sufficiently intimidating number of lawyers.

Billionaires Unchained (TomDispatch)

Andy Kroll argues that you can't measure the impact of money in politics by simply chalking up big donors' wins and losses and calculating the score. The point is that something's off when one person can spend more in one election than most voters will ever make.

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Daily Digest - May 16: Thirty-Seventh Time's the Charm

May 16, 2013Tim Price

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Four Better Ways to Spend the $55 Million Wasted on Votes to Repeal the Affordable Care Act (Think Progress)

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Four Better Ways to Spend the $55 Million Wasted on Votes to Repeal the Affordable Care Act (Think Progress)

House Republicans will vote to repeal Obamacare for the 37th time today because they still haven't found a genie to grant their wish, but Bryce Covert and Adam Peck write that instead of paying them to pretend to work, we could pay for things we actually need.

Sequestration Cuts Taking Money Out of People's Unemployment Checks (HuffPo)

Arthur Delaney notes that 2 million long-term unemployed are seeing their benefits cut as a consequence of the sequester. Now that money can be put toward reducing the already rapidly shrinking federal deficit instead of being wasted on, say, a family's dinner.

The global epidemic of underemployed youth (Reuters)

Shane Ferro highlights a report from the International Labor Organization that finds fewer than 20 percent of young people in high- or low-income countries are fully employed, with the rest either hustling, studying, or just waiting around and wondering when life starts.

IRS Fallout: The Real Scandal Is Secret Money Influencing US Elections (The Nation)

While some critics are mad that the IRS dared to question the legitimacy of a bunch of guys in Thomas Jefferson costumes, Ari Berman argues the bigger problem is that they didn't even bother to question what the guys in the expensive suits and ties were up to.

Europe's endless recession, in one chart (WaPo)

Brad Plumer notes that the euro zone economy has now contracted for the sixth consecutive quarter, making it the longest recession the euro zone has ever experienced and, based on how its members are souring on the project, quite possibly the last.

The Fed's Credibility Problem (ProPublica)

Jesse Eisinger argues that while it might be fun to point and laugh at the hedge funders who have been complaining that the Fed doesn't know what it's doing, they kind of have a point, even if it's by accident: the central bank's track record is pretty abysmal.

Why Won't the SEC Rein in the Firms That Tanked America's Economy? (MoJo)

Erika Eichelberger writes that a handful of credit rating agencies helped blow up the economy by telling banks for a fee that the piles of toxic junk they were selling smelled like roses, but the SEC still isn't sure it sees anything wrong with that scenario.

Guerrillas in the Boardroom (TNR)

David Dayen writes that shareholder activists are learning to work the system, winning 66 percent of proposal votes this year and engineering the ouster of a Fortune 500 CEO. Now they're on the verge of making Jamie Dimon take his ball and go home.

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Daily Digest - May 15: Adding Morals to Math

May 15, 2013Tim Price

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Creating an Economics for the 21st Century (Yahoo! Finance)

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Creating an Economics for the 21st Century (Yahoo! Finance)

Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Rob Johnson argues that the problem with much of modern economics is that it offers no useful guidance for society, instead treating messy human decisions and interactions as if they could all be performed on a graphing calculator.

How the Case for Austerity Has Crumbled (NYRB)

Paul Krugman writes that the revelations about Reinhart-Rogoff's research errors wouldn't have been so embarrassing to so many proponents of austerity if they hadn't been looking for intellectual cover like a UFO believer searching the night sky with a telescope.

U.S. Budget Deficit Shrinks Far Faster Than Expected (NYT)

Annie Lowrey notes that the CBO estimates the deficit will be $200 billion lower than projected this fiscal year and could shrink to just 2.1 percent of GDP by 2015, allowing Washington to shift focus and get serious about jobs. Just kidding; who wants a tax cut?

Why Washington scandal-mania may save Medicare and Social Security (WaPo)

Greg Sargent writes that President Obama may give up on a Grand Bargain to avoid alienating the core progressive supporters he'll need to see him through the furor over the IRS's Tea Party targeting, the AP's phone records, and something something Benghazi.

Warren asks regulators to justify not taking Wall Street to trial (The Hill)

Peter Schroeder reports that Elizabeth Warren has sent a letter to the SEC, the Fed, and the Justice Department asking for any analysis they have to back up their strategy of settling out of court. Unlike the banks, they may just have to answer for their decisions. 

Student Loan Debt Horror Stories, Revealed (U.S. News & World Report)

Jim Lardner notes that the 28,000 personal statements about student loan debt published by the CFPB express something about the human costs of the crisis that statistics alone can't, though nothing's quite as frightening as those bills waiting in the mailbox.

Mending factory conditions after Bangladesh (WaPo)

Harold Meyerson writes that American companies like Wal-Mart have been reluctant to sign onto a plan to commit to improving factory safety, partly because they've worked so hard to ensure that consumers can only afford to buy the most cheaply made products.

Everyday Socialism, American-Style, Is Happening Now (Truthout)

Gar Alperovitz writes that, beyond the right treating Obama as the reincarnation of Chairman Mao, the U.S. is filled with real examples of publicly owned resources, from utilities to railways to pension systems, that democratize wealth and efficiently meet public needs.

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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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