Wolraich: Obama at the Gates of... Gates
Dr. C: In Praise of Writing Binges
Maiello: Gatsby Doesn't Grate
It's hard out there for a bank. Last year, retail banks lost a major revenue source when the government regulated overdraft charges. This year, they took another hit when the government capped the debit card fees. And amidst an anemic credit market, they're having trouble finding investment opportunities for their deposits.
According to the New York Times' calculations, it costs the banks $200 to $300 a year to maintain a checking account, but they're only earning $85 and $115. So now they're scrambling to find new ways to charge customers, from conspicuous checking fees to sly little charges that sneak into bank statements. [Read more]
It's become disturbingly clear that the people occupying Wall Street, and the centers of several other major American cities, have no plan for the future. No vision. No coherent ideas. No sense at all of what to do next.
Before about a decade ago, I paid rent, insurance, and doctor's bills by writing checks and sending them through the mail. My wife paid by check at the grocery store. I had a credit card for traveling and large purchases, but used cash as much as possible. [Read more]
As Solar Decathlon teams assemble their entries, politics heats up everything under the sun. Republicans gleefully exploit the failure of solar panel startup Solyndra, and Germany's Passiv Haus Institut casts out their US incarnation. In Passive House Schism Leaves U.S. in Limbo, GreenSource reports: [Read more]
After I suggested being honest about college sports on this blog page, Taylor Branch has made the same case, better, in The Atlantic. With, you know, actual reporting and everything.
Here's a bit from Branch's lead, as a shoe-advertising king pin talks openly about "buying your schools" in order to increase his market share:
Not all the members could hide their scorn for the “sneaker pimp” of schoolyard hustle, who boasted of writing checks for millions to everybody in higher education. [Read more]
Let's get one thing straight: without a national debt, there is no national defense. This has always been true.
We can all sputter righteously about the evils of borrowing and debt, but a United States government that did not borrow would either have to do without any military at all or else make do with a tiny, ill-equipped military with troops who almost never got their pay, which is what we had before the Washington Administration. Access to credit has always been central to effective government operations, and especially to effective military operations. Gimmicks like "debt ceilings" and "balanced budget amendments" not only threaten the effectiveness of basic, everyday governance but make the government completely incapable of responding to an emergency. [Read more]
American businesses are breaking up with the middle class. This won't be news around here, though it might stir up some controversy over at The Daily today. In my column this week I looked into some of the potential implications of two big changes in American business. They used to rely largely on domestic middle class consumers to make their profits. This was true even in the 1990s, when the main effect of globalization was overseas exploitation in order to sell cheap goods back home. But it's not true anymore. [Read more]
This morning, a local news blurb claimed that Mazda was leaving the US. What does that mean? According to Mazda May Quit Michigan Venture in the Wall Street Journal, Mazda primarily wants to leave their Auto Alliance International joint venture with Ford because it simply isn't profitable: [Read more]
So, last summer LeBron James decided to leave Cleveland, leading to a massive outburst of Clevesentment and a widespread belief that Cleveland had burned down among my friends and family who don't live there (and not just among them, judging from the search terms that old post collected). A year later, he's gotten himself to the NBA Finals for the first time in his career. So, I would say his career decision is going much the way he planned.
As America celebrates President Barack Obama's birth certificate as well as Osama bin Laden's new eye hole, one bit of news managed to get by that will likely have a bigger effect on the U.S. - Chrysler announced a profit:
Chrysler has posted its first quarterly net profit since declaring bankruptcy almost two years ago, Reuters reports.
The Fiat-controlled brand's first quarter net income came to $116 million, with a total increase in revenue of around 35 percent to $13.1 billion.  [Read more]
The New York Times takes a look at the contract disputes that have been delaying production of Mad Men. (But Deadline Hollywood suggests that the show is now a go, even though the fight with series creator Matt Weiner is not over.)
What's enlightening is the nature of the dispute. The network is ready to make Weiner very, very rich. But they demand that he turn in a slightly shittier product. From the Times:
Here's the deal: how much money you get paid is based on how much other people get paid. This is a fact of life. Your paycheck is based on what other people get in other jobs like yours, and what other people in your area make, and what other people with your qualifications make. The price of those people's work sets the price of replacing you if you quit your job. If you make less than they make, it can only be so much less. If you make more than they make, it's only realistically going to be so much more. If you're making too much less than similar workers, it will be cheaper to give you a raise than to replace you. If you're making too much more, it will be cheaper to hire someone else. You may feel like your paycheck is just between you and your boss. [Read more]
The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All The Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better by Tyler Cowen
The Great Stagnation, a short yet ambitious e-book by economist Tyler Cowen, has been generating a lot of buzz lately. It has been recommended by Matthew Yglesias (ThinkProgress), Ezra Klein (Washington Post), Tim Harford (Financial Times), and Nick Schulz (Forbes), to name a few.
In the book, Cowen argues that America's spectacular growth of the past 200 years has been driven by the consumption of "low-hanging fruit" which we have now exhausted. In particular, he cites cheap land, advances in education, and technological innovation. He argues that since we can no longer rely on these drivers, our economy will stagnate for the foreseeable future.
But you don't have to be an economist to see that the evidence Cowen relies on to bolster his low-hanging fruit theory has been derived from some aggressive cherry picking.
AMERICA – A Federal Court in Florida has struck down Capitalism, ruling that the requirement for individuals to live under any type of economic system is unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson in his judgment ruled that the so-called economic system known as capitalism exceeds congressional power.
“The Congress does not have the power to compel an individual to live under any economic system,” Vinson said. [Read more]
There is a lovely new residential-shopping complex in Myrtle Beach called "The Market Common". We haven't been there yet this year, but last year we walked around it a few times. In my wildest dreams I couldn't afford anything in their shops, but honestly? I never saw anything I would be willing to give up my entire SS check to buy. Still, I kind of took a liking to the place, faux as it was.
But this morning I saw an article in the paper titled "Familiar Face buys Market" and was surprised to see that Market Common had been in some trouble last year. They weren't paying their bills. Imagine [Read more]