Economic Daily Outlook

FRIDAY, MARCH 23, 2012



Fed Hosts Global Gathering on Easy Money


The world’s leading central bankers have spent much of the past few months putting out financial fires and launching measures aimed at recharging the global economy.

On Friday, they will gather here to gauge the impact of their easy-money policies—including whether the controversial bond-buying strategy known as “quantitative easing” is a good weapon to keep in their monetary arsenals.

A number of researchers say it is, despite nagging doubts.

Paul Ryan budget goes there again


Did no one learn anything from last summer? Did 2011 not happen?

It can seem that way in Congress these days as Republicans bring their new budget resolution to the House floor next week, hoping to push the reset button on Medicare reform and score a trifecta by rewriting the debt deal struck with President Barack Obama last August.



Fed’s Dudley backs global push for more swaps oversight


An influential U.S. Federal Reserve official strongly endorsed a global push to strengthen the clearinghouses that will handle a flood of new over-the-counter swaps trading, and to coordinate oversight among international regulators to make financial markets safer.

Such derivatives clearinghouses, known as central counterparties or CCPs, must be “bullet proof” to avoid another financial crisis, New York Fed President William Dudley said on Thursday. He noted, however, that regulators and policymakers must be “open minded” as they roll out new rules because of unexpected evolutions in financial markets.

SEC Probes Rapid Trading


Federal securities regulators are examining whether some sophisticated, rapid-fire trading firms have used their close links to computerized stock exchanges to gain an unfair advantage over other investors, people familiar with the matter say.

The wide-ranging probe, being handled by the enforcement staff of the Securities and Exchange Commission, is focusing on the computer-driven trading platforms of exchanges, including BATS Global Markets Inc., the people said.



White House marks healthcare anniversary with caution, defiance


The second birthday of President Obama’s landmark legislative achievement, coming just three days before the Supreme Court begins oral arguments on its constitutionality, falls amid serious questions over whether it will have a third.

A ruling against the law this summer—a final decision from the court is expected in June—could dismantle Obama’s signature policy triumph. Either way the court comes down, it will have a major effect on the tenor of this fall’s presidential campaign, in which Obama will seek a second term.

Health Law Slow to Win Favor


When the health-care overhaul became law after a bitter debate, many Democrats predicted Americans would grow to like it as they started enjoying some of the early benefits.

The day after the president signed the bill into law, which happened exactly two years ago, an average of major polls collated by the website Real Clear Politics showed 50.4% of Americans opposed. This week, that had changed only by a tenth of a percentage point, ticking up to 50.5%.



OPINION: Paranoia Strikes Deeper (Paul Krugman)


Stop, hey, what’s that sound? Actually, it’s the noise a great political party makes when it loses what’s left of its mind. And it happened — where else? — on Fox News on Sunday, when Mitt Romney bought fully into the claim that gas prices are high thanks to an Obama administration plot.

This claim isn’t just nuts; it’s a sort of craziness triple play — a lie wrapped in an absurdity swaddled in paranoia. It’s the sort of thing you used to hear only from people who also believed that fluoridated water was a Communist plot. But now the gas-price conspiracy theory has been formally endorsed by the likely Republican presidential nominee.

Before we get to the larger implications of this endorsement, let’s get the facts on gas prices straight.

Keystone XL pipeline: Obama vows to cut through red tape


On his energy tour across America, President Barack Obama can’t seem to win for losing.

During a stop Thursday in Oklahoma, Obama announced the administration would “cut through the red tape” for the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline — disappointing environmentalists who had counted it a victory when the president denied a permit for the project’s full, Canada-to-Texas version.



OPINION: Who Shouldn’t Go to College? (Judith Scott Clayton)


Rick Santorum’s recent diatribe against higher education, in which he called President Obama a “snob” for wanting “everybody in America to go to college,” has reinvigorated the seemingly endless debate over whether college is worthwhile.

Economic evidence consistently and compellingly documents the value of postsecondary education in general (as Economix contributors have written about more than once). But high average returns do not necessarily imply that everyone should invest in college. So is there anyone who should not go to college – and if so, who?

The answer is clearly yes: some folks do have good reasons to skip (or at least delay) college. But the good reasons are more limited than the ones Mr. Santorum and other college skeptics typically cite.



U.S. Sergeant Faces 17 Counts of Murder in Afghan Killings


Staff Sgt. Robert Bales will be charged on Friday with 17 counts of murder and various other charges, including attempted murder, in connection with the March 11 attack on Afghan civilians, a senior United States official said on Thursday.

Sergeant Bales, who is 38 and had been serving his fourth combat tour overseas, is being held at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

He is accused of walking away from his remote base in southern Afghanistan and shooting and stabbing members of several families in a nighttime ambush. At least nine victims were children and some others were women. Several sources said 16 people were killed, though some also said the number could be higher. The Army has not suggested a motive.