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What We Read Today 08 August 2015

Econintersect: Every day our editors collect the most interesting things they find from around the internet and present a summary "reading list" which will include very brief summaries (and sometimes longer ones) of why each item has gotten our attention. Suggestions from readers for "reading list" items are gratefully reviewed, although sometimes space limits the number included.

This feature is published every day late afternoon New York time. For early morning review of headlines see "The Early Bird" published every day in the early am at GEI News (membership not required for access to "The Early Bird".).


Every day most of this column ("What We Read Today") is available only to GEI members.

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Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world



  • Why Are U.S. Companies Dying Off Faster Than Ever? (Money Talks News)  Public companies traded in the U.S. now have a five-year exit risk of 32%, compared with with a 5% risk 50 years ago.  Mortality risk has grown for companies of all sizes and ages. Even the largest companies face higher exit rates today.  The origin of the current problem traces back to the venture-capital funding booms of the mid-1980s and mid- to late-1990s, when many smaller and younger companies entered the public markets.  Some of these are failing today and others have become very strong, driving other companies out of business.  For details see Die Another Day: What Leaders Can Do About the Shrinking Life Expectancy of Corporations.
  • This Student Debt Relief Program Will Cost Taxpayers at Least $39 Billion (Bloomberg Business)  At least 3.8 million Americans have qualified for federal programs that tie payments to income and eventually forgive debt for some struggling borrowers, leaving taxpayers to pick up the tab.  Econintersect:  The economic structure of higher education in the U.S. should be better aligned with the economic needs of the nation.  For example, one misalignment is the cost to the student for a degree to become a teacher, which is up to 5x the gross starting income for teachers in many states.  And that is for public universities - unless the parents are "wealthy" (upper 10% or 15%) the private university costs are higher for many. 
  • Tweet this: Twitter has lost nearly half its value in 4 months (CNBC)  NYSE:TWTR has slipped to about $27 per share, the closest it's ever been to its $26 IPO price.  More leadership seems to be needed.  The drubbing comes as uncertainty surrounds Twitter's long-term growth and leadership. Chief Financial Officer Anthony Noto sparked a selloff late last month when he said on Twitter's earnings conference call that "sustained, meaningful" user growth would not come for a "considerable period of time."  Separately, Dow Jones reported late Friday that former CEO Dick Costolo may step down from the social media company's board once his permanent replacement is hired
  • Poll Names People’s Choice for the Woman to Grace New $10 Bill (Money Talks News)  A new poll from McClatchy-Marist, found that 27% of Americans favor Eleanor Roosevelt, 20% for Harriet Tubman and 13% Sacagawea.  Following them are suffragette Susan B. Anthony (11%), and former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor (4%).


  • Mohamed A. El-Erian: Economics behind Europe's migrant crisis (Tulsa World)  Just as the flow of migrants has swelled to the hundreds of thousands fleeing economic hardship and political/ethnic persecution, the availability of jobs for migrants is shrinking as the European economy struggles.  Thus economic forces are driving events for which economic solutions are vanishing.  El Erian says the only solutions now will be political as "the market" has abrogated any significant role.  And he does not think that many political options will be on the table as the endogenous problems of the continent are quite burdensome.


  • Attacks on army, police, U.S. special forces kill 50 in Kabul (Reuters)   A wave of attacks on the Afghan army and police and U.S. special forces in Kabul killed at least 50 people and wounded hundreds, dimming hopes that the Taliban might be weakened by a leadership struggle after their longtime leader's death.  The bloodshed began on Friday with a truck bomb that exploded in a heavily populated district of the capital and ended with an hours-long battle at a base used by U.S. special forces. It became the deadliest day in Kabul for years.  The Islamist insurgents claimed responsibility for both the police academy attack and the battle at the U.S. special forces base, though not for the truck bomb.


  • HIGHLIGHTS 2-BOJ Governor Kuroda comments at press conference (Reuters)  The Bank of Japan maintained its massive stimulus programme and upbeat economic assessment on Friday, reflecting its conviction that inflation will accelerate toward 2% without additional monetary easing (beyond the current "massive").


  • Australia’s Central Bank Lowers Unemployment Forecast  (The Wall Street Journal)  The RBA (Reserve Bank of Australia) has improved its unemployment projections, now predicting little change over the next 18 months.  This is largely due to anticipated slowing of population growth, while GDP growth estimates are lower for 2016 at 2.5% to 3.5% (were 2.75% to 3.75%).  Unemployment is now projected for 2016 at 6% to 6.3%, down from 6.5%.

The July Jobs Report in 12 Charts (The Wall Street Journal)







Other Economics and Business Items of Note and Miscellanea


  • The Pros and Cons of Job Hopping (Money Talks News)  Are you thinking about jumping ship for a new job opportunity? Here are three reasons why that may be a good idea — and a few potential drawbacks of such a strategy. 
  • Free Lunch: Blind spots in economic methodology (Financial Times)  The tremendous power of economic models is that they filter out the complexity of real economic life to allow us to see the bare forces at work. That is also their great liability, as what they filter out may sometimes be what matters most.  A result, according to economist Edmund Phelps (who has contributed to GEI), extensively quoted in the article, is that essential important features of human existence are not sufficiently included economic policy.  See next article for more.  From this article:  

Phelps makes a convincing argument for the importance of inclusion, and for economics' blindness to it. This is particularly grave because much of what the good life involves takes place in economic activity, above all the workplace and the imaginative effort involved in psychologically rewarding jobs.

So this is not merely an intellectual problem, Phelps writes. It also means economics as normally practised is bereft of policy advice relevant to one of the most important economic questions. "Our prevailing political economy is blind to the very concept of inclusion; it does not map out any remedy for the deficiency." A better political economy would make dynamism and human flourishing a priority, not just material growth.

What is wrong with the economies of the West—and with economics? It depends on whether we are talking about the good or the just.

Many of us in Western Europe and America feel that our economies are far from just, though our views on justice differ somewhat. One band of economists, led for decades by the British economist Anthony Atkinson, sees the West as being in another Gilded Age of inequality in income and wealth.1 Adopting Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarian view, they would redistribute income from those in high brackets to those farther down—until we reach the highest “sum of utilities.” It is a question, though, whether this doctrine captures intuitive views of what is just.

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