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What We Read Today 01 May 2017

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".).


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Topics today include:

  • Yellow-Light Crusader Fined for Doing Math Without a License

  • Why the Phrase 'Late Capitalism' Is Suddenly Everywhere 

  • International Workers' Day: Profitable Work Will Be Automated, The Rest Will Be Left To Us

  • Russell 2000 Small-Cap Bumping Against 10-Year Resistance 

  • Gasoline Prices Around the World: The Real Cost of Filling Up

  • Seven things to know about the government funding deal

  • Who are the winners and losers in the $1.1 trillion spending bill?

  • Half targeted by ICE had traffic convictions or no record

  • Trump unwinding Michelle Obama's school lunch program rules

  • Trump questions why U.S. Civil War had to happen 

  • Abe Sees Momentum Toward Changing Japan's Pacifist Constitution

  • Trump Says He’d Meet With Kim Jong Un Under Right Circumstances

  • U.S. Supreme Court sides with Venezuela over oil rigs claim

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • Gasoline Prices Around the World: The Real Cost of Filling Up (Bloomberg)  Global gas prices are on the rise—about 1.4%, on average, in the last three months. Behind that modest increase is a wide range of price swings felt differently around the world. We ranked 61 countries by three economic measures to see which has the most affordable gas and who feels the most pain at the pump.  The first graphic below shows where the U.S. stands in the income spent ranking for the world.  The global map shows the income spent ranking for each country reported.  Click on either graphic for larger image.



  1. It boosts defense money

  2. There’s no money for Trump’s border wall

  3. A deal’s been reached on healthcare for miners

  4. New York City will be reimbursed for Trump security

  5. It won’t defund Planned Parenthood

  6. The IRS survives the GOP’s wrath

  7. It quadruples money for the opioid crisis

  • Half targeted by ICE had traffic convictions or no record (PBS)  Shortly after President Trump took office, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, began arresting hundreds of immigrants in very visible raids across the United States. But as internal ICE documents obtained first by The Washington Post show, half of those detained had either no criminal record or traffic convictions.

  • Trump unwinding Michelle Obama's school lunch program rules (The Hill)   Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue took steps Monday to roll back healthy school lunch standards promoted by former first lady Michelle Obama in one of his first regulatory acts.   In an interim final rule, aimed at giving schools more flexibility, Perdue and his department are postponing further sodium reductions for at least three years and allowing schools to serve non-whole grain rich products occasionally as well as 1% flavored milk.  The rule allows states to exempt schools in the 2017-2018 school year from having to replace all their grains with whole-grain rich products if they are having a hard time meeting the standard.  USDA said it will take “all necessary regulatory actions to implement a long-term solution.”

  • Trump questions why U.S. Civil War had to happen (Reuters)   Donald Trump has shown a fascination with populist 19th-century U.S. president Andrew Jackson since he has occupied the Oval Office, hanging Old Hickory's portrait in the Oval Office, visiting his plantation in Tennessee and placing a wreath at his tomb.  His latest foray into history is a speculation that if Andrew Jackson had still been president 16 years after his death the Civil War could have been prevented.  Curiously, the president showed no indication he realized that Jackson was dead at the time of the Civil War.  See also Trump, after your 'Civil War' comments, crack a book (The Hill). Trump told Sirius XM that Jackson:

"... was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War  He [Jackson] said, 'There's no reason for this.'  People don't realize, you know, the Civil War — if you think about it, why? People don't ask that question, but why was there a Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?"


  • Abe Sees Momentum Toward Changing Japan's Pacifist Constitution (Bloomberg)  Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he sees momentum toward changing Japan’s 70-year-old pacifist constitution, as public opinion polls show a high level of concern over North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile program. There is a need for flexible debate, he said on Monday, without elaborating on what types of changes might be sought. Abe told a group of lawmakers and others who want to reform the document: 

“We will without fail take a historic step toward the goal of changing the constitution in this anniversary year.” 

North Korea

  • Trump Says He’d Meet With Kim Jong Un Under Right Circumstances (Bloomberg)  President Donald Trump said he would meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un amid heightened tensions over his country’s nuclear weapons program if the circumstances were right.  The U.S. has no diplomatic relations with North Korea, and as recently as last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said at the United Nations that the U.S. would negotiate with Kim’s regime only if it made credible steps toward giving up its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.  Trump said Monday in an Oval Office interview with Bloomberg News:

“If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would absolutely, I would be honored to do it.  If it’s under the, again, under the right circumstances. But I would do that.”


  • U.S. Supreme Court sides with Venezuela over oil rigs claim (Reuters)  The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday tossed out a lower court's ruling that had allowed an American oil drilling company to sue Venezuela over the seizure of 11 drilling rigs in 2010 but allowed the business another chance to press its claims.  Siding with Venezuela, the justices ruled 8-0 that a lower court that had given the go-ahead for the suit must reconsider whether claims made by Oklahoma-based Helmerich & Payne International Drilling Company (HP.N) can proceed.

Writing for the court, Justice Stephen Breyer said the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 2015 used the wrong standard in denying Venezuela immunity from the lawsuit.

The company sued both the Venezuelan government and state-owned oil companies under a U.S. law called the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, saying among other things that the property seizure violated international law.

Other Scientific, Health, Political, Economics, and Business Items of Note - plus Miscellanea

  • Yellow-Light Crusader Fined for Doing Math Without a License (The New York Times)  Conservatives are not the only ones worried that willy-nilly licensing requirements for occupations from hair braiding to florists are constricting employment and economic growth. The Obama administration and labor economists across the political spectrum have also criticized what they see as unnecessary and expensive work restrictions.  But the story here has nothing to do with work.  Mats Jarlstrom has been fined by the state of Oregon for presenting a petition to the Beaverton, OR city counsel to change traffic light timing.  So last week, Mr. Jarlstrom filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court against the Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying, charging the state’s licensing panel with violating his First Amendment rights.  Read this story for an example of bureaucratic arrogance and incompetence. 

  • Why the Phrase 'Late Capitalism' Is Suddenly Everywhere (The Atlantic)  A term often attributed to Karl Marx was actually first used ling after his death.  This article attributes the term 'late capitalism' to a German economist named Werner Sombart around the turn of the 20th century, with a Marxist theorist and activist named Ernest Mandel popularizing it a half-century later. For Mandel, 'late capitalism' denoted the economic period that started with the end of World War II and ended in the early 1970s, a time that saw the rise of multinational corporations, mass communication, and international finance. William Clare Roberts, a political scientist at McGill University, said that the term’s current usage departs somewhat from its original meaning:

“It’s not this sense that things are getting so bad that the revolution is going to come, but rather that we see the ligaments of the international system that socialists will be able to seize and use.”

Everyone wants an abundance of "good paying" jobs, but employers can only afford to pay employees if the work being done is profitable.

What's abundant and what's scarce? The question matters because as economist Michael Spence (among others) has noted, value and profits flow to what's scarce. What's in over-supply has little to no scarcity value and hence little to no profitability.

What's abundant is unprofitable work, commoditized goods and services, and conventional labor and capital (which is why wages are declining and yields on capital are near-zero).

The model of expecting global corporations and Big Government to solve the scarcity of paid work is broken. Paul Mason does an excellent job of explaining why in this article from mid-2015: The end of capitalism has begun: the rise of non-market production, of unownable information, of peer networks and unmanaged enterprises.


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