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What We Read Today 29 June 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".).


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

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The rest of this post is available only the GEI Members.  Membership is FREE -  click here

Topics today include:

  • 2017 Tax Burden by State

  • FBI's facial recognition database isdangerously inaccurate

  • Facial recognition database used by FBI is out of control, House committee hears

  • Another way to show the population distribution in the USA

  • Climate change set to worsen inequality in US if greenhouse gases aren't reduced

  • Trump Administration Predicts Orderly Travel Ban This Time

  • Trump tweets bring new accusations of sexism, bullying

  • Trump's Russia lawyer faces conflict-of-interest questions over $296m Kushner deal

  • The Dangerous Simplicity of Donald Trump

  • Guess What? There Are No Cuts in Medicaid

  • Republican Plans for Medicaid Are on the Right Track

  • Trump was sleazy with a reporter. Her awkward laugh felt all too familiar

  • U.S. food expenditure at home

  • Doggerland - The Europe That Was

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • Climate change set to worsen inequality in US if greenhouse gases aren't reduced (The Guardian)  New research shows that by 2100 the economic loss from warming temperatures will be on par with the Great Recession, with states in the south most affected.  Climate change is likely to worsen existing inequalities in the US, with the poorest areas of the country poised to lose as much as 20% of their income by the end of the century if greenhouse gases are not significantly reduced.

While large areas of the south will suffer economically and socially from heatwaves, storms and failing crops, parts of New England and the Pacific north-west will do comparatively well, with balmier conditions reducing deaths from the winter cold and some crops responding well to the extra warmth.

Previous research has shown that in some areas of the US, people have experienced seemingly favorable alterations to the climate. But the new study, conducted by a trio of US universities and published in Science, warns that unchecked climate change will prove costly for the whole country.

Click for large image.

  • Trump Administration Predicts Orderly Travel Ban This Time (Bloomberg)  The Trump administration provided details of its revised travel ban on refugees and on visitors from six majority Muslim countries hours before it’s to take effect, seeking to ensure there’s no repeat of the chaotic scenes at airports when the order was initially imposed in January.

The restrictions will go into effect as of 8 p.m. eastern time on Thursday, administration officials confirmed on a conference call with reporters as they predicted an orderly rollout. Unlike the last time, when travelers arriving in the U.S. were turned back at airports, the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, emphasized that those already holding a valid visa will be let in.

In an effort to comply with a Supreme Court ruling this week that those with “bona fide” connections in the U.S. must be exempted from the travel ban, the fine points have been spelled out in a cable distributed to American embassies worldwide.

  • Trump tweets bring new accusations of sexism, bullying (The Hill)  President Trump unleashed a wave of new accusations of sexism and cyberbullying on Thursday, with an early morning tweet criticizing MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski and claiming she was “bleeding” from a “face-lift.”


  • Trump's Russia lawyer faces conflict-of-interest questions over $296m Kushner deal (The Guardian)  The lawyer privately advising Donald Trump on the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election is head of a law firm that was involved in the sale of a prestigious piece of New York real estate to Jared Kushner, the US president’s son-in-law, in a deal that could fall under the spotlight of the same inquiry.

Marc Kasowitz, a member of the New York bar who has represented Trump in his business dealings for 15 years, was brought on board by the president last month to provide personal legal advice relating to the Russian inquiry now being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller. The appointment has placed Kasowitz at the center of the legal maelstrom over the investigation into potential collusion between Russia and elements of Trump’s presidential campaign.

An investigation by the Guardian has found that Kasowitz’s law firm, Kasowitz Benson Torres, legally represented the owners of the former New York Times building in Times Square, Manhattan, in a 2015 deal in which part of the property was sold to Kushner for $296m.

President Donald Trump has always had a weakness for simple and fantastical fixes. Illegal immigration? Build a wall. Jobs moving overseas? Tax imports. Unemployment in Appalachia? Dig more coal. Rising medical costs? Repeal Obamacare.

Trump’s gift for simple slogans served him well as a candidate. As president, however, it is failing him and endangering the country.

  • Guess What? There Are No Cuts in Medicaid (Daniel J. Mitchell, Foundation fro Economic Education)  DJM has contributed to GEI.  The point made by Mitchell is that Medicaid is not being "cut" by the GOP Senate health bill, but is being "reformed".  See first graph below.  (Econintersect:  This statement is absolutely correct, but is relatively very deceptive.)  The author provides the second graph showing the historical growth of federal expenditures for Medicaid.  The growth has been driven by (1) rising medical costs and (2) coverage of increasing numbers of people - due to population growth and shifting economic circumstances (aka increasing income inequality).  The first factor is something that can be addressed by better healthcare system mangement.  The second factor is largely not impacted by improving health care delivery. (Econintersect:  If we simply extrapolate the historical data, 2016 medicare expenditure by the federal government would increase to about 2.6% of GDP.  If GDP is assumed to increase by 20% over the next 10 years (less than 2% a year average, compounded), then federal Medicare expenditures would grow to the vicinity of $580 billion.  Thus the cut in services delivered would be approximately 20% ($115 billion / $580 billion = 19.8%).  It is disingenuous to say that limiting dollar increases in a way that cuts services delivered is not a cut.)  Mitchell says:

At the risk of pointing out the obvious, it’s not a cut if spending rises from $393 billion to $464 billion.

Federal outlays on the program will climb by about 2 percent annually.

By the way, it’s perfectly fair for opponents to say that they want the program to grow faster in order to achieve different goals.

But they should be honest with numbers.


Medicaid is a program that is rife with inefficiency. A 2015 study found that recipients derived only 20 to 40 cents of benefit for every dollar governments spend on it. Researchers have struggled to find any positive effects Medicaid has on beneficiaries’ physical health.

It’s also a program that creates perverse incentives for state governments. Because the federal government has paid more than half the cost of the program, state politicians have been able to promise voters more than two dollars of benefits for every dollar of taxes they extract from them. This funding structure has also meant that when state governments have to trim their budgets, every dollar of savings requires more than two dollars in benefit cuts. Finding ways to stretch dollars, or even policing fraud, had a low return for states. It’s not surprising, then, that Medicaid has become a larger and larger share of state budgets.


  • Doggerland - The Europe That Was (National Geographic)  Things aren’t always what they seem on the surface. Looking at the area between mainland Europe and the eastern coast of Great Britain, you probably wouldn’t guess it had been anything other than a great expanse of ocean water. But roughly 12,000 years ago, as the last major ice age was reaching its end, the area was very different. Instead of the North Sea, the area was a series of gently sloping hills, marshland, heavily wooded valleys, and swampy lagoons: Doggerland.


Click for larger image.

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

Click for large image.

  • 2017 Tax Burden by State (WalletHub)  To determine which states’ residents bear the biggest tax burdens, WalletHub’s analysts compared the 50 states across the three tax types that make up state tax burden — property taxes, individual income taxes, and sales and excise taxes — as a percentage of total personal income in the state.  Data for each state can be observed by hovering over the second graphic below.

  • Red states have a lower overall tax burden, with an average rank of 30.27, than Blue states, which have an average rank of 18.30 (lower rank = higher tax burden).  (See first graphic below.)

  • New Hampshire has the highest property tax as a share of personal income, 5.33 percent, which is 3.9 times higher than in Oklahoma, the state with the lowest at 1.38 percent.

  • New York has the highest individual income taxes as a share of personal income, 4.76 percent, whereas Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming do not levy such a tax on their residents.

  • Hawaii has the highest total sales and excise tax as a share of personal income, 6.52 percent, which is 5.7 times higher than in Oregon, the state with the lowest at 1.14 percent

Source: WalletHub

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