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What We Read Today 06 December 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 Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in the late afternoon New York time. For early morning review of headlines see "The Early Bird" published Monday through Friday in the early am at GEI News (membership not required for access to "The Early Bird".).


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

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Topics today include:

  • ‚ÄčThe Great Recession Is Still With Us

  • Financial markets could be over-heating, warns central bank body

  • Tax reform might tell us whether the individual mandate really works

  • How CEO Stock Buybacks Parasitize the Economy

  • 21 experts tell us what the future looks like for crytocurrenices and blockchain

  • Blockchains - What Are They? What Can We Expect?

  • Inequality History Around the World

  • Homelessness rises for first time since recession

  • Estimates of Homelessness in the United States

  • Sen. Al Franken will resign, Democratic official says

  • Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign

  • Trump Jr. says he did not work directly with his father on misleading Trump Tower statement: report

  • Preemptive Strike on North Korea: Is Trump Wagging the Dog?

  • U.S. Households Own More Stocks

  • Arabs, Europe, U.N. reject Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli capital

  • Trump Calls on Saudi Arabia to End Yemen Blockade Immediately

  • 22 Perfect Maps Of Places That Don't Actually Exist:  UK 2100

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


Click for larger image.


  • Homelessness rises for first time since recession (The Hill)  The number of homeless people across the country increased for the first time this year since the depths of the recession, an increase tied to rising rents in states and cities facing acute housing shortages.  (See also next article.)

An annual report issued to Congress by the Department of Housing and Urban Development shows almost 554,000 people were homeless in January, up a little under 1 percent from a year before. That ends six straight years of decline from 2010, when 637,000 Americans were homeless.

It also shows that the number of chronically homeless individuals — those who have been without a home for at least a year — increased for the first time since 2008. That number jumped by 12 percent over the prior year, though it is still down by more than a quarter since the beginning of the recession

In a Gallup survey, 29 percent of respondents approved of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, while 56 percent disapproved.

Another poll from Quinnipiac University also found that 29 percent approved of the TCJA, while 53 percent disapproved.

Trump Jr., speaking behind closed doors to the House Intelligence Committee, did not dispute that his father was involved in crafting the statement but said that he did not speak with Trump directly about it, according to CNN.

He said that he spoke with White House communications director Hope Hicks instead. Hicks talked to the president while crafting the statement, according to CNN's sources. 

  • U.S. Households Own More Stocks (The Daily Shot)  U.S. households are increasingly exposed to the stock market, back to where they were at the last market top on 2007.



  • Arabs, Europe, U.N. reject Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli capital (Reuters)  Arabs and Muslims across the Middle East on Wednesday condemned the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as an incendiary move in a volatile region and Palestinians said Washington was abandoning its leading role as a peace mediator.  The European Union and United Nations also voiced alarm at U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and its repercussions for any chances of reviving Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking.


  • Saudi-led blockade has raised threat of widespread famine

  • U.S. is supporting Saudi coalition in Yemen civil war

North Korea

Preemptive Strike on North Korea: Is Trump Wagging the Dog? (The Real News Network)  Col. Larry Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff  for Secretary of State Colin Powell's (2002-05) and Associate Director of the State Department's Policy Planning staff (2001-02 says:

"If I were going to divert the American people's attention away from my troubles with the FBI, with Russian oligarchs, and so forth, I'd pick a lesser target.  That's not to say that this administration is not stupid enough" [to do it].

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

  • The Great Recession Is Still With Us (The Altantic)  The downturn left the country poorer and more unequal than it would have been otherwise.  A decade after it started, the Great Recession has faded into memory. Corporate earnings and the stock market have fully recovered, with the financial sector thriving. The labor market has fully recovered, with middle-class earnings growing and the economy flirting with full employment. The government, at the state, local, and federal levels, has recovered too, and the economy is growing close to what economists think of as the fastest sustainable pace.  Yet, 10 years after the economy tipped into the deepest contraction of the post–World War II era, the Great Recession’s scars remain, as seen in academic studies and government figures, as well as the testimony of regional business experts and the families that lived through it.

When the next recession comes, the data on what to do about it will be there. Economists have pulled together plenty of studies of the dollar-for-dollar effectiveness of initiatives like extending unemployment insurance and increasing the size of the food-stamp programs, and the relative ineffectiveness of things like corporate tax cuts. Social scientists, social workers, and local officials have urged the importance of acting as quickly as possible to intervene, with efforts to stabilize financial markets, increase the deficit, and make monetary policy more accommodative. The country has now gone through three consecutive jobless recoveries, with downturns tending to amplify long-existing trend to hollow out the middle class, polarize the labor market, and hit already ailing regions hard. It seems likely that the next recession will do much the same.

  • Financial markets could be over-heating, warns central bank body (The Guardian)  Bank for International Settlements’ quarterly health check warns global economy resembles era just before the financial crash.  Back then, investors, seeking high returns, borrowed heavily to invest in risky assets, despite moves by central banks to tighten access to credit.  The BIS, known as the central bankers’ bank, said attempts by the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of England to choke off risky behaviour by raising interest rates had failed so far and unstable financial bubbles were continuing to grow.  Now the same thing is happening.

  • Tax reform might tell us whether the individual mandate really works (AE Ideas)  Few elements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) inspire as much controversy as the individual mandate—the requirement that all individuals buy health insurance or face a government-imposed penalty. Despite its central role in ongoing policy debates, a stubborn fact has remained true: We don’t really know whether it did much to expand insurance coverage. For better or for worse, we may soon have that long-awaited answer if the new tax laws eliminate the mandate.

Sold as a key leg of the proverbial “three-legged stool” of the ACA, the individual mandate was meant to aid the nascent individual market by ensuring all consumers enrolled—not just the sickest. The Obama administration sold this as a powerful complement to subsidies which lowered insurance prices for many. Importantly, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) agreed. It estimated that removing this single feature would lead to 16 million fewer insured. Recently, the CBO revised this estimate down by nearly 20%, in part indicating some of the uncertainty involved in estimating the mandate’s effect.

The monster of economic waste—over $7 trillion of dictated stock buybacks since 2003 by the self-enriching CEOs of large corporations—started with a little noticed change in 1982 by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) under President Ronald Reagan. That was when SEC Chairman John Shad, a former Wall Street CEO, redefined unlawful ‘stock manipulation’ to exclude stock buybacks.

  • 21 experts tell us what the future looks like for crytocurrenices and blockchain (Focus Economics)  It’s been a little over nine years since Satoshi Nakamoto, the anonymous creator (or creators) of Bitcoin, published the paper entitled Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System.  Written off for many years, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have since risen to prominence and economists, traders, financial gurus, central bankers and other financial authorities around the world are taking notice.  Although Bitcoin and its skyrocketing price tend to get all of the headlines, perhaps its greatest contribution is the technology behind it. The creator(s) of Bitcoin originally sought to create an electronic currency that would allow electronic payments to be sent from one party to another without the need of a central intermediary. Enter blockchain technology.  See also Blockchains - What Are They? What Can We Expect?.

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