The Ticker Quick Views on Politics, Economics and Finance
It's been clear for some time that, apart from putting babies and mothers at unnecessary risk, the excessive use of cesarean section in the U.S. is taxing the health system. Data from a comprehensive new study quantifies that cost: about $5 billion a year.
The study, by the research firm Truven Health Analytics, found that c-section births generally cost 50 percent more than vaginal deliveries. For those with commercial insurance, the average cost of a c-section birth in 2010 was $27,866, compared with $18,329 for a vaginal delivery. For those covered by Medicaid, the respective costs were $13,590 and $9,131.READ MORE
Imagine, for a moment, if Eliza Doolittle sued Henry Higgins.
Yes, he transformed the Cockney sprite into the toast of London, but he did nothing for the friends poor Eliza had to leave behind. And darn if the terms of her deal didn't border on abusive, what with all the voice and etiquette lessons required, not to mention making her ditch her sullied clothes.READ MORE
Just a few months after U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney airbrushed climate change off the public agenda in the presidential campaign, Australia is providing a sober reminder that political inertia can be felt a world away.
More than 100 wildfires are raging across the driest inhabited continent, and the country registered a national average temperature of 40.33 degrees Celsius (104.6 degrees Fahrenheit), the hottest day in more than a century. But while naysayers continue to question the difference between weather and climate, scientists in Australia are now displaying signs of "debate fatigue" as policy makers fail to deliver on the goal of restricting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.READ MORE
Citigov, the too-big-to-fail bank formally known as Citigroup Inc. (C), is close to getting one of its own in charge of the U.S. Treasury Department.
President Barack Obama may choose White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew to replace Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner as soon as this week, Bloomberg News reported, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter. The president hasn't made a final decision to pick Lew, we're told, but the president's staff has been instructed to prepare for his nomination.READ MORE
When the head of Fannie Mae says his company controls too much of the mortgage market, it's worth paying attention.
Fannie Mae Chief Executive Officer Timothy Mayopoulos said the government-controlled mortgage giant has become just that. "We recognize the amount of business we're doing today is disproportionate … [Fannie] shouldn't be funding this much," Mayopoulos said at a Bloomberg Government breakfast this morning.READ MORE
The world is a better place because of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state. That’s not the question. The question is whether it is a better place because of those last 20 hours of her 80-hour work week. Or because of the extra miles she flew to distant capitals?
On one trip in 2009, according to the New York Times, “she traveled from talks with Palestinian leaders in Abu Dhabi to a midnight meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, then boarded a plane for Morocco, staying up all night to work on other issues, before going straight to a meeting of Arab leaders the next morning.”READ MORE
Washington's penchant for high-stakes drama is now manifesting itself in another fight over the debt limit, with some top Democrats suggesting that President Barack Obama should invoke the 14th Amendment and raise the $16.4 trillion debt ceiling unilaterally.
The White House continues to throw cold water on the idea, saying it doesn't believe the U.S. Constitution gives it authority to bypass Congress when it comes to issuing debt.READ MORE
President Barack Obama's anticipated nomination of Chuck Hagel as defense secretary shows how the polarization of Obama's second term might differ from that of his first. His first term was polarizing despite Obama's efforts. His second could be polarizing because of them.
After a robust re-election (and not only in the Electoral College; Obama won by 5 million votes), Obama is bound to look at lockstep Republican opposition in a different light. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham described the selection of Hagel, who departed from the Republican foreign policy fold as soon as the Iraq War went south, as an "in your face" move.READ MORE
In the news release announcing his bill to derail the platinum coin effort, Republican Representative Greg Walden says something really stupid: “My wife and I have owned and operated a small business since 1986. When it came time to pay the bills, we couldn’t just mint a coin to create more money out of thin air."
Well, yeah, obviously the Waldens' company couldn't issue currency to pay its bills, because issuing currency is a function of the federal government, not of some random small business in Oregon.READ MORE
This morning, Joe Weisenthal and I took our message in favor of minting a trillion-dollar platinum coin to "Bloomberg Surveillance," where we were met with the usual shock and horror from hosts Tom Keene and Sara Eisen. Platinum coin opponents are so distressed that one, Republican Representative Greg Walden, has said he will introduce legislation to ban the coin, citing my post from last week as a dangerous instigation.
Walden, Keene and Eisen are all wrong. Here are my responses to the most common objections we are getting to the platinum coin proposal, in increasing order of persuasiveness:READ MORE
The bear hugs on the Black Sea didn't mask the irony of the moment. A wealthy Hollywood actor from France embraces the onetime secret-police agent of the former Soviet Union. Who would have thought only 20 years ago that Gerard Depardieu would find refuge in a country once renowned for destroying the hope of its citizens?
"I love your country, Russia -- its people, its history, its writers,'' the "Green Card'' actor wrote in an open letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Nobody doubted that Depardieu's decision to accept Putin's offer of Russian citizenship stemmed from French President Francois Hollande's plan for a "rich tax'' of 75 percent for residents earning more than 1 million euros ($1.3 million). The French government has said it intends to revise its draft legislation after the country's top court struck down the proposed law last month. Russia's personal tax rate is 13 percent for most income, hardly comparable to Hollande's punishing levy for the rich.READ MORE
Wanted: Experienced individual to lead major Cabinet department. Candidate must have prior Washington experience and good crisis management skills. Goldman Sachs pedigree preferred, but overall familiarity with Wall Street required. Candidates with history of tax evasion need not apply. Must be ready to start immediately.
Now that President Barack Obama has nominated Senator John Kerry to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state and the Pentagon guessing game is over, all eyes turn to the U.S. Treasury. Who will replace Tim Geithner, Obama's point man in dealing with Congress on all things financial?READ MORE
The threat credit derivatives can present to the entire financial system became painfully apparent during the market turmoil of 2008. New research suggests they can also be dangerous for individual companies in normal times.
One of the traditional tenets of finance theory -- and the justification for much of what happens on Wall Street -- is that financial innovation is ultimately good because it completes markets. If financial products allow everyone to take on only the risks they want and slough off those they don't on others, the world economy will work better, and we'll all be richer as a result.READ MORE
When Michael Woodford speaks, central bankers listen. The Columbia University economist is widely regarded as one of the world's foremost experts on monetary policy.
In September, at an economic conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, he made waves with a paper explicitly advocating a significant change in the way central banks work: Instead of focusing primarily on inflation, he wrote, they should aim for a target level of economic output (expressed in nominal dollar terms). This would give them a framework to provide extra stimulus -- and to temporarily allow higher inflation -- at times like the present, when the economy needs to catch up to its previous trajectory in the wake of a deep recession.READ MORE
Albert R. Hunt
The House Republicans' vote on the so-called fiscal cliff deal, in which a solid majority went against their speaker, reflects the party's conservative and Southern drift of recent decades.
The deal passed the House, 256 to 173, with most Democrats in favor. It was brought to the floor with the support of Speaker John Boehner, yet his rank and file voted 151 to 77 against it.READ MORE
Alan Auerbach, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, is one of the country's leading authorities on the state of the U.S. government's finances. For more than two decades, he has been warning about the mismatch between the government's income and obligations. I caught up with him at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association in San Diego to speak about Congress's latest efforts to fix the nation's finances.
Q: How big are the U.S. government's fiscal problems?READ MORE
There’s no denying that Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett's lawsuit against the NCAA over its sanctions against Penn State University is shamelessly opportunistic and fundamentally compromised. It is also, as the New York Times says today, “brazenly misguided,” “short-sighted” and “foolhardy.” As a political play -- which it clearly is -- it seems certain to backfire.
It also happens to be worthwhile.READ MORE
Sharp spending cuts and tax increases have long played a central role in the International Monetary Fund's prescriptions for governments in financial distress -- most recently for the struggling members of the euro area. Now, officials at the world's primary arbiter of fiscal prudence are recognizing that such austerity can do a lot more damage than previously thought.
The first major indication of the IMF's change of heart came in October. In its World Economic Outlook, the fund published research showing that back in 2010, when Greece and other European countries embarked on severe austerity programs, its forecasters underestimated the negative impact spending cuts and tax increases would have on the broader economy.READ MORE
Want to improve your company's performance? One way might be to get more women onto the board of directors.
In a paper presented today at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association, Miriam Schwartz-Ziv, an economist at Northeastern and Harvard Universities, looked at Israeli companies with a substantial share of government ownership -- one of the rare areas where women play a significant role on corporate boards. Thanks to a gender-diversity law, women hold roughly 37 percent of directorships at such companies. The high rate of female participation is crucial, because Schwartz-Ziv sought to answer a question that previous studies hadn't: whether there is a critical mass beyond which the presence of women on a board influences a company's performance.READ MORE
Mayara Vilas Boas
Brazil has a knack for making international headlines for all the wrong reasons these days.
This time, the spotlight is on 18-year-old Rebecca Bernardo, who put her virginity up for sale via a YouTube video that has gone viral.READ MORE