The Ticker Quick Views on Politics, Economics and Finance
Mitt Romney’s tax plan has three key planks. He cuts personal income tax rates by 20 percent across the board; he eliminates deductions, exclusions and credits so that the deficit does not grow; and he doesn’t make the tax code any less progressive. Unfortunately, as the Tax Policy Center has shown, only two of these planks can co-exist.
Conservatives have reacted aggressively against the TPC report. It seems that Mitt’s plan should be viable: If you cut tax rates proportionally across the board, and eliminate tax deductions proportionally, it seems progressivity should be unchanged. In fact, if you eliminate tax breaks starting with the wealthy, as Romney says he would, it seems he should be able to make the tax code even more progressive.READ MORE
Close watchers of mass transit in the New York region won't be surprised by what Barry Kluger, inspector general at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, found in his report on waste at the Long Island Rail Road, released last week.
The report, which analyzed the railroad's Structural Maintenance Division, was a scathing critique of labor practices at the LIRR. Beyond documenting crews' habits of showing up at work sites late and leaving early, it found stunning inefficiencies in methods, along with an almost complete lack of oversight by the agency's so-called managers.READ MORE
You may recall that a few weeks back, I declared that the presidential election was over, as a result of Mitt Romney’s leaked 47 percent video. For a few minutes, that call looked quite smart. Barack Obama's campaign turned the video into an attack ad, the Romney campaign was fumbling for an explanation, and Obama widened his lead in the polls.
Then came last week’s debate, where President Obama sleepwalked in and got his Etch A Sketch vigorously shaken. Romney has taken a narrow lead in the national polls on the strength of his performance.READ MORE
The past week has been Big Bird's big moment. And our feathery yellow friend and his Sesame Street pals want none of it.
It started last Wednesday during the first presidential debate, when Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said he would stop the subsidy to the Public Broadcasting Service. "I love Big Bird," he said. "But I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it."READ MORE
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron gave a clear signal during his party's annual conference today that he plans to hold a referendum on whether Britons want to renegotiate their membership in the European Union.
Like so much else that's happening in Europe at the moment, this is politically clever but strategically awful.READ MORE
That the Oakland A's have made it this far is another "Moneyball" miracle. Sure, the A's (payroll: $49 million) face elimination tonight against the Detroit Tigers (payroll: $119 million). But Oakland's mere presence in the postseason is the best proof yet that smart management can triumph over free spending.
The 2012 A’s have another lesson to teach us, however: Baseball’s most famous small-market team shouldn’t even be one.READ MORE
The House Intelligence Committee report on Huawei Technologies Co. and ZTE Corp., China's two largest phone-equipment makers, breathlessly hints at a massive national security breach in the making. The committee report, out today, says Chinese intelligence services could spy on the U.S. by using the two companies' equipment to tamper with American telecoms networks.
The companies, based in Shenzhen, China, failed to cooperate with a yearlong investigation, the report says, or to explain their U.S. business interests and relationships with the Chinese government. Therefore, they can't be trusted and should be barred from merging with or acquiring U.S. companies or getting U.S. contracts.READ MORE
If European Union authorities in Brussels didn't have enough to do trying to prop up a monetary system built on sand, now they are faced with another challenge to the integration process that may again reveal their weakness on issues that matter: nuclear power.
Last week, results of stress tests on the safety of 145 nuclear reactors in the EU found that as much as 25 billion euros ($32.4 billion) needs to be spent to retrofit and upgrade existing power plants to conform to international standards. But the security shortcomings identified by the report -- which assessed scenarios such as earthquakes, flooding, terrorism and plane crashes around nuclear sites -- were mostly already known to national regulators. More than anything, the report and its recommendations highlight the EU's lack of authority over member states.READ MORE
Albert R. Hunt
Here we go again: A U.S. political system marked by partisanship and polarization engenders despair from both Republicans and Democrats.
Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine, one of the few congressional Republicans who work comfortably with members of the other party, decided to retire last year. She lamented that "the sensible center has disappeared from American politics."READ MORE
Conservatives are dumbfounded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ household survey of unemployment, which found 873,000 more Americans working in September and the unemployment rate falling by 0.3 points. Some are being driven to derangement: If the numbers are that favorable, then the books must be cooked.
The household survey is basically just a really big poll, so its results might well be inaccurate due to sampling error. The 90 percent confidence interval for the survey is plus or minus a bit more than 400,000 jobs. In other words, if last month’s true job creation figure was actually 450,000, the survey would still have shown 873,000 or more jobs created about 5 percent of the time just due to random variation.READ MORE
It has already been a pretty good week for baseball fans. Division champions were decided in the final days of the season, Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers won the first Triple Crown in 45 years, and Major League Baseball completed a new eight-year national television contract that will allow fans better access to games.
It has also been a pretty good week for fans of the little guy, with the Oakland Athletics, the team with the lowest payroll in the American League, making the playoffs as the winners of the AL West division. On opening day, the team owed its players $55,372,500, according to USA Today, and had an average salary of $1.84 million.READ MORE
Spain is straining under the weight of a vicious economic crisis and a history of regional tensions that were forcibly suppressed under the dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco, and left unresolved since.READ MORE
Are Republicans really this desperate?
After months of attacking President Barack Obama for not bringing down the unemployment rate fast enough, Jack Welch, the former chief executive officer of General Electric Co., took the rhetoric to a new level this morning with the suggestion that Obama's campaign had somehow monkeyed with the unemployment data for political gain.READ MORE
President Barack Obama probably couldn’t have asked for a much better jobs report as he heads into the final stretch of his campaign to stay in office. There's no guarantee, though, that his luck will hold in early November.
The good news wasn't in the headline jobs number -- the September increase in nonfarm payrolls of 114,000 brings the three-month average to 146,000, just about enough to offset natural growth in the labor force. The big surprise came from the separate survey of 60,000 households, which showed a drop in the unemployment rate to 7.8 percent, the lowest level since Obama took office in January 2009.READ MORE
Apparently Mark Zuckerberg is not satisfied with Facebook Inc. (FB)'s market penetration. On Sept. 14, the social network reached 1 billion users, or one out of every seven humans worldwide. That means six of seven inhabitants of planet Earth are not users.
So the 28-year-old wunderkind/founder is holding a "hackathon" for Facebook employees. "People will be thinking of ideas and working on prototypes and things that we’ll need to do to help connect the next billion people," Zuckerberg tells Bloomberg Businessweek’s Brad Stone and Ashlee Vance. “Which I think is pretty cool.”READ MORE
It isn't yet clear who fired shells from Syria into Turkey, killing a mother and four children, or why. But if Turkey is going to launch a major incursion across the border between the two countries, be sure that the proximate reason wouldn't simply be border security or support for the rebel Free Syrian Army -- it would also be about crushing Kurdish militants.
Turkey's government had little choice but to respond in kind to the shelling from Syria, otherwise it would have come in for a shellacking at home for being weak. It's worth pointing out, though, that it acted in altered political circumstances at home. Today parliament passed of a bill that, for the next year, gives Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan the right to send troops into "foreign countries" without legislative approval.READ MORE
Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court judge Robert Simpson yesterday did his part to save the Republican Party. Simpson, a Republican himself, essentially postponed Pennsylvania's voter ID law until after the 2012 election on the grounds that the state had made scant progress supplying IDs to prospective voters and would likely disenfranchise large numbers if the law wasn't derailed.
According to recent polls, President Barack Obama is leading Republican Mitt Romney in Pennsylvania by 7 to 12 points. Obama appears likely to win the state with or without a voter ID law tamping down the youth and minority vote.READ MORE
Two candidates showed up in Denver last night for the first of three presidential debates. Only one was really there.
Republican nominee Mitt Romney looked his opponent in the eye as he talked. He was engaged, animated yet relaxed, in command. President Barack Obama, on the other hand, looked down at the lectern or at moderator Jim Lehrer, with only furtive glances at Romney. He fidgeted, made facial grimaces, looked annoyed. "I'm the president. Why do I have to submit to this folderol?" (OK, so maybe he didn't think "folderol.")READ MORE
Peter Suderman of Reason magazine tweeted last night that "This debate was wonkier and more substantive than any of the 2008 debates."
In a sense, he's right: President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney got into the weeds on tax policy and discussed the differences between their Medicare reform plans in detail. They even got a bit granular on financial regulation, a topic that risks making voters' eyes glaze over.READ MORE