Baum on Money: The GOP's White Whale

Baum's daily reads of stories on the US economy. 

Good morning, all. Le jour est arrivé, as the French would say. It's taper day at the Fed. No stories for you today on that, but you can count on some post-mortems tomorrow. Today's reads start with the purely literary, move on to a couple of data-heavy reports and end with an audio interview with a monetarist. Enjoy:

Republicans' Obamacare obsession

John Boehner is no Captain Ahab, but for many members of the House, Obamacare is their White Whale. They see the vote to fund the government beyond Sept. 30 as their last chance to defund the Affordable Care Act. The insurance exchanges open on Oct. 1, and the subsidies start flowing on Jan. 1, after which it will be impossible to turn the tide. Will the GOP sink like the Pequod in Melville's tale? Stay tuned.

No way out for Boehner?

Budget guru Stan Collender concludes that a government shutdown may be the only way to resolve the partisan bickering over funding the government and raising the debt ceiling. There are no formal discussions going on between Congress and the White House, the Senate has punted the ball to the House, the House is focused on defunding Obamacare, and there's no "charismatic leader" to break the deadlock. Short of an international crisis, the only solution, Collender claims, is a federal shutdown. Go figure.

In the long run , we're still dead

The Congressional Budget Office released its long-term budget outlook yesterday. You can see the full report and tables here, but the Committee for a Responsible Budget captures the highlights. The deficit- and debt-to-GDP ratios look OK for the next decade, after which, under current law, they start to soar. Debt will exceed the size of the economy by 2038. The drivers of federal spending are the usual suspects: Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, interest on the debt and, a new one, the Obamacare subsidies. It makes you wonder why, once again, Congress is wasting so much time on last year's automatic cuts to discretionary spending, an increasingly small share of the federal budget.

Status quo ante for 2012

From the U.S. Census Bureau comes the annual report on Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the U.S.: 2012. All of the top-line metrics -- median household income, the poverty rate, the number of people living below the poverty line, income inequality, and the number of uninsured -- showed no statistically significant change from 2011 to 2012. That's either good (it didn't get worse) or bad (it didn't get better). For President Obama, who said this week that everything he has done for the last five years has been meant to promote economic growth, the report offers little to show for his efforts.

Laidler on money , models, Friedman and Schwartz

It's not every day that you get to talk to the research assistant for Friedman and Schwartz's "A Monetary History of the United States." Russ Roberts' does -- in a one-hour interview with David Laidler on Econtalk. Among Laidler's observations: He was surprised at Schwartz's opposition to the Fed's unconventional policies; monetary policy is not impotent at the zero-bound; mnd today's so-called unconventional policies have been around for 100 years.

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