Baum on Money: Christmas for Economists

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'Twas the night before Christmas, and yours truly is still pecking away at her computer, choosing interesting articles for you to read with your breakfast. Enjoy your holiday, one and all.

There's still time to shop for Obamacare!

Shhh. Don't tell anyone, but the Obama administration has done it again: made an executive decision to extend the filing deadline for insurance coverage that begins Jan. 1. This time it was done "quietly," according to the Washington Post, citing "two individuals with knowledge of the switch." Which begs the question: If it's so hush-hush, how will the stragglers know it's still okay to sign up until 11:59 p.m. on Christmas Eve? At this point, it's probably better to hope potential enrollees are oblivious to the deadline than go public with another rule change that screams, "botched roll-out."

Support for Obamacare drops to a new low

You had to pass it to find out what's in it, but you had to wait until it was implemented to grasp the full effect. Support for the Affordable Care Act fell to record low of 35 percent, according to a CNN/ORC poll. That's down 5 points from November. Women accounted for the entire decline. Some of the other poll results were interesting: 63 percent think their health care costs will rise under the ACA and 61 percent think they can keep their doctor. When they find out they can't, guess what happens to the approval rating?

Just when you thought things were starting to look up

Along comes Jared Bernstein to bring us the bad news. Not only is actual economic growth sluggish compared to recoveries from previous recessions, but potential growth is being constrained by structural forces. Since 2000, the Congressional Budget Office has lowered its estimates of potential GDP by a full percentage point: from 3.5 percent to 2.5 percent. Bernstein's solution is more infrastructure spending, a demand-side fix that will increase the economy's capacity for growth in the future. Another solution would be to create incentives for businesses to invest for the future, drawing more Americans back into the labor force, and to make it easier for highly-skilled foreigners to live and work in the U.S.

Keynesians wish every day were Christmas

The Financial Times' Alphaville presents a guide to the economics of Christmas, courtesy of the folks at Lombard Street Research. Christmas is great if you're a Keynesian, dangerous if you're an Austrian, and meaningless if you're into rational expectations (the gift-giving nets out). It's a fun romp through the various economic schools of thought.

Of spending, saving and the virtues of thrift

Here's a classic that warrants revisiting this time of year. It's economist Steven Landsburg's challenge to Dickens' Ebenezer Scrooge. Believe it or not, saving is philanthropy.

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