Welcome to the weekly roundup of great articles, facts and figures. These are the weekly finds that made our eyes pop. While you're watching the game, or avoiding the game, below are some choice selections for your catch on the receiving end.
Paul Krugman is out there cranking the raw numbers on food commodities, in the never ending attempts to blame the Fed, via QE2, for soaring food prices. In part, he's found a series of bad harvests and recall Russia was literally on fire in 2010. Krugman posted the below graph, derived from the latest USDA international food supply & demand report.
Soaring Homeless Populations
The Economist's article, Et in Arcadia ego (even in Arcadia I exist), showing the soaring homeless populations.
THE statistics are worthy of Detroit or Newark: almost half the children in the local schools are from families poor enough to be eligible for free or cut-price lunches; a tenth of households qualify for food stamps; one in eight residents gets free meals from soup kitchens or food banks; perhaps one in 12 has suffered a recent spell of homelessness. Yet the spot in question is not a benighted rust-belt city, but Sarasota, Florida—a balmy, palm-studded resort town on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico.
The Sarasota-Bradenton metropolitan area, a two-county sprawl of condominiums, marinas and retirement homes, saw the proportion of people living below the poverty line rise by more between 2007 and 2009 than any other big city in America, from 9.2% to 13.7%, according to the Census Bureau. Nor is Sarasota an aberration. All the other metropolitan areas that saw jumps of four points or more are also formerly fast-growing southern and western cities: Bakersfield, California; Boise, Idaho; Greenville, South Carolina; Lakeland, Florida and Tucson, Arizona. Arizona now has the second highest poverty rate in the nation, after Mississippi. The especially severe housing bust that ended the breakneck growth of these sunbelt cities has brought with it deprivation on a scale they have never previously encountered and are struggling to address.
Poor inner cities in the Midwest and north-east still have higher overall poverty rates, but in recent years, notes Elizabeth Kneebone of the Brookings Institution, a think-tank, poverty has grown fastest in the suburbs, especially in the sunbelt. A third of America’s poor, she notes, now live in suburban areas. Many cities in the sunbelt, adds Margaret Simms of the Urban Institute, are suffering from what it calls “double trouble”, meaning a plunge both in property values and employment, with concomitant jumps in poverty. This trend is significant, says Scott Allard of the University of Chicago, since it is harder for the poor to seek assistance and to hunt for jobs amid the suburban sprawl.
Higher Unemployment Insurance Collections
The Wall Street Journal amplified something that does show the stink in American jobs, an increase in unemployment insurance taxes. This is used to cover unemployment insurance and the tax comes in levels, fire more, pay more unemployment insurance taxes.
37%: The rise in businesses’ unemployment-insurance payments in 2010.
The sheer depth and duration of the U.S. job-market slump has created all sorts of unique problems for the economy. Now, it’s hitting businesses in a new way, through the taxes they pay to support unemployment insurance.
In 2010, the amount employers paid into state unemployment-insurance funds rose 34% as a share of total wages, the Labor Department estimates. Total wages also rose a bit, so the sum private businesses paid out increased some 37%, to about $43 billion, data from the Commerce Department suggest. The payments are small as a share of total wages, amounting to less than 1%. But that can represent a much bigger chunk of profits.
Geithner Wimps Out
No surprise but the Treasury Department, once again, refuses to label China a currency manipulator:
The decision in the semi-annual report, which was due last October 15, disappointed and angered lawmakers.
"China has been given a free pass on its currency practices for far too long," said Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over trade issues. "We need to hold China and our other trading partners accountable for their actions."
Democratic Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan said he would reintroduce legislation next week proposing to let the Commerce Department treat an undervalued currency as a subsidy under U.S. trade law. Companies could, on a case-by-case basis, seek countervailing duties against competing Chinese imports.
U.S. manufacturers have long complained that Beijing keeps the yuan deliberately undervalued in order to gain an unfair trade advantage that has put millions of American out of work.
What great economic related reads do you find recently? Kindly please share them with the rest of the class.