Superbowl Sunday Economic Reads From the Internets

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.



NASDAQ hit by hackers

This one should be included, NASDAQ hacked.

more food

Krugman wrote up an op-ed where he goes through a series of natural disasters affecting global food production, the Australia flood. One could break down these regions to compare output from previous years to now, but the above graph shows global food production is down.

Then, this is from Naked Capitalism, links, is this pretty good analysis, saying speculators are causing high food prices, which compares current prices to actual physical supply.

Now, the real thing to watch is inventories, the argument from Krugman is at some point someone must take possession of the physical quantity, so food has to be stashed somewhere.

In the oil speculative bubble of 2008, finding those inventories and the debate about whether this was really true, never was proved one way or the other to my satisfaction.

But we now have a roaring argument on food commodities going on. Let's stick to the data please on this one.

request for EPers and readers for video suggestions

Every Friday Night EP used to put up a solid economic related documentary, or economics lecture, talk, that is in depth, long, and reasonably accurate.

I'm running out of online economics documentaries, lectures, talks that are valid, not CT, meaning conspiracy theory, or some biased "documentary" that's so in outer space it's really propaganda, funded and put out on the Internets on some misinformation campaign.

There can be bias, but it's limited....stuff claiming the entire world's woes are because of money, as a concept, for example, are best left for the weird to play with.

I'm never ending on the hunt and they need to be online, the full video, no "teasers" or "previews", and preferably embeddable (but I can make them playable if they are not). But you can watch them, in full, somewhere.

Politics, history, labor, are all good too when referring to events in history, or economic policy, trade policy and so on.

Also, they have to be free, but there are a host of sites, in other countries, putting full bore copyrighted new materials online that you can watch, but I don't want to use those because it's really some brazen intellectual property theft and the original creators of the content don't see a dime and lose a lot of money because of that....

(folks, just put some ads in your films like a "TV version" to get revenues from your work!)

Anyway, I need some suggestions, links, if you find something really great to watch.

To make matters worse, some recent lectures, the audio is so poor, you cannot even listen to it for more than a couple of minutes. I guess I could clean up the audio track and repost on youtube, as I'm getting desperate to find quality economic related documentaries here.

I guess the spin is in on online free things to watch, the availability has seriously degraded...

which is a bummer. Documentaries and lectures on economics related topics doesn't have a large audience in the first place.