Reuters blog archive
from The Great Debate:
How expensive are those everyday low prices? How much do things really cost on that fast-food restaurant's dollar menu? The answer is more than you think, but maybe not for the reason you think.
The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, the current name for food stamps) is often thought of as something for the unemployed, though nothing could be further from the truth. Actually, 73 percent of those enrolled in the country's major public benefits programs are from working families, just stuck in jobs whose paychecks don't cover life's basic necessities.
The United States now has the highest proportion of low-wage workers in the developed world, most of whom receive only the minimum wage (the federal standard is $7.25 an hour) and typically are capped by their employers well below 40 hours a week, so they won't qualify for benefits. Hard work doesn't always pay off. The math: even full-time work at $7.25 an hour only adds up to $290 a week. How do you live on that?
You don't. You turn to food stamps and other forms of public assistance to make up the gap between minimum wage and a living wage. Which is just what large minimum-wage employers count on you doing.
from Expert Zone:
(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)
Much was expected from Budget 2014/15 without realizing that India’s economy has its own rhythm, which changes only by small degrees if left to itself. That is why big-ticket reforms are necessary to quicken the pace. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had reason to move forward with caution and make changes only at the fringes.
No wonder then that P. Chidambaram almost welcomed the budget as if it was a carryover from his own budget. Even the increase in shareholding by foreign investors in the insurance and defence sector, which Jaitley has announced, had been on the previous government’s agenda. Now that the opposition has shrunk, the Modi government took the first opportunity to do that, though with conditions.
Summer is the peak season for both traveling and new construction, so it’s just about the worst imaginable time for the country’s transportation funding to be on the verge of running out. On Tuesday, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx sent letters to the heads of all 50 state transportation agencies, telling them that the federal Highway Trust Fund would start to dry up by early August, leaving states on the hook for most of their transportation costs. The Highway Trust Fund provides anywhere from 30-70% of transit money to states, and Foxx has estimated that the average state will lose 28 percent of its federal funding. President Obama, giving a speech under the Key Bridge in Washington, D.C., plugged his own $302-billion plan to replenish the trust fund by closing corporate tax loopholes.
The culprit, says Jared Bernstein, is the federal gas tax. At 18.4 cents per gallon, the gas tax provides a majority of the Trust Fund’s revenue, but it hasn’t been raised since 1993. Over the last 21 years, a number of factors have converged — the gas tax has not been indexed to inflation, the total number of vehicle miles driven in the U.S. has actually declined, cars are more fuel-efficient than ever — to reduce the purchasing power of gas tax revenues by 28%.
By Fiona Maharg-Bravo
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.
Investors in Spanish debt don’t seem to worry much about the tension in Catalonia. Independence is a distant possibility, and yields on the country’s 10-year bonds, at 2.7 percent, are now below the UK’s. But the insouciance of the Spanish government on the matter is harder to fathom. The crisis won’t simply go away if Madrid does nothing.
from Edward Hadas:
By Edward Hadas
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.
Many people assume that tax increases are the only realistic response to excessive income inequality. They are wrong. There is a better way.
French President Francois Hollande’s cabinet meets to adopt a new debt reduction plan.
After outlining 50 billion euros of savings for 2015-2017 to help pay for consumer and business tax cuts, the government is due to sign off on already delayed deficit reductions to bring it, eventually, to three percent of output as demanded by Brussels.
The European Union, as we exclusively reported yesterday, has agreed on a framework for sanctions against Russia, including travel restrictions and asset freezes, which goes further than many expected. The list of targeted individuals is still being worked on but will be ready for the bloc’s foreign ministers to look at on Monday.
Angela Merkel will speak to the German Bundestag about the standoff with Russia. Merkel has been cautious about imposing anything too tough as she tries to convince Vladimir Putin to agree to a "contact group" that would reopen communications between Moscow and Kiev. But yesterday she said measures would be imposed next week – after a Crimean referendum on joining Russia which the West says is illegal - unless diplomatic progress is made.
from Felix Salmon:
Back in January 2010, Barack Obama — flanked by Tim Geithner, Larry Summers, and Peter Orszag — unveiled a new tax on big banks, or a “financial crisis responsibility fee”, as he liked to call it. Of course, this being Washington, the initiative never got off the ground, and was largely forgotten — until now:
The biggest U.S. banks and insurance companies would have to pay a quarterly 3.5 basis-point tax on assets exceeding $500 billion under a plan to be unveiled this week by the top Republican tax writer in Congress.
from Felix Salmon:
David Sirota has a very important scoop today: the PBS series “Pension Peril” has secretly* been funded by John Arnold, a billionaire powerbroker with an aggressively anti-pensions political agenda. This looks very bad for PBS — but it’s also bad for Arnold, who generally gets glowing press, and who would seem to have no good reason to have insisted on secrecy when writing the $3.5 million check that made the series possible.
The PBS series in question seems to fall uncritically into line with the beliefs of Arnold and other Very Serious People — that pension liabilities are a huge problem, and that the only way to fix them is to reduce the amount that pensioners get paid. But of course it’s not nearly as simple as that.
This afternoon, French President Francois Hollande will expand upon his New Year announcement that French companies who agree to hire more workers could pay lower labour taxes in return and find themselves less tied up in red tape. Unemployment is running near to 12 percent and Hollande’s vow to get it falling by the end of 2013 fell short.
Unfortunately, the announcement has been eclipsed by his threat of legal action after a French magazine reported he was having an affair with an actress. France tends to overlook its politicians’ peccadilloes but with the economy in a hole, Hollande risks facing the charge that he should be focusing squarely on that.