James Pethokoukis

The risk of a supertax on banker bonuses

December 11, 2009

U.S.-based bankers shouldn’t worry too much about their bonuses. Even though Wall Street remains wildly unpopular and Washington needs more revenue, it’s unlikely U.S. authorities will follow their UK counterparts with a giant windfall tax on banker payouts.

Washington and the 2010 stock market

December 10, 2009

Here is how economic analyst  Ed Yardeni sees things:

Could the S&P 500 rise back to its record high next year? I was in Boston on Tuesday, and met with the first money manager on Planet Earth to ask me this question. That is definitely a contrarian’s scenario. I am currently predicting a 2010 high between 1300-1350, and more specifically 1332 by March 6, which would be up 100% on a y/y basis, from the Da Vinci Code bottom of 666. Then I see a nasty correction on growing concerns that the expiration of the Bush tax cuts might depress the economy in 2011. That selloff could last until the November Congressional elections. If Gridlock wins, with the Democrats losing their majority control of one or both houses of Congress, then stocks might resume the bull market.

Obama’s jobs conundrum

December 10, 2009

The insightful Andy Busch of BMO Capital Markets eyes it:

Here’s the ironic duality of the government spending creating jobs and massive deficits: it creates a small amount of short term jobs that steal a larger amount of long term jobs. Deficits are like weeds, when they are small they’re not a problem. When they get large, they block out the growth of what we want. It’s part of the reason why we have a conundrum of low interest rates while the deficit continues to expand. The markets are buying Treasurys because the prospects for strong growth are low and get further reduced with every new public sector spending initiative that adds to the deficit.

The state of the union

December 9, 2009

It ain’t so hot, says David Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff:

Things are so good in the U.S.A. that President Obama’s approval rating just sank to a new low for any president at this post-election juncture and Treasury Secretary Geithner is now seeking to have the $700 billion TARP extended to October. In fact, Obama wants to tap $200 billion from the program to fund a jobs initiative — let’s hope it turns out to be more effective than the last package that was supposed to cap the unemployment rate at 8%. It is rather amazing that here we are, 30 months after the onset of the credit crunch, and we see this as a headline on the front page of the FT: Obama to Boost Jobs With Bank Rescue Cash.

Drilling into Obama’s jobs plan

December 9, 2009

Keith Hennessey:

This looks like a smaller version of the original stimulus law.  Its origins are more political and fulfilling a legislative need, than policy-driven. I’m OK with the UI extension and extending the health insurance subsidy, although I wish both were better designed. I generally support tax relief, but I am concerned the targeted capital gains reduction will give some cover to let the broader capital tax rates jump at the end of 2010.  That would be very bad. The spending programs will have little near-term GDP effect, and so should be evaluated in how they meet other policy goals.  They’re largely ineffective as immediate stimulus, because government spending is slow. The $250 check to seniors was pandering the first time Congress passed it (on a broadly bipartisan vote).  It’s still pandering.  Why are seniors more deserving of aid than, say, a low-income working family? The “using TARP dollars to help Main Street” is a transparent gimmick.  If you’re going to increase the deficit, it’s better just to stand up and say the deficit increase is worth the short-term economic benefit you think will result from the other policies. I suggest they do a targeted bill that contains only the UI and COBRA provisions, because I think the large deficit impact of the other provisions, relative to their small macroeconomic benefit, isn’t worth it.

Supply-side Obama?

December 9, 2009

Larry Kudlow has a strange but oh-so wonderful thought:

The president’s jobs proposal includes a zero capital-gains tax-rate for small-business investors, and full cash-expensing for small-business investment in plant and equipment. These are potentially powerful incentives for the job-creating small-biz sector. They may only last for a year or so, depending on the mark-up. But they are good things in and of themselves, and they suggest that Obama is aware of incentive effects on economic growth.

Obama and jobs, take two

December 8, 2009

A few thoughts on the Brookings speech:

1) Lots of big ideas from liberal thinks on  how to boost jobs. Obama pretty much took a pass.

The EPA and Obama’s Uncertainty Tax

December 8, 2009

Here’s the theory about the new U.S. position on greenhouse gases. The official finding by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that the emissions endanger human health sets the stage for permit requirements on power plants, factories and automobiles. It also supplies President Barack Obama with more evidence at the Copenhagen summit of a “new normal” in America when it comes to climate policy. And back home, it supposedly gives a nudge to the Senate where cap-and-trade legislation is stuck on the back burner.

The chart that keeps the WH econ team up at night

December 4, 2009

A nice jobs report. A long way to go, as this chart from Calculated Risk shows:

jobchart

The November jobs report and the 2010 midterms

December 4, 2009

A few thoughts, sports fans:

1)  The drop in the U3 rate is welcome news for the WH, congressional Dems (and US workers, of course). But it is really just a smoothing out of last month’s weird pop from 9.8 percent to 10.2 percent. As Action Economics notes: