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Clean air… hot air

With elections just about a year away, Americans can expect to hear a lot about regulation during the next twelve months—most of it from Republicans and most of it scathing. Republican frontrunner Donald Trump typifies the GOP’s attitude toward regulation.

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Don’t panic: it’s October

t the conclusion of the mid-September meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), the Federal Reserve announced its decision to leave its target interest rate unchanged through the end of this month. Although some pundits had predicted that the Fed might use the occasion of August’s decline in the unemployment rate (to 5.1 percent from 5.3 percent in July), to begin its long-awaited monetary policy tightening, those forecasts left out one crucial fact.

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wrong

Wrong again

Unlike fine wine, bad ideas don’t improve with age. One such idea is the Invest in Transportation Act, co-sponsored by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Rand Paul (R-KY), which would institute a temporary tax cut on profits brought back to the United States by American firms from their overseas operations and use the proceeds to fund investment in transportation infrastructure.

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A fist-full of dollar bills

The next time you are slipping the valet a couple of folded dollar bills, take a good look at those George Washingtons. You might never see them again. Every few years, there is a renewed push for the United States to replace the dollar bill with its shiny cousin, the one dollar coin.

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The limits of regulatory cooperation

One of the most striking structural weaknesses uncovered by the euro crisis is the lack of consistent banking regulation and supervision in Europe. Although the European Banking Authority has existed since 2011, its influence is often trumped by national authorities. And many national governments within the European Union do not seem anxious to submit their financial institutions to European-wide regulation and supervision.

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One-handed economics

Once again, one of President Obama’s major legislative initiatives is being battered by a hostile Congress. Only this time, it is not Republicans standing in the way of the Administration’s plans, but the Democratic minority in the US Senate holding up the president’s Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal. The TPP is an ambitious trade deal currently being negotiated between eleven countries: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, United States, Singapore and Vietnam.

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Parliamentary procedure

On May 7, British voters will head to the polls to elect a new Parliament. If mid-April forecasts are correct, the formation of a government will be a bit more complicated than in elections past. The results of those elections will have important ramifications for the conduct of economic policy in both Britain and the European Union. For most of the last two centuries, British governments have been formed by one of the two major political parties of the time.

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Tax facts

As long as rulers have needed money for the military, public works, or just to enrich themselves, they have relied on taxes. As Americans approach the dreaded April 15 income tax-filing deadline, it is worth considering some key facts about taxation. There are many different modes of taxation: individual income taxes, corporate profits taxes, capital gains taxes, property taxes, inheritance taxes, sales taxes, social insurance taxes, taxes on imports, and a whole host of government-levied fees that look and feel a lot like taxes.

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Are ultra-low interest rates dangerous?

The industrialized world is currently moving through a period of ultra-low interest rates. The main benchmark interest rates of central banks in the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, and the euro-zone are all 0.50% or less. The US rate has been near zero since December 2008; the Japanese rate has been at or below 0.50% since 1995. Then there are the central banks that have gone negative: the benchmark rates in Denmark, Sweden, and Switzerland are all below zero. Other short-term interest rates are similarly at rock-bottom levels, or below.

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Quantitative easing comes to Europe

Last month, the European Central Bank (ECB) announced its plans to commence a €60 billion (nearly $70 billion) of quantitative easing (QE) through September 2016. In doing so, it is following in the footsteps of American, British, and Japanese central banks all of which have undertaken QE in recent years. Given the ECB’s actions, now is a good time to review quantitative easing. What is it?

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One regulation too few

Burdensome, costly, and—let’s face it—just plain stupid government regulation is all around us. And even well-meaning, reasonably well-designed regulations can impose costs all out of proportion with their benefits.

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A different kind of swindle

In the weeks and months following the subprime crisis, a number of financial swindles have come to light. Perhaps the most famous of these was the Bernie Madoff scandal. Madoff ran a Ponzi scheme, in which he attracted money from individuals (and institutions) who were hoping that he would provide sound investment management and a healthy return on the funds entrusted to him. Instead, the money ended up in his pocket. The small number of “investors” who did withdraw their funds from Madoff were paid with money from new investors.

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I miss Intrade

Although the media hype is usually most frenetic during presidential election years, this season’s mid-term elections are generating a great deal of heat, if not much light. By October 13, contestants in 36 gubernatorial races had spent an estimated $379 million on television ads, while hopefuls in the 36 Senate races underway had spent a total of $321 million. For those addicted to politics, newspapers and magazines have long provided abundant, sometimes even insightful coverage.

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The economics of Scottish Independence

On September 18, Scots will go to the polls to vote on the question “Should Scotland be an independent country?” A “yes” vote would end the political union between England and Scotland that was enacted in 1707. The main economic reasons for independence, according to the “Yes Scotland” campaign, is that an independent Scotland would have more affordable daycare, free university tuition, more generous retirement and health benefits, less burdensome regulation, and a more sensible tax system.

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Transparency at the Fed

As an early-stage graduate student in the 1980s, I took a summer off from academia to work at an investment bank. One of my most eye-opening experiences was discovering just how much effort Wall Street devoted to “Fed watching”, that is, trying to figure out the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy plans. If you spend any time following the financial news today, you will not find that surprising. Economic growth, inflation, stock market returns, and exchange rates, among many other things, depend crucially on the course of monetary policy.

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The danger of ideology

By Richard S. Grossman
What do the Irish famine and the euro crisis have in common? The famine, which afflicted Ireland during 1845-1852, was a humanitarian tragedy of massive proportions. It left roughly one million people—or about 12 percent of Ireland’s population—dead and led an even larger number to emigrate. The euro crisis, which erupted during the autumn of 2009, has resulted in a virtual standstill in economic growth throughout the Eurozone in the years since then.

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