The technical problems that plagued online health exchanges were too big to go unnoticed. The cyber glitches went viral, and President Obama was forced to address the nation. In other news, Bloomberg Businessweek covers the Keystone pipeline; Kiplinger’s Personal Fiance highlights attractive energy investments; The Atlantic delves into Amazon’s business conundrum.
“To ‘stimulate’ the economy our central bank, at the direction of Ben Bernake, has undertaken unprecedented actions that have immensely harmed credit markets, thereby retarding recovery. They have the potential to inflict even greater damage on us and the world than the 2008-09 crisis. Without congressional authority the Fed has assumed enormous economic powers. Even worse, despite the Fed’s manifest failures before and after the economic crisis, Congress has granted it other powers that threaten our economic future.” – Steve Forbes on the overreach of the Federal Reserve in Forbes (Oct. 28).
“The way the program to provide the poor with the bare minimum of daily nutrition has been handled is a metaphor for how the far right in the House is systematically trying to take down the federal government. The Tea Party radicals and those who either fear or cultivate them are now subjecting the food-stamp program to the same kind of assault they have unleashed on other settled policies and understandings that have been in place for decades.” – Elizabeth Drew on the drastic cuts in the food-stamp program in Rolling Stone (Nov. 7).
“But what if young healthy people meet so many glitches on exchanges that they give up? People with illnesses that are costly to treat will presumably keep trying. That could leave insurers with a sick, expensive pool of patients. To cover their costs, they would have to raise prices. That would dissuade healthy patients from enrolling the next year, driving rates higher still. Such a death spiral could make Obamacare collapse.” – The Economist on potential problems with Obamacare (Oct.26).
“While debate raged around the 1,179-mile northern leg of the Keystone XL, which aims to bring heavy crude from the oil sands of western Canada into the U.S. and requires federal approval because it crosses international borders, TransCanada has spent the past year quietly building the southern leg. Although most people haven’t paid it much attention, oil investors have been watching like hawks. The aerial surveillance is conducted by Genscape, a private energy intelligence company based in Lousiville. Its photos provide updates of construction, which Genscape then packages into reports it sells to clients such as hedge funds, banks and oil traders.” – Matthew Philips on the southern leg of the Keystone pipeline in Bloomberg Businessweek (Oct. 28 – Nov. 3).
“Democrats should be capitalizing on their stronger position by demanding a budget that fits needs of the moment: one that ends the painful cuts caused by sequestration, invests in infrastructure and job creation, and provides desperately needed resources to state and local governments. Democrats and their allies must recognize that their current advantage is not guaranteed or permanent, and it is not so fail-safe that the party can abandon principle in the shaping of a budget deal.” – The Nation on the next steps for the Democratic Party post-shutdown (Nov. 11).
“The ex-players only showed modest deficits on the cognitive tasks, which included tests of planning, spatial awareness, memory and counting. However, their brains had to work much harder to achieve the same results. Regions of the frontal cortices that normally communicate with each other to handle reasoning and planning were particularly inefficient compared with non-players.” – Hal Hodson on the cognitive struggles of ex-NFL players’ brains in New Scientist (Oct. 26).
“The world’s largest private-sector employer and biggest US corporation faces renewed workplace unrest. Workers who founded OUR Walmart two years ago are promising protests to coincide with Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and the busiest shopping day of the year. They will demand a living wage, affordable healthcare, stable work schedules and an end to retaliation against their members.” – Alex Wood on Walmart employees in The New Internationalist (November).
“Over the past five years, however, the combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing has unleashed a massive new boom that’s gradually putting the state’s mineral wealth back at center stage. In the Eagle Ford Shale down south and in the Permian Basin out west, it’s the seventies all over again. Actually, this boom is bigger. According to one study, more than 575,000 jobs related to the spree have been created statewide, and in the Eagle Ford alone, oil companies will spend around $100 billion this year to get their crude out of the ground.” – Texas Monthly on a new oil boom in the Lone Star State (November).
“The transformation from energy consumer to exporter creates opportunities for investors in a wide array of U.S. firms, particularly those that focus on the industry’s four s’s: shale, sea, sun and service. But there are risks, too. When it comes to energy, a whole new script is being written, and no one is quite sure how it will turn out.” – Kathy Kristof on potential energy investment opportunities in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance (December).
“Some 19 years after its founding, Amazon still barely turns a profit—when it makes money at all. The company is pinched between its low margins as a discount retailer and its high capital spending as a global logistics company. Last year, it lost $39 million. By comparison, in its latest annual report, Apple announced a profit of almost $42 billion—nearly 22 times what Amazon has earned in its entire life span. And yet Amazon’s market capitalization, the value investors place on the company, is more than a quarter of Apple’s, placing Amazon among the largest tech companies in the United States.” – Derek Thompson on Amazon’s puzzling business plan in The Atlantic (November).
“Across the United States, whether it’s schools, food stamps, health care or entry-level jobs, the young are feeling the brunt of government cutbacks. With debt and public spending at the top of the Republican agenda, with the sequester already biting, and with GOP members pledging not to raise revenue through taxes in any circumstances, there has never been a worse time to need help from the government.” – Anna Bernasek on the effects of government spending cuts on younger generations in Newsweek (Oct.25).
“Like a guerrilla army, the Tea Party is learning how to influence public opinion even when it loses a conventional battle. The budget caps that Obama conceded in 2011 have already enshrined in law a portion of the movement’s draconian fiscal agenda. And although Cruz and his allies in House won no additional cuts this time, they managed to spread magical thinking among their followers about a possible future debt default.” – Steve Coll on the Tea Party’s tactics in The New Yorker (Nov. 4).