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Month: December 2009

Christmas Season Made All the Brighter in the Modern Era

Christmas Season Made All the Brighter in the Modern Era

And now, as the Christmas holiday is upon us, some pontification ... With all the nostalgia for past Christmases, when the holidays were less commercial, I'd like to suggest at least one advancement today:  Christmas time is a much more colorful season in the era of electricity. The Christmas season of lore, idealized in so many Currier & Ives sketches, was not only a more brutish time (e.g., no central heating, limited hot water, no supermarket to dash off to when you Read more [...]
Recession Reins in the Inflation Grinch

Recession Reins in the Inflation Grinch

After several consecutive years of robust growth, the cost of Christmas took only a slightly larger bite out of the household budget this year. PNC Bank’s Christmas Price Index registered a 1.8 percent gain in 2009, as the economic downturn helped to restrain prices for many of the items that appear in the classic song “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. In addition, if one were to exclude the impact of soaring gold prices, shoppers with strained holiday budgets would have the good Read more [...]
LEDs Signal Traffic Nightmares

LEDs Signal Traffic Nightmares

As the first major winter storm of the season takes aim on the Northeast, energy-efficiency may be contributing to guaranteed traffic nightmares. LED traffic lights can't melt the snow and ice that encrust them. LEDs may use 90 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs, and municipalities may have reaped thousands of dollars in energy savings, but the new traffic lights have been blamed for dozens of accidents and at least one death. Authorities in several states are testing possible Read more [...]
Signs of Life for Manufacturing Sector

Signs of Life for Manufacturing Sector

Now that the distortive effects of “cash for clunkers” have finally worked their way out of the data, we can make a better assessment of whether things are getting better or worse for the manufacturing sector. Well, so far so good. Total manufacturing output surged 1.1 percent during November and the gains weren’t just centered in a handful of industries such as autos or high-tech equipment, as basic core output jumped at an identical 1.1 percent rate versus October. While the Read more [...]
Electric Car Roundup

Electric Car Roundup

It’s been an exciting couple of weeks for news about electric cars. Of course, as a news junkie, I might have a skewed sense of what counts as exciting. Below are some of my favorites. An interesting way to get the Christmas tree home: A man in the U.K. towed a 50-foot Christmas tree home using a G-Wiz electric car and a trailer. The pictures are wild! It makes my holiday decorations look lame in comparison. Making sense of acronyms: Autoblog Green has a helpful guide to acronyms related Read more [...]
To Card Check or Not to Card Check, That is the Question

To Card Check or Not to Card Check, That is the Question

As Congress prepares to leave Washington for the holiday season, weary and somewhat battered by the recent health care overhaul debate, the question remains: when - if at all - will the Senate take up the so-called "Employee Free Choice Act" (HR 1409/S 560)? In a December 14, 2009 article ("The Rose Garden: Card Check Promises a Gut Check in 2010"), Roll Call contributor Keith Koffler outlines the political conundrum President Obama and "card check" Read more [...]
‘Tis the Season to be…Thrifty

‘Tis the Season to be…Thrifty

Consumer spending has only now begun to tick above the levels observed last year when the financial crisis and recession really snowballed. However, recent data from the Federal Reserve’s flow of funds report point to a consumer still rattled by the housing market’s implosion, stock portfolio losses and struggling labor market. During 2009Q3 alone net savings (saving less borrowing) totaled roughly $800 billion, suggesting households are still aggressively deleveraging and restoring nest Read more [...]
Jobs vs. Regs: A Conundrum

Jobs vs. Regs: A Conundrum

The Obama administration finds itself in a dilemma. On the one hand, it desperately wants to create jobs.  At his "Jobs Summit" last week, the president stated he is committed to ""ideas aimed at accelerating job growth and hiring as we emerge from this economic storm."  And who can blame him -- less than a year from the off-year elections, the jobless rate is still above 10 percent. If little or no progress has been made by November 2, his political leadership Read more [...]
Can (Should) Congress Save the System?

Can (Should) Congress Save the System?

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives will consider a comprehensive set of reforms designed to respond to the recent economic crisis.  H.R. 4173, the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, creates a new federal agency (Consumer Financial Protection Agency) tasked with regulating financial products and protecting consumers from unfair and abusive financial products and services.  As proposed, the CFPA would have broad regulatory authority over the financial products and services Read more [...]
Stuck on the Sidelines

Stuck on the Sidelines

Judging by the reaction, this morning’s employment report, which showed a net decline of only 11,000 jobs and 0.2 percentage point drop in the unemployment rate, is being received as a sign the job market is on the mend. While the rapid deceleration in job losses is certainly welcome news, some of the details of the report highlight what still must be considered a significant degree of struggle for the U.S. labor market. One important example: although the unemployment rate is in line with Read more [...]