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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…

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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”….

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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‘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…

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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,…

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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…

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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…

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