Economic Recovery Measures
The New York Times is reporting that the Treasury Department will sell its remaining shares in General Motors, bringing to an end its five-year involvement in the company. Treasury's holdings of GM stock have been quietly dwindling throughout the year, falling from about one-third of the company's stock in late 2012 to 2 percent after a sale two days ago.
The talk of the town in recent days has been President Obama's new plan to combine corporate tax reform with public investments in what President Obama calls a "grand bargain for middle class jobs." From a growth perspective, there is a lot to like about this proposal. But there is also a lot we find discouraging about a plan which would decouple corporate tax reform from any broader deficit reduction effort.
Yesterday, the CBO released its latest estimate of the subsidy cost of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). The estimate serves as a demonstration of how little of TARP is still operating in a major fashion, as most of the cost has not changed since the last score in October 2012. The overall cost of TARP dropped from $24 billion (the previous estimate in October 2012).
Sometimes, the timing of things can really work out in Washington. Yesterday, President Obama nominated Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC) to be the head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), the agency in charge of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. If confirmed, he would replace current chief Ed DeMarco in a move that could signal a policy shift at the FHFA.
Last Friday, the CBO released a report showing how much the business cycle has affected budget deficits since 1960. The report shows the effect that automatic stabilizers -- features of the budget that tend to automatically push up/down spending and revenue based on cyclical economic effects -- have had and what the budget would look like assuming that the economy is operating exactly at its potential.
Yesterday, the House of Representatives approved an additional $50.5 billion in disaster funding for areas devastated by Hurricane Sandy by a 241-180 vote. Congress had previously approved $9.7 billion for flood insurance. The Senate will take up the bill next.
Update: CBO confirmed our numbers today, finding a remaining fiscal contraction of about 1 1/4 percent.