Jamble Magazine Green Economy – Green News


November 2, 2018

To Get More Work Done, Finish Old Tasks Before You Start New Ones

Category: Green Money,Green Planet – Admin 3:59 pm

by Jacob Goldstein

juggling torches
Reza Vaziri/Flickr

Not maximizing efficiency.

Here’s some grandmotherly advice, courtesy of the latest economic research:

If you try and do a million things at once, you won’t finish anything. Better to finish what you’ve started, then go on to the next thing.

That’s the finding in a new study of 21 judges in Milan who handled thousands of cases filed over the course of five years. The judges all had the roughly same workload assigned to them, and they all dealt with similar cases relating to labor disputes.

 

They find that …

judges who keep fewer trials active and wait to close the open ones before starting new ones, dispose more rapidly of a larger number of cases per unit of time. In this way, their backlog remains low even though they receive the same workload as other judges who juggle more trials at any given time.

Of course, judges vary in lots of ways. The authors parse some of the variables that come to mind, and still say juggling matters:

Our results suggest that individual speed of job completion cannot be explained solely in terms of effort, ability and experience. Individual work scheduling (how much juggling is done) is a crucial input that cannot be omitted from the production function of individual workers.

SEC Investigating Magnetar-JPMorgan Deal

Category: Green Money,Green Planet – Admin 3:59 pm

by Jacob Goldstein

Earlier this year, we collaborated with ProPublica on a story (and a show tune) about the hedge fund Magnetar.

Today, ProPublica reports that the SEC is investigating a mortgage-backed bond called “Squared.” It was marketed by JP Morgan Chase, and Magnetar played a role:

…the SEC is examining whether JPMorgan adequately disclosed to the investors it marketed Squared to that Magnetar had a role in picking the securities that went into the deal while also betting against segments of the deal.

(Yes, this sounds similar to the case the SEC against brought against Goldman Sachs earlier this year.)

Here’s today’s full story from ProPublica.

Rogue Dunkin’ Donuts ‘Has Decided To Eliminate The Use Of Pennies’

Category: Green Money,Green Planet – Admin 3:59 pm

by Jacob Goldstein

An unidentified Dunkin’ Donuts store is getting rid of pennies (unless customers really want pennies, in which case, Ok). Here’s the report from Consumerist.

The anti-penny movement is a modern classic that seems to bubble up every few years. There are obvious reasons for this — pennies are a hassle, you can’t buy anything with them, etc.

There’s also the fact that it costs the government 1.7 cents to make one penny. So the more pennies we make, the more money we lose.

A quick tour of the recent anti-penny landscape:

 

  • A bill that would have killed the penny and rounded all transactions to the nearest five cents was introduced in Congress in 2006.
  • NPR visited a no-pennies-allowed store last year. “I’m gonna tell you to keep these three pennies … I refuse to take them”
  • “Penny Dreadful,” perhaps the definitive anti-penny treatise, ran in the New Yorker in ’08. “They’re horrid and useless. Why do pennies persist?”
  • Here’s the pro-penny take from Americans for Common Cents. As USA Today notes, the group’s backers include zinc producers; the penny is actually made of zinc and plated with copper.

By the way: I called Dunkin’s headquarters to see where the company stands on the penny question. Pro-anti-penny? Anti-anti-penny? Indifferent? I got voice mail and left a message. I’ll update this post when I hear back.



Happy Quantitative Easing Week!

Category: Green Money,Green Planet – Admin 3:59 pm

by Jacob Goldstein

Fed
Karen Bleier/Getty Images

The Fed.

The Fed hasn’t actually come right out and said it’s about to create hundreds of billions of dollars out of thin air. But sometimes the the Fed doesn’t come right out and say things.

So, in the way these things go, everybody is assuming that the Fed will announce this Wednesday that it’s about to create hundreds of billions of dollars out of thin air.

The cool kids call the soon-to-be-announced plan QE2, short for “quantitative easing, part II.”

The first quantitative easing ever in this country — QE1, if you will — started just a few years ago, when the Fed created more than $1 trillion to buy mortgage bonds. That was a response to the acute phase of the crisis, when markets were locked up and regulators were afraid the financial system might fail.

QE2 is a response to this grinding recovery-that-doesn’t-feel-like-a-recovery that we seem to be stuck in.

 

In QE2, the Fed will create money to buy long-term bonds. That’s supposed to drive down interest rates. The idea is to get people to borrow and spend more money, and companies to borrow more money and hire more people.

In part because QE has been used so rarely, nobody really knows how well it will work, or whether it will backfire.

Interest rates are already super-low. And big companies are sitting on a lot of cash. So it’s not clear whether making interest rates go even lower will do much to change behavior.

What’s more, if the economy starts to come back sooner than expected, QE2 could help drive inflation to a rate that’s too high.

And QE2 is also likely to make the value of the dollar fall. That makes U.S. exports cheaper in other countries, which helps U.S. companies. But a falling dollar could continue to drive the global “currency war,” by pushing countries around the world to devalue their own currencies in return.

Some Fed leaders are opposed to QE2. But Ben Bernanke and several other key Fed officials clearly feel compelled to act.

The Fed has two key mandates: keep prices stable, and keep unemployment low. The Fed is clearly failing on the unemployment front. What’s more, the Fed’s key policy committee is also nervous that inflation is a bit too low, and at risk of sliding into deflation.

Here’s how Bill Dudley, president of the New York Fed, put it in a speech last month:

Viewed through the lens of the Federal Reserve’s dual mandate—the pursuit of the highest level of employment consistent with price stability, the current situation is wholly unsatisfactory.

From the president of the New York Fed, “wholly unsatisfactory” counts for high drama.

With everybody assuming QE2 is a done deal, the main questions at this point hinge on the details. How much money will the Fed spend this time? Estimates range from a few hundred billion to over a trillion.

The Fed may give itself a lot of latitude. Fed officials may announce that they’re going to start a new round of QE, without putting a fixed limit on how much money they will spend. That would allow Fed officials them to expand or contract the program in the coming months, depending on what happens in the broader economy.

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