Government Column


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Takeaways from the shutdown and debt ceiling crisis

After 16 days of stupid, the government is finally open for business againLast night the Senate and the House of Representatives reached a deal that will fund the government until Jan. 15 of next year and extend the debt ceiling enough to cover U.S. borrowing through Feb. 7. While that gives us another stupid Washington catfight to look forward to early next year, it at least ends the current government shutdown and avoids a disastrous U.S. default, for now.

So with 16 days of government shutdown fun and a debt ceiling crisis behind us, it’s time to take a look at what we learned. Here are some of the big takeaways.


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Your take: Are you worried about US default?

Have you learned to stop worrying and love default?It’s now less than a week until the federal government is projected to run out of accounting tricks and come up hard against the debt limit, the maximum amount the U.S. is allowed to borrow under existing law.

After that, what happens next is hard to predict. The government might be able to prioritize payments to Treasury investors for a while by stiffing other groups owed money, such as active military personnel and Medicare and Social Security recipients.

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Why I’m glad Yellen was tapped to run the Fed

Janet YellenWith their PhDs and economic jargon and mysterious market-moving meetings in Washington, D.C., the Federal Reserve may seem pretty far removed from the day-to-day finances of the average person.

But there are few humans on the planet who have more power over the economy we all live and work in than the chairman of the Federal Reserve. Their decisions affect the rates we get on financial products almost all of us use — mortgages, credit cards and investments — and the health of the labor market where most of us earn the majority of the income we depend on.


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How Will the Federal Reserve’s Taper Affect You?

Federal ReserveIn an effort to stimulate the economy, the Federal Reserve has been using quantitative easing measures to increase the amount of money circulating.

After the Fed dropped rates to between 0% and 0.25% following the financial market crash of 2008, the body decided that more needed to be done to boost the economy and get the money moving through the system. As a result, the Fed began making asset purchases, mostly of Treasuries. The result of this has been an increase in monetary supply, especially since the most recent incarnation of quantitative easing strategies involves monthly asset purchases.

But, with economic data indicating improvement, the Federal Reserve has now announced that it is getting ready to taper its asset purchases. While the quantitative easing won’t all end at once, the taper will, nevertheless, impact consumers.

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Is Hyperinflation Coming? What Can You Do about It?

inflationWith the Federal Reserve engaged in an asset purchase program designed to increase the money supply in an effort to stimulate the economy, many are starting to worry about inflation.

Inflation represents a decline in the purchasing power of your dollar. Essentially, it is a rise in prices. However, not only are many consumers starting to worry about protecting themselves against inflation, but they are also concerned about hyperinflation.

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 Government, Retirement 
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Proposed Retirement Cap: More People Could Be Affected Down the Road

Stop SignOne of the more controversial (at least in financial circles) items to come out of the budget recently proposed by the Obama Administration is a cap on retirement accounts.

The idea is to cap retirement accounts, preventing further contributions to tax-advantaged accounts. The reasoning is that, at a certain level, enough is saved up for a “reasonable” retirement and there is no more need for the tax advantage.

Presumably, instead of contributing to tax-deferred accounts, those who reached the cap would no longer be able to take advantage of the savings, and pay taxes on that income, instead of getting a tax deduction. (Of course, there are issues surrounding the fact that, eventually, taxes would have been collected on the money if it were withdrawn from a tax-deferred account down the road.)

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What is Section 8 Housing?

Apartment BuildingMany young families starting out need a little help finding affordable housing. One of the options out there is Section 8 housing.

Section 8 housing gets its name from the Housing Act of 1937, in which a program to provide rental housing assistance was started. There are a number of programs related to section 8 housing, and Housing and Urban Development oversees them. One of the most popular programs is the Housing Choice Voucher Program. With this program, tenants can choose qualified housing from participating landlords.

With section 8 housing, the government subsidizes a portion of your monthly rent payment by making payments to the landlord on your behalf.

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What are Some of the Common Economic Indicators?

EconomyThere has been a lot of talk lately about what’s next for the economy. With the fiscal cliff looming, and with the economy not quite recovered from the last recession, many are wondering where things might be headed next.

While there are clues about what’s next for the economy all around, there are some common indicators that pundits and professional economists alike consider as they try to predict what’s next.

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