Economics
March 6, 2014
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President Obama's budget for the 2015 fiscal year contains lots of populist proposals like more generous tax credits for the working poor, initiatives for education from preschool through college, for roads and other public works, and for research and manufacturing centers. Obama intends to pay for them with taxes, mostly on the rich, which would bring in more than $1 trillion over 10 years. But not all of that would go to government programs — much is, in fact, slated for deficit reduction.

Yet with the deficit declining at the fastest rate since World War II, I — and many others will probably agree — wonder why raising taxes is really necessary at this stage. With interest rates on government borrowing remaining near record lows, the market continues to offer the federal government very cheap money to invest in infrastructure, education, basic research, and measures to reduce economic inequality. That spending can be paid for later, when unemployment is lower, growth higher, and the economy in a stronger position to withstand tax rises.

Faster deficit reduction may be political wisdom — with a large majority of Americans considering deficit reduction a high priority — but it is not economic wisdom when millions of Americans remain out of work, and while economic growth remains relatively timid. It's especially unnecessary for a major superpower like the United States, whose currency and government debt securities are highly prized in global markets as "safe assets."

Let's not forget the reason why economic growth wasn't higher last quarter: Deficit reduction. John Aziz

Nailed it
4:52 p.m. ET

Every nail salon in New York will be required to post a workers' bill of rights in plain view of employees and customers, the New York Times reports. The announcement comes after the newspaper highlighted widespread exploitation and abuse of manicurists, many of whom are new immigrants.

The posters Gov. Andrew Cuomo revealed Friday will be printed in 10 languages. They include information about minimum wage, tipping, safety measures, and a phone number to report violations. Officials will also hand out information cards to consumers outlining questions they should ask upon entering nail salons.

"We’re asking New Yorkers to help; we’re asking New Yorkers to get involved," Cuomo said at a news conference with New York City advocate Letitia James. Julie Kliegman

Coming Soon
4:28 p.m. ET
Facebook.com/EmpireFOX

Empire's first season aired its finale in March, and fans have been eagerly waiting to find out when they'll finally get to see all those dangling cliffhangers resolved.

Unfortunately, the season two premiere date is still pretty far away — but at last you can put it down on your calendar. Taraji P. Henson, who plays Cookie, took to Twitter to reveal that Empire will return on September 23. Set your DVRs accordingly. Scott Meslow

court reports
4:15 p.m. ET
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Creator of black market website Silk Road, Ross William Ulbricht, 31, was sentenced to life in prison Friday.

After its 2011 launch, Ulbricht ran the underground cyber-bazaar, where anonymous users used the cryptocurrency bitcoin to purchase drugs, hacking tools, and fake identification, for about two years before he was arrested.

Ulbricht received the maximum sentence for his felony convictions of conspiracy, money laundering, and drug trafficking. Stephanie Talmadge

Only in America
3:52 p.m. ET
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A Texas high school senior was suspended and barred from graduation this week after a can of Bud Light was found in a cooler in his truck. Quintin Walker says he didn't realize the single beer can was still in the soda-filled cooler that his mother had packed for a family picnic the previous weekend. "I worked 12 years to walk across that stage," Walker said. "It's just crazy." The Week Staff

indictments
3:19 p.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Former U.S. House speaker Dennis Hastert reportedly paid off a man to conceal past sexual misconduct, two federal law enforcement officials told the Los Angeles Times. A federal grand jury indicted Hastert on Thursday for allegedly evading currency reporting requirements. He reportedly withdrew the cash to give to an unidentified person, who one official claimed is a man Hastert wanted to conceal a past relationship with.

The alleged misconduct, which one source called "sex" and the other confirmed involved sexual abuse, dates back to Hastert's stint as a Yorkville, Illinois, high school wrestling coach and teacher, LAT reports.

"It goes back a long way, back to then," one source told the paper. “It has nothing to do with public corruption or a corruption scandal. Or to his time in office." Julie Kliegman

raise a glass
3:14 p.m. ET

Yes, we know that Bud Light basically tastes like water anyway. But for victims of the devastating floods in Texas and Oklahoma, actual drinking water is essential right now. Brewing giant Anheuser-Busch, which makes big-name beers like Budweiser, Michelob Ultra, Corona, and tons more, decided to halt beer production at its Georgia brewery in order to produce 2,000 24-packs of drinking water, which are currently en route with the Red Cross to flood victims in Texas and Oklahoma.

"It's something we're uniquely positioned to do," brewery manager Rob Haas told NBC. And for once, we can truly say we are thankful for Big Beer. Samantha Rollins

2016 Watch
2:43 p.m. ET
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Former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee is expected to formally enter the 2016 presidential race June 3, a source told Politico on Friday. Chafee's spokesperson told MSNBC there'd be a "major announcement."

Chafee, 62, became a Democrat midway through his term as governor, which ended earlier this year. He served in the U.S. Senate from 1999 to 2007 as a Republican.

Chafee is slated to speak at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia, at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. He would face Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and likely former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (expected to announce Saturday) in a Democratic primary. Julie Kliegman

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