What's the misery index?

Economists love their data because somewhere in the numbers lies the answer to the ills of the country. They also love to frame data in a way people can relate to. Such is the case with the famous "misery index."

The Best Stuff We've Read This Week

Each week Chuck and I read tons of articles and a lot of them are really good. Here are the best of the bunch from us to you.

What's the deal with the debt ceiling?

Lately it's been common news fodder that Congress uses its ability to raise the debt ceiling to hold the executive branch hostage to its demands, but exactly how does that work, and what does the debt ceiling do? Learn about it in this fascinating episode.

Corporate Tax Policy and the White House Tax Cut Calculator

So I'm working for the White House again. It's a big time season for Obama: He's just announced his candidacy for 2012, he's launched his new energy security policy and now that tax time is upon us he's looking to point out the silver lining to that dull, gray cloud which hangs over the U.S. This is something of an optimistic attempt; the news cycles are brimming with reports of how the giant corporations operating in the U.S. have paid virtually zero percent in taxes on profits made in this country.

Is the U.S. a banana republic? No. No, it's not.

Business Insider has an unsettling announcement. America has slipped into one of the defining characteristics of a banana republic: The wealthiest 1 percent make 20 percent or more of the wealth in the country. It's 24 percent, actually. Geez, I was almost taken in. It turns out there's no such criteria for a banana republic; the New York Times' Nicholas Kristoff drew a comparison between the U.S. and banana republics he's visited based on the wealth gap.

A group of four kids coming home from the bars near my neighborhood last weekend were held up by some other kids, one of whom had a gun. While three (including two girls) were pistol whipped, one was shot in the knee or kneecapped in other parlance. I was running a search for news of the shooting, which soon turned into an investigation of the custom and effects of kneecapping.

YOU LIE: Congressman Gets Medieval on President Obama

Boy oh boy, things have gotten pretty ugly in Washington. As most of you have probably heard, many of you live as it happened, a Republican House member last night shouted "YOU LIE" at President Obama during his speech on health care reform.

This one is sure to provoke some strong opinions. An Arizona man brought his assault rifle to a protest against President Obama's health care plan yesterday in Phoenix. The President was there giving a speech to a veterans group. The rifle toting man also had a handgun holstered at his hip and a full clip sticking out of his back pocket. And he wasn't alone. Apparently there were about a dozen armed protesters. While they were protesting the health care plan, they decided to kill two birds with one Uzi and make a statement about the right to bear arms. Since there's no longer a law against assault rifles and no law against carrying a non-concealed weapon without a permit in Arizona, no charges or arrests were made. I think this can best be described as a slippery slope. The right to bear arms is one of the fundamental rights Americans have. And boy do we love our guns.