Breakfast Buffet, Wednesday, April 8

Under the (Black) Sea: Italy and Russia cemented ties with a flurry of business deals yesterday, including a $4.1 billion sale involving Gazprom, Russia's national oil giant. Vladimir Putin watched over the dealings. Silvio Berlusconi was set to attend, but instead remained in earthquake-hit Italy. At a time when most European countries have cooled relations with Russia, the transaction strengthens a partnership planning to jointly construct a pipeline underneath the Black Sea.

Nuclear Finances, Busted: A New York-based prosecutor has issued a 118-count indictment of the head of a Chinese firm for using front companies and aliases to circumvent U.S. sanctions against Iran--essentially, using the U.S. banking system to facilitate the sale of materials used to build nuclear weapons. Iran is (perhaps not incidentally), a major supplier of oil and gas to China. It could be a sticky spot for Hillary Clinton, who has been cozying up to Chinese offficials.

Making the Rich Pay: The Economist has a solid, well-reasoned post (shock!) about the relative merits of progressive taxes and consumption taxes. A good follow-up to Clive Crook's point from last week that the U.S. tax structure is more progressive than it's given credit for, due to Europe's high consumption taxes. America should consider a VAT that can reinforce, not undermine, the progressive approach, they argue.

Thumbs Up on Geithner: Everybody chill--the O-team is providing steady, rational leadership, says Ricardo Caballero, the head of MIT's econ department. He argues the systemic overhaul some of his colleagues have been clamoring for will need to wait until after the worst of the storm has passed. Worth reading to the end for a particularly note-worthy point: this ain't Japan, folks.

To Print or Not to Print: The inflation v. deflation divide widened yesterday, as the ECB's Juergen Stark criticized the G20's decision to boost the IMF's SDRs, calling it "helicopter money." Reuters econ bloggers have an interesting point about the spat; while the Great Depression serves as the America backdrop for all things cataclysmic, the hyperinflation of the 1920s informs the German view. As they put it, think wheelbarrows.

Breakfast Buffet, Wednesday, April 8 | News