The NCAA tournament might be down to the Sweet Sixteen, but even sweeter are the seven and a half things you need to know today. Here they are:
Thing One: Yeah, I'm The Tax Plan: Like most Americans, your most pressing concern right now is whether you and the corporations you love pay tax rates that are too high. It's arguably the greatest threat to the national welfare since the Chateau Lafite Rothschild Famine of 1992 or the Yacht Captains' Strike of 2005.
Thankfully, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has a plan to lower the tax rate for all sentient life forms in the United States, a group that includes not only companies but also people. This plan, which he will introduce today, will in no way utterly wreck the nation's already shaky finances, according to an independent analysis by the non-partisan Underpants Gnomes.
It will also probably never pass through Congress, writes the Wall Street Journal, in part because this plan also includes widely unpopular changes to Medicare. Instead, it's merely an effort by a top Republican to come up with a hot, sexy campaign theme for the election of 2012. The economy is frustratingly not quite going down in flames, so Republicans have got to come up with a message with broad popular appeal, like lowering the corporate tax rate.
Thing Two: Meet The Mets: In what passes for a victory these days for the hapless New York Mets, their owners, Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, managed to settle charges that they willfully turned a blind eye to the fraud Bernie Madoff committed under their noses, partly with their money. That charge was dropped -- they're not bad guys, those Wilpons, just dumb guys -- in exchange for an agreement to pay a mere $162 million at some future date, an amount that could well shrink down to nothing, depending on how much money the Wilpons can get out of the Madoff estate. And the Wilpons get to keep the team forever. So now you can just relax and enjoy Spring training, Mets fans. Scott Hairston Fever -- catch it!
Thing Three: Conflict Over Conflict Minerals: Gold and other, rarer, minerals that show up in everything from cell phones to light bulbs are often mined in parts of the world that are torn by horrific human suffering. A little-known clause of the Dodd-Frank financial-reform law requires that companies using such minerals have to publicize if those minerals were mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo. But The New York Times reports that companies are fighting as hard as they can to get around the new rule: "Just about every company affected by the law says they support it, but many business groups have also been pushing aggressively to put wiggle room in the restrictions, calling for lengthy phase-in periods, exemptions for minimal use of the minerals and loose definitions of what types of uses are covered."
Thing Four: Saudi Arabia To The Rescue: See, this is why U.S. presidents are always holding hands and making out with Saudi princes: Saudi Arabia plans to do what it can to help bring global crude-oil prices back down to $100 a barrel, the Financial Times writes. "Saudi Arabia is taking steps to cool the overheating global energy market, boosting its exports to the US and re-opening old oilfields to expand production, as the world’s largest oil producer tries to prevent damage to the global economic recovery."
Thing Five: Building A Mystery: President Obama, and some economists, have touted manufacturing as one of the few untarnished bright spots of the U.S. economy. A new think-tank study suggests all is not as bright as it seems in the U.S. factory sector, the Washington Post reports.
Thing Six: Goldman Sacks: Are we about to get more Greg Smith op-ed pieces? Goldman Sachs is cutting jobs in trading and investment banking, as part of its annual employee review process, writes Lauren Tara LaCapra of Reuters. "While Goldman's cuts are far from unusual on Wall Street, sources familiar with Goldman's trading business say, bank management has been issuing aggressive revenue targets that have been difficult to meet, particularly with fewer traders, weak trading volumes and low morale."
Thing Seven: Speak, Ben: Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke plans to use a speech at George Washington University today to justify the Fed's existence, Bloomberg writes: "Bernanke will lecture to about 30 undergraduate students at George Washington University in the first of four hour-long talks on the history of the Fed as part of what public relations specialist Richard Dukas called a “P.R. offensive” to buff the central bank’s tarnished image."
Thing Seven And One Half: Sterling's Gold: I hate to send you, the reader, down another web site's slideshow rabbit hole, but I'll make an exception in this case: In honor of the new Mad Men season starting this weekend, Uproxx has a slideshow with dozens of Roger Sterling's greatest hits.