President Obama's 'the check's in the mail' problem
Recapping the day's news and newsmakers through the lens of CNBC.
Would you run your business this way? It turns out that despite its vast powers, the federal government is saddled with an inflexible bill-paying system. That will make it harder to stave off crisis if the debt ceiling isn't raised by the Oct. 17 deadline. After that, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will lose about a third of his spending money. And with about 100 million government payments to make every month, the highly automated system makes it hard to choose between, say, maintaining nuclear missiles and keeping parks open. In fact, some laws specifically bar the Treasury from not paying bills. Then again, maybe it won't matter: some legal experts think President Obama can authorize continued federal borrowing all by himself, avoiding a debt-ceiling crisis. But the White House says it ain't so, preferring to keep the blame on Congress.
"Lew faces few good choices and many of those choices pit one law against another. What's unclear is the legality of Lew relying on a tried-and-true tactic used at one time or another by every American check writer: 'The check is in the mail.'"—CNBC's Steve Liesman
"The Constitution gives Congress—not the president—the authority to borrow money, and only Congress can increase the debt ceiling."—White House Press Secretary Jay Carney
Jobs for jerks? Not anymore
We all know that employers want "team players," job applicants with lots of flexibility and "passion." Frankly, you get a little sick of hearing all the buzzwords. So a few employers like Panera Bread, the sandwich chain, are getting right to the point, announcing, in so many words, that "jerks" need not apply. While the trend in hard times is to hire toughs with a take-no-prisoners attitude, a few employers feel this is time to make the workplace nicer, not nastier. In fact, employees with positive attitudes and generous dealings with colleagues often turn out to be the best performers.
"We're forgiving of a bad day or a personal struggle at home that might make someone a little cranky, but if we see a consistent pattern, then they're not a good fit with our culture."—Henry Albrecht, CEO of Limeade, a small workforce wellness company
There's something encouraging—and even a bit endearing—about a company that's been around a long time making good. And that's what happened today, when shares of Potbelly Sandwich Shop jumped 130 percent after this morning's IPO. Founded in 1977, the Chicago-based chain has 295 stores serving sandwiches and salads for $6 to $8. So who says you have to be a sexy high-tech darling to impress investors? Potbelly does it the old-fashioned way, with good value for customers.
"Potbelly is in the sweet spot of quick casual restaurants. ... You don't mind staying and eating at Potbelly."—Joe Pawlak, vice president of Technomic, a restaurant consulting firm.
Civilization and its discontents
Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. famously said that: "Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society." Are we getting our money's worth? Civility does seem at a low ebb at the moment. But we can't let the day pass without noting that this is the 100th anniversary of the federal income tax. So far, we haven't heard of any parties. Initially 400 pages—hefty for 1904—the tax code has ballooned to nearly 74,000 pages. One thing has stayed the same: people don't like taxes, though previous generations complained less—even when tax rates were higher.
"It's a popular perception that Americans hate taxes, but that hasn't been the case until recently. ... But our overall prosperity started to decline in the 1960s and '70s, and people wanted to start paying less in taxes."—Ajay Mehrotra, history professor at Indiana University
The jobs number must go on
There's no jobs number today because of the government shutdown. But to save data freaks from the agonies of withdrawal, CNBC came up with its own number using the same data-tweaking methodology the government does. The result: 158,000 jobs created in September, a so-so result.
—By Jeff Brown, Special to CNBC.com