Take a look at the stories from around our area and world that are making news today.
State home sales rose 1.8% in February; prices up 6.1%: Paul Gores and Robert Gebelhoff of the Journal Sentinel write: "Home prices continued to rise in most parts of Wisconsin in February as listings of properties for sale thinned. Overall, sales of existing homes ticked up 1.8% from February of last year to 3,482 from 3,419, while prices remained on a three-year long surge statewide, according to a report released Monday by the Wisconsin Realtors Association. The median price increased 6.1% to $137,900 on sales that closed in February. Median sale prices took double-digit percentage leaps in the regions anchored by the Milwaukee and Madison metro areas, at 11.7% and 10.8%, respectively. Marquette University economics professor David Clark, who analyzes the sales and price data each month for the state Realtors organization, said homes on the market in the more urban areas of Wisconsin are getting tight. That could hurt sales volumes, but may help drive up prices." Read more.
Farmers feel squeeze as commodity prices fall, costs rise: Rick Barrett of the Journal Sentinel writes: "Crop and livestock producers' confidence in the farm economy has sunk to a new low, fueled by worries about slipping commodity prices and rising costs of production. It's the most pessimistic outlook in years, according to DTN/The Progressive Farmer, the organizations that surveyed hundreds of U.S. crop and livestock farmers for their views. Concerns over stagnant or falling commodity prices, increased crop production and rising crop production costs contributed to the negative outlook, said DTN Markets Editor Katie Micik, based in Omaha, Neb. 'Farmers are really feeling squeezed,' Micik said. Last fall, sinking grain prices dragged down U.S. farm sector profits to their lowest levels since 2010. This year, net income for farmers is expected to plummet 30% as corn and soybean prices remain low and expenses creep higher, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture." Read more.
Number of uninsured fell by more than 11 million since passage of Obamacare: Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of the Huffington Post writes: "The number of uninsured U.S. residents fell by more than 11 million since President Barack Obama signed the health care overhaul five years ago, according to a pair of reports Tuesday from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although that still would leave about 37 million people uninsured, it's the lowest level measured in more than 15 years. The most dramatic change took place in comparing 2013 with the first nine months of 2014. As the health care law's major coverage expansion was taking effect, the number of uninsured people fell by 7.6 million over that time." Read more.
Why Congress is having trouble governing: Neil Irwin of The New York Times writes: "The 114th Congress is not yet three months old. But already its fate — whether it will be capable of keeping the government running without a lot of drama, let alone pass any meaningful policy changes into law — is in doubt. ... So far, Congress has had trouble creating the kind of crisp, predictable governance that businesses and markets hunger for. ... At its root is a divide between the Republican congressional leadership and a significant portion of its caucuses. The leaders believe they are best off projecting calm competence by governing without excess drama. They seek modest policy wins on trade and a handful of other issues, and would like to pass conservative bills that the president may veto but that are popular and so leave the Republicans in better shape heading into 2016 elections. That strategy is a recognition of a simple constitutional fact: President Obama will be in office until January 2017, and it takes more votes to override a presidential veto than the Republicans have. So their best bet to enact a conservative agenda, in this line of thinking, is to maximize the odds that 2016 will be a Republican wave election on the order of what the Democrats experienced in 2008, with a Republican president paired with congressional majorities in both houses." Read more.