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The Vision and the Budget by JEFFREY SACHS, Huffington Post | January 22, 2013In his second inaugural address, President Obama offered a stirring vision of the future of America, and the role of the federal government in enabling America to achieve it. He rightly emphasized that "preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action." An active federal government is needed, he said, to ensure quality education for all, mobilize new technologies, care for the elderly, fight climate change, and address global poverty. The challenge he faces -- that America faces -- is that the vision must be coherent with the budget. This has been the Achilles' heel of Obama's government from the start. And if he's not careful, he could put his powerful vision out of reach by budget blunders in the coming few weeks. read more »
How the Safety Net Encourages Risk Taking and Spurs Prosperity by David Callahan, policyshop.net | January 22, 2013The standard conservative rap on the social safety net is that it turns people into slackers by providing a comfy hammock and discouraging work and initiative. Yesterday, President Obama offered a diametrically opposite analysis: Programs like Social Security and Medicare, he argued, actually enable people to reach higher: "...these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great. That may be the strongest defense of the safety net in a nation like the U.S., where the values of self-reliance and individualism run so deep, providing fertile soil for libertarian attacks on government assistance.More interestingly, this logic chain offers insights into how to spur growth and innovation. In a nutshell, if we can strengthen the safety net and de-link it from employers, we'll encourage more risking taking, entrepreneurship, and job creation. read more »
Two Inaugurals, Two Messages: From Mushiness to a Clear, Progressive Vision by Richard Kirsch, nextnewdeal.net | January 22, 2013Four years ago, I stood in the cold listening to President Obama’s first inaugural address. I remember it leaving me cold. This year, in the warmth of my den, the president’s clear projection of progressive values as core American values warmed my heart. No progressive story of America would be complete without putting movement at its core, which the president does forcefully in his alliterative embracing of “Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall.” He doesn’t leave the call for action in the past. His concluding paragraphs clarify that “You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course.” The president will need lots of help setting that course over the next four years; surely he’ll be tested to keep to it himself. Our job is to do everything we can to assist him. read more »
Aaron Swartz, Financial Fraud, and the Justice Department by Dean Baker, truth-out.org | January 22, 2013Many people have been asking about the Justice Department's priorities in the wake of the suicide of computer whiz and political activist Aaron Swartz. As has been widely reported, the Justice Department was pressing charges that carried several decades of prison time against Swartz. He was caught hacking M.I.T.'s computer system in an apparent effort to make large amounts of academic research freely available to the public. The Justice Department's determination to commit substantial time and resources to prosecuting Swartz presents a striking contrast to its see no evil attitude when it comes to financial fraud by the Wall Street banks. People should recognize that this is not just a rhetorical point. It is clear that the Justice Department opted to not pursue the sort of investigations that could have landed many high level people at places like Goldman Sachs and Citigroup behind bars. read more »
Can Obama Be to Democrats What Reagan Is to Republicans? by Paul Waldman, prospect.org | January 22, 2013As I watched Barack Obama's speech yesterday, I couldn't help thinking of Ronald Reagan and what he has meant to conservatives since the day 32 years ago when he delivered his first inaugural address and said, "In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem." Some have lamented the fact that no single line from Obama's speech stands to be repeated as often as that one. But could this speech, and the four years to follow, make Barack Obama into the Democrats' Reagan? I don't necessarily mean that Obama will be treated with the kind of creepy fetishism Republicans treat Reagan. But the question is whether, like Reagan, Obama can define an era that continues even after he leaves office (in many ways, the Age of Reagan didn't end until January 2009), and give succor and guidance to his followers for years and even decades. read more »
A New Obama by Paul Begala, thedailybeast.com | January 22, 2013Back in November more than 60 million Americans thought they were voting to reelect the man who has served as our president for the past four years. Little did we know that a very different man would place his hand on the Bibles of President Lincoln and Dr. King. The new Obama is more combative. He signaled this even before his speech. His nomination of Chuck Hagel is a slap in the face of the neocons, and his post-Newtown advocacy of gun-safety laws is a direct assault on the entrenched power of the NRA. Perhaps he is becoming less obsessed with process than with results, less convinced his mere presence will transcend partisanship, and more committed to mastering and manipulating our messy, imperfect democratic system to advance his notion of a more perfect Union. “Our journey is not complete,” the president said. Nor is his. read more »
Disconnect: High Value Platinum Coin Vs. Austerity! by Joe Firestone, OurFuture.org | January 15, 2013A little disconnect: what President Obama, through Treasury and the Federal Reserve, really said last Saturday: read more »
The Trillion Dollar Coin Fantasy: GOP Extremism Can’t Be Wished Away by MIchael Grunwald, swampland.time.com | January 15, 2013The idea of a trillion-dollar platinum coin was not quite as insane as it sounded. It was a response to the insanity of congressional Republicans, who have refused to raise the debt ceiling and let the U.S. pay its bills unless Democrats agree to massive cuts in Democratic priorities. The coin would have been an accounting trick designed to allow Obama to ignore the debt ceiling and keep fulfilling obligations Congress had already incurred. It was always unrealistic to imagine that Obama could sidestep Republican extremism and obstructionism through a kooky loophole in monetary regulations. Big ideological battles don’t get settled through technicalities. But especially on the left, there is still a powerful urge to believe that Republican extremism and obstructionism can be sidestepped. read more »
Government Shutdown Insanity by Michael Tomasky, thedailybeast.com | January 15, 2013You know how when you hear the long screech of a car braking for several seconds you’re a bit disappointed if you don’t hear the crash right after it? Well, that’s where House Republicans are now, in psychological terms. The brakes are screeching in their ears. They have been since 2011. The brakes have been screeching so long that they’re itching for the wreck to happen, just to make their point, just to see what goes down, just to say to Barack Obama and The New York Times and mainstream economists and the reality-based community across America that, no, they don’t care. They want to hear the glass shatter and the metal twist. They’ve been wanting to force a catastrophe, really, since the day Obama was first sworn in. read more »
The Foreclosure Fiasco by Joe Nocera, The New York Times | January 15, 2013It’s been five days since Jessica Silver-Greenberg’s article on the latest bank settlement was posted on The New York Times’s Web site. I’m still shaking my head. Her “story behind the story” of the $8.5 billion settlement between federal bank regulators and 10 banks over their foreclosure misdeeds illustrates just about everything that is wrong with the way the government has handled the Great Foreclosure Crisis. People who do these kinds of settlements regularly say that the world has become so complicated that, more often than not, it is simply too expensive to figure out who was harmed and who was not. So best just to throw a little money at everybody and make the problem go away. That is what the federal government did last week in its settlement with the banks. It’s nothing to be proud of. read more »
White House's Late Push for $26B State Aid Bill, Politico | August 2, 2010
With a Senate vote slated for Monday evening, the White House shows signs of a late-breaking push behind a $26.1 billion aid package to help state and local governments cope with revenue shortfalls due to the continuing housing crisis and slow economic recovery. more »
More Spending Is Needed on Weapons Systems, Panel Says, The New York Times | July 30, 2010
Even as political pressure grows to reduce the federal budget deficit, a blue-ribbon board led by former top national security officials called on Thursday for more spending on weapons systems. more »
Too Big Not To Organize, inthesetimes.com | July 30, 2010
Through the blare of screeching feedback from portable translation headsets and microphones, unionized bank workers from Brazil, England, Chile, Germany, and Uruguay are encouraging American workers to undertake an unprecedented campaign against a common enemy: Grupo Santander, the global banking giant which last year took control of Sovereign Bank.
Citigroup Agrees to $75 Million SEC Settlement on Subprime Mortgage Investments, The Washington Post | July 30, 2010
Citigroup, one of the nation's largest banks, agreed Thursday to pay $75 million to settle a Securities and Exchange Commission complaint that it misled investors about $40 billion of its holdings in subprime mortgage investments. more »
Small, Midsize U.S. Banks Need to Raise More Capital, IMF Financial Study Finds, The Washington Post | July 30, 2010
The U.S. financial system remains under stress, with small and midsize banks in particular potentially needing to raise more capital, according to a new report from the International Monetary Fund that shows the continuing strains facing the U.S. economy. more »
Obama Making Sales Pitch for Auto Bailouts to Skeptical Voters, bloomberg.com | July 30, 2010
President Barack Obama flies to the heart of the U.S. auto industry today on a mission to convince taxpayers that their investment in the bailouts of General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC will bring a return. more »
President to Promote Auto Bailout as a Success, The New York Times | July 30, 2010
When President Obama steps into a General Motors plant on Friday morning — as the majority shareholder surveying the government’s investment in a company the White House called “moribund” just 18 months ago — he will be doing more than just examining the first models of the all-electric Volt that began rolling off the production line this week.
Federal Reserve's James Bullard: Long-term Deflation is a Possibility, The Washington Post | July 30, 2010
A top Federal Reserve official warned Thursday that the nation faces the risk of an extended period of falling prices known as deflation, such as that experienced by Japan over the past two decades. more »
Within the Fed, Worries of Deflation, The New York Times | July 30, 2010
A subtle but significant shift appears to be occurring within the Federal Reserve over the course of monetary policy as the economic recovery is weakening. more »
Homes Keep Falling Into Foreclosure as Programs Fail to Help, mcclatchydc.com | July 30, 2010
More than three years into the housing crisis that helped trigger a worldwide recession, the torrid pace of home foreclosures continues to tear at the core of the American dream.
New figures Thursday from Realty-Trac showed that foreclosure activity declined over the first six months of the year in nine of the 10 large metropolitan areas with the highest foreclosure rates.