Why does Larry Summers have more lives than a cat?
He was fired as president of Harvard, did not exactly serve President Obama brilliantly as economic policy czar, and now seems to be in line for the presidency of the World Bank, a post traditionally chosen by the president of the United States.
The deadline for the selection is this Friday, March 23. The appointment is supposed to be made official at the April meeting of the World Bank.
Earlier this month, the White House leaked a short list of three names, Summers plus U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry—neither of whom want the job. Brilliantly subtle signaling, that.
President Obama in a Chevy Volt (official White House photo by Pete Souza)
or a long time, commentators noted that Barack Obama was going to have a hard time persuading the public with his argument about the economy, since it would come down to, "It could have been worse." Saying that unemployment may still be over 8 percent, and it peaked at 10 percent in October of 2009, but if it hadn't been for the stimulus we passed things would have been much, much worse, isn't going to be a consolation if you're unemployed. The fact that most economists say that the stimulus did in fact have a substantial positive effect on the economy doesn't really matter when it comes to getting people to vote for your re-election. When times are bad, "It could have been worse" is small comfort.
That was the story up until recently. But the last few months have shown strong job growth, and most everyone is expecting that the economy will continue its upward trajectory. And guess what that has done to Mitt Romney: made him argue the mirror image of what everyone said Obama couldn't argue persuasively. Romney's case on the economy now comes down to "It could have been better"...
Apple—the world's most valuable company—announced today that it plans to use some of its $97 billion cash stockpile toward paying a regular dividend of $2.65 per share starting in the fourth quarter, and a stock buyback of up to $10 billion.
This week begins with a little positive news about economic expectations: according to Gallup, 19 percent of Americans say that this is a “good time” to find a “quality” job, the highest since September 2008:
Of course, the larger lesson is that “good” is relative. Five years ago, before the economy collapsed in a horrible mess, 45 percent of Americans said that it was a good time to find a quality job. But the labor market is far worse than it was then, and at the moment, things are actually looking up if one in five Americans think that they could find a decent job in this environment.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a $36 billion contribution toward the latest Greek bailout. Along with more than $170 billion from other European governments and institutions, the IMF loans will be doled out over the course of four years, hopefully allowing the country and the eurozone to regain their financial standing.
What should we make of those scary poll numbers? The most recent New York Times/CBS poll, conducted March 7 to March 11, reported a big drop in President Obama’s favorability ratings, which declined to 41 percent from 50 percent just a month ago.
This occurred during a period when the economic news was relatively good—the economy created more than 200,000 jobs for the third straight month; gas prices rose but not steeply; and Obama acquitted himself well on the treacherous terrain of resisting Iran’s nuclear ambitions without embracing war.
Former Goldman Sachs employee Greg Smith wrote an op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times that simmers with pathos. Smith describes the devolution of the culture at Goldman: Whereas in the past, the company worked in the interests of its clients, they are now seen merely as the source of transactional profit, to be manipulated for the benefit of the firm. His story emerges in the midst of a huge effort by Wall Street to eviscerate and delay the implementation of the Volcker Rule, which limits bank traders to running a client-service businesses by prohibiting trading for the bank’s own account.
A lost theme in improving public services—labor-management cooperation—has begun to receive long-overdue attention in recent weeks. Over the weekend The Washington Postgave front-page coverage to a Maryland teachers’ union collaborating with school authorities to accelerate curricular reform and improve teacher performance while disciplining ineffective teachers. Last month, Nicholas Kristof wrote approvingly in the New York Times of a comparable collaboration in New Haven.
Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval came into office with tough talk about taxes. Since then, it seems, he's grown disenchanted with Grover Norquist-style governance. For the second time in as many years, he's pushing to extend a group of temporary tax increases, rather than cut public-education funding. What is the world coming to?
The successful conclusion last Friday of the PSI (Private Sector Involvement), the bond exchange process for Greece’s private creditors, was good news—both for the country and for the eurozone. Voluntary participation in the deal reached 85.8 percent (out of a total of 206 billion euros in Greek government bonds which were up for exchange). The level of participation reached 95.7 percent with the decision to activate the Collective Action Clauses (CAC) recently added to the legal contracts governing 177 billion euros of bonds under Greek law, forcing recalcitrant creditors to participate in the process. This means a 105 billion euro gross reduction in Greek debt—out of a total of 368 billion.
It takes quite a “trade” agreement to undermine financial regulation, increase drug prices, flood us with unsafe imported food and products, ban Buy America policies aimed at recovery and redevelopment, and empower corporations to attack our environmental and health safeguards before tribunals of corporate lawyers. Trade, in fact, is the least of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
On November 12, 2011, I listened as President Barack Obama told business leaders attending the Summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Honolulu that “we’ve turned our attention back to the Asia Pacific region” and announced two vehicles for that return. These were the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement, now under negotiation and to be concluded by the end of this year, and the Pivot to Asia, meaning a redeployment of American priorities and military forces away from Europe and the Middle East to Asia.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is best understood as President Barack Obama’s extension of the Bush-era doctrine of “competitive liberalization.” Frustrated with pushback at the World Trade Organization by nations like China, Brazil, India, and South Africa, the United States seeks a coalition of the willing to import a commercial framework that rewards private firms at the expense of the common good. That policy regime is ailing in the U.S. and gets worse when exported.