As Europe works toward bringing Greece back from the edge of default, the United States is trying to puzzle out how good of a partner we want to be to the eurozone. Lael Brainard, the Treasury's top international diplomat, told the Senate banking committee yesterday that the International Monetary Fund doesn't need an infusion of cash from the U.S. in order to create a buffer from whatever may happen with Greece and the other European economies. “The challenge Europe faces is within the capacity of the Europeans to manage,” she said.
In a surprising change of heart, House Republicans agreed yesterday to extend the $100 billion payroll tax cuts through the end of 2012 without spending cuts to offset the cost. However, the concession may signal a shift in strategy, rather than a cave, on the issue.
The Greek Parliament passed austerity measures that were a crucial step to getting a €130 billion eurozone bailout yesterday. However, the country isn't out of the woods yet. Eurozone financial leaders will meet Wednesday to discuss the logistics of the bailout, which won't get approved—if it gets approved—until March. The austerity package, which includes wage and pension cuts and reduces the government payrolls by 150,000, passed by a 199-74 vote, but was accompanied by mass protests leaving forty buildings in Athens aflame.
After a year of talks and little action, government officials have worked out a potential $26 billion settlement with the nation's top five banks, the New York Times reported. The agreement could provide relief for up to two million Americans who have had their homes foreclosed on since September 2008; it totals up to $1,500 to $2,000 per borrower. The five banks involved—Ally Financial, Bank of America, Citigroup, J.P. Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo—collectively handle 27 million mortgages. Although this move is a good way to help hurting homeowners, bigger problems with the process need fixing. “If you don’t do something to help the foreclosure process, it’s not going to help the housing market,” said Christopher J.
Ben Bernanke is second only to Barack Obama when it comes to being a Republican punching bag for the economic downturn, but the Federal Reserve chairman spent some time explaining his decisions and expectations for the coming months during a session with the Senate Budget Committee yesterday. Bernanke said that his biggest worry was the federal deficit, which he said is on pace to become unsustainable in the next 15 to 20 years.