William Temple from Brunswick, Georgia, applauds as speakers take turns delivering their remarks at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, Saturday, October 8, 2011. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Christian conservatives -- at least, as represented by the 3,000 or so attendees of this year's Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. -- are determined to make Barack Obama a one-term president. "My motto for next year is 'anyone but Obama,'" says Ellen Elmore, an attendee from Missouri. Who that anyone is, however, still matters, she says. "We want a real conservative -- we don't want another John McCain."
Before Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the state of Louisiana asked the Bush administration several times to fund the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, resources that would have gone toward building up drainage and flood-protection infrastructure in New Orleans. Instead, the federal government cut its funding every year, starting in 2002. A January 2005 memo from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) denied the project's last request before the storm, explaining that flood protection was not one of the administration's priorities; at the time, "fighting the War on Terror," "strengthening our homeland defense," and pro-growth economic policies took precedence, the OMB explained.
In dealing with the European debt crisis, this week's European Union (EU) summit attempted the quantum leap forward called for a few months ago by the head of the European Central Bank (ECB), Jean-Claude Trichet. Following days of intense negotiations, European leaders agreed on a new, 109 billion euro loan package for Greece and a set of supporting measures aimed at laying to rest bond market worries about the credibility of the Euro in a grueling session that started at 2 in the afternoon and ended not long before midnight. In the next few days and weeks, as details of the agreement are fleshed out, it will become clear whether Europe has finally managed to get a grip on the crisis.
(Flickr/Davide Oliva)Monument to the Euro in Frankfurt, Germany
The heads of the European Union are meeting in an emergency summit to try to resolve the Greek debt situation. But the best they are likely to manage is a temporary fix. A tentative plan agreed to yesterday by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel is to be presented to the summit this afternoon. But it is unlikely to resolve the long-term structural problems.
Various news sources, including The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg have been reporting that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has advised President Barack Obama that he is likely to step down once the debt-ceiling extension is approved (that might be a long time from now given that the Republicans could agree to temporary extensions to maximize their leverage).
Yesterday, Bloomberg News reported that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner may leave his post after the debt ceiling is raised. Within a few hours, a Treasury spokesperson clarified that Geithner has not yet decided whether he'll stay or go once that happens. (There is, of course, always the possibility that the battle over the debt ceiling may be so protracted that Geithner's departure is still eons away.)
(AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis) Protesters gesture and wave flags in front of the Parliament during a rally against plans for new austerity measures in central Athens.
Here comes Financial Crisis 2.0. Like its predecessor, it was caused by the banks.
The first crisis was the result of banks inventing toxic financial products and then promoting bets on different kinds of securities with borrowed money. When the speculative bubble popped, tens of trillions of dollars in financial and housing assets vanished. At that point, governments and central banks stepped in and rescued the banks. The only thing that suffered was the rest of the economy.
Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard law professor serving as temporary head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), must wish she had a clone.
One would stay in Washington to fight for the strongest possible consumer financial protection bureau, doing battle with predators in the financial industry, their Republican allies in Congress, and fainthearted colleagues at the Treasury.
The other Warren would run for the Senate in Massachusetts.
Both of these are hugely important jobs, but of course, there is only one Elizabeth Warren.
On Wednesday, three federal regulators -- the Federal Reserve, the Office of Thrift Supervision, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency -- released an enforcement order against 14 of the nation's largest banks and two third-party service providers for persistent irregularities and outright fraud in the way they process mortgages. These regulators are, respectively, the gang that missed the housing bubble, American International Group's overseer (whose colossal lapses caused it to be disbanded in last year's financial-regulatory law), and an entity most recently headed by a former bank lobbyist.
Conservative Democrat Mike Ross of Arkansas (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
The Blue Dog Coalition -- a group of self-identified moderate Democrats in Congress -- has become the latest group trying to establish its bona fides as "serious" about reducing the deficit. Echoing Republican calls for austerity as we face the worse economic recession since the Great Depression, earlier this week, the coalition released its own proposal to rein in "out of control" federal spending. But as with Republican blueprints that also call for drastic cuts to discretionary spending, the Blue Dog plan offers little hope of ensuring real economic stability.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is close to a decision to exempt the $4 trillion-a-day foreign-currency market from key provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act requiring greater transparency in the trading of derivatives. In the horse-trading over the final conference version of that legislation last year, both Geithner and financial-industry executives lobbied extensively to give the Treasury secretary the right to create this loophole. As the practical reach of Dodd-Frank is defined by the executive branch, this will be the first major decision to signal whether regulators will act to strengthen or weaken the reforms.
The new year is a time for optimism, regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Economically speaking, 2010 was a year spent in the doldrums of a recovery. Unemployment held steady at just under 10 percent, and growth was positive but anemic -- each new piece of data tantalized us with the potential for improvement without reducing the scale of our problems.
Last June, Thomas Cox, a legal-services lawyer representing a Maine homeowner named Nicolle Bradbury, took an extended deposition from a clerk for the mortgage giant GMAC, which was trying to foreclose on Bradbury's house. GMAC, once the financing arm of General Motors, received a $17.3 billion bailout in 2009 and became 56 percent government -- owned. The clerk, Jeffrey Stephan, admitted that he signed over 400 affidavits a day attesting to documents that were supposed to be in files but were not. The case brought to light a widespread industry practice known as robo-signing.
Location is everything, especially in Chicago, where your neighborhood isn't just where you live but who you are. Rahm Emanuel, running for mayor, can't get any respect because he grew up in the suburbs. Barack Obama, Senate hopeful, won in part because he had liberal credibility from his home on the South Side and was able to raise money on the North Side. Politics and real estate can make an unsavory combination: More than one Chicago politician, including Obama, has found himself in hot water after accepting real-estate favors from politically interested friends.