Thursday, July 07, 2011
President Obama has said he wants to use a looming deadline over raising the amount Congress is allowed to borrow to work a deal with Republicans on something "big."
And now he plans to propose major changes to Social Security as part of that "grand bargain," which he hopes will reduce the deficit by as much as $4 trillion over the next decade, administration sources tell CBS News.
Mr. Obama is scheduled to meet at the White House Thursday morning with congressional leaders, including House Speaker John Boehner, from both parties to negotiate a deficit reduction deal.
So let me get this straight: you'll trade a piece of the retirement plans of hundreds of millions of Americans in exchange for some minor, and I stress minor sacrifices made on the part of the richest 250,000 thousand of us?
BILLINGS — Exxon Mobil Co. had reassured federal regulators and officials from a Montana town since December that an oil pipeline beneath the Yellowstone River was safe, buried deep enough to avoid any accidental ruptures.
Then, on Friday night, the pipe failed, spilling an estimated 42,000 gallons into the flooded river.
The cause of the accident remains under investigation, but the prevailing theory among officials and the company is that the raging Yellowstone eroded the riverbed and exposed the line to damaging rocks or debris.
There is still no definitive word on how far downriver the spill could spread.
Here's a few simple background facts to keep in mind as you read the story at that link:
1) The infrastructure of America, from roads and bridges to rail lines and water mains, is in shambles. It could conceivably cost the equivalent of a year's GDP just to bring the entire infrastructure of the nation up to code.
2) There are only 110 inspectors in the US government for over 400,000 miles of pipeline for oil and natural gas. Current requirements are for inspections to be done on a rotating basis every five years, but those don't take into account follow ups to ensure compliance with any repairs.
3) Exxon claims "only" 42,000 gallons of oil spilled. By comparison, BP's first claims last year was zero oil was released. The US Coast Guard had an initial estimate of a 1,000 barrels a day. 42,000 gallons translates to....1,000 barrels. The final official estimates for the BP spill were 62,000 barrels (about 2.6 million gallons) a day. Worst case estimates were nearly triple that.
4) The Gulf oil spill affected a wide swath of open water. The Yellowstone spill is concentrated and on a moving body of water. Oil has been unofficially reported as far away as 240 miles.
5) Wildlife in the Gulf can swim away from the oil. Wildlife in Montana relies on the oil for drinking, and eventually the river creatures bump into barriers to further movement, effectively trapping themselves in the spill.
Wednesday, July 06, 2011
The scandal over Rupert Murdoch's News of the World tabloid has exploded across London, with Scotland Yard investigating the possibility that reporters and investigators for the paper hacked into the phones of victims of 7/7 -- the so-called London bus bombings of July 7, 2005, in which terrorists targeted the city's bus and subway systems and killed 52 people.
Outrage has spread since the original accusation that News of the World hacked the cell phone of Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old girl who disappeared in March 2002. Her remains were found southwest of London six months later, and a man was convicted this spring of killing her. Police are now trying to determine whether reporters not only listened to the teenager's voicemail, but deleted voicemail messages -- leading her parents to believe she was still alive and potentially obstructing the police investigation into her disappearance.
The investigation will now stretch back ten years. Expect similar investigations to be launched around the world, wherever News Corp has holdings.
In addition, the London Metro Police have admitted that cops have taken bribes from reporters for News Of The World for tips.
"Doh-de-doh-de-doh! Nope, no one's going to notice that I'm lying through my teeth, no sirree!"
If anything, the White House has done yeoman work to lay down a path that avoids a debt ceiling crisis, consistently ready to offer compromises so long as some form of...well, let's call it "revenue enhancement" like the Republicans do...is on the table.
The headlines reflect this in Realityland, but apparently, in The Village, the elders have determined that the scary man in the Oval Office is holding the nation hostage. Attempts to paint Obama as the bad guy have fallen flat no their faces, right up to and including Mark Halperin's ad hominem attack last week.
Indeed, Obama has floated the interesting contingency plan of ignoring the debt ceiling based on a very clear passage in the Constitution that no limits on national debt may ever be placed (the 14th Amendment, for those of you playing along at home.)
GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is raising money today from Americans in London, hoping to add to his already fat campaign account.
Romney is reporting today that he raised $18.25 million in the second fundraising quarter and has $12.6 million in the bank.
The former Massachusetts governor, who is ahead in Gallup and other national polls, is far outpacing all of his GOP rivals in the race for campaign cash. Much of his haul came from a one-day "call-a-thon."
This on top of his sizable personal resources make Mitt the nominee-apparent in my book. There's really almost no point to holding the primaries, except for two things: one, to watch Michele Bachmann self-destruct and two, to keep an eye out to see how enthusiastic Teabaggers are to vote for Romney.
My guess is the turnout after Iowa, should Mitt win handily, will wither away. If Bachmann can somehow cobble together an insurgent campaign, while she will still lose, at least it will make for a fun Spring 2012.
If you haven't guessed by now, this is the week campaigns must report their second quarter numbers. There are no real surprises on the Republican side of the race: Romney is running up his totals, Newt Gingrich is finding out just how unliked he really is, Ron Paul is finding out that cheap-ass...I mean, no-tax...Teabaggers are cheap, and the rest are, well, putting lipstick on a pig.
To coin a phrase.
Bachmann does not have to report since she entered the race so late in the quarter, and President Obama has not released his final tally yet, but my recollection from the solicitations I received indicate that he was running ahead of his stated goals, and I suspect he will return a surprising total, on a par with Romney and perhaps well in excess of his.
In truth, a popinjay politician who surrounds himself with yes-men and toadies, like Newt and Bachmann, learns a harsh truth each quarter: he (or she) is not universally loved by so many people who throw money at candidates like Elvis got panties.
This is one of the joys of American politics. A person can be so removed from reality and yet suffer such indignities as, first, having to beg for money and then, having to take "no" for an answer without recourse.
This dynamic goes a long way to understanding why we're so fucked up. It certainly does not help that the SCOTUS saw fit to scrape away any pretense of fairness in campaign financing by allowing corporations to dump unlimited amounts of the trillions they have in bank accounts in favor of or against any candidate they see fit to pick on.
Perhaps one day, the concretization of idiocy that this nation has undergone under Republicanism will crack, shatter, and the tree of liberty will finally grown once more. They've paved paradise and put up a parking lot.
Tuesday, July 05, 2011
It is true that foreign direct investment rose to $236 billion in 2010 from $159 billion in 2009. But that was still well below the $310 billion invested in 2008. The White House also neglected to disclose that in the first quarter of 2011 foreign investment fell by 51% from the first quarter of last year, according to data released last month from the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis. Foreigners of late have not found the U.S. to be a receptive, high-return home for investment.
Much more worrisome is that Americans are taking their investment dollars abroad at a faster pace than foreigners are bringing capital to these shores. In 2010, for example, U.S. investment abroad was $351 billion—$115 billion higher than foreign investment here. Economic recoveries are periods when investment capital usually surges into a country, but since this weakling rebound began in the middle of 2009 the U.S. has lost more than $200 billion in investment capital. That is the equivalent of about two million jobs that don't exist on these shores and are now located in places like China, Germany and India.
[...] So why did the investors put their money in the U.S. in those years? We'd say it was a combination of low tax rates, a strong dollar, low inflation and other free-market reforms. Capital flows to where it is most highly rewarded, and low marginal tax rates on the returns to capital and business income create a gravitational pull on global funds. A strong and stable currency allows businesses to invest in innovation, employees and productivity rather than inflation hedges. It also encourages investors to wait longer to cash in their profits without worrying about the losses of a depreciating dollar. In the high-tax, high-inflation 1970s, the U.S. was a net exporter of risk-taking capital. As we are now.
Tax rates in Germany on businesses (foreign investments are taxed locally if invested in German companies or enterprises): 30%
Tax rates in China: 25%
Tax rates in India: 33%
Tax rates in the US: 0-35%. It was 45% and more in the "risky Seventies" the WSJ refers to. Clearly, they missed the point.
"American" companies are investing roughly one-third the current annual budget deficit abroad for...at most a ten percent reduction in taxes (nevermind the intricacies of repatriating those monies, something the Republicans have tried to make, um, easier (read: greedier).
The lion's share of this problem comes down to this: American companies are no longer American. As such, the government should treat them as illegal immigrants: decertify their recourse to the American legal system, force them to work the fields (so to speak) and suspend their "civil rights". They simply refuse to act like patriotic Americans, and I'm surprised...ok, not really, but still...surprised the Teabaggers haven't turned their attentions to these asshats.
No one blames foreigners for keeping their monies in China, Germany, and India, where growth is evident and the economy is stronger. One could make the case, however, the American investor should be encouraged to keep his money here at home, investing in businesses and enterprises that will return long-term capital gains (15%) and create jobs for Americans.
Apparently, greed runs rampant.