CNN’s article by Charles Riley quoted several of the Republican candidates for President out of context and then asked several unknown Keynesian economists — Keynesians believe in growing and empowering the government to stimulate the economy — to comment on those quotes. The result was a one-sided dismissal of anything the candidates had to say about the economy and how they might fix it.

For instance, Riley quoted Jonathan Lanning, an assistant professor at Bryn Mawr, as saying that "there are so many economic ‘misstatements’ being made, and it isn’t confined to any one candidate.” He went on to contend that if any of the Republican candidates were in his introductory economics class, Econ 101, they certainly wouldn’t move up to his 200-level classes next semester:  “I can say that none of the rationales for various policies that I have heard display a basic 200-level understanding of key economic concepts.”

 

After receiving heated criticism from Republicans and conservative groups, the White House swiftly delayed implementation of a proposed 15-cent tax on fresh-cut Christmas trees. In what critics were calling a government attack on Christmas, Acting Administrator of Agricultural Marketing David Shipman announced Tuesday that the Secretary of Agriculture would appoint a new federal board contrived to help market the Christmas tree industry.

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) was quick to criticize the program, describing the tax as a "Grinch" move by the Obama administration. The program was intended to launch Wednesday, but public outcry spurred a quick retraction from the White House. "I can tell you unequivocally that the Obama administration is not taxing Christmas trees. What’s being talked about here is an industry group deciding to impose fees on itself to fund a promotional campaign," White House spokesman Matt Lehrich assured Fox News. "That said, USDA is going to delay implementation and revisit this action."

The alleged purpose of the Christmas Tree Promotion Board is to operate a "program of promotion, research, evaluation, and information designed to strengthen the Christmas tree industry’s position in the marketplace; maintain and expand existing markets for Christmas trees; and to carry out programs, plans, and projects designed to provide maximum benefits to the Christmas tree industry." The program of "information" involves a marketing campaign to "enhance the image of Christmas trees and the Christmas tree industry in the United States."

As the debt crisis in Italy and other European Union countries spirals out of control, reports said the French and German governments have started early discussions on a possible collapse of the single currency. Publicly, however, EU bosses are denying problems and demanding more “integration.”

Several possibilities have been mentioned by analysts including the outright breakup of the euro-zone altogether or at least expulsion of some of its more irresponsible member governments. And there are more than a few in that category.

The massively indebted Italian government, with its bond yields soaring to new heights, is thought to be too big to rescue. And hundreds of billions have already been poured into the socialist Greek regime to no avail. The socialist governments of Spain and Portugal are in terrible financial straits, too.

But Italy — the euro-zone’s third largest economy — is dominating the headlines for now. The supranational regime’s bailout fund does not have nearly the amount of money needed to rescue the Italian government.

The European Central Bank (ECB) has so far resisted calls to print even more money to completely paper over the Italy problem. But some analysts believe the central bank is secretly plotting to buy up Italian government bonds in the near future.
 

The Obama administration is delaying implementation of its Christmas-tree tax following a tsunami of criticism and ridicule that erupted after news of the 15-cent “fee” broke on November 8. But while the plan is being reviewed, it is not dead yet.

The tax on fresh-cut Christmas trees was supposed to fund a new entity within the U.S. Department of Agriculture called the “Christmas Tree Promotion Board” (CTPB). Supported by some industry lobbyists, the estimated $2 million in revenue would have been used to help improve the image and marketing of American Christmas trees.

According to the notice published in the Federal Register earlier this week, the CTPB would be tasked with operating a “program of promotion, research, evaluation, and information designed to strengthen the Christmas tree industry’s position in the marketplace.”

The board, appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture, would also help to “maintain and expend [sic] existing markets for Christmas trees; and to carry out programs, plans, and projects designed to provide maximum benefits to the Christmas tree industry.” Only sellers of 500 trees or more would have been subject to the tax.

After three years of trying to solve their self-imposed debt crisis, the Jefferson County, Alabama, commissioners threw in the towel on Wednesday and declared bankruptcy. The bankruptcy, involving over $4 billion in debts owed by the county, will be costly to the banks who loaned the money, the private investors who participated in the bond offerings, the guarantors of the debt, and most especially, the taxpayers of Montgomery.

It’s already proven costly to Charles LeCroy, the JP Morgan broker who persuaded the county to refinance its debt in 2004, who was indicted by the SEC in 2009 for fraud in a separate case. And for Larry Langford, a county commissioner at the time, who was sentenced to 15 years in jail for fraud in the present case.

The seeds for the bankruptcy were planted back in 1994 when the Environmental Protection Agency demanded that Jefferson County build a new sewer system. The county complied and raised money through a bond offering that generated $3 billion which was used to build the new plant. LeCroy was the original broker involved in the deal and when he moved to JPMorgan, he used his position to persuade the county to refinance the bonds at lower cost, using something called derivatives. The refinance would lower the county’s interest payments and generate some cash for the county as well. It was that offer and acceptance of a deal that looked awfully good — too good — that set the stage for the bankruptcy filing on Wednesday.
 

Christine Lagarde, managing director for the International Monetary Fund (IMF), warned that the world faces the risk of a “lost decade” and that “there are dark clouds gathering in the global economy.”



 

Apple growers in Washington State — who produce about half of the country's apples, about 15 billion — have a bumper crop this year, among the best in the state's history. Yet many of these apples may never make it to market, because growers cannot find enough workers to pick them.

 

Boy, but it was a Red October!  Polls conducted throughout the month just ended confirm that Karl Marx has won the hearts and minds of the American people.  Two of his biggest fans, the New York Times and CBS News, collaborated to find 66% of Americans agreeing that “the money and wealth in this country should be more evenly distributed.”

 

With yields on Italy’s 10-year government debt rising sharply higher and beyond the seven-percent ceiling deemed unsustainable, Italy is running out of options in finding buyers for its debt. It is also running out of options as a sovereign nation.  Jan Randolph, head of sovereign debt risk at IHS Global Insight, said, “Italy will not be out of the heat of bond markets until a solid and stable government actually implements austerity and undertakes reforms with strong credible leadership.” That may be asking the impossible.

 

As with the constitutional struggle that was stirred up by the passage of ObamaCare, the President’s latest pet proposal is brightening the battle lines between friends of federal power and those who advocate the protection of the sovereignty of states. The American Jobs Act contains several key provisions that apparently push the boundary between state and federal power back, expanding Washington’s sphere of authority.
 
 

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