Barney Frank, the first openly homosexual Congressman, whose “alternative” lifestyle at times spilled over into his public life, has announced that he is retiring at the end of his present term, ending a 30-year career as one of the most liberal members of the House of Representatives. In his official announcement, Frank explained that he had been contemplating retirement for the past year, and, facing a reconfigured district that would require him to aggressively campaign among hundreds of thousands of new constituents, he decided instead to drop out.
A political insider told the Boston Globe that “the new district in which Frank would have had to run next year was a major factor in his decision. While it retained his Newton stronghold, it was revised to encompass more conservative towns while Frank also lost New Bedford, a blue-collar city where he had invested a lot of time and become a leading figure in the region’s fisheries debate.”
Frank complained that the political arena had changed “in a way that makes it harder to get anything done at the federal level.” He reflected that as a legislator he had been effective at “working inside the process to influence public policy in the ways that I think are important. But I now believe that there is more to be done trying to change things from outside than by working within.”
The ballyhooed Black Friday protest suggested by the leaders at Occupy Wall Street failed, but OWS has succeeded on two counts. Its members have committed or been involved in more than 330 crimes and other unsavory incidents, and the Associated Press reported last week, the movement has cost municipalities across the country about $13 million in police overtime and damage to public property.
The Wall Street Journal virtually called the Obama administration’s efforts to create “green” jobs a joke, decrying the President’s efforts to jump-start the economy with them as mere “conjuring” and suggesting instead that he drop his “ideological illusions” and face reality.
The reality is that no matter how much of other people’s money the President throws at the “clean” renewable alternative energy sector to force it to generate jobs, his efforts have been an abysmal failure. The name Solyndra is now synonymous with “loser” and the Washington Post reported last month that Obama’s green loan program of $38 billion has created just 3,500 jobs in two years instead of the 65,000 anticipated by the White House.
Instead, real jobs are being created in the real energy industry — in Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. In the first six months of this year, 18,000 new jobs were created in the natural gas business in Pennsylvania, with more than 200,000 jobs existing there today where none existed 10 years ago. Overall, the Journal reported that “oil and gas production … now employs some 440,000 workers, an 80% increase, or 200,000 jobs, since 2003. Oil and gas jobs account for more than one in five of all net new private jobs in that period.”
Amid growing speculation over the collapse of the euro, British embassies are now preparing for worst-case scenarios, such as riots and civil unrest. The Telegraph reported, “British embassies in the eurozone have been told to draw up plans to help British expats through the collapse of the single currency, amid new fears for Italy and Spain. As the Italian government struggled to borrow and Spain considered seeking an international bail-out, British ministers privately warned that the break-up of the euro, once almost unthinkable, is now increasingly plausible.”
The euro’s endangerment comes as the International Monetary Fund, of which Britain is a large shareholder, may be forced to give Italy a rescue package that would allow its new Prime Minister, Mario Monti, time to implement tax increases and spending cuts.
Likewise, revelations indicate that a pact has been struck between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy that did not include Britain, nor did it include countries outside the European Union. Under that plan, EU member states will be forced to have their budgets approved by the European Union before even being approved by their own national parliaments. Likewise, countries will have to sign on to new rules on the size of debts they may take on and will be sued in the European Court of Justice for any breach of those rules.
Despite not being a member of the European Union, Switzerland is under intense pressure from Brussels to raise taxes as companies flee high-tax EU welfare states in favor of more business-friendly Swiss cantons. And if the nation refuses to bow down soon, so-called “eurocrats” are threatening retaliation.
The Swiss government has been in discussions with EU bosses for over a year regarding Switzerland’s non-compliance with the “EU Code of Conduct for Business Taxation.” The EU’s goal, according to the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, is to eliminate what the supranational regime in Brussels calls “harmful tax practices” — low taxes which attract capital, businesses, jobs, and workers away from the crumbling European super-state.
JBS CEO Art Thompson's weekly video news update for Nov. 28-Dec. 4, 2011.
In its attempt to quell rising uneasiness in the wake of the failed German bond sale last week, the establishment magazine The Economist rushed in over the weekend with a series of four separate articles promoting its globalist and internationalist perspective on the matter.
The first article noted that the risk to the euro within the next few weeks is “alarmingly high” unless measures are taken. The article blamed lack of leadership — “denial, misdiagnosis and procrastination” — for the unfolding and accelerating crisis. First, a recession appears to be imminent as the austerity measures are taking hold across the euro zone and slowing already shaky economies.
Second, there is evidence of a run on banks holding large positions in the sovereign debt of the weaker countries. As the banks are facing a June 2012 deadline to improve their capital positions they are now seizing this opportunity to unload as much of that debt as they can, thus explaining the significant rise in interest rates all across the zone. This reflects the simple fact that the banks have loaned money to each other — loans that exceed their deposits, according to The Economist — and now are unwilling to continue to make those loans. This is putting the various spendthrift — “feckless” is their word for it — governments at risk of default when they can’t borrow the money to pay their bills. Especially at risk is Italy, which has to roll over $42 billion of debt the last week in January and another $62 billion at the end of February.
The Republican Small Business Committee reported on November 8 that small-business optimism “remains extremely low,” and that business owners “simply are not hiring because they are pessimistic about consumer sales, the nation’s economic climate, and the amount of regulations to comply with.” Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.) added, "The overall mood of the nation’s job creators is still at historic lows. The [Optimism Index of the National Federation of Independent Business] shows that over the next three months, only 9 percent of small business owners plan to increase employment [while] 12 percent plan to lay off workers. These numbers are … worse than the previous two months."
NFIB's Optimism Index has shown precious little change going back to January of 2009 and is matched by the University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index, which noted that “more households reported that their finances had worsened rather than improved for the 48th consecutive month [and that] just 22% of consumers expected their finances to improve” in the coming year. Further, in each of the past four months, “the majority of consumers unfavorably rated the policies of the Obama administration.”
The Consumer Confidence Index issued by the Conference Board also showed consumer expectations at 51.8, down 10 full percentage points just since April.
By every appearance, we are entering the final, calamitous act of the European debt crisis, a sprawling, slow-motion debacle that is about to engulf the world in financial turmoil more acute than the American meltdown of 2008. For roughly two years, European authorities have struggled to keep the debt crisis from spinning out of control, doling out bailouts to small, heavily indebted nations such as Ireland, Portugal, and Greece. “Contagion” — the notion that a sovereign default in, say, Athens, might trigger a cascade of woes elsewhere — has been and remains the watchword.
But, with Italy now propelled into the company of the desperately indebted, the Europeans have all but run out of options. Unlike Greece and Portugal, Italy, with its $2.6-trillion debt, is far, far too large to be bailed out. Italy’s political leadership — like America’s — has been absolutely unwilling to cut the expense of government, clinging like ivy to cherished government programs that cannot be sustained by any level of taxation. Over the past couple of weeks, markets have finally taken notice, driving interest rates, or “yields,” on most Italian government bonds to over seven percent. Today, for example, the Italians managed to auction off $10.6 billion worth of six-month bonds at yields of 6.504 percent. Two-year bonds, meanwhile, were selling for 7.64 percent, and 10-year bonds for 7.26 percent. By comparison, consider that six-month Italian bonds were selling for a mere 3.535 percent only last month, while two-year bonds were just above 4.1 percent in early October and at 2.3 percent in mid-March. Borrowing rates for Italy have more than tripled in a few months.
The “disastrous” failure of the German bond auction on Wednesday when buyers failed to bid the offering and Germany’s Central Bank — the Bundesbank — had to step in and purchase nearly 40 percent of the offering came just a day after SpiegelOnline posted an article critical of the country’s finances. The article virtually accused Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schauble, of “cheerleading” the economy’s supposed strength while ignoring major weaknesses. Merkel says her country has “a clear compass for reducing debt [and that] getting our finances in order is good for our country.” Schauble was an echo: Germany is a “safe haven [because] the entire world has great confidence in both the performance and soundness of the fiscal policies of the Federal Republic of Germany.”
Cracks in Germany’s economy were noted by Professor Wilhelm Hankel of Frankfurt University back in November of 2010: “Germany cannot keep paying for bail-outs without going bankrupt itself. This is frightening people.” He added,
You cannot find a bank safe deposit box in Germany because every single one has already been taken and stuffed with gold and silver. It is like an underground Switzerland within our borders. People have terrible memories of 1948 and 1923 when they lost their savings.