Though Hurricane Irene — later downgraded to a tropical storm — did not cause anywhere the level of devastation initially predicted, it still made a major impact on the East Coast. At least 24 are known dead, thousands are without power, and some areas along the east coast are still under water. Estimates of the damages are in the billions of dollars.
The state of Vermont has been declared a federal disaster area, with many small towns experiencing historic flooding. According to Fox News, “Hundreds of Vermonters were told to leave their homes after Irene dumped several inches of rain on the landlocked state.” Governor Peter Shumlin called it the worst flooding the state has ever seen. As well, he added, there is “extraordinary infrastructure damage” across the state. One video shows a small bridge over Williams River — which had stood since 1870 — swept away by rushing floodwaters.
Every road in the state of Vermont, with the exception of two major highways, was closed at some point over the weekend as a result of the storms.
Punch and Judy Show continues — this time in South Africa.
Speaking to reporters at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka made it clear that his union is backing off from supporting President Obama and the Democrats in the 2012 elections and is instead going to funnel union funds into attempts to influence state outcomes.
We’re going to use a lot of our money to build structures that work for working people. You’re going to see us give less money to build structures for others, and more of our money will be used to build our own structure….
Let’s assume we spent $100 in the last election. The day after Election Day, we were no stronger than we were the day before. If we had spent that [$100] on creating a structure for working people that would be there year round, then we would be stronger.
Since there has been so much talk among Tea Partiers of returning to the good old, pre-trillion-dollar days of Ronald Reagan’s administration, I thought it would be a good idea to go back to that inspiring time to see what has been happening to the growth of the federal government and how the Great Communicator sought to deal with that problem.
In 1960, Uncle Sam, (better known these days as Uncle Sap), spent $76.5 billion to run the federal government. In 1970, a mere ten years later, that figure almost tripled to $194.9 billion. And ten years later, in 1980, federal spending tripled again to $579 billion.
By then Congress had lost complete control over federal spending. It had enacted so many entitlement programs that the budget had become a locomotive going full-speed down-hill with no brakes. By the time Ronald Reagan became President, the spending momentum was so great that the most a fiscally conservative president could do immediately was to slow down the rate of growth just a little. Momentum is a powerful force, and even a fiscal conservative cannot stop a locomotive on a dime. And that is why Reagan’s 1983 budget reached a new high of $757 billion, with a projected deficit of $98.6 billion.
As the Northeastern portion of the United States prepares to be rocked by Hurricane Irene, analysts are already predicting the potential financial impact of the storm on the already struggling American economy. As Irene follows a path similar to that of Hurricane Bertha in 1995 and Hurricane Floyd in 1999, experts are comparing the potential damage and costs to those storms. Bertha cost $371 million worth of damage nationwide, while Floyd accumulated $4.5 billion. Some lawmakers contend, however, that regardless of the expected damage, Americans do not need the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
GOP Presidential candidate Ron Paul, for example, contends that there should be no FEMA response to Hurricane Irene and that federal disaster relief is “bad economics, bad morality, and bad constitutional law.”
“There’s no magic about FEMA. They’re a great contribution to deficit financing and quite frankly they don’t have a penny in the bank. We should be coordinated but coordinated voluntarily with the states. A state can decide. We don’t need somebody in Washington,” he said.
Burdened with economic uncertainty, high unemployment, and a volatile investors’ market, young Americans are desperately seeking job security — while anxiously chasing the "American Dream." The economy simply isn’t what it was when they first entered the job market, or when they were finishing high school or working for their college degrees. The entire economic, financial, and social class system has changed. Indeed, the entire country has changed.
They’re not Generation X, or Generation Y. According to the Los Angeles Times, they’re "Generation Vexed" — a struggling generation of "young Americans [aged 20 to 29] who are downsizing expectations in the face of an economic future that is anything but certain." As a result, "Career plans are being altered, marriages put off and dreams shelved." Young Americans are trapped under a stagnant economic umbrella, and, lamentably, they are left with no foreseeable escape.
California Governor Jerry Brown proposed a new tax plan to the state legislature Thursday that would boost levies on large corporations located outside of California. Brown’s request to state lawmakers is to revert the sales tax structure back to the formula adopted before 2009, which would require multi-state corporations, which employ few California workers, to pay higher sales taxes for goods they sell within state boundaries.
These dollars would shift to California companies in the form of sales-tax exemptions, with the intent to nudge companies to manufacture products and hire people within the state.
Under the 2009 budget plan, out-of-state companies were allowed to choose between two tax formulas, which the Brown administration claims left California-based businesses at a competitive disadvantage. The new plan would calculate out-of-state companies’ tax liability solely on the portion of sales they earn in California, an approach called the "single-sales factor."
Sometime in the early summer of 1497, a small caravel, the Matthew, with a crew of 18 men, spied land after weeks of perilous sailing across the dangerous, then-unknown waters of the northwest Atlantic Ocean. Captained by an Italian seaman, John Cabot, whose original name was Giovanni Caboto, the ship had departed Bristol in late May with King Henry VII’s blessing to look for new lands across the ocean. What Cabot and his men saw was a rugged coastline of deep, narrow bays, towering cliffs, and soaring headlands teeming with nesting seabirds — a landscape not unlike many portions of the coastline of Britain and Ireland. Cabot was undoubtedly inspired by the success, only a few years earlier, of fellow Genoese mariner Christopher Columbus, in discovering the islands of the Caribbean. But this was no subtropical paradise peopled with friendly natives; the seas here were rough, cold, and full of icebergs carried south from Greenland. Instead of waving palm trees, the land was forested with fir and spruce, with the more exposed headlands as barren as the Arctic tundra. John Cabot had discovered the eastermost portion of North America, the huge island that soon came to be known as Newfoundland.
New York's Eric Schneiderman is the only Attorney General who doesn’t like the foreclosure settlement agreed to by the major banks behind the mortgage-backed-securities (MBS) and foreclosure (robo-signing and faked-documents) frauds that helped bring on the economic crisis in 2008. And he is feeling the heat. In exchange for a small fine, the settlement agreement would end the years-long investigations by New York and other states into the frauds, and would prevent them or any of the investors hurt by the frauds from ever bringing additional charges in the future.
But Schneiderman’s investigation into the shady practices behind the development and sale of MBSs isn’t complete, and signing off on such an agreement now would end his efforts and forever protect the banks from further public exposure to their back office practices. Danny Kanner, a spokesman for Schneiderman, said, “The attorney general remains concerned by any attempt at a global settlement that would shut down ongoing investigations of wrongdoing related to the mortgage crisis.” And it’s the “ongoing investigations” that the banks would like to end, and they’re willing to pay a token amount to make the whole issue go away.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's nationally known political victory over the powerful labor unions in his state has inspired yet another state to tackle its public-employee unions. Michigan, where organized labor is perhaps more entrenched than anywhere else, is on the verge of enacting a law that would require local governments to cap healthcare spending or lose state aid. The legislation would have the practical effect of requiring school system employees to pay more of their healthcare costs.
Unsurprisingly, local government associations have criticized the measure. Ben Bodkin, legislative affairs director for the Michigan Association of Counties, commented:
The state has never been involved in negotiating our benefits before. We believe helping counties specifically with additional tools to help control their costs themselves are a good idea across the board, but we do not support mandates.