FROM Barry Ritholtz
America's Economic Resilience Former chief executive Bill Clinton has been campaigning for current President Barack Obama, but Clinton’s latest comment on the economy might not help Obama in the November election. As bad news piles up, more and more people are taking a dim view of America’s economic prospects. Is it really that bad? We hear that there is another side to the story.
Is There Good News about the Economy? Former chief executive Bill Clinton has been campaigning for current President Barack Obama, but Clinton's latest comment on the economy might not help Obama in the November election. As if to prove the point, the Labor Department announced today that American productivity fell by 0.9 percent , slightly more than had been anticipated. Yet, despite high unemployment, low home sales, troubles in Europe and a drop in consumer confidence, the US economy still has strength and resilience. Some economists say the half-empty glass is also half full, as major corporations stop out-sourcing jobs and start bringing them back to America. That doesn't mean there won't be trouble ahead. Economics is still the "dismal science." We hear about some hopeful signs and the importance of government action.
Is It Time to Bust the Trusts Again? In a major shift from his days as head of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan said last week that America's major financial institutions are "too big to fail." He said that means they're too big and ought to be broken up. But even new regulations to limit excessive risk and protect consumer finance may be in trouble on Capitol Hill.
Is It Time to Bust the Trusts Again? In a major shift from his days as head of the Federal Reserve, even Alan Greenspan said last week that it's time to break up those banks and brokerages that are "too big to fail." The financial giants are handing out billions in bonuses again, and they've spent $224 million lobbying against efforts to regulate excessive risk. But their critics insist they're the ones who brought the global financial system to the brink of collapse. Ninety-nine smaller banks have failed during this year alone. Citibank and Bank of America aren't doing so well. If the financial system isn't repaired, will it be taxpayer-bailout time all over again?
For GM and Chrysler: an Ultimatum President Obama says General Motors and Chrysler have failed to justify their requests for $17 more billions of federal dollars. Bankruptcy is a real possibility. GM has 60 days to come up with a better plan for reorganization; Chrysler has 30 days to pull together a merger with Fiat of Italy. Even if the companies do go bankrupt, the President insists that he won't let the auto industry die: he says Washington will back the warranties on all their new cars. The President compared what's happening to the auto industry to a natural disaster. He spoke directly to the men and women who work in the industry and those who live in communities that depend on it, saying he can't pretend there won't be tough times to come. Will today's drastic actions help to restore it or drive it over a cliff?
Getting the Biggest Bang from the Next Bailout President Obama will likely propose another huge investment of public money in private banks and brokerages houses. The mismanagement that caused them to collapse has made them very unpopular and the President is targeting one feature the public really can understand: executive bonuses .
Getting the Biggest Bang from the Next Bailout Big chunks of America's biggest banks are now owned by the taxpayers and, with billions more bailout money to come, they're going to own more. The Obama Administration is faced with a major question: with federal ownership on the increase, should there be more federal control? The President says he won't subsidize failure by allowing bailout money to pay for executive bonuses. Does he need to do more? Should he nationalize the banks and dismiss the architects of failure? Buy up those “toxic assets?” Cut the size of banks so they're not “too big to fail?” What's the best way to get the biggest bang for the next bailout?
Can Barack Obama Follow the Money? Lawmakers in both parties are outraged that the Bush Administration lost track of $350 billion, the first half of last year's massive financial bailout . Today, at Barack Obama's request, President Bush agreed to ask for the second half, so Obama will have it as soon as he takes office next week. We hear how banks refused to account for their use of taxpayer money, while there was no effort to prevent mortgage foreclosures. What's Obama saying to assure Congress he can do better?
The Building Urgency of the Economic Crisis Just a few weeks ago, President-elect Barack Obama reminded the media, "There is only one president at a time." But with the building urgency of the economic issues facing the country, America's president-in-waiting is taking a more active role. Over the weekend he called for a stimulus plan to create two and a half million jobs. This morning, President Bush held one news conference on the economy, to defend the government's weekend decision to bail out Citigroup ; two hours later, Obama held another to formally announce his administration's economic team. While the two have pledged close co-operation, how difficult is it to address a crisis with one president leaving office and another one in the wings?
Markets Slide as Wall Street Staggers The brokerage firm Bear Stearns got a bailout earlier this year. The federal government also agreed to prop up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mack . But over the weekend, Treasury Secretary Paulson drew the line when it came to Lehman Brothers, which has now declared bankruptcy . Merrill Lynch has sold itself off. AIG , America's biggest insurance company, could be next. Stock prices are plunging. From Wall Street to Washington to the presidential campaign trail there is talk of America's worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. President Bush says he's working to minimize the disruption . McCain and Palin promise reform . Obama and Biden insist it's time to change parties . We look at the reshaping of both the financial world order and the race for the White House.
Federal Take-Over of Fannie Mae and Freddie Ma Led by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, the Bush Administration seized control of the country's two largest mortgage finance companies yesterday. In his announcement of the takeover, Secretary Paulson said, "Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are so large and so interwoven in our financial system that a failure of either of them would cause great turmoil...at home and around the globe." Will the Paulson plan work? How will it affect consumers? What will it mean to the housing market? How much will it cost taxpayers?
Federal Take-Over of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Led by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, the Bush Administration seized control of the country's two largest mortgage finance companies yesterday. In his announcement of the takeover, Secretary Paulson said, "Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are so large and so interwoven in our financial system that a failure of either of them would cause great turmoil...at home and around the globe." Will the Paulson plan work? How will it affect consumers? What will it mean to the housing market? How much will it cost taxpayers?
The Reality and Psychology of the Economic Crisis Major financial institutions are in big trouble. IndyMac of Pasadena, California has been taken over by the FDIC in the second-biggest bank failure in US history. Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac , backbone of the mortgage market, are losing their stock value. One analyst calls them "Phony and Fraudy." While experts insist that we'll never see another Great Depression, many Americans are losing confidence. Have regulators relaxed their standards and allowed the free market to get out of control? Will the loss of consumer confidence help make things worse before they get better?
Venezuela spirals into economic and political chaos Venezuela, a country whose potential for prosperity is unmatched, finds itself on the verge of civil war. What sustains the repressive government? With time running out, guest host León Krauze looks at what the international community can do to pull the country from the edge of collapse.
Ex-FBI Director Comey tells his side of the story Today, former FBI Director James Comey came close to calling the President who fired him a liar. The White House denied the claim and called it insulting, but Republican Senators did not challenge Comey’s truthfulness. Many questions remain: did the President try to obstruct a federal investigation? Later, we’ll go behind the “velvet rope” for a look at 5-Star health care for the richest Americans.