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Global Financial and Economic Crises

Bush Administration Policies and Actions

Project: Global Financial and Economic Crisis 2007-Present
Open-Content project managed by KJF, mtuck

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TIA logo.TIA logo. [Source: Conventions (.net)]At a rally at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, surrounded by politicians and airline executives, President Bush exhorts the American public to begin flying again. The open, and unprecedented, endorsement of commercial airlines and tourist resorts by a sitting president is part of a “pro-consumption publicity blitz” launched by the White House in conjunction with the travel industry. “[O]ne of the great goals of this nation’s war [against terrorism] is to restore public confidence in the airline industry,” Bush says. “It’s to tell the traveling public: Get on board. Do your business around the country. Fly and enjoy America’s great destination spots. Get down to Disney World in Florida. Take your families and enjoy life, the way we want it to be enjoyed.” Bush’s remarks are part of a coordinated advertising campaign by the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA), which hinges on a series of “public service” television ads by Bush himself (see Early 2002). [White House, 9/27/2001; Roberts, 2008, pp. 90]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Travel Industry Association of America, Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: Commentaries and Criticisms, Bush Policies and Actions

At a rally in New York City, President Bush is asked whether the federal government will ask the average American to do anything else besides spend money to help battle terrorism and assist the country in recovering from the 9/11 attacks. Bush replies: “Well, I think the average American must not be afraid to travel. We opened Reagan Airport yesterday for a reason—we think it’s safe, and that people ought to feel comfortable about traveling around our country. They ought to take their kids on vacations. They ought to go to ball games.… But people ought to—listen, we ought to be aware in America—we are aware; how can you not be aware that we’ve entered into a new era. The imagery is vivid in people’s minds. But nevertheless, Americans must know that their government is doing everything we can to track down every rumor, every hint, every possible evildoer. And, therefore, Americans ought to go about their business. And they are beginning to do so. The load factors were up on the airlines, which means more people will be going to hotels and restaurants.” [White House, 10/3/2001; Roberts, 2008, pp. 91] Not only has Bush been exhorting Americans to spend their money on airline tickets and amusement parks (see September 27, 2001), he will take part in a marketing campaign designed to boost the travel industry (see Early 2002). New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani adds his voice to Bush’s, asking the rhetorical question, “What can you do to help in this crisis?” and answering, “Spend, spend, spend.” Time magazine columnist Margaret Carlson writes that while consumer spending is indeed essential to the country’s economic recovery, it “strike[s] a sour note” for Bush, Giuliani, and other leaders to tell Americans that they can best help their country by spending money on themselves. “In the aftermath of one awful moment, we’ve finally come to understand what our parents meant by a cause larger than ourselves,” she writes. “We’re hungry for a way to help the war effort, honor the dead, and help the survivors. We’re not shunning the perfect marbled steak at Morton’s for want of a tax break but because it feels wrong with planes being shot at in Afghanistan. The fact is there’s going to be no grand mobilization for which we can sacrifice. It’s not our parents’ war, with its visible monsters, quantifiable victories, and necessary sacrifices. The Greatest Generation got to save old tires, dig a Victory Garden, and forgo sugar. The Richest Generation is being asked to shop.” [Time, 10/15/2001]

Entity Tags: Rudolph (“Rudy”) Giuliani, George W. Bush, Margaret Carlson

Category Tags: Bush Policies and Actions, Commentaries and Criticisms

The Travel Industry Association of America (TIA) coordinates its effort with the Bush administration to sell America’s airlines and hotel chains to consumers after the 9/11 attacks (see September 27, 2001). According to the TIA, “Travel was also linked to patriotic duty with expressions, such as ‘A return to travel is normal. Restoring travel is restoring our country’s economy.’” President Bush, apparently unaware that sitting presidents do not normally appear in industry ad campaigns, appears in “public service” ads created by TIA. The ads are part of a $20 million advertising campaign steered by, among others, J. W. “Bill” Marriott of Marriott International, one of the world’s largest hotel chains. Marriott personally solicited Bush’s participation in the television advertisements, which run throughout the US and in a number of foreign countries for four weeks. According to TIA polls, the Bush ad campaign reaches 70 percent of Americans, and most understand it as an appeal to travel and spend money. In 2008, author and public policy professor Alasdair Reynolds will write, “Many Americans appreciated that there was something strangely out of kilter about the president’s prominent role in boosting consumption in a moment of crisis.” [Association of Travel Marketing Executives, 2002; Roberts, 2008, pp. 90]

Entity Tags: Marriott International, Alasdair Roberts, Bush administration (43), Travel Industry Association of America, George W. Bush, J. W. (“Bill”) Marriott

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Bush Policies and Actions, Commentaries and Criticisms

The Bureau of Labor Statistics announces that it will no longer publish its monthly Mass Layoffs Statistics Report, which details factory closings around the country. The administration says the reports are too costly. Labor unions say the government is attempting to conceal negative economic news. [Savage, 2007, pp. 104]

Entity Tags: US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: Bush Policies and Actions

The Bush administration announces that it will no longer publish an annual report that details how much money each state receives from each federal program. The announcement coincides with heavily critical reports that federal budget cuts are creating huge shortfalls in state budgets. Without the annual report, it is now much harder to track how the budget cuts affect individual states. An administration spokesman says the information is still available, albeit in “a different mode,” from individual information releases from the separate agencies, but Congressional Democrats accuse the administration of trying to hide the damages caused by the budget cuts. [Savage, 2007, pp. 104-105]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: Bush Policies and Actions

The White House prepares to launch a huge PR campaign to win public support for sweeping changes to Social Security, including the creation of individual accounts with the option to invest (and win or lose) in the stock market, and partial privatization of the management of social security investments. In 2008, current White House press secretary Scott McClellan will write: “It was the kind of bold domestic initiative Bush had always hoped would define his presidency. He would get it passed through a massive [public relations] campaign to bring public pressure to bear on Congress.” The first major strategy meeting to develop the White House PR campaign centers on two main foci:
bullet “Educating” the public about the economic and fiscal problems facing Social Security, the need to fix them, and creating a “crisis mentality” among the public, which, McClellan will write, “would give us a better shot at getting the necessary public support to bring about bipartisan backing for our reform plan in Congress”;
bullet Shaping the solution and ensuring that “personal retirement accounts,” as the stock accounts will be termed, are included.
The White House’s congressional liaison, David Hobbs, says: “Seventy percent of the battle is defining the problem and putting Congressional leaders on the spot. We need public pressure.” The plan is for Bush to travel around the country touting the program, specifically visiting states and districts represented by targeted members of Congress. “Bush would use the re-election hopes of those crucial swing votes in Congress as the lever with which to apply the pressure required,” McClellan later writes. McClellan will reflect that, though the marketing campaign is well thought out, the reform plan isn’t, writing: “We were spending excessive effort on selling our sketchily designed plan while skimping on other elements of the process that probably should have been at least as important. We weren’t spending much time deliberating with members of Congress to work out details of our reform plan—we were doing minimal outreach to Democrats to build the kind of consensus that would make such a dramatic change easier to pass. Instead, we were leapfrogging many of the vital steps and jumping straight to the stage in the process we found most congenial—the public relations effort.” McClellan will compare the Social Security campaign to the administration’s efforts to market the Iraq invasion, calling it “reminiscent of the way we’d short-circuited debate over the necessity for war in Iraq and chose instead to turn it into the subject of a massive marketing blitz. We used a similar approach as we planned the Social Security campaign. With Iraq, it was a threat that needed confronting, with Social Security, it was a crisis that needed solving.” [McClellan, 2008, pp. 248-249]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Bush administration (43), Scott McClellan, David Hobbs

Category Tags: Bush Policies and Actions

Fox News senior anchor Brit Hume and Fox analyst William Bennett both make the false claim that former President Franklin D. Roosevelt wanted to replace Social Security with private accounts. In fact, Roosevelt, who implemented Social Security, was in favor of “voluntary contributory annunities” to supplement Social Security benefits, but never proposed replacing Social Security with private money. Hume and Bennett both support President Bush’s plan to partially “privatize” Social Security; Bush himself has asserted, equally falsely, that Roosevelt supported privatization. On Fox’s political talk show Hannity and Colmes, Bennett tells viewers: “Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the guy who established Social Security, said that it would be good to have it replaced by private investment over time. Private investment would be the way to really carry this thing through.” That same evening, Hume tells his audience: “In a written statement to Congress in 1935, Roosevelt said that any Social Security plans should include, quote, ‘Voluntary contributory annuities, by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age,’ adding that government funding, quote, ‘ought to ultimately be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans.’” Hume fails to point out that Roosevelt was not talking about “supplant[ing]” Social Security with any “self-supporting annuity plans,” but instead was talking about a different fund that provided pension benefits to Americans too old (in 1935) to contribute payroll taxes to Social Security. In 1935, Edwin Witte, the director of the Committee on Economic Security, told Congress flatly that voluntary accounts were intended as a “separate undertaking” meant to “supplement” the compulsory system, not replace it. [Media Matters, 2/4/2005] Days before the Fox broadcasts, Roosevelt’s grandson James Roosevelt Jr., a former Social Security associate commissioner, noted that “Bush invoked the name of my grandfather… as part of his campaign to privatize Social Security,” and added, “The implication that FDR would support privatization of America’s greatest national program is an attempt to deceive the American people and an outrage.” [Boston Globe, 1/31/2005] Liberal pundit Al Franken calls on Hume to resign over his historical distortions; MSNBC host Keith Olbermann calls Hume’s statements “premeditated, historical fraud,” and Roosevelt Jr. says that “outrageous distortion… calls for a retraction, an apology, maybe even a resignation.” [Media Matters, 2/18/2005] Influential conservative blogger Glenn Reynolds will acknowledge that Roosevelt was not advocating for the privatization of Social Security, instead noting that Roosevelt’s plan “would have involved, essentially, a sort of government-supplied 401k plan.” [Glenn Reynolds, 2/4/2005]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Al Franken, Brit Hume, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, William J. Bennett, Fox News, Glenn Reynolds, Keith Olbermann, James Roosevelt Jr

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Category Tags: US Financial Deregulation, Bush Policies and Actions, Commentaries and Criticisms

George W. Bush.George W. Bush. [Source: Annie Leibovitz / Vanity Fair]In a news conference, President Bush says that because of the nation’s increasing economic difficulties, the year ahead will “require difficult choices and additional sacrifices.” The nation needs economic growth, and thusly he says to the American populace, “I encourage you all to go shopping more.” [Vanity Fair, 2/2009]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush

Category Tags: USA, Bush Policies and Actions, Commentaries and Criticisms

The Washington Post publishes an editorial by New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, accusing the Bush administration of protecting predatory lenders from state officials through use of the federal Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). Spitzer notes that since the OCC’s founding in the 1860s, its function was to monitor the records of national banks and ensure they were balanced. Yet as the current crisis in predatory lending became acute, the OCC used a clause from the 1863 National Bank Act to make all state predatory lending laws inert. In addition, Spitzer asserts that the OCC created new rules making it impossible for state officials to employ their own consumer protection laws against national banks. Spitzer continues to note that when he opened an investigation of the mortgage lending practices of several banks, the OCC brought a federal lawsuit to prevent the inquiry from moving forward. “When history tells the story of the subprime lending crisis and recounts its devastating effects on the lives of so many innocent homeowners,” Spitzer concludes, “the Bush administration… will be judged as a willing accomplice to the lenders who went to any lengths in their quest for profits.” [Washington Post, 2/14/2008]

Entity Tags: Eliot Spitzer, Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: USA, Bush Policies and Actions, Commentaries and Criticisms

May 2008: Jobless Rate Rises in 48 States

Unemployment rates in several states rise to their highest levels since 1976. The states are California, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia. There is also a year-on-year increase in unemployment in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. As in all prior months, Michigan leads the nation with 14.1 percent, up from 12.9 percent in April; Oregon is second with 12.4 percent, up four-tenths of a percent from the previous month. Thirteen other states post rates above 10 percent. In recent months, the manufacturing sectors in Michigan and Rhode Island have been decimated, and Chrysler and GM plant closings in early May are particularly devastating to Michigan. Only Vermont has no change in its rate, while Nebraska’s rate decreases 0.1 of a percentage point to 4.4 percent. Both Nebraska and North Dakota tie for lowest unemployment rates while, nationally, the unemployment rate hits a 26-year high as it rises to 9.4 percent, from 8.9 percent in April. The highest regional jobless rate of 10.1 percent is reported in the West, followed by the Midwest at 9.8 percent. Not since September 1983, when the Midwest posted a 10.1 percent rate, has any region recorded a rate of 10 percent or more. The Pacific and South Atlantic regions also post record highs in May. [CNN News, 6/19/2009]

Category Tags: USA, Bush Policies and Actions

The US’s two most popular conservative radio hosts, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, are repeatedly labeling the current economic collapse the “Obama recession,” even though the recession has started already, and President-elect Barack Obama was only elected on November 4 and will not assume the presidency until January 20, 2009.
Blaming Obama for Wall Street Plunge - According to reports by progressive media watchdog site Media Matters, Hannity’s guest Dick Morris, a conservative political operative, tells a Fox News audience on November 6 that the stock market plunge is directly attributable to Obama’s election and his intention to “raise the capital gains tax.” Hannity calls the stock market plunge “the Obama tanking.” On the same day, Limbaugh says on his show: “We have the largest market plunge after an election in history. Thank you, man-child Barack Obama.” [Media Matters, 11/7/2008] Hannity says on November 11 that Obama’s election is directly responsible for plunging stock market performances, telling his listeners: “Wall Street keeps sinking. Could it be the Obama recession: The fear that taxes are gonna go up, forcing people to pull out of the market?” On November 12, Limbaugh echoes Hannity’s characterization, telling his listeners that, as reported by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, “the recession isn’t President Bush’s fault. It’s the fault, catch this, of the president who hasn’t yet taken office. It’s an ‘Obama recession’; that’s what he’s calling it.” Matthews, clearly impatient with Limbaugh’s characterization, calls the host’s statement an example of “the bitter sore loser’s rhetoric we are hearing from the right these days.” [Media Matters, 11/12/2008]
Experts Credit Obama with Wall Street Stabilization - Experts refute Limbaugh’s and Hannity’s attribution of the nation’s economic calamity to Obama, with the Wall Street Journal giving Obama credit for a post-election upturn in the stock market and blaming “lame economic data” and the continuing “drumbeat of bailouts, potential bailouts, and worries about other bailouts” for the stock market’s poor performance. [Wall Street Journal, 11/12/2008] Fox News business commentator Eric Bolling credits Obama’s election with stabilizing the stock market until a dismal national employment report caused the market to drop again. And Fox Business Channel’s vice president, Alexis Glick, tells her audience on November 7: “I so did not believe that the market reaction over the past two days was about Obama. Wednesday morning we walked in, we saw the Challenger and Gray [planned layoff] numbers, we saw the ADP numbers, the weekly jobless claim numbers—yeah, well, they were basically in line, but we knew two days ago that this was going to be a bloody number. Frankly, we probably knew several months ago that it was going to be a bloody number.” The Wall Street Journal and New York Times both agree with Glick’s assessment. [Media Matters, 11/7/2008; New York Times, 11/7/2008]

Entity Tags: Alexis Glick, Media Matters, Barack Obama, Fox Business Channel, Eric Bolling, Dick Morris, New York Times, Chris Matthews, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Wall Street Journal

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, 2008 Elections, 2010 Elections

Category Tags: Commentaries on Economic Issues, USA, Commentaries and Criticisms, Bush Policies and Actions, Obama Policies and Actions

Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly and former Bush administration political director Karl Rove tell listeners that media journalists are “overstating” the current economic problems in order to help the incoming Obama administration. O’Reilly asks Rove, “All right, so you are agreeing with me then that there is a conscious effort on the part of the New York Times and other liberal media to basically paint as drastic a picture as possible, so that when Barack Obama takes office that anything is better than what we have now?” Rove’s response: “Yes.” O’Reilly says that the “plot” is to “blame everything on Bush for quite a long period of time.” Rove calls the economic reporting little more than “scare tactics.” O’Reilly concludes: “All I want is an honest press. I’m not hoping one way or the other.” Amanda Terkel of the Center for American Progress observes: “For years, in fact, the Bush administration has tried Rove and O’Reilly’s strategy of insisting that nothing is wrong. Although the United States has been in a recession since December 2007, the Bush administration has continued to insist that the economy was strong. The result? A government unprepared to deal with ‘the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.’” [Think Progress (.org), 12/9/2008]

Entity Tags: Karl C. Rove, Center for American Progress, Fox News, Amanda Terkel, Bill O’Reilly

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, 2010 Elections

Category Tags: USA, Bush Policies and Actions, Obama Policies and Actions, Commentaries and Criticisms

January 2009: New Home Sales Plunge in US

According to a Commerce Department report, in January, new home purchases drop 10 percent to an annual pace of 309,000, the lowest level since data tracking began in 1963. The report, published in February 2009, will attribute the fall to high unemployment and foreclosures. In addition, at 13.5 percent, the median home price falls the most in almost four decades. [Bloomberg, 2/26/2009]

Entity Tags: US Department of Commerce

Category Tags: Other, USA, Bush Policies and Actions

NYU Economics Professor Nouriel Roubini tells Bloomberg News that, following the $350 billion injection by the Bush Administration, President Barack Obama will have to use as much as $1 trillion of taxpayer funds to shore up capitalization of the banking sector. “The problems of Citi, Bank of America and others suggest the system is bankrupt,” Roubini said. “In Europe, it’s the same thing.” Roubini also predicts that oil prices will continue to trade between $30 to $40 a barrel all year. Regarding commodities, Roubini said, “I see commodities falling overall another 15-20%. This outlook for commodity prices is beneficial for oil importers, it’s going to imply that economic recovery might occur faster, but from the point of view of oil exporters, this will be very negative.” [Street Insider.com, 1/20/2009; Bloomberg, 1/20/2009]

Entity Tags: Barack Obama, Citibank, Nouriel Roubini, Bank of America

Category Tags: Bailouts and Other Government Aid, USA, Bush Policies and Actions, Obama Policies and Actions

“The worst economic turmoil since the Great Depression is not a natural phenomenon but a man-made disaster in which we all played a part,” says Guardian City editor Julia Finch, who lists individuals who led the world into its current economic crisis (see June 2008). These individuals include:
bullet Alan Greenspan, US Federal Reserve chairman, 1987-2006: “[B]lamed for allowing the housing bubble to develop as a result of his low interest rates and lack of regulation in mortgage lending. Backed sub-prime lending; urged homebuyers to swap fixed-rate mortgages for variable rate deals, leaving borrowers unable to pay when interest rates rose. Defended the booming derivatives business, which barely existed when he took over the Fed, but which mushroomed from $100tn in 2002 to more than $500tn five years later.”
bullet Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England: “His ambition was that monetary policy decision-making should become ‘boring.’”
bullet Bill Clinton, former US president: “Beefed up the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act to force mortgage lenders to relax their rules to allow more socially disadvantaged borrowers to qualify for home loans. Repealed the 1999 Glass-Steagall Act, prompting the era of the superbank; the year before the repeal, sub-prime loans were just 5 percent of all mortgage lending. By the time the credit crunch blew up it was approaching 30 percent.” [Guardian, 1/26/2009]

Entity Tags: Mervyn King, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Alan Greenspan, The Guardian, Julia Finch

Category Tags: Commentaries on Economic Issues, Britain, USA, Pre-2001 Policies and Actions, Bush Policies and Actions

Yale economist Robert Schiller reflects on the genesis of the economic recession, tracing it back in part to policies pursued by the Bush administration for the 2004 presidential election effort. At that time, Schiller warned of a “housing bubble” caused by a plethora of bad loans and toxic debt, and called for re-regulation of the housing markets. His warnings were ignored. Schiller says: “The Bush strategists were aware of the public enthusiasm for housing, and they dealt with it brilliantly in the 2004 election by making the theme of the campaign the ownership society. Part of the ownership society seemed to be that the government would encourage home ownership and, therefore, boost the market. And so Bush was playing along with the bubble in some subtle sense. I don’t mean to accuse him of any—I think it probably sounded right to him, and the political strategists knew what was a good winning combination. I don’t think that he was in any mode to entertain the possibility that this was a bubble. Why should he do that? Attention wasn’t even focused on this. If you go back to 2004, most people were just—they thought that we had discovered a law of nature: that housing, because of the fixity of land and the growing economy and the greater prosperity, that it’s inevitable that this would be a great investment. It was taken for granted.” John C. Dugan, the comptroller of the currency since 2005, says he believes a lack of regulation caused the “housing bubble.” Dugan says: “A lot of mortgages got made to people who could not afford them and on terms that would get progressively worse over time, and that created the seeds of an even bigger problem. As the whole market became even more dependent on house-price appreciation, when house prices flattened and then started to decline the whole situation began to unravel. The question you have to ask yourself: Why did credit become so easy? Why would lenders make mortgages that became increasingly less likely to be repaid? Part of the answer is that there was a huge chunk of the mortgage market that was not regulated to any significant extent. The overwhelming proportion of subprime loans were being done in entities that were not banks and not regulated as banks—I’m talking here about mortgage brokers and non-bank mortgage lenders that could originate these mortgages and then sell them to Wall Street firms that could package them into new kinds of mortgage securities, which arguably could take into account the lower credit risks and still be salable to investors worldwide. Unfortunately, the theory was not in accord with the reality. Although they thought they had accurately gauged that risk, they too were in fact depending—when you get to the bottom of it—on house prices continuing to go up and up and up. And they did not.” [Vanity Fair, 2/2009]

Entity Tags: Robert Schiller, Bush administration (43), John C. Dugan

Category Tags: Commentaries on Economic Issues, Bush Policies and Actions

Henry Paulson, the former secretary of the treasury, explains how the recession and market destruction came about on his watch. Part of his problem was his admitted lack of knowledge about regulation and regulatory authorities. “I easily could imagine and expected there to be financial turmoil,” he says. “But the extent of it, okay, I was naive in terms of—I knew a lot about regulation but not nearly as much as I needed to know, and I knew very little about regulatory powers and authorities. I just had not gone into it in that kind of detail. This’ll be the longest we’ve gone in recent history without there being turmoil, and given all the innovation in the private pools of capital and the over-the-counter derivatives and the excesses around the world, we figured that when there was turmoil, and these things were tested for the first time by stress, it would be more significant than anything else. I said at the time, I have a concern that every rally we’re going to have in the financial markets will be a false rally until we break the back of the price correction in real estate. And these things are never over until you have a couple of institutions go that surprise everyone. Bear Stearns can hardly be a shock (see March 15, 2008). But having said that, it’s one thing to see it intellectually and it’s another to see where we are.” [Vanity Fair, 2/2009]

Entity Tags: Bear Stearns, Henry Paulson, US Department of the Treasury, Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: Commentaries on Economic Issues, USA, Bush Policies and Actions

Official numbers released today show that the US economy fell by 6.2 percent during the fourth quarter of 2008. The decline was much worse than analysts initially predicted, sending US stocks spiraling lower. “Plunging exports and the biggest fall in consumer spending in 28 years dragged the annualized figure down from the preliminary estimate of 3.8 percent,” the BBC reports. As a whole, in 2008, the economy grew at its slowest pace since 2001, posting a mere 1.1 percent growth. The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average dropped 119.15 points, or 1.66 percent, to 7,062.93. The broader Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 2.36 percent to 735.09, a 12-year low. US consumer spending accounts for nearly two-thirds of domestic economic activity, but fell by a rate of 4.3 percent in the final quarter—the biggest fall since the second quarter of 1980. This was a revision of the earlier figure of 3.5 percent. Rising unemployment, sliding home values, increasing numbers of repossessions, and the slumping value of investments indicate that many US consumers are hanging on to disposable cash. US exports fell at the sharpest rate since 1970 at an annual rate of 23.6 percent, down from 19.7 percent. Prior to the current economic crunch, exports supported the economy. “It shows the weak state of the world’s largest economy,” says Matt Esteve, a currency trader at Tempus Consulting. “Latest GDP figures are just awful and illustrates the weak state of the world’s largest economy.” Boris Schlossberg, director of currency research at GFT Forex, adds, “There is doom all over,” but predicts that the dollar would not weaken too much against the euro since “there’s no good news on the other side of the Atlantic, either.” [BBC, 2/27/2009]

Entity Tags: GFT Forex, Dow Jones Industrial Average, Matt Esteve, Standard & Poor’s, Tempus Consulting, Boris Schlossberg

Category Tags: USA, Bush Policies and Actions

In an interview with Bill Moyers, Robert Reich, former labor secretary under President Clinton, says: “I believe that there’s no doubt that we’re going down to government intervention everywhere, government ownership unprecedented in this country. And it’s a long road and a slippery slope. Essentially, capitalism has swamped democracy. The Bush administration started the bank bailouts because the financial system had overreached with wild speculation and was on the verge of breaking down. Tim Geithner and [President] Obama are continuing these big bank bailouts, and I happen to think the bailouts have not worked very well, except as a kind of socialism for big corporations. There’s no such thing as pure capitalism without rules and regulations that set limits on profit making, because otherwise it’s everybody out for themselves. Otherwise, nobody can trust anybody. Otherwise, it’s the law of the jungle.… We rely upon government to set the boundaries—this can’t happen because it’s fraud, that can’t happen because you’re stealing something, this can’t happen because you’re imposing a huge burden on other people. Unless you have a democratic system that allows the rules to be created not by the companies but by the people and the people’s representatives reflecting what the public needs—not what the corporations need—you’re going to have a system that is not a democracy and not democratic capitalism. It’s super capitalism without the democracy. People pressuring their individual Congress members and Obama standing up to the banking industry will force real regulation. There will be no recovery in the sense of going back to where we were because the old path was unsustainable. If we don’t lift middle class wages, if we don’t get some control over Wall Street, if we don’t have genuine health care reform, if we don’t do something about the environment and global warming, we will not have a recovery. The next downturn is going to be worse than the downturn we just had, so there’s no going backwards. In every conversation I’ve participated in with the president, I was left with the impression that he understood this very, very well. I think most of the people around him understand this. The question is can he pull this off? Can he overcome the vested interests? It will be a clear indication of his toughness with regard to the willingness to twist arms and demand that the public interest be foremost.” [Bill Moyers Journal, 6/12/2009]

Entity Tags: Timothy Geithner, Bill Moyers, Robert Reich, Barack Obama

Category Tags: Commentaries on Economic Issues, Commentaries and Criticisms, Bush Policies and Actions, Obama Policies and Actions

Eighteen consecutive months of job losses and an economy on the verge of collapse have left record numbers of US consumers either unable to pay their debts or chronically late in payments during the first quarter of 2009. According to the American Bankers Association, home equity loan delinquencies rose to 3.52 percent, from 3.03 percent of all accounts in the last quarter of 2008. Late payments on home equity credit lines climbed a record 1.89 percent, and an index of eight types of loans rose to 3.23 percent from 3.22 percent for a fourth consecutive quarter. In a telephone interview with Bloomberg, the American Bankers Association’s chief economist, James Chessen says: “The number one driver of delinquencies is job losses, which we’ve seen build and build. Delinquencies won’t come down without a dramatic improvement in the economy, and businesses will have to start hiring again.” For the first quarter of 2009, the US economy lost an average of 691,000 jobs in each of the quarter’s three months. According to a Bloomberg survey of 61 economists, since the recession began in December 2007, more than 6.5 million jobs have been cut, and the US economy will shrink in 2009 the most since 1946. Outstanding debt on bank card delinquencies rose a record 6.60 percent in first quarter 2009, from 5.52 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008, indicating that unemployed borrowers are relying on bank cards, as housing prices corrode their home equity. The ABA stated that more borrowers are using cards to meet daily expenses following their job losses. US banks distributed 9.8 million credit cards from January through April 2009, a 38 percent decline from the same period a year earlier, with the average limit for a new bank card falling 3 percent to $4,594, according to data released by credit reporting agency Equifax. “There is less equity to draw on and certainly financial institutions have been scaling back the available lines of credit,” Chessen says. [Bloomberg, 7/7/2009; American Bankers Association, 7/7/2009]

Entity Tags: James Chessen, American Bankers Association (ABA)

Category Tags: Commentaries on Economic Issues, Other, Bush Policies and Actions, Obama Policies and Actions

In their new report, “The State of Working America 2008-2009,” two economists at leading US think tank Economic Policy Institute (EPI) issue warnings that US workers will face harsh challenges as what they term “the Great Recession of 2007” draws to a close.
Unemployment - Heidi Shierholz and Lawrence Mishel, co-authors of the report, say that the extent of the huge global crash would have been much worse without President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. “The disaster would have been even worse without the stimulus law President Obama pushed through earlier this year,” Shierholz says. “Job losses would have been so high that the July unemployment figures would have been 9.6 percent or 9.7 percent, not 9.4 percent. We expect a steady climb in the unemployment rate up and over 10 percent by the end of the year. And it’ll rise slightly above 10 percent for a few months in 2010 before turning downwards. Until the economy is adding 122,000 jobs per month to take care of the people coming into the job market, unemployment will stay high. We still have a long way to go.”
Human Cost - Both economists speak of the human penalty. “This is more than a bunch of dry numbers,” Mishel declares. “One-third of the jobless—a record—have been out of work at least six months. Many have exhausted their unemployment benefits, which translate into bankruptcies, lost homes, no medical care, and more ills afflicting workers—even employed workers. This recession is much more than just the numbers of unemployed and underemployed, which is also setting a record,” he says. “Employed workers are seeing their hours cut, there’s an implosion in wage growth, and about 17 percent of large private employers have resorted to unpaid furloughs to save money.” Mishel explains that a one-week furlough is the equivalent of a 2 percent pay cut for a worker and his or her family.
Media Coverage Poor - In their report, the economists also criticize major media’s coverage of the crisis, urging workers not to fall for the usual chatter that things will automatically improve once productivity rises. “In the popular media, economic experts endlessly debate dynamics and causes of the downturn but most of these debates have very little to do with the real economic challenges facing working families today. The men and women of the workforce have worked harder and smarter to make the US a world-class economy and the mantra among economists and policy makers is that ‘as grows productivity, so shall living standards improve.’ Would that it was so.”
'YOYO Economics' - Prior to the crash, the report says, workers faced “rising inequality and lower real incomes for all but the richest 5 percent, diminished bargaining power, less health coverage, riskier pensions if any at all, income constraints that prevent workers’ kids from getting college educations to better themselves, and fewer high-paying jobs for those college grads, due to off-shoring and outsourcing.” The report nicknames it “YOYO (‘You’re on your own’) economics.” “We are in a unique position to judge the results of this experiment in reduced worker bargaining power and YOYO economics,” write the two economists. “The macro-economy is in serious disrepair and policymakers must move beyond temporary patches to fundamentally remake the economy so that it works for workers.”
Effect of Stimulus - The two offer praise for the Obama administration’s move to correct economic imbalances with the $787 billion stimulus package, the “cash for clunkers” program, initiatives to help the Detroit auto industry, and the $500 million “green jobs” initiative that have “partially staunched the bleeding.” Mishel predicts that, in conjunction with these programs, Congress will pass a second federal extension of unemployment benefits. They also argue that there should be fundamental restructuring away from “free market” policies that give corporations and financiers free sovereignty while the masses are forced to tighten their belts. [People's Weekly World Newspaper, 9/4/2009]

Entity Tags: Lawrence Mishel, Economic Policy Institute, Heidi Shierholz

Category Tags: Commentaries on Economic Issues, Bush Policies and Actions, Obama Policies and Actions

A list of 10 companies that have avoided paying US income taxes is provided by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who is pushing for legislation that will close the legal tax loopholes that allow large corporations to avoid the bulk of their tax responsibilities. Chicago Sun-Times reporter Lynn Sweet writes, “Some people call the income tax system with generous loopholes for big companies corporate welfare or corporate entitlements.” Sanders’s list, based on returns and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) documents filed in 2009 and earlier, includes:
bullet ExxonMobil. The oil giant made $19 billion in profits in 2009, but paid no federal income taxes, and received a $156 million tax rebate.
bullet Bank of America (BoA). The financial corporation made $4.4 billion in profits in 2009, and received nearly $1 trillion in Federal Reserve and Treasury Department “bailout” funds. The bank received a $1.9 billion tax refund.
bullet General Electric. This multinational conglomerate made $26 billion in profits in the US, and over the last five years has received $4.1 billion in tax refunds.
bullet Chevron. The oil giant made $10 billion in profits in 2009, and received a $19 million refund from the IRS.
bullet Boeing. The defense contractor received a $30 billion contract from the US Department of Defense in 2009 to build 179 airborne tankers, and received a $124 million tax refund.
bullet Valero Energy. This energy corporation, the 25th largest company in the US, garnered $68 billion in sales in 2009, and received $157 million in tax refunds. Over the last three years, Valero has received a $134 million tax break from the oil and gas manufacturing tax deduction.
bullet Goldman Sachs. The financial giant paid only 1.1 percent of its income in taxes in 2008, though it recorded $2.3 billion in profits. It also received nearly $800 billion from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department.
bullet Citigroup. The financial conglomerate made over $4 billion in profits in 2010, but paid no federal income taxes. It received a $2.5 trillion “bailout” from the Federal Reserve and Treasury.
bullet ConocoPhillips. The oil conglomerate garnered $16 billion in profits from 2007 through 2009, paid no taxes, and received $451 million in tax breaks through the oil and gas manufacturing deduction.
bullet Carnival Cruise Lines. This entertainment giant made over $11 billion in profits between 2006 and 2011, but paid only 1.1 percent of its income in taxes during that period.
In a press release calling for “shared sacrifice,” Sanders writes: “While hard working Americans fill out their income tax returns this tax season, General Electric and other giant profitable corporations are avoiding US taxes altogether.… [T]he wealthiest Americans and most profitable corporations must do their share to help bring down our record-breaking deficit.” Sanders writes that “it is grossly unfair for Congressional Republicans to propose major cuts to Head Start, Pell Grants, the Social Security Administration, nutrition grants for pregnant low-income women, and the Environmental Protection Agency while ignoring the reality that some of the most profitable corporations pay nothing or almost nothing in federal income taxes.” Sanders calls for closing corporate tax loopholes and eliminating the deductions for oil and gas companies. He is also introducing legislation that would impose a 5.4 percent surtax on millionaires that would garner as much as $50 billion a year in tax revenues. Sanders says: “We have a deficit problem. It has to be addressed, but it cannot be addressed on the backs of the sick, the elderly, the poor, young people, the most vulnerable in this country. The wealthiest people and the largest corporations in this country have got to contribute. We’ve got to talk about shared sacrifice.” [Chicago Sun-Times, 3/27/2011]

Entity Tags: Boeing Company, Carnival Cruise Lines, Citigroup, Bernie Sanders, Bank of America, ConocoPhillips, Goldman Sachs, Chevron, Lynn Sweet, Valero Energy Corporation, General Electric, ExxonMobil

Category Tags: US Monetary Policy, Bailouts and Other Government Aid, USA, Bush Policies and Actions, Obama Policies and Actions

Ethan Harris of Bank of America.Ethan Harris of Bank of America. [Source: National Association for Business Economics]Many prominent economists and financial leaders lay the blame for the US credit rating downgrade (see August 5, 2011) at the feet of Congressional Republicans. Republicans have been unified in blaming the Obama administration’s economic policies for the downgrade (see August 6-9, 2011), though House Speaker John Boehner boasted that he and his fellow Republicans received “98 percent” of what they wanted in the debt-ceiling legislation that led to the downgrade (see August 1, 2011). Nobel Prize-winning Paul Krugman, a self-described liberal, blamed Congressional Republicans for the downgrade hours after credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s announced it (see August 5-6, 2011), and S&P itself implied that Republicans were at fault for the downgrade for being willing to risk sending the nation into default if they were blocked from getting their way in the debt-ceiling legislation (see August 11, 2011). Even before the credit rating downgrade, the New York Times reports, “macroeconomists and private sector forecasters were warning that the direction in which the new House Republican majority had pushed the White House and Congress this year—for immediate spending cuts, no further stimulus measures and no tax increases, ever—was wrong for addressing the nation’s two main ills, a weak economy now and projections of unsustainably high federal debt in coming years” (see May 20, 2011). These economists and forecasters generally agree with the Obama administration’s wishes to immediately stimulate the economy to include greater private-sector spending and create more jobs, with spending cuts more useful as a long-term remedy. Republicans in Congress and on the presidential campaign trail, however, continue to insist that their policies are what will rescue the US economy; House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) says that he and his fellow Republicans “were not elected to raise taxes or take more money out of the pockets of hardworking families and business people,” and will never consider tax or revenue increases of any sort. Even Republican economic figures such as Reagan advisor Martin Feldstein and Henry Paulson, the Treasury secretary under President George W. Bush, say that revenue increases should balance any spending cuts, a position Congressional Republicans—particularly “tea party” Republicans such as presidential candidate Michele Bachmann (R-MN)—refuse to countenance. Bank of America senior economics research official Ethan Harris writes: “Given the scale of the debt problem, a credible plan requires both revenue enhancement measures and entitlement reform. Washington’s recent debt deal did not include either.” Ian C. Shepherdson, the chief US economist for research firm High Frequency Economist, says, “I think the US has every chance of having a good year next year, but the politicians are doing their damnedest to prevent it from happening—the Republicans are—and the Democrats to my eternal bafflement have not stood their ground.” Joel Prakken, chairman of Macroeconomic Advisers, and Laurence H. Meyer, former Federal Reserve governor, both call the Republicans’ calls for spending cuts “job-kill[ers].” Bill Gross, head of the bond-trading firm Pimco, lambasts Republicans and what he calls “co-opted Democrats” for throwing aside widely accepted economic theory for Republican-led insistence that draconian spending cuts, largely in social safety-net programs such as Social Security and Medicare, will “cure” the US’s economic ills. Instead, Gross writes: “An anti-Keynesian, budget-balancing immediacy imparts a constrictive noose around whatever demand remains alive and kicking. Washington hassles over debt ceilings instead of job creation in the mistaken belief that a balanced budget will produce a balanced economy. It will not.” [New York Times, 8/12/2011]

Entity Tags: Ian Shepherdson, US Congress, Eric Cantor, Bill Gross, Standard & Poor’s, Henry Paulson, Paul Krugman, New York Times, Joel Prakken, John Boehner, Laurence H. Meyer, Martin Feldstein, Michele Bachmann, Ethan Harris, Obama administration

Category Tags: USA, 2011 US Credit Default, Bush Policies and Actions, Commentaries and Criticisms

The nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) finds that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly the “food stamp” program, is playing a critical role in keeping American citizens from starving during the economic recession. The program has long been reviled by Republicans and conservatives, and recently Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich (R-GA) smeared President Obama as “the food stamp president” (see November 30 - December 2, 2011 and January 5, 2012), and falsely claimed that Obama has presided over the largest increase of Americans receiving SNAP assistance in US history (see January 17, 2012). The program benefits a disproportionately large number of children and disabled and elderly people, according to the CBPP. Since the recession began in late 2007, the CBPP says, “SNAP has responded effectively to the recession” in providing much-needed assistance to Americans, particularly since the recession has driven many families into “low-income” status. “According to the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure, which counts SNAP as income, SNAP kept more than 5 million people out of poverty in 2010 and lessened the severity of poverty for millions of others.” As the economy recovers and legislative provisions expire, SNAP spending will decrease, according to Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predictions. “By 2022 SNAP is expected to return nearly to pre-recession levels as a share of GDP. Over the long term, SNAP is not growing faster than the overall economy and thus is not contributing to the nation’s long-term fiscal problems.” The payment accuracy of SNAP is extraordinarily high, the CBPP claims, refuting the claims of massive fraud made by Gingrich and other opponents of the program. And, according to the CBPP, economists say that the program is “one of the most effective forms of economic stimulus,” helping grow the economy as it protects poverty-stricken families. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 1/9/2012]

Entity Tags: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Barack Obama, US Census Bureau, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Newt Gingrich, Congressional Budget Office

Category Tags: USA, Bush Policies and Actions, Obama Policies and Actions

The nonpartisan FactCheck.org finds that recent claims by presidential candidate Newt Gingrich (R-GA) that “more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history” are wrong. In fact, far more Americans were added to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) rolls under President George W. Bush than under Obama. Gingrich has made the claim in a number of political speeches (see November 30 - December 2, 2011 and January 5, 2012), but his reiteration of the claim during a recent Republican debate in South Carolina has drawn a great deal of media attention (see January 16, 2012). FactCheck finds: “Gingrich would have been correct to say the number now on food aid is historically high. The number stood at 46,224,722 persons as of October, the most recent month on record. And it’s also true that the number has risen sharply since Obama took office. But Gingrich goes too far to say Obama has put more on the rolls than other presidents.” Information from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA)‘s Food and Nutrition Service going back to January 2001 “show[s] that under President George W. Bush the number of recipients rose by nearly 14.7 million. Nothing before comes close to that.” Moreover, “the program has so far grown by 444,574 fewer recipients during Obama’s time in office than during Bush’s.” The trend in recent months has been for the number of food-stamp recipients to decline, another fact Gingrich fails to note. FactCheck finds that the rise in the number of Americans on food stamps—currently one out of seven—began during the second term of the Bush presidency. “In the 12 months before Obama was sworn in, 4.4 million were added to the rolls, triple the 1.4 million added in 2007,” the organization writes. “To be sure, Obama is responsible for some portion of the increase since then. The stimulus bill he signed in 2009 increased benefit levels, making the program more attractive. A family of four saw an increase of $80 per month, for example.… The stimulus also made more people eligible. Able-bodied jobless adults without dependents could get benefits for longer than three months.” Part of the reason for the higher number of recipients under Obama is the new outreach to eligible citizens by state governments, according to the USDA; many state governments have worked harder to inform eligible citizens of their right to apply for government assistance, and have reduced the amount of information that claimants must provide to receive assistance. FactCheck concludes: “We don’t argue that the program is either too large (as Gingrich does) or too small. It has certainly reached a historically high level, and may or may not grow even larger in the months to come. But the plain fact is that the growth started long before Obama took office, and participation grew more under Bush.” And it quotes the USDA’s Kevin Concannon, who recently told a Wall Street Journal reporter, “I realize Mr. Gingrich is a historian, but I’m not sure he’d get very high marks on that paper.” [USA Today, 1/17/2012] CBS News notes that the White House has called Gingrich’s claims “crazy,” and finds: “While the number of people on food stamps is indeed at a record level, that’s in part because of eligibility rules being relaxed under the administration of George W. Bush. It’s also due in part to the economic downturn that began under Mr. Bush.… [T]hat percentage increase hardly makes Obama the ‘best food stamp president in American history,’ at least when you look at the question proportionally. The percent increase in beneficiaries during Mr. Bush’s presidency was higher than it has been under Mr. Obama: The number of beneficiaries went from 17.3 million in 2001 to 28.2 million in 2008—an increase of 63 percent in years that are mostly considered non-recessionary.” [CBS News, 1/17/2012] US News and World Report agrees with FactCheck, finding that “SNAP participation has been on the rise since well before President Obama took office. Nearly 17.2 million people in FY 2000 participated in the program, a figure that increased by nearly 64 percent by 2008.” [US News and World Report, 1/17/2012] The Associated Press accuses Gingrich of distorting the facts and notes: “It’s gotten easier to qualify for food stamps in the past decade but that is because of measures taken before Obama became president. It’s true that the number of people on food stamps is now at a record level. That’s due mainly to the ailing economy, which Republicans blame on Obama, as well as rising food costs. The worst downturn since the Great Depression wiped out 8.7 million jobs, pushed the unemployment rate to a peak of 10 percent in October 2009, and increased poverty.” [Associated Press, 1/17/2012] The nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has found that SNAP is a critical element in keeping poverty-stricken Americans, particularly children and the elderly, from starving during the economic recession (see January 9, 2012).

Entity Tags: Kevin Concannon, CBS News, Barack Obama, Associated Press, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, George W. Bush, US News and World Report, Obama administration, FactCheck (.org), US Department of Agriculture, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Newt Gingrich

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, 2012 Elections

Category Tags: USA, Bush Policies and Actions, Obama Policies and Actions

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