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Showing posts from March, 2010

Pumped up Obama heads for Wall St

Business Times - 26 Mar 2010


Pumped up Obama heads for Wall St

He is ready to press for immediate legislation to reform the financial sector while resisting Republican pressure

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

IN THE aftermath of their impressive legislative victory in getting the healthcare reform Bill approved in Congress over the weekend, US President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies on Capitol Hill seem to be in a fighting mode.

They have made it clear that they are ready to press for immediate legislation on comprehensive reform of the financial sector's regulatory system. And they are resisting the pressure from Republicans to slow-down the legislative process. Mr Obama and the Democrats hope to complete it even before the November mid-term Congressional election.

The Democratic majority in the House of Representative has already succeeded in getting that legislative branch to pass a bill last December. And on Monday, the action moved to the Senate where the key ba…

My new piece in Foreign Policy

Healthcare win gives Obama new momentum

Business Times - 23 Mar 2010


Healthcare win gives Obama new momentum

He's now in a position to press ahead with rest of his domestic and foreign policy agenda

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

SINCE Barack Obama entered the White House, Republican leaders have vowed to turn the debate on his ambitious plans to restructure America's healthcare system into the new president's 'political Waterloo'.

It was a plan to tear down what has been seen as the centrepiece of his domestic policy agenda. The Republicans would then be able to destroy his presidency and regain control of Congress in the 2010 midterm elections. They would then ensure that President Obama would not be re- elected for a second term.

And indeed, a powerful coalition of Republican lawmakers, lobbyists for the health insurance and pharmaceutical industry and the agitated Tea Party protesters marshalled their enormous political and financial resources - and through the sophisticated manipulation of the…

Time to cool China, US tempers

Business Times - 20 Mar 2010


Time to cool China, US tempers

A failure may result in another economic recession, and perhaps even a new cold war, from which no side would be able to decouple

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

MEMBERS of a bipartisan coalition of US lawmakers are accusing the Chinese of a plot to manipulate the value of its currency in order to boost its exports and make American imports harder to sell in China.

And the lawmakers have introduced legislation that would force the US Treasury to impose stiff penalties against China and other countries that are engaged in such unfair currency manipulation.

In the House of Representatives 130 members of the House of Representatives signed a letter protesting China's manipulation of its currency while in the Senate, a group of 14 Democrats and Republicans are pressing the Obama Administration to act against the Chinese.

The senators, led by liberal Democrat Charles Schumer from New York and conservative Republican Linds…

Norway TV interview

Obama's balancing act on US trade policies

Business Times - 17 Mar 2010


Obama's balancing act on US trade policies

His thrust for exports shows he is adopting a more activist stance on global trade issues

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

MOST of the purveyors of the conventional wisdom in Washington concluded a while ago that President Barack Obama would not be able to make any significant move on global trade any time soon.

Against the backdrop of rising populist sentiments around the country and in Congress that reflect the economic distress afflicting much of the country, the current White House occupant is not in a position to start promoting an energetic free trade agenda that would require removing the remaining restrictions on foreign access to American markets.

To put it in very simple terms, the American people who have been at the receiving end of daily reports about the loss of American manufacturing jobs to foreign competitors - dramatised by the expanding US trade deficit - are certainly not in a mood to …

The Perils and Promise of Obama's Pragmatism

Business Times - 16 Mar 2010


Taking the populist route would win him political points, but he'd rather do what's right

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

PRAGMATISM, the philosophical movement, assumes that the purpose of philosophy is to develop ideas that help us in practical ways. It has been called the American philosophy.

It's not only that this school of philosophy was founded by prominent American thinkers (CS Pierce, William James and John Dewey); more significantly, there is something in pragmatism's focus on what works, in its fusion of the practical and the philosophical, that reflects the 'just do it' elements of the American character.

European thinkers may be attracted to grandiose but unworkable - or sometimes - destructive ideas. Americans, on the other hand, are supposed to embrace ideas that were tested and seemed to work satisfactorily. Or, as the saying goes: 'The proof in the pudding.'

The quality, effectiveness or truth of some…

Israeli self-goal? Maybe not

My new post on the Huffington Poston Biden's trip to Israel, etc.

Roadblocks to Obama's financial reform plan

Business Times - 09 Mar 2010


Roadblocks to Obama's financial reform plan

Wall Street sees plan to create powerful watchdog for consumers as a threat to its profits

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

LEGISLATION for financial reform that gives the federal government a larger role in regulating financial products such as securities and derivatives seems to be making some headway in Congress in recent days.

In the Senate, where it has been stalled for quite a while, reports now suggest that the Senate Banking Committee appears closer than ever to a bipartisan agreement on a bill that could lead to major reform of the US financial sector.

The House of Representatives, where Democrats maintain a clear majority, has already voted in favour of a financial regulation bill. But in order to get Congress to approve legislation on this issue, the more conservative Senate, where Republicans exert more legislative power, has to pass a similar legislation.

One of the most contentious issues in…

How long can Bernanke keep up the juggling act?

Business Times - 02 Mar 2010


How long can Bernanke keep up the juggling act?

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

US FEDERAL Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke's semi-annual report on the state of the American economy last week was comforting. He reassured everyone that the economy was slowly getting better.

But, he added, it would take a long time for unemployment to start edging down and thus the Fed had to keep interest rates low to help keep the economy going for a while longer. Bravely, he also said that the Fed would prepare to exit from this period of loose monetary policy.

Mr Bernanke's comments during the Congressional hearings on Wednesday and Thursday underlined the need for the Fed to juggle its two primary but conflicting mandates - maximising employment and keeping prices stable.

With America's unemployment rate hovering around 9.7 per cent, leaving 14 million people unemployed - nearly half of the unemployed have been out of work for at least six months - Congres…