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Showing posts from May, 2010

Financial bill falls short on big-banks issue

Business Times - 26 May 2010


Financial bill falls short on big-banks issue

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

AND they said it could not be done. Following months of debate, last week the US Senate in a 59-39 vote approved its version of the financial reform legislation.

The measure that supporters say could have dramatic effects on the way Wall Street operates was another major step towards Congressional passage of the most far-reaching revamping of the financial regulatory system since the dramatic overhaul in the aftermath of the Great Depression of the 1930s.

So it's done! (Well, almost).

The expectation on Capitol Hill is that the financial legislation could be signed by President Barack Obama before July 4. Mr Obama and the Democrats want to use the bill as an issue in the November midterm Congressional elections, by exploiting the populist sentiments among voters and painting themselves as the party that protects Main Street - as opposed to the Wall Street-type Republicans.

Changing narrative on midterm polls

Business Times - 25 May 2010


Changing narrative on midterm polls

Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have a clear advantage in the November election, at least for now

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

US CONGRESSIONAL and gubernatorial elections that take place at the end of the second year of a presidential term - midterm election - serve as a referendum on the performance of the sitting president and the incumbent political party.

History suggests that voters tend to 'punish' the party of the president during this election that takes place on Nov 2. Indeed, in the last 17 midterm elections, the president's party has lost an average of 28 seats in the House of Representatives, and an average four seats in the Senate.

The conventional wisdom in Washington has been that the coming midterm election - for 36 of the 100 seats in the Senate, for all the 435 seats in the House and for 37 gubernatorial races - will prove to be a major electoral blow to President Barack …

EU economic mess and geopolitics

Now it's Europe's turn, but there's no joy in the US

Business Times - 13 May 2010


Now it's Europe's turn, but there's no joy in the US

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

IN THE aftermath of the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the ensuing meltdown on Wall Street, some Europeans took a certain pleasure over the economic mess across the Atlantic.

French commentators suggested that the US financial crisis highlighted once again the structural flaws and the moral failings of the Anglo-Saxon economic system (as opposed to the more statist version practised in France). The Germans contrasted their more conservative social market model with the free market principles guiding policymakers in Washington.

And the European Union's technocrats were more than willing to dispense constructive advice to their colleagues in Washington while expressing initial (and very brief) sense of confidence that the growing troubles facing the US economy were not going to spill over into Europe.

In fact, some analysts predicted that the US econom…

Possible payoff from the Gulf Coast oil spill?

Business Times - 11 May 2010


Possible payoff from the Gulf Coast oil spill?

Obama could press for an energy bill and its cap-and-trade provisions more strongly now

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

FIVE years ago when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, then president George W Bush was criticised for waiting much too long to act. The Bush administration had failed to provide the kind of decisive leadership required for dealing effectively with an emergency, said Democratic lawmakers and media commentators.

That negative assessment was magnified by media images of Mr Bush presenting a birthday cake to Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona in Phoenix on exactly the same day the hurricane hit.

Indeed, Mr Bush's handling of the 2005 disaster - which resulted in the death of 1,800 people and caused close to US$100 billion in damage - turned out to be the lowest point in the history of his administration.

The debacle of Katrina helped erode much of the remaining support for Mr Bush…

Arizona law fuels immigration debate

Business Times - 05 May 2010


Arizona law fuels immigration debate

While there's broad support for new law, other states are unlikely to follow Arizona before November's midterm polls

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

IT IS starting to sound like a cliche. But it is also true. A politically polarising debate dominates the United States and, by extension, Washington these days. Ranging from the major policy issues of the day - federal deficit, healthcare reform, financial regulations and climate change - to the silly, if not infantile - President Barack Obama's birth certificate or Sarah Palin's latest Twitter comments - Americans seem to be split between two hostile camps - Democrats vs Republicans; Liberals vs Conservatives; Left vs Right; Blue States vs Red States.

So it was interesting that after the state of Arizona had passed a new and very tough immigration law which grants new powers to police to stop and detain suspected illegal immigrants, the animated and…