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Breaking Down President Obama’s $37.1M White House Payroll

Aug 16, 2011, 9:00 am EDT
Breaking Down President Obama’s $37.1M White House Payroll

Since 1995, every president has had to deliver a salary report of White House employees to Congress and the American people. And at a time when federal spending is front and center and government employees are getting laid off left and right, I thought it would be interesting to dig into the 2011 report from the Obama administration and see who’s who on the president’s payroll.

To be clear, I’m not trying to score political points here. While some of these salaries might seem plush, as a suburban D.C. resident myself, I can say this area is one pricey place. D.C.’s workers enjoy the highest salaries of any major U.S. city, with a median household income of $85,198. And some of these folks are highly qualified individuals in grueling jobs who could make a mint in the private sector based on their resumes.

We can quibble over their political slant, but someone like Gene Sperling who attended Yale Law School and attended biz school at Wharton probably has a resume worth a bit more than $45,000 per year, even if you pooh-pooh his government experience. Read 

Obama’s to Blame for the First-Ever U.S. Credit Downgrade

Aug 9, 2011, 1:38 pm EDT

Standard & Poor’s has taken an unprecedented step in reflecting its opinion that the effectivness, stability and predictability of American policy making and political institutions have been weakened during a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenges. Driving the nail in the fiscal coffin, S&P reports that the outlook on the long-term rating is negative and that S&P could lower its long-term rating within the next two years. It is S&P’s assessment that elected officials remain wary of tackling the structural issues required to effectively address the rising U.S. public debt burden in a manner consistent with an ‘AAA’ rating.

The Obama administration demurs, responding that the S&P analysis contained ‘deep and fundamental flaws.’ As I have written often about the Obama administration’s fiscal responsibility, the horse has already left the barn. The only thing left behind is the stink. For the first downgrade of America’s credit rating in history, I blame in no special order the complete Obama administration, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank and the Fed. The one group in Washington (and S&P knows this well, like the Tea Party or not) that is committed to doing the things S&P wants done is the Tea Party. In 2012, Americans will have a chance to bring in a new management team. America needs a leader with a long-proven record of fiscal responsibility, along with a long and proven record as a job creator. This, of course, is not brain surgery.

In recent months, you have been bombarded with editorials from the left and the right on the dire status of Uncle Sam’s finances and the prospects for an outright U.S. default. Much of what you have been exposed to is nothing more than posturing by politicians seeking to anger as few voters as possible and to maintain credibility for the 2012 election season. Rarely is what is best for America first on a politician’s mind. And now we have a first-in-history downgrade of America’s credit rating. Read 

Don’t Panic: The U.S. Credit Downgrade Changes Nothing

Aug 6, 2011, 3:38 pm EDT
Don’t Panic: The U.S. Credit Downgrade Changes Nothing

After the S&P downgrade of U.S. debt, America now carries a rating of AA-plus instead of the coveted AAA rating on its Treasury bonds. Austria, Norway, Germany and Australia are no longer our peers ratings-wise – we are, instead, in the company of Japan, China, Spain, Taiwan and Slovenia.

Market watchers have suspected a downgrade was in the works for a while. Not to toot my own horn, but last week in my column about 5 ugly truths about the debt ceiling, one of my takeaways from the deal was that a U.S. credit downgrade was in the works regardless of the fact we avoided default. Looks like my prediction, and the prediction of other financial journalists who made the same call of a credit downgrade, was right.

But now that the inevitable has happened, what does it mean for the market and for individual investors? Read 

5 Ugly Truths About Life After the Debt Deal

Aug 4, 2011, 12:01 am EDT
5 Ugly Truths About Life After the Debt Deal

Yesterday, the Senate approved legislation to raise the $14.3 trillion debt limit and immediately grant an additional $400 billion in government borrowing. Obama signed the bill just hours before the deadline where the Treasury said it would stop paying the bills.

There is no end to the commentary about the package, no shortage of debate about whether the deadline was truly the point where Uncle Sam’s change purse was empty and no end to the speculation over which party “won.”

What I’d like to focus on is life after this debt deal — specifically, five ugly truths about our legislators and our nation’s economy. Read 

Congress Is Killing Jobs — Not Creating Them

Aug 3, 2011, 9:32 am EDT

As we digest the debt debacle, one important fact seems to be lost on most Americans — Congress has decided to overlook fixing unemployment in order to tackle spending. Unfortunately, that will only create more unemployment.

Why legislators allowed the conversation to change from job creation to debt busting is beyond me. Conspiracy theorists suggest it’s because the GOP has no interest in mending the economy, when a double-dip recession during primary season can energize Republican presidential campaigns. I’d like to believe that even the most stubborn legislators aren’t evil — just misinformed or incapable of viewing the big economic picture.

Whatever the motivations in Washington, the truth of the matter is that the biggest job destroyer in 2011 has been the government. This is not bluster or scare tactics, but an honest fact based on the respected analysis of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. Read 

The U.S. Deserves to Have Its Credit Downgraded

Aug 2, 2011, 6:33 am EDT

I’m not normally a bettin’ man, but while the Congress keeps arguing, I’m going to put money (figuratively anyway) on the fact that there will be: a hike to the debt ceiling by Tuesday’s Aug. 2 deadline, and a credit downgrade to AA from AAA on U.S. Treasury bonds.

Whether there will be anything accomplished in tackling the budget deficit is still up for grabs.

Frankly, if the ratings agencies don’t downgrade U.S. debt, it will be just another shocking example of their inability to really understand what’s happening in the world. They have already proved, during the mortgage securities mess, that they aren’t exactly the best analysts on the planet, by a long shot. In this case, we deserve to have our debt downgraded simply because of the inability of our policymakers to get a handle on the budget deficit. How can the U.S. continue to cling to a AAA rating? It can’t right now. Read 

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