Eurozone and Japan GDP Fell in Q4

Feb 21, 2012, 1:50 pm EDT

Eurozone: Europe is bogged down with debt worries and austerity cuts, so a rise in oil prices could push more eurozone nations into recession. Eurostat reported last week that eurozone GDP contracted at a 1.3% annual rate in the fourth quarter. Italy contracted at a 2.9% annual pace last quarter, while Belgium, Greece, the Netherlands, and Portugal officially fell into recession with their second straight quarter of negative GDP growth.

These four eurozone countries are in a recession, and Italy is on the verge. Only France was able to buck the negative GDP growth by growing at a 0.9% annual pace in the fourth quarter.

Complicating matters further, insults are flying between Germany and Greece over payment of the second installment of the 130 billion euro ($171 billion) rescue package for Greece. Finland, Germany, and the Netherlands are pushing to delay Greece’s aid package until Greek political leaders make good on their promises for more austerity. Read 

Letter: An Alternative to Super PACs

Feb 20, 2012, 6:18 pm EDT

Personally, I think all PACs are a means of keeping the money’ed crowd in power so they can continue bleeding the people dry, stay in power, and keep making money.  The Democrat and Republican Parties are “birds of a feather.”  I don’t think PACs have anything to do with “free speech.”  It is all about POWER and CONTROL.

My idea for true campaign finance reform would be a national TV channel dedicated every four years to presidential election campaigns, every other year to mid-term elections.  During the presidential election years, the certified, vetted, qualified and eligible candidates (under Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution) of the various parties would schedule hour-long segments each day to be seen and heard, with the opportunity to sell the voting public on their ideas and plans.  Voters could email or tweet questions for the candidates.  All candidates could be seen and heard daily during the specified (hopefully, only two months) campaign period.  All unused hours could be reserved by Representatives and Senators seeking reelection.  By this “campaign” method, no candidate would have to raise a dime, and consequently, none would be beholden to any special interests.

During the off-election years, this channel could be used as a “public service channel.”  Time could be reserved by individual citizens (screened), whereby their ideas could be presented and challenged.  Or they could debate the issues of the day with their elected officials (federal, state, county and local levels).  Since C-SPAN is sponsored by cable and satellite channels, they might also provide this service, which would be unique.  By this method, freedom of speech would not be violated; if a special interest group so desires, they could contribute toward the continuation of this “public service channel.” Read 

5 Music Stars Who Support GOP Candidates

Feb 19, 2012, 6:27 pm EDT
5 Music Stars Who Support GOP Candidates

In most cases, rock stars have not supported Republican candidates for president, or even the GOP itself.  How many times have we heard about a candidate borrowing a popular rock song, like Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” and the Ronald Reagan campaign borrowing it mistakingly as an unabashed anthem in support of the U.S.? This election season, though, things are different.

Politico has compiled a list of famous musicians who have thrown their support to one of the Republican candidates for president. Below are five of the most interesting stars, and who they support. Kelly Clarkson — Ron Paul

Kelly Clarkson, the winner of the first American Idol season and multi-Platinum recording artist, expressed her support for Texas Rep. Ron Paul in a December 29, 2011 tweet, though she also expressed doubts that Paul would actually win the GOP nomination. Read 

Congress Finally Does Something

Feb 19, 2012, 5:45 pm EDT

After months of bickering and high drama on Capitol Hill over whether or not to extend the 2011 payroll tax cut, unemployment benefits and payments to Medicare providers, Congress passed a bill Friday that will extend all three of these elements for the rest of 2012.

The final legislation was basically a good deal all around: arguments over spending cuts and millionaires didn’t stymie the entire process, the GOP got a little of what it wanted and broadband access should get faster and more reliable. Debates over spending cuts don’t have to block everything

It became clear Friday that this Congress can actually work together to pass legislation, even in an election year. Perhaps it is the record low approval rating of Congress (only 10% of Americans currently approve of the work Congress is doing), combined with the slowly rising approval rating of President Obama (now at 50% according to the New York Times) that finally scared the GOP into agreeing to this tax cut. Read 

Congress to Extend Payroll Tax Cut

Feb 17, 2012, 5:00 am EDT

With rising gas prices, soaring apparel costs and increasing tuition costs, American consumers could use a break. Lately, disposable income and consumer confidence have been making modest gains, but there is still a lot of uncertainty that is keeping consumer’s wallets closed. So, I was happy to see that Congress voted Friday to extend the payroll tax cut. The measure passed in the House by 293 to 132, and cleared the Senate with a 60 to 36 vote.

This was a rare sign of bipartisanship in a chronically gridlocked Congress. But, the measure didn’t pass without a few tweaks. Basically, on each worker’s first $110,100 in annual wages, the Social Security tax will remain at 4.2% rather than getting hiked up to 6.2%. It’s estimated this $100 billion plan will put about an extra $1,000 in the pockets of the average family.

Republicans got their victory by eliminating a cut in Medicare-funded payments to doctors and extended payment rates through year-end. Democrats got to maintain the federal jobless benefits program through 2012, but there are measures in place to gradually decrease the maximum period from 99 weeks to 73 weeks. Also, if a recipient losses his/her job due to a failed drug test, they would be required to take an additional test to qualify for benefits. Read 

How The Detroit Three Could Give Romney’s Michigan Hopes A Flat

Feb 16, 2012, 7:12 pm EDT

The Feb. 28 Michigan primary should have been a quick spin around the block for favorite son Mitt Romney. He was born in Detroit to an auto industry executive who eventually would turn around the struggling American Motors Corp. and become governor of Michigan. Instead, the former GOP frontrunner is in the race of his political life, trailing former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum by as much as 10 points in two polls released on Wednesday.

But the former Massachusetts governor’s toughest primary opponent in Michigan may not be the surging Santorum, but resurgent Detroit automakers. Romney, who famously urged lawmakers to “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” in a 2008 New York Times op-ed piece , can chalk up his flagging fortunes in part to the rising tide at General Motors (NYSE: GM), Ford (NYSE: F) and Fiat SpA’s Chrysler. And with that tide starting to lift the ships of Michigan’s small businesses and “working families,” Romney’s vigorous defense of his position sounds oddly out of touch to voters.

“All politics is local,” the late House Speaker Thomas “Tip” O’Neill once said. That, better than anything, explains why GOP voters who, in principle, oppose massive government bailouts of private industry are poised to punish Romney for arguing that automakers should have been allowed to sink four years ago. Read 

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