The Ticker Quick Views on Politics, Economics and Finance
Remember the "war on women"? Republicans expected to win that, along with the election.
But losing doesn’t mean having to say they're sorry for letting an employer opt out of insurance coverage for birth control, or letting any doctor in Virginia opt in for vaginal probes. Nor does it mean inviting women into the room when the door closes on Capitol Hill.READ MORE
You have got to ask: Wasn't former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi paying attention when Antonis Samaras toppled the technocratic government in Greece, forced early elections and triggered six months of political chaos and economic destruction?
If Berlusconi was watching this year's Greek tragedy unfold, then he must have liked what he saw because today he withdrew support from Prime Minister Mario Monti's government and announced that "We can't go on like this." He blamed Monti's tightened fiscal policies for Italy's recession. The implied threat to topple Monti and force early elections was clear.READ MORE
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) is learning just how hard it is to escape the stain of exploiting human beings for profit.
The company was already roiling from news that the Tazreen factory in Bangladesh, a firetrap that burned down killing more than 100 workers last month, was a Wal-Mart supplier. Now, Bloomberg News has reported that the retailer last year said it would not pay Bangladeshi factories prices sufficient to cover safety improvements that might have prevented the Tazreen blaze.READ MORE
The whole story is strange, and there are clearly details about FreedomWorks's internal rift that we don't know, but one thing is clear: A lot of the money that rich conservatives and libertarians are putting toward the organization won't actually be spent on effective efforts to shrink the government.READ MORE
Sheldon Adelson, the chairman and chief executive officer of Las Vegas Sands Corp., spent about $100 million to defeat Democrats and elect Republicans over the past year. As the upcoming inauguration of President Barack Obama confirms, it didn't do much good.
Adelson donated millions to Newt Gingrich's ego in the Republican primary, then switched his allegiance to Mitt Romney's cause, donating $20 million to the biggest Romney super-PAC, Restore Our Future, which with just three words and $142 million managed to capture both the futility and incoherence of the Republican Party circa 2012.READ MORE
With nine subway lines, downtown Brooklyn, New York, has more rapid transit than Chicago. You wouldn't know that looking at its parking requirements for new development: four spots for every 10 units in buildings of any significant size.
Transit activists and urbanists were originally hopeful that the city would eliminate the minimum requirements entirely for highly mass-transit-accessible neighborhoods such as Harlem, Williamsburg and downtown Brooklyn. The proposed reform, however, turned out to be a tepid disappointment: Parking minimums in downtown Brooklyn -- and only downtown Brooklyn -- would be lowered from four to two spaces for every 10 units. Only affordable-housing developers would be allowed to build completely transit-oriented buildings, relieved of the tens of thousands of dollars it costs to build each parking space.READ MORE
Rumors of Vogue editor Anna Wintour's possible appointment as ambassador to the Court of St. James have triggered predictable umbrage and snark. How would she handle complex negotiations that revolve around the arcana of international law? And isn't it outrageous that high-profile posts go to bundlers and money wranglers rather than seasoned diplomats?
Two things matter for top-drawer ambassadorships: The president answers your calls, and you don't drool in public. And yes, a little money doesn't hurt, either. Wintour meets the first two criteria, and probably has a few spare ball gowns in her closet to boot.READ MORE
(Corrects name of council in second paragraph.)
The Obama administration has taken important actions to limit U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, including instituting a 54.5-miles-per-gallon standard for cars and trucks by model year 2025 and working on rules for new power plants. Still, a big step -- one required by the Clean Air Act -- remains to be taken: restricting greenhouse-gas emissions from existing power plants.READ MORE
More than 10,000 Hungarians jammed Budapest's Lajos Kossuth Square on Sunday to express revulsion at resurgent anti-Semitism.
They have reason to worry. Last week, an increasingly open climate of racism and xenophobia in Hungary took another turn for the worse when Marton Gyongyosi, a member of the Roma-baiting Jobbik radical nationalist party, declared in Parliament that Jews in government and the legislature were a "national security risk" and demanded that their names be compiled in a registry. Later, in what he described as an apology to his "Jewish compatriots," Gyongyosi said he had been misquoted: He had only meant to warn of the danger posed by Hungarian Jews who serve "Zionist Israel."READ MORE
After the Republicans' counteroffer on the fiscal cliff today, ABC's Jake Tapper tweeted a response from a senior White House official: "if GOP doesnt agree to higher rates for top 2%, we'll go over the cliff and the American people will hold them responsible." This is a hugely irresponsible threat from President Barack Obama's administration.READ MORE
House Republicans are out with their response to the President's opening bid on the fiscal cliff, and it's not very impressive. Here are three big problems with the letter they sent to the White House:
1. It's not really a proposal -- it's just a set of headline numbers without specific policies. The letter says Republicans want to cut $900 billion from mandatory spending and $300 billion from discretionary spending, but they don't say what or how they want to cut. The letter nods toward a proposal sketched out by Erskine Bowles, the cornerstone of which is a gradual increase in the Medicare age, but it lacks specifics.READ MORE
NBC sportscaster Bob Costas used the Sunday Night Football halftime show to make a pitch for gun control. It was a rare event in sports television, where talking heads aren't supposed to begin a discourse in which the destination is unknown. And this destination turned out to be quite unusual.
Costas's commentary followed the murder-suicide by Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, who shot Kasandra Perkins, the mother of his infant child, on Saturday morning before driving to the Chiefs' practice facility and shooting himself in the head in front of the team's coach and general manager.READ MORE
Finally! Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel has told Germans that she might eventually write-off Greek debt, and that bailing the country out will cost Germans less than letting it default and leave the euro area.
Those two pieces of long overdue candor mark an important step forward and an end to denial. They create a glimmer of light at the end of Greece's bailout tunnel, a prerequisite for confidence to return to euro-area bond markets and for Greeks to start believing that internal devaluation will eventually pay off for them.READ MORE
Albert R. Hunt
In the eight states where President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney competed fully, there were 94 so-called swing counties that voted for George W. Bush in 2004 and for Obama in 2008; in November, Obama won 48 of those and Romney won 46.
There are two reasons that result was insufficient for the Republicans.READ MORE
If ever an illustration was needed of why oil- and gas-drilling companies should be required to disclose the chemicals they pump underground, the Bloomberg News article highlighting a mysterious mixture used in Texas last summer supplies it.
Texas law technically requires that chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations to extract oil and gas from deep rock be publicly revealed on FracFocus, a national industry-supported website. But like similar laws in many other states, the Texas statute allows companies an exemption for drilling-mixture ingredients that are considered trade secrets. The mixture used by a subsidiary of Nabors Indusries Ltd. in a half-dozen oil wells in Karnes County last July, known as "EXP-F0173-11," was given that exemption, as Ben Elgin, Benjamin Haas and Phil Kuntz reported.READ MORE
As seems to happen every few years, there's another report out from a federal agency urging the U.S. to withdraw $1 bills from circulation and replace them with coins. The arguments are always the same: Coins last longer! We'd save a bunch of money! Everyone else is doing it!
Switching to dollar coins is a dumb idea, and I'm glad to see that a member of Congress has finally, succinctly explained why. The AP reports:READ MORE
Limits on income tax deductions could raise a lot of money, as I've said -- perhaps more than $1 trillion over 10 years -- in a way that also makes the tax code much more progressive. Now come Jason Furman and Gene Sperling, two of President Barack Obama's top economic advisers, to say they would raise much less. But that's because they impose unwise restrictions on the new cap.
Furman and Sperling say their analysis "takes into account the reality of their impact on middle-class families" and then takes steps to hold families making less than $250,000 entirely harmless from tax increases. As they note, imposing this restriction eats away nearly half of the new revenue -- which is a reason that holding families under $250,000 harmless is bad policy.READ MORE
Yesterday, you were envisioning what you would wear as you waved at the TV cameras with your giant check. Today, you're reminding yourself that you were probably more likely to have been killed by a fallen vending machine than to have won.READ MORE
The epic battle we Republicans face now is a choice between two definitions of conservatism. One offers steadfast opposition to emerging social trends like multiculturalism and secularization. The alternative is a more secular and modernizing conservatism that eschews most social issues to focus on creating a wide-open opportunity society that promises greater economic freedom and the reform of government institutions like schools that are vital to upward social mobility.READ MORE
Republican House Speaker John Boehner didn't sound too optimistic today when he said "no substantive progress" had been made toward averting the fiscal cliff, despite a full-court press by the White House that included a meeting with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and a Wednesday night phone call with President Barack Obama.
That pessimism may have spooked the stock market, which pared gains in response, but it's no surprise to corporate America.READ MORE