Wall Street and the financial crisis: The role of investment banks (Sen. Carl Levin)

The exhibits referenced in the statement and the other witness testimony are available here. You can also watch the hearing live or view an archive webcast later at that link.

Today the Subcommittee holds the fourth in our series of hearings to explore some of the causes and consequences of the financial crisis. These hearings are the culmination of nearly a year and a half of investigation.

The freezing of financial markets and collapse of financial institutions that sparked our investigation are not just a matter of numbers on a balance sheet. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs, their homes and their businesses in the recession that the crisis sparked, the worst economic decline since the Great Depression. Behind every number we cite are American families who are still suffering the effects of a man-made economic catastrophe.


Send me "back to the kitchen?" (Rep. Betty Sutton)

Last week a talented, young woman full of promise came to me with a flier her family received in the mail from the Republican Party. As she handed me the mailer, with a sense of disappointment and hurt, she pointed to a line in the flier that read, 'Let's take Betty Sutton out of the House and send her back to the kitchen.'

The young woman, her heart heavy, then said, "I can't believe that this is how some people value women. And, even if they do, I can't believe that they would feel comfortable promoting it in a flier like this." And then, this bright, capable woman, who I know to be ready and able to do great things for our community and nation, said this: "I don't know why I even went to college; if this is how people treat you, what's the point?"


Women deserve equal pay for equal work (Sen. Tom Harkin)

On April 20th, Americans will observe Equal Pay Day -- the date that marks the 110 extra days that women must work into 2010 in order to equal what men earned in 2009.

Nearly half a century after Congress enacted the Equal Pay Act, too many women in this country still do not get paid what men do for the exact same work. On average, a woman makes only 77 cents for every dollar that a man makes. The circumstances are even worse for Latinas and women of color.

This is wrong and unjust. But, even more, it threatens the economic security of our families. The fact is millions of Americans are dependent on a woman's pay-check just to get by, put food on the table, pay for child care, and deal with rising health care bills. Two-thirds of mothers bring home at least a quarter of their family's earnings. In many families, the woman is the sole breadwinner.


It’s high time to end marijuana prohibition

By any objective standard, marijuana prohibition is an abject failure.
Nationwide, U.S. law enforcement have arrested over 20 million American citizens for marijuana offenses since 1965, yet today marijuana is more prevalent than ever before, adolescents have easier access to marijuana than ever before, the drug is more potent than ever before, and there is more violence associated with the illegal marijuana trade than ever before.
Over 100 million Americans nationally have used marijuana despite prohibition, and one in ten – according to current government survey data – use it regularly.  The criminal prohibition of marijuana has not dissuaded anyone from using marijuana or reduced its availability; however, the strict enforcement of this policy has adversely impacted the lives and careers of millions of people who simply elected to use a substance to relax that is objectively safer than alcohol. NORML believes that the time has come to amend criminal prohibition and replace it with a system of legalization, taxation, regulation, and education.


It's national pay equity day: Make paycheck fairness the law (Rep. Rosa DeLauro)

Among the many great benefits of the common-sense health reform package we passed last month is a guarantee that finally in America, being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition. As we bring an end to discriminatory policies like gender rating and begin to ensure coverage for maternity, preventive, and wellness care, our health legislation at long last puts our mothers' and sisters' and daughters' health care on equal footing with our fathers' and brothers' and sons'.

It is time, now, with your help, to do the same for women's earnings.

We showed with health reform that we can still accomplish great things in Congress, even if our party is forced to go it alone. I cannot think of a better way to follow this historic success than finally signing the Paycheck Fairness Act into law. Sign the petition today and tell my colleagues in the Senate to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.


The postal service's fiscal crisis and future viability (Rep. Edolphus Towns)

For more than 200 years the United States Postal Service has connected Americans, facilitated commerce and provided good paying jobs for millions of Americans. As a result of postal workers' high level of service, the Postal Service has become one of the most trusted organizations in America. But the Postal Service's tradition of service is under more pressure than ever before due to a financial crisis jeopardizing its viability for years to come.

In the last three years alone, mail volume has fallen off a cliff, from 213 billion pieces in 2006 to 177 billion pieces in 2009, driving down Postal Service revenues at a time when their health care and pension obligations are increasing. In response to these problems, the Postal Service has cut jobs through attrition and put many cost saving measures into place to help address the issue. Unfortunately, a comprehensive strategy or business model that puts the Postal Service on a sustainable path has yet to be implemented.

To get to the bottom of this issue, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing last week to examine the status of the Postal Service, and evaluate recent reports from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Postal Service Inspector General and the Postal Service on short and long-term strategies for the financial viability and stability of the USPS.


2010 census: answers to the top 10 most frequently asked questions (Rep. John B. Larson)

Do I have to respond to the 2010 census?

Yes, participation in the 2010 census is vital and required by law.

By being counted, you're helping your community secure the resources and representation it needs and deserves.  Accurate data reflecting changes in your community are crucial in deciding how almost $450 billion in federal funding per year is allocated for projects like new hospitals, roads, job training centers, and schools.  That's more than $4 trillion over a 10-year period.  Census data also determine apportionment in the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislatures.


New report reinforces need to pass comprehensive food safety reform now (Sen. Tom Harkin)

Today the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General released a new report on the Food and Drug Administration’s inspections of domestic food facilities.  Among its findings, the report identifies significant weaknesses in FDA’s inspections of food facilities, including the fact that FDA inspects less than a quarter of food facilities each year, and that more than half of all food facilities have gone five or more years without an FDA inspection.   

The report shows what we have feared for too long: that that our domestic food facilities are not being adequately inspected and FDA needs additional authorities to keep the food on our tables safe.  This is unacceptable in our modern society and an important reminder that we must provide FDA with the needed tools to properly inspect food facilities and effectively react to problems in order to ensure the safety of the food American families eat.  Quite simply, picking up food at the grocery store should not be a health risk.

At a time when party line bickering seems to have reached an all time high, efforts to pass comprehensive food safety legislation have risen above partisanship.  In fact, our food safety bill passed out of the Senate HELP Committee without a single ‘no’ vote and a similar bill passed in the House with strong bipartisan support.  This legislation is long overdue and it is my hope that we can soon pass the FDA Food Modernization Act of 2009 on the Senate floor in order to get the bill reconciled with the House and on the President’s desk to be signed into law.

The author is chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.


The Big Question: How has the Tea Party changed politics?

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.

Today's question:

How has the Tea Party movement changed American politics in the last year?


Returning the census is our constitutional duty

I’m worried about this year’s census.

I’m not worried about ACORN rigging the count – we already succeeded in kicking them out of the census. I’m not worried about the President’s attempt to run the census out of the White House – we beat that power grab back last year. I’m not even worried about privacy – this year’s 10-question census form is the shortest in memory.

No, what worries me is blatant misinformation coming from otherwise well-meaning conservatives. They are trying to do the right thing, but instead they are helping big government liberals by discouraging fellow conservatives from filling out their census forms.