Economy & Budget

Wall street reform act deserves implementation now

Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was an anti-corruption game-changer tucked into a historic, comprehensive piece of legislation aimed primarily at overhauling the nation's financial regulatory structure. Since becoming law, anti-corruption and financial transparency proponents are still waiting for the law to be implemented.

Section 1504, also known as the Cardin-Lugar provision, of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act would require oil, gas, and mining companies that must report to the SEC -- approximately 90 percent of the major internationally operating oil and gas companies in the world -- to disclose payments made to governments for the oil, gas, and minerals they extract. This would be a boon to anti-corruption workers trying to get the records straight when investigating bribery and corruption in developing countries. It also would serve investors looking to make informed decisions about their portfolios.

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Varney and Obama's antitrust legacy

Following the Obama campaign’s criticism of a decade of minimal antitrust enforcement under the George W. Bush administration, the then new Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust came out of the gate flying, at least rhetorically. 

A little more than a month into her tenure, Christine Varney—standing at the same podium from which she delivered her farewell speech Tuesday—set the tone for the Obama administration’s reinvigorated DOJ Antitrust Division when she rescinded her predecessor’s report on monopoly enforcement, which had taken a decidedly minimalist interpretation of antitrust law. 

Now, nearly two years later with the announcement that Christine Varney is stepping down, we have reached an inflexion point. Several major investigations are in the queue and the next AAG will be called on to make tough decisions. 

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Deep moral issues are at stake in the budget debate

Fifty-eight percent of Americans believe that “a budget is moral document,” according to a recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institute. In a recent exchange of letters, Catholic Archbishop Timothy Dolan and Congressman Paul Ryan both affirmed this basic principle as well. What this means for all those seeking election in 2012 is that when voters listen to the budget debate in Washington D.C., they don’t just hear a tug of war over dollars and cents but a discussion of our national character. Who gets kept in and who gets left out matters more clearly reveals our moral priorities than does any speech or campaign commercial.

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Obama’s “recovery” worst in modern times

The evidence that President Obama’s economic policies have failed continues to mount. 

The unemployment rate notched up to 9.2 percent in June. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the labor force fell by more than a quarter of a million workers, dropping the labor force participation rate to 64.1 percent - the lowest rate of labor force participation in nearly 30 years.

While no one expected our economic problems to be solved “overnight,” there was the reasonable expectation that our bounce back from the downturn that began in 2007 would proceed along the lines of previous recoveries after recessions. History tells us that today, more than three years after the recession began, things should be getting better. But they aren’t. 

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Senator McConnell providing smart leadership on the debt ceiling

U.S. Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) today made the following statement regarding Senator Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) efforts to avoid a default on our nation’s debt:

I strongly support Senator McConnell’s efforts to avoid a default on our nation’s debt and the last-case emergency proposal he outlined yesterday to ensure that Republicans aren’t unduly blamed for failure to raise the debt ceiling.

Unfortunately, while Senator McConnell is looking to do the right thing, President Obama has shifted from the ‘blame game’ to the ‘scare game.’

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The path to 218: Finding consensus on the debt limit

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) today called on President Obama to release the details of his “grand plan” that he proposed for a debt limit increase: 

“Today we will continue meetings at the White House to try to find consensus surrounding the debt limit. Though none of the plans being discussed right now could garner the 218 votes needed for House passage, we have found areas of agreement. I am glad the President has finally agreed that Medicare as we know it will be bankrupt within 10 years unless we do something about it, and I am glad he has agreed that we need to address our debt crisis now. As we move forward in this debate, I would ask that we work in earnest on these areas of commonality instead of demanding that areas of agreement are tied to items of fundamental disagreement like raising taxes. The President refuses to compromise on the repeal of ObamaCare, and House Republicans refuse to raise taxes, so both have been ruled out. Further, the simple reality is that tax increases cannot pass the House, and the constant demand for them makes coalescing around any increase in the debt limit less likely. 

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President, Congress must work together for America

In a disturbing sign the economy may be backsliding, the national unemployment rate just rose to 9.2 percent due to anemic job growth. In June, only 18,000 jobs were created, on top of a meager 54,000 new jobs in May. This contrasts sharply with the 178,000 jobs created in April -- evidence the recovery is struggling for traction.

Small businesses have traditionally been responsible for creating the vast majority -- up to 70 percent -- of all new jobs. Yet, in March, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that small business start-ups, a key source of new jobs, declined by 17 percent.

The president and Congress need to re-dedicate themselves to the American people's highest priority: revitalizing our economy.

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The debt ceiling debate: Stupid, but dangerous

As we continue to monitor the hourly reports on whether Congress will grant authority to borrow the money needed to pay the nation’s bills, it worth noting that the United States got along for 128 years without having a formal debt ceiling. So how has this limitation helped us manage our finances?

The first debt limit legislation was attached to the Liberty Bond Act in 1917 (to help finance W.W.I). At that time the public debt that had been accumulated since the birth of the nation totaled less than $6 billion — equal less than 10 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product in that year. But the limit on borrowing seemed to have an inverse impact on deficits. Within only three decades of enactment our public debt was $257 billion, equaling 105 percent of GDP — more than ten times the debt-to-output ratio the country had when the requirement for debt limit legislation was adopted.

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The way forward: Tax reform, not tax increases

The looming political showdown over raising the federal debt ceiling has generated a seemingly endless stream of punditry over winners and losers, key players versus back-benchers, and on-again, off-again “grand compromises.”

But beneath those ever-shifting currents lie bedrock fiscal issues: how to slow the pace of federal expenditures, reestablish long-term budgetary discipline, and reform our uncompetitive tax system without heaping heavier burdens on businesses or individuals. In their quest for a staggering $2.4 trillion debt increase, President Obama and his allies on Capitol Hill have weighed in with many responses to those issues – some good, more than a few bad, and some downright ugly.

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Washington must listen to Americans, face debt crisis

If we divided the debt we accumulate in just one year among everyone in Las Cruces, the largest city in New Mexico's Second Congressional District, every person would owe $13.5 million. The American people deserve better -- it is time for Congress to take responsibility and face our debt crisis. For too long, the federal government has chosen to repeatedly raise the debt limit, sending the bill to our children and grandchildren. Our national debt is crippling our ability to compete internationally, is stifling our job growth, and is pushing us to the brink of economic collapse.

Our credit is already faltering. Moody's and Standard & Poor's have said that they could soon consider downgrading the U.S. government's credit rating if our deficits are not addressed. China will not continue to loan us money forever, and we can't afford the bills we've already built up.

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