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Will Environmentalists Kill the Keystone XL Pipeline?
For more than four years, the controversial Keystone XL pipeline has been at the center of a heated battle between opponents and supporters.
Those who favor the 1,700-mile extension of the pipeline see it as a step toward North American energy independence and a source of tens of thousands of jobs.
Obama's State of the Union Address Was Short on Math
President Obama's State of the Union Address on Wednesday night was high on rhetoric but short on math.
As with most Obama speeches, it was beautifully delivered. However, even where I agreed with the ideas, I couldn't quell a nagging suspicion that the numbers simply didn't add up, and indeed likely missed by a lot.
And let's face it, some of the ideas in the speech were just plain bad.
The Bad Ideas
At the top of the list was the proposed increase in the minimum wage to $9 an hour. It's sounds nice, but reality is a different story.
Economists pretty much universally agree that high minimum wages have the opposite effect: They increase the ranks of the unemployed.
Will John Kerry Kill the Keystone XL Pipeline?
When new U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met Friday with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird in Washington, the talk turned to the fate of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
Kerry said the controversial $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline project would undergo a "fair and transparent review," adding he expects to make a decision "near-term" on whether to move forward with it. The State Department has final say over the pipeline because it traverses international borders.
Government S&P Lawsuit: Who's Next?
But the collateral damage could spell bad news for a number of parties and has implications even for the overall health of the U.S. economy.
The Justice Dept., joined by attorneys general from 16 states, unveiled a case accusing S&P of fudging its ratings of subprime mortgages to make the toxic securities appear better than they were.
The federal government is seeking $5 billion in penalties — more than five times what S&P made in 2011 — to cover losses to investors in federally insured banks and credit unions. Separate suits filed by individual states could more than double that figure.
It's the first time the government has taken action against a credit rating agency over illegal behavior tied to the recent financial crisis.
The Real Cost of Obamacare
Like it or not, in less than a year – January 2014 – the core of U.S. President Barack Obama's healthcare reform goes into effect – and recent data show the cost of Obamacare will be quite high.
The statistics are startling, seeing as the intent of Obamacare was to reduce overall medical costs in the country – one big reason government spending is running wild – by improving access to treatment for Americans. An additional 30 million Americans are expected to be covered under Obamacare.
But new reports estimate the new healthcare system could cost about $1.3 trillion over the next 10 years.
That means the original outcome – which President Obama said would be to "cut the cost of a typical family's premium by up to $2,500 a year" – is far from reality.
Here's a breakdown of what Obamacare will really cost you – and your job could be included.
Why Did the U.S. Government Sue Standard & Poor's?
The U.S. Justice Department slapped Standard & Poor's Rating Services with a lawsuit claiming the agency sidestepped its own standards when rating mortgage bonds that collapsed during the financial crisis, resulting in billions of dollars in losses for investors.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's civil charges, filed late Monday against S&P, are the first federal enforcement charges against a credit rating firm over the financial crisis.
Reports say the government is going after S&P to the tune of more than $1 billion.
Following a report in The Wall Street Journal Monday afternoon that the government planned to file the suit, S&P acknowledged it was expecting the action and claimed the firm was being wrongly punished by the U.S. government for "failing to predict" the housing meltdown or financial crisis.
New York-based S&P, one of the three major rating firms, has denied any wrongdoing. The firm said in a statement before the government filed the suit that it would be "entirely without factual or legal merit."
Mary Jo White: SEC Pick Compromised By Links to Wall Street
When President Barack Obama nominated Mary Jo White to be the next head of the SEC, he said he wanted someone who would be tough on Wall Street, but her past ties to many of the big banks will make that difficult, if not impossible.
President Obama nominated White to be the next chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission Thursday, emphasizing her storied background as a New York prosecutor in the 1990s.
"She helped prosecute white-collar criminals and money launderers," the president said. "In the early 1990s, she brought down John Gotti, the head of the Gambino crime syndicate. You don't want to mess with Mary Jo."
Getting less attention from President Obama was how White has spent the most recent decade – as a defense attorney for Debevoise & Plimpton LLP. There, she hasn't been going after Wall Street's transgressors – she's been defending them.
Her former clients include former Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) CEO Ken Lewis, who was involved in a civil fraud suit over his company's acquisition of Merrill Lynch.
"[She's been] Wall Street's protector-in-chief," former SEC investigator Gary Aguirre told The Wall Street Journal.
Debt Ceiling Bill Intensifies Budget Pressure on Congress
The debt-ceiling showdown took center stage on Capitol Hill today (Wednesday) as a crucial vote on a Republican bill gave the Treasury the green light to borrow a fresh stash of cash until May 19.
The Republican-controlled House passed the bill by a 284-144 margin.
It now moves on to the Senate, where it is expected to pass quickly without any changes.
Senate Democrats are expected to back the plan even though they have been hesitant to support any short-term debt ceiling fix, maintaining it creates additional uncertainty for businesses and families.
"I'm very glad that (House Republicans) are going to send us a clean debt-ceiling bill," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV.
The measure would go from the Senate to U.S. President Barack Obama, who has repeatedly said he will not wrangle over the debt ceiling and will sign the bill when it reaches his desk.
Pleased with the results, the White House added a "but," saying it would have liked a longer- term solution.
While the legislation looked extremely likely to make it to the Oval Office, there is still a chance it could get tangled up in Congress, given a controversial provision in the bill.
The legislation includes a divisive rider aimed at coercing Senate Democrats to ink a long-term budget deal. The "no budget- no pay" provision would withhold pay for members of Congress until a sustainable deal is agreed upon.
"It's not a slam dunk. But the main thing is that the Republicans will cave on the debt ceiling. So we're now just arguing over the details," Greg Valliere, chief political strategist for Potomac Research Group, told CNN Money ahead of the voting.
AIG and the New Victim Mentality
Some of you made harsh comments about what I wrote about AIG. I said that AIG should sue the U.S. government and the Fed for saving it when it could have (more likely would have) gone under during the peak of the crisis in 2008.
Insights & Indictments reader Darrell said, "Enough. This is the most vile piece… I have ever read. Those people SHOULD have been allowed to fail. FULL bankruptcy! To borrow from the taxpayers to compensate the "managers" who steered us into this mess with bonuses, and then whine [when] the terms of the loan were too extreme is beyond hypocritical. Capitalism without risk is NOT capitalism. Something you would do well to learn. I am unsubscribing form this service."
Matt chimed in, "I'm with you. Acting like AIG is a victim of the big, mean Fed is preposterous. Maybe Shah and Alex Jones should take their baloney show on the road."
I'm shattered. I've been put upon. I feel victimized by these comments. Where's the safe harbor for journalists and bloggers? How can I be criticized so harshly and not feel victimized? Oh, the humanity!
Of course I'm kidding.
I subject myself to any and all comments when I exercise my freedom of speech. I keep a "Comments" section on my website so my readers can exercise their freedom of speech. I'm not a victim. I don't need any protection from free speech. Free speech is a two-way street.
The point is that I'm sick of the victim mentality. Are you fed up yet?