May 4, 2012 Edition

In this week’s edition … Administration, Congress, Economy, Health Care, Other News, For Your Amusement

Administration.  Late last week, the President issued an Executive Order that seeks to protect military families and veterans from aggressive and deceptive recruiting by higher education institutions (especially for-profit colleges) seeking their military benefits.  The New York Times wrote about it. 

President Obama visited with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on April 30 and on May 1, he flew to Afghanistan where he gave a speech in which he outlined his plan to end America’s involvement in the war in Afghanistan (speech/article). 

Congress.  On April 27, the House passed legislation that would keep rates on subsidized undergraduate loans at 3.4 percent through July 1, 2013 (article/see April 27 Edition for background).  The Senate is expected to hold a vote on its version of the legislation during the week of May 7. 

During the week of April 30, both the House and Senate held District/State Work Periods.  When the Senate reconvenes on Monday, National Journal reports that “floor action is also possible on the year’s first “minibus” appropriations package, combing three bills recently cleared by the Appropriations Committee, Iran sanctions, cybersecurity, Export-Import Bank reauthorization, flood insurance, FDA reauthorization, and a small business tax cut. Democrats are also eyeing a “paycheck fairness” measure to protect women from employer retaliation for asking about how male employees are paid. That bill could renew partisan squabbling over women’s issues.”

Other Congressional News. 

  • The House is not expected to take up postal reform anytime soon even though the Postal Service has set a May 15th deadline for closing post offices. 
  • Despite a massive agenda expected for the lame duck session, The Hill reports that lawmakers are already talking of punting big issues to 2013.
  • The Hill reports that, while House Republicans are going to push for the extension of the Bush-era tax rates, they do not plan on finding offsets for them, which will add hundreds of billions to the deficit and could “erase the deficit reduction they have achieved since winning their majority in the chamber in 2010.”
  • Politico reports that Congress is unlikely to take action against any of the airline mergers, even though customers are annoyed about ticket prices and service.
  • Politico wrote about a new report that states Congress is more polarized than at any time since Reconstruction and may get more politicized.  But a former Senate Parliamentarian has two suggestions on how to improve the Washington. 
  • The New York Times profiled Rep. Tim Ryan (R-WI-1), the chair of the House Budget Committee and a possible Vice-President candidate.

Economy.  The Washington Post wrote that one of the major impediments to the economic recovery is the significant layoffs to state and local governments as a result of budget cuts.  From the article, “Early on, Obama fought for aid that saved hundreds of thousands of these jobs, economists say. Yet a year later, when his economic advisers said another large round of aid was critical for the health of the economy, Obama declined to make it a key part of his agenda… Since the beginning of his term, state and local governments have shed 611,000 employees -including 196,000 educators – according to government statistics. Unlike the recovery in private-sector employment that Obama and his reelection campaign often cite – with businesses adding 4 million jobs since hiring hit its low point in 2010 – the jobs crisis at the state and local level has continued throughout his term.”

Other Economic News. 

  • Bloomberg reports that the U.S. economy has performed slightly better after its recent crisis than other economies with a financial crisis.  It also reports that drivers pay at least $15 billion a year in car repairs caused by bad roads.
  • Reuters reports that two top Federal Reserve officials said they see no need for the central bank to ease monetary policy any further.
  • The Federal Reserve found that fees charged by banks for use of their debit cards have been roughly halved since new price caps were put in place (report/article). 
  • USA Today notes that police are encountering more domestic violence related to the sluggish economy.
  • Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner had to change his signature so that it is legible on the dollar bill.  NPR has the story here

Health Care. 

  • The New York Times reports that the total healthcare spending nationwide grew at the slowest rate in more than 50 years in 2009 and 2010.  But Politico reported on a Commonwealth study that found “the United States spends more on health care than a dozen other industrialized countries, but our health system’s quality isn’t necessarily better. The nearly $8,000 per American spent on health care in 2009 “dwarfs” other industrialized nations.”
  • According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the health care reform bill has saved seniors $3.4 billion on prescription drugs (report/article). 

Other News.

  • Politico reported, “The Defense Department is asking Congress to finance a multibillion-dollar initiative to improve the way the military uses energy.”  DoD has set aside “$1.4 billion in its 2013 budget request to improve its energy use in combat zones, 90 percent of which will go toward energy efficiency.”  And the reason why this is important?  “The Department spent approximately $15 billion last year on fuel for its military operations, and a $1 increase in the price of a barrel of oil costs the country $130 million in new fuel costs, according to figures supplied by the White House.  And the Marine Corps estimates that a solider is killed or wounded on one out of every 50 fuel supply convoys in Afghanistan.”
  • The country’s largest rental car company, Enterprise, is fighting legislation that would tighten rules that stop companies from renting out cars under a recall notice (article).
  • Reuters writes that November’s presidential election will come down to 10 states: North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, Florida, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Iowa, Arizona and New Hampshire.

For Your Amusement. Usually it is said that owners look like their pets but apparently some Members of Congress look like Muppets. 

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