Government Corruption - Goldman VP Name Change

A former Goldman Sachs VP named Peter Simonyi (who previously worked for the SEC) ended up working as a top staffer for Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) on the Oversight Committee under the name Peter Haller. He went on to argue against regulations on Wall Street.


Secretary Gates Aims to Cut the Growth of Military Spending

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced on Monday deep cuts to the rate of growth of military spending as the nation enters a period of belt tightening. The cuts include closing a major military command, restricting the use of outside contractors and reducing the number of generals and admirals across the armed forces and are aimed at offsetting the growth of military spending.

From the New York Times:

Mr. Gates said he had ordered a 10 percent reduction in spending on contractors who provide support services to the military, including intelligence-related contracts, and placed a freeze on the number of workers in the office of the secretary of defense, other Pentagon supervisory agencies and the headquarters of the military’s combat commands.

Mr. Gates, who has been promising to cut the Pentagon’s day-to-day budget in order to meet the continuing costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the face of tight fiscal constraints and mounting domestic spending, placed a cap on the number of generals, admirals and senior civilian positions across the Pentagon and the military. He said the Defense Department should try to cut at least 50 general and admiral posts and 150 senior civilian positions over the next two years.

The most pronounced change, in terms of the number of jobs to be eliminated in one blow, was his plan to close the military’s Joint Forces Command, in Norfolk, Va.

The command includes about 2,800 military and civilian positions supported by 3,000 contractors at an annual cost of $240 million. Its responsibilities, which includes programs to force the armed services to work together on the battlefield, will be reassigned, mostly to the military’s Joint Staff.

While large headquarters have been combined and realigned over the years, Pentagon officials could not recall a time in recent history when a major command was shut down and vanished off the books.

Still the cuts outlined by Secretary Gates do not represent an actual decline in year-to-year total spending. The Pentagon’s budget will keep growing in the long run at 1 percent a year after inflation, plus the costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which are not included.

Mr. Gates is calling for the Pentagon’s budget to keep growing in the long run at 1 percent a year after inflation, plus the costs of the war. It has averaged an inflation-adjusted growth rate of 7 percent a year over the last decade (nearly 12 percent a year without adjusting for inflation), including the costs of the wars. So far, Mr. Obama has asked Congress for an increase in total spending next year of 2.2 percent, to $708 billion — 6.1 percent higher than the peak under the Bush administration.

Mr. Gates is arguing that if the Pentagon budget is allowed to keep growing by 1 percent a year, he can find 2 percent or 3 percent in savings in the department’s bureaucracy to reinvest in the military — and that will be sufficient to meet national security needs. In one of the paradoxes of Washington budget battles, Mr. Gates, even as he tries to forestall deeper cuts, is trying to kill weapons programs he says the military does not need over the objections of members of Congress who want to protect jobs.

Over all, Mr. Gates has ordered the armed services and the Pentagon’s agencies to find $100 billion in spending cuts and efficiencies over the next five years: $7 billion for 2012, growing to $37 billion annually by 2016.

At the moment, the administration projects that the Pentagon’s base budget and the extra war spending will peak at $708 billion in the coming fiscal year, though analysts say it is likely that the Pentagon will then need at least $30 billion more in supplemental war financing.

Any takers on a bet that Charles Krauthammer and William Kristol will call these proposals irresponsible?

Just to throw a few hard numbers at you but US military spending now accounts for 4.7 percent of US GDP. During the Bush Administration, US military spending average 3.5 percent of GDP. Before the 9/11 attacks, US military spending was just 2.9 percent of GDP. Military spending last topped 4 percent of GDP in 1991 during the First Gulf War and in the closing hours of the Cold War.

The United States accounts for 47 percent of the world’s total military spending, however the United States share of the global GDP is about 21 percent. Still it is likely that conservative analysts from the Heritage Foundation will rant and rave about Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid consuming 8.7 percent of GDP.

Quick Hits

 Here are some other items making news today.

Shirley Sherrod, the former USDA official in charge of rural development in Georgia, will sue Andrew Breitbart who edited her remarks at a NAACP Freedom Fund dinner to appear as if she were making racist remarks when in fact the opposite was true. Mrs. Sherrod made the announcement Thursday in San Diego at the National Association of Black Journalists annual convention. More from USA Today.

Ian Welsh wrote earlier this week on the divide he witnessed at Netroots Nation. On the one hand, "about half the people there are some combination of angry, disappointed and bitter with Democrats in general and Obama in particular" and there are those "folks who would characterize themselves, in general, as hard nosed pragmatists and 'realists'." Today, Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic castigates those who talk "about disappointment and disillusionment" in an article entitled The Stupidity of Liberal Apathy.

The Miami Herald has published a poll from Quinnipiac University showing millionaire outsiders in their first run for office besting established career politicians in both the GOP Governor primary and in the Democratic Senate primary.

Republican Rick Scott holds an 11 percentage-point lead over Attorney General Bill McCollum in the GOP race for governor, a Quinnipiac University poll finds.

In the main statewide race for Democrats -- the U.S. Senate contest -- Jeff Greene is beating U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek by 10 percentage points, the poll shows.

Neither Greene nor Scott have held elected office before. McCollum has held or run for office for the past 30 years. Meek has been in Congress and the Legislature for more than a decade.

Both political newcomers have relied on a simple formula to best their rivals: Spend millions on television ads and watch your poll numbers rise. Greene has outspent Meek by an estimated $6 million. Scott has poured an estimated $30 million into his race, doubling what McCollum has spent. ``Money matters. You can go from nobody knowing you to becoming a front-runner if you spend enough,'' said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. ``That's not to say it's only money,'' Brown added. ``The messages that Scott and Greene have been able to send to voters through record television ad spending have been effective.'' But Brown cautions that ``anything can happen'' leading up to the Aug. 24 primary. Voters haven't completely made up their minds. And many don't know for whom they'll vote.

In the Democratic Senate race, more than a third of likely voters are undecided. And a majority -- 54 percent -- say they might change their minds.

In the Republican governor's race, 23 percent of likely voters are undecided; 43 percent say they might change their minds; 55 percent say their minds are made up.

GOP Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina announced Wednesday night that he is considering introducing a constitutional amendment that would change existing law to no longer grant citizenship to the children of immigrants born in the United States. The full story from Politico.

Samuel and Charles Wyly , two billionaire brothers from Dallas who founded Sterling Software and who are large donors to conservative causes, were charged by the SEC with conducting an extensive securities fraud including insider trading. The story in the New York Times.

Weekly Audit: Why Elizabeth Warren Should Head New Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Bumped from the diaries with timestamp updated and fold added.

This piece makes good arguments for putting Warren in charge of the CFPB, against Tim Geithner's wishes. I would encourage you to sign this petition from Bold Progressives after signing. Usually petitions don't amount to much (a handful of signatures on a well-known or popular issue? Please), but in this case, they've already got 160k names for an obscure topic. Now that's democracy in action. - Nathan

by Zach Carter, Media Consortium blogger

With the Wall Street reform bill finally cleared through Congress, activists and intellectuals are pushing hard to make sure that this bill isn’t the last word Congress utters about Big Finance. We need deeper and more robust reforms, but it’s also critical to ensure that the new bill is implemented as effectively as possible. Part of that means appointing officials with a proven record as robust reformers—people like Elizabeth Warren.

Too-big-to-fail lives on

What more do we need to keep Big Finance from ravaging the middle class? As Stacy Mitchell notes for Yes! Magazine, the bill Congress just signed off on doesn’t really address the core problems posed by our out-of-control banking system. Too-big-to-fail is alive and well, and lawmakers must push to break up the megabanks during the next legislative cycle or risk another economic calamity. Mitchell writes:

“Since the collapse, giant banks have only grown bigger and more powerful, and less responsive to the needs of the real economy. While the financial reform bill includes several worthwhile measures, it will not set the industry right or entail a fundamental alteration of its scale and structure.”

There are still some great reforms in the current round of legislation, among them the creation of a strong new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to write and enforce rules on mortgages, credit cards, overdraft fees and more. The first person to head this new regulatory body will be tremendously important to its future. They will set the tone for the bureau’s operations and establish a culture that will define it for years to come.

There's more...

A Great First Step for Wall Street Reform

In my last post, I cited a New York Times story that indicated that most economists think the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is helping to create jobs and stimulate our economy. Earlier this week, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office confirmed the economists' findings.  

According to the CBO, in the third quarter of this year alone, 600 thousand to 1.6 million jobs were directly created or saved by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, reducing our country's unemployment rate by 0.3 to 0.9 percent. This is an especially important finding for my home state of California, which at 12.3 percent, suffers from the third worst unemployment rate in the nation.

More solutions over the flip...

There's more...


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