ThinkFast: February 6, 2009


The Treasury Department’s $700 billion financial sector bailout program is shortchanging taxpayers by about $78 billion. Treasury has “received bank assets worth about $176 billion in exchange for capital purchases of $254 billion under the Troubled Asset Relief Program.” Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) said, “These are massive handouts to favored institutions to try to make up with taxpayer money the mistakes they made with investor money.”

President Obama will name the members of his Economic Recovery Advisory Board today, which will be led by former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker. The panel, which is modeled after the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, will include businesspeople, labor experts and academic economists. Obama adviser Austan Goolsbee will serve as staff director and chief economist for the 15-member board.

A bipartisan group of about 20 senators spent yesterday in a committee room on Capitol Hill to candidly discuss “how to broker a political bailout of the economic recovery legislation.” But “notably absent” from the negotiations was Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) “who has dug in against the stimulus package and on Thursday lost an effort to rewrite it on the floor.”

The country’s largest labor and Hispanic groups are ratcheting up the confirmation fight over Labor Secretary nominee Hilda Solis. “Enough is enough, the gloves are coming off on Friday,” said one official with the AFL-CIO. ThinkProgress has already been engaging in the battle — check out our posts here, here, and here.

“A growing number of states are running out of cash to pay unemployment benefits, a sign of how far social-welfare systems are being stretched by the swelling ranks of the jobless in the deteriorating U.S. economy,” the Wall Street Journal reports. Seven states emptied their unemployment-insurance trust funds in recent months while “another 11 states are in jeopardy of depleting reserves by year’s end.”

“We are writing to affirm our continuing commitment to enacting comprehensive health care reform this year,” Sens. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Max Baucus (D-MT) wrote in a letter to President Obama yesterday. “As you have emphasized, we must act now.”

“Facing a furor in Parliament, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband all but confirmed on Thursday that the U.S. had threatened to break off intelligence sharing if details were revealed about the alleged torture of a British resident held at the Guantanamo Bay military prison.” The U.S. embassy denied threatening the British, but a spokesman said that even with a new president, “I don’t think the position on the confidentiality principle will change.”

The New York Times writes, “With the recession on the brink of becoming the longest in the postwar era, a milestone may be at hand: Women are poised to surpass men on the nation’s payrolls, taking the majority for the first time in American history.” Eighty-two percent of the job losses have hit men, although women still earn less than men in the workforce.

President Obama’s stimulus plan will pump $1 billion to states to help them hire more police through the Community Orienting Police Services (COPS), a program “all but eliminated” by Bush. “In police hiring, nearly 100 percent of the money goes to creating jobs,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said, noting that “many police departments are already reporting increases in crime and cuts in their budgets and their forces.”

And finally: The Washington Post reports, “With permission from the Secret Service, the National Park Service has been in hot pursuit of a pack of raccoons spotted roaming the manicured grounds near the White House.” These critters are most likely just “passing through” and “looking for food,” according to the Humane Society’s John Hadidian. President Calvin Coolidge, however, had a pet raccoon named Rebecca, who “often sat on his shoulder or was cuddled by the first lady.”

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