ThinkFast: March 20, 2009


Yesterday the House overwhelmingly (329-93) approved “a near total tax on bonuses paid this year to employees of the American International Group and other firms that have accepted large amounts of federal bailout funds.” Despite questions of legality, members of Congress said the 90 percent tax on bonuses for those making over $250,000 “was the quickest way” to quell Americans’ anger.

“At least 13 companies receiving billions of dollars in bailout money owe more than $220 million in unpaid federal taxes,” said Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) yesterday. Lewis, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee’s subcommittee on oversight, said that “two companies owed more than $100 million each.” “This is shameful; it is a disgrace,” said Lewis.

11.2 percent: The 2008 jobless rate for “veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and who are 18 and older.” This number rose 5 percent from the previous year and is “significantly higher than the corresponding 8.8% rate for non-veterans in the same age group.”

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) is threatening to “block the confirmation of Christopher Hill as U.S. ambassador to Iraq on the grounds that Mr. Hill misled him in promising to raise human rights in talks with North Korea.” The Cable reported yesterday that Gens. David Petreaus and Ray Odierno, as well as Defense Secretary Bob Gates are “frustrated by the delay in getting a U.S. ambassador confirmed and into place in Iraq.”

Former senator Tom Daschle pens an op-ed in today’s Washington Post, writing, “It was flattering to hear people say that I was somehow essential to health reform. But I always knew that wasn’t true.” Daschle argues that the “unwavering commitment to this issue” from President Obama, the “broad support” from Congress, and the urgency felt by the American public will make sure that reform is enacted.

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, has “projected deficits far higher than the Obama administration had calculated” for the President’s budget, “possibly as much as $1.6 trillion higher over the next 10 years.” The Congressional Budget Office “is expected to issue a similar assessment today.”

Attorney General Eric Holder issued new guidelines yesterday advising federal agencies to release records and information to the public unless foreseeable harm would result. Holder’s directive fleshes out “President Obama’s order of Jan. 21 to provide more government records to the public under the Freedom of Information Act, whenever their release is not prohibited by another law.”

The U.S. Senate on Thursday confirmed Elena Kagan as U.S. solicitor general by a vote of 61-31. Kagan will be the first woman to hold the job.

Yesterday, U.S. Dictrict Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly blocked a “last-minute rule enacted by President George W. Bush allowing visitors to national parks to carry concealed weapons.” Kollar-Kotelly wrote in a ruling that government officials had “‘abdicated their Congressionally-mandated obligation’ to evaluate environmental impacts” of the rule.

And finally: President Obama made headlines last month when he gave a gift of 25 DVDs of American movies to British PM Gordon Brown after Brown visited the White House. But it turns out the DVDs won’t even work. “[W]hen the PM settled down to begin watching them the other night, he found there was a problem. … The films only worked in DVD players made in North America and the words ‘wrong region‘ came up on his screen.”

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