ThinkFast: November 23, 2009

Paul Krugman

The federal government faces “a trifecta of headaches: a mountain of new debt, a balloon of short-term borrowings that come due in the months ahead, and interest rates that are sure to climb back to normal as soon as the Federal Reserve decides that the emergency has passed.” Still, the NYT’s Paul Krugman warns that a phantom debt menace could hinder our nation’s economic recovery.

The New York Post reports that JPMorganChase CEO Jamie Dimon is being rumored as a potential replacement for Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. People familiar with Dimon’s thinking said he “would love to serve his country,” and in recent weeks Dimon has had a noticeably higher profile in Washington.

“A deal to house Guantanamo Bay detainees” at a prison in Thomson, IL “could bring nearly 3,000 jobs to the area,” according to White House analysis. “There are too many people out of work,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL). “They need paychecks.”

The Afghan government and the U.S. military “have begun a fledgling drive to lure Taliban foot soldiers away from the battlefield by offering them job opportunities and protection.” The program “is conceived as a bottom-up, grass-roots effort” similar to “the Awakening” in Iraq. 

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told the press over the weekend that “an additional income tax to the upper brackets” could be used to fund a troop surge in Afghanistan. House Appropriations Chairman Rep. David Obey (D-WI) also warned that without a war surtax, “there ain’t going to be no money for nothing.”

In a effort to “mend some of Iraq’s sectarian wounds,” Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi has proposed that the government offer Shiite-Sunni couples a $2,000 “gift” if they get married. “The idea behind this project is that promoting love and socializing between Iraq’s people is good for the country,” an al-Hashemi aide said.

Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) told The Providence Journal that the Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin has banned him from receiving Communion, citing his support for abortion rights. “The bishop instructed me not to take Communion and said that he has instructed the diocesan priests not to give me Communion,” Kennedy told the paper.

House Democrats leading the charge for comprehensive immigration reform” are suggesting that they will take action without the support of Republicans in order to avoid passing a watered-down bill. “Our bill will be to immigration reform what the public option was to health care reform,” Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) said.

“Recruiting Elmo and Big Bird,” President Obama will announce a campaign today to encourage students “to pursue science, technology, engineering and math.” With the help of “companies and nonprofit groups,” the campaign, called Educate to Innovate, “will focus mainly on activities outside the classroom.”

And finally: Don’t mess with Martha. On Saturday, Martha Stewart waded into politics and spoke out about Sarah Palin, calling the former Alaska governor “a dangerous person” she “wouldn’t watch…if you paid me.” “She’s so confused,” Stewart said. “Anyone in government like that is a real problem.”

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