ThinkFast: January 15, 2010

David Axelrod

In a Washington Post op-ed, White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod rebukes Karl Rove today for saying the Obama administration “will run up more debt by October than Bush did in eight years.” “The Bush administration’s swing from surpluses to deficits added more debt in its eight years than all the previous administrations in the history of our republic combined,” wrote Axelrod, noting that Obama has been more successful than Bush in winning spending cuts.

President Obama yesterday sharply condemned the banks that are lobbying against a financial crisis responsibility fee while also planning to pay out big bonuses to their top executives. “Instead of sending a phalanx of lobbyists to fight this proposal, or employing an army of lawyers and accountants to help evade the fee, I suggest you might want to consider simply meeting your responsibilities,” said Obama.

JP Morgan Chase reported that it earned $11.7 billion last year, which is “more than double its profit in 2008. … The bank earned $3.3 billion in the fourth quarter alone.” The bank has also “earmarked $26.9 billion to compensate its workers, 18 percent higher than in 2008 much of which will now be paid as bonuses.”

Negotiations between unions and the Democratic leadership on an excise tax on some insurance plans resulted in a new deal that would exempt “union contracts from the tax until 2018, five years beyond the start date for other workers.” The “changes mean that the tax will raise about $90 billion over 10 years, down from $149 billion in the Senate bill, labor officials said.”

A new Economic Policy Institute study has found that unemployment among African-Americans is projected to reach a 25-year high this year, “with the national rate soaring to 17.2 percent and the rates in five states exceeding 20 percent.” Throughout the recession, “the unemployment rate has grown much faster for African Americans and Latinos than for whites.”

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd (D-CT) is “considering scrapping the idea of creating a Consumer Financial Protection Agency.” Dodd is said to be willing to abandon the initiative “as a way to secure a bipartisan deal on the legislation.” Republicans would have to agree “to create a beefed-up consumer-protection division within another federal agency.”

The Obama administration is considering a criminal trial in Washington, D.C. “for the Guantanamo Bay detainee suspected of planning the bombing of a Bali nightclub that killed 202 people.” “Other terrorism trials also may occur in Washington and New York City under a proposal being discussed within the Obama administration, according to U.S. officials briefed on the plan, who spoke to the AP.”

Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ), who entered Congress as part of the 1994 “Republican Revolution,” announced yesterday that he will not seek reelection. The move took his colleagues by surprise but Shadegg said in a statement that “[a]fter 16 years, it is time for me to take my life in a new direction and to pursue my commitment to fight for freedom in a different venue.”

In anticipation of President Obama’s campaign to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the Pentagon “is stepping up internal discussions on how gay men and lesbians might be able to serve openly in the armed services.” Officials are preparing for possible Senate hearings on the issue later this month.

And finally: “Hope — the Obama Musical Story” is opening in Frankfurt, Germany on Jan. 17 and will feature “love songs sung by the President to his wife, Michelle,” “duets with Hillary Clinton,” and “big brassy numbers by Republican losers Sarah Palin and John McCain.”

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