ThinkFast: April 18, 2011

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said yesterday that Republicans will pass an increase in the debt ceiling “to prevent an unprecedented default on the nation’s debt.” He revealed that GOP leaders said at a White House meeting last week that “they recognized that they couldn’t play around with the government’s credit rating.”

As Americans rush to file their taxes today, IRS data shows that criminal tax prosecutions by the federal government hit a ten-year high last year, fueled in part by a crackdown on offshore tax evasion by wealthy Americans.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), a member of the Senate’s Gang of Six budget negotiators, said that Social Security reform “remains on the table.” Though Social Security doesn’t actually contribute to deficit spending, its inclusion “appears to be a concession by Democrats made in exchange for agreement to raise some revenue by Republicans.”

“Hedge funds are bounding back,” and total hedge fund “assets are approaching $2 trillion and are soon expected to surpass their peak in early 2008, according to industry analysts.” “Most managers had the best year of their life in 2009, but investors missed out. Now they’re coming back,” said one investment adviser.

President Obama is planning to ignore a provision in the recently passed government funding deal that would ban so-called White House “czars.” In a signing statement issued Friday, Obama said he’s not obligated to comply with the legislation, saying the president “has the prerogative” to hire whomever he wants.

Al Jazeera’s image in Washington is rapidly changing, as the channel, once demonized by the Bush administration, is gaining fans in the Obama Administration. “They are a really important media entity, and we have a really great relationship with them,” said Dana Shell Smith, the State Department’s deputy assistant secretary for international media engagement.

In his editorial column this morning, Paul Krugman rips the integrity of the Heritage Foundation’s reports. “Whenever there’s something the G.O.P. doesn’t like — say, environmental protection — Heritage can be counted on to produce a report, based on no economic model anyone else recognizes, claiming that this policy would cause huge job losses,” Krugman writes.

And finally: Politicians do lots of unusual things to gain recognition and ingratiate themselves with voters, but in Finland, members of the Pirate Party found a new one — posing naked for a photo promoting their candidacies for Parliament. Lacking money to run more tradition advertisements, the candidates are using the photo to promote the “naked truth.”

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