ThinkFast: October 8, 2008

The Congressional Budget Office’s top budget analyst said that the prolonged downturn in the stock market “has wiped out about $2 trillion in Americans’ retirement savings in the past 15 months, a blow that could force workers to stay on the job longer than planned, rein in spending and possibly further stall an economy reliant on consumer dollars.”

“The federal budget deficit hit a new record in the just-completed 2008 budget year under the latest estimates from the CBO. The record $438 billion shortfall for the budget year that ended last week is up from $162 billion posted last year. The previous record of $413 billion was posted in 2004.” Next year’s deficit was recently projected to be as high as $600 billion.

Nearly one in six American homeowners owe “more on a mortgage than the home is worth, raising the possibility of a rise in defaults — the very misfortune that touched off the credit crisis last year.” So many homeowners “under water” is “likely to mean more eventual foreclosures” and increased pressure on an economy already in a downturn.

Gen. David Petraeus, the soon-to-be commander of U.S. Central Command (not the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs), speaks at the conservative Heritage Foundation today at 11 a.m. ET. You can watch live online here.

On the trail today: Barack Obama will attend a rally at the Indiana state fairgrounds. Joe Biden will host rallies at the University of South Florida in Tampa and at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers. John McCain and Sarah Palin will campaign in Bethlehem, PA.

A U.S. military investigation has concluded that American airstrikes on Aug. 22 in an Afghan village killed 30 civilians — far more than the five to seven casualties that American commanders there has previously acknowledged. The Afghan government has insisted that 90 civilians died in that attack.

The Treasury Department is moving quickly this week to “start outsourcing the management of up to $700 billion in troubled securities, using special contracting authorities that enable it to retain private portfolio managers, custodians and other financial services consultants without following standard acquisition procedures.”

Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte said Tuesday that “American and Iraqi negotiators were close to resolving issues” that have kept to two sides from an agreement “governing the continued presence of American troops in the country.”

In a stinging critique of Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK), columnist Tom Friedman compares her energy “expertise” to that of the king of Saudia Arabia: “At least the king of Saudi Arabia, in advocating ‘drill baby drill,’ is serving his country’s interests — by prolonging America’s dependence on oil,” Friedman writes. “My problem with Palin is that she is also serving his country’s interests — by prolonging America’s dependence on oil. That’s not patriotic.”

And finally: Let’s learn judo with Vladimir Putin. After being pictured fishing shirtless and “shooting a tiger in the Siberian forest,” the Russian Prime Minister has now released a 90-minute DVD instructing young people in the Japanese martial art of judo. In the video, Putin, a black belt champion, talks “about the history and philosophy of judo” and demonstrates “moves against a practice partner.”

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