There was a post like this a while back, but after listening to the President’s remarks this morning and then sitting through some rather inane inquiries from the White House Press Gaggle — how about this: We put a moratorium on questions that begin, “Mr. President… The _____ are saying that ____ and how would you respond?”
First, this makes the person asking the question sound lazy. The easiest question in the world is something someone else writes for you. A right wing bloviator of some infamy writes — “The president had control of both houses of Congress during his first two years, and the economy didn’t bounce back.” And, then the intrepid reporter asks, “How do you respond?”
Step two, now the reporter sounds uninformed. The President’s party had control of the House, and titular control of the Senate. A majority is sufficient to establish Committee appointments in the Senate, BUT it is insufficient to overcome 137 Republican filibusters. [Senate] The question also indicates that somehow we were supposed to rebound enthusiastically from the worse Crash since 1929, all while some $50 trillion of global wealth was erased by the Wall Street casino. Not to mention the $7 trillion lost in U.S. equity wealth, and another $6 trillion lost in the housing debacle. [CBS]
Thus, in the interest of assisting a more energetic, more informed, Fourth Estate, here’s a humble offering of possible questions:
#1. Background: In 2006 JPMorganChase hired a trading manager who rescinded the company’s guidance that traders exit any position in which there were $20 million in losses, and in February 2012 the firm adopted an index comprised of 125 credit default swaps on investment grade entities. By April 5, 2012 the London Whale was involved in position so large that he was moving prices in the $10 trillion credit market. As of May 18, 2012 JPMorgan’s losses were calculated at $3 billion and rising.
Question: What actions have the SEC, CFTC and other regulators taken which might control the gambling in credit markets exemplified by JPMorgan? And, are U.S. capital requirements sufficient to protect American investors from fall out?
Question: What progress has been made by the CFTC and other regulators to assure the investing public that credit default swaps (and the indices based thereon) are transparent enough so that risk can be properly assessed and debacles like the one at JPMorgan avoided?
#2. Background: From the Bureau of Economic Analysis, “the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States — increased at an annual rate of 1.9 percent in the first quarter of 2012 (that is, from the fourth quarter to the first quarter), according to the “second” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the fourth quarter of 2011, real GDP increased 3.0 percent. ” (May 31, 2012)
Question: If public sector hiring has decreased of late, and the Department of Labor is predicting, “Slower population growth and a decreasing overall labor force participation rate are expected to lead to slower civilian labor force growth from 2010 to 2020: 0.7 percent annually, compared with 0.8 percent for 2000-10, and 1.3 percent for 1990-2000. The projected 0.7 percent growth rate will lead to a civilian labor force increase of 10.5 million by 2020. (See table 1.)” Then, what role does public sector hiring play in the full recovery of our consumer based economy?
Question: If private sector worker compensation costs (wages and benefits) increased by 2.1% YOY, and public sector worker compensation costs increased 1.5% YOY, [DoL] and if this trend continues will this constitute a drag on consumer spending?
#3. Background: As of January 2007, the GAO reported that our national transportation infrastructure were at risk in terms of financing and capacity, and that funding sources were eroding just as investment was needed to expand capacity.
Question: What inroads into this imbalance might have been made by ARRA projects? What employment advances might be made if funding was available for contracts to improve air traffic and transportation facilities? For highway improvements?
Question: In terms of our national parks, the GAO reported in 2006: “Each of the 12 park units reported their daily operations allocations were not sufficient to address increases in operating costs, such as salaries and new Park Service requirements. In response, officials reported that they either eliminated or reduced services, or relied on other authorized sources to pay operating expenses that have historically been paid with allocations for daily operations.” What should Congress and the Administration do to prevent this trend from continuing, and what might the economic benefits be in the private sector if sufficient funding were available for the operation of our national parks?
#4. Background: “During the 2011 legislative sessions, states across the country passed measures to make it harder for Americans – particularly African-Americans, the elderly, students and people with disabilities – to exercise their fundamental right to cast a ballot. Over thirty states considered laws that would require voters to present government-issued photo ID in order to vote. Studies suggest that up to 11 percent of American citizens lack such ID, and would be required to navigate the administrative burdens to obtain it or forego the right to vote entirely.” [ACLU]
Question: What actions are currently being taken by the Department of Justice to confirm every eligible American citizen’s right to vote?
Thank you. You’re welcome.