Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced on December 21 that beginning this spring the federal government is going to impose hefty fines on airlines that keep passengers stranded on the tarmac without food, water, or letting them get off the plane. LaHood called this “President Obama's Passenger Bill of Rights.”
Ford Motor Company disclosed on December 21 that it is offering to buy out 41,000 United Auto Workers (UAW) union members with early retirement deals as the company attempts to reduce payroll costs and return to profitability by 2011.
Chinese officials have once again publicly stated their intention to buy less U.S. Treasury debt, according to the December 18 Shanghai Daily newspaper. "The U.S. current account deficit is falling as residents' savings increase, so its trade turnover is falling, which means the US is supplying fewer dollars to the rest of the world," Zhu Min, deputy governor of the People's Bank of China, said. "The world does not have so much money to buy more U.S. Treasuries."
The Federal Reserve decided on December 16 to keep interest rates at historic lows near zero percent. The Fed released a statement declaring that even though there are signs of improvement, economic conditions “are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels of the federal funds rate for an extended period.”
With the expiration of one of the most turbulent years, economically speaking, in American history, it is not surprising that Time magazine has recognized Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke as Man of the Year. In an era of unbridled optimism gone bust, the ubiquitous media presence of the unassuming Princeton economist who has become — in Time’s panegyrical prose — “our mild-mannered economic overlord” and “the most powerful nerd on the planet” would make Bernanke a shoo-in for such recognition.