Item: The Washington Post for March 31 reported: “The billions of dollars spent in U.S. aid to Afghanistan over the past seven years have been largely wasted, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday. ‘For those of you who have been on the ground in Afghanistan, you have seen with your own eyes that a lot of these aid programs don’t work,’ she said. ‘There are so many problems with them. There are problems of design, there are problems of staffing, there are problems of implementation, there are problems of accountability. You just go down the line.’ Clinton called the amount of money spent without results ‘heartbreaking.’”
Dave Ramsey on Thursday evening, April 23, held a town hall-style meeting in Oklahoma City that was webcast to about 6,000 sites, mostly churches, across the country. Ramsey, who has carved out a professional niche as a Christian financial adviser, hosts his own syndicated radio show and also regularly appears on the Fox Business Network. Creator of the Financial Peace University, Ramsey encourages a life free of debt and living within one's means. This involves not using a credit card, having an emergency fund in the bank to pay for three-to-six months of expenses, and buying only things you can afford.
President Obama on April 10 emerged from a high-level meeting with his economic team and proclaimed there were “glimmers of hope across the economy.” He believed some of those “glimmers” included his stimulus program and infrastructure work that he labeled “progress toward getting the economy back on track.” Nevertheless, he was forced to admit that unemployment had hit a 25-year high of 8.5 percent in March, and many Americans are still losing their homes and jobs.
The hundreds of thousands of Americans who attended Tax Day Tea Parties on April 15 may now be asking themselves, "What's next?" After all, freedom from the unjust taxes of King George III did not end automatically after the original Boston Tea Party. The colonists had much hard work ahead of them.
Next up for the federal government: the credit card industry. Having already thrown trillions in taxpayer dollars at the banking sector, and having moved to nationalize several of the nation’s largest banks by buying up preferred shares of stock, the Obama Administration now has the credit card sector in its sights.
The Obama administration is still thinking bank nationalization. In the latest twist to the saga of troubled American megabanks, the New York Times reported on April 19 that administration officials are considering converting bailout loans to the 19 biggest U.S. banks into shares of common stock, allowing them to stretch further the estimated $134.5 billion remaining of the $700 billion bank bailout fund passed by Congress last October.
Neil Barofsky, special inspector general for the TARP, informed Congress April 21 that he has opened 20 criminal investigations and six audits in connection with improper dispensation of bailout funds under TARP. The $700 billion TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) has a “great inherent danger” for fraud, and he says in his 250-page report to Congress that losses from fraud could end up exceeding $300 billion.
Speaking on April 20 in a conference call with reporters after returning from the Summit of the Americas, U.S. Trade Representative Ronald Kirk indicated that the administration has no plans to reopen negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). But he also said that NAFTA could be strengthened with labor and environmental standards, without the need to reopen negotiations. During last year's presidential campaign, Barack Obama supported reforming NAFTA, but strengthening NAFTA was undoubtedly not the kind of reform many of his supporters had in mind, particularly those economically devastated by job losses caused by NAFTA.
The BBC reported on April 14 that one city in Egypt, Damietta, still has zero unemployment in these difficult economic times. That’s surprising, but what makes this even more surprising is that the city specializes in manufacturing furniture, often high-end furniture, for export. This isn’t just micro-manufacturing in a small town either. It is estimated that there are over 60,000 furniture shops in the city.
On April 15, the deadline for U.S. taxpayers to mail their income tax returns, hundreds of thousands of Americans from coast to coast participated in around 2,000 nationally inspired but locally organized "Tea Party" protests. Fox News featured live TV broadcasts from four cities — San Antonio, Sacramento, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. — featuring Fox personalities Glenn Beck, Neil Cavuto, Sean Hannity, and Greta Van Susteren.
Suppose we had conducted a national opinion poll a few months ago to canvass Americans on their opinions of the G20. Most respondents, it is probably safe to say, would not have had the slightest idea whether you were asking them about a new smart phone, the trendiest fashion footwear, or the latest fat-burner diet drink.