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Chase Bank Limits Cash Withdrawals, Bans International... Before you read this report, remember to sign up to for 100% free stock alerts Chase Bank has moved to limit cash withdrawals while banning business customers from sending...

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Richemont chairman Johann Rupert to take 'grey gap... Billionaire 62-year-old to take 12 months off from Cartier and Montblanc luxury goods groupRichemont's chairman and founder Johann Rupert is to take a year off from September, leaving management of the...

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Cambodia: aftermath of fatal shoe factory collapse... Workers clear rubble following the collapse of a shoe factory in Kampong Speu, Cambodia, on Thursday

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Spate of recent shock departures by 50-something CEOs While the rising financial rewards of running a modern multinational have been well publicised, executive recruiters say the pressures of the job have also been ratcheted upOn approaching his 60th birthday...

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UK Uncut loses legal challenge over Goldman Sachs tax... While judge agreed the deal was 'not a glorious episode in the history of the Revenue', he ruled it was not unlawfulCampaign group UK Uncut Legal Action has lost its high court challenge over the legality...

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US immigration reform could improve economy, says conservative thinktank

Category : Business

Analysis ahead of new legislation cites greater birth rate and labour force participation to upend anti-immigration arguments

An overhaul of immigration laws could boost economic growth and cut the federal budget deficit, according to new analysis by a conservative thinktank.

The report by the American Action Forum, published on Tuesday, is part of growing strategy by high-profile conservative groups to deploy economic arguments in the battle for immigration reform.

It challenges the view put forward by some conservatives that immigrants would take jobs from US citizens, drive down wages and would add to the deficit by the need for government assistance.

Legislation on comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to citizenship, by the bipartisan “gang of eight” senators could be available as early as this week, according to senator Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York.

Research published on Tuesday by the AAF, cites the greater birth rate, labour force participation and entrepreneurial bent among immigrants compared to native-born Americans as key factors that could raise gross domestic product growth by a percentage point every year over the next decade. In what it acknowledges are “ballpark” estimates, it said: “A benchmark immigration reform would raise the pace of economic growth by nearly a percentage point over the near term, raise GDP per capita by over $1,500 and reduce the cumulative federal deficit by over $2.5tn.”

The analysis, by Douglas Holtz Eakin, an economist and president of the AAF, argues that in the absence of immigration, the population and overall economy would decline as a result of low US birth rates. It argues that immigration reform should be evaluated in economic terms and compares the US unfavourably with the UK, Canada and Australia, countries which focused their immigration reforms on economic growth.

Groups such as Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform and the Hispanic Leadership Forum, which aired ads in March promoting an immigration overhaul, have been gearing up for the next critical phase of the immigration debate, and some are using similar messages to that of the AAF.

Norquist, in an interview with Politico last week, said: “We’re doing it to make sure … that Republican congressman and senators feel comfortable.”

“They look out and hear the guys on talk radio, and they go: ‘Oh my goodness, everybody out there thinks this. That’s not necessarily where I was, but I guess if everybody thinks that way, I’ll either be quiet or go along, or I’ll listen to them so they can convince me.’ They’re now hearing the other side of the issue.”

In addition to the proposals for immigration reform to be put forward by the “gang of eight” senators, a bipartisan group from the House is working on its own version.

If the Senate and House bills pass their respective chambers, they would have to be reconciled and a final version voted on, before being sent to President Barack Obama for signing into law.

David Stockman’s dystopia

Category : Stocks

Ronald Reagan’s former budget director talks about his new book, what Republicans got wrong and why private equity is the great deformation.

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Barack Obama: ‘These cuts are not smart’ – video

Category : Business

The US president makes clear his disappointment that the sequester will go ahead

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Scale of sequestration cuts becomes clear as Obama attacks Republicans

Category : Business

Office of Management and Budget report outlines extent of $85bn cuts triggered by failure to reach deal by Friday deadline

The scale and reach of the sequestration spending cuts that will hit the US has been laid bare by government officials who warn that the order for the cuts, which was signed by president Barack Obama late Friday, would be “deeply destructive” to the economy and national security.

The Office of Management and Budget has compiled an official report on the breakdown of the $85bn cuts package, which was triggered by a failure to reach a broader political consensus on deficit reduction. The document reveals a detailed list of how the cuts will hurt spending at every level of government. It shows that research spending at the Department of Agriculture will be hit by $55m of cuts, while $150m will go from the immigration system at the Department of Homeland Security.

The long list of cuts includes relatively smaller sums – like $1m being lost for a dam project on the Colorado River and $6m cut from the Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund – to larger budgetary swipes, including $30m being removed from cultural exchange programs at the State Department. The Pentagon faces widespread cuts. It is losing some $2.6bn from its Defense Health Program and $3.4bn dollars from the navy’s operation and maintenance budget. The Army faces losing $4.6bn from its equivalent budget.

The OMB issued a stark analysis of the impact of the cuts in a letter to Congress that was issued with the report and signed by Jeffrey Zients, deputy director for management. “The cuts required by sequestration will be deeply destructive to national security, domestic investments and core government functions,” Zients wrote.

On Saturday, Obama warned of a “ripple effect” through the American economy that would cost hundreds of thousands of jobs. Obama said the sequestration was “not smart”. “The pain will be real,” he said in his weekly address. “Many middle-class families will have their lives disrupted in a significant way.”

He added that up to 750,000 jobs could be lost and a half per cent knocked off America’s economic growth this year. “This will cause a ripple effect across the economy. Businesses will suffer because customers will have less money to spend… These cuts are not smart. They will hurt our economy and cost us jobs.”

The sequester originates in a political crisis in 2011, when debates over deficit reduction almost saw the American government default on its debt payments. In order to avert that crisis Democrats and Republicans agreed that unless they struck a deal on shrinking the country’s debt, cuts would be made to federal spending. The idea was that the prospect of cuts to social services would motivate the Democrats and hurting military spending would do the same for Republicans.

Instead, despite Friday’s deadline no grand bargain was struck and the cuts – which neither side had intended to actually happen – are now coming into force. Over the next 10 years they will represent $1.2tn dollars of slashed spending.

The hardest hit part of the government will be the Pentagon, which must dig out some $40bn of cuts between now and September – about 9% of its budget. Defence chiefs have said that the move will delay deployments, such as a recent move of an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf, and hurt national security.

But almost every government department, from aviation to the parks service, will be hit, with cuts amounting to about 5% of overall budgets. Only Medicaid and welfare benefits such as food stamps are exempted. The Federal Aviation Authority has said that it will have to close scores of air traffic control towers and the National Labor Relations Boards has given staff 30 days of notice that they could be suspended from their jobs. Over the next few weeks more and more such letters will go out, threatening school services and the smooth running of scores of other government functions.

In his speech, Obama slammed Republicans as being to blame for inaction, saying that their hostility to any sort of extra tax revenues being generated from rich Americans was the root cause of the problem. In recent weeks, and since his victory over Republican challenger Mitt Romney in last year’s presidential election, Obama has not shied away from attacking his opponents as defenders only of the wealthy.

“It’s happening because Republicans in Congress chose this outcome over closing a single wasteful tax loophole that helps reduce the deficit. Just this week, they decided that protecting special-interest tax breaks for the well-off and well-connected is more important than protecting our military and middle-class families from these cuts,” Obama said.

But Republicans want only cuts, on welfare rather than defence, and have insisted on no new taxes. The Republican House speaker, John Boehner, pictured, was adamant at the end of the White House talks Friday that he would not contemplate any new taxes. “The discussion about revenue is over,” Boehner said. That hard line is popular with his party’s right-wing base but has left the party vulnerable to being attacked as being too entrenched in its ideology – especially after Obama’s resounding election victory.

In seeking to lay the blame for the sequester at the door of the Republicans, the Obama administration has run a carefully orchestrated image campaign aimed at focusing on the impact on middle-class American workers and their families. Obama continued that theme on Saturday, saying Republican leaders were out of touch with ordinary people and their own voters. “We just need Republicans in Congress to catch up with their own party and the rest of the country,” he said.

But on Saturday Republicans were still standing firm. In the party’s own weekly address, the congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers attacked “out-of-control government spending” and said there was no point in new taxes, as the money would just be wasted. “Instead of campaigning for higher taxes, the president should lead an effort to begin addressing our nation’s spending problem,” Rodgers said.

But for many observers the fiasco of the sequestration – which has effectively meant both parties are implementing a policy that neither wants and each thinks is damaging – has left many complaining about a broader American political dysfunction. Yet the sequester is just one of several rolling crises that are threatening the smooth running of the world’s biggest economy that is still stuttering to recover from recession.

If Congress does not reach an agreement on a budget for this year by 27 March, the federal government faces the prospect of shutdown. Soon after that, Congress must approve an increase in the federal debt limit: the same move that two years ago created gridlock in Washington and resulted in the sequester. The House of the Representatives is due to vote next week on a deal to prevent a federal shutdown but there is a risk this could end up in a new stand-off between the Republican-controlled House and the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Obama on spending cuts: ‘none of this is necessary’ – video

Category : Business

The US president speaks on Friday as the sequester cuts come into force

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Sequester Q&A with Heidi Moore and Todd Zwillich: the highlights

Category : Business

Our US finance and economics editor Heidi Moore and Todd Zwillich of WNYC answered readers’ sequester questions. Here are some of the highlights

We have formatted some of the questions and answers from Thursday’s Q&A with Heidi Moore, the US finance and economics editor of the Guardian, and Todd Zwillich, of The Takeaway on WNYC radio in New York. In some cases the questions have been paraphrased. We’ve credited the questions to the usernames that were used during the chat. Click the link through to the question to join the discussion, or jump into the comments below.

On a last minute sequester solution

What do you think are the chances for a last minute negotiation before we start seeing the effects of the sequester? – Nim


There is next to no chance of any kind of deal between now and Friday when sequestration hits. Some of the effects of the cuts will be immediate, but the full effects of the cuts on employment etc will take some time to materialize. There is always the chance of dealmaking in the coming weeks, but don’t expect much of anything until we’re at least close to 27 March, when the government funding expires and Congress negotiates further on spending.


Unfortunately, the chances are about zero. There is no expectation from anyone – in Congress, on Wall Street, watching the economy – that there will somehow get to be a big break in the negotiations. Partly that’s because the issue isn’t very pressing: we can go a week, or two, or even a month, into the sequester without seeing really horrible effects. After that, the expectations get a little dodgy. We’ve seen with this Congress that they respond best to last minute negotiations and brinkmanship.

On sequestration and law

Why won’t Congress pass another law, repealing sequestration? – Gustavo


You’ve nailed it: the only way to stop sequestration is to pass a law changing it. That is the subject of the debate now in Washington. Republicans don’t want to change the law to stop sequestration because they cannot come to an agreement with the White House on larger issues of what the deficit should look like, how taxes will be treated, and so on. While there’s fear that sequestration will hurt our economy, Republicans are arguing that there are bigger principles at stake.

On spending cuts

Do we need the cuts, or don’t we? These do very little to combat the growing deficit. – Guest


The $8bn we’re talking about is just one step of a 10-year plan that’s supposed to reduce the deficit by $ Some economists, like Paul Krugman, argue that we should be cutting even more slowly than a decade. As for healthcare, Obamacare is currently still in the “simmering” stage, so we don’t know the full economic effects until that takes place. As for entitlements, they are the third rail. Obama has said he will not cut them, under any circumstances. And indeed, it’s hard for politicians making $150,000 and more a year in Washington – with paid healthcare and pensions – telling senior citizens that they can’t have $14,000 a year to live on in Social Security. The “entitlements” battle is the BIG one. Everything leading up is just practice.


The $2.2tn question!!! Everything you’re seeing now is about gaining leverage in the very debate you’re talking about. This $85bn is really very little in the grand scope.


Todd, you mentioned that sequestration “drags recovery 0.6% of the GDP”. Could you please expand on that? – Nim


0.6% is the Congressional Budget Office estimate of the economic effect of the first 7 months ($85.2bn) of sequestration. We already saw a basically flat GDP last quarter, largely blamed on federal budget cutting and people in the economy sitting on their hands because of uncertainty over funding levels (will they / won’t they on the sequester). I’m not an economist … but CBO says DO expect 0.6% less GDP growth in the first year IF this stays in effect.


to add to that, however, very few people think that the sequestration will be in effect for a whole year. The assumption is that it will be figured out before that. The shift Congress is trying to make is from “automatic” cuts – which make up the sequester – to intentional, prioritized, hand-chosen cuts. Either way, however, there are cuts coming. That is inevitable.

On budgetary processes

There seems to be a risk of fatigue with “the latest fiscal deadline crisis”, as we’ve had quite a few recently. Is there any way the budgetary process can change that could solve this (theoretically or realistically)? – Aglia


There is some chance of that Aglia. One: both the House and Senate are committing to passing budget resolutions over the spring. While that doesn’t bind them to any actual spending levels, it sets up a framework where a broader agreement on debt reduction can potentially reside. The chances of that are slim however. Both Dems and GOPs want to do broad tax reform over the summer as well. If GOPs and the president coalesce around some smaller version of the “grand bargain” they both say they’re seeking, they could end this debate.

On the congressional blame game

Question from Twitter: “What’s with the sequester blame game”?


The sequester blame game is really the biggest time-waster around this. While there are real impacts from the sequester that will hurt real jobs, Washington politicians have made it all about them. Numerous polls show that Americans have more negative views of Republicans for the sequester, and part of the blame game may be an attempt by some Republicans to reverse that image. That’s why there has been a big push to point out that President Obama came up with the sequester. Again, this is about positioning for the current negotiation – if public image is on one side, it increases their chances of winning the negotiation or at least maintaining the upper hand for a while.


The blame game is testament to the fact both sides have known for ages that sequestration is inevitable (because they weren’t dealing). So instead they set about trying to make sure the other side got blame for the pain. Remind you at all of the government shutdowns of the mid-1990s?


To Todd’s point in his answer about the blame game, let’s not forget that last time, Congress missed the crisis deadline. It was only solved by Joe Biden’s intervention as a mediator. Without another mediator like him involved, it’s not clear that there’s any real push to get a negotiation going here.

On life after the sequester

Is the sequester the last of the fiscal issues we’ll have to deal with this year? Or is it just the beginning? What’s the next big fiscal issue you think we’ll face? – Ruth Spencer


Oh, it’s just the beginning. On 27 March we’re facing a government shutdown.


The next page is the government shutdown fight of 27 March. A shutdown is highly UNLIKELY at this point (no one wants to wade into that tar pit) … but then you have budget resolution, MAYBE (doubtful) tax reform deal, and further negotiations between Obama and GOP over the second half of debt reduction.


Look at it this way: The economists et al have said we need to reduce the national debt a little over $4tn to get on a sustainable debt-to-GDP footing. Though it doesnt seem like Washington has really done anything, it in fact has done a lot! Cut roughly $2.2tn so far from the debt when you take the Budget Control Act, Fiscal cliff, domestic spending fitghts, and tax increases altogether. Half way there. But the hard part is to come. Entitlements, medicare, social sec, medicaid and defense and taxes (via loophole closures, but taxes nonetheless.)

No deal in sight on US budget cuts

Category : World News

The US is braced for steep budget cuts after Republicans and Democrats in Congress adjourn for the weekend despite a Friday deadline for a deal.

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Obama’s in-tray: from gun control to tax, second term will be full of battles

Category : Business

As he revels in his second public inauguration, the president knows his legacy lies at the end of a number of perilous paths

Barack Obama was officially sworn in as president for a second term at noon on Sunday, in a White House ceremony that was relatively quiet, compared with the one that will take place with hundreds of thousands lining the Mall on Monday.

It would have been a major disappointment in November for many Americans, not least African-Americans, if the first black president had only been given one term. The breakthrough in racial relations would have been tainted by rejection. Instead, Obama has been given a chance to build his legacy and to be remembered for more than being just the first black president.

While Republicans decry his first term as a disaster, his supporters claim he has already built a formidable legacy. Obama helped guide America out of its worst economic recession since the 1930s and introduced legislation that had defeated his Democratic predecessors, at least since LBJ – a significant move towards universal healthcare.

On top of that, he ended the Bush-era sanctioning of torture, recognised the rights of gays to openly serve in the military and to marry, and provided legal cover for a young undocumented workers.

Ross Baker, a politics professor at Rutgers who has served on the staffs of both Democratic and Republican senators, sees Obama as having done enough to achieve inclusion on the list of great presidents – if not up with the great greats, such as Lincoln or FDR, then high in the second tier, better than Kennedy or Clinton.

The challenge facing Obama in a second term? “He will strive to rekindle the excitement of the first term which is a difficult objective to achieve,” Baker said. “His first term is a difficult act to follow. I could not imagine anything of the magnitude of Obamacare or Dodd-Frank [the legislation on financial regulation]. He would do well to get over the debt [and] spending obstacles with his dignity intact.”

So what should we expect on Monday? Is Obama, having disappointed with his inaugural speech in January 2009, going to mark the start of his second term with some of the soaring rhetoric that is his trademark? Having tried to dampen expectations last time around, is he now going to try to raise them?

Gun control

This was not even on the agenda in the November election. In spite of a series of shooting sprees in Obama’s first term, it took the Newtown school shooting, in which 20 young children and six adults were killed, to persuade the president to make gun control a second-term priority.

Last Wednesday, Obama called on Congress to pass as a matter of urgency legislation to ban automatic weapons, reduce the size of magazines to 10 bullets and tighten up background checks for buyers.

The chances of getting through an automatic weapons ban or a reduction in the size of magazines are remote, given that the Republicans control the House. Even in the Senate, which the Democrats hold, enthusiasm for gun control is weak. The Democratic leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, risks his own seat in Nevada if he backs significant restrictions, as well as the seats of about half a dozen of his colleagues, effectively costing the Democrats their majority.

The likelihood is that Congress will back tightening up rules on gun buyers. Along with the executive actions Obama made this week to increase research into gun violence and appoint a new head of the federal firearms bureau, the White House might have to settle for this.


This would be a huge change for America, which has an estimated 11 million undocumented workers, the majority from Central and South America. Although essential to the economy and doing much of the low-paid work others decline to do, illegal immigrants are still denounced by some Americans for having broken the law by entering the country without papers. Many such critics hint darkly about mass deportations, even though this is privately acknowledged as impractical.

Having won in November with the support of two-thirds of Latino voters, Obama has to try to deliver on immigration reform, not least to cement the Latino population to the Democratic party for years to come.

The Republicans killed proposed Ted Kennedy-John McCain reforms in the Bush era and the 2010 Dream Act that would have created a path to citizenship. After Mitt Romney’s defeat in November, though, they seem finally to have acknowledged the realities of changing demographics. One of the GOP’s rising stars, Marco Rubio, who is of Cuban descent, has backed a plan that has some similarities to that being proposed by Obama.

Republicans will find it hard to swallow the idea of rewarding people who moved to the US illegally, however. Citizenship measures will struggle to get through the House. But there is enough common ground – and political self-interest – for Democrats and Republicans to unite behind some reform.


Although the “Obamacare” legislation was passed in 2010 and some measures have been implemented, the changes are not scheduled to start until 2014. If Obama had not been elected, the legislation faced being slowly dismantled. Obama now has the chance to embed it.

The president has told supporters that he regards Obamacare as his biggest legacy, taking away the fear of being unable to pay for treatment for millions more people and making a major step in the battle against poverty.

From 2014, people previously without any health insurance will have to participate or pay a penalty.


Obama does not want his second term to be dominated by showdown after showdown with House Republicans. Buoyed by his second election win and polls showing a rise in his approval ratings, however, he appears more willing to take on the Republicans than he was first time round.

Against this background, he warned the Republicans after the fiscal cliff crisis in December and early January that he would not negotiate over the debt-ceiling limit, the next potential crisis which was due to hit in February or early March. He gave them an ultimatum: either pass it or take the blame for closing the government down.

The Republicans seem to have blinked, proposing a bill to go before Congress in the coming days that will extend the debt limit for a further three months.
Obama also appears prepared to do a deal with the Republicans on spending cuts to reduce the deficit and is open to Republican proposals for cutting back welfare benefits, even in the face of Democratic opposition.

Political legacy

It is in Obama’s interest to heap the blame for much of what is wrong in Washington on to the House Republicans. If he can achieve this, the Democrats have a hope of winning back the House in 2014.

With both the House and Senate in Democratic hands, Obama would be well placed in his final two years – even at a time when the focus traditionally switches to the presidential race and his potential successors – to secure further legislative changes.

But it is just as likely that something unexpected will surface – an economic downturn or a foreign policy disaster – causing Obama’s present ratings to plummet and taking with it the Democrats’ chances in 2014 and for the White House in 2016.

Foreign policy

Obama’s biggest foreign policy challenge remains Iran. There is the risk that in the next four years the issue will come to a head, with Iran either achieving a nuclear weapons capability or Israel, no longer willing to take the risk, launching air strikes.

But there are alternatives. The US could enter into direct talks with the Iranians; Tehran might decide to stop just short of a nuclear weapons capability; or sanctions might force the Iranian government into compromise.

By at least the end of 2014, most American combat troops will have left Afghanistan, so the two wars Obama inherited from George W Bush will be over, at least from a US perspective. Although that will still leave Pakistan and the controversial drone attacks.

And will Obama finally commit time and political capital to trying to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? That could be one for his new secretary of state, the Democratic senator John Kerry, assuming he passes through the Senate nomination hearings unscathed, as seems likely. Former Republican Chuck Hagel as defense secretary faces a tougher time but, with the backing of Democrats, he should also make it through.

Republicans agree three-month debt ceiling increase in surprise boost for Obama

Category : Business

In surprise move, GOP lawmakers show first signs of backing down over debt crisis by giving Congress time to pass a budget

Republicans showed the first sign of backing down over the looming debt ceiling crisis on Friday, in the face of relentless pressure from President Barack Obama.

Congressional Republicans, who only last week had been threatening to close down the federal government, emerged from closed-door negotiations at a party retreat to announce they will present a bill next week to increase the debt limit by a further three months.

The White House gave the move a cautious welcome to the news.

It is an unexpected bonus for Obama just days before the start of his second presidential term, and gives him breathing space so that instead of another showdown between White House and Republicans in Congress at the end of next month or in March, the issue could be pushed back until summer.

Eric Cantor, the Republican majority leader in the House, said: “Next week, we will authorise a three-month temporary debt limit increase to give the Senate and House time to pass a budget.”

The GOP came close to closing down the federal government in 2011 when they initially refused to raise the debt ceiling.

A messy compromise was eventually worked out. But Obama said earlier this month, after yet another economic showdown, he would not negotiate with the Republicans over the debt limit.

Obama, ramping up pressure on opponents in Congress, held a press conference at the White House on Monday, warning them that if they were not prepared to raise the ceiling, then they would have to take the blame for government closing down.

Obama’s strategy appears to have worked, with the Republicans worried about the electoral consequences of government grinding to a halt, which would mean hundreds of thousands of people – from welfare recipients to veterans – no longer receiving their cheques, federal staff going on forced leave and agency after agency being shut down.

The Republican cave-in was announced from their retreat near Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, where they have been discussing overall strategy in the wake of the November elections.

In what appears to be a political gimmick, the Republicans are to attach to the bill extending the debt limit for three months clauses that would see members of Congress have their pay withheld unless they can reach agreement on a separate issue: a budget that cuts spending.

The Republicans had been using the debt ceiling crisis as leverage to try to force Obama into accepting deep spending cuts, particularly in welfare.

Cantor, in a statement, said of the proviso in next week’s bill about the three-month extension: “If the Senate or House fails to pass a budget in that time, members of Congress will not be paid by the American people for failing to do their job. No budget, no pay.”

The Republicans are banking on the idea of members’ losing their pay being popular with voters.

But both the White House and the Democratic leadership in the Senate dismissed the idea, saying they wanted a “clean bill”, focused solely on raising the debt ceiling.

The White House, in a statement, said: “The president has made clear that Congress has only two options: pay the bills they have racked up, or fail to do so and put our nation into default.

“We are encouraged that there are signs that congressional Republicans may back off their insistence on holding our economy hostage to extract drastic cuts in Medicare, education and programs middle class families depend on. Congress must pay its bills and pass a clean debt limit increase without further delay. And as he has said, the president remains committed to further reducing the deficit in a balanced way.”

The Democratic leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, said if the House passes a clean bill raising the debt ceiling, even temporarily, the Senate would be happy to consider it.

A spokesman said Reid saw the move as the Republicans beginning to back off from their threat to “hold our economy hostage”.

Separate from the debt ceiling, a deal on spending is within reach. Obama has already agreed to consider changes to the index that determines welfare benefits, something the Republicans have been pushing for but Democrats have resisted, and to raise the age at which Medicare kicks in, another Republican proposal.

He and the Republican House speaker, John Boehner, are not too far apart either over a global figure for spending cuts.

Obama’s gun control: executive actions are the easy part | Matt Lewis

Category : Business

Signing orders makes a good photo op, but the president needs a broad coalition and busy campaign to get laws past Congress

President Obama’s press conference on gun violence is being hailed as “sweeping” and “the biggest gun-control push in generations”.

The president announced 23 executive actions, which he admits “are in no way a substitute for action from members of Congress”. He then proposed Congress “must act soon” on universal background checks on gun purchases, limiting high-capacity magazines, and restoring the ban on so-called assault weapons.

Should we expect any of this to actually pass?

Anyone who thinks this is a slam-dunk is kidding themselves. Any gun control legislation would have to pass the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

But you already thought of that. More interesting is the fact that Senate Democrats will likely pose an even bigger hurdle.

Still scarred from overreaching on this issue a decade ago, in 2014 Democrats will have to defend Senate seats in states like Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina and South Dakota. (Until recently, West Virginia would have been on this list; Senator Jay Rockefeller’s decision to retire only serves to reinforce this message.)

Do we really think Harry Reid wants to put his vulnerable Senate members on the line by having them cast a tough vote that might be moot anyway, if the House rejects the legislation?

On the other hand, Newtown does seem to have resonated more than past shootings. Meanwhile, from a ridiculously mishandled press conference, to producing an unwisely conceived video mentioning President Obama’s daughters, to releasing an ill-advised target-shooting video game app, the National Rifle Association seems to be, well, shooting itself in the foot. It’s almost as if they’re trying to help Obama.

What is more, the White House might have powerful allies in this fight. As I’ve noted, they appear to be attempting to co-opt “stakeholders” like Walmart (the largest gun retailer in the nation).

Just as the White House enlisted Big Pharma to pass Obamacare, enlisting a big business with red state bona fides – as opposed to the effete, big city brand of, say, a Michael Bloomberg – would certainly provide cover for red state Democrats. And that would dramatically increase the odds of passing something.

Why might Walmart play along? For one thing, a law requiring universal background checks – closing the so-called “gun show loophole” – would presumably be good for the bottom line.

Pushing for the return of an assault weapons ban is probably a bridge too far, politically. It didn’t have an appreciable impact, in terms of curbing gun violence, after Bill Clinton championed it in the 1990s, but it did lead to more gun sales – and more Democratic loses. As liberal Bill Scher concedes, over at the New Republic:

“Obama doesn’t need an assault weapons ban.”

Assuming congressional leaders craft legislation that pushes for background checks and banning high-capacity magazines, even that would require running an actual campaign. President Obama would have to enlist a disparate coalition of stakeholders and political leaders, and probably also barnstorm the nation to sell it. (And if it passed, groups like the NRA would still to continue to lobby against the law, though perhaps not competently.)

It won’t be easy. The smart money’s still on stasis, but the unknown factor remains how much Newtown has changed the political environment.

The nation would have to be convinced this is not a liberal scheme to slouch down a slippery slope toward universal registration, leading inexorably, in the minds of second amendment advocates, to confiscation. Instead, they will have to be persuaded that this really is a common-sense approach to keeping our kids safe.