Stimulus Foes See Value in Seeking Stimulus Cash: Pet Projects Irresistible to Lawmakers – More than a dozen Republican lawmakers, while denouncing the stimulus to the media and their constituents, privately sent letters to the U. S. Dept. of Agriculture seeking stimulus money for home-state pork projects.
“It’s not illegal to talk out of both sides of your mouth, but it does seem to be a level of dishonesty troubling to the American public,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Watchdog groups say the lawmakers’ public talk and private letters don’t square, highlighting a side of government spending largely overshadowed by the “earmarking” process. While members of Congress must disclose their earmarks — or pet projects they slip into broader spending bills — the private funding requests they make in letters to agencies fall outside of the public’s view.
Goldman Sachs Helped to Hide Debt Fueling Europe’s Crisis – Wall Street tactics akin to the ones that fostered subprime mortgages in America have worsened the financial crisis shaking Greece and undermining the euro by enabling European governments to hide their mounting debts.
As worries over Greece rattle world markets, records and interviews show that with Wall Street’s help, the nation engaged in a decade-long effort to skirt European debt limits. One deal created by Goldman Sachs helped obscure billions in debt from the budget overseers in Brussels.
Even as the crisis was nearing the flashpoint, banks were searching for ways to help Greece forestall the day of reckoning. In early November — three months before Athens became the epicenter of global financial anxiety — a team from Goldman Sachs arrived in the ancient city with a very modern proposition for a government struggling to pay its bills, according to two people who were briefed on the meeting.
The bankers, led by Goldman’s president, Gary D. Cohn, held out a financing instrument that would have pushed debt from Greece’s health care system far into the future, much as when strapped homeowners take out second mortgages to pay off their credit cards. Critics say that such deals, because they are not recorded as loans, mislead investors and regulators about the depth of a country’s liabilities.
Abuse of the Filibuster Threat – One of the greatest obstacles to passing progressive legislation in Congress has been the over-use of the filibuster in the Senate. With upwards of “40 cloture votes since the start of the 111th Congress in January, this Senate is on pace to record the second-largest number of filibuster roll calls,” transforming what was intended to be a seldom-used procedural tactic into an all-out tool for obstructionism. (And think how out-of-whack this is when a single senator from a low-population state represents about as many people as a mid-size Texas town. – JLV) [Twenty percent of the population and 40 year old message machine controls our government.]