Tag Archives: congress

What did they know?

Finger-pointing about the economic crisis won’t get us out of it, but Congressional hearings aim to provide some clarity around the latest analysis of the Lehman Brothers collapse and the SEC fraud charges against Goldman Sachs.

The NewsHour’s Rundown blog polled leading economists on what they would ask Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke ahead of the hearings.

Some of their responses:

Mark Calabria – director of financial regulation studies at the Cato Institute
Chairman Bernanke: If Lehman had been rescued what would be different today? Would employment be any higher or credit more widely available?
Russ Roberts – J. Fish and Lillian F. Smith Professor of Economics Chair, Mercatus Center, George Mason University
I would ask Ben Bernanke: What would have happened had you let Bear Stearns go bankrupt? How would that have changed Lehman’s behavior between March and September of 2008? What evidence is there that the bankruptcy of Bear Stearns would have had systemic effects?

WNYC’s The Takeaway had New York Times reporter Louise Story explain the Goldman Sachs fraud suit.

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In December, Story reported on how Goldman and other banks bet against collateralized debt organizations (CDOs), which may have worsened the housing crisis.

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What questions would you ask the Geithner and Bernanke about the financial crisis and bank regulation?


The House passed health care reform late last night. What will the new legislation mean to you? What are the biggest myths surrounding the bill and what do you need to know to take advantage of the upcoming laws? Last September we looked at how much of the economy is really spent on health care. Now that a bill has passed, how will those funds shift and how will health care reform change your costs?

PBS NewsHour breaks down the basics:

The legislation will require nearly every American to carry health insurance starting in 2014 and will impose a penalty fee on those who don’t. It will set up a series of state-based insurance exchange marketplaces where people who do not have access to employer-based insurance will be able to shop for plans, and will also offer new tax subsidies to make that insurance more affordable for millions of Americans who earn up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level.

It will also impose new regulations on the insurance industry, including barring insurance companies from denying coverage to patients based on pre-existing conditions, and barring companies from using technicalities to drop customers who become ill.

Many of the bill’s provisions, such as the insurance exchange marketplaces and new subsidies, won’t go into effect until 2014. But some of the new insurance regulations will begin this year, such as a provision that allows young adults up to age 26 to stay on their parents’ plans.

Want to discuss the bill with your friends and colleagues but don’t know where to begin? PolitiFact lists the top ten facts about health care reform and dispels some pervasive myths.

The government will not take over hospitals or other privately run health care businesses. Doctors will not become government employees, like in Britain. And the U.S. government intends to help people buy insurance from private insurance companies, not pay all the bills like the single-payer system in Canada.

So what will happen? Kaiser Health News provides a consumers’ guide to health reform, detailing when various provisions will take effect and answering pressing questions about how health insurance affordability will change and what types of insurance will be available.

WNYC’s The Takeaway spoke with health care professionals and small business owners about how the changes in health care reform will affect them.

“I’m hoping that by adding 32 million people to the insurance pool that premiums will eventually come down by bending the cost curve,” John Brown, VP of Brown Furniture Company, told The Takeaway.

For more on how health care reform could change your coverage, check out this New York Times “choose your own adventure”-style interactive and follow your health care options through the bill.

You can also add a question about health care for Capitol News Connection’s reporters to ask on the Hill.

If you have a health care story or thoughts on how reform could help or hurt your current situation that you’d like to share with EconomyStory, please add it in the comments below. We’ll be featuring stories from readers during the coming weeks.

Down for the count

The census only happens once every 10 years, and the information it brings in can change how local areas are represented in Congress and in turn the federal dollars they receive. So as forms get sent out across the country, let’s take a look at how census dollars impact communities and how some areas are getting the word out to make sure they don’t miss out on funding opportunities.

In Edgecombe County, North Carolina missing out on being counted is exactly what happened during the 2000 census and it’s affected the area ever since. NewsHour and Patchwork Nation report:

Flooding from Hurricane Floyd put 40 percent of Edgecombe under water and forced thousands of people from their homes and into temporary housing only about 5 months before the Census began.

As a result, Edgecombe County leaders say many residents were missed in the 2000 count. In a county that’s been suffering through high unemployment and other economic malaise for more than 15 years, missing parts of the population in the Census–and the millions of federal dollars that could cost–is a major thing.

Beyond the data collected and the state funds that will be distributed as a result, another real-time effect of the census is new jobs right now. There are thousands of opportunities for temporary work as a census collector, but even with high unemployment rates, finding bilingual workers is a challenge, the Wall Street Journal found:

In Texas, the Census is still looking for 25,000 applicants from so-called hard-to-count communities—population groups that have low participation rates in the Census due to language or cultural barriers and educational gaps, among other factors.

In Los Angeles, Voto Latino has come up with some creative solutions to reach out to immigrant communities, NPR reports:

One of Voto Latino’s strategies was to develop a new mobile phone application to be used in Los Angeles County. Users download it, learn about the census and then take a quiz on what they’ve learned….
“The reason we’re starting to use this mobile online piece of it is that we found that 25 percent of iPhone users are of Latino decent,” says Maria Teresa Kumar, Voto Latino’s executive director. She adds that most of them are young.

People living in rural areas and transient populations, like students, are also hard to find and account for. WPSU in Central Pennsylvania has both, and lost two Congressional seats after the 2000 census as a result. This time around, the state is hoping to reverse that.

How did the census come to be? This video is one of the most comprehensive I’ve seen on census history, so watch and learn about the history of the census from 1790 through 2000.

Recalling the recall

Lawmakers in Washington are hearing from Toyota executives and auto industry experts this week to determine why some models have uncontrollable acceleration problems and whether Toyota tried to cover up flaws on the many thousands of vehicles that have now been recalled.

Capitol News Connection’s Matt Laslo was at today’s congressional hearings and has been tweeting updates. A snippet of what he’s seen today:

Some conservative members of Congress were more hesitant to slam Toyota outright. Capitol News Connection’s Sara Schiammaco noted in a roundup of opening remarks:

Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., scolded her colleagues on the panel who she said came in during the eleventh hour of the congressional examination to politicize the issue. “This should not be a trial, but rather a hearing to get to the bottom of safety issues,” Blackburn said. “This is a serious issue that has resulted in the loss jobs.”

Michigan Public Radio followed the state’s delegation at the hearings in Washington:

U.P. Congressman Bart Stupak is chairing today’s hearing. He suggests Toyota executives may be trying to hide problems with their vehicles.

“A staff analysis of the documents Toyota provided to the committee, shows that roughly 70 percent of the sudden, unintended acceleration events, recorded in Toyota’s own customer call data base, involve vehicles that are not covered by the floor mat or sticky pedal recalls,” says Stupak.

But the problems for Toyota run even deeper than Congress’s questions. PBS NewsHour’s Gwen Ifill spoke with a reporter in Detroit and analysed the criminal charges Toyota could face if a federal grand jury finds its executives at fault.

Toyota’s complete list of operations and plants in the U.S. can be found here. Take a look and see how your state is being represented at the hearings. If there’s a plant in your area, how has the recall had an impact locally?

Snow slammed

The east coast got a one-two punch of snow this week – but can they afford to? Snow removal budgets have been blown away, and with schools, the federal government, and most businesses shut down, how will the region make up for it?

NPR’s Planet Money takes a look at the DC area, which has been hit hardest:

“Virginia has already exhausted its [snow removal] funds for the season plus a $25 million emergency reserve, and the District of Columbia is also over budget.”

Snow removal is an expensive process, and typically Washington doesn’t get much, but when it does, the corners the city cuts to save money become clear. A Washington Post story elaborates:

In the mid-Atlantic region, every state has a snow budget, but it’s anybody’s guess as to how much snow will fall in a given year.

Does “budget accordingly” for the Washington area mean preparing for a season with 3.2 inches of snow (2001-02) or for 40.4 inches (2002-03)? Will it be a December with one-tenth of an inch of snow (2004-05) or one like this month, where a single storm drops more than two feet in some areas around Washington?

Getting necessities to those least capable of coping with two-feet of snow (whose numbers have certainly increased in the past year) is also a huge challenge. WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi Show spoke with non-profits delivering food to the homeless during the storm.

And a little further downtown, Capitol Hill came to a complete standstill, blocking votes on the jobs bill and stalling budget talks. Capitol News Connection’s Elizabeth Johnson spoke with Sens. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va)

If you’re going to have two snowstorms that break all records, there’s not much I can do about that so can’t look at what might have been. The bigger question is, what about the recess coming right after that? That’s more of a threat to progress.”

Congress breaks for the Presidents’ Day recess next week. If it now seems doubtful the Senate can vote on a jobs bill before then. Senator Voinovich, for one, isn’t willing to rush. He says both parties tend to play the same game.

But the city shutting down doesn’t mean the news stops. Here’s the NPR staff in Washington, braving the storm outside of headquarters:

NPR Staff in Washington/Credit: NPR (www.twitter.com/nprmorningprod)

NPR Staff in Washington/Credit: NPR (www.twitter.com/nprmorningprod)