...And the World:
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel succeeded at their summit last week to form a firmer fiscal union among the member states of the European Union. Markets, petulant creature that they are, rebelled once again against the latest measures to stabilize the Eurozone, with another selloff on stock markets across the world while the European countries under stress continue to face higher and higher rates to borrow money. While the markets are correct that greater action is needed, it also highlights the reality that part of the crisis is due to a somewhat capricious run on the bonds of European nations.
One nation rejected the greater fiscal union, Great Britain. Prime Minister David Cameron is facing blistering criticism at home for his decision to veto using the so-called Lisbon Treaty that regulates the European Union and forcing the other countries of the Union to work outside its framework. Cameron had sought protections for London's financial sector that were rebuffed by European leaders. Instead it could lead to the UK drifting away from Europe, but without that strong connection to the Continent it may be of little use to its second most trading partner, the United States. Although a breakup of Cameron's coalition government is unlikely, it laid bare the raw divisions between Cameron's conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, the junior party in the coalition. The Liberal Democrats' leader Nick Clegg, who has face criticism for his support for many of Cameron's actions condemned Cameron's decision. Opposition Leader, Ed Miliband of the Labour party, excoriated Cameron's actions as a "diplomatic disaster."
Meanwhile in Russia, protesters took the streets Saturday and, yet there was no official crackdown in what is described as the largest demonstrations since the fall of the Soviet Union. A week earlier, elections dealt a setback to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's United Russia party, but he and his party nevertheless maintained a slim majority. However, that victory came amid widespread claims of fraud and corruption at the polls. Although Putin blamed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the protesters after she questioned the integrity of the polls, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev has called for an investigation. Still that investigation will be viewed with some skepticism. Odder still, as the New York Times reports, State-owned television did not overly distort or censor the protests. A former Russian minister and billionaire (who owns the New Jersey Nets, no less), has announced he will challenge Putin in next year's Presidential Election.
Another week another Republican presidential debate. Newt Gingrich, the new frontrunner fended off attacks and it is becoming increasingly clear that the race is likely to be Newt v. Mitt, a monosyllabic coup for lazy television reporters everywhere. Still the match up leaves the possibility that Gingrich and Romney could engage in a battle royale that destroys both of them or at best leaves them heavily damaged ahead of the general election.
Oh, and to wit Gingrich's claim at the debate that taxes were lower in 1990's than under Obama, that's wrong. The top income bracket for the latter half of the 1990's, when Gingrich was speaker, was 39.6% and the lowest bracket was 15%. Today, 35% is the highest bracket and 10% is the lowest bracket. For fun if you look at the dramatic tax cuts of the 1980's and the dramatically low rate for the top bracket you can see that they were passed within a decade of the savings & loan crisis and the early 90's recession. The Bush tax cuts were likewise passed within a decade of recession. Lower taxes on the wealthy do not lead to better economic conditions. While the right-tilting Tax Foundation might disagree with that analysis, it would be hard to argue the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy brought us the sterling economy of today.
President Obama gave an interview to 60 Minutes this week in which he bluntly laid the Republican strategy out. After the obnoxious rejection of Richard Cordray's nomination to lead the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau on grounds unrelated to Cordray's credentials, but rather their disapproval with the agency, a first in Senate history, the GOP's strategy seems even more obvious. Oh, and the GOP will extend the Payroll Tax cut, if the Keystone XL pipeline is approved NOW as opposed to after further environmental reviews are completed. Hint: If you are worried about the dirtiness of Tar Sands, that's cool, but the pipeline's dirtiest secret is its originally planned route over the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the agriculture Midwest's most important sources of water. But there could never be a spill, right?
The Senate Committee on Government Reform is expected to mark-up the STOCK Act featured in our Friday post. However, that markup will not be the one Scott Brown is touting here there and everywhere. Rather, it will be the one championed by New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, featured in last Friday's post, which is considerably stronger, and frankly more credible than Brown's identically titled and similarly inspired bill.
The State of Things:
State Rep. Tom Conroy is ending his quest for the US Senate seat from Massachusetts several weeks after other Democrats had dropped out. With Elizabeth Warren surging, fundraising has become difficult he said, but Conroy also did not begrudge Warren. He noted that he got into the race before her and is in fact endorsing her just as Setti Warren earlier this fall. Conroy will run for reelection to the Massachusetts House.
The Occupy Boston encampment ended peacefully, although with several arrests over the weekend. Boston Police engaged in a 5 a.m. raid to clear the remainder of the tents from the Dewey Square. Since losing their case in court, much of the encampment, especially its more sensitive components like the library and food tent, had been taken down in anticipation of a raid. While some valid complaints from protesters remain, the end of what was the longest-running Occupy encampment was considerably more civilized than in other US cities. Although that may be not be saying much.
A Special City Council meeting tonight will consider whether to sell portions of Hubbard Park to expand parking for a UniFirst facility on Parker Street. Under state law, the legislature must approve such transactions and the parkland must be replaced elsewhere in the city.
Time is also running out for the City Council to set tax rates for next year's property tax bills. Set to go out January 1, the council will need to determine what the rates for business and residential taxpayers will be and therefore who will shoulder more of the burden. Although Ward 2 Councilor Mike Fenton did suggest earlier this month that the mayor may release and the council approve some reserve funds to mitigate the tornado's impact on the tax base.
With the end of the Occupy Boston encampment came the same cascade of tweets and livestreaming of the raid we have seen in other cities. That communication continues into today with some words of concern, but also positive recognition of the community-building at Dewey Square. We award this week's Tweet Prize once again to @UnaSpenser, real name Allison Nevitt, in part as an example of that greater Occupy Boston community spirit. She along with forty plus others was arrested Saturday morning. She has been a key figure in Occupy Boston, appearing in many media stories and prolifically writing on DailyKos about the occupation. She was apparently injured during arrest and the outpouring of support for her via Twitter is a testament to the community formed at Dewey Square and beyond. Nevitt, whom your editor-in-cheif met at Netroots Nation 2011, and others led a protest against Islamaphobia at Andrew Breitbart's Right-Online counter-convention. The protest involved several women wearing hijabs after two Muslim women were accosted by a man on a Minneapolis street. No doubt Nevitt's good will among those in the Twitterverse and beyond goes further than either of these two events and the good wishes show.