The US government has maxed out its credit card. Setting up 11-week fight to raise the threshold or …


US hits credit limit, setting up 11-week fight
May 16, 2011, 6:28 p.m. EDT
Associated Press

Journal By Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,

Owner and Founder of: http://www.LedSomeBioMetrics.com

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The government has maxed out its credit card.

The United States reached its $14.3 trillion limit on federal borrowing Monday, leaving Congress 11 weeks to raise the threshold or risk a financial panic or another recession.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner formally notified Congress that the government would halt its investments in two federal pension plans so it won’t exceed the borrowing limit.

Geithner said the government could get by with bookkeeping maneuvers like that through Aug. 2. After that, the government could default on its debt for the first time, threatening the national credit rating and the dollar.

Geithner sent Congress a letter saying he would be unable to make the pension investments in full. He urged Congress to raise the debt limit “in order to protect the full faith and credit of the United States and avoid catastrophic economic consequences for citizens.”

Republican leaders in the House have said they won’t raise the debt limit unless the Obama administration first agrees to big spending cuts or to steps to lower the debt over the long run.

House Speaker John Boehner repeated the pledge in a statement Monday. The statement did not address Geithner’s warning about what would happen if the limit were not raised.

“Americans understand we simply can’t keep spending money we don’t have,” Boehner said. “There will be no debt limit increase without serious budget reforms and significant spending cuts.”

Republicans have also ruled out any tax increases, including any plans to end tax cuts for high earners enacted in 2001 and 2003.

“We need to have a vote to lift the debt ceiling because the consequences of not doing so would be quite serious,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters. “And those who suggest otherwise are whistling past the graveyard.”

If it doesn’t raise the limit, Congress would have to come up with $738 billion to make up for what it planned to borrow through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. The options are drastic: Cut 40 percent of the budget through September, which might mean defaulting on payments to investors in government bonds; raise taxes immediately; or some combination of the two.

“In the economic area, this is the equivalent of nuclear war,” says Edward Knight, who was the Treasury Department‘s general counsel during a standoff over the debt ceiling in the mid-1990s.

Here are some questions and answers about the federal debt limit:

Q: What is the debt ceiling?

A: It’s a legal limit on how much debt the government can pile up. The government accumulates debt two ways: It borrows money from investors by issuing Treasury bonds, and it borrows from itself, mostly from Social Security revenue.

In 2010, Congress raised the limit to nearly $14.3 trillion from $12.4 trillion. Three decades ago, the national debt was $908 billion. But Washington spent more than it took in, and the debt rose steadily — surpassing $1 trillion in 1982, then $5 trillion in 1996. It reached $10 trillion in 2008 as the financial crisis and recession dried up tax revenue and as the government spent more on unemployment benefits and other programs.

Congress created the debt limit in 1917. It’s unique to the United States. Most countries let their debts rise automatically when government spending outpaces tax revenue. Raising the debt ceiling doesn’t usually create much of a stir. Congress has raised it 10 times since 2001.

A refusal to raise the debt ceiling wouldn’t mean that Congress had begun to solve the nation’s budget problems. It would just mean that lawmakers were refusing to let the government borrow more money to finance programs and tax cuts already approved.

“Having voted to run up the bill, it is utterly irresponsible to prohibit the government from borrowing the money to pay it,” writes Howard Gleckman, resident fellow at the Urban Institute.

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Q: What is the federal debt, and how does it differ from the deficit?

A: The deficit is how much government spending exceeds tax revenue during a year. The government is expected to run a record $1.5 trillion deficit in the current fiscal year. The debt is the sum of deficits past and present. If Congress raises the limit, the debt will reach $15.5 trillion by Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. The huge deficits and debt reflect tax cuts, wars, the Obama administration’s stimulus program, higher costs of federal health care programs and the recession, which shrank tax revenue and led the government to spend more on social programs.

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Q: What happens now that Treasury has hit its debt limit?

A: It can free up $232 billion by taking what Geithner calls “extraordinary measures.” Besides suspending contributions to federal employee pension funds, the government can halt payments to a government fund that buys and sells foreign currencies.

The most serious debt-ceiling showdown was in 1995. At the time, the debt limit was just $4.9 trillion. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin used gimmicks and juggled the government’s books to keep government finances afloat for four and a half months before Congress and the Clinton White House reached a deal to end the impasse.

Geithner’s Treasury Department won’t have as much cushion because the debt is growing much faster than in the mid-1990s. Geithner estimates he’ll run out of options Aug. 2.

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Q: What would happen if Congress doesn’t raise the debt ceiling by Aug. 2 or whenever Treasury exhausts all its short-options?

A: Things would get ugly fast. “When bills became due, we could not pay all of them,” says Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Budget, a bipartisan group that advocates cutting the debt. “If that happens, you shake up markets as you’ve never seen before. … It’s inconceivable we would willingly walk ourselves over the cliff.”

The government needs to borrow $738 billion to get through the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, according to the Congressional Research Service. Somehow, it would have to close that gap. It could:

— Cut government spending dramatically. To put things in context, $738 billion is equal to 40 percent of the $1.7 trillion that the government is expected to spend in the last six months of the fiscal year. Everything from military salaries to Medicare and Social Security benefits to interest payments on the debt would be vulnerable.

— Come up with $738 billion in new tax revenue, increasing by 66 percent the $1.1 trillion the government is expected to collect in taxes in the second half of the fiscal year.

— Choose a combination of draconian spending cuts and tax increases.

If investors become convinced the U.S. will renege on its debts, they’ll sell Treasurys to avoid the risk that the government might not make good on them. That would drive Treasury prices down and push interest rates up, raising the borrowing costs on everything from mortgages to cars. Higher rates would likely slow the economy.

So far, bond investors are taking the threat in stride; the yield on 10-year Treasury notes remains low at 3.17 percent. U.S. Treasurys are still considered perhaps the safest available investment, a haven for investors worldwide.

As Aug. 2 approaches, there’s a bigger risk that investors will become nervous.

“It would tell the world that the U.S. can’t get its act together, that this is basically a circus,” says William Gross, an influential investor who is managing director of the world’s biggest bond fund, Pimco. “Investors ultimately won’t want to be held hostage by a bunch of clowns.”

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Q: If the consequences are so dire, why is Congress suggesting it might not raise the limit?

A: As the political divide between Republicans and Democrats has widened, the debt ceiling has emerged as a divisive issue. In recent years, the party that doesn’t control the White House has used the issue to whack the party that does.

In 2006, for instance, Senate Democrats voted unanimously against raising the debt limit for President George W. Bush to protest his tax cuts and the invasion of Iraq — a vote that President Barack Obama, then a senator, says he regrets. The situation reversed in 2010: No Senate Republicans supported a higher debt limit for Obama, accusing him of reckless government spending. Congress approved the higher limit anyway because Democrats had a majority in both the House and Senate.

Congress has always ended up raising the debt ceiling before a financial crackup.

Republicans, many of them elected in November on a pledge to slash spending, are betting that the debt-ceiling deadline offers leverage to demand deep budget cuts from the Obama administration.

Obama wants to narrow the federal gaps and reduce debts, in part by reducing spending, in part by ending tax cuts for higher-income Americans enacted under President George W. Bush. But Republican lawmakers say they refuse to consider tax hikes.

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Egypt is near to securing a $2.2 billion loan from the World Bank


Minister: Egypt nearing deal with World Bank
May 16, 2011, 11:55 a.m. EDT
Associated Press

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CAIRO (AP) — Egypt is near to securing a $2.2 billion loan from the World Bank, the finance minister announced, as the country’s military rulers said Monday the unrest of the past few months has battered economic growth rates and is costing the nation $40 million per day in lost tourism revenues.

Finance Minister Samir Radwan also said an International Monetary Fund team was expected in Cairo within days to look at ways of supporting the government’s efforts to boost the economy. His comments came in a statement released by the ministry and did not make clear when the deal may be completed.

Separately, Brig. Mahmoud Nasr, the deputy defense minister for financial affairs, said the unrest led to an 80 percent decline in revenues from tourism, a vital sector.

The figures revealed by the Supreme Military Council‘s finance chief offered yet another window into the drubbing sustained by the Arab world‘s most populous nation in the wake of the mass protests that deposed former President Hosni Mubarak.

Those protests expanded after Mubarak’s ouster in mid-February to include widespread labor strikes that resulted in a sharp reduction in manufacturing and exports even as foreign direct investment and tourism revenues plummeted. With revenue falling and costs mounting, Egypt has reached out to the World Bank and the IMF for aid.

Nasr, in comments carried by the official MENA news agency, said GDP growth was at around 1-2 percent compared to pre-unrest forecasts of around 6 percent for the fiscal year ending June 30. The projection is even lower than that offered by Radwan and other officials who had estimated GDP growth would slow to between 2 and 3 percent in the current fiscal year.

While the mass protests that toppled Mubarak were largely fueled by a crescendo of frustration at the growing income disparity and soaring prices in a country where about half the 80 million residents live on or below the World Bank’s $2 per day poverty threshold, the continuation of the protests has only served to exacerbate the nation’s economic troubles.

Annual urban inflation climbed to 12.1 percent in April compared to 11.5 percent in March, the government said last week, citing a continued rise in food prices.

The economic troubles have been building for months.

As the demonstrations unfolded in the end of January, the stock market plunged — a drop that Nasr said led to losses of 113 billion pounds ($19 billion). The exchange remained closed for nearly two months as officials first grappled with bank closures and strikes in the sector, then sought to enact safeguards to prevent its collapse once it reopened.

The market, which reopened near the end of March, has vacillated between moderate gains and losses. On Monday, the benchmark EGX30 index closed 1.2 percent higher, at 5,127 points, but its year-to-date losses were still at more than 28 percent.

The government and the military rulers have been trying to revive the economy, but the near daily protests have crimped those efforts and led to a 40 percent drop in exports and almost a halving of the nation’s pre-crisis manufacturing levels, officials have said.

Despite the losses, Nasr said the military was “optimistic,” noting that the unrest had not affected the country’s economic infrastructure and that factories were not damaged. As a result, the challenges are “difficult, but not impossible,” he said.

The coming period is a time “for action and production, not words,” Nasr was quoted as saying, so that Egypt can move beyond the current crisis.

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Forecast-busting economic growth in Germany and a surprise rebound in Greece helped the 17-nation eurozone start …


Germany powers eurozone economic surge in Q1
May 13, 2011, 8:56 a.m. EDT
Associated Press

Journal By Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,

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LONDON (AP) — Forecast-busting economic growth in Germany and a surprise rebound in Greece helped the 17-nation eurozone start the new year with a bang, with the region growing twice as fast as the U.S. despite constant fears about debt.

The eurozone’s economy expanded by a quarterly rate of 0.8 percent in the first three months of the year, according to Eurostat, the EU’s statistics office on Friday.

That was more than double the 0.3 percent growth posted in the previous three-month period, ahead of analysts’ expectations for a 0.6 percent increase and twice U.S. growth.

“The eurozone is therefore significantly outperforming all other major developed economies at the moment,” said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit.

The figures have cemented expectations that the European Central Bank, which has to look at the whole eurozone as it seeks to tame inflation, will follow up April’s interest rate increase — the first in nearly three years — with another, possibly in July, despite some countries’ debt troubles.

In year-on-year terms, the eurozone economy grew 2.5 percent, roughly in line with what many say should be its long-term average.

Unsurprisingly, given its sheer size, Germany was the main reason the eurozone grew so fast. Its 1.5 percent growth during the quarter means the EU’s largest economy has now made up all the output lost during the recession. It was driven by a healthy balance of exports and household spending.

“Germany is the engine of growth among industrial countries — and not just in Europe,” German Economy Minister Philipp Roesler said.

France’s economy, the eurozone’s second-biggest, expanded by a robust 1 percent on higher consumer spending and business investment. Northern economies like the Netherlands grew strongly, while Italy and Spain lagged behind.

Perhaps more surprisingly, given the debt quagmire it is in, Greece posted solid growth of 0.8 percent, its first economic expansion since the fourth quarter of 2009. However, the increase is unlikely a sign of a sustained rebound as the previous quarter’s contraction was doubled to a colossal 2.8 percent.

Manos Chatzidakis, head of investment strategy at Pegasus Securities, said the Greek figures were disappointing because of the revision.

“The economy still has a considerable way to go before recovery,” said Chatzidakis. “We remain in a very unfavorable situation.”

Portugal, another bailout recipient, returned to recession. Its 0.7 percent quarterly decline follows the 0.6 percent drop recorded in the previous three-month period — a recession is classified as two consecutive quarters of negative growth.

Portugal is the third eurozone country to agree to a bailout, following Greece and Ireland.

Those countries’ problems are likely to be protracted as they struggle to reduce their mountains of debt.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive, on Friday raised its debt forecasts for all three of them.

That will likely spice up discussions among eurozone governments on whether Greece will need a second bailout.

It will also fuel calls from many economists who say Greece needs to restructure its debts — to delay or lower its bond repayments.

Eurozone ministers will start discussing how to help Greece at a meeting on Monday.

The Commission said it expects the eurozone economy to grow 1.6 percent in 2011, while the wider 27-country EU, which includes non-euro members like Britain and Poland, is anticipated to grow by 1.8 percent for the second year running.

Germany is expected to grow 2.6 percent this year but Greece is anticipated to shrink another 3.5 percent.

Olli Rehn, the commissioner in charge of monetary and economic affairs, said the EU will surpass the pre-crisis (pre-2008) growth levels next year.

That’s far sooner than most predicted in 2008,when the global economy sank into its deepest and longest recession after the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers brought the financial system to its knees.

“The main message in our forecast is that the economic recovery in Europe is solid and continues, despite recent external turbulence and tensions in the sovereign debt market,” Rehn said.

The series of figures helped the euro, which had lost about 8 cents to the dollar this week as investors scaled back expectations of interest rate increases in Europe and worried about Greece’s debt troubles.

By mid afternoon London time, the euro was up 0.2 percent at $1.4262, having traded as high as $1.4338 earlier. Last week, it was near 18-month highs above $1.49.

“The solid growth performance of the EU’s core economies puts the European Central Bank in an increasingly uncomfortable situation,” said Tim Ohlenburg, senior economist at the Centre for Economic and Business Research.

“Higher interest rates would make sense for the large, central eurozone countries in which unemployment has fallen and output is making a comeback, but this would further undermine weaker economies faced with high debt levels and fragile banking sectors,” Ohlenburg added.

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Gabriele Steinhauser in Brussels, Geir Moulson in Berlin and Nicholas Paphitis in Athens contributed to this story.

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2 out of 5 Americans believe the economy will get better


Americans more upbeat about economy
May 12, 2011, 10:01 a.m. EDT
Associated Press

Journal By Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans are growing more optimistic about the U.S. economy, a sentiment that is benefiting President Barack Obama despite public disenchantment with his handling of rising gasoline prices and swollen government budget deficits.

An Associated Press-GfK poll shows that more than 2 out of 5 people believe the U.S. economy will get better, while a third think it will stay the same and nearly a fourth think it will get worse, a rebound from last month’s more pessimistic attitude. And, for the first time since the 100-day mark of his presidency, slightly more than half approve of Obama’s stewardship of the economy.

Both findings represent a boost for Obama, though he still must overcome ill will over government red ink and the price of gas at the pump, now hovering around $4 a gallon.

But the public’s brighter economic outlook also could signal a boost to the current recovery, which relies to a great degree on consumer behavior. A public that is confident about economic performance is more likely to spend more and accelerate the economy’s resurgence.

The poll was conducted May 5-9 in the aftermath of the U.S. commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader behind the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The spike in public esteem for Obama as a result of that successful clandestine mission may have helped Obama’s standing on issues other than national security.

The poll coincides with renewed attention in Washington to the nation’s growing debt and the federal government’s long-term budget deficits, so any positive signs from the public could help Obama push his policy proposals. A bipartisan team of lawmakers is working with Vice President Joe Biden to identify spending cuts. Meanwhile, lawmakers also are discussing major structural changes to the tax system and to the government’s mammoth benefits programs of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

The results of the AP-GfK poll stood out because other surveys taken after bin Laden’s death, while showing a spike in support for the president, continued to indicate dissatisfaction by a majority for his handling of the economy. Still, like the AP-GfK poll, other surveys also found American attitudes about the state of the nation improving.

Forty-five percent of those polled in the AP-GfK survey said the country was now moving in the right direction, an increase of 10 percentage points from five weeks ago. And attitudes about life in general remained positive, with 4 out of 5 respondents saying they were happy or somewhat happy with their circumstances.

“Once you hit bottom the only one way to go is up,” said John Bair, 23, a photographer and filmmaker from Pittsburgh. “Everybody that I come in contact with seems to be on the upswing. I consider that a pretty good thing.”

But Bair, who describes himself as a moderate to conservative independent, doesn’t believe Obama deserves re-election. He strongly disapproves of the president’s handling of gasoline prices and says Obama should do more to increase domestic production of oil.

“When I’m paying $4 for a gallon of gas, it gets me wondering what’s going on,” he said.

Obama has tried to appear engaged on gas prices even though there is little presidents can do to alter market fluctuations. He has called for new renewable energy policies and for eliminating tax breaks for oil and gas companies, while conceding those steps will not address the current price increases. The efforts have not given the public much to cheer about, however. A total of 61 percent disapprove of Obama’s approach to the rising cost of gasoline.

Indeed, for all the long-term confidence that the economy will recover, the public is hardly upbeat about the current state of things. Only 21 percent describe the economy as good and 73 percent describe it as poor. About 1 in 5 thought the economy got better during the past month; an equal number thought it got worse.

A favorable jobs report last Friday showed that private companies had exceeded expectations by creating 268,000 jobs last month, the third month of at least 200,000 new jobs. And while unemployment has dropped from a high of 10.1 percent nationally in October 2009, it is now 9 percent, the same as in January.

“We haven’t done anything to create the jobs that (Obama) promised —that all of them promised,” said John Grezaffi, 60, a rancher from Pointe Coupee Parish, La.

Grezaffi, taking a short break from working to shore up his land against a rising Mississippi River on Wednesday, said he somewhat supports Obama but does not support his handling of the economy and believes the country is moving in the wrong direction.

Approaching retirement age, he said he wasn’t eager to see his upcoming benefits shortchanged.

“I’m willing to give up a little, but not everything when you see the waste that occurs in so many other areas,” he said.

Deana Floss, 39, a Springfield, Ohio, restaurant cook and owner of a cleaning business, voiced lukewarm approval for Obama even though she doesn’t care for the state of the economy or Obama’s handling of the nation’s budget deficits.

“I don’t think he has done a very bad job with the economy,” she said. “It was already going downhill when he took the reins.”

The Associated Press-GfK Poll was conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. It involved landline and cell phone interviews with 1,001 adults nationwide and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.

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Associated Press Deputy Polling Director Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.

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Online:

http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com

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Republicans controlling the House announced plans Wednesday to cut $30 billion from the day-to-day budgets


House GOP: $30B in further agency spending cuts
May 11, 2011, 6:21 p.m. EDT
Associated Press

Journal By Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans controlling the House announced plans Wednesday to cut $30 billion from the day-to-day budgets of Cabinet agencies, doubling down on cuts to domestic programs just weeks after a split-the-differences bargain with President Barack Obama.

The moves by the powerful lawmakers atop the House Appropriations Committee are the first concrete steps to try to implement a tight-fisted 2012 budget plan approved by Republicans’ last month. It would build on $38 billion in savings enacted in a hard-fought agreement with Obama over the current year’s budget.

The $30 billion in savings from agency operating budgets that have to be annually approved by Congress seems small compared to deficits that could top $1.6 trillion this year. But they’re actually a key building block in eventually wrestling the deficit under control, assuming Congress can make the cuts now and stick with them year after year in the face of inflation.

That’s a big “if.”

Obama and his Democratic allies controlling the Senate are sure to battle hard against cuts of this size.

And since the Pentagon — which accounts for more than half of the budget that passes through the Appropriations panel each year — actually receives a $17 billion, 3 percent boost, the cuts to domestic programs like education, housing subsidies and infrastructure projects will feel much more severe. Domestic agencies and foreign aid accounts would have to absorb $47 billion in cuts, averaging about 9 percent.

“Brutal … brutal,” said Rep. Norm Dicks of Washington, the top Democrat on the Appropriations panel, who warned of cuts to food inspection, Pell Grants (college aid for low-income students), community development grants, food aid to low-income pregnant women and their children, and grants to community action agencies that serve the poor. “Those are all things that are going to hurt the lowest-income people in this country.”

A third of the entire budget passes through the Appropriations panel, once reviled in some GOP circles for its free-spending ways and addiction to home-state projects known as earmarks. The spending bills are likely to produce a long, angry summer of House floor fights, but the ultimate fate of the spending bill probably lie in broader budget talks with the White House involving must-do legislation to allow the government to continue to borrow to meet its obligations. The Senate has yet to pass a budget blueprint that’s a precursor to action on spending bills.

Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., released a broad outline of the panel’s plan to cut $30 billion from appropriated accounts. That’s on top of $38 billion carved from agency budgets in last month’s spending showdown legislation and it keeps a campaign promise to bring domestic agency budgets, on average, to levels in place before Obama took office. The slow, steady advance of the actual legislation begins in two Appropriations subpanels on Friday.

“There are going to be some cuts to agencies that people aren’t used to because they’ve seen double-digit increases,” said Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. What are we going down to? 2008 levels? That wasn’t exactly austere times.”

The cuts are far larger, however, when measured against Obama’s budget request for the 2012 budget year that begins in October. The GOP plan whacks $122 billion from Obama’s request, with cuts falling particularly hardest on foreign aid, agricultural programs, and education, job training and health care accounts.

Veterans’ accounts would be spared and Congress’ own budget would face a 5 percent cut that’s well below the double-digit hits most domestic agencies would take. Homeland security spending would absorb a $1.1 billion decrease of 3 percent.

The plan also endorses Obama’s $119 billion request for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and $7.6 billion in anti-terror foreign aid.

It may not sound like much measured against the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt, but the GOP’s broader budget plans are in fact largely anchored by promises to cut domestic agency budgets this year and then freeze them well into the future. These “caps” on the spending that Congress approves each year — if lawmakers can stick to them — would produce more than $1.6 trillion in savings when measured against official “baseline” estimates.

Other elements of the GOP’s budget plans are dead on arrival with the White House, including sweeping cuts to Medicaid and food stamps and a plan to transform Medicare into a voucher-like program in which future beneficiaries — those presently 54 years old and younger — would purchase health insurance instead of having the government pay doctor and hospital bills directly.

Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, says he wants “trillions” in spending cuts attached to the so-called debt limit measure. “Caps” on the amount of money available for the appropriations bills are being eyed as a component of any deal between the White House and Republicans controlling the House.

The nuts-and-bolts work of the appropriators comes amid lots of motion — but little movement — on other deficit-reduction fronts:

—A bipartisan “Gang of Six” senators is struggling behind closed doors to reach agreement on a plan cutting $4 trillion from the deficit over the coming decade with a 3/1 mix of spending cuts to tax increases. House Republicans say that even if the group reaches agreement, its prescriptions are nonstarter.

—The chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Kent Conrad, D-N.D., is preparing a draft plan with a 50/50 mix of spending cuts to tax increases. Even if moderate Democrats could stomach voting for $2 trillion in tax increases over 10 years to help pass the measure, the chances of Senate Democrats and tea party-backed House Republicans reaching agreement seem extremely unlikely.

Vice President Joe Biden is hosting talks with a bipartisan group of lawmakers aimed at producing deficit cuts to attach to the debt limit increase legislation. Even Biden admits it’s an open question as to whether the group will “get to the finish line.”

—Obama invited Senate Democrats to the White House for a Wednesday afternoon meeting, with Republicans heading down on Thursday. House Democrats and Republicans are getting audiences soon.

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China is using high-level meetings to urge the United States to allow more technology exports


China urges US to lift controls on hi-tech exports
May 10, 2011, 6:49 a.m. EDT
Associated Press

Journal By Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,

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WASHINGTON (AP) — China is using high-level meetings to urge the United States to allow more technology exports into the booming Chinese economy as a way of balancing trade.

The United States, meanwhile, has criticized the communist-led nation’s latest crackdown on democracy advocates, arguing that long-term stability depends on respecting human rights.

Both sides issued familiar grievances at the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, which began in Washington on Monday, but they took pains to stress a generally positive track in relations between the two economic superpowers.

State Councilor Dai Bingguo said common interests between the world’s two largest economies now make them “inseparable” and destined to grow more interdependent.

The annual two-day round of talks brings together leaders on economics, foreign policy and security. The meetings, involving scores of officials, wrap up Tuesday with news conferences.

President Barack Obama met Dai and Chinese delegation leader Vice Premier Wang Qishan after Monday’s deliberations. He encouraged China to implement policies to support “balanced global growth as well as a more balanced bilateral economic relationship.” On human rights, he underscored his support for freedom of expression and political participation, a White House statement said.

This year’s dialogue follows a January state visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao that helped eased tensions over the U.S. arms sales to self-governing Taiwan, which Beijing regards as part of Chinese territory. The U.S. and China also have been at odds over China’s intervention in currency markets, which the U.S. says has kept the value of the yuan low against the dollar, giving an unfair advantage to Chinese exporters.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Monday softened the long-standing U.S. criticism of China’s economic policies, possibly in a belief that the outside pressure was proving counterproductive.

Geithner praised China’s efforts, which include a decision last June to resume allowing the yuan to rise in value against the dollar after freezing the currency’s value for two years during the height of the financial crisis. The yuan has risen by about 5 percent against the dollar since last summer. American manufacturers contend the yuan is still undervalued by as much as 40 percent.

The U.S. Treasury chief still urged China to allow its currency to appreciate at a faster rate and to allow Chinese consumer interest rates to rise. Both steps could help boost domestic demand and help lower America’s trade deficit, which hit an all-time high with China last year.

A Chinese official, however, blamed U.S. policies for the ballooning trade gap. Commerce Minister Chen Deming told a news conference that China’s currency appreciation was being carried out in a “very healthy manner.” He said the United States needed to change its own policies on high-tech sales and investment as a way to spur American manufacturing.

He took aim at the U.S. screening of Chinese foreign investment proposals, contending it was neither fair nor transparent. Most recently, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States rejected a takeover by private Chinese technology giant Huawei of a small U.S. computer company, 3Leaf, on national security grounds.

“We hope the United States can treat Chinese investment, including by state-owned enterprises, in a fair manner,” he said.

U.S. companies have their own long list of complaints: limited access to Chinese markets, theft of intellectual property, widespread use in China of counterfeit software and problems in seeking redress through China’s legal system.

At the ceremonial opening of the talks on Monday, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton offered blunt criticism of China’s human rights record, which Beijing regards as an internal matter. Clinton later had “very candid and honest” private discussions on the issue with Dai, U.S. officials said.

Since February, Chinese authorities have questioned or detained hundreds of lawyers, activists, journalists and bloggers after anonymous calls were made on the Internet for protests emulating those that have challenged and toppled authoritarian governments in the Middle East and North Africa. No such protests have taken place in China.

“We know over the long arc of history that societies that work toward respecting human rights are going to be more prosperous, stable and successful. That has certainly been proven time and time again, but most particularly in the last months,” Clinton said.

Dai said China had made progress in the area of human rights, but he did not mention the recent crackdown.

In Beijing on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said, “No country is perfect in its human rights record and there is no one-size-fits-all human rights policy.”

In unusually mild comments on a subject that Beijing is highly sensitive about, Jiang said, “China and the U.S. have different opinions in the area of human rights and we believe we can use dialogue to increase mutual understanding and mutual trust.”

This year’s talks for the first time included high-level military leaders from both nations, a move seen as a way to increase understanding between military commanders and reduce the risk of conflict. China’s military has expanded rapidly in the past 15 years, deploying missiles and naval assets that could challenge American supremacy in the region.

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China is facing threats of U.S. economic sanctions on goods shipped to the U.S.


US, China to talk trade, currency, human rights
May 9, 2011, 8:38 a.m. EDT

Journal By Calvin Lee Ledsome Sr.,

Owner and Founder of: http://www.LedSomeBioMetrics.com

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WASHINGTON (AP) — America’s massive trade deficit with China, currency rates and human rights concerns will all be on the agenda when top officials from the United States and China sit down for high-level talks this week.

The annual meetings will bring together top officials from both countries representing dozens of government agencies in the areas of trade and finance, and foreign policy.

While no major breakthroughs are expected, both sides hope to build on the progress made during a state visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao to Washington in January.

That visit helped smooth relations that had been strained in 2010 over such issues as U.S. military sales to Taiwan.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will lead the U.S. team.

Both countries will, for the first time, bring top military leaders to the discussions in an effort to defuse military tensions that were heightened last year by the U.S. arms sales.

The Chinese team will be led by Vice Premier Wang Qishan, China’s top economic policymaker, and State Counselor Dai Bingguo, a veteran diplomat.

The talks will begin with an opening session and then break into separate discussions on the economy and foreign policy. The U.S. and Chinese leaders are also scheduled to meet Monday with President Barack Obama. The talks wrap up on Tuesday.

China is facing threats of U.S. economic sanctions on goods shipped here to its largest foreign market unless it does more to end what U.S. manufacturers say are unfair trade practices, including currency manipulation, that have cost American jobs.

At the same time, China, America’s biggest foreign creditor, wants assurances that its $1.2 trillion in U.S. Treasury holdings are safe despite the impending congressional debate over raising the government’s $14.3 trillion borrowing limit.

“The Chinese are astounded that the U.S. government would let the debate get to the stage where there is even a remote possibility of a default,” said Eswar Prasad, a China expert at Cornell University.

The higher debt limit is needed to make sure America can keep paying the interest bill on the debt to China and other investors.

While Geithner said last week that the U.S. would press China to accelerate efforts to revalue its currency, the yuan, he also sounded a conciliatory tone. He noted that the yuan has risen in value by 5 percent since last June, and even faster once inflation was taken into account.

A softer approach on China’s currency will not please American manufacturers. They contend that China’s currency is undervalued by as much as 40 percent and they want Congress to approve economic penalties if Beijing doesn’t move faster.

The U.S. trade deficit with China last year was a record $273 billion, one-fifth more than in 2009. The administration is considering filing new trade cases against Chinese practices that U.S. companies contend are unfair.

U.S. officials say they want to see more progress on economic commitments made in January.

Those include closer monitoring of Chinese government purchases of software, a move intended to boost Beijing’s buying of legal U.S. software and reduce its use of pirated software. American companies say such theft is costing them billions in lost sales.

The Chinese also pledged to revamp a policy that limits the ability of U.S. companies to compete for Chinese government projects unless the products are designed in China. American businesses regard this as an effort to force them to turn over their technology to China or be locked out of its government market.

On foreign policy, officials said Clinton will renew efforts to gain China’s support in confronting nuclear threats from North Korea and Iran, and she will raise the issue of human rights.

China recently undertook the biggest security crackdown in years, apparently prompted by the communist leadership’s fear of Middle East-inspired unrest migrating to China.

The high-level talks began in 2006 in the Bush administration and focused on economic issues. The Obama administration expanded the focus in 2009 to include foreign policy as well as economic concerns.

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Associated Press writers Matthew Pennington in Washington and Joe McDonald in Beijing contributed to this report.

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