Tuesday, June 5, 2012

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Bill Clinton: Extend all tax cuts temporarily

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former President Bill Clinton said Tuesday that broad tax cuts that expire in January should be temporarily renewed, including for the wealthiest Americans, to give lawmakers time to reach a deal on a longer-term extension that should exclude the rich.
Clinton's comments were in contrast to President Barack Obama, whose re-election he is supporting. Obama has opposed renewing the tax reductions for people earning over $250,000 a year, saying they must contribute to the effort to control rampant federal deficits.
Reductions in income tax rates and other levies first enacted under President George W. Bush expire in January, at the same time that $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts begin to take effect. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and others have warned that letting both events occur would suck so much money out of the economy that it could spark a renewed recession next year.
"What I think we need to do is to find some way to avoid the fiscal cliff, to avoid doing anything that would contract the economy now, and then deal with what's necessary in the long-term debt reduction plan as soon as they can, which presumably will be after the election," Clinton said on CNBC's "Closing Bell With Maria Bartiromo."
Asked whether that meant extending the tax cuts, Clinton said, "They will probably have to put everything off until early next year. That's probably the best thing to do right now."
He also said Republicans will press to include the wealthy in a permanent extension of the tax cuts, adding, "I don't think the president should do that."
White House officials would not comment immediately on Clinton's remarks. But officials pointed out that Obama has said repeatedly that he would not extend the Bush tax cuts for higher earners after they expire.
After the interview, Clinton spokesman Matt McKenna said the former president has said before that he favored extending all the tax cuts as part of a compromise tax and jobless benefits bill in 2010, "but does not believe the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans should be extended again."
Republicans have insisted that tax rates for the rich should be kept low, saying many of them run companies that create jobs.
Besides the spending cuts and expiration of the tax cuts, the government is expected to need a renewal of its authority to borrow money and avoid a federal default by early next year, something that is up to Congress to decide. Without action, January will also see an end to a one-year Social Security payroll tax cut and to a provision avoiding deep cuts in Medicare reimbursements to doctors.
A postelection lame duck session of Congress is expected to address those issues, with the results depending on who wins the White House and control of the House and Senate on Election Day Nov. 6. Many lawmakers believe final decisions won't be made until next year.
Last week, Clinton said GOP presidential challenger Mitt Romney had a "sterling" record at private equity firm Bain Capital, departing from efforts by Obama's campaign to criticize the Republican's experience there as having little to do with job creation.
Obama and Clinton have improved their relationship since 2008, when Obama defeated Hillary Rodham Clinton in a bitter Democratic contest for the presidential nomination.

Romney accuses Obama of holding onto General Motors stake to avoid loss before election

Romney in Detroit (Gerald Herbert/AP)FORT WORTH, Texas—Mitt Romney accused President Barack Obama of sitting on the government's 26 percent stake in General Motors in order to avoid an embarrassing financial loss before Election Day.
In an interview with the Detroit News, Romney said he would immediately sell the government's stake in GM if he wins the presidency, even if it meant taking a loss.
"There is no reason for the government to continue to hold (its GM stake)," Romney told the paper in an interview published Tuesday. "The president is delaying the sale of the shares to try and avoid the story that the taxpayer took another loss. I would get the company independent from government and run for the interests of the consumer and the enterprise and its workers—not for the political considerations of government officials."
Per the Detroit News, the government would lose roughly $16 billion on its $49.5 billion investment in GM if the stock were sold today.
Romney, a Michigan native whose father was a top auto industry executive, has come under intense criticism for his position on the auto bailouts. He argued in a 2008 New York Times op-ed that the government should allow the car companies to go through bankruptcy rather than intervene financially.
In his interview with the Detroit News, Romney offered an even more nuanced description of his position on the bailouts, allowing that he would have supported some government assistance after the companies went through the bankruptcy process.
"If they needed help coming out of bankruptcy and government support, that was fine, but I was not in favor of the government writing billions of dollars in checks prior to them going into bankruptcy," Romney said in the interview. He accused Democrats of "distorting" his position on the issue.
In a statement issued by the Obama campaign, Michigan Rep. Sander Levin trashed Romney's comments, calling them "outlandish."
"The simple fact is that GM and Chrysler would never have survived long enough to undergo a private bankruptcy without the federal rescue loans," Levin said. "Mitt Romney knows he was wrong, and now that the auto industry is coming back and creating jobs, his attempts to rewrite history are getting more desperate every day."
Romney also suggested he might back off Obama's efforts to double fuel-efficiency requirements for passenger vehicles. He told the Detroit News he'd seek a "better way of encouraging fuel economy.

Cuba Poll Results: Soviet Similarities

Tuesday, June 5, 2012
On yesterday's "From Washington al Mundo," the International Republican Institute's (IRI) Maria Fernandez-Garcia unveiled the results of their public opinion survey within Cuba.

Also, on the program was David Satter, who was the former Moscow correspondent for The Financial Times and later for The Wall Street Journal.

Listen to this clip and note the stirking similarities between the current situation in Cuba and the final days of the Soviet Union.

Human Rights Violations Rise in Cuba

An editorial from the Voice of America:

Human Rights Still Suffer In Cuba

Citizens are harassed and intimidated to keep them from speaking out on the island nation’s political conditions.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has sent Congress the Department’s assessment of human rights around the world during 2011. The reports, required by law, evaluate the human rights performance of the governments of every country and a number of territories, and lawmakers as well as authorities in the executive branch use the reports to help shape our nation’s foreign policies.

2011 saw some positive trends, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa. Tunisia, the cradle of the Arab Spring, held successful, transparent elections for a Constituent Assembly, which in turn elected a former political prisoner as the country’s interim president. In Burma, the government took important steps toward political reform and released more than 200 political prisoners. And in Colombia, the government has been working to improve justice in human rights cases.

But problems persist in many countries and overall there are a number of disturbing trends. Flawed elections, restrictions on the freedom of expression, assembly, or association, censorship or intimidation of the media and attempts to control the activities of civil society and non-governmental groups indicate erosion of respect for human rights in some countries.

As in previous years, human rights conditions in Cuba are a particular concern. Most reported abuses were official acts committed at the direction of a government dominated by the Communist Party, so the perpetrators enjoyed impunity for their actions. Citizens are harassed and intimidated to keep them from speaking out on the island nation’s political conditions. There was an increase in the number of political activists detained for speaking out. The number of short-term detentions in December 2011 rose to the highest level in 30 years.

The Cuban government also placed severe limitations on freedom of speech and press, restricted freedom of movement and limited freedom of religion. Worker rights were restricted as well, particularly the freedom to form independent unions.

The United States is committed to the work of advancing universal rights, building the partnerships that will move us forward, helping every man, woman, and child live up to their potential. In cases of nations such as Cuba, we are also committed to speaking out for those unable to do so for themselves.

Nasdaq readies payouts for Facebook IPO glitch: WSJ

Nasdaq is taking steps toward compensating investor losses due to computer glitches that fouled trading on the first day of Facebook's $16 billion IPO, the Wall Street Journal said Tuesday.
Nasdaq OMX Group, which operates the Nasdaq exchange, has told brokers that it expects to submit plans on the issue to the Securities and Exchange Commission on how it might make up losses tied to its systems problems, the Journal reported.
Trading orders on the first day that Facebook shares hit the market on May 18 overwhelmed Nasdaq's systems, forcing a length delay in trades and leaving investors and brokers in the dark over the results of orders involving millions of shares.
Claims of losses related to Nasdaq's problems are estimated above $100 million, according to the Journal.
On May 24 New York broker Knight Capital asked Nasdaq to compensate it for up to $35 million on the IPO.
"As has been well-publicized, there were numerous issues and problems at Nasdaq relating to the trading of Facebook. Some market participants, including the Company, suffered sizable losses," Knight said in the filing.
The claims are well over what the exchange group has available -- $13 million, according to the report -- to compensate traders who suffer losses due to problems with Nasdaq's system.
In addition at least one class-action lawsuit has been filed in New York against the exchange over claimed losses on Facebook shares due to the systems problems.