Economic Daily Outlook

MONDAY, MARCH 12, 2012



Latest Stress Tests Are Expected to Show Progress at Most Banks

In another milestone in the banking industry’s recovery from the financial crisis, the Federal Reserve this week will release the results of its latest stress tests, which are expected to show broadly improved balance sheets at most institutions.

The findings would be the latest of several signs of renewed strength in the economy, including the unemployment report last Friday that showed that more than 227,000 jobs were created in February.



Dodd-Frank panel faces pushback on rules for naming vital Wall Street firms

Federal regulators are facing opposition from business groups as they try to develop a system to ensure that large institutions do not cause another financial crisis.

At issue is how regulators will determine what financial firms deserve the title “systemically significant.” Lawmakers developed the designation after the financial crisis, when a chain reaction among financial firms nearly sparked a global panic.

The Dodd-Frank financial reform law requires regulators to determine what institutions are crucial to the economy and see that they remain healthy and solvent.



The Hardest Job to Fill (And Keep) In Washington: CMS Chief

President Obama is fighting to save his signature health law on two fronts: in the Supreme Court and on the campaign trail, where Republican candidates are promising to kill the Affordable Care Act.

Yet even if the president prevails, he faces another daunting challenge: implementing the law in a seamless, timely manner. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is charged with making the health law work, drafting regulations, setting up new programs and providing oversight. But for years Congress has undermined the agency’s leadership and potential effectiveness, raising questions about its capabilities and resources even as the health law ramps up its responsibilities.

For starters: consider the revolving door leadership at CMS.



Obama to tout energy progress, oil imports down

President Barack Obama receives a report on Monday showing a one million barrel per day decline in U.S. oil imports in 2011, as the White House arms itself against election-year attacks on his energy policies, which Republicans blame for high gas prices.

Obama, a Democrat, is stepping up defense of his record amid concern higher oil prices may lift gasoline to $5 a gallon in some parts of the country this summer, posing a potential threat to the president’s bid for reelection on Nov. 6.

Analysts: White House, Congress have little control over rising gas prices

Federal policymakers have few options to lower gas prices in the short-term, according to energy analysts.

The recent run-up is fueling election-year political battles and thrusting White House energy policy into the spotlight, with Republicans blaming President Obama and the White House working hard to deflect criticism. As of Friday, gasoline was averaging $3.75 per gallon nationally, according to AAA.

But because gas prices are tethered to oil prices, which are set by global markets based on a slew of complicated factors, energy experts say there’s not a lot U.S. lawmakers or the White House can do, at least in the short term.



OPINION: Why the Ed Department should be reconceived – or abolished (Peter Smagorinsky)–or-abolished/2012/03/09/gIQAHfdB5R_blog.html

he Department of Education has, since its inception in 1979, served as the source of national education policies governing our nation’s schools. Although I agree with very little else of Rick Perry’s vision for America, I think that either abolishing or thoroughly reconceiving this office would make for a better nation, given that for the most part it has done teachers and students far more harm than good.

Over time, the Department of Education has become increasingly bureaucratic and invasive, and has formulated its policies on questionable information that appears to emanate from hunches, anecdotes, whims, and fads, buttressed by corroborating evidence from ideologically friendly think tanks and media blowhards. Along the way, in what seems to be an increasing national trend of anti-intellectualism and cognophobic reactions to the specter of educated and knowledgeable people having opinions, it has eschewed the opportunity to consult with people who teach in or study schools.



Looming defense cuts prompt GOP shift

House Republicans leaders hope to use this spring’s budget resolution to set in motion a novel deficit-reduction bill designed to substitute for the nearly $110 billion in automatic spending cuts due to take effect in January.

At this stage, the goal is not to match the full $1.2 trillion in 10-year savings ordered by the Budget Control Act last summer. Instead, the primary focus is on the first round in 2013, half of which — about $54.7 billion — would come from national defense spending.

Nonetheless, the long-term budget impact of the package could be significantly more.


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