You need to know this. The Obama administration is considering its next move, after a panel of three Republican-appointed judges on a DC Circuit Court ruled last week, that President Obama’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau were unconstitutional. The court ruled that the president can only make a recess appointment when the Senate is officially in recess – which only happens once a year – after the Senate finishes the first half of its session. That decision directly contradicted a 2004 federal appeals court ruling – and 190 years of recess appointments by both Republican, and Democratic, presidents. But Corporate America is applauding the decision – and arguing that decisions made by the National Labor Relations Board, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, since the recess appointments, should be null and void. According to court rules, the Obama Justice Department still has 45 days to appeal the ruling to a larger court of appeals – plus another 90 days to appeal to the Supreme Court. Of course – none of this would have been an issue had Senate Republicans not filibustered the President’s nominees – forcing him to make recess appointments in the first place.
In screwed news…when hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars were used to bailout the big banks on Wall Street – the Treasury Department took special precautions to make sure that money wouldn’t be funneled into lavish executive bonuses. But a new report by the Inspector General for TARP, shows that Treasury didn’t do its job. Rather than following rules to limit executive compensation, the Treasury’s “pay czar” let the bailed out banks pay their executives whatever they wanted. Altogether, the Treasury Department approved of all 18 pay raises requested by the banks – totaling more than $6 million. The so-called “pay czar” also approved of $1 million salary packages for 68, of 69 employees, at bailed out banks. As the report says, “While taxpayers struggle to overcome the recent financial crisis, and look to the U.S. government to put a lid on compensation for executives of firms, whose missteps nearly crippled the U.S. financial system, the U.S. Department of the Treasury continues to allow excessive executive pay."
In the best of the rest of the news…
Women are still struggling to find equality in the workplace. Despite President Obama signing into law the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act four years ago, which gives women more power to sue for wage discrimination, the pay gap between men and women still persists. As ThinkProgress blog notes – women still make 77-cents for every dollar a man makes, which works out to women earning nearly a half-million dollars less than men, over the course of their life. And this pay gap gets worse as women get older. For women in their 20’s – it’s $1,700 a year. But for a woman nearing retirement – that annual gap is more than $14,000, which suggests there is indeed a glass ceiling that women eventually hit in the workplace. And in higher paying jobs, female doctors earn $350,000 less over their careers, than male doctors. And female CEO’s earn 69 cents for every dollar a male CEO earns. President Obama devoted part of his second inaugural address to equal pay for equal work for women – but it’s clearly going to take a lot more work to achieve this goal.
So much for closing Gitmo. The New York Times reported yesterday, that a senior Obama administration official tasked with closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, has been reassigned from his position – and will not be replaced. That move sends a very clear message, that the Obama administration is no longer as eager to close Gitmo, as he may have suggested he was in his first term. Of course, the main reason Gitmo remains open is because of Congress. Several times in President Obama’s first administration – Republicans in Congress passed legislation that bar any Gitmo detainees from being transferred anywhere else – therefore making it impossible for the administration to shut down the facility. But despite all of this, a spokesman for the administration told the New York Times that they, “remain committed to closing Guantanamo, and doing so in a responsible fashion.”
With the gun control debate focused on assault weapons and high capacity magazines – no one seems eager to talk about the real weapons behind most gun deaths in America: handguns. More than 6,000 people are killed by handguns every single year – and as data from the FBI shows – 72% of all firearm related homicides, were a result of a handgun. But neither President Obama, nor Congressional Democrats, have proposed limiting the purchases of handguns – or banning their sale outright. So even though mass shootings with military style assault weapons could be curbed by gun control – the epidemic in American from handgun violence isn’t likely to slow anytime soon.
Revolution is a messy process. After five days of riots across Egypt, that have killed more than 50 people and injured more than 1,000 – that nation’s military chief issued a dire warning that the nation may soon collapse. These recent riots come two years after the revolution in Egypt began in 2011 – and are directed at the new Muslim Brotherhood government, headed up by President Mohamed Morsi. There are fears across Egypt today, that the military may again intervene in government, and reclaim the reins of power should unrest continue. Building a democracy is never easy – especially after decades of undemocratic, kleptocratic rule. Keep an eye on this.
And finally..Grover Norquist is big in Italy. A group calling itself Tea Party Italia, has unveiled its own Grover Norquist-style tax pledge, which it plans to make politicians sign, promising they won’t raise taxes to reduce the deficit. Earlier this month – Norquist wrote a letter to the group endorsing their pledge. I suppose since Norquist saw his influence disappear during the fiscal cliff debate – he’s trying to reclaim the reins of power overseas…in Italy.