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Dr. Fly

18 years in Wall Street, left after finding out it was all horseshit. Founder/ Master and Commander: iBankCoin, finance news and commentary from the future.

Obama Nearly Destroyed the Economy For Political Purposes

President Obama summoned the top four congressional leaders to the White House on Saturday morning, July 23, 2011. The night before, House Speaker John A. Boehner had withdrawn from negotiations to raise the $14 trillion federal debt limit and save the government from a catastrophic default. “Nobody wanted to be there,” Boehner later recalled. “The president’s still pissed.”

They had about 10 days left before the government would run out of money. Given the global importance of U.S. Treasury securities, failing to extend the debt limit could trigger a worldwide economic meltdown.

Boehner said he believed that he and the others — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — had a plan. He told Obama: We think we can work this out. Give us a little more time. We’ll come back to you. We are not going to negotiate this with you.

Obama objected, saying that he couldn’t be left out of the process. “I’ve got to sign this bill,” he reminded the leaders as they sat in the Cabinet Room off the Oval Office.

“Mr. President,” Boehner challenged, “as I read the Constitution, the Congress writes the laws. You get to decide if you want to sign them.”

Reid, the most powerful Democrat on Capitol Hill, spoke up. The congressional leaders want to speak privately, he said. Give us some time.

This was it. Congress was taking over. The leaders were asking the president to leave the meeting he had called in the White House.

Fine, Obama said. Talk. Knock yourselves out. There is no pride of authorship here, just do it — if you can.

How did it feel, I asked the president in an interview on July 11, 2012, to be voted off the island in his own house?

“I’m not concerned about protocol,” he said. His concern was “an end run around the White House.”

Before the meeting, without telling Obama, the four leaders had tentatively agreed on the framework of a deal. The congressional plan guaranteed that the debt limit would have to be revisited during the 2012 presidential campaign, and Obama was insisting that any agreement would have to take the country through the election.

Around 10 p.m., Obama called Boehner, who was at dinner with friends.

I am not going to sign a bill that requires me to deal with the debt ceiling a second time before the election, the president told him. He was furious.

“Listen,” Boehner said he told Obama, “I understand it. All right? But you’re not going to have a choice. We’ve got an agreement.”

The speaker recalled, “He was moaning and groaning and whining and demanding . . . threatening. . . . He was pretty desperate.” Obama again said he would veto such a bill.

We’re too close to default to reopen the talks, Boehner said. Congress is going to move forward on its own.

Asked recently about Boehner’s description of their late-night call, Obama said, “Listen, anybody who knows me knows I don’t moan, I don’t groan, I don’t whine.” He laughed, “I’m not desperate. I was very angry about how he had behaved, and more concerning was the fact that we were now only a few days from there literally being $5 billion left in the Treasury for the United States government.”

Just $5 billion was about half a day’s worth of the federal government’s expenditures — closer to the wire than the public had been told.

The president told his senior staff that the call with Boehner had led nowhere.

“So we’ve got to figure out Plan B. Which is, how do we get out of this thing?” he said.

The problem was that they did not have a Plan B.

It was increasingly clear that no one was running Washington. That was trouble for everyone, but especially for Obama. Although running things is a joint venture between the president and Congress, a president has to dominate Congress — or at least be seen as dominating Congress. The last president to fold was George H.W. Bush, who gave in to Democrats’ demands that income taxes be raised in a 1990 budget deal. And Bush had been a one-term president.

When Obama learned that the deal negotiated among the congressional leaders would require a two-step increase in the debt limit, he told Rob Nabors, the White House director of legislative affairs, “The one thing I said I actually needed, they didn’t get,” referring to Reid and Pelosi. “I needed this to go past the election, and they didn’t get it for me. This can’t work.”

Obama sent word that he wanted the two Democratic leaders at the White House at 6 p.m. that Sunday, July 24. No reason was given.

Reid arrived in the Oval Office with his chief of staff, David Krone.

“Harry,” the president began, “I hear you have kind of an outline, a framework of something.”

Reid began to lay out the two-step $2.7 -trillion debt limit extension, then stopped. He was not a details guy. “Well, let David just tell you what it is,” he said.

It was highly unusual for someone to pass the ball so completely to a staffer. The 44-year-old Krone outlined the plan, including a secret Republican pledge to count $1 trillion in savings from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan toward deficit reduction. That was surprising. Earlier, Boehner had not been willing to accept this accounting gimmick.

“I don’t trust these guys,” the president said dismissively.

Krone either would not or could not conceal his anger.

“Wait a second,” Obama said, interrupting someone else who was about to speak. “I can tell David has something else to say.”

“Mr. President, I am sorry — with all due respect — that we are in this situation that we’re in, but we got handed this football on Friday night. And I didn’t create this situation. The first thing that baffles me is, from my private-sector experience, the first rule that I’ve always been taught is to have a Plan B. And it is really disheartening that you, that this White House did not have a Plan B.”

Several jaws dropped as the Hill staffer blasted the president to his face.

“So I don’t have a lot of options, in the past 36, 48 hours, to put together,” Krone continued. “We’re supposed to be the ones that fend off an economic catastrophe. And what we find ourselves is now, with no deal, we’re going to have to root for the worst possible things to happen in order to prove to the Republicans that you cannot be so callous and let the debt limit expire.

“That is a horrible position that we’re in,” Krone said. “And so this may not be the perfect deal, but it’s the only deal that we have on the table right now in the situation that we find ourselves.”

Obama replied: “I understand what you think you’re doing. I’m not doing that. The one thing that we need to bring stability to this economy is not throwing the debt limit increase back into the political arena. I’m not doing that under any circumstances. So if that means that I’m not signing this bill, I’m not signing the bill.”

After the meeting, Obama made a beeline for Krone. The others stepped back so the two could talk, but they still overheard the president’s words.

“I’m sorry,” Obama said, putting an arm around Krone’s shoulder. “You didn’t deserve that. I know how hard you’re working, and I know we wouldn’t even have a chance without you.”

Reid gave Krone a ride back to the Capitol. The majority leader was almost like a father to him.

“You stood up to him,” Reid said. “He needed to hear it, and nobody was telling him.”

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“Upon my arrival, I found an associate who informed me that the laptops were in stock. However, before he would get me one, he proceeded to try to sell me his ‘protection plan.’

“Now, for a number of reasons, including my own knowledge of computers, as well as ready access to free computer repair services, I declined this. The sales associate indicated that it was O.K., and then walked away to, I assumed, get my computer.

“He returned with the store’s general manager, who again proceeded to aggressively push the protection plan onto me. He was extremely rude, implying that I was ‘cheap’ for not adding the plan. He walked away when I finally maintained that I did not want it. Then I heard him call the sales associate over and tell him something. Moments later, the sales associate informed me that the laptop was not in stock after all.”

It gets worse. The would-be customer calls a second Staples, where a salesman says, yes, we have that $449 Acer.

“I walked in and found the exact person whom I spoke to eight minutes earlier. The store was virtually empty. I asked him if I had just spoken to him about the Acer laptop and he confirmed that he was the person. I asked him if they were indeed in stock, and he indicated that they were. I then asked if he could please go get one, because I definitely wanted one. And then, before he goes back to get one, he asks me if I want the service plan.”

You know the rest. After a quick check of inventory, the salesman returns to say the Acers are all gone.

THIS tale, by the way, is three years old, but you will find more recent variations of it on different consumer Web sites. The Haggler chose this one because it is detailed and because it contains no obscenities — rare in this genre.

What is happening here? Why aren’t these stores eager to sell computers, even if customers don’t also want to buy service plans?

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Comedic Hilarity: The Bearded Clam Just Refinanced His 30 Year Mortgage

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke refinanced his mortgage last year, taking advantage of low interest rates influenced by the central bank.


Bernanke refinanced a 30-year mortgage at a 4.25% rate, according to financial disclosure documents released Thursday.


Nationwide, the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 4.45% in 2011, but recently fell as low as 3.49% in July of this year, according to Freddie Mac.


Low interest rates are a direct result of the Federal Reserve’s policies, which have been aimed at stimulating economic growth since the financial crisis of 2008.


Not including real estate, Bernanke’s financial assets totaled at least $1.07 million last year. His investments are rather plain vanilla, consisting largely of annuities and cash in checking and money market accounts.


That stands in stark contrast to some of his Fed colleagues. Financial statements released from 2010 show Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher owned more than 7,000 acres of land, $1 million in gold and even as much as $250,000 in uranium.


Some others had individual stocks in their portfolios.


Bernanke earned at least $150,000 in textbook royalties last year. His current salary, set by Congress, is $199,700 a year.

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