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Elizabeth Warren Floats $22 Minimum Wage

“Tripling the minimum wage to $22 an hour from its current $7.25 an hour has been suggested by Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who until now had seemed to be keeping a low profile after defeating Republican Scott Brown in November for the Massachusetts seat.

In his State of the Union address on Feb. 13, President Barack Obama proposed increasing the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour.

“If we started in 1960, and we said [that] as productivity goes up, that is as workers are producing more — then the minimum wage was going to go up the same. And if that were the case, then the minimum wage today would be about $22 an hour,” said Warren, the administration’s former Special Advisor for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Warren was speaking at last week’s Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on “Keeping up with a Changing Economy: Indexing the Minimum Wage.”

Warren added: “So my question is . . . What happened to the other $14.75? It sure didn’t go to the worker.”

Panelist Arindrajit Dube, an assistant professor at the Department of Economics at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, responded to Warren’s inquiry by drawing another comparison that appeared to suggest that the approximately $14 difference between today’s actual minimum wage and Warren’s hypothetical minimum wage was going to the nation’s top 1 percent of earners….”

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Cyprus Shoots Down Depositor Tax, Now Investors Worry Over Systemic Failure

“Cyprus’s parliament rejected an unprecedented levy on bank deposits, dealing a blow to European plans to force savers to shoulder part of the country’s bailout in a standoff that risks renewed tumult in the euro area.

Cypriot legislators in the capital Nicosia voted 36 against the proposal with none in favor in a show of hands today. There were 19 abstentions. Hammered out by euro-area finance chiefs at the weekend, the deal had sought to raise 5.8 billion euros ($7.5 billion) by drawing funds from Cyprus bank accounts in return for 10 billion euros in international aid….”

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Central Banks Propose Several Rates Over Libor Alone

“LONDON (Reuters) – The tarnished Libor interest rate benchmark should be replaced with a range of reference rates based on actual market transactions by banks, a global group of central bankers said on Monday.

Barclays , Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and UBS have all been fined for rigging the London interbank offered rate, which regulators are now reforming.

The rate is compiled by banks submitting quotes for the rates at which they believe they could borrow from another bank. It is used to price products worth trillions of dollars, ranging from home loans to credit cards, but central bankers signaled that its days ought to be numbered.

“It is clear that central banks must play an important role in supporting the development of alternative reference rates,” Bank of England Governor Mervyn King said in a statement.

King chairs a committee of central bankers at the Bank for International Settlements, which on Monday published a report on the role central banks could play in creating a choice of rates….”

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Republicans To Vote on Keystone XL Pipeline as They Refuse to Wait for W.H.

“U.S. House Republicans won’t wait for President Barack Obama to issue a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline. They plan to vote by the end of May on legislation that would sidestep the White House and offer congressional approval to the TransCanada Corp. (TRP) project.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton said today that the bill would be on the House floor by Memorial Day.

The measure sponsored by Nebraska Republican Lee Terry is being designated H.R. 3, using one of the numbers held in reserve by Republican leadership for their top-priority bills.

“There is no reason for us to not only refine that oil, but also to keep most of it in the U.S.,” Upton, a Michigan Republican, told a press conference.

The project would cross six states and link the tar sands inAlberta, Canada, to Texas refineries along the Gulf Coast. It requires a presidential permit because it crosses an international border.

In January 2012 the Obama administration rejected a proposed route for the pipeline after concerns were raised about the impact of the project on an ecologically sensitive area inNebraska. The route now under consideration was submitted in May 2012.

‘Political Statement’…”

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EU Policy Makers Highlight Flexibility Over Cyprus Depositor Tax as Outrage Could Destroy the Bailout

“European policy makers signaled flexibility on the application of an unprecedented bank tax in Cyprus, seeking to overcome outrage that threatened to derail the nation’s bailout. European shares and the euro fell.

While demanding that the levy raise the targeted 5.8 billion euros ($7.6 billion), finance officials said easing the cost to smaller savers was up to Cyprus. A vote on the tax, needed to secure 10 billion euros in rescue loans, was delayed for a second day. Banks may not reopen tomorrow after a holiday today, state-run broadcaster CYBC reported.

“If the government wants to change the structure of the solidarity levy for the banking sector, the government can decide as such,” European Central Bank Executive Board member Joerg Asmussen said today in Berlin. “What’s important is that the planned revenue of 5.8 billion euros remain.”

While Cyprus accounts for less than half a percent of the 17-nation euro economy, the raid on bank accounts risks triggering new convulsions in the financial crisis that began in 2009 inGreece. Moody’s Investors Service said that the move is a significant step toward limiting support for bank creditors across Europe and shows that policy makers will risk financial- market disruptions to avoid sovereign defaults.

The tax is “a worrying precedent with potentially systemic consequences if depositors in other periphery countries fear a similar treatment in the future,” Joachim Fels, chief international economist at Morgan Stanley (MS) in London, wrote in a client note.

On Line…”

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Beppe Grillo Just Picked Up 5% in a Recent Poll

“A new poll (Tweeted by Fabrizio Goria) shows surging support for Grillo. The election only added to his momentum, and he’s now at 30 percent. Almost as worrisome for Europe: Berlusconi’s PDL has also gained since the election.

These both represent protests aimed at austerity and Brussels. Remember, Italy has gotten its borrowing costs down, because it;s engaged in austerity/reforms that the ECB likes. If Italy goes back on them, the ECB backstop becomes less politically tenable, and then you could have surging borrowing costs in Europe’s largest debt market….”

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Hungary May Be Thrown Out of the EU

“Hungary’s increasingly aggressive moves against media, judiciary and central bank independence will be discussed by European Union heads of states on Friday, raising the possibility that Hungary could be thrown out of the EU.

The European Union is concerned Hungary may be flouting EU rules on human rights, after its parliament voted this week to amend its constitution to allow legislation to bypass approval from the constitutional court. Hungary had defied calls from the European Commission to delay the vote.

The move means European laws designed to protect the freedom of the media and the independence of the judiciary could be compromised, if not violated. Following the vote, the European Commission said it would investigate whether Hungary’s new laws are anti-democratic and violate the bloc’s rules on human rights and EU treaties.

Martin Schulz, president of the European Commission, told CNBC on Thursday evening that a country could be thrown out of the EU if it did not respect European rules and rights, but added that he was wary of passing judgement prematurely.

“Before you blame a country for not respecting the fundamental values of a community to which it belongs, you must have 100 percent safe proof and so far, the proof is not on the table,” he told CNBC, speaking from Brussels, where EU leaders are holding a two-day summit predominately focused on the sovereign debt crisis…”

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Beppe Grillo Will Present a Prize Fight for Seats in Italy’s Government

“Italy’s incumbent lawmakers, who united last year to impose austerity on taxpayers, are bracing for a fight over their own privileges as the upstart movement led by Beppe Grillo enters parliament and vies for key roles.

Up for grabs as the legislature convenes today are the speakerships of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies, followed by appointments to budget committees and commission chairmanships. The posts could give Grillo’s Five Star Movement, which took a quarter of the votes in elections last month, enough leverage over the bodies’ more than 2 billion euros ($2.6 billion) in annual operating expenses.

“The costs could be cut in half,” said Elio Lannutti, a consumer advocate, ex-senator and a friend of Grillo’s. “If they keep these people out, the revolution is just going to get bigger.”

Five Star was swept into the legislature with a mandate to cut taxes, curb public spending and shove career politicians from power. The party’s power is still up in the air, as no political force emerged from the Feb. 24-25 election with a majority. It’s now up to President Giorgio Napolitano to nominate a figure to form a government.

Still, Five Star has already used its electoral gains to push its version of an austerity agenda.

Lawmakers make about 20,000 euros a month in salary and benefits, including train and air travel. Yesterday, Grillo called on Pier Luigi Bersani, head of the largest parliamentary force, to persuade his members to give up more than half of their pay. Monthly salaries, at about 11,000 euros, should be reduced to 5,000 euros, Grillo said. There are 945 elected seats in the Senate and Chamber. That compares to 635 in the U.S. Congress.

‘The Caste’…”

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Upcoming German Elections Will Be Tested Given Sovereign Debt Crisis Plaguing Europe

“A resurgence of the debt crisis that scarred the euro-area over the past 3 1/2 years is the biggest threat facing Germany in an election year, policy makers and leading economists said.

With sovereign bond yields declining in countries such as Italy and Ireland, governments acrossEurope cannot be lulled into thinking they can let up on their budget-cutting efforts, economists including Deutsche Bank AG senior adviser Thomas Mayer and Holger Schmieding of Berenberg Bank said during Bloomberg’s first Germany Day conference in Berlin yesterday.

“No nonsense,” Schmieding said during a panel discussion at the event, urging governments not to “backtrack in any way on the achievements” made so far. “If any country tried now to undo austerity, it would likely shatter confidence, it would probably spark another row in Europe, another wave of the euro crisis, and that wave of crisis would leave us all with less business investment, less jobs across the euro area.”

Policy makers including Chancellor Angela Merkel, Europe’s dominant political leader, risk complacency as they use a period of relative market calm to shift from crisis-fighting to longer- term efforts to bolster economic growth and combat record levels of unemployment in countries such as Spain andGreece. Leaders resume a two-day summit in Brussels today that was due to tackle Cyprus, the fifth euro country to call for outside aid.

Cyprus ‘Bail-In’….”


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Samurai Abe Gets Kuroda Confirmed, More Easing to Come

“Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s initiative to end two decades of economic stagnation took its biggest step yet as Parliament confirmed his picks for a new Bank of Japan (8301)leadership team.

Haruhiko Kuroda, who advocated an inflation target more than a decade before the central bank set one, won a majority of votes in the upper house a day after his nomination as governor was endorsed by the lower body. Abe’s picks for two deputies were also approved, with BOJ critic Kikuo Iwata prevailing after being opposed as too radical by some lawmakers.

Kuroda, the outgoing Asian Development Bank chief, has repeatedly said monetary policy alone can end the deflation that has afflicted the world’s third-largest economy for 15 years. His next task is corralling the nine-member board behind fresh stimulus, with options ranging from accelerating bond-purchase plans to setting a target for expanding the monetary base.

“The next focal point is whether Kuroda will hold an emergency meeting,” before the scheduled April 3-4 board gathering, said Shuichi Obata, senior economist at Nomura Securities Co. inTokyo. “The BOJ is likely to extend the maturity of assets it buys and expand bond purchases.”

Japan’s stocks climbed after the confirmation votes, with theNikkei 225 Stock Average (NKY) closing up 1.5 percent, double the gain in the MSCI Asia Pacific Index. The Nikkei closed at its highest since before the Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. bankruptcy in 2008….”

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The Dems Will Introduce $1 Trillion in New Taxes, No Balanced Budget Proposal

“…..The Democrats will introduce their first formal “budget” in 4 years at a press conference at 10:30.

Erik Wasson at The Hill reports on what will be in it:

The first budget from Senate Democrats in four years includes nearly $1 trillion in new taxes but would not balance the budget….”

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Paul Ryan’s Budget Plan Unlikely to Pass

Republicans on Tuesday debuted their full 2014 budget, an ambitious proposal that would seek to balance the budget within a decade, but which is also almost certain to never become law.

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the Republican budget chief and 2012 vice presidential nominee, called his third budget an “invitation” to President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats to begin bargaining toward a deal to balance the budget.

“This is not only a responsible, reasonable, balanced plan,” Ryan said, “it’s also an invitation. This is an invitation to the president of the United States, to the Senate Democrats to come together to fix these problems.”

But just as Obama has made new overtures to Ryan and other Capitol Hill Republicans in hopes of breaking the fiscal logjam in Congress, Ryan produced a new budget that offers up few concessions to Democrats, and doubles down upon many of the policies on which Republicans campaigned during last fall’s election….”

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Paul Ryan: US Budget Compromise With Obama Possible

“The Republicans’ point person on fiscal issues in Congress said on Sunday that compromise with President Barack Obamais possible on taxes and spending even though his soon-to-be-unveiled budget plan faces certain rejection from Obama’s Democrats.

Rep. Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House of Representatives Budget Committee, acknowledged that Democrats who control the Senate are likely to defeat his proposal to repeal Obama’s signature health-care law and other elements of his plan to balance the budget within 10 years.

But Ryan, whose ideas on taxes and spending gained national prominence when he was selected as the Republican vice presidential candidate last year, said Democrats and Republicans might be able to agree on less dramatic steps that would narrow budget deficits in coming years….”

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EU Leaders to Discuss Bailing Out Cyprus This Week

“European leaders grappling with political deadlock in Italy and spiraling unemployment in Francewill turn to a financial rescue for Cyprus in an effort to stave off a return of market turmoil over the debt crisis.

European Union leaders will meet for a March 14-15 summit in Brussels to discuss terms for Cyprus, including the island nation’s debt sustainability and possibly imposing losses on depositors. That comes as Italy struggles to form a government after an inconclusive Feb. 24-25 election and as concern over the French economy mounts with unemployment at a 13-year high.

“We haven’t turned the corner yet, but we’re on a good path,” German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told Austria’sDer Standard newspaper in a March 8 interview. “It would be wrong at this point to change course.”

The European Central Bank’s pledge to intervene in bond markets and the prospect of an economic recovery by the end of the year are holding the three-year-old sovereign debt crisis in check. Still, gridlock in Italy has raised the specter of renewed turmoil in the euro area’s third-largest economy, while growth has ground to a halt in France, the second-largest.

European bonds held steady last week, with Spanish debt advancing for a fourth week and Italian yields sliding. Spanish10-year yields declined for the ninth straight day, sliding 3 basis points to 4.73 percent at 9:12 a.m. in MadridItalian yields with the same maturity climbed 3 basis points to 4.63 percent.

Euro’s Retreat…”

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Merkel Looks to Eastern Block Nations for Allies

“German Chancellor Angela Merkel is turning east as she pushes plans for a more competitive Europe, seeking to bring on board the leaders of Poland and other eastern countries as allies elsewhere prove hard to find.

Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, the key players in the euro-area debt crisis, travel to Warsaw today for talks on closer European Union integration with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and his peers from the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. The six leaders are due to hold a joint news conference at about 4 p.m. Warsaw time.

As southern Europeans vilify Merkel for her austerity-led solution to the debt crisis, the head of Europe’s biggest economy is looking for support to the countries of the east she knows from childhood growing up in communist EastGermany. It’s the first time that French and German leaders are jointly attending the four-country forum.

“Germany’s allies in the sovereign-debt crisis are not too numerous,” Kai-Olaf Lang, an analyst at the Berlin-based German Institute for International and Security Affairs, said by telephone. In contrast, Central Europe is “mainly like-minded in economic and financial matters” with the German government.

Forging eastern alliances might help Merkel outmaneuver the U.K. as it seeks to shield the City of London and allow her to sidestep efforts to block closer integration in Europe, including her latest push on competitiveness.

Competitiveness Index…”

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EU Announces Looser Austerity Measures Given Italy’s Political Turmoil

“European finance ministers opened the way for looser budget policies after a backlash against austerity thrust Italy into political limbo and shattered months of relative stability in European markets.

Italy’s deadlocked election, France’s refusal to make deeper budget cuts and protests against the shrinking of the welfare state across southern Europe escalated the rebellion against the German-led prescription for fighting the debt crisis.

Economic strains “may also justify in a certain number of cases reviewing deadlines for the correction of excessive deficits,” European Union Economic and Monetary Commissioner Olli Rehn told reporters late yesterday after a meeting of euro- area finance ministers in Brussels.

The euro-zone economy will shrink 0.3 percent in 2013, making for the first annual back-to-back contraction since the currency’s birth in 1999, the European Commission forecast last month. The currency-bloc prediction masked a widening north- south divide, with growth in countries like Germany,FinlandBelgium and Luxembourg set against dwindling output in Italy, GreeceSpain and Portugal.

France is straddling the middle, set to eke out a 0.1 percent expansion after the economy stagnated in 2012, according to the commission. Deeper budget cuts are out of the question, French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said.

‘Right Rhythm’…”

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Obama Names Three to Second Term Cabinet

“President Barack Obama announced three cabinet-level nominations, choosing Sylvia Mathews Burwell of the Wal-Mart Foundation as director of the Office of Management and Budget, scientist Ernest Moniz as head of the Energy Department, and Gina McCarthy to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, where she’s been an assistant administrator.

“I can promise you that as soon as the Senate gives them the go-ahead, they’re going to hit the ground running and they’re going to help make America a stronger and more prosperous country,” Obama said at the White House today.

Burwell, 47, president of the Wal-Mart Foundation, was deputy OMB director during President Bill Clinton’s administration and also was chief of staff to then-Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. Her tenure included the 1995 budget standoffs between the president and Congress that led to partial government shutdowns.

From 1990 to 1992, she was an associate at McKinsey & Co. She worked for Clinton’s presidential transition team in Little Rock after the 1992 election and later helped Rubin set up the National Economic Council in 1993.

Burwell was named executive vice president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000, rising to chief operating officer on Aug. 1, 2002, according to a company press release.

In January 2012 she was named president of the Wal-Mart Foundation, which made $959 million in cash and in-kind contributions worldwide in 2011, according to its website.

She would be the second woman, after Alice Rivlin in the Clinton administration, to head the White House budget office.

MIT Professor…”

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A Word From Michio Kaku

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZDT3i5VGN8 450 300]

Link for iPhone users: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZDT3i5VGN8

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Euro Members Insist Upon Austerity Acceptance in Italy as Election Turmoil Raises Questions on Euro Stability

“European leaders demanded that euro members press on with budget cuts to end the debt crisis as Italy edged closer to a new election after an anti-austerity vote last week resulted in political deadlock.

Finance ministers from the 17-member single-currency bloc meet in Brussels today to discuss issues including a bailout for Cyprus. In Rome, a top aide to Democratic Party leader Pier Luigi Bersani said the country may need to hold another election this year after passing new electoral laws.

“Now in Europe, after the Italian election, it seems to be a case of either austerity and savings programs or growth, but that’s a completely false premise,” German Chancellor Angela Merkelsaid at March 1 event. EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn echoed those comments this weekend, telling Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine that there’s no scope for the bloc to let up on budget discipline.

Italian political instability, after last week’s election ended in a four-way split, threatens to reignite concern about the deepening of the debt crisis. Voters in the bloc’s third- largest economy revolted against German-inspired austerity measures, handing the party of comedian-turned-politician Beppe Grillo more than 25 percent of the vote with its anti-spending cut message and a call for a referendum on euro membership.

Italian Image

Italian 10-year bond yields climbed to a three-month high last week, jumping 34 basis points to 4.79 percent. Yields rose 6 basis points to 4.84 percent as of 10 a.m. in Berlin.

Still, Spanish bonds rallied last week along with Greek and Portuguese securities on speculation that the European Central Bank, which eased a market panic last year with a pledge to buy sovereign debt, will maintain control over the three-year-old debt crisis.

Any “significant” attempt to unravel Prime Minister Mario Monti’s reforms would risk “serious turmoil across Europe,” Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Berenberg Bank in London, said in a note today. “Our base case remains that Brussels, Frankfurt and Berlin jointly with the bond vigilantes will simply leave Italy no choice but to stay on the straight and narrow — or at least to not go astray for very long.” …”

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China May Have to Pull Back on Tightening Efforts as Recovery Stalls

China may hold off tightening monetary policy after growth in services and manufacturing weakened, underscoring challenges for the nation’s leaders as they open the annual session of parliament tomorrow.

Expansion in industries including retailing, transportation and banking was the slowest in five months in February, an official survey of purchasing managers showed yesterday. Gauges released March 1 pointed to manufacturing growth cooling.

Premier Wen Jiabao will outline economic policies at the start of the National People’s Congress session in Beijing as the government tries to sustain a recovery from the slowest growth in 13 years without triggering consumer and asset-price inflation. While authorities have pledged to boost incomes and consumption, last week’s decision to intensify a three-year effort to tame the property market may damp the nation’s rebound.

“The recent batch of data suggest the current recovery is relatively weak compared to past ones, which means the government may delay the timing of monetary tightening to support growth,” said Zhang Zhiwei, chief China economist at Nomura Holdings Inc. in Hong Kong, who previously worked for the International Monetary Fund.

The Shanghai Stock Exchange Property Index fell 7.6 percent as of 9:41 a.m. local time, on pace for the worst decline since 2009. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index dropped 2.2 percent.

A services industries gauge fell to 54.5 in February from 56.2 in January, the National Bureau of Statistics and China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing said yesterday.

Manufacturing Gauges…”

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