Van Hollen at Center of Deficit Fight
By John Fritze, The Baltimore Sun
November 10, 2011
WASHINGTON -- For Rep. Chris Van Hollen, brokering a bipartisan deal to trim the federal deficit is about more than dodging draconian across-the-board cuts or protecting a fragile economic recovery.
It's also about proving that a bitterly divided Congress can still get something done.
As a member of the congressional "supercommittee" charged with slashing U.S. budget deficits by $1.2 trillion, the Maryland Democrat is again at the center of the most pressing question facing Washington: how to balance spending cuts, taxes and the increasingly partisan politics of Capitol Hill.
"I hope that ... we're able to reach an agreement to show that we can get something done for the good of the country," Mr. Van Hollen said in an interview. "But that requires that there be a negotiating partner that's willing to enter into a balanced and fair deal."
Pessimism that the 12-member Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction will finish its work by the Nov. 23 deadline is high. Democrats on the panel insist that new taxes are needed to plug part of the nation's fiscal gap. Republicans, who won control of the House of Representatives last year on a pledge of fiscal responsibility, are resisting new taxes.
..."If we were unable to reach an agreement, then you'd see these across-the-board cuts take place, which would mean significant reductions in the everyday operations of the federal government," said Mr. Van Hollen, 52.
...Mr. Van Hollen has earned the respect of many Republicans. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin has praised Mr. Van Hollen's diplomatic style, if not his policies.
A rising star in Democratic politics, Mr. Van Hollen spent the 2008 and 2010 elections as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which provides money and advice to the party's House candidates. The job put him in a position to help elect many of his colleagues in Congress.
Mr. Van Hollen arrived in Congress in 2003 after beating Kennedy family member Mark Shriver in a primary and an incumbent Republican, Rep. Constance A. Morella, in the general election.
Born in Karachi, Pakistan, to a U.S. Foreign Service officer and a State Department intelligence analyst, Mr. Van Hollen studied at Swarthmore, Harvard and Georgetown. He worked for Republican Sen. Charles McC. Mathias and Democratic Gov. William Donald Schaefer.
...Asked whether he is more or less optimistic for a breakthrough than when the committee began its work, Mr. Van Hollen offered little in the way of reassurance last week.
The Wall Street Journal
No Mr. Nice Guy-Just Ask Wall Street
By Michael Rothfeld
November 9, 2011
..."I was always attracted to taking a novel position," recalls Mr. Rakoff, now a U.S. district court judge in New York, "but one grounded in the materials I'd been given, not made up out of whole cloth."
The 68-year-old Judge Rakoff is known for his unconventional-and often provocative-attempts to get to the bottom of the matters before him.
On Wednesday afternoon, the judge is expected to grill the Securities and Exchange Commission and Citigroup Inc. about why he should approve their proposed $285 million settlement of fraud charges over a mortgage-bond deal. He previously made the agency squirm over a 2009 deal with Bank of America Corp.
"As an institution, I think they have a very distinguished history," Judge Rakoff says of the SEC, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. "That doesn't mean they're right in every case."
...In 15 years on the federal bench, Judge Rakoff has written funny, blunt and occasionally reversed opinions. In addition to pushing back against what he has described as superficial punishment by the SEC for companies accused of fraud, Judge Rakoff has overturned a death-penalty conviction and carped about U.S. sentencing guidelines.
...While Judge Rakoff has a reputation as a populist, he also rules in favor of big companies, once dismissing a class-action lawsuit against International Business Machines Corp.
...Judge Rakoff grew up in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. His father was a gynecologist, and his mother taught English. The opportunities his mother was denied-first as a girl and later when she was a mother-highlighted problems the young Rakoff saw hidden behind a façade of tranquility in the 1950s.
"It was really from my mother that I sensed this dissonance between the sort of comfortable acceptance of a phony reality versus the true reality," Judge Rakoff says.
In high school, he was captain of the debating team. At Swarthmore College, he was student-council president and editor of the newspaper. He toyed with becoming a reporter before pursuing a law degree at Harvard.
...The judge says he feels bad taking lawyers and others to task, but he saw in private practice how delays and gamesmanship made the American legal system too slow and expensive for the average person.
"The price of being a nice guy is too high-much too high-in terms of the system of justice," Judge Rakoff says.
The Kennebec Journal (ME)
Waterville - Thomas president to retire
By Beth Staples , Staff Writer
Waterville -- George Spann, 23-year president of Thomas College and the man credited with revitalizing the school, announced Monday that he will retire in June.
...Spann said he'll retire wishing that Thomas were more widely known outside of Maine. He said his fondest memories at Thomas revolved around the thousands of students he met during his two-plus decades and that his biggest success was that "the college is still here and thriving."
Two members of the Board of Trustees credited Spann, 68, with revitalizing the institution founded in 1894.
Thomas graduate Conrad Ayotte called Spann's arrival in 1989 at the liberal arts and business college a watershed moment and said the school community owes Spann "an enormous measure of gratitude for all that he has done to prepare that future."
..."George took on a small struggling school, and made it into what it is today -- a strong, vibrant college poised for significant growth and a tremendous future," Ayotte said in a news release.
Graduate and board co-chairman Todd Smith said it would be difficult to overemphasize Spann's leadership and impact.
"Because of his hard work and the tremendous foundation he has laid, this time of transition will be smooth and the college's plans will continue to progress," said Smith, also in a news release.
...Before arriving at Thomas, Spann taught modern British history and modern European history at the University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers University in New Jersey.
...In 1974, Spann earned a doctorate in history from the University of Pennsylvania. The Swarthmore College graduate is also a graduate of Harvard University's Institute for Educational Management.
It was at Swarthmore that he met his wife-to-be, Marty.
...Plans to honor Spann for his 23 years of service will be forthcoming, said Buker. ...
2012 candidates slip on Econ 101
November 9, 2011
New York (CNNMoney) -- Every 2012 contender attended college. They all graduated. They went to schools like the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, Texas A&M, Morehouse, Penn State and Emory.
But decades have passed since these Presidential candidates first stepped onto campus as freshmen. Is it time for an Econ 101 refresher course?
America's Econ 101 professors say yes. In their view, the candidates continue to offer ideas and policies that wouldn't pass muster in their classes -- populated by 18 year-old college students.
"There are so many economic 'misstatements' being made," said Jonathan Lanning, a professor at Bryn Mawr who is teaching two introductory economics classes this semester. "And it isn't confined to any one candidate."
Michele Bachmann promised to bring back $2 gas. Tim Pawlenty suggested sustained 5% GDP growth was a realistic target. Rick Perry would balance the budget with lower tax revenues.
No dice, say the professors.
Stephen Golub, who is teaching Econ 101 at Swarthmore College this semester, said some of the ideas floated by Presidential candidates would earn a failing grade in his class.
"I think it's grossly irresponsible what they are saying," Golub said. "It's not about economics. It's about getting elected. They are promising things that are impossible to deliver or make little sense."
The rhetoric sounds good on the campaign trail. Not in the classroom.
The simple laws of supply and demand render Bachmann's $2 gas promise void, said Erik Nelson, an Econ 101 professor at Bowdoin College.
Rick Perry labeling Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke as treasonous? "Really over the top," said Golub. ...
The National Journal
People: Jodi Bond, Diana Furchtgott-Roth, Terrence Bracy
By Christopher Snow Hopkins and Lara Seligman
November 3, 2011
...Diana Furchtgott-Roth is a woman of many talents. From economics to education, the environment to journalism, she has had her hand in numerous pots over the years. And now she'll have her hand in another: The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. has announced that she is the organization's newest senior fellow.
Furchtgott-Roth, 53, has been an adjunct fellow at the institute for three years and is a contributing editor of RealClearMarkets.com . She graduated from Swarthmore College with a degree in economics, and went on to earn her master's in philosophy from Oxford University.
Furchtgott-Roth served in three White House administrations: From 1986 to 1987, she was as an economist on the staff of President Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers; she was deputy executive director of the Domestic Policy Council and associate director of the Office of Policy Planning under President George H.W. Bush from 1991 to 1993; and under President George W. Bush, she was chief of staff at the President's Council of Economic Advisers from 2001 to 2002 and was chief economist at the Labor Department from 2003 to 2005.
...Furchtgott-Roth is also an author and a journalist. She writes a weekly column for TheExaminer and a monthly column for TaxNotes. She said she enjoys journalism because she wants to reach real people.
"A lot of economists work on papers, work on research, but it doesn't really get to the man on the street," she says. "What I've tried to do is to bring economics into layman's language.... I've always thought that economics should be useful and communicated to people."
Furchtgott-Roth has written several books on policy. She is the author of How Obama's Gender Policies Undermine America and the coauthor of two books on gender: The Feminist Dilemma: When Success Is Not Enough and Women's Figures: An Illustrated Guide to the Economics of Women in America. Furchtgott-Roth is very interested in the changing gender dynamics of the 21st century: The new edition of Women's Figures, she said, will look at the progress women have made over the past 30 to 40 years and how women are actually doing better than men today.
"If anyone needs affirmative action," she says, "it's men, not women."
She is also working on a book about the cost of environmental policy it argues that choosing more expensive, environmentally friendly technology harms job creation.
...Although she has so much on her plate these days, Furchtgott-Roth is excited to become a full-time senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. She said she believes her experience in a variety of different fields will aid the institute in expanding its economics expertise.
"I think what I bring to the table is my background as chief economist of the U.S. Department of Labor and chief of staff of President Bush's Council of Economic Advisers," she says. "The research and the commentary I can provide expands the focus of MI.... Practically everything affects labor and the workforce."...