U.S. Government

On What Planet Does the Chamber Design Its Ads?

To "move the spotlight off the unpopular commercial banks and mortgage lenders that are the target of the legislation," the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is claiming that the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency will hurt butchers. "The economy has made it tough on this local butcher's customers," reads the Chamber's latest ad.

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Bank Looting Bonuses Reported--Will the SEC Awake from Its Slumber?

A short time ago, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo released a report focusing on the bank bonuses paid out by the biggest banks in 2008, the same year they were bailed out by federal taxpayers. The report notes that in many instances the bank bonuses exceeded bank profits, the implication being that taxpayer dollars were being used to subsidize the salaries of the ace banking executives who created the financial crisis in the first place.

Is Obama Planning to Sign Congress' Health Care Reform Bill with Lipstick?

Over the coming weeks, Americans will find out whether the man they elected their president is just a great orator and politician or whether he is also a great leader.

Of the central features of candidate Barack Obama's health care proposal, he said one thing was essential -- a public insurance option to compete with the private insurance industry that is now dominated by a cartel of Wall Street-driven, for-profit behemoths. Another thing Obama said he would not support -- a requirement that all of us be forced by law to buy overpriced health coverage from private insurance companies.

Many of the people who voted for Obama did so because they believed his health care proposal was the best among the field of Democratic candidates and -- no contest here -- far better than the insurance industry-backed plans advocated by the Republicans.

Obama was not alone in calling for a public insurance option. So did Hillary Clinton, among others. About the only thing that distinguished Obama's plan from Clinton's, in fact, was his opposition to forcing all of us to buy health insurance. "Why should we force people to buy something they can't afford?" he asked repeatedly on the campaign trail.

After listening to the speeches he made in Montana and Arizona and to comments made by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Obama's press secretary, Robert Gibbs, on the Sunday morning talk shows, I'm wondering what happened to the guy Americans elected.

General Motors Likes the Cash, but not the Clunkers' Waste

The Obama administration's Cash for Clunkers program rewards consumers for buying more fuel-efficient cars to replace older models, which benefits the auto industry through increased sales. But the program also mandates that the "clunkers" that are traded in be destroyed, creating a large amount of toxic waste to be handled.

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$23.7 Trillion Bailout - Will Justice Shoot the Messenger?

Neil Barofsky, Special Inspector General of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (a.k.a. the SIGTARP ) caused quite a stir in Washington last week when he released a quarterly report that attempted to tally up the total dollar amount of federal government commitments related to the bailout. Those commitments include federal government programs that spend taxpayer money or issue loan guarantees in an attempt to rescue financial services institutions and support the economy. While the administration and the media have focused on the $700 billion in bailout funds explicitly authorized by Congress, Barofsky tried to bring a little transparency to the complex array of federal programs including those of the Treasury and the opaque Federal Reserve. His report put the potential outlay of taxpayer dollars of the combined 50-plus programs at an astonishing $23.7 trillion.

FDA Lab Analysis Puts the Heat on E-Cigarettes

Their websites have names like SmokeAnywhere.com and SmokingEverywhere.com, and manufacturers of electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are touting that their products are "cheaper than a cigarette," have a "cool design," come in "different flavors" and are a "tar-free option" to traditional cigarettes.

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Pentagon Propaganda Gets a Pass

Is there a difference between covert propaganda and secretive campaigns to shape public opinion on controversial issues? The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) apparently thinks that there is.

The GAO recently ruled that the Pentagon pundit program did not break the law against taxpayer-funded domestic propaganda. The program involved some 75 retired military officers who serve as frequent media commentators. From 2002 to 2008, the Pentagon set up meetings between the pundits and high-level Department of Defense (DOD) officials. The Pentagon's PR staff not only gave the pundits talking points, but helped them draft opinion columns and gave them feedback on their media appearances. The Pentagon also paid for the pundits to travel overseas, following carefully-scripted itineraries designed to highlight successes in Iraq and humane measures at the Guantanamo Bay detention center.

An Inescapable Web of Advertisements

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) "may soon require online media to comply with disclosure rules under its truth-in-advertising guidelines." FTC assistant director Richard Cleland said, "Consumers have a right to know when they're being pitched a product." But the "hypercommercialism of the Web" may be "changing too quickly for consumers and regulators to keep up," reports the New York Times.

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