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White House Concerns of Economic Damage
White House Concerns of Economic Damage

The White House is understandably worried about long-lasting damage to the economy if more than $500 billion in tax increases and federal spending cuts take place as scheduled after January 1, resulting in the "fiscal cliff". President Barack Obama on Wednesday added more pressure on House Republicans to block scheduled tax increases on the middle class, an issue at hand for the looming "fiscal cliff". At a White House event with middle-class Americans, the President urged the select group to contact Congress directly and call for action. Middle-class tax hikes would come about as the Bush-era tax cuts are scheduled to expire January 1, 2013. The U.S. Senate passed legislation to put a stop to the tax hikes however; the House has not acted as of yet. Obama said the House Republicans should pass the bill while he and congressional leaders hammer out an overall agreement to get the deficit under control. The President expressed optimism that an outline of a deficit-reduction deal could be reached. "I believe that both parties can agree on a framework ... in the coming weeks. In fact, my hope is to get this done before Christmas," Obama said.

Early Wednesday morning Speaker John Boehner said he was “optimistic that we can continue to work together to avert this crisis, and sooner rather than later.” “Our ultimate goal is an agreement that gets our long-term deficit under control in a way that is fair and balanced,” Obama said. “And I believe that both parties can agree on a framework that does that in the coming weeks.” The U.S. Treasury said that Secretary Tim Geithner will hold separate talks on Thursday with Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker John Boehner, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and White House legislative director Rob Nabors. A U.S. Treasury statement said that Geithner will “continue discussing the actions we need to take to keep our economy growing and find a balance approach to reduce our deficit.” Key point at hand among fiscal cliff talks: how to deal with competing positions on raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans. On Wednesday, President Obama urged Congress to pass a bill extending tax breaks for all but the wealthiest 2% of Americans while Republicans insist that lower rates continue for all earners. Senior House Republican, Tom Cole of Oklahoma on Tuesday, reportedly advised colleagues to pass an extension of expiring tax breaks for the middle class and fight the president over higher tax rates for the rich at a later date. Liberals are reportedly saying the White House should hold firm on its demand for higher taxes on the rich even if it forces the economy to go off the “fiscal cliff.” They believe they have the public on their side and that Republicans will be forced to surrender if the budget standoff damages the U.S. economy.

Former Clinton White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles said Wednesday that Democrats need to move on reforming entitlements to get a year-end budget deal after talks between House Republicans leaders and chief executives of big U.S. companies. Bowles told reporters after a Capitol Hill meeting held in House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy’s office, “I feel like we made some progress.” He added that Republicans were clear that there’s need for revenue and entitlement reforms and added that it is up to Democrats to move in that direction. The White House and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid indicated that they will not consider cuts to Social Security as part of a deal. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin who is close to President Obama said on Tuesday that a cliff deal should not touch Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security. Bowles seemed to recognize the difficulty of getting fellow Democrats to take his entitlement-reform idea. “Am I an optimist? No, but I am hopeful,” Bowles said. One of the CEOs who participated in the meeting, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein, told reporters afterwards there will be “a lot of very, very negative consequences if we don’t sort this out.” Blankfein said, “There has to be a compromise. People have to yield on things that they’re quite convicted about.”

Fed Beige Book report on current economic conditions released on Wednesday showed that a majority of the Federal Reserve's 12 districts reported either slowing or contracting manufacturing, as concerns about the fiscal cliff clouded the outlook for factory owners. Overall activity expanded at a measured pace, per the report. Labor market conditions improved only modestly. Hurricane Sandy led to weaker conditions in New York but there were expectations of a rebound due to rebuilding.

On Wednesday, Moody's Investor Service lowered long-term credit rating for Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) to Baa1 from A3, with a negative outlook. In a statement, Moody's senior vice president Richard Lane said, "Although H-P will maintain strong to leading positions in a number of product areas, the company's credit profile will remain weaker than previously expected over the intermediate term." The negative rating outlook is based on concerns of execution challenges and competitive pressures, Moody's reported.
 

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Nov 28, 2012


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