Girl power?

Updated: Friday, October 25, 2013
Girl power? story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Our Congress avoided economic calamity on Wednesday by passing a last-minute, Senate-led bill to restore government funding.

The trouble is that it's only good for 90 days--through January 15th--and then we get round 2.

The same problems, the same acrimony, and the same people.

Tonight in Tom's Corner, Tom Van Howe says he has a solution, and it's been right under our noses all the while.

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That's right. It's time to turns the reins of our government over to women. The men in suits have failed us.

In recent days, weeks and months, the only people in Washington who seem to understand what's going on are women.

Just two weeks ago, Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine took the podium on the Senate floor and told her colleagues to "stop fighting and start legislating."

The suits didn't hear her. But two of her colleagues did. And suddenly there was a group of three: Collins, Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, and Democratic Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

"As just one person," Murkowski said, "you don't get anywhere. We cannot work individually and expect to accomplish the work that is needed. We've got to be working together."

Three women—two Republicans and a Democrat, standing firm in the face of obstructionists who were perfectly willing to let the world slide into economic chaos by allowing this nation go into default; perfectly willing to ignore their own  constitutional obligation to pay the nation's  bills. On time.

After a few days, the group of three became the group of six, then eight, now ten, and growing.

Compare the words of Senate Budget Chairman Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington with those of Congressman John C. Fleming of Louisiana, one of the 144 house members to vote "no" on yesterday's bill to end the government shutdown.

Here what Murray said:

"My hope is that in the weeks and months ahead, we can heal many of the partisan divides that keep us from addressing the big challenges we face, including returning our focus to creating jobs and improving our economy."

And from Fleming? "See," he said with a grin. "We're going to start this all over again."

It makes me cringe.

Are there problems in our government? Yes. All over the place. Are there problems with the Affordable Care Act?

Are you kidding?  For starters, they had 3 1/2 years to develop a multi-billion dollar computer system to help people make choices and sign up for healthcare.

And they did a terrible job of it.

Did anyone of them think of getting advice from the people at, say,  Facebook? But Obamacare is the law, so let's fix it!

But to shut down our country instead? The shutdown that ended last night cost our government an estimated $24 billion.

Imagine that. How many band-aids, runny noses, and broken arms would that have paid for?

But these sneering, idealistically-driven men in suits don't care.

But the women in Washington do.

Freshman Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren:

"In our democracy, government is just how we describe all of the things that 'we the people' have already decided to do together. We are not a country of anarchists. We are not a country of pessimists and ideologues whose motto is 'I've got mine, the rest of you are on your own.'”

Take a look around. The head of the International Monetary Fund is Christine Lagard, of France.

"I hope," she said yesterday, "that in a few weeks time we will look back and say 'what a waste of time that was.'"

I doubt the angry men in suits heard her.

The most successful country in Europe is run by a woman, German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

She's admired and respected all over the continent.

Hourly pay in Germany has gone up 30 percent since 1985. In the United States, it's up only six percent.

Iceland collapsed in the wake of Lehman Brothers. Now it's a country whose banks, funds, and government are run largely by women and is doing quite nicely.

In this country there's a quiet but dramatically exciting movement afoot.

And it's a movement led by women who are weary of our political system being run by frightened men who seem to have no concept anymore of  what's right for their country.

As Elizabeth Warren put it: "We are not that nation. We have never been that nation. And we never will be that nation."

More power to her. More power to them. It's time.

In this corner...I'm Tom Van Howe.

Business News

Last Update on April 17, 2015 17:12 GMT

CONSUMER PRICES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Rising gas prices in March led to a slight increase in inflation, a sign that some of the broader economic impact from cheaper oil is fading.

The Labor Department says the consumer price index rose 0.2 percent in March. Inflation moved at that same pace in February, which ended three straight monthly declines caused largely by falling oil and gasoline prices.

Gas prices remain about 33 percent lower than a year ago, but they bounced up 3.9 percent from February to March. Over the past 12 months, consumer prices have slumped 0.1 percent.

Outside food and energy, core prices also rose 0.2 percent in March. The cost of clothes, housing, cars, and medical care increased, while food and airfare decreased. Core prices have risen 1.8 percent in the past year.

LEADING INDICATORS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- An index designed to predict the future health of the economy slowly crept upward for the third straight month, a sign that the pace of growth has been weakening since the start of 2015.

The New York-based Conference Board says its index of leading indicators rose 0.2 percent in March, after gains of 0.1 percent in February and 0.2 percent in January.

Building permits were the weakest part of the index, while slowdowns in average working hours and new factory orders have also been in a drag over the past six months.

Conference Board economists say that the modest gains may be signaling a continued decline in growth over the coming months.

EARNS-GENERAL ELECTRIC

NEW YORK (AP) -- The industrial heart of General Electric, the company's new focus, posted lower revenue and earnings in the first quarter amid an enormous overall loss resulting from its recently-announced sale of most of the assets in its finance subsidiary.

Net income from the part of GE that the company will retain after the sale fell 5 percent to $3.1 billion, the company said Friday. Adjusted earnings per share fell 6 percent to 31 cents, a penny better than analysts polled by Zacks Investment Research expected, on average.

Revenue fell 12 percent to $29.4 billion, below the $34.4 billion analysts expected.

GE announced last week it would sell most of the assets in its GE Capital subsidiary, the latest and most dramatic move by the company to transform itself into a more focused industrial conglomerate that makes large, complicated equipment for other businesses.

Costs and charges associated with the sale totaling $14.1 billion pushed the company to an overall loss of $13.57 billion in the quarter, down from a profit of $3 billion during last year's first quarter. On a per-share basis, the company lost $1.35.

EARNS-REYNOLDS AMERICAN

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) -- Reynolds American's first-quarter profit climbed, helped by increased cigarette prices. Its adjusted profit beat analysts' expectations.

The parent of the Camel and Pall Mall cigarette brands earned $389 million, or 73 cents per share, for the three months ended March 31. A year earlier it earned $363 million, or 67 cents per share.

Earnings, adjusted for non-recurring costs, were 86 cents per share.

Revenue amounted to $2.06 billion in the period.

Reynolds American Inc. still expects full-year adjusted earnings in the range of $3.65 to $3.80 per share. Analysts polled by FactSet predict earnings of $3.79 per share.

BLOOMBERG-TERMINALS DOWN

LONDON (AP) -- Bloomberg LP's trading terminals, which are used by most of the world's biggest financial firms, went down for a few hours today due to apparent technical problems, prompting the British government to postpone a planned 3 billion-pound ($4.4 billion) debt issue.

Users said the outage started as trading was getting in full swing around 8 a.m. in London.

By day's end in London, Bloomberg said its service had been "fully restored." In a statement, it said hardware and software failures in its network caused excessive volumes that led to customer disconnections as a result of the machines being overwhelmed.

Though the outage is an extremely rare phenomenon for the firm started by former New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, in the early 1980s, it's likely to cause concern at the company.

Bloomberg has become the world's biggest financial information provider, overtaking rival Reuters.

JAPAN-US-TRADE

TOKYO (AP) -- Top Japan and U.S. trade officials plan to meet this weekend, seeking to close gaps over autos and farm trade before Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visits Washington later this month.

Economy minister Akira Amari announced plans for the talks with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman late Friday.

The U.S. and Japan must agree on market-opening measures before the 12 countries involved can reach a long-delayed final accord on the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership, a Pacific Rim trade pact.

An agreement by U.S. lawmakers Thursday to propose legislation allowing President Barack Obama to negotiate trade accords for overall congressional review appeared to help move things along.

The plan for Cabinet-level talks suggests the two sides made progress this week on resolving differences over the pace and scale of market opening.

OBAMA-TRADE

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama says the politics of international trade have always been difficult, especially within the Democratic Party. But he says U.S. opposition to new trade agreements would give China a leg up in setting the rules for commerce.

Obama's seeking to reassure critics by saying deals with Asia and Europe would have enforceable labor and environmental protections.

Obama spoke at a news conference with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

Top congressional lawmakers reached a deal Thursday to pave the way for the broadest trade policy pact in years. Under the agreement, Obama would be allowed to negotiate trade accords that Congress could approve or reject, but not change.

That authority would set the stage for Obama to complete a sweeping trade agreement with 11 Pacific nations.

CHINA-TIGHTER STOCK RULES

BEIJING (AP) -- China's securities regulator is tightening control over lending to small investors trading stocks.

The China Securities Regulatory Commission has banned a type of financing called an umbrella trust, tightened control over other financing and told brokerages to limit potential risks, the commission said in a statement Friday.

The statement cited comments by the commission's deputy chairman, Zhang Yujun, to a gathering of brokerage executives.

China's stock market has doubled over the past year as more small investors shift money into stocks. Tighter control over lending might reflect concerns that investors are taking on too much risk.

Zhang was cited as saying the commission plans to intensify inspection and law enforcement efforts.

GREECE-BAILOUT

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Greek officials say negotiators are to meet representatives of the country's creditors again on Saturday to "find common ground" in tortuous talks over the future of Greece's bailout.

Dependent on funds from two multi-billion euro bailouts since 2010, Greece is fast running out of cash. Negotiations with representatives of its creditors in other eurozone countries, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank have not gone well, with the new left-wing government in Athens insisting their demands are too onerous.

For their part, the creditors insist the country must produce credible reforms before they unlock the final 7.2 billion euro installment. Without it, Greece could default on debts it must repay the IMF next month, and run out of cash to pay salaries and pensions.

OIL TRAINS-SAFETY

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal transportation officials say they're taking a series of steps to improve the safety of trains hauling crude oil and other flammable liquids, including an emergency order limiting train speeds to no more than 40 mph in "high impact" urban areas.

Among other steps announced Friday by the Department of Transportation is a warning to railroads to use the latest technology to check for flaws in train wheels.

Major freight railroads are already limiting oil trains to no more 40 mph in urban areas under a voluntary agreement, but the order makes that a requirement and extends it to trains carrying other flammable liquids like ethanol.

There have been dozens of fiery crashes over past decade involving trains hauling oil and ethanol in the U.S. and Canada.

FEDERAL LANDS-ROYALTIES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration is taking the first step toward a possible increase in the fees charged for oil and gas companies to drill on federal lands.

The Bureau of Land Management is seeking public comments on proposed regulations that would give the government more flexibility to set fees.

Government auditors have consistently questioned whether the public is getting a fair return from the 12.5 percent royalty now being charged.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell says the current regulations have failed to keep pace with technological advances and market conditions.

A low royalty rate encourages oil and gas exploration, and any increase would likely raise protests from industry and others that it will lessen production and increase prices at the pump.

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