Coming Up in CQ Researcher

Credit Card Crunch
As home refinancing dries up as a source of cash for many Americans, credit card debt is rising again. Seeking to head off the serious debt trouble some consumers get into, Congress is discussing the first significant legal restraints on credit card issuers imposed in many years – and possibly the toughest ever. How big an issue is credit card debt in the financial troubles of individuals and in the overall economic meltdown? Will a congressional crackdown on credit card company practices keep people out of the most serious debt problems, or are even bigger solutions called for?
By Marcia Clemmitt

Affirmative Action
Affirmative action has sunk deep roots in American higher education, government and business. But tension still runs strong between the ideal of choosing school and job candidate purely on merit, and requirements to factor in other criteria – including race. This November, ballot initiatives in at least two states would eliminate race, but not socioeconomic, preference. And big states including California, Florida and Texas are still struggling to reconcile legal mandates restricting the use of race in college admissions with the goal of increasing diversity. One stumbling block: Affirmative action didn’t lessen the stunning disparities that plague elementary and high school education, disparities that often follow the color line. Still, the open racial hostility that marked opposition to affirmative action decades ago has faded. Even some race-preference critics don’t want to eliminate it entirely. Instead, they’re exploring ways to keep diversity without eroding admission and hiring standards.
By Peter Katel

Financial System Bailout
In the wake of widespread failures on Wall Street – including the federal bailout of insurance giant American International Group and the bankruptcy of venerable investment bank Lehman Brothers – Congress was poised to approved a $700 billion bailout proposed by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. But even as the plan was moving toward apparent approval, many were questioning whether the bailout would stem the financial crisis that grips not only the United States but the global banking system. They also were asking whether the costs of the bailout to U.S. taxpayers would be excessive, and whether Congress will have to take further action to correct the nation’s systemic financial problems.
By Thomas J. Billitteri