Weekly Roundup 2/13/2012

Election 2012: Republicans united on goal – beat Obama – divided on how to get there
Karen Tumulty, The Washington Post, Feb. 13, 2012

Synopsis: Midway through the Republican state primaries and caucuses, the Post’s veteran political reporter finds the GOP “experiencing the bumpiest presidential primary season in anyone’s memory.” Despite the “bad reelection environment” for President Obama, Republican rank and file “have a palpable lack of enthusiasm” about the presidential hopefuls, while polls register strong negative feelings about the party among the public at large. Tumulty identifies (and elaborates on) five factors: unsettled voters, lackluster candidates, muddled messages, an unprecedented inflow of money, and new rules that have prolonged the race.

Takeaway: Turmoil and division within the ranks are nothing new, GOP leaders stress. That’s how the party has evolved and grown, they say. But, Tumulty adds, “along with the growing pains . . . have come some lost elections.”

For CQ Researcher coverage, see Bob Benenson, “Presidential Election,” Feb. 6, 2012.

--Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor


Turbo-graders Take Bank of America for a Ride
Pallavi Gogoi, Associated Press/San Francisco Chronicle, Feb. 10, 2012

Is This the End of Wall Street As They Knew It?
Gabriel Sherman, New York Magazine, Feb. 5, 2012

Synopsis: As new federal rules squeeze some of the risk -- and outsize profit -- from the finance industry, erstwhile Wall Street Masters of the Universe face uncertain futures. Meanwhile, "high-frequency trading" is a new bully on the block. High-speed computers swoop in in milliseconds to snatch tiny profits that add up to big ones, as the electronic traders hit trade after trade.

Takeaway: “If you’re a smart Ph.D. from MIT, you’d never go to Wall Street now. You’d go to Silicon Valley,” a hedge-fund executive complained.

"Fund managers fume that high-frequency computers can detect their stock orders, step in to change the price of a stock slightly and pocket a small profit," writes Gogoi.

For more about Wall Street, see Kenneth Jost's Jan. 20 report, Financial Misconduct, and his May 9, 2008, report, Financial Crisis, and my July 30, 2010, report, Financial Industry Overhaul.

--Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer


Even Critics of Safety Net Increasingly Depend on It
By Binyamin Appelbaum and Robert Bebeloff, The New York Times, Feb. 12, 2012

Synopsis: Mitt Romney stirred up a hornet’s nest recently when he said he didn’t care about the very poor because they had a safety net. In the wake of his comment, the Times examined who, exactly, benefit from the federal safety net.

Takeaway: According to the Times’s analysis, many Tea Party members and other conservatives who say they eschew government handouts in fact increasingly rely on a variety of government payments. Moreover, with more middle-class Americans drawing more federal aid, the amount of aid available for the very poor is shrinking.

For background see the following CQ Researcher reports: Thomas J. Billitteri, “Middle-Class Squeeze,” March 6, 2009, and Thomas J. Billitteri, “Domestic Poverty,” Sept. 7, 2007 (updated by Marcia Clemmitt, April 27, 2011).

--Thomas J. Colin, Contributing Editor