UK budget deserves lukewarm applause

March 22, 2012

George Osborne has trimmed income tax for the very rich and less well-off, and further eased the burden on corporations. But fiscal restraints mean that what the UK chancellor gives with one hand, he has to take with the other. Rebuilding Britain’s finances remains a long road.

UK’s post deal should have pension bosses drooling

March 22, 2012

Britain is to assume responsibility for Royal Mail pensions. Ministers get to offset 28 bln pounds of assets against the UK’s debt and - for now - ignore liabilities that are 10 bln pounds larger. If other pension managers could follow, they’d be queuing all along Downing Street.

Top U.S. judges may drown out healthcare debate

March 23, 2012

The most verbose Supreme Court on record will next week hear a hefty three days of oral argument on President Obama’s landmark reform. If past patterns hold, the justices will spend more time testing each other than listening to lawyers. It’s the legal system at its hammiest.

Donor row saps UK government’s austerity authority

March 27, 2012

After a pro-business budget, the “Cash for Cameron” affair has raised concrete concerns that the Conservative-led coalition can be bought by anyone with a fat chequebook. The government’s ability to get the country to swallow ongoing deficit reduction can only be undermined.

Rajoy’s poll loss no ground for wavering on reform

March 27, 2012

The ruling PP party failed to get a majority in Andalucia, eroding the Spanish PM’s mandate. It’s a setback more than a disaster. With yields back under pressure, the real battles begin now. To meet the deficit goal, the government must wield the axe in the upcoming budget.

Obama backs healthcare defender – until he doesn’t

March 29, 2012

Despite top lawyer Donald Verrilli’s stumble before the Supreme Court, the White House gave him a confidence vote. That’s what famed Yankees manager Billy Martin would get before being fired. Verrilli’s miss may not change the result but it costs him credibility - if not his job.

Spain can’t avoid austerity conundrum

March 30, 2012

A general strike won’t turn back the clock on labour market reform and the coming budget cuts look inevitable. Too much austerity could be self-defeating and even unrealistic, but Prime Minister Rajoy cannot afford to waver after his earlier deficit faux pax.

Europe unrecognizable from U.S. Republican rhetoric

April 3, 2012

Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum accuse Obama of leading America to “European-style socialism.” The pejorative works to a point but conveniently overlooks German trade surpluses, Dutch unemployment and Polish growth. GOP hopefuls might aspire to some of the continent’s achievements.

Gun bubble reloads on Obama re-election fears

April 3, 2012

The president’s 2008 victory triggered massive growth in firearms sales. Purchasers thought strict gun control legislation was coming. It never arrived, and weapon sales tumbled. Yet the prospect of a second Obama term is boosting sales - and shares of gun-makers - once again.

D.C. holds $23 bln fix for cash-strapped states

April 4, 2012

That’s how much they could raise from taxing online retailers. A pre-Internet ruling currently forbids such tariffs, forcing states like Georgia to resort to contorted ways around it. A federal solution is needed. Luckily, Congress may have hit on one that even Amazon supports.