The Great Debate UK

from The Great Debate:

Time to stand up to the banking lobby

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Christopher Swann-- Christopher Swann is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own --

The crusading spirit that at one stage threatened to lead to the nationalization of U.S. banks and the downfall of their top executives now seems like ancient history.

Banks are again flexing their muscles and have turned the tables on America's politicians. Remarkably, policy makers now seem to be struggling to secure even a modicum of needed change in the regulatory system.

The winter's paroxysm of public anger has dissipated with astonishing speed. This is in spite of the fact that economic recovery still seems a distant goal and the woes of CIT Group suggest that even the financial system is not out of the woods. As a result there is now a real danger that the administration and Congress will fail to live up to Rahm Emanuel's famous injunction never to let a crisis go to waste.

The ability of the financial lobby to hold onto its political power has been one of the great mysteries of the crisis. Few special interest groups have shown such  flexibility in their logic.

from The Great Debate:

It’s tough to modify your way out of a hole

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jamessaft1(James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own)

If you thought the U.S. housing crash could be blunted if only lenders would cut delinquent borrowers a break, it is perhaps time to move on to another vain hope.

That's right, the loan modification movement - pushed by the U.S. administration and others as a means of keeping non-paying borrowers in their houses, keeping those same houses from flooding the market as foreclosures, and even helping beleaguered lenders - is running into a reality-shaped wall.

from The Great Debate:

For Palin, rules have never applied

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Palin supporter

politicoMatthew E. Berger covered Palin’s vice presidential campaign as an embedded reporter for NBC News and National Journal. He is the author of a book on Palin’s campaign and political future, scheduled for release in the fall by Wiley.  The article originally appeared on Politico.com. The views expressed are his own.

Standard Washington political rules state that any presidential aspirants must finish out their term, write a book, travel to Iowa and New Hampshire, and start talking policy. Any deviation from the norm suggests political suicide, and many analysts have spent the past few days writing Sarah Palin’s political obituary.

from The Great Debate:

Spare a thought for Hugo Chavez

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Bernd Debusmann- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own -

Spare a thought for Hugo Chavez, the larger-than-life Venezuelan leader who flourished in the role of Latin America's defender against an evil empire led by a devil who smelt of sulphur and was named George W. Bush.

Those were the easy days for Chavez. Now he has become a dragon-slayer without a dragon, an actor on a stage without the most important prop. It was one thing to rally the Latin masses against the widely-detested Bush, it is another to deal with Barack Obama, "the first (U.S.) president who looks like us," in the words of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

from The Great Debate:

Africa at the threshold

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john-simon-- John Simon was recently U.S. Ambassador to the African Union and former Executive Vice President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.  He is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Center for Global Development in Washington DC. The views expressed are his own. --

President Obama's trip to Ghana highlights one of Africa's leading success stories - a country that has held five consecutive democratic elections, recently transferring power peacefully to the opposition after it won a razor thin victory.

from The Great Debate:

The dollar’s Tinkerbell moment

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James Saft (James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Repeat after me: "I believe in a strong dollar as the primary global reserve currency, I believe in a strong dollar as the primary global reserve currency."

Better hope it works, because the current debate over a far-in-the-future new monetary system may bring on a here-and-now dollar selloff and a whole new leg of the crisis.

from The Great Debate:

Stress test the consumer

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Christopher Swann-- Christopher Swann is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own --

People can be divided into three classes, it has been said: the haves, the have-nots and the have-not-paid-for-what-they-haves. The prevalence of the third category may be the biggest single source of vulnerability for the U.S. recovery.

A stress test of the consumer could reveal more distressing results than the one conducted on the banking system.

from The Great Debate:

America’s spies and a language crisis

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Bernd Debusmann-- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. --

"There is a great deal about Iran that we do not know…The United States lacks critical information needed for analysts to make many of their judgments with confidence about Iran."

from The Great Debate:

The tough questions after Madoff

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Matthew Goldstein-- Matthew Goldstein is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own --

Even as Ponzi king Bernard Madoff goes away to prison for the rest of his life and then some, there are still so many unanswered questions -- both big and fundamental.

Were Madoff's sons involved? What did his wife Ruth know? Were the operators of the giant feeder funds that sucked in tens of billions of dollars in investor money in on the charade?

from The Great Debate:

Reflections on Iran

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John Kemp-- John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of much western comment on the unfolding crisis in Iran has been its over-simplification and lack of historical awareness. Perspectives are shaped by a single issue (western concerns about whether Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program) and the desire to draw a simple Manichean distinction between good guys (liberal-democrats) and bad ones (clerical-authoritarians).

The reality is far more complicated.

Part of the problem is a truncated sense of history. For most western commentators, the history of Iran's troubled relations with the west starts in 1979 with the triumphant return of the glowering Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini at the head of the revolution which swept away Shah Reza Pahlavi's western-backed regime and replaced it with a new Islamic Republic.

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