This post is actually a cleverly disguised open thread. For your delectation, I present three distressing signs of the times below.
Your job today is to find other telling signs of these troubled times. Please include links in your responses. And now...Jack's Revolving Door Bonus
I wrote about Obama's appointment of former Citigroup executive Jack Lew to be his chief of staff in It's Jack Lew And Screw You. This choice quote comes from Senator Orrin Hatch Drops a Bombshell at Jack Lew’s Confirmation Hearing.
This was the bombshell dropped by Senator Orrin Hatch yesterday in Jack Lew’s confirmation hearing for one of the highest offices in the land – Secretary of the U.S. Treasury who will also head the body that makes critical decisions impacting Citigroup – the Financial Stability Oversight Council. (Lew held an executive position with Citigroup at the time of its collapse.)
Hatch made the disclosure as follows:
“First, could you explain what you did in 2008 for Citi that warranted payment to you of close to $1 million, most of which was a bonus. Second, what was it about your performance that merited your bonus from a company that was being propped up by taxpayer money and are there any records of your performance assessment – or are there any assessments of your performance.
Third, your employment agreement included a clause stating that ‘your guaranteed incentive and retention award’ would not be paid upon exit from Citigroup but there was an exception that you would receive that compensation ‘as a result of your acceptance of a full time high level position with the United States Government or a regulatory body.’
Now is this exception consistent with President Obama’s efforts to ‘close the revolving door’ that carries special interest influence in and out of the government?”
The article goes on to say—
Public shame has clearly lost its utility as a deterrent to repugnant behavior when it comes to Wall Street.
Jack Lew proved the point yesterday. Without offering an apology or the return of the $940,000 bonus paid with taxpayer’s funds, the unflappable Lew calmly and politely answered the question.
We Can Not Grow The Nation's Economy Until...
We're seeing more and more stories like CNN Money's Crunched consumers are cutting back. What's the problem?
Nearly three-quarters of respondents said they were cutting back to cope with tax changes this year — including dining out less, limiting travel plans and skipping everyday indulgences, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF), which sponsored the survey...
Consumers are seeing smaller paychecks after a two-year payroll tax "holiday" expired this year. The rate returned to 6.2% on the first $113,700 of annual income, up from 4.2%. For workers earning $30,000 a year, that means about $50 less in their paychecks each month. For those earning $100,000 annually, it's about $167 less a month.
"We cannot grow the nation's economy until consumers consume," said NRF chief executive officer Matthew Shay in a statement.
Who could disagree with this reasonable statement of the problem?
Let's Go To Mars!
Despite these cautionary signs of the times, Americans are very enthusiastic about sending a manned mission to the Red Planet, as we learn in Americans Support Humans to Mars.
A new national poll released two weeks ago helped to characterize the level of American support for Mars exploration. In these complex times, are Americans in favor of human exploration of the Mars? The answer is an unequivocal YES.
Basically over 70 percent of Americans believe that we should send humans to Mars to explore the planet, and that it is ok to spend up to one percent of the federal budget on NASA (over twice the agency's current budget) to do so.
The Mars Generation National Opinion Poll shows strong support for human space flight to Mars and other destinations. As the lead organization that launched this poll, we at Explore Mars were hopeful for positive results, but we were also fully prepared to hear less than favorable responses to the questions. After all, we are living through tough economic and budgetary times. But as it turns out, Americans are very optimistic about the future of human space exploration.
After being told for years that "the general public" had lost interest in human space flight, the results were quite enlightening:
- 71 percent of respondents believe that we will land on Mars by 2033
- 67 percent of respondents believed that we should send both humans and robots to Mars.
- 83 percent believe that we should strengthen and expand partnerships with the private sector to send humans to explore Mars.
- 75 percent of respondents thought that the NASA budget should be increased to one percent of the federal budget if we committed to a human mission to Mars.
- There was very little difference between men and women or among different ethnic or economic backgrounds.
Well, does NASA have plans to send a manned mission to Mars? Indeed they do! Here's Eric Berger describing those plans at ExploreMars.
I’d love nothing more than to see a human walk on Mars within two decades, but to believe this suspends reality in a couple of ways.
First of all, under the very best of scenarios, ones in which NASA delivers a rocket and space capsule on time and on budget, the space agency will launch humans into an orbit around the moon in 2021.
Alas that’s probably a date that should be taken with a grain of salt.
Officially, NASA has a goal of sending humans to Mars by the 2030s, but that’s not actually to the surface, just into orbit around the red planet.
In other words, even from an optimistic, eyes-wide-shut to reality point of view, NASA is not planning to send humans to the surface of Mars in the 2030s.
Have a nice weekend.