Tuesday’s Gone

Inauguration day has come and gone, but the euphoria of a historic election will likely remain for some time.  For President Obama and the 110th Congress, the work is just beginning.  The economy continues to show signs of weakening, even amidst hope that the downturn will be neither as severe nor as prolonged as some have prognosticated.  Although Israel draws down its forces in Gaza, tension in the Middle East remains high.  The status of the American presence in Iraq and the oft-criticized detention facility at Guantanamo Bay remain uncertain.  Pricey health care and a failing education system also appear at the top of the President’s to do list.

Given these conditions, it is curious that some have anticipated one of the most prominent pieces of reform that will come on the heels of the inauguration to be the Freedom of Choice Act. 

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Deficits and Debts

Before you start searching your mailbox for the next economic stimulus check, sobering reports today put the budget deficit at $1.2 trillion for the fiscal year.

This, of course, pales in comparison to the national debt, which is expected to increase by $2 trillion this year . That would put the national debt at about $12.7 trillion. The current debt stands at about $10.7 trillion, with 40% of that owned by government accounts. Interestingly, China owned $652.9 billion in treasury securities as of October 2008. That’s a $193.8 billion increase from that same month in 2007. You can see the remainder of the major foreign holders of debt here.

Make your checks payable to the Bureau of the Public Debt.

UPDATE: According to the New York Times today, China currently owns over $1 trillion in treasury securities, but they’re not really interested in more.

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From Russia with Love

In my first post, I want to thank Dean O’Hear for the invitation to serve as January’s Student Blogger of the Month, as well as my predecessors for the high bar they have set for me.  It’s rare that someone willingly gives me a forum to opine on topics of my choosing, and I am glad (and honored!) to have this one. 

A little over a month ago The Economist ran a special report on corruption in Russia, including a brief note about the mounting problems within the Russian judiciary.  Although the latter article mostly contains interesting observations regarding prosecutorial abuse within the criminal justice system, I want to highlight one particular passage concerning civil litigation:

Things are not much better in corporate disputes. Large companies rarely trust in a judge’s unprompted decision. In commercial courts a judge often takes a bribe for reaching a speedy conclusion. All this helps to explain why the European Court of Human Rights is overwhelmed with Russian cases, and why large Russian companies seek justice in London. The Yukos case [described in the former link] showed that the courts have become part of the Kremlin machinery. The problem, says one Moscow lawyer, is that “the law in Russia is often trumped by money and always by high-level power.”

According to some, the same thing may be happening in the United States. 

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