Tag Archives: chair

Fed Chair Yellen cites income gap among long-term risks

The U.S. economy is on solid ground now but it faces long-term risks posed by slow productivity growth and the widening income gap, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen says.

Speaking recently to a gathering of teachers, Yellen said that she sees no major short-term risks facing the economy.

However, sputtering productivity growth and growing income inequality are serious long-term concerns.

The Fed chair said both challenges are outside the scope of the Federal Reserve to handle with its interest-rate tools, so it is important for other policymakers to address them.

She cited a recent study that included a “very shocking finding” — death rates in the 45-to-54 age group are actually rising.

Yellen said there appeared to be a link between this increase and higher rates of suicide and health issues related to substance abuse.

“The thought is that this is a reflection of greater economic insecurity,” Yellen said. “Obviously these are very disturbing trends.”

To promote the study of economics, Yellen held a national town hall meeting with teachers gathered at the Fed’s headquarters in Washington and in groups listening in at Fed regional banks around the country.

In prepared remarks, she said the study of economics can help students manage their personal finances and also provide them with the skills for analytical and critical thinking needed for success later in life.

“Economics provides knowledge and skills of practical use in college and in the workplace and it also provides skills to plan and make wise financial decisions,” Yellen said.

Asked in the question period how an introductory course on money and finance should be designed, she said she would make a number of changes to how she taught such a course many years ago, incorporating the lessons learned in dealing with the 2008 financial crisis, the worst since the 1930s.

She defended the bolstering of the safety and soundness of the financial system brought on by the Dodd-Frank Act that Congress passed in 2010 to prevent a future crisis. Republicans in Congress and President-elect Donald Trump have said they want to roll back some of the changes to make regulation less burdensome.

In her remarks, Yellen said that economics training can play an important role in improving the capabilities and creativity of the workforce.

“Everyone is engaged in and depends on the economy and nothing is more critical to a healthy and growing economy than the capability, creativity and productiveness of its workforce,” Yellen told the teachers. “Whenever I am asked what policies and initiatives could do the most to spur economic growth and raise living standards, improving education is at the top of my list.”

Yellen said that consumers, whose individual spending decisions account for two-thirds of economic activity, can better weather hard times if they have the proper training.

“Stronger household finances overall can help sustain growth, stabilize the economy and mitigate an economic downturn,” she said.

Yellen also put in a plug for what she called the most important teaching aid the Fed produces, a 182-page book called “The Federal Reserve System: Purposes and Functions.” She urged the teachers to check out the new 10th edition of this book on the Fed’s website.

Dems must stop going after each other and focus on ‘the message thing’

A nasty internecine war has erupted inside the Democratic Party over choosing a replacement for retiring chair Mike Tate. As a result, when the party elects Tate’s successor on June 6, Democrats will have to focus on honing and effectively articulating their message.

The victorious candidate can’t afford to be hobbled by the lingering hostilities. He or she will have more than enough challenges already. Foremost, the next chair faces low morale following successive defeats since 2010. Except for the 2012 Wisconsin victories of U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and President Barack Obama, Democrats have repeatedly lost big in the state.

The state’s Democratic leaders shirk blame, pinning the losses on gerrymandered districts. Yes, the political map has been rigged to favor Republicans, and it’s going to remain that way for five more years — and beyond, unless Democrats succeed in regaining one house of the Legislature. But Democrats’ constant complaints about the unfairness of it all only serve to make the base feel permanently defeated. Why bother going to the polls?

Democrats also are discouraging young and minority voters by failing to convince those constituencies that the party has the will and ability to address their most pressing issues. WisDems are failing to make a place for them at the table, whether it’s in delegate selection or in leadership roles. The party asks for their votes, but besides College Democrats of America, there’s no successful outreach to potential youth supporters. If you want to see just how ossified and white the party has become, attend the next meeting of the Democratic Party of Milwaukee County.

The next WisDem’s chair must focus on laying out a positive vision of the future and selling it proudly to the electorate. It should not be hard. In the last election, non-binding referenda promoting Democratic policies overwhelmingly won at the polls, even while Democrats lost. There were plenty of voters at the polls who agreed with Democrats. They just didn’t know it.

Democratic leadership in Wisconsin must restore power to its grassroots instead of operating in top-down fashion, a style that’s horribly out of synch with the progressive agenda. The perception that the party’s chiefs are rigging the selection process for a new chair is causing rifts today that could cost dearly in next year’s election.

You can’t rally people by disempowering them. Candidates can’t inspire voters by smearing the opposition or, worse, not standing up forcefully for their positions. Regardless of what consultants say, leaders have to sell their policies — not try to bury them beneath ambiguities.

Finally, the party’s next chair should forget the idea that Democrats can only win by getting strong turnout in Milwaukee and Madison. That strategy does nothing to help pick up state Senate or Assembly seats. The party must energize voters throughout the state, not just in Democratic bastions.

Wisconsinites generally want the same things — more and better jobs, an excellent and accessible education system, a clean environment, affordable health care and confidence that their tax dollars are being spent shrewdly. If Democrats can fulfill those goals, then they need to explain how, and they need to do it 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year between now and November 2016.

Laning to run for Wisconsin Democratic Party chair

Martha Laning over the weekend announced her candidacy for chairperson of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

Laning is a community leader, businesswoman and former candidate for Wisconsin’s 9th Senate District.

“I’m running for Democratic Party chair because our progressive principles of quality public education, economic prosperity, a clean, sustainable environment and equality for all citizens is under attack by the Republican Legislature,” Laning said in a news release. “I want to offer my services to my party to build a stronger democratic party that serves the best interests of all Wisconsinites.”

Laning made her announcement at the annual Democratic Party County Chairs Association meeting, where, according to the news statement, she stressed a need to support and invest in local party leadership.

“We need build a strong grassroots team across the state — a team where all voices are important and are heard. Our party is great because of all of you — you’re the boots on the ground, the heart of our party and when we empower and strengthen you, we strengthen our progressive message, our legislators, and our candidates,” she stated.

Laning thanked Democratic activists across the state for encouragement and support as she considered entering the race.

She also thanked Mary Lang Sollinger, the former chair candidate from Madison who announced on the weekend that she would be suspending her campaign and supporting Laning.

“I’m humbled by the outpouring of support from grassroots leaders of our party from all around Wisconsin,” Laning stated. “Together we’re going to overcome the challenges of recent years and elect Democratic candidates up and down the ballot in 2016 and beyond.”

The news release said Martha Laning is a business professional and community leader. She has experience in budgeting and finance for large companies, such as Target Inc. Laning also has a record of success in leadership, including spearheading the effort to fundraise and build a $4.6 million community center in Sheboygan.

Laning and her husband Wayne live in Sheboygan and have three children.

On the Web …

Martha Laning’s website is www.laningforwisconsin.com.

Eastwood mocked for RNC bit

Clint Eastwood earned plenty of bad reviews for his latest performance: a bizarre, rambling endorsement of Mitt Romney.

“Clint, my hero, is coming across as sad and pathetic,” tweeted film critic Roger Ebert as Eastwood adlibbed Thursday night to an audience of millions – and one empty chair – on stage at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. “He didn’t need to do this to himself. It’s unworthy of him.”

Eastwood carried on a kooky, long-winded conversation with an imaginary President Barack Obama, telling him that he failed to deliver on his promises, and it’s time for Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, to take over.

“Mr. President, how do you handle promises that you have made when you were running for election, and how do you handle them? I mean, what do you say to people?” he said at one point to the empty chair.

Twitter was instantly ablaze with comments mocking the Oscar-winning director of “Unforgiven” and “Million Dollar Baby.”

“Clint has now eclipsed the total word count of his last three films,” tweeted film critic Richard Roeper during the speech, which was intended to last five minutes but went on for nearly 12.

Howard Kurtz, host of CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” said “Clint’s empty chair act” was the “weirdest convention moment I have ever seen.” Joe Scarborough, the conservative host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” declared that “a great night for Mitt Romney just got sidetracked by Clint Eastwood.”

Minutes after Eastwood began his speech, someone created an @InvisibleObama account on Twitter. It has already amassed 30,000 followers and counting.

“I heard that Clint Eastwood was channeling me at the RNC,” tweeted comic actor Bob Newhart, known for his one-sided conversation bits. “My lawyers and I are drafting our lawsuit.”

The 82-year-old actor and director also talked about Oprah Winfrey, Obama’s unfulfilled promise to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and lawyers. At one point, he referenced dismissing Obama and making a change.

“When somebody doesn’t do the job, you gotta let ‘em go,” Eastwood said. The tough-guy actor of “Dirty Harry” fame then drew a finger across his throat.

The Obama campaign shot back afterward by tweeting a photo of the back of the president’s chair, with Obama’s head peeking over it, along with the line: “This seat’s taken.”

Eastwood, a fiscal conservative who takes left-leaning stands on social issues such as gay marriage and environmental protections, made waves with conservatives earlier this year when he starred in a Super Bowl spot for Chrysler, a company that benefited from government support. Eastwood, who endorsed Romney earlier this month at a campaign event in Sun Valley, Idaho, and once served as mayor of Carmel, Calif., defended his appearance in the commercial, noting it had nothing to do with his politics.

Inside the convention, the crowd cheered Eastwood’s entrance and shouted his famed catchphrase, “Go ahead, make my day.” But backstage, stern-faced Romney aides winced at times as Eastwood’s remarks stretched on. After his speech, Romney’s camp defended Eastwood.

“He’s an American icon,” Romney spokeswoman Gail Gitcho told CNN’s Piers Morgan. “You can’t look at him at through the same political lens that you would other politicians. He’s Clint Eastwood.”

There was seemingly more discussion Thursday night on Twitter about Eastwood’s awkward performance than Romney’s actual acceptance speech.

“Is this a segment for ‘Mrs. Eastwood and Company’?” asked “Star Trek” actor Zachary Quinto on Twitter, referencing the “Keeping Up with the Kardashians”-like E! reality series starring Eastwood’s wife, Dina.

Several celebrities and comedians lightheartedly hypothesized on the micro-blogging site how Democrats could top the over-the-top routine at their own convention in Charlotte, N.C., next week.

“To restore balance to the universe, Obama must have Tommy Chong onstage at the DNC talking to a steak,” joked Patton Oswalt.

Original “Star Trek” actor George Takei said he was “drafting a DNC speech to (an) imaginary Romney in an empty factory.”

“Saturday Night Live” cast member Seth Myers had an entirely different idea: “(Vice President Joe) Biden has to go shirtless for DNC to top it.”

For Hollywood veteran Eastwood, his chance to rebound likely comes Sept. 21 in more familiar territory. That’s when his next film, the baseball drama “Trouble With the Curve,” opens.

Obama for America national co-chairs include HRC president

The leader of the nation’s largest gay rights group was named as one of 35 national co-chairs to the Barack Obama re-election campaign.

Joe Solmonese, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, is a co-chair, along with other organization leaders, lawmakers, volunteers and a few celebrities.

Solmonese, who is leaving HRC next month, said, “President Obama has made it clear that LGBT Americans deserve a fair shot and has taken steps across his Administration to make the lives of those most in need in our community better. As a national co-chair, I am determined to do whatever I can do to help reelect President Obama so this progress can continue for our community.”

The organization endorsed the president’s re-election bid almost a year ago.

The co-chair list for Obama for America also includes:

• Lynnette Acosta, campaign volunteer leader from Florida.

• Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com.

• Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado.

• Mayor Julian Castro of San Antonio, Texas.

• Gov. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island.

• Ann Cherry, volunteer from North Carolina.

• U.S. Rep. Judy Chu of California.

• U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri.

• Bill Daley, former White House chief of staff.

• Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.

• U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois.

• Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago.

• Former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin.

• U.S. Rep. Charles A. Gonzalez of Texas.

• Loretta Harper, volunteer leader from Nevada.

• California Attorney General Kamala Harris.

• Sai Iyer, volunteer leader from Virginia.

• Caroline Kennedy, president of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.

• Actress Eva Longoria.

• Felesia Martin, volunteer leader from Wisconsin.

• African Methodist Episcopal Bishop Vashti McKenzie.

• Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller.

• Actor Kalpen Modi.

• Retired Adm. John Nathman.

• Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts.

• Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation and Energy Federico Pena.

• Elaine Price, volunteer from Ohio.

• Penny Pritzker, CEO of PSP Capital Partners.

• Army veteran John Register.

• U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois.

• U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire .

• Alan Solow, past chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

• Former Gov. Ted Strickland of Ohio .

• Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles.

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