Hundreds of people marched Saturday near Wall Street in New York

NEW YORK — Hundreds of people marched Saturday near Wall Street in New York, but the city thwarted their bid to descend into the heart of global finance itself to protest greed, corruption and budget cuts. Protesters had planned to … Continue reading

NEW YORK — Hundreds of people marched Saturday near Wall Street in New York, but the city thwarted their bid to descend into the heart of global finance itself to protest greed, corruption and budget cuts.

Protesters had planned to stake out Wall Street until their anger over a financial system they say favors the rich and powerful was heard, but police blocked all the streets near the New York Stock Exchange and Federal Hall in Lower Manhattan long before they arrived.

“The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99 Percent that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the one percent,” said a statement on the website Occupy Wall Street. The movement was launched by the online magazine Adbusters in July.

Organizers hoped to turn all of Lower Manhattan into an “American Tahrir Square,” in reference to the public town square in Cairo that became the focal point of protests that ousted Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak in February.

By noon, about 700 people, many carrying backpacks and sleeping bags, had gathered near Wall Street to search for a place to camp amid a heavy police presence. That was far less than the 20,000 Adbusters had hoped to see “flood” the neighborhood for a months-long occupation.

“This is a protest against corporate greed and we come to Wall Street because Wall Street is the Ground Zero for corporate greed,” said Julia River Hitt, a 22-year-old philosophy student, explaining that most of the organizing took place online.

“We are here just to say we are fed up, we are not gonna take it anymore.”

Banners brandished in Trinity Place, the site finally chosen by the protesters some 1,000 feet (300 meters) from Wall Street, read “No more corruption,” “Stop the cuts” and “Wall St Greed, New Yorkers say enough.”

The protest came as the United States struggles to overcome an economic crisis marked by a huge budget deficit that has triggered cuts in the public service sector while unemployment hovers stubbornly above nine percent.

“There’s a war in Libya, there’s a war in Afghanistan, there’s a war in Iraq and we have cuts in education, social programs,” said a masked protester who declined to be identified.

“We know where the money is going! Revolution in America!”

The young can’t get jobs, the middle-aged are in deep debt, and seniors can’t retire; low starting salaries snowball into a lifetime of depressed wages, slim pensions, and even shorter lifespans

Gen-Y has the worst unemployment. Near-retirees have the least time to recover their savings. And Gen-Xers? They’re caught between debt that won’t disappear and an economy that won’t move. Who’s Had the Worst Recession: Boomers, Millennials, or Gen-Xers? – The … Continue reading

Gen-Y has the worst unemployment. Near-retirees have the least time to recover their savings. And Gen-Xers? They’re caught between debt that won’t disappear and an economy that won’t move.

Who’s Had the Worst Recession: Boomers, Millennials, or Gen-Xers? – The Atlantic

The Millennial generation got hit hardest by the Great Recession. You might have heard this, over and over, especially if you read The Atlantic or happen to have asked somebody from the Millennial generation. Downturns like this one change the course of a lifetime for college graduates, as low starting salaries snowball into a lifetime of depressed wages, slim pensions, and even shorter lifespans.

Hogwash! a Boomer might retort. Even if they have narrower prospects, Millennials have their whole lives to make back lost wages. When the stock market tumbled and housing prices collapsed, couples near retirement lost their nest eggs at the very moment that they were looking to step out of the workforce. Surely, they suffered the most from the timing of this recession.

Oh, come on! a Gen-Xer might respondwe got the worst of both worlds. The 46 million Americans between the age of 33 and 46 reached the prime of their working years only to find salaries depressed by a bad economy and promotions suppressed by lingering Boomers.

This is a debate without a winner, and we’re not going to name one. Instead, we’re want to look across three categories — employment, income, and overall wealth outlook — and argue on behalf of each generation that their cohort got it worst.

EMPLOYMENT

GenY: It’s a simple case: Unemployment is worst for the youngest. Overall joblessness is between two and three times higher for 20-somethings than older workers, and the greatest percentage increase in unemployment between December 2007 and September 2010 happens to be 20-24-year olds … with a college education!

GenX:  Young people can move around with ease. But when you’re married with children and a house, it’s harder to pick up and follow the job openings. Worse for GenXers, the fastest-growing jobs are in positions that a middle-class mother or father is disinclined to accept. Six in ten jobs lost during the downturn were in middle-wage occupations, according to the National Employment Law Project, and nearly 75 percent of the jobs added since were lower-wage — so-called McJobs. Gen-Yers can afford $10 an hour, for a while anyway.

Boomers: For those out of work, it’s bad to be a Boomer. Older workers suffered the largest overall increase in long-term unemployment, and they face the longest spells of joblessness. In 2009, younger workers were about as likely as prime-age workers to find work, but unemployed older workers were the least likely of all to find jobs, with only about 15 percent of jobseekers finding jobs each month in 2009.

INCOME

GenY: For Millennials, it’s not just the money they’re not making today. It’s all the money they won’t make tomorrow. For every one-percentage-point increase in the unemployment rate, new graduates’ starting income falls by 7 percent, according to Lisa Kahn, an economist at Yale. And 17 years later, those who had entered the workforce in the worst of a recession still earn 10 percent less than those who graduated in lusher times. When you add it all up, Don Peck writes, “it’s as if the lucky graduates had been given a gift of about $100,000, adjusted for inflation, immediately upon graduation.”

GenX: A recent study by the Center for Work-Life Policy (charticled nicely by Bloomberg Businessweek) revealed Gen-Xers to be the chief victims of the Great Recession. They’re working harder — a two-parent family worked 26 percent more hours in 2010 than in 1975 — and making less. Thirty-something men had an average income of $40,000 some 30 years ago; today, it’s $35,000. Yet remarkably, hourly wages for this group have fallen even more for women in the last ten years. Finally, the ladder to the C-suite is crowded: Boomers have delayed their expected retirement by another five years since the recession struck.

Boomers: Since Boomers have the lowest unemployment rate and the highest total income, it’s hard to make the case that 47-65-year-olds have the worst income crisis. Rather, their greatest challenge is preserving wealth at a time when asset values have been decimated. More on that in the next section.

THE FUTURE OUTLOOK

GenY: This overall wealth outlook category is all about debt-building versus asset-building. Gen-Yers don’t have a lot of assets, which is fortunate at a time when housing values have fallen more than 25 percent in major cities. But we do have debt, particularly student loan debt, and this is a particularly nerve-wracking story. Total student loan debt infamously eclipsed credit card debt last year at $850 billion, and tuition costs are still rising even faster than health care costs. The hollowing out of the middle class means that paying back that debt — and finding ways to pay for an education that keeps us ahead of productivity curve — will be the challenge of a generation.

The kids behind us face these challenges, and more. If their parents can’t afford tuition and extended health care coverage, that will mean more debt for today’s grade-schoolers. In the near future, the poverty rate for children is projected to rise to a multi-decade high of 26 percent in 2014.

GenX: Compare debt and assets: The first is growing, the second is falling, and that’s not the way you want it. Low pay today is coming on the heels of a big student debt increase. In 1977, when the youngest Gen-Xers were in 4th grade, a third of students borrowed for college. By the time this generation was finishing school, 65 percent borrowed to attend college. The average homeowner entered the recession with debt equal to 125 percent of income. Now with a fifth of homes underwater or close to it, millions of older Gen-Xers (and Boomers) are drowning in what they thought were their savings vehicles.

There is also the question of how this plays out for retirement. X-ers are in danger of losing out on their pensions, whether or not state and federal governments reform their calculations. “When somebody loses a job at age 60, their pensions are not as affected because they’ve racked up enough lifetime earnings,” said Till Von Watcher, associate professor economics at Columbia University. “But for somebody to lose a job in their 30s, they’re facing lasting declines in earnings that affect their pensions too.”

Boomers: Vacillations in the stock market might not worry a 20-something with decades left on his savings account. They might not freak out a 40-year old who doesn’t expect to quit until she’s 70. But if you’re an older worker on the lip of retirement, your investments are your savings and your savings are about to become your principle source of income. “This last recession has definitely not treated everyone equally,” said Susan Menke, an economist at market research firmMintel. “Younger boomers [are] the ‘sandwich’ generation, burdened with educational expenses for their kids and, for some, health care costs for aging parents.” As tuition and medical services get more expensive and the stock market lingers below its pre-recession high, even Boomers who have kept their jobs, their homes, and their savings and every right to be nervous about how the economy handles in their last years in the workforce.

the White House rushed approval of a half-billion-dollar loan guarantee for a now-bankrupt solar panel manufacturer

  Role of White House Aides Questioned in Solyndra Hearing WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans questioned Wednesday whether the White House rushed approval of a half-billion-dollar loan guarantee for a now-bankrupt solar panel manufacturer once cited as the kind of … Continue reading

 

Role of White House Aides Questioned in Solyndra Hearing

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans questioned Wednesday whether the White House rushed approval of a half-billion-dollar loan guarantee for a now-bankrupt solar panel manufacturer once cited as the kind of renewable energy company worthy of federal stimulus money.

Solyndra Inc. was a major presence in Washington and spent millions of dollars on lobbying there, particularly about the Energy Department’s loan guarantee program. And its executives raised thousands of dollars for Obama and Democrats in Congress.

The collapse of the Fremont, Calif.-based company once touted by President Barack Obama ultimately left taxpayers on the hook for $528 million, raising questions if the loan was rushed to accommodate a company event in September 2009 that featured Vice President Joe Biden.

The congressional panel examining the loan disclosed emails that appeared to show senior staff at the Office of Management and Budget chafing about having to conduct “rushed approvals” of federal loan guarantees designed to help jumpstart the nation’s renewable energy industry.

“We would prefer to have sufficient time to do our due diligence reviews and have the approval set the date for the announcement rather than the other way around,” said one of the emails from an unnamed OMB aide to Biden’s office.

Obama cited Solyndra as an example of how the economic stimulus bill would create jobs. But the company has since filed for bankruptcy and shed 1,100 workers, saying it couldn’t compete with foreign manufacturers of solar panels.

Documents reviewed by The Associated Press show Solyndra spent nearly $2 million lobbying the federal government during the last four years, including on provisions of the Energy Department’s loan program just months before White House officials urged that the funds be approved.

In the first quarter of 2009, Solyndra paid McBee Strategic Consulting $20,000 to lobby on issues related to the Energy Department’s loan guarantee program, records show, and it paid $30,000 in early 2008 to Dutko Worldwide to handle Solyndra’s loan application.

Republican lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s investigations panel are questioning why there was a rush to approve the loan and whether the entire loan guarantee program is warranted. “Our investigation raises several questions about whether the administration did everything it could to protect taxpayer dollars,” said the committee’s chairman, Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the emails don’t suggest that the White House was pushing for the loan to be made.

“What the emails make clear is there was urgency to make a decision on a scheduling matter. It is a big proposition to move the president or to put on an event and that sort of thing so people were simply looking for answers about whether or not people could move forward,” Carney told reporters at the White House.

“It had nothing to — and there is no evidence to the contrary — nothing to do with anything besides the need to get an answer to make a scheduling decision,” he said.

The Obama administration and Democratic lawmakers have aggressively sought to invest in renewable energy projects as a way to create jobs and to reduce the nation’s reliance on oil. They note that other countries are also investing heavily in solar and that the race for solar manufacturing jobs is worth winning because the global market is going to be worth trillions of dollars.

The Solyndra fallout comes at an embarrassing time for the White House, while Obama is traveling the country promoting his jobs plan, which includes more investments in renewable energy.

The subcommittee has been investigating Solyndra for nearly six months as it began to have financial troubles. Shortly after the filing, FBI officials raided the company’s headquarters; the company said the FBI was seeking records on the loans.

An AP review of Federal Election Commission records shows Solyndra executives have given to both Obama and Democratic-aligned groups. Ben Bierman, Solyndra’s executive vice president, and Karen Alter, the firm’s marketing vice president, contributed more than $3,500 to Obama’s campaign. And one of the company’s investors, George Kaiser, was a “bundler” for Obama’s 2008 campaign, raising between $50,000 and $100,000 for the president, records show.

Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee had questioned the basis of the Solyndra investigation and in July had voted against issuing subpoenas for documents from OMB. But after the bankruptcy and FBI raid, Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., described the loan Wednesday as a “debacle.”

But Democrats also argued that it’s not clear whether the company’s financial woes were just a result of unforeseen market conditions or sloppy vetting or corporate malfeasance.

Democrats also said that failure to invest in the U.S. solar industry would amount to an economic death sentence that would allow other nations to dominate a growing business.

“If you live in reality, you know the world cannot continue its dependence on fossil fuels and that we are in danger of losing this industry to our competitors, especially China,” said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.

Federal officials told lawmakers that Solyndra went through three years of review, beginning with the Bush administration, before any taxpayer money was put at risk. Jonathan Silver, executive director of the Energy Department’s loan program office, said that the company was well positioned to succeed in 2009.

But Chinese companies have flooded the market with inexpensive panels, and Europe’s economy weakened demand from customers. The result has been an unprecedented drop in solar cell prices this year.

Silver said the loan guarantee program is about giving U.S. companies the tools they need to succeed in the world marketplace, and one of those tools, as other countries have learned, is low-cost financing.

“This isn’t picking winners and losers. It is helping ensure that we have winners here at all,” Silver said.

But GOP officials disputed that the Bush administration was willing to go along with a loan guarantee for Solyndra, noting that an Energy Department committee voted against offering a conditional commitment to Solyndra in January 2009. The committee said the deal was premature and questioned its underlying financial support, said Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., chairman of the House energy panel.

Two Solyndra executives were asked to testify Wednesday but are now expected to appear next week.

Under a loan guarantee, the government will cover a loan in the event of a default. Normally, private banks provide the loans, but in this case, Solyndra borrowed the money from the Federal Financing Bank. The government guaranteed up to $535 million in loans, and Solyndra’s bankruptcy filings showed that it has received almost $528 million in federal loans.

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Associated Press writer Matt Daly contributed to this report.