American Morning

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February 23rd, 2010
07:00 AM ET

Lawmakers who don't request earmarks

Slashing earmarks and pork was one of President Obama's campaign pledges. Now, more than a year into the Obama administration, most lawmakers are still pigging out.

So who are the few who are not bringing home the bacon? As part of CNN's special series "Broken Government," our Ali Velshi reports from the "Earmarks Desk."


Filed under: Broken Government • Politics
February 23rd, 2010
06:00 AM ET

Broken Government: Are small banks the solution?

Editor's Note: All this week in our special series "Broken Government," CNN is taking a hard look at our nation's government; the frustrating problems and the potential solutions. Today, our Carol Costello reports on why banks still aren't loaning and what the answer is for small businesses. Tomorrow on American Morning, we focus on states that are trying to gamble their way out of the recession.

By Ronni Berke and Carol Costello

You're the owner of a small business that's more than breaking even during this recession. You have good credit and want to hire more people. Therefore, you qualify for a small business loan – right? Wrong.

Jimmie Hughes, who runs office supply business “Grand America” outside of Dallas, says although that description fits him perfectly, he's been turned down for a loan by six community banks.

"I could double the size of my company now if I wanted to, but what I need in order to do that is to have operating capital that I can use to stabilize the situation with my company so I can put some good people to work."

Hughes may be caught in the loan log jam now affecting many small businesses. According to the Treasury Department, the nation's 11 biggest banks cut their small business loan balance by more than $2.3 billion in December. In 2009, the Small Business Administration approved only $9.2 billion in 7(a) commercial bank loans, down from $12.7 billion in 2008.

To loosen up credit, President Obama has proposed moving $30 billion of funds repaid under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to community banks to lend to small business owners. But community bankers like Edward Merritt of Boston's Mt. Washington Bank, say cash is not what they need.

"I'm not really looking for more money to lend," he says. "I'm looking for more qualified borrowers to lend to, and that is as big a problem as I see it today as it is the bank's willingness to lend money."

FULL POST


Filed under: Broken Government • Economy
February 22nd, 2010
12:00 PM ET

Broken Government: How to fix Congress?

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/02/22/tanner.davis.cnn.art.jpg caption="Rep. John Tanner and Tom Davis spoke with John Roberts on CNN's "American Morning" Monday."]

(CNN) - Gridlock. These days, many Americans feel that is all they are getting from their government.

To examine the problem and potential solutions as part of CNN's special series "Broken Government," we spoke with two men who decided to get out of government entirely.

Tom Davis served 14 years as a Republican congressman from Virginia. He retired in 2008 and is now the president of Main Street Advocacy.

And Rep. John Tanner, a Democrat from Tennessee, announced his retirement in December after more than 20 years in office.

They spoke with John Roberts on CNN's "American Morning" Monday. Below is an edited transcript of the interview.

John Roberts: Congressman Tanner, let's start with you. Evan Bayh said last week, when he announced that he wasn’t going to stand for re-election, that Congress is not functioning as it should. Do you believe Congress is broken?

John Tanner: I do, and I think it goes back really to 1962 in a case from Tennessee, Baker v. Karr, where the Supreme Court of the United States ruled every congressional district ... based on population, had to have approximately the same number of people. That has been refined, and now the gerrymandering that goes with that … that has gone all over the country.

What it means is the most partisan elements of our society, those on the left and right who believe their party is right and the other guy is always wrong, are electing, to the best of our count, almost 350 members of the 435 members here in the House. And so people are responsive to the people that elect them, so you have the left and the right here, and there’s very little in the middle.

Roberts: Congressman Davis, do you agree with that, that redistricting is the problem? We had a poll out last week, 63% of respondents think most members of Congress don’t deserve to be re-elected. Yet, on average, in an election, 90% of House members return.

Survey: 86% believe government broken

Tom Davis: 80% of the members come from districts where their race is their primary, it's not the general election. They don't get rewarded for compromising, they get punished if they compromise with the other side. By the way, the Voting Rights Act, [is] in concert with Baker v. Karr – because the Voting Rights Act … has made the districts even more partisan. The difficulty is a lot of these members’ races are in primary elections and not in generals. In primaries, you don't get rewarded for compromising with the other side, you get punished.

FULL POST


Filed under: Broken Government • Politics
February 22nd, 2010
06:00 AM ET

Broken Government: Middle class fed up?

Editor's Note: All this week in our special series "Broken Government," CNN is taking a hard look at our nation's government; the frustrating problems and the potential solutions. Today, our Carol Costello reports on the growing struggles of the American middle class. Tomorrow on American Morning, we look at why banks still aren't loaning and what the answer is for small businesses.

By Bob Ruff and Carol Costello

What does it take to be part of the American middle class?

Here’s the tried and true way: Get an education, work hard, get a good paying job with benefits, raise a family, buy a house and a car or two and take a vacation once a year.

Put it all together and you’re describing not just the dream, but the fulfillment of that dream by tens of millions of Americans during the last century. But that was then, before the hard economic times following 9/11, and this is now.

Meet the Bindners of Alexandria, Virginia.

“I think the middle class,” says Moira Bindner, “is trying to get a handle on where their feet are because it feels like the rug has been totally pulled out, and it’s really challenging on a day to day basis to accomplish everything with the paycheck coming in the door.”

For example: “You don’t go to the dentist, you don’t get your car repaired until it’s desperate...the retirement plan went out the window and our credit card debt went up,” says Moira.

FULL POST


Filed under: Broken Government • Economy • Politics
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