Monday opinion, the blizzard of 2010 edition. The wind makes snow accumulation tough to gauge, but it looks more like Colorado than Connecticut out there.
Oil is back above $90 a barrel. Copper and cotton have hit record highs. Wheat and corn prices are way up. Over all, world commodity prices have risen by a quarter in the past six months.
So what’s the meaning of this surge?
Is it speculation run amok? Is it the result of excessive money creation, a harbinger of runaway inflation just around the corner? No and no.
What the commodity markets are telling us is that we’re living in a finite world, in which the rapid growth of emerging economies is placing pressure on limited supplies of raw materials, pushing up their prices. And America is, for the most part, just a bystander in this story.
The Civil War is about to loom very large in the popular memory. We would do well to be candid about its causes and not allow the distortions of contemporary politics or long-standing myths to cloud our understanding of why the nation fell apart.
After an uneven tenure marked by sluggish economic growth coupled with historic legislative victories, President Obama is under pressure from voices within the Democratic Party to upend his team for the second half of the term. Prominent Democrats have called upon Obama to broaden his inner circle and bring in figures who are better positioned to negotiate on equal terms with emboldened House and Senate Republicans.
But Gibbs, speaking on CNN's "State of the Union," said, "I don't expect, quite honestly, big changes. I think we've had a very capable and good Cabinet that has helped move the president's agenda forward."
[KY Rep. John] Yarmuth [D], who voted against the tax deal, said that, "It's pretty amazing what's happened in the last couple weeks," but also warned that, "You could also look at it from the perspective of what happened was the American people paid a huge price that we did make.
"I mean, basically, we were held up for about $90 million over the next two years for tax cuts for very wealthy Americans in order to get this roadblock overcome," he said. "So, I hope that the spirit of accomplishment can carry forward. I'm not particularly optimistic though."
From TPM, the 5 top lame duck winners (Obama and Reid) and losers (Kyl and McCain).
The Hill notes Joe Walsh of Ill. will turn down govt health insurance:
Republicans who staunchly opposed President Obama's healthcare reform plan have come under pressure from Democrats and liberal activist groups to decline their government healthcare benefits upon taking office.
Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) penned a letter to GOP leaders demanding that Republican members "walk that walk" and refuse their federally subsidized coverage.
Walsh looks like a genuine 24K nutcase; more from the NY Times:
Deemed extreme by Republican honchos, Mr. Walsh — an unabashed Tea Party member, a business consultant and graduate of the University of Chicago’s public policy school — stunned Melissa Bean, the incumbent moderate Democrat, even though he had been dramatically outspent.
NY Times covers a quiet victory over the forces of ignorance:
Advance care planning, which touched off a political storm over "death panels," will be covered under Medicare — a "quiet victory" for supporters.
The debt situation in Europe is deteriorating. Inflation threatens to derail emerging-market economies. And the U.S. faces a potential time bomb with its own sizable debt.
Yet in the face of all these hazards, the stock market is hitting two-year highs and investors are feeling more bullish than they have in years. Even the market's "fear gauge" is trading near its lowest levels since April, indicating a lack of worry among professional options traders.
"The rally we've seen since the end of August has been more or less a straight line," says Jeffrey Palma, a strategist at UBS. "Given some of the uncertainties in the world, it seems pretty tough to believe that we can hold sustained levels of low volatility through the next year."
Complacency seems to be the operative word. The recovery is very uneven, with small businesses still feeling a major pinch.
President Obama plans to issue an executive order, perhaps as early as this week, ending a federal internship program that critics say circumvents proper hiring practices.
Since it began in 2001, the Federal Career Intern Program has been used to hire more than 100,000 people - few of them interns as traditionally understood and many of them border and customs officers who later became permanent-status federal employees.
The program has drawn fire from federal employee unions and from the government board that oversees federal hiring practices, which ruled in November that the program undermined the rights of veterans, in particular, who were seeking federal work.