A lot of politics in my weekly business and economic rundown with Andy Dean on "America Now." But also some talk of escaping the financial disaster area that is California for another place with an ocean but far less onerous taxes: Florida. As well as a chance for me to talk about Elon Musk's commencement address at Caltech, which I covered last week.
The politics: There's a view these days that President Obama's attempts to brand Mitt Romney as a financial elitist due to his record at Bain Capital didn't work an that Obama is now running against not Romney but the previous Republican President, George W. Bush. This is probably true, and it's created a whiff of desperation in the Obama campaign. It also isn't going to work, so expect another Obama pivot until he finds something that can make Romney look like Bush III.
Commerce Secretary John Bryson speaks at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012. President Obama earlier this year had asked Congress to grant authority to consolidate the Commerce Department and several other agencies.
John Bryson had a tough day behind the wheel on Monday in California. But if his President gets his way, he may not have much time left as Commerce Secretary, even if he returns from a sabbatical that he announced yesterday he would be taking.
The New York Times described Bryson as "one of the lower-profile members of President Obama’s cabinet but a well-known figure in California energy and business circles." Depending on how an Obama plan announced earlier this year to consolidate the Commerce Department and several other agencies goes, Bryson's profile could go from low to non-existent. This is from Government Executive:
In January, Obama announced that if Congress agrees to restore agency consolidation authority enjoyed by presidents from the 1930s to the 1980s, he would proceed to merge six trade and business-oriented agencies into one larger department.
Listen in to my weekly business and economy report on "America Now with Andy Dean." Last Friday, Andy was kind enough to introduce me as the business-lovin' liberal, which he figures is a paradox, an oxymoron, an enigma wrapped in a riddle. All very good, as I felt like an riddle-wrapped-enigma on Friday afternoon.
Much talk of Facebook, of course, as the IPO and a big tax payout for the budget-challenged state of California looms (it's this week, May 18). But also a revisitation of the wild life of Eduardo Saverin, the jilted Facebook co-founder who is now living large in Asia and, much to Andy's dismay, giving up his American citizenship so he can collect more of his nearly $4-billion payout from the Facebook offering.
But we also discussed President Obama's boffo, $15-million Hollywood fundraiser last Thursday, at the house of George Clooney, and we did a little run-through of what the Next Big Tech Startup could be. My personal favorite is Quora, but we also talked about Square, which is one of Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey's companies. It's a potentially big player in the mobile-payments space. You use, for example, the iPhone app and get a small, square (naturally) card-reader that plugs into the audio jack of an iPhone. Valuation: $1 billion.
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim, and US Secretary of the Treasury Timothy F. Geithner listen while US President Barack Obama speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House on March 23, 2012 in Washington, DC. President Obama announced his nomination of Kim to succeed Robert Zoellick as President of the World Bank.
The best comment on President Obama's nomination of Dartmouth president Jim Yong Kim to lead the World Bank comes from Forbes' Tom Watson, who notes that the Korean-born Kim's career has been all about improving health care for the poor (as well as running an Ivy League university):
[I]t’s his stature as the co-founder of Partners In Health...that stands out. Partners in Health was founded 25 years ago and revolutionized the development world’s view of health initiatives in poor communities, stressing both respect for the poor and the need for strong preventive care. Known for its work in Haiti, Partners in Health pioneered its community-based health model in Russia, Rwanda, Peru, Lesotho, Burundi and other countries. It also works with poor HIV-AIDS patients in the Boston area.
The World Bank's job is supposed to be the eradication of poverty, but it's often critized for embodying the rich world's perceptions of the poor. Kim's nomination could be interpreted as a effort to break out of this problem while still retaining a primary U.S. role in governing the World Bank.
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Bank of America was one of the 15 big U.S. banks that passed the Fed's latest stress tests.
The Federal Reserve has released the results of its latest "stress tests" of the country's biggest banks — two days early. Why two days early? Marketplace's Heidi N. Moore had the best quip: The Fed didn't have much choice, after J.P. Morgan Chase jumped the gun on the planned Thursday announcement and showed Wall Street its report card.
Four banks flunked the test: Citigroup, Suntrust Banks, Ally Financial and MetLife, which isn't really a bank but an insurance company with bank-like businesses. Citigroup is the most worrying of that group, as some advance handicapping had it sailing through the Fed tests. Not so, as it turns out. This may remind some of the revelations, from Ron Suskind's controversial recent book about the Obama economic team and the financial crisis, that the White House at one point wanted to shut Citigroup down. Treasury Secretary Tim Geither reportedly stalled the President to avoid executing that decision.