Sen. Dianne Feinstein, at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles, speaks at a Town Hall event.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein sat down with Mark Baldassare, CEO of the Public Policy Institute of California, in front of a packed lunchtime audience today at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles. The two discussed economic challenges facing the U.S., the Occupy Wall Street movement, tax reform, and political gridlock in Washington, D.C.
"If you elect people who want to solve problems, you can get something done," Feinstein, who has been representing California for nearly 20 years in Congress, stated. "If you elect people who pound the table, you can't get anything done."
Feinstein, a Democrat, followed this indictment of Republican intractability by pointing out that she considers it unlikely that the remaining aspects of President Obama's jobs bill will pass, including a provision that would establish an national infrastructure bank, still to be voted on.
Many students who graduate from 4-year universities have student loan debt
President Obama, to his credit, is doing what he can to address problems in two of the three big debt markets in the U.S. He's rolled out a plan to enable borrowers who are underwater on their mortgages to refinance, taking advantage of historically low interest rates. And now he's turned his attention to student loan debt, which has ballooned in recent years as the cost of higher education has risen beyond the rate of inflation.
That leaves credit card debt and to a lesser extent auto loan debt. We're unlikely to see anything on that front, however, because the government doesn't backstop that kind of lending.
The student loan initiative is being driven by the crappy economy. Students have borrowed very large sums to fund their educations, but in many cases they can't get jobs in the face of 9 percent national unemployment. If they can find work, the pay isn't enough to service the debt. And overall student loan debt is now massive, at more than a trillion bucks.
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A foreclosure sign sits in front of a home for sale.
Another month, another Case-Shiller index on housing prices — and more bad news for the housing economy. This is from the Wall Street Journal:
The Case-Shiller data come on the heels of the White House's revamp of a mortgage-refinance program for "underwater" borrowers—those who owe more than their homes are worth. But economists say there are few quick fixes for the housing crisis, and easier refinancing rules will do little to address weak demand for homes.
"It was a very bad spring-to-summer-market season," said Nancy Wallace, a finance professor at the University of California at Berkeley. She said a turnaround in the housing market remains largely dependent on loosening credit and a surge in hiring. "People are almost afraid to apply for mortgages and lots of people have little scratches and dents on their credit right now."
Today, I dropped by Idealab, the business incubator in Pasadena, to learn a bit more about the startup scene in Southern California. They were kind enough to show me around their unique space and briefly chat about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it.
Here's a timeline of the operation, which was founded in 1996 by Bill Gross and has moved through a number of iterations. They are to a certain extent building the future here, and that's always a good energy to be around. Idealab is also fostering new businessers and new technologies right here in SoCal, establishing an interesting alternative to the Bay Area (although certainly not acting as if NoCal doesn't exist). They're even beginning to explore so-called "angel" investing, with a new in-house ventures group.
Have a look around! And, if you want to get a sense of how entrepeneurship is affecting working life in Los Angeles during an economic downturn, check out KPCC's Shereen Marisol Meraji and her visit to NextSpace, a co-working business in Culver City.
Reuters finance blogger Felix Salmon and Marketplace New York bureau chief Heidi Moore went on "The Madeleine Brand Show" this morning to discuss the ongoing (Neverending?) European debt crisis. It was a lively discussion, moving beyond the probability of a Greek default in its debt and raising the specter of Italy defaulting on its debt — or more accurately, being unable to "roll it over," or pay off maturing bonds with new bonds, at the same interest rate. Unfortunately for Italy, its borrowing costs are going up, making it difficult to execute this maneuver.
At one point, Heidi made reference to a video of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the odd couple of the European Union, who together have been lurchingly trying to cobble together a rescue package for the Eurozone's common currency.