The Republican Nomination – More than Half Way there

Mitt RomneyAs expected Mitt Romney swept all three states that chose their nominee to be the Republican Presidential Candidate on Tuesday. Mr. Romney now has 640 delegates putting him over the half way mark for the 1144 delegates that he needs to win the nomination outright. Mr. Romney seems to have his eye on the main prize now, focusing most of his winning speech towards challenging President Obama.

For all that the Republican conservative base distrusts Mr. Romney, there is no denying the keen business sense that has lead to his making a fortune. Decrying the sad state of the economy is one topic on which Mr. Romney finds himself on safe ground with the Republicans as well as America as a whole, and he has attacked the President on his handling of the economy as well as the prevailing high gas prices.

In a nod to the expectation that Mr. Romney will most likely be his opponent for the November Presidential elections, Mr. Obama has for the first time directly attacked Mr. Romney in an uncharacteristically partisan speech this week. Mr. Obama spoke disparagingly about the Republican budget proposals that aim at cost cutting by reducing Medicaid and other benefits for the sick and elderly and highlighted Mr. Romney’s approval of this budget which he is known to have called ‘Marvelous’.

And the Republican Race Drags on

Three states get to decide who they would like to nominate as the Republican challenger this Tuesday; and Mitt Romney is expected to win all three. This will push him over the half way mark and have him in a strong position going into the six primaries that are to be held on April 24th. A strong indicator of the expectation that he will be the Republican nominee is the fact that President Obama has for the first time targeted Mr. Romney directly in a speech he gave on Tuesday on the controversial Republican budget plan. This is something that the President rarely did till now, letting the Republicans duke it out amongst themselves.

President Obama stressed those aspects of the budget proposed by Republicans that will make huge cuts in Medicaid and other programs for the poor and elderly while keeping taxes low; saying that this is a budget that the fabulously wealthy Mr. Romney whole heartedly endorses calling it ‘marvelous’ and hoping that it is put before him on his first day as President (if and when that happens).

President Obama fires another Economic salvo against Iran

President Barak Obama has stepped up sanctions against Iran by issuing a June 28th deadline for all allies to significantly reduce their procurement of Iranian Oil. Any financial institutions doing business with Iran’s central bank will face sanctions barring them from operating in the U.S. This in conjunction with the European Union’s complete embargo on Iranian Oil that is to come into effect from the 1st of July is expected to significantly impair Iran’s finances and push it towards rethink on its nuclear program.

These sanctions are a way to avoid an armed conflict between Iran and Israel by forcing Iran to shut down what they world believes is its nuclear weapons program, and to open its nuclear facilities to inspection by U.N agencies.

The price of crude oil has spiked by 20% these last few months on speculation of unrest in the Middle East; President Obama has said that he believes that by ramping up oil production in the U.S, Saudi Arabia and other oil producing nations there will be enough oil to allow countries to reduce their consumption of Iranian oil. The expected short fall is to be in the range of about 1 million barrels a day, while Saudi Arabia has the capacity to increase its oil production by 1.5 million barrels a day. The Saudis have promised to ramp up production of crude to ensure that oil prices stabilize, Saudi Oil Minister Ali Naimi has said in an opinion piece in The Financial Times that he would like to see the European economy back on its feet and realizes that lower crude prices are a key factor in achieving this.

Tax breaks for Oil companies will remain in place

The Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked a bill that would cut tax breaks worth billions of dollars for the big oil companies (Exxon Mobil Corp, BP Plc, ConocoPhillips, Chevron Corp and Royal Dutch Shell Plc.) in the U.S. The Democratic proponents of the bill feel that these tax breaks which are worth about $24 billion over a 10 year period are unnecessary for an industry that is raking in record profits.

Oil firms have been hugely profitable over the past decade and while consumers do feel the pinch of rising gas prices, the decrease in supply has not seemed to have affected the bottom line of big oil companies. Robert Menendez the Democrat who has sponsored this bill to cut the tax breaks explained his stance on the floor of the Senate by saying that “They took your money and they didn’t produce a drop more of oil,” about the fact that these companies produced less oil in 2011 than they did in 2010.

Americans are not happy with Obama over gas prices

The recent hike in gas prices has been one of the major issues in the 2012 presidential campaign. More than two-thirds of Americans are not happy with the way President Obama is handling the gas crisis, although they do not blame him for the hike. According to the Reuters/Ipsos online poll released on Tuesday, 68% disapprove and 24% approve of Obama response to the gasoline issue.

The U.S fuel prices have gone up from $0.03 per gallon to $3.90 in the past month and the Republicans have seized this opportunity to attack Obama’s energy policies. The disapproval has spread across party lines which might impact the upcoming election. Although the survey shows that the voters hold oil companies and foreign countries more accountable than politicians for the price hike. According to the online poll of 606 Americans conducted on March 26-27 with a credibility interval of plus or minus 4.6% points for all respondents, 89% Republicans said they disapproved along with 52% democrats and 73% independents.

U.S solar panel producers backed by Obama in battle with China

President Obama is set to support the U.S solar panel producers in their battle against their Chinese competitors. A group of seven U.S manufacturers are set to ask for an import duty hike up to 100 percent on solar panels made in Chinese soil. It is said that the Chinese government is subsiding the costs for these panels to be “dumped” in the American market.

The case was filed last year and matter has now reached tipping point. The move will set the sparks flying in the already uneasy relation between the two countries. America hasn’t taken kind to Beijing’s currency policies, while on the other hand China has been sour over duties imposed over many goods imported from China.

Suntech Power Holdings Co, Trina Solar, and JA Solar Holdings, three of China’s major players in the solar panel manufacturing industry account for more than 20 percent of the annual sales in U.S. America is the second biggest market for these companies after Europe. In a move to escape some of the additional burden of import duties, these manufacturers have started shifting base to the middle-east.

The House leads the way with the JOBS act.

Setting their differences aside both sides of the House of Representatives voted to ease the way for small businesses to raise capital and eventually hire workers. The JOBS or Jumpstart Our Business Startups ACT was voted upon on Thursday and it is felt that at this time in the run up to the presidential elections the Republicans cannot afford to look like the party that has been holding the House to ransom and not allowing the passage of any bills.

The passage of this bill is in contrast to way that the Republicans have in the past obstructed much larger job creation measures, and as it is as yet unclear how large an impact the JOBS Act will have on job creation, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi was dismissive about the larger economic impact of this bill saying that she feels a much larger jobs bill is the need of the day.

This House bill proposes a relaxation of certain Securities and Exchange Commission requirements like the filing requirements associated with initial public offerings, and soliciting private investors ; making it easier for small firms and start ups to raise capital and hopefully eventually grow enough to hire people. This bill will not go to the Senate where it is expected that the Democrats will present a similar package as early as next week, with the addition of some job creation proposals that are a part of President Obama’s Startup America initiative.

Obama’s birth-control rule rubuked and denounced and could cost him his second presidential run

President Obama’s new rule on birth-control pills or contraceptives has been an unwelcome move for many and has received rebuke from many political and religious quarters. A top republican in Congress John Boehner joined a substantially growing number of social conservatives and religious leaders who denounced the new rule and tagged his policy as unchristian and irreligious. John Boehner said that the rule could as well become the bone of contention for Obama’s political race towards a second year at Presidential candidature. While there were hopes that Obama would give a leeway and accommodate some of the concerns put forth by the Congress in line with the demands of the religious strata of the country, news from a closed door session reveled Obama unflinching stance at not equivocating the rule.

 

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