Oracle profit beats Street forecasts

SEATTLE (Reuters) – Oracle Corp said on Thursday fiscal first-quarter profit rose 20 percent, beating expectations, on strong sales of new software and growth of its new hardware business.

Stocks stay in tight range on mixed data

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. stocks were little changed on Thursday as mixed economic data and a cautious forecast from economic bellwether FedEx kept the market locked in its recent tight trading range.

Elizabeth Warren Didn’t Want Permanent Appointment To CFPB: Frank

Elizabeth Warren made it clear to the White House while it was debating her nomination to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that she was not interested in a five-year term to run the agency. Barney Frank, a Warren ally, delivered that message to the White House, he told HuffPost in an interview Thursday.

“She always said she didn’t want to be there as a permanent director. Some of the liberals are worried about it. It’s almost an insult to Elizabeth. She wouldn’t take this if there was the slightest impediment to her doing the job,” he said.

An administration official said that Warren will be officially named on Friday as an “assistant to the president,” the same title that Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and other top officials hold, as well as a special adviser to the Treasury, overseeing the establishment of the CFPB.

There were extensive and nuanced discussions with the White House, said a source familiar with them, and the interim nomination emerged as her favored choice, as Frank says, but she has still not foreclosed the option of a full nomination or told the administration that she would flatly refuse one.

“Frankly, on her behalf, I talked to David Axelrod earlier this year, and I said, ‘You know, Elizabeth doesn’t want a full five year term. She’d like to set this up,'” said Frank. “She told me that, and I told Axelrod that.”

The administration, however, still has the option to nominate Warren to a permanent position.

Frank said that he was “delighted” by the administration’s choice. “I want to give credit to Tim Geithner for working this out. There’s absolutely no chance that she will be anything less than fully independent. She wouldn’t have taken the job,” he said.

The administration’s announcement has been greeted with some skepticism in progressive circles, as Frank acknowledged. Bob Kuttner, a co-editor of The American Prospect, was one such skeptic, but as the outlines of her new position become clear, he has embraced it. “This strategy is a win-win, on several grounds. It gives Warren full authority to set up the agency, without having to run the gantlet of confirmation hearings and a likely Republican filibuster,” he wrote in a HuffPost blog post Thursday. “This way, Warren will be able to get the agency quickly up and running in a manner that serves both consumers and progressive politics. Early directives to bring greater simplicity and transparency to credit documents will be extremely popular. Politically, the carping by the banking industry and its Republican allies will remind the public which side the GOP is on.”

Frank said that she’ll have more than enough time to set up the agency and get it moving in the right direction before she heads back to the Harvard faculty or elsewhere in politics. “There’s no question that she’ll be in there long enough,” he said. “She’s got two-plus years to do it. That’s more than enough time,” he added, referring to the rest of Obama’s first term, which, of course, could be the first of two.

Warren allies, however, are still pushing for a permanent nomination. “While this is good news for American families, it is my hope that President Obama will nominate Warren to a permanent position to head up the CFPB,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), shortly after the news broke on Wednesday afternoon. “She is more than deserving of the job and the Senate should have the opportunity to confirm one of the nation’s strongest consumer advocates.”

Read more: Elizabeth Warren, Financial Reform, Bob Kuttner, Obama, Barney Frank, David Axelrod, White House, Cfpb, Treasury, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Banks, Financial Crisis, Wall Street, Politics News

Terrance Heath: Three Fundamental Differences Between Progressives and Conservatives, Pt. 2

In my previous post, I wrote this:

The fundamental differences between the left and the right — between conservatives and progressives — comes down to how we answer three simple questions: “Can we?,” “Should we?” and “What do we mean, ‘We’?”

Apply them to any challenge we face as a country — Can we make health care available to all? Can we reign in Wall Street? Can we build an economy that works for the other 99% of us? Can we keep teachers, police officers, and fire fighters working in our communities? Can we reduce our contribution to climate change? — and our answers reveal who we are and where we’re headed.

A week later, an exchange between two political leaders illustrated that point, and then some. Continue reading “Terrance Heath: Three Fundamental Differences Between Progressives and Conservatives, Pt. 2”

Edward Muzio: The Upside of the Economy’s Downturn

In a recent article I outlined four benefits of the current economic climate for today’s corporations.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m as hopeful as anyone that this recession will end swiftly; much pain has come along with it. But at the same time, it’s obvious to me that our economic challenges have driven our best organizations to be more purposeful, more efficient, more resourceful and better aligned.

For every action, of course, there is an equal and opposite consequence. When a company reduces efforts in peripheral markets, for example, it may get stronger, but the jobs of the people exploring those markets go away. When a corporate meeting is held on-site rather than at a resort, it might be a better use of limited budgets, but a hotel chain loses revenue, and again jobs come into question.

This made me wonder: Has the recession benefited companies at the expense of individuals? It may seem that way. But even in the most difficult circumstances, sometimes everybody wins, at least a little. Personally, I’d rather seek out those benefits than leave them unexplored.

Forced Change Encourages Growth
Job loss is traumatic, to be sure. Yet I can already name a handful of people for whom a forced change turned out great. One friend of mine laughed the day after being laid off. “Thank goodness,” he said. “I’ve been trying for years to figure out how to quit without burning bridges in the industry.” Another colleague was devastated for months, flirting with serious clinical depression. Today, a year later, she has landed a position that improves upon her previous one in every way. She is thrilled; she is first to admit that she never would have made the change voluntarily, and she speaks proudly of having “weathered the storm and come out stronger.”

A lost job can provide the impetus to seek out a new employer or career, or to finally make a move that’s been languishing on the back burner. It can also launch a process of self-discovery that ultimately leads to a whole new set of life priorities. Such was the case with a former client of mine. He now spends more time with his wife, is considering adopting a child and takes frequent road trips on his motorcycle. He does have a new job, but with lower pay and substantially fewer hours. “I never thought I could afford to leave,” he told me, “but now I can’t figure out how I afforded to stay.”

Creativity at Home
Of course, it’s easy to benefit from a job change if you have cash reserves. But what about people under immediate financial pressure? Are they guaranteed to lose out when the economy contracts?

Again, not necessarily. I’m not insensitive to the pain of foreclosures, forced moves and the kind of transitions nobody wants to endure — I’ve seen them firsthand. On the other hand, I’ve also seen and heard how cooking dinner instead of ordering in has brought the family together, and how road trips in place of airplane rides have brought couples closer. Personally, I recently tackled the project of grooming my two dogs, a cost saving move that had intimidated me for some time because of the size and energy level of the beasts. The result was about 90 minutes on the floor with the dogs and my significant other, laughing and playing as she tried to distract one dog while I worked on the other. The monetary savings was nothing compared to the emotional value of the experience.

I’m not naïve. I know financial pressure is no laughing matter, especially when it threatens survival. But sometimes, in hindsight, our solutions have a silver lining that isn’t apparent when the pressure is on.

Those Left Behind
One other challenge of the recession worth mentioning — one that often takes a back seat to the plight of the unemployed — is the plight of the still-employed. Keeping your job is better than losing it, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. For those left behind after a layoff, professional relationships and friendships are disrupted, workloads increase, morale declines and security all but evaporates. Retained employees are expected to work harder than ever, for a job that seems less certain than ever, with less support and help than ever. It’s not a great place to be.

And yet, even here some advantages may hide. Nothing breeds solidarity like a common cause. Workers who previously avoided each other — separated by a difference in position or a difference of opinion — often come together when survival is on the line. The decisions that flow from that type of collaboration can lead to a stronger company and a more stable job. Consider Home Depot’s use of the recession as an opportunity to improve inventory centralization. Store managers may not have been thrilled with the idea of relinquishing stockpiles during the boom years, but the contraction no doubt nudged them in a direction that will ultimately make them a more stable employer.

What’s the Upside of Your Downturn?
Like everyone, I’ve felt the pain of the recession myself, and seen it first hand with friends and loved ones. I’m as hopeful as anyone that the worst is behind us. I’m also hopeful that both corporations and individuals will take the time to find at least one silver lining in what will go down in history as one of the biggest clouds in a long time.

Ask yourself, what benefits have you seen in your company, or in your personal life from the recession? What positive changes have come, either in the environment around you, or in your own behavior and situation? What lessons, information or changes are you happy about?

It may strike you as inappropriate, misguided or even cruel to use the words “happy” and “recession” together. If so, consider this: whatever positive value you ultimately extract from the downturn, you already know that it was purchased at a substantial cost. You’re going to pay either way, so you might as well get as much as you can of what you paid for.

Read more: Economic Recovery, Economic Recession, Recession, Economic Crisis, Economy, Global Recession, Job Losses, Job Loss, Economic Recovery Plan, Living News

C. Nicole Mason: The Economy Needs a Triple Hitter: Jobs, Safety Nets and Targeted Policies

According to the U.S. Census, there are enough new poor people in the U.S. to fill the New York Yankee Stadium more than six times over. And since the start of the recession in 2007, over six million have slipped into poverty–that’s more than twice the size of the city of Chicago. This is not simply a case of the poor sliding deeper into poverty, but of individuals straddling the line between middle class stability and poverty falling over the edge.

Over the last few decades, the thin line separating the middle-class and those living in poverty has all but disappeared. The recession has revealed that many Americans are a paycheck away from poverty or becoming the “new” poor.

We’ve all been wondering just how bad it’s gotten. Now we know–it’s bad. We are no longer talking about having to choose between taking a vacation or buying a new dress; now we are talking about the choice between putting food on the table or a roof over your head.

Current efforts by the Administration and others to half the number of individuals living in poverty and stabilize the middle class are no match for historic unemployment rates, the collapse of the housing market and a sluggish economy. The billions pumped into the economy to create jobs and help individuals and families make ends meet seem like a pittance compared to the magnitude of the crisis we are facing.

The number of new people who have slid into poverty since the start of the recession is approximately one-half of the 14 million who have become unemployed since 2007, pushing the number of individuals living in poverty to over 45 million.

To make matters worse, those who were struggling economically before the recession–racial and ethnic minorities and single mothers–have hit rock bottom. African-Americans and Latinos continue to have disproportionately high poverty and unemployment rates compared to whites. According to newly released statistics, the poverty rates of both groups hover around 25 percent compared to just 9 percent for whites. In terms of unemployment, the rate for African-Americans compared to whites is nearly double–16 percent compared to 8 percent.

Single mothers and children have also experienced a significant increase in poverty over the last year, with an additional 200,000 families reporting an income of less than $20,500 per year for a family of four.

A few weeks ago, Congress voted to slash nearly 11.9 billion from Food Stamp funding–a program that has been a lifeline to many working poor and middle class families during the recession. There is also resistance to additional spending to create jobs and extend benefits for the swelling number of unemployed.

We are moving in the wrong direction. In a ravaged economy, families need more support, not less. The country is in desperate need of a triple hitter–increased social supports for working families; the allocation of additional funds to create quality jobs with good wages; and the development of bold and targeted policies to help individuals and groups disproportionately impacted by the recession recover. Who’s up at bat?

Read more: Latinos, Unemployment, Economic Stimulus Package, Single Mothers, Poverty, President Obama, Economic Crisis, U.S. Census, African Americans, Politics News