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Weekend Roundup, January 9, 2011

Hard to write about anything but the Gaby Giffords story, but I’ll try to add some additional links in what was actually a fast-moving weekend on several fronts.

• What we know about the Giffords situation: Jared Loughner has been formally charged by the feds with murder and attempted murder. Giffords remains in critical condition but doctors are optimistic. The bullet went clear through one hemisphere of her brain, but did not cross over, which is a very positive sign. Giffords has responded to simple commands but is currently under sedation in a medically induced coma.

• Honestly, the best tribute to Giffords I’ve read throughout this thing came from Alan Grayson.

• Of all the bills that we may see in the coming days in response to this event, Bob Brady’s bill to make imagery or language that could incite violence seems to me the most unhelpful. I don’t trust who would draw that line on what imagery or language violates a subjective belief of incitement, and the goal should be to change the norms, so politicians know the risks, instead of changing laws that will end up unnecessarily restrictive.

• I never got around to Darrell Issa’s HAMP objections this weekend, but if he wants to actually investigate HAMP, I’m all for it. The program’s been a failure and probably should just be shut down at this point. Issa’s staff report on HAMP is a little outdated – it dates from February – but if anything, the metrics look even worse now. The staff report tries to assign blame on Treasury for changing the regulations on the fly rather than the flawed design in the first place, however, so I’m not all that hopeful that the investigation will have the right areas of focus.

• Jerry Brown’s budget plan comes out tomorrow, and it’s going to be really ugly. More details at the SacBee, including cuts to higher education, higher co-pays for MediCal, cuts to funding for libraries and state parks, raiding First 5 money, and a countless host of other cuts. There are some tax increases in there as well, but essentially you’re filling a $28 billion dollar hole right away. That definitely cancels out a lot of the stimulus from the tax deal. Of course, this is just California – more states are using counter-productive fiscal policy to fill budget holes. And according to Ben Bernanke, only banks get bailouts and cheap lending, not state and local governments.

• Speaking of the tax cut deal, Gene Sperling was instrumental in negotiating that and made an early push for a payroll tax cut (an idea he had for almost a year) to replace the Making Work Pay tax credit. As we know, that effectively raised taxes on as many as 50 million working poor.

• Not that this will matter to anyone in official Washington, who think that $172,000 a year is a modest salary and that they work harder than the whole of America.

• While Joe Barton shills for Big Oil (again) and criticizes the oil spill commission for finding fault with BP, the real news doesn’t get out – the notion that the Gulf has been cleaned up is a complete sham.

• Seems like ages ago when Pete Sessions and Mike Fitzpatrick forgot to be sworn in on the House floor because they were too busy at a fundraiser, but in case you missed it, here’s their lugubrious apology.

• Amid anti-American chanting, the newly returned Muqtada al-Sadr asked his followers to give Iraq’s new government a chance, but also delivered a warning to Nouri al-Maliki: extend the presence of US forces in Iraq, and he’ll take down the government.

• South Sudan voted on independence in large numbers today. It’s likely that they will vote to secede from Sudan. The violence that has already occurred does cause concern, but the real test comes after the votes are counted and the south opts for secession.

• Dick Durbin sees Visa’s new interchange-fee system as good news for the implementation of his amendment to the Dodd-Frank bill.

• I’m not at all hopeful about the new stress tests that US regulators will put on the banks this year. What you haven’t seen is any effort to scale back bank profits, the way you’re seeing in Europe. Somehow I believe that Bill Daley will help shield the banks from such a fate in the US.

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David Dayen

David Dayen