William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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SHORT TAKES ON THE DRIFTING WRECKAGE – AT 11:06 P.M. ET: 

A DUBIOUS DISTINCTION – Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut has been adjudged by National Journal to be the most liberal senator in the Senate.  That distinction used to belong to Barack Obama, who has gone on to another government slot.  Others near the top in the "most liberal" category are the usual suspects – Tom Udall of New Mexico, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Al Franken of Minnesota, and Patty Murray of Washington.  I'd imagine that the next rankings of "most liberal" will include Senate newcomers Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin.  I think Baldwin is actually more liberal than anyone on the current list.

BRITAIN DOWNGRADED – Moody's has downgraded Great Britain, from the highest possible rating to one notch below.  That may not seem like much, but in the world of international finance it's a big deal, essentially a vote of limited confidence.   Moody's emphasized “continuing weakness in the UK’s medium-term growth outlook, with a period of sluggish growth which [it] now expects will extend into the second half of the decade."  Wait.  Doesn't that sound like another country you know?  I wouldn't be shocked if we were downgraded soon, unless we get out of the doldrums.

HOLLYWOOD ACCOUNTING – The Oscars are about to be awarded, and it turns out that five of the nine contenders for "best picture" last year received tax breaks from the states in which they were made.  This has become a major trend in filmmaking.  The number of states offering tax incentives to Hollywood "artists" jumped from five in 2002 to 45 in 2009.  But, as with all accounting involving Hollywood, there are problems.  It turns out that there's hardly been any financial benefit for the states giving the incentives, and several states, including Chris Christie's New Jersey, are now reconsidering them.  Aside from having the governor photographed with an alleged movie star, the benefits are hard to find. 

February 23,  2013