Weekend In Review With Daniel Schorr

The president was in New York this week, pushing for changes in the way Wall Street does business and encouraging Democrats to support a bill to put new regulations on the financial industry. Also, new home sales skyrocketed last month, according to numbers released this week. Host Scott Simon reviews the week's news with NPR Senior News Analyst Dan Schorr.

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SCOTT SIMON, Host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Time now for our look back at the big news stories of the week. Joined by NPR senior news analyst Dan Schorr.

Hi, Dan.

DAN SCHORR: Hi, Scott.

SIMON: And President Obama went to New York this week, gave a speech at Cooper Union to lay out his program for change in the way Wall Street does business, and he's trying to put together support for a bill to put new regulations on the financial industry. What are the obstacles he has to contend with?

SCHORR: Well, the main obstacle is the Republicans in Congress. The Democrats in the Senate are going to introduce a bill to get the regulation bill on the floor. As of now, they don't have the necessary Republican votes to make that happen. But maybe something will happen between now and then.

SIMON: How does the bill stand up to Wall Street? Are you clear on that?

SCHORR: Yes. It would give them a chance to oversee what they call these derivatives, which we heard a lot about in the past year. And it also sets up a fund of about $50 billion to be used to phase out a bank when it's going to go bankrupt. The Republicans call that a bailout bill, but it really isn't a bailout. It really is something - a bill to end quietly when a bank goes out of business.

SIMON: Well, how's that different from a bailout?

SCHORR: In a bailout it's the government that provides the money. It's taxpayer money. In this case it is banker's money. In the second case, they don't get to put their...

SIMON: Oh, bankers don't get the money from each other. They get it from investors who are taxpayers.

SCHORR: That's right. And in the end there'll be no change allowed that will permit the bankers to profit from this fund.

SIMON: Let me ask about home sales, because they really skyrocketed last month. And according to numbers released this week, a 27 percent increase in March compared to February. Another corner turned?

SCHORR: Here we go again. I guess we're in charge corners here. Yes, we've turned corners. But this one is, I must say, a little more positive looking. Now, the big test always comes when you get employment statistics. We haven't seen the latest of those yet. If that begins to improve, then we're really headed for a recovery.

SIMON: Foreign news. The members of the U.N. Security Council have been talking about increasing sanctions on Iran. Then there were reports this week that Iran has agreed to give the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency...

SCHORR: Of course.

SIMON: It sounds like you're a little skeptical.

SCHORR: Well, I'm skeptical based on the history. Whenever they're getting ready to put down sanctions, the next thing you know is that you hear from Iran that they are really ready to do something about getting their uranium from someplace else or doing something else.

And then everything stops for the moment because it looks as through the Iranians are going to be helpful. Then that passes, nothing has happened. The Iranians have managed to hold up any action by the NATO or by the United Nations, for that matter.

And there are reports now that the Iranians have agreed to let the watchdog U.N. agency in and take a look at what's going on with their processing of uranium. And on we go again.

SIMON: Now, weeks and months go by and we don't hear about Middle East envoy George Mitchell, but we did hear that he's back in the Middle East this week. Is his presence an indication that he's worked anything out?

SCHORR: In a word, no. I mean, he has to make these trips. He's been appointed as a special agent to go out there and do something. So he has to go out and make a trip every now and then. He goes out there. He goes to see Prime Minister Netanyahu, talks to Abbas on the Palestinian side. They all say we're ready if they were ready and if they're ready then we're ready. And the Israelis refuse to make any concessions about building in East Jerusalem. And so it goes on.

I don't want to sound cynical about this. But we've been there before. And George Mitchell has been there before.

SIMON: Greece, of course, struggling with a crippling debt, more than 13 percent of its gross domestic product. And this week it's asking other European countries and the IMF to help bail them out.

SCHORR: Yes.

SIMON: Can Europe say no?

SCHORR: They can't, but they're trying very hard to delay it as best they can. And they're waiting for some more money to come from the International Monetary Fund and make a package. And they are headed that way.

They're very unhappy about it. They don't like doing it. They're really not sure that Greece deserves it. But if you allow one member of the European community to fail, you threaten other failures, and in the end they are forced to do something about Greece.

SIMON: Finally, Dan, planes returned to the sky this week in Europe following the days of cancellations due to the volcano in Iceland. More than 100,000 flights were cancelled.

SCHORR: That's right.

SIMON: It could wind up costing the airlines more than $2 billion. Some of the airlines now say that they think a lot of the cancellations were unnecessary.

SCHORR: Well, that's right. What this exposes is the fact that there is no central European authority, as there is on the economy; there's no central European authority on aviation. So you have 20-something(ph) countries, you have there's 20-something different ways of ruling what happens in the air.

If there had been one authority - such a thing as one authority that could say, oh, we see the ash approaching this way, okay, ground your planes here; you on the other side can go ahead, and so on - you could get a much more differentiated approach to something like this if you had somebody in position to do it.

But without that, what you get is they all say, well, it's going to be your head if this goes badly. And one and all, they all ground their planes, close their airports, and pray.

SIMON: NPR senior news analyst Dan Schorr. Thanks so much.

SCHORR: My pleasure.

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