Thanksgiving has come and gone, bringing with it this year's blessings of family and food. But if you find yourself craving another helping of turkey -- and are having a hard time swallowing this year's grim economic headlines -- we offer this banquet of tasty morsels from the bottom of the financial barrel. Warning: keep a bottle of Tums handy!
The 5 Biggest Financial Turkeys of 2011 (and a Small Side of Stuffing)
The collapse of MF Global, John Corzine's brokerage firm, transformed the former New Jersey governor and senator into the latest poster boy for corporate greed. As an added benefit, Corzine's path from Wall Street to the Senate, then the governor's mansion, and then back to Wall Street, highlighted the well-traveled revolving door between business and government. On Tuesday, fans of corporate malfeasance got their latest helping of this Jersey turkey when forensic accountants estimated that MF Global may have a $1.2 billion shortfall -- and that its customers will probably only get about 60% of their money back.
On Monday night, the members of the Congressional Supercommittee finally came to an agreement on something: That they wouldn't be able to reach an agreement. In a joint statement, co-chairs Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) told the press that, while they couldn't bridge their ideological divide, they agreed something clearly needed to be done about the economy. But all was not lost: The 12 members increased their average daily fundraising -- money that often comes from powerful lobbyists -- by $2,720 per person. In other words, while they couldn't agree on budget cuts, they unanimously supported accepting checks from groups that would have been affected by the cuts.
While the Supercommittee's failure was casting a shadow on American government, the birthplace of democracy was suffering even worse problems. Greece's financial dilemma -- which most experts attribute to a combination of overspending and rampant tax evasion -- continued despite an ever-increasing spate of austerity measures. After Prime Minister George Papandreou attempted to punt responsibility for a solution to a general referendum, his government collapsed. While other European governments are willing to fund yet another Greek bailout, they are requiring that the government's ministers promise -- in writing -- to enact reforms.
As the battle over the economy rages on, Republican congressmen, senators and presidential candidates steadfastly refuse to raise taxes -- despite estimates that an expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy would raise $700 billion. After spurring a brutal, divisive struggle over the debt ceiling, the tax cut argument helped scuttle the Supercommittee. Next up: a series of ever-more-bizarre tax cut proposals from the Republican presidential candidates. (Note to self: File these for next year's recipe box.)
As 2009's CARD Act (the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act) has slashed bank fees, arbitrary interest rate changes, and other tools used to gouge credit customers, banks have sought out new ways to replace the revenue. The most egregious of these moves was Bank of America's attempt to add a new $5 monthly debit card fee onto the accounts of its customers. When customers rebelled and its fellow banks refused to follow suit, BOA cut the program. The latest move -- jacking up the swipe fees that retailers have to pay for accepting credit cards.
On Wednesday morning, the Commerce Department announced that disposable income in the U.S. rose by 0.3% in October. While far from stunning, this marks the biggest single-month increase since March and translates to a $33.6 billion raise for America's workers in the last month.
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Bruce Watson is a senior features writer for DailyFinance. You can reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.