1. President Obama Submits Provocative Budget Proposal. Win a little, lose a little. That’s the mantra President Obama is hoping Congress will embrace when it comes to setting the annual budget. To get to his $3.77 trillion figure, the President is offering to make cuts to social “safety net programs” while maintaining his line on raising taxes on the wealthy. As a matter of substance, the budget proposal isn’t too different from previous packages the President has offered up. As a matter of form, the social spending cuts are featured “prominently” in the draft, apparently as a signal to Republicans that the President is serious about reducing the federal deficit. The Republican response was, well, totally expected and totally empty: John Boehner called the entitlement cuts “praiseworthy but not sufficient.” The GOP dismissed out of hand any notion of raising taxes again, citing the recent increases in January. No one expects the President’s budget proposal to become law, so the question is: will it prove to even be worth the paper its written on?
2. Jay-Z Is Selling His Stake In The Brooklyn Nets. The Brooklyn Nets used to be the New Jersey Nets. Either way, its a professional basketball team. When the Nets hopped, skipped, and jumped from one side of Manhattan to another, the press made it seem the team was doing so on the gold-encrusted back of rapper/mogul/Mr. Beyoncé, Jay-Z. The popular narrative was that Jay-Z had outright purchased the team, and no sentence involving “the Brooklyn Nets” could/would be complete without also including “Jay-Z.” Now, the emperor is being shown to have no sneakers. You see, Jay-Z wants to become a sports agent. In order to represent NBA players, he can’t also be an owner of an NBA team – that’s what they call a “conflict of interest” in the biz. So, he has to pony up his stake, and that stake turns out to be more of a toothpick. For all the brouhaha, Jay-Z shelled out a whopping $350,000 to become a .067 percent owner of the team. I’m not the Z family accountant, but I believe in their ledger, those types of sums fall under the heading “chump change.”
3. Greenwich, Connecticut Proving Model of Economic Integration. A suburb of New York City, Greenwich is notorious for the wealth of its townies. Its billionaire hedge-fund managers make its millionaire law firm partners feel like small fish. But at Greenwich High School, 13 percent of the students receive free or discounted lunches, a common proxy for low-income population measurement. Recent research shows that those presumed low-income students scored at or above proficiency levels on the statewide tenth-grade performance tests. Nearby Stamford High School, which has a much bigger low-income population, posted drastically different results: nearly half the students failed to meet the baseline. The numbers are reinforcing a new theory that “poor kids do so much better when they are surrounded by wealthier ones.” Which also happens to be the plotline of almost every movie from the 1980s.
4. California’s in The International Air Cleaning Business. China is known for having a smog problem. California is known for having a money problem. It was only a matter of time before those two problems found each other on a match-making website for global business opportunities. Governor Jerry Brown is leading a delegation through Chinese economic hubs this week, pitching his state’s trailblazer status as an environmental housekeeper. California has invested heavily in “clean technologies,” and China is ready to invest heavily in them, too. The two parties have signed a non-binding pact under which California will help China set up institutions to regulate air quality, and will engage in research projects of “mutual interest.” Two California-based CEO’s accompanying Governor Brown already inked, or are close to inking, environmental clean-up deals with China totaling almost $200 million. Happily for California, if there’s one thing China has in greater abundance than smog, it’s cash.
5. JCPenney Fires CEO Who Tried To “Reinvent” The Store. Last year, the lagging department store hired Ron Johnson to come aboard as CEO. Johnson made his name by launching these little retailers called Target and Apple. Upon arriving at JCPenney, Johnson announced that he would turn the store into America’s favorite place to shop by 2015. He undid JCPenney’s traditional business model of deep-discounting, and set up “mini-boutiques” within each store. His plan didn’t work. Worse, his plan torpedoed. In March, JCPenney announced fourth-quarter revenues that were described as possibly the worst posted by any retailer, ever. The writing that had been on the wall for months started flashing in neon colors, and now Johnson is out of a job. Just goes to show, if the first two times were charmed, the third time will definitely be a dud.
6. The Hollywood Reporter Lists Most Powerful People in Media. Howard Stern, Jimmy Fallon, Katie Couric, and Kelly Ripa made the cut. For the second year running, Rush Limbaugh did not. The Broad Side was similarly slighted, but all we have to say is: watch your back, morning television hosts.
Come back next week for the next edition of Six Things You Need to Know Right Now!