To solve the deficit, the numbers add up – but not the votes – The sudden proliferation of deficit-reduction plans is a reminder that the deficit is, at its heart, a math problem. To get the budget into "primary balance" in 2015 – that’s wonk-speak for a balanced budget before interest payments, and it’s the target everyone is trying to hit – we need $225 billion in savings and new revenue. And you know what? That’s not so hard.  You get there by adding taxes and subtracting spending. As the differences between the various plans suggest, there are a lot of ways to do that. Resolving the deficit, however, requires a different sort of math. The equation is almost insultingly simple: 218 + 60 + 1. That’s a majority in the House plus a supermajority in the Senate (though you could do this through budget reconciliation, meaning you only need a majority) plus a signature from the president. This math problem, however, is almost impossible to solve. That’s because the politicians don’t agree, and perhaps more important, neither do the people.

 Swaps Soar on ‘Sacrosanct’ Senior Europe Debt – The cost of protecting against defaults on senior notes of European banks is soaring on speculation bondholders will be forced to take losses as governments try to share the burden of taxpayer-funded bailouts. “Under a ‘bail-in’ regime, senior bondholders will most likely find themselves as potential burden-sharers, which is in stark contrast with the rules of engagement of the market hitherto,” "Even at the worst point of the current crisis, it was generally a given that senior debt was sacrosanct.” Subordinated bonds have largely borne the brunt of losses because they stop paying before senior securities in case of a default or debt restructuring. Should banks be unable to pay senior bondholders, they may find it more difficult and expensive to raise money. Anglo Irish Bank Corp. investors were forced to take 20 cents on the euro for subordinated debt this week.

Portugal, Spain fight bailout speculation  — The epicenter of Europe’s sovereign-debt crisis shifted from Ireland to the Iberian peninsula on Friday, with European Union, Portuguese and Spanish officials scrambling to head off speculation that Lisbon or Madrid could soon be forced to seek help to meet their borrowing needs.  Portugal’s parliament passed its 2011 budget plan, as expected, adding to controversial austerity measures.  But euro-zone credit markets remained in turmoil, putting the euro under renewed pressure. Spanish and Portuguese equities sold off, with the IBEX 35 index in Madrid slumping 2.3% in intraday trading. Lisbon’s PSI 20 index dropped 0.6%. Read more on the European equity markets.  A spokesman for the Portuguese government said a report in the Financial Times Deutschland newspaper — that Lisbon was under pressure from the European Central Bank and a majority of euro-zone countries to seek a bailout in order to ease pressure on Spain — was “totally false,” news reports said.

  PM Zapatero says no chance Spain will need bailout –– Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said Friday there was no chance Spain would seek a bailout. Asked in an interview on Spain’s RAC 1 radio if he ruled out financial help from the European Union, Zapatero said "absolutely." He said Spain’s plans to reduce its deficit were on track and that its total debt was still 20 percentage points below the European average. "The deficit reduction plan is being fulfilled scrupulously, we have one of the most solid financial systems, the savings banks are restructuring at a good rate and should be consolidated by the end of the year," he said. Investors have long expressed concern over Spain’s savings banks — or "cajas" — which were heavily exposed to Spain’s collapsed real estate sector and are now saddled with billions of euros in foreclosed property. They are currently under a consolidation process scheduled to finish next month.

Doctors say Medicare cuts forcing them to shift away from elderly – Want an appointment with kidney specialist Adam Weinstein of Easton, Md.? If you’re a senior covered by Medicare, the wait is eight weeks.  How about a checkup from geriatric specialist Michael Trahos? Expect to see him every six months: The Alexandria-based doctor has been limiting most of his Medicare patients to twice yearly rather than the quarterly checkups he considers ideal for the elderly. Still, at least he’ll see you. Top-ranked primary care doctor Linda Yau is one of three physicians with the District’s Foxhall Internists group who recently announced they will no longer be accepting Medicare patients.  Doctors across the country describe similar decisions, complaining that they’ve been forced to shift away from Medicare toward higher-paying, privately insured or self-paying patients in response to years of penny-pinching by Congress.

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