Editor's note: In honor of their past appearances on The RidicuList, here's a remix of Doug Hutchison, 51, and Courtney Stodden, 16.
Related: Hutchison-Stodden romance haters on The RidicuList
Related: Daily Caller added to The RidicuList
Related: Hutchison-Stodden critics honored with spot on The RidicuList
(CNN) - Back in the 1980s, California teenager Barry Minkow seemingly had it all: a Ferrari, a mansion and a carpet cleaning business valued at nearly $300 million. He started Zzzz Best at age 16 in the basement of his parents' San Fernando Valley home, eventually hiring them to work for him. He appeared on Oprah, in his own TV commercial and became a young entrepreneurial darling of Wall Street.
"The banks threw money at him and the investors threw money at him," says former U.S. District Court Judge Dickran Tevrizian. Former federal prosecutor Gordon Greenberg recalls "Barry made it easy for people to believe in him. He had that unique ability of getting people focused, and it was audacious."
Audacious because, according to court records and Minkow's own admissions, nearly 90-percent of Zzzz Best's business was fraudulent. He was accused of engineering a massive Ponzi scheme where he used phony contracts for carpet cleaning jobs, as well as fire and water damage repair in large commercial buildings, as collateral for bank loans.
Editor's note: CNN's John King speaks with Rep. Tom Graves, R-GA, about the debt ceiling, deficits, taxes, and spending.
Related: Possible deficit reduction deal emerging, sources say
Related on CNNMoney.com: What happens if Congress doesn't raise the debt ceiling?
Editor's note: CNN's John King reports on the consequences of not raising the debt ceiling, a position advocated by some in the GOP.
We have breaking news tonight on debt talks. President Obama met with fellow Democrats and tried to coax them into backing a deal to cut spending immediately, then cut entitlements and raise revenue later. Jessica Yellin will have the latest from Washington. Plus, the con man who saw the light and turned his life around. He built a new career busting other frauds, but old ways apparently die hard. He returned to a life of crime and learned his sentence today. That story as we wrap up our 'Crime and Punishment' series on con men. Plus, tonight's other headlines.
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Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama is continuing to pursue the most "significant deficit reduction package possible," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Thursday, the latest indication officials are keeping a variety of options open while trying to hammer out an agreement to raise the nation's debt ceiling and avoid an unprecedented default.
The president and Vice President Joe Biden met Thursday afternoon with Democratic leaders from the House and Senate as sources indicated the negotiations were focusing on a deal to cut $3 trillion in federal deficits over the next 10 years that would be accompanied by a debt ceiling increase.
According to the congressional aides who spoke on condition of not being identified, the possible deal remains in limbo over a disagreement on whether to extend Bush-era tax cuts for families earning more than $250,000 a year. Nothing has been agreed to yet, they noted.
The possible deal would include spending cuts expected to total $1 trillion or more agreed to in earlier negotiations led by Vice President Joe Biden, the sources said. It also would reform entitlement programs by changing the eligibility age for Medicare over time, and using a more restrictive inflation index for Social Security benefits, according to the sources.
On taxes, it would permanently extend the Bush tax cuts for families earning less than $250,000 while allowing the cuts to expire at the end of 2012 for those with income above that, the aides said. At the same time, the deal would include a commitment to reform the tax code next year, which is expected to lower all tax rates and eliminate loopholes and subsidies, the sources said.
However, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, wants the deal to make all of the Bush tax cuts permanent while keeping the commitment to tax reform, the sources said. Republicans oppose any tax hikes, and their resistance has been a major obstacle to any deal in the negotiations so far.
Some sources said the deal would work in two stages, with spending cuts and a debt ceiling increase occurring right away while entitlement reforms and tax reforms would occur later.
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Washington (CNN) - A leading anti-tax-increase crusader says he doesn't think that letting Bush-era tax breaks expire is violation of a no-tax-increase pledge. So do Republicans now have a way out of the debt ceiling deadlock?
Democrats sure seemed to think so Thursday.
Grover Norquist, president and founder of Americans for Tax Reform, told The Washington Post's editorial board this week that he wouldn't consider voting to let the Bush-era tax cuts expire at the end of 2012 to be breaking his organization's pledge that most Republicans and some Democrats signed.
"Not continuing a tax cut is not technically a tax increase," Norquist said. Asked if it violates the tax pledge, he said, "We wouldn't hold it that way."
Norquist's comments quickly became a talking point for Democrats. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York took to the Senate floor to tell Republicans that Norquist had given them "permission" to let the Bush tax breaks expire without hurting their commitment to the tax pledge.
"Norquist is trying to signal to the House GOP that their 'no compromise' position is untenable, deteriorating and bad for their party and the country," he said. "The House GOP is on an iceberg that is melting into the ocean, and even Grover Norquist is offering them a lifeboat."
Democrat Peter DeFazio of Oregon mocked Republicans in the House.
"Let all the Bush tax cuts expire!" DeFazio said. "That's 4 trillion dollars. It's not too complicated! It would take us back to those bad old Clinton years when rich people paid taxes. The 'job creators,' they call them," he said in a mocking voice. "They can't make the 'job creators' pay taxes - it will ruin the economy!' "
President Obama has stood his ground in debt negotiations: He will support large spending cuts that Republicans want if they're coupled with a raise in revenues, including reforming the tax system and ending loopholes for companies that enjoy tax breaks.
Republicans, however, won't budge on any tax increases. And Norquist's comments didn't seem to have any effect on their leadership.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) – What happens if lawmakers fail to raise the debt ceiling by the Aug. 2 deadline?
Well, it's hard to say, because lawmakers have never before put the United States in a position where it can't pay all its bills.
But it wouldn't be pretty. A failure to raise the debt ceiling would likely send shockwaves through the underpinnings of the financial system - and possibly ripple out to individual investors and consumers.
The federal government would be forced to prioritize its payments. It would risk defaulting on its financial obligations. And if that happens, credit rating agencies would downgrade U.S. debt.
"Even if Washington did raise the debt ceiling after just a few harrowing days following a default ... we envisage that the economy could fall quickly back into recession," rating agency Standard & Poor's said in a report Thursday.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the fallout could be "catastrophic" and "self defeating."
Reporter's Note: The president is still working on a debt deal. I suspect his hopes of success are sinking lower by the day.
Dear Mr. President,
Remember when we were kids and something went dreadfully, completely, and utterly wrong in the course of a game? You tried to punt and missed the ball altogether, or went to jump over the hurdle and instead fell into it, or you took a mighty swing and instead of hitting the ball sent the bat boomeranging into the outfield. As children we had a solution: “Do-over!” Yelled quickly and with enough conviction those words told everyone in earshot that whatever had just happened was going to be expunged from the record books. It would be as if it never happened. And usually, despite a little grumbling, that is what took place.
Kid logic went like this: Hey, everyone makes mistakes. It is one thing to strike out, or miss a shot, or lose the race, but we can’t base any kind of legitimate result on something that is just ridiculous.
This is what you need in DC right now on this debt thing. You need to summon the big Dems and Repubs to the White House this instant, wake up Vice President Biden, and declare a “do-over” on the whole process. I mean, seriously, you are all desperately trying to find a way out of this mess and I think you’ve all tangled yourselves up so much you wouldn’t know a workable compromise if it chased House Speaker John Boehner around the Rose Garden with a butterfly net.
A “do-over” would give all of you the cover you need to go back to the table, re-engage without all the baggage, and maybe…just maybe…actually get a deal done before the sky starts falling.
Call if you can.
Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.
Find more of the Foreman Letters here.
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