Wolraich: Obama at the Gates of... Gates
Dr. C: In Praise of Writing Binges
Maiello: Gatsby Doesn't Grate
The Republican Party likes to pretend (even to itself) that it doesn’t have an industrial policy. It also likes to pretend that the U.S. economy is currently in such deep trouble because the Democratic Party does.
Not so. Both parties have industrial policies whether they acknowledge them or not.
The American economy is in trouble now primarily because the industrial policy to which the Republican Party currently subscribes remains hugely influential and entirely inadequate. [Read more]
As we await the verdict of nine Supreme Court Justices on the constitutionality of all or part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it is worth asking what the remaining Republican Presidential nominees would create in its place. We know that they would have to create something, because each is committed to the rapid abolition of what they insist on calling “Obamacare”. Mitt Romney’s Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth is quite clear: “An Order to Pave the Way to End Obamacare,” it tells us, will be the first of “five executive orders for Day One” of a Romney presidency. Newt Gingrich would be similarly engaged on the first day of his presidency. So too would Rick Santorum and Ron Paul. All four remaining Republican presidential candidates are enthusiastic First Day Abolitionists! [Read more]
Ask any of the Republican presidential hopefuls in this long and drawn out primary season what in general is wrong with the economic policies of the Obama Administration, and they will each tell you that the economy is under-performing now because the current Administration intervenes in its workings too frequently and too heavily. They will each tell you that the private sector has not yet rebounded with sufficient vigor from the recession of 2008-9 because the footprint of the federal government is everywhere – everywhere too present and everywhere too controlling.
That standard Republican litany has one particularly unfortunate consequence – at least for potential Republican voters. It prevents any of the Party’s would-be presidential nominees from pointing to areas of American economic and social life in which current under-performance is caused by the lack of adequate federal intervention. Yet there are such areas, and they are areas of genuine Obama weakness. Two in particular spring to mind: inadequate intervention in the U.S. housing market, and inadequate prosecution of banking folly and corruption. Indeed the two are linked: the inability or unwillingness of the Obama Administration to adequately prosecute and control the economy’s major financial institutions is now one further cause of its inability to rapidly and effectively resolve the U.S. housing crisis.
And there still is a major U.S. housing crisis. [Read more]
The current front-runners in the fight for the Republican presidential nomination vary far more in their personalities and leadership styles than they do in their problem analysis and policy prescription. Ron Paul apart, their explanation of what is going wrong in contemporary America, and what therefore needs to be done to put things right, is in all its essentials both simple and similar. Taxes are too high. Business regulations are too intrusive. Government programs are too generous. The federal deficit is too large. Their solution is similarly simple and shared: elect a Republican President willing to cut taxes, remove regulations, reduce government spending and bring down the federal debt – do that, and the revival of the American economy awaits us all, just around the corner.
Oh that it was that simple. But it is not. The claims being made, and the policies being offered, are not just similar: they are also profoundly misguided. [Read more]
In the standard trilogy of core commitments currently being made by Republican presidential candidates, the cutting of taxes and the pruning of government is invariably accompanied by the promise to deregulate business – and indeed to re-regulate labor. The Obama administration stands condemned, not simply for its tax-and-spend propensities, but also for its subordination to organized labor and its associated over-regulation of private enterprise. Setting America free, restoring American prosperity, and defending the American way, is said by all four major Republican presidential candidates to require the same basic policy moves: the lifting of intrusive government controls on American businesses, the exclusion of the federal government from corporate bailouts, and support for right-to-work legislation in one state after another. We have already found weaknesses in the claims about tax cutting. It is time now to examine the validity of the argument that American business will create growth and jobs just as soon as the heavy hand of federal regulation and intervention is lifted from its shoulders. [Read more]
One consequence of the Republican Party’s current propensity to select its presidential nominee by the political equivalent of American Idol is that we are regularly exposed to sound-bite answers designed to differentiate one candidate from another. Both the brevity of the answers, and the enthusiasm for differentiation, come however at a cost. They obscure the degree to which the candidates share common positions; and they obscure the extent to which each candidate already has a well-developed policy package to offer to the American electorate. [Read more]
In any wars of words in an election season, truth is often an early casualty. The war of words between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich is no exception. The two Republican front-runners are currently telling each other carefully fabricated stories about their own pasts that cover tracks and reinvent reputations. But in the end that is less damaging to the entire democratic process than the accidental and less contrived stories that, in passing, they are also telling us. Right now, as they attack each other with increasing venom, the four remaining Republican presidential candidates are collectively rewriting a critical part of our immediate past – and in the process are seriously misleading us as they battle with each other. [Read more]
In Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the world discovered by Alice was one in which every aspect of reality was inverted. Big things were small. Small things grew big. The Cheshire cat faded into a grin. One side of a mushroom made you grow. The other made you shrink. It was also a world in which the Queen of Hearts had a simple solution to everything. “Off with his head!” Likewise in the world currently being created by the incessant chatter of Republican presidential wannabes, small characters want to be large, grinning is a substitute for substance, and all solutions are simple. In the inverted world of Republican primaries, our present scale of unemployment is entirely Obama’s fault. Through the looking glass on offer from Romney and company, there was no unemployment before Obama shrank the economy by excessive spending, burdensome taxation and intrusive business regulation. Down the rabbit hole into which they would have us fall, a Republican Queen of Hearts can end unemployment at a stroke by taking those three evils away. [Read more]
It is likely that 2012 will be long remembered as a watershed year in America politics. It certainly needs to be. Neither the country nor the world can afford much longer the gridlock that is presently immobilizing Washington. We all know that. Here we are, beset with a string of fundamental problems and bumping along the bottom of the most serious recession since the 1930s, frustratingly becalmed in a stalemate between political opposites, with the federal government unable to address the structural reforms that this economy and society so visibly requires. Currently, the width of the agreement on the seriousness of our problems is matched only by the depth of the disagreement on how best to resolve them. [Read more]
“At many stages in the advance of humanity, this conflict between men who possess more than they have earned and the men who have earned more than they possess is the central condition of progress” (Theodore Roosevelt, 1910)
Economists are the new public intellectuals of the age. In more prosperous times, they rarely enjoy that status or play that role. Economics is, after all, a dismal science. In good times, issues linked to the production of new wealth invariably take a back seat to those triggered by the consumption of wealth already in existence. Prosperity brings into view the expertise of the more hedonistic social sciences: psychology, sociology, marketing and the like. It pushes economics aside. But in the immediate wake of the Great Recession, with unemployment unacceptably high and the welfare state now under serious assault on both sides of the Atlantic, the views of economists are currently everywhere – particularly the views of conservative economists prepared to link unemployment to welfare itself. These are troubled times and we are in danger, if we are not careful, of slipping into a mindset that gives those conservative views a credibility that the nature of economics as a discipline ought properly to preclude. [Read more]