State of the Union

A Nobel Economist Says Globalism Is Costly For Americans

These are discouraging times, but once in a blue moon a bit of hope appears. I am pleased to report on the bit of hope delivered in March of 2011 by Michael Spence, a Nobel prize-winning  economist, assisted by Sandile Hlatshwayo, a researcher at New York University. The two economists have taken a careful empirical look at jobs offshoring and concluded that it has ruined the income and employment prospects for most Americans.

To add to the amazement, their research report, “The Evolving Structure of the American Economy and the Employment Challenge,” was published by the very establishment Council on Foreign Relations.

For a decade I have warned that US corporations, pressed by Wall Street and large retailers such as Wal-Mart, to move offshore their production for US consumer markets, were simultaneously moving offshore US GDP, US tax base, US consumer income, and irreplaceable career opportunities for American citizens.

Among the serious consequences of off-shoring are the dismantling of the ladders of upward mobility that made the US an “opportunity society,”  an extraordinary worsening of the income distribution, and large trade and federal budget deficits that cannot be closed by normal means. These deficits now threaten the US dollar’s role as world reserve currency. Read More…

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The Patriot Act Is Not Conservative

If Americans needed another reminder of why the Democratic Party is absolutely worthless, they got it during last week’s Patriot Act extension debate when Senate Majority leader Harry Reid again behaved exactly like the Bush-era Republicans he once vigorously opposed. In 2005, Reid bragged to fellow Democrats, “We killed the Patriot Act.” Today, Reid says that anyone who opposes the Patriot Act might be responsible for the killing of Americans. Dick Cheney now hears an echo and Americans deserve congressional hearings—as to whether Harry Reid is a sociopath, mere liar, or both.

But while Democrats stand pat for Bush Republicanism, the GOP now debates the extent to which it will remain the party of Dubya. Tea Party favorites like Senators Rand Paul and Mike Lee and Congressmen Ron Paul, Justin Amash, Allen West and others, all voted against the Patriot Act. To varying degrees, each of these GOP representatives questioned the act’s effectiveness and legality. But unfortunately, most Republicans still won’t ask any questions. Read More…

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What Must America Defend?

“We need to be honest with the president, with the Congress, with the American people” about the consequences of cutting the defense budget, said Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in his valedictory policy address to the American Enterprise Institute.

“(A) smaller military, no matter how superb, will be able to go fewer places and do fewer things.”

Gates seeks to ignite a debate the country seems reluctant to have. With a federal budget running out of balance by 10 percent of gross domestic product, what are we Americans willing to sacrifice? What are we willing to forgo? What are we willing to cut?

The biggest budget items are Social Security, Medicare and defense. To Democrats, the first two are untouchables. To most Republicans, defense is off the table. Indeed, the likelihood is that any budget deal to which both parties agree will contain escape clauses to enable Congress to avoid the painful decisions and kick the can up the road.

Consider the situation the U.S. military faces.

The useful life of the planes, ships, missiles, guns and armor that date to the Ronald Reagan buildup of the 1980s is coming to an end, and the cost of replacement weapons is far greater. A fleet of 2,440 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, for example, will cost over $1 trillion.

Military health care costs have risen 150 percent in 10 years to $50 billion a year. The pay and benefits of today’s forces, which are one-tenth the size of those we deployed in World War II, have seen comparable increases. These costs are eating deeply into the dollars for new weapons systems.

And while we no longer face a Soviet Union with nuclear and conventional forces equal to our own, U.S. commitments have not been reduced but augmented since the end of the Cold War. Six Warsaw Pact nations were brought into NATO, along with three republics of the old Soviet Union.

Meanwhile, the disarmament of Europe continues in the wake of the debt crisis. Of special concern are cuts by the Tory government of Great Britain, our most reliable ally for 70 years.

While the U.S. Army and Marine Corps have been shuttled in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan, China has fought no wars — but grown its defense budget by double-digits annually for two decades. Read More…

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Get Your Donors Runnin’…

Sarah’s had her own flight suit stunt, and she looks great in helmet and shades.

Michael Dukakis isn’t telegenic; beetle-browed, diminutive, an expression that tends toward disdainful. Running for president and looking to butch-up his image as a liberal pacifist (that now quaint creature) he infamously donned a tanker’s helmet and went for a ride.

The video became footage for Bush television spots, and even his disappointed supporters questioned both the propriety and wisdom of the stunt. The campaign was hapless: to appear more manly he had cribbed from a woman. “Competence over ideology” was a failed Dukakis slogan. He promised higher taxes and lower military spending, unabashed liberalism (and, convention regarding the Willie Horton ad notwithstanding, a liberal penology that has long since been quietly discredited and abandoned). The Soviet Union was seen as a military and economic threat, three years before it would dissolve in ignominy. This gross misconception was a result of both guile and ineptitude on the part of our leaders.

We averted Dukakis’ tax hikes and Red Dawn paratroopers (and perhaps a furloughed rape-killer or two) by sending him back to Massachusetts and moving G.H.W.B. down the hall. He then gave us tax hikes, the First Gulf War (shucking off his own “wimp” image with evident relief), the subsequent stationing of troops in Saudi Arabia, Iraq sanctions, and their culmination in 9/11–with the callow younger Bush and the seasoned Dick Cheney in the White House.

Sarah Palin is telegenic–and she clearly requites the camera’s love a thousand-fold. We don’t care; such behavior is no longer unseemly. Far more important than her potential to be the first female president is her potential to be the first reality-show subject to become president. At this point it must be conceded she’s underestimated. Sarah knows something we don’t. Competence and ideology are what the help does. And she appears to be shameless. I wish it were a movie. Then I could laugh:

On the windshield of Palin’s bike: a likeness of President George W. Bush. Next to it, the words “Miss Me?” And on her hand, the words “justice rolls” were written in smeared ink.

It was an apparent reference to Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which is quoted on Palin’s website: “We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”*


*Update: I’m aware convention holds that the concept of justice sprang whole from MLK’s brow on the mall that day, but the quote is originally from Amos 5:24 . Someone tell Sarah.

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Waging War Gets Easier

It has not been a good week.  To be sure, Bibi is finally gone but the Patriot Act has been renewed without any debate through political chicanery by Harry Reid.  And there is considerable danger that the “overseas contingency operations,” as the Obama Administration refers to its war on terror, will increase in number after yesterday’s House of Representatives approval of the $690 billion Defense Appropriation Bill.  A section of the bill referred to as the “Authorization for the Use of Military Force” will permit the president to wage war against anyone anywhere without any specific approval by congress, an expansion of the executive authority approved by the legislature to pursue al-Qaeda which was granted in the aftermath of 9/11.  Only it no longer has to be al-Qaeda and, given the elasticity in the definition of the enemy, it means that the war on terror will go on forever.  Any group or even individual will do to keep the global conflict going.  The head of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano believes that the Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Taiba is “an equal danger to (sic) al-Qaeda,” while former Assistant Secretary of State Richard Armitage considers Lebanon’s Hezbollah as the “A team” of terrorists.  The fact that neither group actually threatens the United States appears to be irrelevant.  Congressman Buck McKeon, the drafter of the relevant section of the appropriation bill, has stated that “the threats posed by al-Qaeda cells in Yemen and Africa underscore the evolving and continuing nature of the terrorist threat to the United States.”

The authorization also expands the understanding of what constitutes an “enemy” since anyone can be so designated.  The new rule will be that an enemy is anyone so identified by the president because of his or her “hostility” towards the United States.  That also means that there will be no judicial process for those accused and they can safely be whisked off to Guantanamo Prison for further processing or not as the case might be.  The new law is not yet in place but there is every indication that the president will sign it.  Its first victim is likely to be suspected Hezbollah official Ali Mussa Daqduq even though Hezbollah had nothing to do with 9/11. Five Republican senators have already demanded that Daqduq be tried at Guantanamo rather than in a federal court.

 

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Democratic Dawn — or Darkness?

“Right now, socially, we are disintegrating.”

So says Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and potential candidate for president of Egypt.

Indeed, post-revolutionary Egypt appears to be coming apart.

Since the heady days of Tahrir Square, Salafis have been killing Christians. Churches have been destroyed. Gangs have conducted mass prison breaks. The Muslim Brotherhood brims with confidence.

And demands are rising for the prosecution and execution of former president Hosni Mubarak. Read More…

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The Government Is Not Protecting You

Whenever I start to think that I’m overly cynical and paranoid about the government, I read something like this and realize that, if anything, my paranoia is completely insufficient for the off the wall schemes our government concocts.  In fact, the only thing that appears to keep government officials from engaging in Parallax View style conspiracies is their laughable incompetence. Nothing has demonstrated that more in recent years than domestic terrorism investigations. Time and again, law enforcement has proven that if given a long enough leash, they would rather pursue the make -believe terrorists they see hiding behind every protest placard than tackle the much more difficult–and real–problem of tracking people with an actual desire to harm others.

We’ve seen this type of thing before, but this farce of an investigation from Seattle really takes the cake. The Seattle Police Department in conjunction with the FBI sent an undercover agent, Bryan Van Brunt, to surveil a local after hours party hot-spot and its participants for the better part of two years. The police believed they could use the party scene to infiltrate the eco-terrorist group Earth Liberation Front, expose corrupt local politicians, and bust high level drug traffickers. Through sheer dumb luck, investigators managed to pop a few Honduran cocaine dealers, but they never get any crooked pols, let alone terrorists. But because they need to pin some scalps to the wall, the SPD arrest a few amateur poker players and the unfortunate Rick Wilson on unrelated gun charges. The article is long and well worth the read, but if you refuse to devote the time to this tragi-comic story, here is a key excerpt: Read More…

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Israel and the Right

When President Obama said last week that Israel should return to its pre-1967 borders, Benjamin Netanyahu declared “Israel will not return to the indefensible boundaries of 1967.” Israel’s Prime Minister was clearly not pleased.

But perhaps even more perturbed was the American Right, with the potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates offering the following reactions: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called Obama’s Israeli-Palestinian policy a “disaster.” Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney said “President Obama has thrown Israel under the bus.” Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann said that America would be “cursed” by God if it “rejected” Israel. A critical Sarah Palin even advised Obama to read the Old Testament.

Congressman Ron Paul was also critical of Obama’s Israel policy, but from a different perspective: “While President Obama’s demand that Israel make hard concessions in her border conflicts may very well be in her long-term interest, only Israel can make that determination on her own, without pressure from the United States or coercion by the United Nations. Unlike this President, I do not believe it is our place to dictate how Israel runs her affairs.”

Paul added, “We should respect Israel’s sovereignty and not try to dictate her policy from Washington.”

This is not the first time Paul has taken this position. Read More…

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Bloomberg’s View from Nowhere

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s media company, long known for its coverage of the financial world, is throwing its hat in the crowded ring of opinion journalism — this week launching Bloomberg View. And the Duke of New York’s deep pockets have afforded a starting lineup that includes many marquee names, including Michael Kinsley, Jamie Rubin, Jonathan Alter, Margaret Carlson, Stephen Carter, Noah Feldman, Ed Glaeser, Jeffrey Goldberg, Al Hunt, Ezra Klein, Peter Orszag, Virginia Postrel, and Amity Shales.

It’s hard to glean much from the Bloomberg editorial board’s first offering, which shuns “philosophy” in favor of vague promises to “see the world clearly” from a vantage “committed to transparency and tolerance, to nonpartisanship and intellectual honesty, to free markets and data-driven solutions to national and international problems.”  But the personalities involved —  and the promise to dispose of first principles in favor of “data-driven solutions” and “transparency” — suggest some kind of cross between the Neo-Victorian optimism of the Economist and the liberal internationalism of The New Republic.

If the cocktail party liberalism frequently on offer over at Tina Brown’s Daily Beast/Newsweek isn’t sober enough for you, Bloomberg View might just be your speed.  Who needs all those oversaturated “top 10″ slide shows? Bring on the charts and data regressions!

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At the Glorious Oration

She had seen May Day parades when people were still enthusiastic or did their best to feign enthusiasm…[a]s a group approached the reviewing stand, even the most blasé faces would beam with dazzling smiles, as if trying to prove they were properly joyful, or, more precisely, in proper agreement.
–The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera

Joe Biden didn’t applaud Bibi on Jerusalem, and there’s video to prove it.

It still isn’t clear how the rest of them know when to stop.

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