Commentary Magazine


Topic: gross domestic product

After the Happy Talk: A $1.5 Trillion Deficit

According to a new report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the federal budget deficit is on course to reach nearly $1.5 trillion this year, the biggest budget gap in history and one of the largest as a share of the economy since World War II. This year’s deficit would be the highest on record and would equal about 9.8 percent of the economy, the CBO said, slightly smaller than the 2009 budget gap, which at $1.4 trillion amounted to nearly 10 percent of the gross domestic product. The CBO forecast is on track to remain well above $1 trillion in 2012, the fourth year in a row. As a result, “debt held by the public will probably jump from 40 percent of GDP at the end of fiscal year 2008 to nearly 70 percent at the end of fiscal year 2011.”

These numbers are alarming. And today’s report highlights just how irresponsible President Obama is by not seriously addressing our exploding debt, which means addressing our entitlement crisis, which means (above all) reforming Medicare.

Long after last night’s State of the Union happy talk is forgotten, these fiscal realities will still be with us. The president has a moral obligation to confront this problem rather than deny it, to deal with the world as it is rather than as he wishes it to be.

According to a new report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the federal budget deficit is on course to reach nearly $1.5 trillion this year, the biggest budget gap in history and one of the largest as a share of the economy since World War II. This year’s deficit would be the highest on record and would equal about 9.8 percent of the economy, the CBO said, slightly smaller than the 2009 budget gap, which at $1.4 trillion amounted to nearly 10 percent of the gross domestic product. The CBO forecast is on track to remain well above $1 trillion in 2012, the fourth year in a row. As a result, “debt held by the public will probably jump from 40 percent of GDP at the end of fiscal year 2008 to nearly 70 percent at the end of fiscal year 2011.”

These numbers are alarming. And today’s report highlights just how irresponsible President Obama is by not seriously addressing our exploding debt, which means addressing our entitlement crisis, which means (above all) reforming Medicare.

Long after last night’s State of the Union happy talk is forgotten, these fiscal realities will still be with us. The president has a moral obligation to confront this problem rather than deny it, to deal with the world as it is rather than as he wishes it to be.

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Study: Most of West Bank’s GDP Comes from Foreign Governments

As the Palestinian Authority continues to push for unilateral declarations of statehood, a new study indicates that the West Bank economy is still being propped up by outside donations. Over 60 percent of the PA’s gross domestic product comes from donations from foreign governments and governing bodies, according to a survey conducted by economic analyst Eyal Ofer.

The report found that the Palestinian government receives an average of $1,000 for each Palestinian per year, amounting to roughly $560 each month for a family. But according to researchers, the government has still not succeeded in laying the infrastructure necessary for an autonomous state.

And perhaps unsurprisingly, the reliance on donations has actually slowed the growth of the private sector:

[A]ccording to the study, the facts on the ground indicate that the governmental apparatus and international aid organizations impede the growth of the business sector, while donations are used to preserve the ruling party rather than build a separate economy that is not dependent on foreign donations.

Ofer and Roiter are not the only ones pointing to the worrying trend. A piercing article published in UK-based the Guardian newspaper last November claimed that NGOs have become synonyms with corruption and incompetence, hinting at international donors who the paper claimed thwarted the Palestinian economic development by overinflating the aid industry without supplying long-term solutions.

The latest study reinforces this claim, pointing to the absence of an industrial sector in the Palestinian Authority. “Employers lack the ability or the will to go into industry or development, because they cannot compete with the salaries of governmental organs and that of the aid workers on the ground,” said Ofer, adding, “In reality, their economy is solely based on the trade of services.”

This news is just further evidence of how unhelpful unilateral declarations of statehood are. Yes, the country of Uruguay might “recognize” a Palestinian state, but that doesn’t mean the West Bank currently has the tools necessary to sustain itself economically.

As the Palestinian Authority continues to push for unilateral declarations of statehood, a new study indicates that the West Bank economy is still being propped up by outside donations. Over 60 percent of the PA’s gross domestic product comes from donations from foreign governments and governing bodies, according to a survey conducted by economic analyst Eyal Ofer.

The report found that the Palestinian government receives an average of $1,000 for each Palestinian per year, amounting to roughly $560 each month for a family. But according to researchers, the government has still not succeeded in laying the infrastructure necessary for an autonomous state.

And perhaps unsurprisingly, the reliance on donations has actually slowed the growth of the private sector:

[A]ccording to the study, the facts on the ground indicate that the governmental apparatus and international aid organizations impede the growth of the business sector, while donations are used to preserve the ruling party rather than build a separate economy that is not dependent on foreign donations.

Ofer and Roiter are not the only ones pointing to the worrying trend. A piercing article published in UK-based the Guardian newspaper last November claimed that NGOs have become synonyms with corruption and incompetence, hinting at international donors who the paper claimed thwarted the Palestinian economic development by overinflating the aid industry without supplying long-term solutions.

The latest study reinforces this claim, pointing to the absence of an industrial sector in the Palestinian Authority. “Employers lack the ability or the will to go into industry or development, because they cannot compete with the salaries of governmental organs and that of the aid workers on the ground,” said Ofer, adding, “In reality, their economy is solely based on the trade of services.”

This news is just further evidence of how unhelpful unilateral declarations of statehood are. Yes, the country of Uruguay might “recognize” a Palestinian state, but that doesn’t mean the West Bank currently has the tools necessary to sustain itself economically.

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Swing Away from Obama

Two swing states tell the story of Obama’s radioactive effect on his party. Obama and his wife have been campaigning in Ohio for Gov. Ted Strickland. Here is the result:

Republican John Kasich remains in command of the Ohio governor’s race with a 51 – 41 percent likely voter lead over Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, statistically unchanged from Kasich’s 50 – 41 percent edge October 5, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today, two weeks before Election Day.

Kasich’s lead is built on a 59 – 32 percent margin among independent likely voters, and a 64 – 29 percent spread among white evangelical Christians, according to the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University survey conducted by live interviewers.

President Barack Obama remains unpopular among Ohio voters who disapprove 56 – 40 percent of the job he is doing and say 32 – 9 percent they are less likely rather than more likely to vote for Strickland because the President is campaigning for the governor. Independent voters say 35 – 4 percent that Obama’s campaigning makes them less likely to vote for Strickland.

So why did Obama go? Maybe his massive ego won’t allow him to get out of the way, or perhaps the White House suspected that the race was lost anyway and Obama could do no further damage.

Meanwhile, in the West Virginia race, Gov. Joe Manchin and John Raese faced off. Watching the debate on C-SPAN, I had trouble believing Manchin was the incumbent challenger, while Raese the amateur. The latter was fluid and forceful, mincing no words about his disdain for ObamaCare (“socialism”) and using “Obama” at least once in every sentence. Manchin seemed tepid and defensive, promising that he really, honestly, would be independent of the White House. But if the contest is to see who can be the most independent, Raese won hands down. This exchange was telling:

“I’m not prepared to scrap the entire bill, there are parts that need changed,” [Manchin] said, “but let me tell you, I’m not prepared to tell your child who had a pre-existing condition, that he or she can’t be covered. There’s a lot of good in the bill that basically Democrats and Republicans agree with.”

But not Raese. And he pulled no punches when discussing his issues with the legislation.

“It is pure, unadulterated Socialism, it is the worst bill that has ever come out of the United States Senate and House,” he said.

“I think right now, when you look at the gross domestic product in this country, with Obamacare, you’re looking at the fact that we’re over almost 51 percent of the GDP in this country will be controlled by the federal government, unacceptable.”

If the point is to be the least Obama-like, wouldn’t the voters take the repealer over the tinkerer?

In both these races, Obama’s presence looms large. Manchin pleaded that Obama is not on the ballot. True, but voters in these two states seem poised to do the next best thing and vote for candidates who are unalterably opposed to Obama’s policies.

Two swing states tell the story of Obama’s radioactive effect on his party. Obama and his wife have been campaigning in Ohio for Gov. Ted Strickland. Here is the result:

Republican John Kasich remains in command of the Ohio governor’s race with a 51 – 41 percent likely voter lead over Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, statistically unchanged from Kasich’s 50 – 41 percent edge October 5, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today, two weeks before Election Day.

Kasich’s lead is built on a 59 – 32 percent margin among independent likely voters, and a 64 – 29 percent spread among white evangelical Christians, according to the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University survey conducted by live interviewers.

President Barack Obama remains unpopular among Ohio voters who disapprove 56 – 40 percent of the job he is doing and say 32 – 9 percent they are less likely rather than more likely to vote for Strickland because the President is campaigning for the governor. Independent voters say 35 – 4 percent that Obama’s campaigning makes them less likely to vote for Strickland.

So why did Obama go? Maybe his massive ego won’t allow him to get out of the way, or perhaps the White House suspected that the race was lost anyway and Obama could do no further damage.

Meanwhile, in the West Virginia race, Gov. Joe Manchin and John Raese faced off. Watching the debate on C-SPAN, I had trouble believing Manchin was the incumbent challenger, while Raese the amateur. The latter was fluid and forceful, mincing no words about his disdain for ObamaCare (“socialism”) and using “Obama” at least once in every sentence. Manchin seemed tepid and defensive, promising that he really, honestly, would be independent of the White House. But if the contest is to see who can be the most independent, Raese won hands down. This exchange was telling:

“I’m not prepared to scrap the entire bill, there are parts that need changed,” [Manchin] said, “but let me tell you, I’m not prepared to tell your child who had a pre-existing condition, that he or she can’t be covered. There’s a lot of good in the bill that basically Democrats and Republicans agree with.”

But not Raese. And he pulled no punches when discussing his issues with the legislation.

“It is pure, unadulterated Socialism, it is the worst bill that has ever come out of the United States Senate and House,” he said.

“I think right now, when you look at the gross domestic product in this country, with Obamacare, you’re looking at the fact that we’re over almost 51 percent of the GDP in this country will be controlled by the federal government, unacceptable.”

If the point is to be the least Obama-like, wouldn’t the voters take the repealer over the tinkerer?

In both these races, Obama’s presence looms large. Manchin pleaded that Obama is not on the ballot. True, but voters in these two states seem poised to do the next best thing and vote for candidates who are unalterably opposed to Obama’s policies.

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ObamaCare Bending Up the Cost Curve

During his press conference on Friday, Jake Tapper, ABC’s excellent senior White House correspondent, asked President Obama about a new CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) report that shows that the health-care cost curve is actually bending up — not down, as during the health-care debate Obama had promised it would. In response, Obama said this:

With respect to health care, what I said during the debate is the same thing I’m saying now and it’s the same thing I will say three or four years from now. Bending the cost curve on health care is hard to do. We’ve got hundreds of thousands of providers and doctors and systems and insurers. And what we did was we took every idea out there about how to reduce or at least slow the costs of health care over time.

But I said at the time, it wasn’t going to happen tomorrow, it wasn’t going to happen next year. It took us decades to get into a position where our health care costs were going up 6, 7, 10 percent a year. And so our goal is to slowly bring down those costs. … I haven’t read the entire study. Maybe you have. But if you — if what — the reports are true, what they’re saying is, is that as a consequence of us getting 30 million additional people health care, at the margins that’s going to increase our costs, we knew that. We didn’t think that we were going to cover 30 million people for free, but that the long-term trend in terms of how much the average family is going to be paying for health insurance is going to be improved as a consequence of health care.

And so our goal on health care is, if we can get, instead of health care costs going up 6 percent a year, it’s going up at the level of inflation, maybe just slightly above inflation, we’ve made huge progress.

The president should read the report, which can be found here. It incorporates the effects of health-care reform and estimates annual spending growth to be 0.2 percentage points higher than its February 2010 estimate, increasing from 6.1 percent to 6.3 percent. According to the Wall Street Journal, “The report by federal number-crunchers casts fresh doubt on Democrats’ argument that the health-care law would curb the sharp increase in costs over the long term.”

In 2009, the report reads, national health-care spending, public and private, totaled $2.5 trillion and accounted for 17.3 percent of the economy. The report predicts that health-care spending will rise to $4.6 trillion and account for 19.6 percent of the economy in 2019. By contrast, in February — before the passage of ObamaCare — the same team of government experts, using the same economic and demographic assumptions, predicted that national health-care spending would reach $4.5 trillion, or 19.3 percent of the gross domestic product, in 2019. The report also anticipates a big increase in health-care spending in 2014, when major provisions of the new law, including a requirement for most Americans to have insurance, take effect. From 2013 to 2014, for example, overall health-care spending is expected to increase by 9.2 percent, which is significantly more than the 6.6 percent increase predicted before ObamaCare became law. (For more, see this story.)

Beyond that, the report assumes that the law’s sweeping reduction in Medicare payments to doctors — 30 percent over the next three years — will actually take place. As Grace-Marie Turner points out, “Congress will not let payment rates be reduced to these levels, so health spending will increase further.”

And former CBO director Douglas Holtz-Eakin has written a paper arguing that ObamaCare provides strong incentives for employers to drop employer-sponsored health insurance for as many as 35 million Americans, funneling far more workers into taxpayer-funded health insurance, thereby raising the gross taxpayer cost of the subsidies by roughly $1.4 trillion in the first 10 years.

A core promise of the president’s signature legislative achievement, then, has been exposed as false. And for Obama, in light of the CMS report, to be talking about the cost of health care going up at or just above the level of inflation, which is running below 2 percent this year, is utterly fanciful. Moreover, the American people can be excused if during the health-care debate they didn’t pick up Obama’s warning that “bending the cost curve on health care is hard to do” and that he knew ObamaCare would increase costs in the short run. Those warnings were omitted, for example, in the president’s September 10, 2009 health-care speech to Congress, when Obama claimed that his plan “will slow the growth of health-care costs for our families, our businesses, and our government.” Obama even pointed out that “if we are able to slow the growth of health-care costs by just one-tenth of one percent each year, it will actually reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the long term.” To reiterate: the new CMS report predicts an annual increase by two-tenths of one percent each year over the status quo — even accepting the Obama administration’s own ludicrously optimistic assumptions. The reality will be a good deal worse than the CMS report anticipates.

This is all of a piece. Claim after claim the president has made — on the stimulus package, on unemployment, on the deficit and the debt, on the “recovery summer,” on ObamaCare, and on so much more — is being shattered by events. The expectations he set were extraordinarily high and his performance so far is inept. That is one reason why Obama and his party will suffer enormous electoral losses seven weeks from now.

During his press conference on Friday, Jake Tapper, ABC’s excellent senior White House correspondent, asked President Obama about a new CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) report that shows that the health-care cost curve is actually bending up — not down, as during the health-care debate Obama had promised it would. In response, Obama said this:

With respect to health care, what I said during the debate is the same thing I’m saying now and it’s the same thing I will say three or four years from now. Bending the cost curve on health care is hard to do. We’ve got hundreds of thousands of providers and doctors and systems and insurers. And what we did was we took every idea out there about how to reduce or at least slow the costs of health care over time.

But I said at the time, it wasn’t going to happen tomorrow, it wasn’t going to happen next year. It took us decades to get into a position where our health care costs were going up 6, 7, 10 percent a year. And so our goal is to slowly bring down those costs. … I haven’t read the entire study. Maybe you have. But if you — if what — the reports are true, what they’re saying is, is that as a consequence of us getting 30 million additional people health care, at the margins that’s going to increase our costs, we knew that. We didn’t think that we were going to cover 30 million people for free, but that the long-term trend in terms of how much the average family is going to be paying for health insurance is going to be improved as a consequence of health care.

And so our goal on health care is, if we can get, instead of health care costs going up 6 percent a year, it’s going up at the level of inflation, maybe just slightly above inflation, we’ve made huge progress.

The president should read the report, which can be found here. It incorporates the effects of health-care reform and estimates annual spending growth to be 0.2 percentage points higher than its February 2010 estimate, increasing from 6.1 percent to 6.3 percent. According to the Wall Street Journal, “The report by federal number-crunchers casts fresh doubt on Democrats’ argument that the health-care law would curb the sharp increase in costs over the long term.”

In 2009, the report reads, national health-care spending, public and private, totaled $2.5 trillion and accounted for 17.3 percent of the economy. The report predicts that health-care spending will rise to $4.6 trillion and account for 19.6 percent of the economy in 2019. By contrast, in February — before the passage of ObamaCare — the same team of government experts, using the same economic and demographic assumptions, predicted that national health-care spending would reach $4.5 trillion, or 19.3 percent of the gross domestic product, in 2019. The report also anticipates a big increase in health-care spending in 2014, when major provisions of the new law, including a requirement for most Americans to have insurance, take effect. From 2013 to 2014, for example, overall health-care spending is expected to increase by 9.2 percent, which is significantly more than the 6.6 percent increase predicted before ObamaCare became law. (For more, see this story.)

Beyond that, the report assumes that the law’s sweeping reduction in Medicare payments to doctors — 30 percent over the next three years — will actually take place. As Grace-Marie Turner points out, “Congress will not let payment rates be reduced to these levels, so health spending will increase further.”

And former CBO director Douglas Holtz-Eakin has written a paper arguing that ObamaCare provides strong incentives for employers to drop employer-sponsored health insurance for as many as 35 million Americans, funneling far more workers into taxpayer-funded health insurance, thereby raising the gross taxpayer cost of the subsidies by roughly $1.4 trillion in the first 10 years.

A core promise of the president’s signature legislative achievement, then, has been exposed as false. And for Obama, in light of the CMS report, to be talking about the cost of health care going up at or just above the level of inflation, which is running below 2 percent this year, is utterly fanciful. Moreover, the American people can be excused if during the health-care debate they didn’t pick up Obama’s warning that “bending the cost curve on health care is hard to do” and that he knew ObamaCare would increase costs in the short run. Those warnings were omitted, for example, in the president’s September 10, 2009 health-care speech to Congress, when Obama claimed that his plan “will slow the growth of health-care costs for our families, our businesses, and our government.” Obama even pointed out that “if we are able to slow the growth of health-care costs by just one-tenth of one percent each year, it will actually reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the long term.” To reiterate: the new CMS report predicts an annual increase by two-tenths of one percent each year over the status quo — even accepting the Obama administration’s own ludicrously optimistic assumptions. The reality will be a good deal worse than the CMS report anticipates.

This is all of a piece. Claim after claim the president has made — on the stimulus package, on unemployment, on the deficit and the debt, on the “recovery summer,” on ObamaCare, and on so much more — is being shattered by events. The expectations he set were extraordinarily high and his performance so far is inept. That is one reason why Obama and his party will suffer enormous electoral losses seven weeks from now.

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RE: Obama’s Economy

The summer of recovery is going to be the “Mission Accomplished” banner of this administration. Another dollop of rotten economic news:

The U.S. economy grew more sluggish than initially estimated in the second quarter, and corporate profits nearly dried up, further evidence that the recovery is losing steam.

Gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced, rose at an annualized seasonally adjusted rate of 1.6% from April to June, the Commerce Department said Friday. …

Friday’s report also showed that companies barely managed to post profit gains, following several very profitable quarters. After-tax earnings edged up 0.1%, well off the previous quarter’s gain of 11.4%. First-quarter profits were revised down from the initial estimate of a 12.1% increase.

Yet the administration claims its stimulus plan has worked and that the recovery is in full swing. No problem with a massive tax increase — the economy can handle it. No problem with the massive mandates and fees imposed by ObamaCare — it’s going to be good for employers. John Boehner is right about firing the Obama economic team. (Christine Roemer didn’t quit for nothing.) The voters will have to take care of the rest, and I fully expect they will, beginning in November.

The summer of recovery is going to be the “Mission Accomplished” banner of this administration. Another dollop of rotten economic news:

The U.S. economy grew more sluggish than initially estimated in the second quarter, and corporate profits nearly dried up, further evidence that the recovery is losing steam.

Gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced, rose at an annualized seasonally adjusted rate of 1.6% from April to June, the Commerce Department said Friday. …

Friday’s report also showed that companies barely managed to post profit gains, following several very profitable quarters. After-tax earnings edged up 0.1%, well off the previous quarter’s gain of 11.4%. First-quarter profits were revised down from the initial estimate of a 12.1% increase.

Yet the administration claims its stimulus plan has worked and that the recovery is in full swing. No problem with a massive tax increase — the economy can handle it. No problem with the massive mandates and fees imposed by ObamaCare — it’s going to be good for employers. John Boehner is right about firing the Obama economic team. (Christine Roemer didn’t quit for nothing.) The voters will have to take care of the rest, and I fully expect they will, beginning in November.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Bleak: the generic congressional polling numbers for the Democrats.

Appalling: “Two multinational corporations that have earned millions of dollars in U.S. government contracts are conducting business with Iran in violation of the recently signed sanctions law, according to an Iran watchdog group that has provided its research to FoxNews.com. United Against Nuclear Iran, a non-profit devoted to monitoring the rogue nation, claims that the Danish shipping giant Maersk and Komatsu, a Japanese firm that specializes in construction equipment manufacturing, are flouting U.S. law by continuing to do business in Iran.”

Shaky: “The U.S. economy continued to grow during the second quarter, the government reported Friday. But the pace slowed more than economists were expecting, raising concern about growth — or even another recession — in the months ahead. Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the nation’s economic activity, rose at a 2.4% annual rate during the three months ended June 30, the Commerce Department said. The sluggish pace was down from the upwardly revised 3.7% growth rate in the first quarter, and missed economists’ forecast for a 2.5% increase.”

Duh: “The problem with Mr. [Oliver] Stone’s ‘Secret History’ goes far beyond the issue of his anti-Semitic screed. The real issue is why a major television network would ask Oliver Stone — a man well known for his belief in preposterous conspiracy theories — to direct a nonfiction film about history.” Well, we all know that lefty Hollywood execs just can’t resist “one more narrative about America’s villainous role in the world and our enemy’s righteous responses.”

Vacuous: The State Department spokesman says something or other about North Korea’s nuclear proliferation, “We don’t see the transparency in that relationship that we’d like to see. North Korea is a serial proliferator. North Korea is engaged in significant illicit activity. Burma, like other countries around the world, has obligations, and we expect Burma to live up to those obligations.” Think that has them shaking in their jackboots?

Huffy: “African-American lawmakers are irate that the Obama administration has promised Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) $1.5 billion in farm aid while claiming it can’t pay a landmark legal settlement with black farmers.” Besides, isn’t it throwing good money after bad to try to rescue Lincoln from her constituents?

Swell: “Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) has chosen to go through an ethics trial, like the one lined up for New York Rep. Charles Rangel, rather than accepting charges made by an ethics subcommittee, a source familiar with the process tells POLITICO. … Waters’s case revolves around allegations that she improperly intervened with federal regulators to help a bank that her husband owned stock in and on whose board he once served.”

Bleak: the generic congressional polling numbers for the Democrats.

Appalling: “Two multinational corporations that have earned millions of dollars in U.S. government contracts are conducting business with Iran in violation of the recently signed sanctions law, according to an Iran watchdog group that has provided its research to FoxNews.com. United Against Nuclear Iran, a non-profit devoted to monitoring the rogue nation, claims that the Danish shipping giant Maersk and Komatsu, a Japanese firm that specializes in construction equipment manufacturing, are flouting U.S. law by continuing to do business in Iran.”

Shaky: “The U.S. economy continued to grow during the second quarter, the government reported Friday. But the pace slowed more than economists were expecting, raising concern about growth — or even another recession — in the months ahead. Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the nation’s economic activity, rose at a 2.4% annual rate during the three months ended June 30, the Commerce Department said. The sluggish pace was down from the upwardly revised 3.7% growth rate in the first quarter, and missed economists’ forecast for a 2.5% increase.”

Duh: “The problem with Mr. [Oliver] Stone’s ‘Secret History’ goes far beyond the issue of his anti-Semitic screed. The real issue is why a major television network would ask Oliver Stone — a man well known for his belief in preposterous conspiracy theories — to direct a nonfiction film about history.” Well, we all know that lefty Hollywood execs just can’t resist “one more narrative about America’s villainous role in the world and our enemy’s righteous responses.”

Vacuous: The State Department spokesman says something or other about North Korea’s nuclear proliferation, “We don’t see the transparency in that relationship that we’d like to see. North Korea is a serial proliferator. North Korea is engaged in significant illicit activity. Burma, like other countries around the world, has obligations, and we expect Burma to live up to those obligations.” Think that has them shaking in their jackboots?

Huffy: “African-American lawmakers are irate that the Obama administration has promised Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) $1.5 billion in farm aid while claiming it can’t pay a landmark legal settlement with black farmers.” Besides, isn’t it throwing good money after bad to try to rescue Lincoln from her constituents?

Swell: “Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) has chosen to go through an ethics trial, like the one lined up for New York Rep. Charles Rangel, rather than accepting charges made by an ethics subcommittee, a source familiar with the process tells POLITICO. … Waters’s case revolves around allegations that she improperly intervened with federal regulators to help a bank that her husband owned stock in and on whose board he once served.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Ouch: Charlie Crist’s campaign manager and handpicked Senate appointee dumps him.

Yikes (for Democrats): “Republican Congressman Mark Kirk has earned a modest pick-up in support, while his Democratic opponent, Alexi Giannoulias, appears stalled in the first Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the state following the government’s seizure of the failed Broadway Bank, the institution owned by Giannoulias’ family. Kirk now attracts 46% support in Illinois’ race for the U.S. Senate, up from 41% in early April.”

More yikes (for Democrats): “A new poll has businessman Tim Burns (R) leading former Murtha aide Mark Critz (D) 46-40. Republicans appear to have a real opportunity to take over the seat of the late Rep. John Murtha’s (D-Pa.), as another poll shows their candidate in the lead.”

Still: “Iran will never agree to exchange its low-level enriched uranium for nuclear fuel rods enriched abroad, a top adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Friday.”

Bunk — is the claim that GM has paid back its taxpayer bailout, says Rep. Paul Ryan: “These claims struck me as odd and misleading. The federal government still owns over 60% of this auto company. This so-called repayment is actually a transfer of $6.7 billion from one taxpayer-funded bailout account to another.”

Fine: “Jewish groups are calling on U.N. member representatives to walk out in protest when Iran’s president speaks next week at the United Nations. Mahmoud Ahmadenijad’s plans to address the U.N. Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference on May 3 makes a mockery of the proceedings, Jewish groups said.” But why don’t they call for the administration to leave the Human Rights Council or the Commission on the Status of Women?

Uh-oh: “The nation’s gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced, grew at an annual rate of 3.2% after climbing 5.6% in the fourth quarter, the Commerce Department said Friday. That’s not nearly fast enough to bring down stubbornly high unemployment. In addition, threats ranging from turmoil in Europe to the difficulty smaller businesses face in borrowing money are clouding the prospects for continued recovery.”

Yup: “Crist still does not grasp that the country wants a check on Obama, not an enabler in Republican or independent skin. The backlash over spending, soaring debt, government take-over of major industries, and Obamacare calls for a new breed of GOP leaders who are unafraid to stand in the gap and stop the Obama agenda. Crist’s failure to understand that is what sunk his candidacy in the GOP and will likely do so in the general election.”

Ouch: Charlie Crist’s campaign manager and handpicked Senate appointee dumps him.

Yikes (for Democrats): “Republican Congressman Mark Kirk has earned a modest pick-up in support, while his Democratic opponent, Alexi Giannoulias, appears stalled in the first Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the state following the government’s seizure of the failed Broadway Bank, the institution owned by Giannoulias’ family. Kirk now attracts 46% support in Illinois’ race for the U.S. Senate, up from 41% in early April.”

More yikes (for Democrats): “A new poll has businessman Tim Burns (R) leading former Murtha aide Mark Critz (D) 46-40. Republicans appear to have a real opportunity to take over the seat of the late Rep. John Murtha’s (D-Pa.), as another poll shows their candidate in the lead.”

Still: “Iran will never agree to exchange its low-level enriched uranium for nuclear fuel rods enriched abroad, a top adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Friday.”

Bunk — is the claim that GM has paid back its taxpayer bailout, says Rep. Paul Ryan: “These claims struck me as odd and misleading. The federal government still owns over 60% of this auto company. This so-called repayment is actually a transfer of $6.7 billion from one taxpayer-funded bailout account to another.”

Fine: “Jewish groups are calling on U.N. member representatives to walk out in protest when Iran’s president speaks next week at the United Nations. Mahmoud Ahmadenijad’s plans to address the U.N. Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference on May 3 makes a mockery of the proceedings, Jewish groups said.” But why don’t they call for the administration to leave the Human Rights Council or the Commission on the Status of Women?

Uh-oh: “The nation’s gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced, grew at an annual rate of 3.2% after climbing 5.6% in the fourth quarter, the Commerce Department said Friday. That’s not nearly fast enough to bring down stubbornly high unemployment. In addition, threats ranging from turmoil in Europe to the difficulty smaller businesses face in borrowing money are clouding the prospects for continued recovery.”

Yup: “Crist still does not grasp that the country wants a check on Obama, not an enabler in Republican or independent skin. The backlash over spending, soaring debt, government take-over of major industries, and Obamacare calls for a new breed of GOP leaders who are unafraid to stand in the gap and stop the Obama agenda. Crist’s failure to understand that is what sunk his candidacy in the GOP and will likely do so in the general election.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Trouble back home: “Sue Lowden has established herself as the far-ahead GOP front-runner in Nevada’s U.S. Senate race and the Republican most likely to beat Sen. Harry Reid, even with a Tea Party candidate on the Nov. 2 general election ballot, according to a new poll commissioned by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. … As for Reid, the poll shows the Democratic incumbent’s popularity dipping to a new all-time low with 56 percent of registered Nevada voters saying they have an unfavorable opinion of the senator, while about four in 10 people say they would vote for him on Election Day — not enough to win.”

Trouble for the Democrats’ tax-hike plans: “When thinking about all the services provided by federal, state and local governments, 75% of voters nationwide say the average American should pay no more than 20% of their income in taxes. However, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that most voters (55%) believe the average American actually pays 30% or more of their income in taxes. Sixty-six percent (66%) believe that America is overtaxed. Only 25% disagree.”

Trouble for Obama and Democrats who will rely on the president’s popularity this November: he’s reached an all-time low in RealClearPolitics’s poll average, at 46.1 percent approval.

Trouble in Iran (and a reminder that delay in use of military force against the mullahs comes with a price): “Ahmad Vahidi said the new Mersad, or Ambush, air defense system would be able to hit modern aircraft at low and medium altitudes. According to a photo released by Iran’s Defense Ministry, the Mersad will launch Iran’s Shahin missiles, a local version of the 1970s-era US-manufactured Hawk missile. The Hawk missile has a range 24 kilometers with a 119-pound warhead and was sold the Iran before the 1979 Islamic revolution. Iran has been looking to upgrade its air defenses, especially as Israel has refused to rule out an airstrike over concerns that Teheran is developing nuclear weapons — a charge it denies.”

Trouble for those who vouched for or believed the CBO’s scoring on ObamaCare: “White House Budget Director Peter Orszag is arguing that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) underestimates the savings from President Barack Obama’s healthcare bill. CBO, the independent agency Orszag ran before he joined the Obama administration, said the legislation will reduce deficits $143 billion in its first decade and by even more — roughly 0.25 percent to 0.5 percent of gross domestic product — in its second decade. That would probably amount to more than $1 trillion in savings, but Orszag considers that a lowball estimate.” Hmm. Funny how this didn’t come up before.

Trouble for those who argued with a straight face for “engagement” with Iran: “Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday accused President Barack Obama of making nuclear threats against the Islamic Republic.” But they don’t ever admit error, do they?

Trouble for the “Close Guantanamo!” crowd: “So how’s President Obama’s detainee policy coming along? Slowly. A senior administration official would only say that discussions with Congress — that is, Democrats and Sen. Lindsey Graham — are ‘ongoing’ about a legal framework. But frustration at the lack of public backstop from the White House is pervasive among senior officials at the Departments of Justice, State and Defense, all of whom want the Guantanamo Bay detention camp closed and the prisoners properly dealt with.” Perhaps the White House has finally run out of enthusiasm for an unworkable and politically toxic campaign stunt.

Trouble for Jews: “Anti-Semitic incidents around the world more than doubled in 2009 over the previous year, posting their worst year since monitoring began two decades ago, according to a new survey. The total number of anti-Semitic incidents was 1,129 in 2009, compared to 559 in 2008, according to a report released Sunday by the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism at Tel Aviv University. The record number of incidents — cases that show clear anti-Semitic content and intention — included 566 incidents of vandalism of Jewish property, which constituted 49 percent of all incidents. Hundreds of incidents against Jewish people and property did not meet the criteria, according to the institute. Incidents also go unreported. In Europe, Britain and France led with the number of incidents, according to the report.”

Trouble back home: “Sue Lowden has established herself as the far-ahead GOP front-runner in Nevada’s U.S. Senate race and the Republican most likely to beat Sen. Harry Reid, even with a Tea Party candidate on the Nov. 2 general election ballot, according to a new poll commissioned by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. … As for Reid, the poll shows the Democratic incumbent’s popularity dipping to a new all-time low with 56 percent of registered Nevada voters saying they have an unfavorable opinion of the senator, while about four in 10 people say they would vote for him on Election Day — not enough to win.”

Trouble for the Democrats’ tax-hike plans: “When thinking about all the services provided by federal, state and local governments, 75% of voters nationwide say the average American should pay no more than 20% of their income in taxes. However, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that most voters (55%) believe the average American actually pays 30% or more of their income in taxes. Sixty-six percent (66%) believe that America is overtaxed. Only 25% disagree.”

Trouble for Obama and Democrats who will rely on the president’s popularity this November: he’s reached an all-time low in RealClearPolitics’s poll average, at 46.1 percent approval.

Trouble in Iran (and a reminder that delay in use of military force against the mullahs comes with a price): “Ahmad Vahidi said the new Mersad, or Ambush, air defense system would be able to hit modern aircraft at low and medium altitudes. According to a photo released by Iran’s Defense Ministry, the Mersad will launch Iran’s Shahin missiles, a local version of the 1970s-era US-manufactured Hawk missile. The Hawk missile has a range 24 kilometers with a 119-pound warhead and was sold the Iran before the 1979 Islamic revolution. Iran has been looking to upgrade its air defenses, especially as Israel has refused to rule out an airstrike over concerns that Teheran is developing nuclear weapons — a charge it denies.”

Trouble for those who vouched for or believed the CBO’s scoring on ObamaCare: “White House Budget Director Peter Orszag is arguing that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) underestimates the savings from President Barack Obama’s healthcare bill. CBO, the independent agency Orszag ran before he joined the Obama administration, said the legislation will reduce deficits $143 billion in its first decade and by even more — roughly 0.25 percent to 0.5 percent of gross domestic product — in its second decade. That would probably amount to more than $1 trillion in savings, but Orszag considers that a lowball estimate.” Hmm. Funny how this didn’t come up before.

Trouble for those who argued with a straight face for “engagement” with Iran: “Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday accused President Barack Obama of making nuclear threats against the Islamic Republic.” But they don’t ever admit error, do they?

Trouble for the “Close Guantanamo!” crowd: “So how’s President Obama’s detainee policy coming along? Slowly. A senior administration official would only say that discussions with Congress — that is, Democrats and Sen. Lindsey Graham — are ‘ongoing’ about a legal framework. But frustration at the lack of public backstop from the White House is pervasive among senior officials at the Departments of Justice, State and Defense, all of whom want the Guantanamo Bay detention camp closed and the prisoners properly dealt with.” Perhaps the White House has finally run out of enthusiasm for an unworkable and politically toxic campaign stunt.

Trouble for Jews: “Anti-Semitic incidents around the world more than doubled in 2009 over the previous year, posting their worst year since monitoring began two decades ago, according to a new survey. The total number of anti-Semitic incidents was 1,129 in 2009, compared to 559 in 2008, according to a report released Sunday by the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism at Tel Aviv University. The record number of incidents — cases that show clear anti-Semitic content and intention — included 566 incidents of vandalism of Jewish property, which constituted 49 percent of all incidents. Hundreds of incidents against Jewish people and property did not meet the criteria, according to the institute. Incidents also go unreported. In Europe, Britain and France led with the number of incidents, according to the report.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The National Jewish Democratic Council attacks other Jewish organizations for going after Obama on the Israel-bashing. Well, it’s nice to know what the NJDC’s priorities are.

In a radio interview, Carly Fiorina sounds quite knowledgeable on the Jerusalem housing project and bashes Obama for blowing up the incident. She asks why the administration “says nothing” when Syria and Iran talk about the destruction of Israel. She calls on Barbara Boxer to say something. (Boxer has been silent.)

Chuck DeVore also puts out a strong statement excoriating Obama. “For the Administration to ‘condemn’ — the strongest possible diplomatic language — the construction of some apartments in a historically Jewish section of Jerusalem does nothing to advance the cause of peace, and still less the security of our country. Peace is advanced through strength, not weakness — and through unity, not division. At a stroke, President Obama has diminished both.”

Cliff May: “How do you explain the strange calculus that condemns building homes for citizens and condones celebrating terrorism? You start by understanding not how the “peace process” works — because it doesn’t — but how ‘peace processors’ think. They have convinced themselves that the Palestinians will make peace with the Israelis when and if the Israelis make sufficient concessions. So the pressure must always be on the Israelis to offer more concessions.”

Charles Krauthammer in his not-to-be missed smackdown of Obama notes: “Under Obama, Netanyahu agreed to commit his center-right coalition to acceptance of a Palestinian state; took down dozens of anti-terror roadblocks and checkpoints to ease life for the Palestinians; assisted West Bank economic development to the point where its gross domestic product is growing at an astounding 7 percent a year; and agreed to the West Bank construction moratorium, a concession that Secretary Clinton herself called ‘unprecedented.’ What reciprocal gesture, let alone concession, has Abbas made during the Obama presidency? Not one.” Read the whole thing.

More bad news for incumbents: “A gauge of future economic activity rose 0.1 percent in February, suggesting slow economic growth this summer, a private research group said Thursday.”

The ObamaCare effect? “Obama’s job approval in the RCP Average has gone net negative for the first time ever as well. Currently 47.3% of those surveyed approve of the job Obama is doing as President, while 47.8% disapprove.”

That was due, in part, to Gallup: “President Barack Obama’s job approval is the worst of his presidency to date, with 46% of Americans approving and 48% disapproving of the job he is doing as president in the latest Gallup Daily three-day average. … The new low ratings come during a week in which the White House and Democratic congressional leaders are working to convince wavering House Democrats to support healthcare reform, which they hope to pass using a series of parliamentary maneuvers in the House of Representatives and Senate. Americans hold Congress in far less esteem than they do the president — 16% approve and 80% disapprove of the job Congress is doing. … That is just two points off the record-low 14% Gallup measured in July 2008.”

The National Jewish Democratic Council attacks other Jewish organizations for going after Obama on the Israel-bashing. Well, it’s nice to know what the NJDC’s priorities are.

In a radio interview, Carly Fiorina sounds quite knowledgeable on the Jerusalem housing project and bashes Obama for blowing up the incident. She asks why the administration “says nothing” when Syria and Iran talk about the destruction of Israel. She calls on Barbara Boxer to say something. (Boxer has been silent.)

Chuck DeVore also puts out a strong statement excoriating Obama. “For the Administration to ‘condemn’ — the strongest possible diplomatic language — the construction of some apartments in a historically Jewish section of Jerusalem does nothing to advance the cause of peace, and still less the security of our country. Peace is advanced through strength, not weakness — and through unity, not division. At a stroke, President Obama has diminished both.”

Cliff May: “How do you explain the strange calculus that condemns building homes for citizens and condones celebrating terrorism? You start by understanding not how the “peace process” works — because it doesn’t — but how ‘peace processors’ think. They have convinced themselves that the Palestinians will make peace with the Israelis when and if the Israelis make sufficient concessions. So the pressure must always be on the Israelis to offer more concessions.”

Charles Krauthammer in his not-to-be missed smackdown of Obama notes: “Under Obama, Netanyahu agreed to commit his center-right coalition to acceptance of a Palestinian state; took down dozens of anti-terror roadblocks and checkpoints to ease life for the Palestinians; assisted West Bank economic development to the point where its gross domestic product is growing at an astounding 7 percent a year; and agreed to the West Bank construction moratorium, a concession that Secretary Clinton herself called ‘unprecedented.’ What reciprocal gesture, let alone concession, has Abbas made during the Obama presidency? Not one.” Read the whole thing.

More bad news for incumbents: “A gauge of future economic activity rose 0.1 percent in February, suggesting slow economic growth this summer, a private research group said Thursday.”

The ObamaCare effect? “Obama’s job approval in the RCP Average has gone net negative for the first time ever as well. Currently 47.3% of those surveyed approve of the job Obama is doing as President, while 47.8% disapprove.”

That was due, in part, to Gallup: “President Barack Obama’s job approval is the worst of his presidency to date, with 46% of Americans approving and 48% disapproving of the job he is doing as president in the latest Gallup Daily three-day average. … The new low ratings come during a week in which the White House and Democratic congressional leaders are working to convince wavering House Democrats to support healthcare reform, which they hope to pass using a series of parliamentary maneuvers in the House of Representatives and Senate. Americans hold Congress in far less esteem than they do the president — 16% approve and 80% disapprove of the job Congress is doing. … That is just two points off the record-low 14% Gallup measured in July 2008.”

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Is the U.S. Preparing to Bomb Iran? Check the Source First

Mistrust the press — that is one important lesson from Max Boot’s post about Mark Perry’s sensationalist (and sensationally inaccurate) attribution of the U.S.-Israel fallout to General Petraeus.

Elsewhere in the news, be prepared for more instances of the mass media’s inability to distinguish between fact and fiction. Take the report that the U.S. is seemingly getting ready to bomb Iran. The Herald, the Scottish daily, notes that a shipment has left California with military supplies for Diego Garcia, in the Indian Ocean. This shipment includes huge quantities of bunker busters. Now all this may be true — but their news story is that these supplies are in preparation of a U.S. attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The source of this analysis?

Professor Dan Plesch, director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

According to the Herald, Plesch said:

They are gearing up totally for the destruction of Iran … US bombers are ready today to destroy 10,000 targets in Iran in a few hours … The preparations were being made by the US military, but it would be up to President Obama to make the final decision. He may decide that it would be better for the US to act instead of Israel … The US is not publicising the scale of these preparations to deter Iran, tending to make confrontation more likely …

How many times has Professor Plesch claimed this before?

OpenDemocracy, March, 21, 2005, “Iran, the coming war“:

So when might the attack on Iran occur? The Bush administration has, from its perspective, allowed the Europeans and the non-proliferation diplomats enough time to fail. They will certainly use the UN conference on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament from 2-27 May 2005 as an opportunity to grandstand.

For US domestic political purposes a “crisis” in spring 2006 when the EU and the UN can once more be confronted with their alleged failures, and challenged to support US leadership, would be timely for mid-term elections in which the ultra-conservative coalition will wish to consolidate its gains and eliminate any nascent moderate or realistic Republican candidate in good time for the 2008 presidential election.

The Guardian, “Are we going to war with Iran?” October, 21, 2005:

A new war may not be as politically disastrous in Washington as many believe … For an embattled President Bush, combating the mullahs of Tehran may be a useful means of diverting attention from Iraq and reestablishing control of the Republican party prior to next year’s congressional elections. From this perspective, even an escalating conflict would rally the nation behind a war president. As for the succession to President Bush, Bob Woodward has named Mr Cheney as a likely candidate, a step that would be easier in a wartime atmosphere. Mr Cheney would doubtless point out that US military spending, while huge compared to other nations, is at a far lower percentage of gross domestic product than during the Reagan years. With regard to Mr Blair’s position, it would be helpful to know whether he has committed Britain to preventing an Iranian bomb “come what may” as he did with Iraq.

New Statesman, February, 19, 2007, “Iran — ready to attack”:

American military operations for a major conventional war with Iran could be implemented any day. They extend far beyond targeting suspect WMD facilities and will enable President Bush to destroy Iran’s military, political and economic infrastructure overnight using conventional weapons.

Four predictions in five years — and no war so far.

Professor Plesch does not seem to have his fact-checking machine and his sources up to date, tuned in, and reliably informed. It may not matter to some media outlets, which will probably continue to publish on ideological rather than factual grounds.

Still, journalists should remember that a good news story cannot rely just on the sensation of the message but must also ensure the credibility of the messenger. With Professor Plesch, it seems, this is just not the case.

Mistrust the press — that is one important lesson from Max Boot’s post about Mark Perry’s sensationalist (and sensationally inaccurate) attribution of the U.S.-Israel fallout to General Petraeus.

Elsewhere in the news, be prepared for more instances of the mass media’s inability to distinguish between fact and fiction. Take the report that the U.S. is seemingly getting ready to bomb Iran. The Herald, the Scottish daily, notes that a shipment has left California with military supplies for Diego Garcia, in the Indian Ocean. This shipment includes huge quantities of bunker busters. Now all this may be true — but their news story is that these supplies are in preparation of a U.S. attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The source of this analysis?

Professor Dan Plesch, director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

According to the Herald, Plesch said:

They are gearing up totally for the destruction of Iran … US bombers are ready today to destroy 10,000 targets in Iran in a few hours … The preparations were being made by the US military, but it would be up to President Obama to make the final decision. He may decide that it would be better for the US to act instead of Israel … The US is not publicising the scale of these preparations to deter Iran, tending to make confrontation more likely …

How many times has Professor Plesch claimed this before?

OpenDemocracy, March, 21, 2005, “Iran, the coming war“:

So when might the attack on Iran occur? The Bush administration has, from its perspective, allowed the Europeans and the non-proliferation diplomats enough time to fail. They will certainly use the UN conference on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament from 2-27 May 2005 as an opportunity to grandstand.

For US domestic political purposes a “crisis” in spring 2006 when the EU and the UN can once more be confronted with their alleged failures, and challenged to support US leadership, would be timely for mid-term elections in which the ultra-conservative coalition will wish to consolidate its gains and eliminate any nascent moderate or realistic Republican candidate in good time for the 2008 presidential election.

The Guardian, “Are we going to war with Iran?” October, 21, 2005:

A new war may not be as politically disastrous in Washington as many believe … For an embattled President Bush, combating the mullahs of Tehran may be a useful means of diverting attention from Iraq and reestablishing control of the Republican party prior to next year’s congressional elections. From this perspective, even an escalating conflict would rally the nation behind a war president. As for the succession to President Bush, Bob Woodward has named Mr Cheney as a likely candidate, a step that would be easier in a wartime atmosphere. Mr Cheney would doubtless point out that US military spending, while huge compared to other nations, is at a far lower percentage of gross domestic product than during the Reagan years. With regard to Mr Blair’s position, it would be helpful to know whether he has committed Britain to preventing an Iranian bomb “come what may” as he did with Iraq.

New Statesman, February, 19, 2007, “Iran — ready to attack”:

American military operations for a major conventional war with Iran could be implemented any day. They extend far beyond targeting suspect WMD facilities and will enable President Bush to destroy Iran’s military, political and economic infrastructure overnight using conventional weapons.

Four predictions in five years — and no war so far.

Professor Plesch does not seem to have his fact-checking machine and his sources up to date, tuned in, and reliably informed. It may not matter to some media outlets, which will probably continue to publish on ideological rather than factual grounds.

Still, journalists should remember that a good news story cannot rely just on the sensation of the message but must also ensure the credibility of the messenger. With Professor Plesch, it seems, this is just not the case.

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SOTU vs. the Budget

This analysis of the Obama budget is not unlike those circulating from conservative economists, think tanks, and commentators:

The first is the projected deficit in the coming year, nearly 11 percent of the country’s entire economic output. That is not unprecedented: During the Civil War, World War I and World War II, the United States ran soaring deficits, but usually with the expectation that they would come back down once peace was restored and war spending abated.

But the second number, buried deeper in the budget’s projections, is the one that really commands attention: By President Obama’s own optimistic projections, American deficits will not return to what are widely considered sustainable levels over the next 10 years. In fact, in 2019 and 2020 — years after Mr. Obama has left the political scene, even if he serves two terms — they start rising again sharply, to more than 5 percent of gross domestic product. His budget draws a picture of a nation that like many American homeowners simply cannot get above water.

What is noteworthy is that it comes from the New York Times. It is a stark statement from the media outlet most sympathetic to the administration that the budget is both deeply dishonest and deeply irresponsible. David Sanger nails it when he says:

Unless miraculous growth, or miraculous political compromises, creates some unforeseen change over the next decade, there is virtually no room for new domestic initiatives for Mr. Obama or his successors. Beyond that lies the possibility that the United States could begin to suffer the same disease that has afflicted Japan over the past decade. As debt grew more rapidly than income, that country’s influence around the world eroded.

Nor is Obama going to get away with passing this all off on his predecessors. (“with this budget, Mr. Obama now owns this deficit”).

Once again we see the chasim between Obama’s rhetoric and his governance. In the SOTU he delivers a stirring call for fiscal sobriety: “But understand—if we do not take meaningful steps to rein in our debt, it could damage our markets, increase the cost of borrowing, and jeopardize our recovery—all of which could have an even worse effect on our job growth and family incomes.” But a week later he delivers a budget that has a 5.7 percent increase in spending over last year’s huge budget and that will launch a path of unsustainable debt, with an ever increasing tax burden on those on whom we must rely to generate economic growth and jobs.

Gerald Seib, not a fire-breathing conservative either, makes the national security argument:

These numbers are often discussed as an economic and domestic problem. But it’s time to start thinking of the ramifications for America’s ability to continue playing its traditional global role.

The U.S. government this year will borrow one of every three dollars it spends, with many of those funds coming from foreign countries. That weakens America’s standing and its freedom to act; strengthens China and other world powers including cash-rich oil producers; puts long-term defense spending at risk; undermines the power of the American system as a model for developing countries; and reduces the aura of power that has been a great intangible asset for presidents for more than a century.

And this is the nub of the problem for Obama. At some point—now, I think—the rhetoric runs out and there are just facts left. He is president, not George W. Bush. His budget is a garngantuan and unsustainable recipe for sucking more and more resources out of the private sector, leaving us deeper in debt than ever. Pundits across the political spectrum and, more critically, voters expect him to align his speeches with his policy agenda and work on solving our problems. Yet he seems incapable of doing more than giving the good speech. When it comes to governance, he simply recycles the same shopworn tax-and-spend liberal policies. But now, the public has reached the point where they expect more. They expect Obama not to pawn off issues on others, or delegate his agenda to Congress, or slip by on trickery (Matt Continetti points out that the discretionary budget freeze comes after an 84 percent hike in discretionary spending last year). If the 2011 budget is any indication, Obama is simply not up to the task.

This analysis of the Obama budget is not unlike those circulating from conservative economists, think tanks, and commentators:

The first is the projected deficit in the coming year, nearly 11 percent of the country’s entire economic output. That is not unprecedented: During the Civil War, World War I and World War II, the United States ran soaring deficits, but usually with the expectation that they would come back down once peace was restored and war spending abated.

But the second number, buried deeper in the budget’s projections, is the one that really commands attention: By President Obama’s own optimistic projections, American deficits will not return to what are widely considered sustainable levels over the next 10 years. In fact, in 2019 and 2020 — years after Mr. Obama has left the political scene, even if he serves two terms — they start rising again sharply, to more than 5 percent of gross domestic product. His budget draws a picture of a nation that like many American homeowners simply cannot get above water.

What is noteworthy is that it comes from the New York Times. It is a stark statement from the media outlet most sympathetic to the administration that the budget is both deeply dishonest and deeply irresponsible. David Sanger nails it when he says:

Unless miraculous growth, or miraculous political compromises, creates some unforeseen change over the next decade, there is virtually no room for new domestic initiatives for Mr. Obama or his successors. Beyond that lies the possibility that the United States could begin to suffer the same disease that has afflicted Japan over the past decade. As debt grew more rapidly than income, that country’s influence around the world eroded.

Nor is Obama going to get away with passing this all off on his predecessors. (“with this budget, Mr. Obama now owns this deficit”).

Once again we see the chasim between Obama’s rhetoric and his governance. In the SOTU he delivers a stirring call for fiscal sobriety: “But understand—if we do not take meaningful steps to rein in our debt, it could damage our markets, increase the cost of borrowing, and jeopardize our recovery—all of which could have an even worse effect on our job growth and family incomes.” But a week later he delivers a budget that has a 5.7 percent increase in spending over last year’s huge budget and that will launch a path of unsustainable debt, with an ever increasing tax burden on those on whom we must rely to generate economic growth and jobs.

Gerald Seib, not a fire-breathing conservative either, makes the national security argument:

These numbers are often discussed as an economic and domestic problem. But it’s time to start thinking of the ramifications for America’s ability to continue playing its traditional global role.

The U.S. government this year will borrow one of every three dollars it spends, with many of those funds coming from foreign countries. That weakens America’s standing and its freedom to act; strengthens China and other world powers including cash-rich oil producers; puts long-term defense spending at risk; undermines the power of the American system as a model for developing countries; and reduces the aura of power that has been a great intangible asset for presidents for more than a century.

And this is the nub of the problem for Obama. At some point—now, I think—the rhetoric runs out and there are just facts left. He is president, not George W. Bush. His budget is a garngantuan and unsustainable recipe for sucking more and more resources out of the private sector, leaving us deeper in debt than ever. Pundits across the political spectrum and, more critically, voters expect him to align his speeches with his policy agenda and work on solving our problems. Yet he seems incapable of doing more than giving the good speech. When it comes to governance, he simply recycles the same shopworn tax-and-spend liberal policies. But now, the public has reached the point where they expect more. They expect Obama not to pawn off issues on others, or delegate his agenda to Congress, or slip by on trickery (Matt Continetti points out that the discretionary budget freeze comes after an 84 percent hike in discretionary spending last year). If the 2011 budget is any indication, Obama is simply not up to the task.

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No Life Preserver for Tax-and Spend Democrats

The Democrats are frantically searching for a political lifeboat. They have been on a tax-and-spend jag, run up the debt, and only angered the public. So they latched on to a “solution” — a debt-reduction commission to recommend tax hikes and spending cuts, with a goal to report back after the congressional elections with a plan, this report explains, “for shrinking the federal budget deficit to 3% of the gross domestic product by 2015 from the current 10% level, and on steps to contain long-term budget problems through tax increases and changes to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.” The commission would have a total of 10 Democrats (six appointed by the Congress, the rest by the president) and eight Republicans (six appointed by Republicans in Congress, the rest by the president).

Meanwhile, the Congress can go merrily along with health care and the rest of its agenda, spending to its heart’s content. As the report notes: “Underscoring the problem, the Senate is poised to vote to raise the national debt ceiling by $1.9 trillion, just weeks after a $290 billion increase at the end of 2009. The debt currently stands at $12.322 trillion.”

Why in the world would Republicans go along with this charade? Well, they aren’t, it seems. Their immediate concerns are the lack of statutory authority for the commission and the absence of any requirement for Congress to even vote on its recommendations:

Republican Sens. George Voinovich of Ohio and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire dismissed it as a political fig leaf and instead called on President Barack Obama to support enactment of a law that would establish a commission and require an up-or-down congressional vote on its recommendations. Tuesday’s plan would create the panel by executive order. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D., N.D.) has also withheld his support.

But even if these obstacles were overcome, there are substantive and political reasons for conservatives not to play along with this scheme. For starters, with 10 Democrats plus two Obama-handpicked Republicans, the outcome is preordained. The recommendation will include hefty tax hikes. But the crux of the problem is that it lets the big spenders off the hook. In fact, it encourages them to keep it up, since an independent commission is going to take care of all that deficit stuff. As the Wall Street Journal editors point out:

We can see why Democrats would love this idea. In the past year they have passed: a $447 billion omnibus spending bill for fiscal 2009, a $787 billion stimulus, $3 billion for cash for clunkers, $75 billion in mortgage assistance, $34 billion for children’s health care (Schip), $30 billion in anticipated auto bailout losses, with another nearly 11% spending increase teed up for fiscal 2010 for domestic programs. This party was fun, but now comes the headache (see Massachusetts) and the need for GOP tax partners.

Emboldened by Scott Brown’s victory, Republicans seem poised to play it smart and not offer the drowning Democrats a life preserver. Democrats thought there was no consequence, economic or political, to their spending spree. The loyal opposition should take the rest of the year to explain why they were wrong.

The Democrats are frantically searching for a political lifeboat. They have been on a tax-and-spend jag, run up the debt, and only angered the public. So they latched on to a “solution” — a debt-reduction commission to recommend tax hikes and spending cuts, with a goal to report back after the congressional elections with a plan, this report explains, “for shrinking the federal budget deficit to 3% of the gross domestic product by 2015 from the current 10% level, and on steps to contain long-term budget problems through tax increases and changes to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.” The commission would have a total of 10 Democrats (six appointed by the Congress, the rest by the president) and eight Republicans (six appointed by Republicans in Congress, the rest by the president).

Meanwhile, the Congress can go merrily along with health care and the rest of its agenda, spending to its heart’s content. As the report notes: “Underscoring the problem, the Senate is poised to vote to raise the national debt ceiling by $1.9 trillion, just weeks after a $290 billion increase at the end of 2009. The debt currently stands at $12.322 trillion.”

Why in the world would Republicans go along with this charade? Well, they aren’t, it seems. Their immediate concerns are the lack of statutory authority for the commission and the absence of any requirement for Congress to even vote on its recommendations:

Republican Sens. George Voinovich of Ohio and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire dismissed it as a political fig leaf and instead called on President Barack Obama to support enactment of a law that would establish a commission and require an up-or-down congressional vote on its recommendations. Tuesday’s plan would create the panel by executive order. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D., N.D.) has also withheld his support.

But even if these obstacles were overcome, there are substantive and political reasons for conservatives not to play along with this scheme. For starters, with 10 Democrats plus two Obama-handpicked Republicans, the outcome is preordained. The recommendation will include hefty tax hikes. But the crux of the problem is that it lets the big spenders off the hook. In fact, it encourages them to keep it up, since an independent commission is going to take care of all that deficit stuff. As the Wall Street Journal editors point out:

We can see why Democrats would love this idea. In the past year they have passed: a $447 billion omnibus spending bill for fiscal 2009, a $787 billion stimulus, $3 billion for cash for clunkers, $75 billion in mortgage assistance, $34 billion for children’s health care (Schip), $30 billion in anticipated auto bailout losses, with another nearly 11% spending increase teed up for fiscal 2010 for domestic programs. This party was fun, but now comes the headache (see Massachusetts) and the need for GOP tax partners.

Emboldened by Scott Brown’s victory, Republicans seem poised to play it smart and not offer the drowning Democrats a life preserver. Democrats thought there was no consequence, economic or political, to their spending spree. The loyal opposition should take the rest of the year to explain why they were wrong.

Read Less

The World Inverted?

“For a while the world was flat,” writes Roger Cohen in today’s New York Times. “Now it’s upside down.” His thesis is simple: today, the developed world depends on the developing one. Those fortunate enough to live in the latter control the minerals, and now they have cash. They’re buying up American and European companies with theirs, now larger than ours. So sorry, Tom Friedman, your flat-world paradigm, once so popular, is simply out of date.

We should forgive Cohen for taking every trend today and assuming they will continue indefinitely. After all, he’s following in the footsteps of extremely distinguished company, Fareed Zakaria, for instance. The title of Zakaria’s most recent book, The Post-American World, tells you all you need to know about the direction of geopolitical thinking.

With economic might comes power. Therefore, we’ll just have to expand the G-8 to include China, India, Brazil, and others. And the Security Council? As Cohen tells us this morning, “The 21st century can’t be handled with 20th-century institutions.” Therefore, the UN’s power center will, of course, have to be enlarged to reflect our new multipolar international system. Cohen even suggests that the West will need all the charity it can get from the upstarts.

So will the next American President have to view the world while standing on his head, as Cohen suggests? When economic development has evenly spread wealth from nation to nation, it will be impossible for a country with just 4.6 percent of global population–that’s the United States, by the way–to produce 25.5 percent of the world’s economic output, as it did in 2007. Eventually, a China five times more populous than the United States will have a gross domestic product five times larger than ours-and armed forces five times more powerful. Our fate, in short, is to be swamped.

There’s only one minor clarification I wish to make. Cohen’s scenario will not happen in our lifetime. It won’t even happen this century. The homogenization of the world economy, like the Age of Aquarius, is further away than any of us can imagine.

Why? History absolutely refuses to travel in straight lines. For instance, the political conditions that created globalization–the removal of barriers to international commerce after the failure of the Soviet Union–will inevitably go back up again. Check out “progress” on the Doha Round if you want to understand why the days of free trade across the globe could be coming to an end. Moreover, the authoritarian states are banding together around Russia and China, and this is bound to cause extreme difficulties for the American-led international system. Remember that the second most optimistic period in history–a time when many thought trade and globalization would usher in a period of permanent peace–was followed by the First World War, the most destructive conflict up until that time.

Even in the absence of intercontinental warfare, the resource-rich nations of the developing world will probably falter. If there is any common reason why none of Iran, Venezuela, or Saudi Arabia will sit on the Security Council, it is because a country’s form of government is critical to national success. Each of these states is struggling to adjust to a modernizing world where the tone is generally set by the capitalist democracies. In the last few months as China’s one-party state has been rocked by one internal crisis after another, talk of “the Chinese century” has largely disappeared from international discourse.

So Cohen may look brilliant today, but let’s put all this talk about the end of Western dominance into context. Yes, it is unlikely that we will ever be as powerful in relative terms as we were in the days immediately following World War II, but we have to remember that all of the periods of American decline since then were followed by extraordinary recoveries. And if there is anything that sets America apart from the rest of the world, it is the ability to renew itself. Despite all the troubles that lie ahead, we are living in the Second American Century.

“For a while the world was flat,” writes Roger Cohen in today’s New York Times. “Now it’s upside down.” His thesis is simple: today, the developed world depends on the developing one. Those fortunate enough to live in the latter control the minerals, and now they have cash. They’re buying up American and European companies with theirs, now larger than ours. So sorry, Tom Friedman, your flat-world paradigm, once so popular, is simply out of date.

We should forgive Cohen for taking every trend today and assuming they will continue indefinitely. After all, he’s following in the footsteps of extremely distinguished company, Fareed Zakaria, for instance. The title of Zakaria’s most recent book, The Post-American World, tells you all you need to know about the direction of geopolitical thinking.

With economic might comes power. Therefore, we’ll just have to expand the G-8 to include China, India, Brazil, and others. And the Security Council? As Cohen tells us this morning, “The 21st century can’t be handled with 20th-century institutions.” Therefore, the UN’s power center will, of course, have to be enlarged to reflect our new multipolar international system. Cohen even suggests that the West will need all the charity it can get from the upstarts.

So will the next American President have to view the world while standing on his head, as Cohen suggests? When economic development has evenly spread wealth from nation to nation, it will be impossible for a country with just 4.6 percent of global population–that’s the United States, by the way–to produce 25.5 percent of the world’s economic output, as it did in 2007. Eventually, a China five times more populous than the United States will have a gross domestic product five times larger than ours-and armed forces five times more powerful. Our fate, in short, is to be swamped.

There’s only one minor clarification I wish to make. Cohen’s scenario will not happen in our lifetime. It won’t even happen this century. The homogenization of the world economy, like the Age of Aquarius, is further away than any of us can imagine.

Why? History absolutely refuses to travel in straight lines. For instance, the political conditions that created globalization–the removal of barriers to international commerce after the failure of the Soviet Union–will inevitably go back up again. Check out “progress” on the Doha Round if you want to understand why the days of free trade across the globe could be coming to an end. Moreover, the authoritarian states are banding together around Russia and China, and this is bound to cause extreme difficulties for the American-led international system. Remember that the second most optimistic period in history–a time when many thought trade and globalization would usher in a period of permanent peace–was followed by the First World War, the most destructive conflict up until that time.

Even in the absence of intercontinental warfare, the resource-rich nations of the developing world will probably falter. If there is any common reason why none of Iran, Venezuela, or Saudi Arabia will sit on the Security Council, it is because a country’s form of government is critical to national success. Each of these states is struggling to adjust to a modernizing world where the tone is generally set by the capitalist democracies. In the last few months as China’s one-party state has been rocked by one internal crisis after another, talk of “the Chinese century” has largely disappeared from international discourse.

So Cohen may look brilliant today, but let’s put all this talk about the end of Western dominance into context. Yes, it is unlikely that we will ever be as powerful in relative terms as we were in the days immediately following World War II, but we have to remember that all of the periods of American decline since then were followed by extraordinary recoveries. And if there is anything that sets America apart from the rest of the world, it is the ability to renew itself. Despite all the troubles that lie ahead, we are living in the Second American Century.

Read Less

Gates in Munich

I just got back from the Munich Security Conference, an annual meeting of defense officials and policy wonks from both sides of the Atlantic. This year’s meeting lacked the drama of last year, when Vladimir Putin delivered a blistering anti-Western harangue. This year, senior Russian representative Sergey Ivanov, the first deputy prime minister, struck a more low-key note in his address. Instead of delivering threats, he mostly bragged about how rich Russia has become (“during the last 9 years the gross domestic product in Russia has increased by 80 per cent”), though even this mainly economic address carried an implicit geopolitical message—that the West would have to accommodate a newly powerful Russia.

But it is impossible for Russian officials at an international gathering to remain on their best behavior for long—especially when their supreme leader is so determined to foment conflict between Russia and the West in order to justify the rule of an increasingly repressive Kremlin clique. Thus the best exchange occurred when Aleksey Ostrovsky, chairman of the Duma’s Foreign Affairs Committee, put the following “question”—more like a challenge—to Defense Secretary Bob Gates:

At present the entire world faces the threat of terrorism which emanates primarily from Al Qaeda, the terrorist organization. Don’t you think that in the first place this organization for its appearance and the serious threat of terrorism we witness today, it is the fault of the leadership of your country and of your security services in the 1970’s and the 80’s of the last century, when for American money, with the active political support the Afghan mujahedin were fighting the Soviet troops who tried to support peace and order in that country. And after that when the Soviet troops left, for all intents and purposes, people who have been created by you were idle.

It almost sounds as if Ostrovsky has been reading Noam Chomsky. He’s repeating, after all, a favorite talking point of the Western left—that Al Qaeda is an American creation. He does however add a uniquely Russian spin with his defense of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which he claims was designed “to support peace and order in that country.”

Gates is more mild-mannered than his predecessor, Don Rumsfeld, but he did not back down from this ludicrous challenge. His answer is worth quoting because it was an effective refutation of a canard that has gotten widespread support:

Well, with respect to the first question and the responsibility of the United States for a revived variety of ills, it reminded me of my old days in the CIA when people thought that not a leaf fell around the world without CIA knowing about it or being responsible for it. With respect to the threat from Al Qaeda and the notion that it is the fault of the U.S., I think we have a bit of a chicken and egg problem here. My own view is the threat from Al Qaeda began with the Soviet invasion of a sovereign state in December 1979, a state that up to that point had not represented a threat to anybody in the world, except to a certain extent its own people because of its weakness and poverty. It was the Soviet invasion that in fact created the holy warriors, the mujahedin, determined to take on the Soviet military. The United States does not shrink from responsibility for providing them with the tools and the weapons and whatever they needed in order to expel a foreign invader. That same kind of religious fervor that helped create the mujahedin and helped expel the Soviet Union in subsequent years was distorted and certain extremists among the mujahedin became stronger, and we have the problem we have. So I would say if the United States, if we bear a particular responsibility for the role of the mujahedin and Al Qaeda growing up in Afghanistan, it had more to do with our abandonment with the country in 1989 rather than our assistance to it in 1979. And I think that most Americans think that we erred in turning our backs on Afghanistan after the Soviets left.

Good job, Mr. Secretary!

I just got back from the Munich Security Conference, an annual meeting of defense officials and policy wonks from both sides of the Atlantic. This year’s meeting lacked the drama of last year, when Vladimir Putin delivered a blistering anti-Western harangue. This year, senior Russian representative Sergey Ivanov, the first deputy prime minister, struck a more low-key note in his address. Instead of delivering threats, he mostly bragged about how rich Russia has become (“during the last 9 years the gross domestic product in Russia has increased by 80 per cent”), though even this mainly economic address carried an implicit geopolitical message—that the West would have to accommodate a newly powerful Russia.

But it is impossible for Russian officials at an international gathering to remain on their best behavior for long—especially when their supreme leader is so determined to foment conflict between Russia and the West in order to justify the rule of an increasingly repressive Kremlin clique. Thus the best exchange occurred when Aleksey Ostrovsky, chairman of the Duma’s Foreign Affairs Committee, put the following “question”—more like a challenge—to Defense Secretary Bob Gates:

At present the entire world faces the threat of terrorism which emanates primarily from Al Qaeda, the terrorist organization. Don’t you think that in the first place this organization for its appearance and the serious threat of terrorism we witness today, it is the fault of the leadership of your country and of your security services in the 1970’s and the 80’s of the last century, when for American money, with the active political support the Afghan mujahedin were fighting the Soviet troops who tried to support peace and order in that country. And after that when the Soviet troops left, for all intents and purposes, people who have been created by you were idle.

It almost sounds as if Ostrovsky has been reading Noam Chomsky. He’s repeating, after all, a favorite talking point of the Western left—that Al Qaeda is an American creation. He does however add a uniquely Russian spin with his defense of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which he claims was designed “to support peace and order in that country.”

Gates is more mild-mannered than his predecessor, Don Rumsfeld, but he did not back down from this ludicrous challenge. His answer is worth quoting because it was an effective refutation of a canard that has gotten widespread support:

Well, with respect to the first question and the responsibility of the United States for a revived variety of ills, it reminded me of my old days in the CIA when people thought that not a leaf fell around the world without CIA knowing about it or being responsible for it. With respect to the threat from Al Qaeda and the notion that it is the fault of the U.S., I think we have a bit of a chicken and egg problem here. My own view is the threat from Al Qaeda began with the Soviet invasion of a sovereign state in December 1979, a state that up to that point had not represented a threat to anybody in the world, except to a certain extent its own people because of its weakness and poverty. It was the Soviet invasion that in fact created the holy warriors, the mujahedin, determined to take on the Soviet military. The United States does not shrink from responsibility for providing them with the tools and the weapons and whatever they needed in order to expel a foreign invader. That same kind of religious fervor that helped create the mujahedin and helped expel the Soviet Union in subsequent years was distorted and certain extremists among the mujahedin became stronger, and we have the problem we have. So I would say if the United States, if we bear a particular responsibility for the role of the mujahedin and Al Qaeda growing up in Afghanistan, it had more to do with our abandonment with the country in 1989 rather than our assistance to it in 1979. And I think that most Americans think that we erred in turning our backs on Afghanistan after the Soviets left.

Good job, Mr. Secretary!

Read Less

Dept. of Walking and Chewing Gum

President Bush has reportedly cancelled his September 5 meeting with leaders of ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The conclave was to mark the 30th anniversary of the opening official ties between the United States and this grouping of ten Asian nations. The cancellation comes a personal blow to Lee Hsien Loong, Singapore’s prime minister, who arranged Bush’s attendance. (The island republic is a staunch American ally, one of the few remaining ones in the region.)

The President’s slight, which is keenly felt in Asia, was made worse by news that Condoleezza Rice will probably skip an ASEAN ministerial meeting next month. It is reported that the President and the secretary of state are staying close to home because of Iraq.

Arguments about whether we should stay in Iraq almost always focus on democratization, terrorism, and American resolve. Unless the subject is Afghanistan, we rarely talk about how this conflict is diverting the Bush administration’s attention from other parts of the planet. Even if the United States can prevail in Iraq, the President’s legacy will be clouded if he loses Asia to China. Whatever happens in the future, East Asia and the subcontinent now contain more than half the world’s population. In this area we find six of the world’s ten most populous states—including the largest democracy, the largest autocracy, and the largest Muslim society—and most of its vital economies, which account for almost a quarter of global gross domestic product.

If Washington cannot conduct an Asian and an Iraq policy at the same time—and so far the signs of its being able to do so are not good—we may need to broaden the definition of “American resolve” to include maintaining our presence in the far east.

President Bush has reportedly cancelled his September 5 meeting with leaders of ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The conclave was to mark the 30th anniversary of the opening official ties between the United States and this grouping of ten Asian nations. The cancellation comes a personal blow to Lee Hsien Loong, Singapore’s prime minister, who arranged Bush’s attendance. (The island republic is a staunch American ally, one of the few remaining ones in the region.)

The President’s slight, which is keenly felt in Asia, was made worse by news that Condoleezza Rice will probably skip an ASEAN ministerial meeting next month. It is reported that the President and the secretary of state are staying close to home because of Iraq.

Arguments about whether we should stay in Iraq almost always focus on democratization, terrorism, and American resolve. Unless the subject is Afghanistan, we rarely talk about how this conflict is diverting the Bush administration’s attention from other parts of the planet. Even if the United States can prevail in Iraq, the President’s legacy will be clouded if he loses Asia to China. Whatever happens in the future, East Asia and the subcontinent now contain more than half the world’s population. In this area we find six of the world’s ten most populous states—including the largest democracy, the largest autocracy, and the largest Muslim society—and most of its vital economies, which account for almost a quarter of global gross domestic product.

If Washington cannot conduct an Asian and an Iraq policy at the same time—and so far the signs of its being able to do so are not good—we may need to broaden the definition of “American resolve” to include maintaining our presence in the far east.

Read Less




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