Commentary Magazine


Topic: the American Interest

Two Articles Worth Reading

The indispensable Walter Russell Mead over at the American Interest has a perceptive essay on the changing politics of climate change.

I’d suggest pairing it with an article in the Telegraph about a new report by the International Monetary Fund called “Navigating the Fiscal Challenges Ahead” (h/t Powerline). If you’re marooned on a desert island this weekend with time on your hands, here’s the complete report.

Both the ordinary people and the markets have woken up to the fact that many of the world’s biggest economies have, courtesy of their politicians, dug themselves into a deep hole and the next few years will have to be spent on climbing out of it or face fiscal disaster. That means no money for saving the planet from a global-warming catastrophe that fewer and fewer people believe in anyway. Al Gore will just have to cry his eyes out in his new 10,000-square-foot house (with nine bathrooms) overlooking the Pacific.

As Edmund Conway, the economics editor of the Telegraph, explains,

the idea behind the [IMF] document is to set out how much different countries around the world need to cut their deficits by in the next few years, and the bottom line is it’s going to be big and hard (ie 8.7pc of GDP in deficit cuts around the world, which works out at, gulp, about $4 trillion).

But the really interesting stuff is the detail, and what leaps out again and again is how much of a hill the U.S. has to climb. Exhibit A is the fact that under the Obama administration’s current fiscal plans, the national debt in the U.S. (on a gross basis) will climb to above 100 percent of GDP by 2015 — a far steeper increase than almost any other country.

Not the least of the problems for the United States is that the average maturity of federal securities is only 4.4 years. In Britain it’s 12.8 years and in Greece, 7.4 years. That means that half of all federal securities will need to be rolled over by mid-2014. If the market begins to lose faith in the U.S., the interest rates demanded by the market will soar and debt service will begin to crowd out other federal expenses. The IMF calculates that the United States will have to cut its structural debt by 12 percent of GDP over the next ten years to get back on track. That’s higher than any other country (Greece: 9 percent) except Japan.

No wonder the voters are in an unforgiving mood.

The indispensable Walter Russell Mead over at the American Interest has a perceptive essay on the changing politics of climate change.

I’d suggest pairing it with an article in the Telegraph about a new report by the International Monetary Fund called “Navigating the Fiscal Challenges Ahead” (h/t Powerline). If you’re marooned on a desert island this weekend with time on your hands, here’s the complete report.

Both the ordinary people and the markets have woken up to the fact that many of the world’s biggest economies have, courtesy of their politicians, dug themselves into a deep hole and the next few years will have to be spent on climbing out of it or face fiscal disaster. That means no money for saving the planet from a global-warming catastrophe that fewer and fewer people believe in anyway. Al Gore will just have to cry his eyes out in his new 10,000-square-foot house (with nine bathrooms) overlooking the Pacific.

As Edmund Conway, the economics editor of the Telegraph, explains,

the idea behind the [IMF] document is to set out how much different countries around the world need to cut their deficits by in the next few years, and the bottom line is it’s going to be big and hard (ie 8.7pc of GDP in deficit cuts around the world, which works out at, gulp, about $4 trillion).

But the really interesting stuff is the detail, and what leaps out again and again is how much of a hill the U.S. has to climb. Exhibit A is the fact that under the Obama administration’s current fiscal plans, the national debt in the U.S. (on a gross basis) will climb to above 100 percent of GDP by 2015 — a far steeper increase than almost any other country.

Not the least of the problems for the United States is that the average maturity of federal securities is only 4.4 years. In Britain it’s 12.8 years and in Greece, 7.4 years. That means that half of all federal securities will need to be rolled over by mid-2014. If the market begins to lose faith in the U.S., the interest rates demanded by the market will soar and debt service will begin to crowd out other federal expenses. The IMF calculates that the United States will have to cut its structural debt by 12 percent of GDP over the next ten years to get back on track. That’s higher than any other country (Greece: 9 percent) except Japan.

No wonder the voters are in an unforgiving mood.

Read Less

A Blog Post I Wish I’d Written

On hearing a bon mot from someone, Oscar Wilde responded, “I wish I’d said that.”

“You will, Oscar, you will,” replied his friend James McNeill Whistler.

I know what he meant. I’ve just finished reading Walter Russell Mead’s blog post over at the American Interest on the Tea Party movement. It’s a brilliant piece of work and, indeed, “I wish I’d said that.”

Mead puts the movement firmly in the context of American history, demonstrating the similarity of this movement with previous populist movements in the Jacksonian, Progressive, and New Deal eras. All those movements changed the country profoundly and were anti-elitist in nature. As Mead explains,

The Tea Party movement is the latest upsurge of an American populism that has sometimes sided with the left and sometimes with the right, but which over and over again has upended American elites, restructured our society and forced through the deep political, cultural and institutional changes that from time to time the country needs and which the ruling elites cannot or will not deliver.

While it is way too early to tell how powerful the Tea Party movement will prove to be, it is certainly anti-elitist to the core. But this time, unlike in Jackson’s and Roosevelt’s days, the elite doesn’t really recognize itself as being an elite. They think they are doing the people’s work, even if the people are too stupid to know what’s good for them. Like Mead, I think those elites are soon to find out what the word democracy really means.

As Mead points out, the movement does not yet have its Jackson, Roosevelt, or Reagan to lead and personify it, making it still somewhat inchoate. But great movements make great leaders at least as often as the other way around.

If you want a beautiful example of the power of history to explicate the present, I recommend this brief and profound essay by Walter Russell Mead.

On hearing a bon mot from someone, Oscar Wilde responded, “I wish I’d said that.”

“You will, Oscar, you will,” replied his friend James McNeill Whistler.

I know what he meant. I’ve just finished reading Walter Russell Mead’s blog post over at the American Interest on the Tea Party movement. It’s a brilliant piece of work and, indeed, “I wish I’d said that.”

Mead puts the movement firmly in the context of American history, demonstrating the similarity of this movement with previous populist movements in the Jacksonian, Progressive, and New Deal eras. All those movements changed the country profoundly and were anti-elitist in nature. As Mead explains,

The Tea Party movement is the latest upsurge of an American populism that has sometimes sided with the left and sometimes with the right, but which over and over again has upended American elites, restructured our society and forced through the deep political, cultural and institutional changes that from time to time the country needs and which the ruling elites cannot or will not deliver.

While it is way too early to tell how powerful the Tea Party movement will prove to be, it is certainly anti-elitist to the core. But this time, unlike in Jackson’s and Roosevelt’s days, the elite doesn’t really recognize itself as being an elite. They think they are doing the people’s work, even if the people are too stupid to know what’s good for them. Like Mead, I think those elites are soon to find out what the word democracy really means.

As Mead points out, the movement does not yet have its Jackson, Roosevelt, or Reagan to lead and personify it, making it still somewhat inchoate. But great movements make great leaders at least as often as the other way around.

If you want a beautiful example of the power of history to explicate the present, I recommend this brief and profound essay by Walter Russell Mead.

Read Less




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