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Tags: Debt

Scalise: No Government Shutdown



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The federal government will not run out of money until October 1, but new House majority whip Steve Scalise (R., La.) has already announced Republicans’ intention to surrender to President Obama and the Democrats on the issue of rising debt and continuous deficit spending.

Scalise, described by host Chris Wallace as a “tea-party favorite,” announced on Fox News Sunday that the GOP will not play spending hardball this fall, instead boasting that House Republicans have actually been more eager than the Democratic-controlled Senate to pass spending bills.

“The government runs out of money on October 1,” Wallace asked Scalise. “Will you support a continuing resolution to keep the government going at current levels; or are you willing, in an effort to cut spending, to risk another government shutdown?”

“We’re going to keep the government running at current levels,” Scalise responded. “In fact, we’ve passed a majority of the spending bills out of the House already. Not one of them’s been taken up by the Senate. But look, shouldn’t the Senate at least be able to agree a bill to fund our troops? That’s a bill that got over a hundred Democratic votes when it passed out of the House.”

“But no government shutdown?” Wallace asked.

“No.”

The federal government experienced a partial shutdown of non-essential services in October 2013, which had no negative impact on the well-being of the vast majority of Americans and did not even hurt the finances of federal employees, who were all paid in full for the time they were (officially) not working. Nevertheless, the shutdown was given non-stop media coverage, which frightened conservatives. Republicans remain extremely sensitive to the mainstream media’s narrative that previous shutdowns and “fiscal cliff”–style showdowns severely damaged the GOP’s election prospects, though there is virtually no evidence that previous shutdowns damaged the economy and there seems to have been no polling in the last nine months to indicate whether voters even remember the 2013 shutdown, let alone consider it a front-burner issue.

Although the vocabulary of budgeting includes terms such as “continuing” and “current levels,” federal budgets are based on baseline budgeting, which assumes regular increases in spending and treats any reduction to the rate at which spending increases as a “cut.”

Tags: Deficit , Debt Ceiling , National Debt , Debt , Government Shutdown , Sunday Shows July 27 2014

Why the Debt Won’t — and Shouldn’t! — Go Away as a Campaign Issue



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A few posts below, you’ll see that Republican representative Steve Daines of Montana, running for Senate, pledges he’s “fighting for more jobs and less government,” and he touts his bill that says if members of Congress can’t balance the budget, they won’t get paid.

On the trail in the coming year, incumbent Democrats will probably brag, “we’ve cut the deficit in half!” hoping that enough people mix up the terms “deficit” and “debt” in their heads. Deficit measures how much more we spend than we take in each year; debt represents everything the U.S. government owes, and that sum goes up, year in, year out. We had a surplus during the late-1990s dot-com boom, eliminating the deficit, but the debt still increased a bit each year, because the excess funds were “invested in interest-bearing securities backed by the full faith and credit of the United States” as required by law. (More on this here.)

The new numbers:

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects the 2014 ”baseline” federal budget deficit will be $514 billion, $166 billion lower than in 2013 ($680 billion). If the 2014 deficit projection is achieved, it would mark the fifth straight year of deficit declines since the deficit reached $1.4 trillion in 2009.

Democrats will hope that reducing the federal government’s annual deficit from the worst-ever to sixth-worst-ever counts as a major achievement in the electorate’s mind.

If Republicans want to remind the electorate of the consequences of ever-increasing debt on the here and now, perhaps they can emphasize the amount of money the federal government pays in interest on that debt:

In fiscal 2013, which ended Sept. 30, net interest payments on the debt totaled $222.75 billion, or 6.23% of all federal outlays. (The government paid out an estimated $420.6 billion in interest, but that included interest credited to Social Security and other government trust funds, as well as a relatively small amount of offsetting investment income.)

That’s $223 billion that could have been spent on anything else the federal government does: schools, fighter jets, veterans’ benefits, border security, Interstate highway repair, medical research. Or it could have been returned to taxpayers! For perspective, $223 billion represented the total sum of all individual contributions to charity in the United States in 2012. You could build 17 new aircraft carriers with that sum. Every penny the U.S. pays in interest on the debt is a penny not spent on actual, tangible stuff that even the lowest of low-information voters appreciates.

The amount the federal government will spend on interest on the debt will look much worse if interest rates go up. Here’s what the CBO projected on that front:

We pay for our borrowing, which is why we have to spend less.

Tags: Debt , Deficit , Steve Daines , Congressional Republicans , Congressional Democrats

Fluff Stories Conveniently Distract from the Government Failures Around Us



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From today’s Morning Jolt

Forget the Rest of the World; President Personally Calls Some Athlete You Never Heard Of Before

Hey, remember North Korea? They’re detaining a U.S. citizen.

Unless the Syrian rebels figured out some way to fake the presence of Sarin in the bloodstream of some volunteers, the Syrian regime used chemical weapons and crossed the red line… and no one can come up with a way to demonstrate the consequences of crossing that line.

Oh, and the guys we may soon intervene to help, the Syrian rebels, may have just tried to shoot down a Russian airliner.

Remember Boston?

But U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) told ABC News yesterday that the FBI is also looking into “persons of interest” in the U.S. possibly linked to the Boston bombings.

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said he’s spoken with the FBI about the probe into possible trainers the brothers had.

“Are they overseas in the Chechen region or are they in the United States?” he said. “In my conversations with the FBI, that’s the big question. They’ve casted a wide net both overseas and in the United States to find out where this person is. But I think the experts all agree that there is someone who did train these two individuals.”

Remember Boston, again?

State lawmakers have launched an investigation into whether the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings improperly received public benefits.

Sources who have seen the 500 pages of documents sent to the House Committee on Post Audit and Oversight told News Center 5’s Janet Wu that the Tsarnaev family — including the parents of the two bombing suspects, the two suspects themselves, their sisters, the widow of the suspect killed and their child — received “every conceivable public benefit available out there.”

Remember the economy?

We’re still stuck in the muck.

That’s the conclusion to draw from the new report on gross domestic product. The U.S. economy grew at a 2.5 percent annual rate in the first three months of the year, which was an improvement from the weak 0.4 percent of the final months of 2012… We’re muddling along at basically the same pace we’ve been at for nearly four straight years of this dismal recovery, with growth too slow to make up the lost economic ground from the 2008-2009 recession.”

National debt? $ 16,756,644,393,707.05,as of Friday. (That’s $16.7 trillion.)

Remember Obamacare?

In total, it appears that there will be 30 million to 40 million people damaged in some fashion by the Affordable Care Act—more than one in 10 Americans. When that reality becomes clearer, the law is going to start losing its friends in the media, who are inclined to support the president and his initiatives. We’ll hear about innocent victims who saw their premiums skyrocket, who were barred from seeing their usual doctor, who had their hours cut or lost their insurance entirely—all thanks to the faceless bureaucracy administering a federal law.

With all of this going on, guess what the top story was on Memeorandum, measuring what bloggers and news sites are writing about?

An NBA player coming out of the closet as gay. Wait, there’s more:

A groundbreaking pronouncement from NBA veteran Jason Collins — “I’m gay” — reverberated Monday through Washington, generating accolades from lawmakers on Twitter and a supportive phone call from President Barack Obama.

Hours after Collins disclosed his sexuality in an online article, Obama reached out by phone, expressing his support and telling Collins he was impressed by his courage, the White House said.

Collins, 34, becomes the first active player in one of four major U.S. professional sports leagues to come out as gay. He has played for six teams in 12 seasons, including this past season with the Washington Wizards, and is now a free agent.

This president can’t get squat done about North Korea or Syria, and so he doesn’t want us to focus on those far-off lands. His policies have done diddlysquat for most of the long-term unemployed. He’s not interested in throwing people off public assistance, even when they don’t deserve it, and he wants to insist that every terror attack is a one-time occurrence, instead of connected bits of an international ideological movement dedicated to killing Americans. Obamacare’s a mess, and he’s hoping you don’t notice. The debt continues to increase, even with the alleged horrors of sequestration.

“God, gays and guns.” That’s what he’s got left. And that’s what he hopes stays on your mind, for as many days between now and November 2014 as possible.

Tags: North Korea , Syria , Economy , Debt , Barack Obama , Boston Marathon Bombing , Obamacare

How Democrats Need You to Misunderstand ‘Deficit’ and ‘Debt’



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Apparently the Democrats’ new dodge on the runaway national debt is to claim that the deficit is going down.

This argument relies on the public not knowing the difference between the deficit and the debt.

The deficit is a one-year figure– how much money we spent in the past year, after we had spent every last cent that came in through taxes, fees, fines, and other payments to the government. Last year it was $1.1 trillion; this year we’re supposed to be breaking out the party hats because it might be “only” $900 billion or so.

The debt is the total amount we owe, based on all of the annual deficits adding up, year after year. That figure is $16.7 trillion – $16,708,225,460,175.14, if you want the precise figure.

Looking at the inflation-adjusted numbers for our annual deficit, year by year . . . $500 billion used to be considered a really big annual deficit. We hit that in 2004; unadjusted for inflation, it came in at $413 billion. Back in 1991, the year’s deficit came in at $453 billion. So a half a trillion was the pre-Obama all-time high.

Now look at the Obama era:

2009: $1.5 trillion

2010: $1.36 trillion

2011: $1.32 trillion

2012: $1.1 trillion

In other words, the best Obama has done is twice as bad as it’s ever been.

Sure, some of this is because tax payments are down as the Great Recession stretches on and on… but a lot of it is because the federal government went on a spending spree starting with TARP and the stimulus, a spree that has only slowed slightly.

But Sen. Dick Durbin and other Democrats will continue to cry, “The deficit is going down, all is well! All is well!”

Tags: Debt , Deficit , Democrats

How the Sequester Has Impacted Our Debt Accumulation



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Great news, everyone! Since the sequester kicked in, the national debt has only increased by $23 billion!

According to the Department of the Treasury, the total public debt outstanding has increased by $23,574,161,895.69 since March 1.

We’re now at $16.6 trillion.

Believe it or not, that’s actually a genuine improvement. For the preceding five days, February 23 through 28, the total debt increased by $78 billion.

To be exact, $78,248,379,369.81.

Tags: Debt , Sequester

Selling Grown-Up Policies to an Adolescent-Minded Electorate



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This morning, I’ll spotlight two sections from today’s Morning Jolt. First, thoughts on what to do when it seems like the electorate just won’t listen to us, and isn’t interested in the solutions we know work best:

The Difficulty of Selling Grown-Up Policies to an Adolescent-Minded Electorate

There’s a lot of wisdom in what Drew M. writes over at Ace of Spades:

How many people who voted for Mitt Romney or actual conservatives for Senate and the House want their Social Security and Medicare left untouched? How many of them give lip service to a flat tax proposal but would freak if their various tax credits and deductions were eliminated? How many of them talk a good game about getting rid of the Department of Education but would freak if aid to their kid’s district were cut?

Of course Republicans are going to respond to these people. But these people who support all sorts of government spending while talking about “the damn government” and taxes are the problem.

It’s simply too much to expect a political party to stand up to voters and say, “no”. Politics is a market and voters have become consumers. If the GOP as a whole or an individual candidate won’t give the customer what they want, they will find someone else to do business with. Consumers don’t care about the health of the places they shop, they care that they get what they want. If Brand A doesn’t have it but Brand B does, who cares so long as their needs are met.

What America needs is a movement that will not just tell people “no” but also convince them to stop being a consumer of government and look at themselves as they were meant to . . . an owner of the government. Once you own something your value set shifts. Owners care about efficiency, quality and the long term survival of the organization. Owners invest not simply take out. No political party is set up to do this. It’s irrational for someone selling a product to ask their customers to take on the responsibilities of ownership. Selling is about making things easier, ownership is about hard work.

I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of days. A slim majority of the voting public doesn’t want what we’re selling, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the solutions we’re offering are wrong. That slim majority of the voting public may think they’re wrong, but a large portion of their assessment is driven by a dedication to ignoring the problems that we want addressed.

We’re attempting to sell them policies of limited or reduced spending, but many Americans don’t really see why spending has to be cut, or why the particular spending that they like has to be cut. This doesn’t make our concerns any less valid; it just means that a large swath of the voting public would like to pretend that adding roughly a trillion to the debt each year is not that big a deal.

We’re attempting to sell them various efforts at entitlement reform, but Americans again would prefer to believe the problem isn’t that bad and can be taken care of later. We’re right, and they’re wrong, but it’s particularly difficult to persuade someone to undertake a painful remedy when they’re not convinced that the problem exists.

I think you can argue that what constitutes “socially conservative policies” has gotten fuzzy beyond opposition to abortion and gay marriage. But broadly speaking, conservatives have wanted to see strong families, children in stable families, husbands and wives trying to work it out through tough times, making sure every child has a mom and a dad who loves them and hopefully a strong network of support from the rest of the family and the community beyond. We’re attempting to sell the public a lifestyle of responsibility and putting others’ needs first — particularly children’s needs first — and it cuts against a culture of instant gratification and irresponsibility and perpetual adolescence.

We’re (in part) attempting to sell them a foreign policy/national security stance that is variously strong/hawkish/interventionist, when they’re exhausted from Iraq and Afghanistan and feeling pretty isolationist. Now, I’m sure within our own ranks we have a lot of folks who are seeing the appeal of isolationism right now.

So let’s take Syria for example. I know the place is a pit of vipers, and that we’re not even sure if there are many folks in the Syrian resistance who count as good guys. But when the U.S. doesn’t intervene, or we use the Obama administration’s approach of sorta-kinda intervention, giving the resistance some sorts of aid but not others, well . . . we see what we get: 60,000 deaths so far, perhaps 100,000 deaths in the year to come, millions of refugees, violence spilling into neighboring countries, and the risk of the country collapsing into anarchic bands of warlords and bands struggling to control the rubble.

I can hear the argument, “we can’t save everybody, it’s the Syrians’ issue to work out, it’s not our problem.” But how many deaths does it take before it becomes our problem? Does anybody feel confident that at no point this won’t become a major problem to our interests? How about if Assad starts tossing around chemical weapons? I’m not saying we have to invade tomorrow, but the administration’s policy is by and large, leave the place alone and hope for the best.

The opposition’s policies lead to crushing debt, sluggish and anemic economic growth, miserable lives of dependency upon government, and a chaotic world beyond our borders. They can coast along on luck for a while – help for the economy from a fracking boom they haven’t managed to regulate to death yet, our enemies preferring low-level antagonism to direct confrontation – but sooner or later reality gets a vote, and it gets the biggest vote. The problem is that a lot of damage can be done while we wait for the electorate to start absorbing the lessons from the School of Hard Knocks.

Tags: Barack Obama , Debt , Syria

A Long Cliff-mas Break Comes to an End



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The first Morning Jolt of 2013:

Welcome back! I don’t know about you, but this holiday season seemed to stretch on forever — a school vacation that kept the kids at home for eleven days, an awful cold that kept getting passed around our family, a lost cell phone, a logistical and paperwork nightmare to replace the cell phone, and a steady stream of mostly miserable weather. On the bright side, I didn’t have to deal with covering the fiscal-cliff negotiations, so God bless Bob Costa.

Depress-equestration

The fiscal cliff drama is over — for now:

After exhaustive negotiations that strained the country’s patience, the House approved a bill to avert the dreaded fiscal cliff, staving off widespread tax increases and deep spending cuts.

In the 257-167 vote late Tuesday, 172 Democrats and 85 Republicans favored the bill; 16 Democrats and 151 Republicans opposed it…

While the package provides some short-term certainty, it leaves a range of big issues unaddressed.

It doesn’t mention the $16.4 trillion debt ceiling that the United States reached Monday.

It also temporarily delays for two months the so-called sequester, a series of automatic cuts in federal spending that would have taken effect Wednesday and reduced the budgets of most agencies and programs by 8% to 10%.

This means that come late February, Congress will have to tackle both those thorny issues.

Yuval Levin: “This deal is projected to yield $620 billion in revenue over a decade — increasing projected federal revenue by about 1.7% over that time. And that’s about it. The Democrats have made the Bush tax rates permanent for 98 percent of the public, which Republicans couldn’t even do when they controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency.”

The righty grassroots expressed a lot of anger, frustration, and dissatisfaction in the past few weeks. Over the past week I saw a lot of comments on Twitter in the vein of, “we have a spending problem! Why won’t Republicans insist we deal with that first!”

Fume at Speaker Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell all you want, but here’s the problem: The chance to gain leverage in these negotiations was on Election Day, and the GOP came up with bubkes that day. Sequestration and the expiration of all of the Bush tax cuts presented an awful status quo to begin with, and there was really no better alternative that would get A) passed in a Senate controlled by Harry Reid and B) signed by President Obama. They don’t want what we want, and we don’t want what they want. And time was on their side in several ways, not least of which was that as of noon Thursday, a new Congress, with even more Democrats, is sworn into office.

There was and is no magic argument, anecdote, policy detail or chart that could change that dynamic. What was worse — or perhaps, if you look at it a certain way, liberating — was that Republicans were and are just about certain to get the blame from most of the public, either for the failure to reach a deal or for the unpopular parts of any deal reached. Some of this is because of the power of the presidential bully pulpit, and some of this reflects people’s enthusiasm for taxing somebody making more money than they do. But a lot of this dynamic is because a large segment of the public just doesn’t pay attention to budget fights and doesn’t want to pay attention to budget fights. So no matter what the numbers actually say, they’re inclined to blame the party they already consider to be the problem.

Allahpundit examines those who wanted the House to vote down the deal passed by the Senate about an hour and a half into the New Year:

It’s worth driving a hard bargain to get something important done, even at the price of a backlash. Just remind me again what “important” goal will be achieved by forcing a new round of negotiations. What sort of spending cuts do you expect to see here? A trillion dollars over 10 years when we’re running trillion-dollar deficits annually? Even if they got Obama to agree to that, why would you believe that future Congresses would allow those cuts to happen down the line? This entire process is an elaborate charade designed to postpone the ultimate reckoning on entitlement reform, and you’re simply not going to wring serious entitlement reform out of the Democrats given the two parties’ current postures. Obama just won reelection; the Democrats expanded their numbers in the House and Senate; entitlement reform remains depressingly unpopular among the public despite attempts to educate them about the role mandatory spending plays in driving the national debt. House Republicans aren’t going to hold out for weeks on end in the futile hope of revamping Medicare against that backdrop while middle-class voters stew over their new, higher tax brackets. Why risk some of the GOP’s small reserve of political capital on a deal that’s only negligibly less terrible than this one? I understand the “let it burn” strategy, to force the public to fully absorb the cost of big government. I don’t understand this one.

The Washington Examiner’s Phil Klein sees the conglomeration as a mix of some modest good and some considerable bad and ugly — but points out that perhaps nothing was uglier than how this mess came to be presented to the public as the best option:

Conservatives believe that higher taxes are a bad thing, that the tax code needs to be dramatically overhauled and that the true driver of long-term debt is out of control spending, particularly on entitlements. For those who thought it was possible to emerge from the “fiscal cliff” showdown without tax increases, with genuine tax reform and with real spending cuts that made fundamental changes to entitlements, this deal is obviously a nonstarter. For those who assumed that President Obama’s reelection and continued Democratic control of the Senate at a time when the nation was facing an automatic $4.5 trillion tax hike would inevitably mean higher taxes without actual tax or entitlement reforms, the deal is less bad.

. . . Beyond the specifics of the deal, the process was awful. Even though lawmakers knew this reality was coming for two years (on the tax side) and a year (on the sequester side), they waited until New Year’s Eve to strike a deal that passed through the Senate at 2 a.m. on New Year’s Day. The public has had no chance to review — let alone understand — the legislation. So much for transparency.

But since you deserve to hear dissenting voices, who loathe the agreement that passed the Senate, here’s Deroy Murdock:

President Obama repeatedly has called for a “balanced approach” to deficit relief and debt reduction. H.R. 8, the bill in question, is less balanced than the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Amazingly, as the Congressional Budget Office calculates, for every $1 that this proposal cuts spending, it hikes taxes by $41! In total, $15 billion in spending cuts are dwarfed by $620 billion in tax increases. Meanwhile, America’s $16.42 trillion national debt roars relentlessly on, since this measure does not even attempt to fill this Grand Canyon of red ink.

And Ben Howe: “My problem with ‘pass whatever as long as taxes don’t go up’ position is that it’s a shining example of the can-kicking that got us here.”

Tags: Barack Obama , Debt , Fiscal Armageddon , Harry Reid , John Boehner , Taxes

It’s Debt and Deficit Week for the Romney Campaign



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The big message for the week from the Romney campaign is the debt and deficit. This morning they pointed out in an e-mail:

On Friday, the Obama administration officially confirmed the FY2012 deficit exceeded $1 trillion for the fourth year in a row:

Trillion-Dollar Deficits On President Obama’s Watch. “The Treasury Department said Friday the deficit for the 2012 budget year totaled $1.1 trillion. . . . Barack Obama’s presidency has now coincided with four straight $1 trillion-plus annual budget deficits — the first in history and an issue in an election campaign that ends in Nov. 6.” (Martin Crutsinger, “US Deficit Tops $1 Trillion For Fourth Year,” The Associated Press, 10/12/12)

“The String Of $1 Trillion-Plus Deficits Has Driven The National Debt Above $16 Trillion.” “The string of $1 trillion-plus deficits has driven the national debt above $16 trillion. The magnitude of that figure has intensified debate in Congress over spending and taxes but little movement toward compromise.” (Martin Crutsinger, “US Deficit Tops $1 Trillion For Fourth Year,” The Associated Press, 10/12/12)

“The Government Borrowed About 31 Cents Of Every Dollar It Spent In 2012.” (Martin Crutsinger, “US Deficit Tops $1 Trillion For Fourth Year,” The Associated Press, 10/12/12)

NBC’s Tom Brokaw, On President Obama’s Deficit Record: “That Deficit Is $1.1 Trillion And It Happened On His Watch. He Is Going To Have To Answer For That.” BROKAW: “I looked at that debate we talked about a moment ago, it was playing last night on C-SPAN, and, now President Obama was saying, ‘Look, we’ve got a deficit of half a trillion dollars. I’m going to get that under control.’ Well, this week, that deficit is $1.1 trillion and it happened on his watch. He is going to have to answer for that.” (NBC’s “Meet The Press,” 10/14/12)

You can see some recent polls from various different pollsters on how highly the deficit and debt ranks on their list of priorities. For better or worse — mostly worse — it’s pretty far down the list of top priorities: 7 percent say it’s the “most important issue” in the NBC News/Washington Post poll, 14 percent in Bloomberg, 4 percent in the CBS News/New York Times poll.

While the economy remains preeminent, a campaign has to talk about more than one issue, and I suspect that to a lot of voters, four straight years of trillion-dollar deficits strike them as a cause of our economic doldrums as much as a result. Every dollar borrowed and spent by government is a dollar not used otherwise by other entities, and it points to an American economy increasingly dependent upon government spending. Depending upon who you ask, corporations are sitting on $1.7 trillion to $5 trillion in cash. Something is preventing those companies from hiring workers, investing in research and development or new facilities, developing new products, etc. At this point, these large corporations don’t see any profitable path for that money.

The argument from the left will be that “greed” spurs these corporations to sit on their cash, when in fact the corporations are being the opposite of reckless; they’re being cautious (some would argue too cautious). Romney has a much easier case to make, that the current policies from the Obama administration contribute to corporations’ skittishness about investment.

Tags: Barack Obama , Debt , Deficits , Mitt Romney

The $16 Trillion Debt Threshold Looms



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Below, our old friend Mark Hemingway wonders if the August jobs report — scheduled to be released September 7, the day after the Democratic National Convention ends — will end up stepping on the message of the Obama-Biden campaign. Obama will offer some hope-and-change, there’s-light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel, the-sun-will-come-out-tomorrow convention speech, and then the next day, the jobs report will probably suggest that unemployment remains unchanged or is even increasing another tenth of a point. Perhaps the president will be “lucky” and the news will be that the top-line number is that the unemployment rate is back down to “merely” 8.2 percent.

But there’s another marker of national economic trouble that may hit during the Democrats’ convention; in recent months, the national debt has increased by about $2.8 billion per day. As of Wednesday, the national debt is $15.96 trillion. Which means there’s an excellent chance that the national debt number will surpass $16 trillion the week of the Democratic convention. (Steve Eggleston thinks we may see it next week; the amount of new debt the U.S. takes on each day varies; some days it even shrinks a bit . . . only to grow larger the next day.)

Either way, the psychological enormity of the $16 trillion number will be a useful rebuke to Obama’s management of the country’s finances, and a useful illustration of the Romney-Ryan argument that our debt is unsustainable.

Oh, and it’s worth remembering that the debt was $10.6 trillion on Inauguration Day. Obama has added $5.33 trillion in new debt in less than four years . . . and we remember what he said about President Bush adding $4 trillion in new debt in an eight-year span . . .

Perhaps then-Senator Obama believed it was “unpatriotic” to add so little new debt.

Tags: Barack Obama , Debt , Democratic Convention

Remembering Obama’s ‘Unpatriotic’ Debt Comments



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What was Barack Obama doing four years ago today? The RNC remembers:

“Four years ago today, then-candidate Obama said it was ‘irresponsible’ and ‘unpatriotic’ to add $4 trillion in debt. But in just one term, President Obama has added a record $5 trillion in new debt, more than any president in American history.”

Maybe he meant that it was “irresponsible” and “unpatriotic” to run up the national debt as slowly as President George W. Bush did . . .

Tags: Barack Obama , Debt

The Extravagant Obamas



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Over on the NRO home page today, I have a look at Obama’s spend-a-holic ways, both personally and nationally

For starters, key demographics of voters perceive President Obama as a man who spends lavishly on his family and himself, according to focus groups convened by the organization Resurgent Republic.

“Our spring focus groups with Obama Independents undecided today primarily focused on the economy, Obama’s job performance, economic fairness arguments, taxes, energy, and health care,” said Luke Frans of Resurgent Republic. “Concern over Obama vacations wasn’t a topic we probed, but that also is somewhat interesting since these comments were unprompted. It didn’t come up in all of our groups, but it was mentioned several times among the working-class groups we conducted. This issue doesn’t carry the same level of concern as the desire for quality, family-supporting jobs. But it’s noteworthy since these comments came from working-class swing voters, not strong Republicans.”

Looking at the personal debt of the Obamas…

The first year of tax returns that the Obamas have disclosed is from 2000, and it shows a joint total income of $240,726. (Adjusted for inflation using the Consumer Price Index, that would be roughly $321,646 today.) Surprisingly, the family’s personal finances in that year were evidently so troubled that Obama had his credit card rejected at the Hertz rent-a-car counter. Obama has told this story several times to emphasize that not long ago, he was “broke.”

In the following three years, the Obamas’ income ranged from about $275,000 in 2001 (roughly $357,000 in today’s dollars) to a low of $207,647 in 2004 (about $253,000 in today’s dollars). In 2004, Obama’s autobiography, Dreams from My Father, became a national bestseller and the couple’s income jumped to $1.7 million.

Michelle Obama, campaigning in Pennsylvania in 2008, shared this surprising anecdote, as described by a Chicago Tribune reporter:

Michelle Obama is pretending to take a call, thumb and pinkie finger up to her face, telling how she and her husband used to get calls from loan debt agents not that long ago.

“I remember those days clearly, sweating to get that mail,” she said. “That collection agency, the loan debt people calling you telling you that you’ve got a few more days before you’re in trouble.”

Tags: Barack Obama , Debt

Romney, RNC Kick Off Debt & Deficit Week



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As mentioned below, this is “Debt and Deficit Week” for the Romney campaign. It’s the rhetorical equivalent of fish in a barrel.

This morning, the Republican National Committee takes batting practice on President Obama’s big promises, bigger disappointments, and biggest deficits.

It is a bit maddening how the debt comes and goes as a resonant issue… but it just grows, bigger and bigger.

As of May 10, the debt is $15.67 trillion. The day President Obama took office, it was $10.62 trillion. So Obama has now run up roughly $5.05 trillion in debt in less than four years. For comparison, the national debt increased $4.9 trillion during the eight-year presidency of George W. Bush.

Remember, on the campaign trail, Obama said that adding $4 trillion in debt over Bush’s eight years was “irresponsible” and “unpatriotic.”

And of course, while discussing his budget plan in 2008, Obama “I am cutting more than I am spending.”

 

But perhaps the best illustration of spending under Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama comes from PoliticalMath.com:

Tags: Barack Obama , Debt , Deficit , RNC

Obama Has Created More Debt than Bush, in Less than Half the Time



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Over the weekend, Steve Eggleston checked the latest numbers from the Treasury Department and credited me for an accurate prediction: that upon the Ides of March, President Obama reached the milestone of raising the debt by $4.93 trillion since taking office.

On that day, the debt’s increase under Obama surpassed the amount it increased during George W. Bush’s two terms in office, $4.89 trillion.

In other words, Obama ran up as much debt in 3.15 years as Bush ran up in eight years.

(You can see my post with the prediction and calculations here.)

Remember, on the campaign trail, Obama said that adding $4 trillion in debt over Bush’s eight years was “irresponsible” and “unpatriotic.”

Oh, and recall that Obama declared in his debate with John McCain that he would enact a net spending cut.

Tags: Barack Obama , Debt , George W. Bush

Obama’s Debt-Reduction Promises Continue to Expire



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This morning, the Congressional Budget Office offers one more indicator of how far Obama has missed his bold promises on reducing the debt, projecting “a $1.1 trillion federal budget deficit for fiscal year 2012 if current laws remain unchanged. Measured as a share of the nation’s output (gross domestic product, or GDP), that shortfall of 7.0 percent is nearly 2 percentage points below the deficit recorded in 2011, but still higher than any deficit between 1947 and 2008.”

You’ll recall Obama promising to “cut the deficit we inherited by half by the end of my first term in office.” (Note that many Americans probably heard that and thought he meant to cut the overall, outstanding, now $15.2 trillion debt, not the annual, a bit-more-than $1 trillion per year deficit.)

But, as you undoubtedly know, Obama hasn’t even come close to cutting the deficit in any significant way in any year of his presidency:

Fiscal 2009 budget deficit (technically the last year under Bush): $1.41 trillion.

2010 budget deficit: $1.3 trillion.

2011 budget deficit: $1.3 trillion.

2012 budget deficit projection: $1.1 trillion.

In the video above, Obama says, “In 2008 alone, we paid $258 billion in interest on debt, one in every ten taxpayer dollars. That is more than three times what we spent on education.”

I’m not quite sure where Obama is getting the $258 billion figure, since Treasury lists significantly larger figures for interest on the debt for each year. But for what it’s worth, the recent payments for each year:

Fiscal 2007: $429 billion.

Fiscal 2008: $451 billion.

Fiscal 2009: $383 billion.

Fiscal 2010: $413 billion.

Fiscal 2011: $454 billion.

We’re up to $148 billion in the first three months of this fiscal year.

Oh, and:

CBO expects that the economy will continue to recover slowly, with real GDP growing by 2.0 percent this year and 1.1 percent next year (as measured by the change from the fourth quarter of the previous calendar year). CBO expects economic activity to quicken after 2013 but to remain below the economy’s potential until 2018.

Tags: Barack Obama , Debt

Bailing Out the Bail-Outers



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Next up on the bailout parade? The FHA, probably:

The Federal Housing Administration, which backs about a third of U.S. home loans, could require billions of dollars in taxpayer aid if the housing market continues to deteriorate, a Republican lawmaker said.

The agency, which provides liquidity by protecting lenders against borrower defaults, could follow in the footsteps of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage companies that were taken into government conservatorship in 2008, Representative Jeb Hensarling said at a House hearing today.

“FHA is a disaster in the making and if we don’t do something it may become the next Fannie and Freddie,” said Hensarling, the fourth-ranking House Republican. “If the FHA was a private financial institution, likely someone would be fired or fined and the institution would find itself in receivership.”

As somebody once put it: FHA is the new sub-prime. And whatever’s below subprime, that’s where it’s headed. Why? Congress is authorizing the FHA to up the size of the mortgages it will back from  $625,500 to $729,750 (which many Republicans rightly opposed), and it’s doing the occasional near-billion-dollar deal, including building a hospital in Trenton, N.J. (Yes, you’re right, FHA stands for Federal Housing Administration, not Federal Hospital Administration. No, I couldn’t begin to guess how they justify that.)

So, a growing portfolio, increasing its risk exposure, expanding its operations: FHA must be flush with cashola, right? As it turns out . . .

Last month, an independent actuarial analysis concluded that the net worth of the fund stood a 50 percent chance of falling to zero or near zero, which could force it to seek taxpayer support for the first time.

Oops.

The Obama administration is going to spend the next week trying to convince you that today’s employment numbers are good news rather than bad news. But keep the housing market in mind when the president tells you the sun is shining on the job market: What coordinates highly with mortgage defaults isn’t being upside-down or seeing a large drop in your home value — what coordinates highly is being unemployed. Housing continues to tank, and it is tanking hardest in those cities that had the worst reversals in the job market. Reports the Financial Times:

The worst house price falls were in those areas scarred the most by high unemployment and foreclosures. Three cities posted new lows since the first reading of the index in 2006 – Las Vegas, Atlanta and Phoenix.

“It is a bit disturbing that we saw three cities post new crisis lows. For the prior three or four months, only Las Vegas was weakening each month,” said Mr Blitzer. “Now Atlanta and Phoenix have fallen to new lows too.”

Hey, Barack Obama voters in Atlanta, Phoenix, and Las Vegas: Are you better off than you were four years ago? I think not.

But conservatives should remember to ask the follow-up question: Hey, constituents of Harry Reid, John McCain, and Saxby Chambliss: Are you better off than you were four years ago? Conservatives are focused, with good reason, on Barack Obama, but it’s Congress that writes the budgets, Congress that writes the regulations, and Congress that is going to have to take the lead in getting the economy back where it needs to be. And it’s Congress that just upped the FHA loan limits, which are now higher than Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s — something John Boehner never should have let see the light of day.

A republic, guys — not a bank, not an insurance company, not a hedge fund: a republic. If we can keep it.

Tags: Debt , Deficits , Fiscal Armageddon , Housing

Is the Fed Pursuing Our Interest or Banks’ Interests?



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The Fed signals that it intends to hitch our national wagon to Europe just as Europe is going over the edge, and the Dow jumps 4 percent. Maybe I’m missing something.

All that Bernanke & Co. did yesterday was to lower the dollar-financing cost for banks in Europe, where inter-bank lending is locking up — for good reason. But Europe’s problem is not its banks and their access to dollars. Europe’s banks are in trouble because European government bonds are in trouble, and European government bonds are in trouble because European governments are in trouble. European governments are in trouble because they spend too much money. The Fed can’t change that, and hasn’t tried.

The question is: What is the Fed thinking? Is it looking out for the United States, or is it looking out for the banks?

The generous interpretation of the Fed’s action goes like this: The Fed hasn’t really risked anything — it’s just making it easier for them to borrow from one another, because a European banking crisis would cause a 2008-style credit crisis worldwide. With U.S. economic indicators improving modestly, the main worry of U.S. policymakers right now is economic events outside our own borders. The Fed can’t work out the Europeans’ finances for them, but it can soften the blow to international credit markets, and thereby do a service to the American economy.

The ungenerous interpretation of the Fed’s action goes like this: Everybody knows the jig is up, but lo these many years after the 2008 crisis, trillions in bailouts later, the banks are still in weak shape, we haven’t really reformed our financial rules, there’s insufficient transparency to really know what kind of shape everybody is in, and the world’s biggest banks just got downgraded on Tuesday. We’re buying time and hoping for the best, and giving all our favorite bankers an extra little margin of error to get their acts together before the big kaboom gets heard ’round the world.

I’m open to either interpretation, and to other interpretations.

But here is what is beyond debate: Europe has not solved its fiscal problems. Europe shows no sign of being on the verge of solving its fiscal problems. Europe shows no sign that it wants to solve its fiscal problems. If Ben Bernanke is having “in for a penny, in for a pound” thoughts, he needs to think again: We do not have the resources to bail out Europe, and nobody has the resources to bail out the United States.

Congress should make it clear — today — that the Fed’s mandate does not extend to bailing out Europe’s banks and Europe’s governments. This is especially true after the secrecy and unaccountability with which it conducted the $7.7 trillion shadow bailout on top of TARP.

Market indicators suggest that investors are expecting interest rates to go lower and money to remain easy — even the ChiComs loosened up a little bit yesterday. And why had Beijing been so tight up until now? Inflation. In a poor country such as China, a little inflation can cause civil unrest. But rich countries aren’t any different, just richer. Years of low interest rates and loose money haven’t solved our fundamental economic problems, but they have created the potential for seriously disruptive inflation, and you’ll notice that gold prices and oil futures have been going up, too. That isn’t a sign of confidence in the dollar or the euro.

One of the big problems at MF Global (as at Lehman Bros.) was off-balance-sheet accounting, using various bookkeeping shenanigans to hide the fact that liabilities were dwarfing assets. The United States government does that both in the obvious sense — pretending that future entitlement liabilities don’t really exist — but in a more subtle sense, too: Wealth isn’t abstract numbers. Wealth is real stuff: food, oil, steel, houses, people performing useful services, etc. You can flood the world’s financial systems with liquidity and create the impression of economic activity, but that does not create one automobile, pair of shoes, or bag of coconuts. You can finesse the economic metrics, but that doesn’t make you any richer.

Government spending in the United States (at the federal, state, and local level) is about 40 percent of GDP, and we’re borrowing 40 cents of every dollar we spend. We’re spending the money now, with promises of future benefits that amount to (literally) more than all the money in the world, and promising to pay off today’s spending out of future taxes, as though the future is not going to want to spend the money on itself. That is not a program for stability. Not in Europe. Not here.

—  Kevin D. Williamson is a deputy managing editor of National Review and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism, published by Regnery. You can buy an autographed copy through National Review Online here.

Tags: Debt , Deficits , Europeans , Fed , Fiscal Armageddon

Of German Bonds and American Prosperity



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The question I am asked most often is: What will it take to get the government to stop running up the debt? A Republican president? A Republican president with a Republican House and a Republican Senate? A Republican president named Ron Paul?

My guess is that none of these is sufficient. The government will continue to borrow money for as long as the market remains willing to lend it money. Which is why Germany’s failed bond auction is of interest. From the Financial Times:

Germany saw one of its poorest debt sales on Wednesday in what was seen as a failed auction by many market participants amid fears the eurozone’s debt crisis is spreading all the way to Berlin.

Marc Ostwald, at Monument, said “I cannot recall a worse auction … If Germany can only manage this sort of participation, what hope for the rest. Yields are at completely the wrong level.”

Germany is suffering because of pan-European problems, not because of specifically German problems. But when Europe’s most solid economy is having a hard time raising money in the marketplace, that should be a wakeup call.

When governments take bonds to market and the market doesn’t want them, governments have two options: One, stop borrowing money. Two, raise interest rates in order to make bonds a more attractive investment. The ability to borrow money is the thing that makes being in politics fun and rewarding, so No. 2 is the go-to option.

In the United States, we have historically low interest rates right now. We’re also monetizing a great deal of debt, which is an invitation to inflation, and governments also raise interest rates to fight inflation. So there is good reason to suspect that interest rates will go up in the future. (No, I’m not guessing when or by how much. If I could forecast that with any accuracy, I’d have Lloyd Blankfein skimming the bubbles off my Moët-filled swimming pool.) But we do have some historical precedents to consider. As recently as June of 1984, interest rates on 30-year Treasury bonds went to 13.44 percent. To do a little thought experiment: What would happen if it suddenly cost Washington 13.44 percent to finance our deficit spending?

At an interest rate of 13.44 percent, it would cost just a little over $2 trillion a year to finance our current $15 trillion or so in debt — not counting future borrowing. Total federal revenue in 2010 was also just over $2 trillion. Which is to say that if financing costs should return to what they have been within recent memory — hardly a historically unprecedented level — then the cost of financing our debt could equal or exceed all federal revenues combined. If you’re in a position necessitating that you borrow money just to pay interest on your current debts, you’re in a pretty weak credit position, and so there will be pressure for interest rates to go even higher. A government isn’t a household, but to use the household comparison: If your income is $5,000 a month and the minimum on your credit cards is $5,500 a month, you’re going to have a hard time getting new loans.

In that situation, we could cut all federal spending beyond debt service to $0.00 and still not be able to pay our bills. No turkey on our national table that Thanksgiving.

There are two ways of looking at American prosperity. One way is say: Wow, Americans are only 5 percent of the world’s population, but they get to divvy up nearly 25 percent of the world’s economic output — lucky Americans! The other way is to say: Wow, Americans are only 5 percent of the world’s population, but they produce nearly 25 percent of the world’s economic output — lucky world! Thanks, Americans!

Both are valid. But however you look at it, it is absurd that a country with 5 percent of the world’s population and a quarter of its economic output cannot responsibly manage its public finances. As we count our blessings this week — and our national cup truly runneth over — it is worth keeping in mind that American prosperity is neither random nor accidental, nor is it a fixed state of affairs. This didn’t just fall out of the sky: We are prosperous in no small part because we had good ancestors — and we should work to be better ancestors ourselves, that future Americans may continue to count the prudence of their forefathers among their many blessings.

—  Kevin D. Williamson is a deputy managing editor of National Review and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism, published by Regnery. You can buy an autographed copy through National Review Online here.

Tags: Bonds , Debt , Deficits , Europeans , Fiscal Armageddon

Default Is In Our Stars



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It’s not getting better:

 

Officials in Berlin told The Telegraph it is “more likely than not” that investors will suffer fresh losses on holdings of Greek debt, beyond the 21pc haircut agreed in July.

The exact level will depend on findings by the EU-IMF “Troika” in Athens.

“A lot has happened since July. Greece has fallen back on its commitments, so we have to assume that the 21pc cut is no longer enough,” said one source.

Finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble told the Frankfurter Allgemeine that the original haircuts were “probably” too low, saying banks must have “sufficient capital” to cover greater losses if need be. Estimates near 60pc have been circulating in Berlin.

The shift in German policy has ominous echoes of last year when Chancellor Angela Merkel first called for bondholder haircuts, setting off investor flight from Ireland and a fresh spasm in the EU debt crisis.

It’s not just the Europeans, of course. U.S. banks are sitting on tens of billions in Greek debt, but the whole thing is one big knot of pain: French banks hold a ton of Greek debt, and guess who holds a lot of French bank debt? U.S. banks, that’s who, with Morgan Stanley alone facing some $39 billion in exposure. As usual, Goldman Sachs is thought to be ahead of the curve — it helped to restructure the Greek debt, and apparently got good and scared by what it saw. 

But keep in mind: This isn’t Europe’s problem. This is your problem, Sunshine:

 

The latest round of American financial assistance came Thursday with a promise by the Federal Reserve to swap as many dollars for euros as European bankers need. In the short run, those transactions won’t have much impact because the central banks are simply swapping currencies of equal value. If the move helps avert a wider crisis, it could help spare the global economy from another recession.

But over the long term, consumers could feel the impact of central bankers flooding the financial system with cash, according to John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics.

“This is a lender of last resort function,” he told CNBC. “With the dollar injections that the Fed has done, it’s like giving a patient medicine with really bad side effects.”  Ryding said the bad side effect in the U.S. has been inflation, which has picked up to 3.8 percent year over year.

The bailouts never end.

Tags: Debt , Deficits , Despair , Europeans

More on Texas



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Tons of Texas economic insights here.

Tags: Debt , Deficits , Intellectual Malpractice , Paul Krugman , Unemployment

Steal These Ideas



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Let’s say you’re a top-tier presidential candidate, and you want to steal the best ideas from the lower-tier candidates to buttress your own position and siphon away what support they have on the issues. You want to make sure you steal the best ideas from the also-rans, not the dumb ones. Here’s my picks:

1. Hijacking Herman: Herman Cain is wrong about two very important questions: Who the Republican nominee is going to be in 2012, and who the next president is going to be. “Herman Cain” is not the answer to either question. He’s also way too optimistic about our growth prospects, which has led him to inadequately think out some of the big economic questions. But here’s what he is 100 percent right about: Uncertainty is an investment killer and the bane of capital. When Cain calls for massive tax cuts, he always ends his pitch with: “. . . and make the rates permanent!” I suspect that the question of whether the top income-tax rate is 35 percent (the George W. Bush model) or 38.6 percent (the Barack Obama model) matters a good deal less than whether tax rates and rules are stable over the long run. This is even more true, I suspect, of capital-gains tax rates and business-tax rates. Citizen Cain has called this one. Give him credit — and run with it.

2. Mugging McCotter: Last weekend in Iowa I had a chance to ask McCotter what he thinks we ought to do about the banks. He gave the most persuasive answer of any politician I’ve asked so far: Force them to capitalize for real, enforce stronger leverage limits and capital requirements, get rid of taxpayer support for the GSEs, etc. Michele Bachmann likes to talk about repealing Frank-Dodd, and Newt Gingrich talks about repealing Sarbanes-Oxley. That’s all great, but repealing legislation alone does not get everything done we need to get done. We’re still dangerously out on a limb with our financial system, and a second financial crisis would be another excuse to expand Leviathan and deepen the state’s reach into the economy. Real reform can preempt this, and McCotter is on the right track. And stealing from McCotter is easy: Nobody knows who he is, anyway.

3. Nicking from Newt: Newt Gingrich, the first politician whose career I really cared about, now makes me shake my head. Lean Six Sigma? Grants for Alzheimer’s research? Egad. But ask Newt about congressional procedure and he’s a lion. Newt’s finest moment in Iowa was his call for pre-empting the deficit-reduction supercommittee, calling the House back into session right now, forcing every subcommittee to come up with spending cuts, and sending the Senate, and Obama, critical economic-reform legislation. John Boehner should be listening, and so should Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and Michele Bachmann. Newt’s got so many ideas that he won’t notice if one goes missing.

4. Raiding Rick: When asked what’s keeping the economy back, Republicans most often answer “taxes.” Rick Santorum emphasizes regulation, and he’s right to do so: Regulatory compliance costs American businesses more than they pay in corporate taxes every year, and most of those regulations do questionable good when they’re not doing active harm. Regulatory reform gives the economy many of the same benefits as tax cuts without putting additional pressure on the Treasury. Putting it at the top of the agenda is a win-win from a candidate who won’t-won’t.

5. Hustling Huntsman: Remember free trade? Huntsman does, and for the right reasons: “It has allowed the average family to save in terms of what they pay for goods, products that would otherwise carry a higher cost.” A new free-trade agenda is worth keeping in mind, even if Huntsman’s campaign isn’t.

6. Robbing Paul to Pay Everybody: Ron Paul is obsessed with the Fed, monetary policy, and national-security spending. The world is bigger than that — but, you know what? The Fed is an occasional menace, our monetary policy is a mess, and we spend a ton of money on national-security enterprises that don’t necessarily make the nation more secure. While it is dangerous to get Congress involved with the Fed’s business — Congress would almost certainly make an even worse hash of things than Bernanke & Co. — narrowing the Fed’s discretion to engage in freelance monetary shenanigans while radically expanding its balance sheet may be an idea whose time has come. Competitive devaluation of the dollar is no kind of long-term strategy, and a Republican presidential nominee ought to point that out. And Libya has finally given at least a few Republicans a war that doesn’t seem like a AAA investment — perhaps that could be the starting point for a longer conversation about our military footprint. Just don’t start that conversation with a true-believing Ron Paul guy lugging around a copy of Man, Economy, and State if you want to get the ball rolling in this decade.

So, that’s what I’d steal. And here’s some unsolicited advice for the top three:

1. Michele Bachmann needs to stop saying that we can turn the economy around in one quarter. If ever she gets the chance to test out that theory, she’s going to look stupid 90 days later. Rebuilding our economy is going to be a decade-long, or decades-long, project. Optimism is not a policy, and conservatives’ first duty is to reality.

2. Rick Perry needs to talk about crony capitalism. Economic-development subsidies of the sort that Texas (and every other state) offers at best distort markets and at worst lead to graft. You don’t have to be a Ron Paul purist to see that there’s an important difference between being pro-business and being pro-these-businesses.

3. Mitt Romney: I really wish he’d quit saying things like: “I’m afraid the president is just out of his depth when it comes to understanding how the private economy works.” So is Romney. Being successful in one line of business doesn’t mean you understand how other businesses work. Indeed, the private economy is so complex that nobody actually understands how it works — not businessmen, and certainly not politicians. That’s why businesses sometimes fail and why economic policies don’t produce the desired results. The president isn’t the CEO of America Inc., and Romney can’t manage a national economy the way he managed Bain Capital.

—  Kevin D. Williamson is a deputy managing editor of National Review and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism, published by Regnery. You can buy an autographed copy through National Review Online here.

Tags: Debt , Deficits , Fiscal Armageddon

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