Friday, April 13, 2012

Top 10 Reads of the Week - Friday the (April) 13th Edition

The Myth of America's Decline - Walter Russell Mead [Wall Street Journal]
The world balance of power is changing. Countries like China, India, Turkey and Brazil are heard from more frequently and on a wider range of subjects. The European Union's most ambitious global project—creating a universal treaty to reduce carbon emissions—has collapsed, and EU expansion has slowed to a crawl as Europe turns inward to deal with its debt crisis. Japan has ceded its place as the largest economy in Asia to China and appears increasingly on the defensive in the region as China's hard and soft power grow.
The international chattering class has a label for these changes: American decline. The dots look so connectable: The financial crisis, say the pundits, comprehensively demonstrated the failure of "Anglo-Saxon" capitalism. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have sapped American strength and, allegedly, destroyed America's ability to act in the Middle East. China-style "state capitalism" is all the rage. Throw in the assertive new powers and there you have it—the portrait of America in decline.
Actually, what's been happening is just as fateful but much more complex. The United States isn't in decline, but it is in the midst of a major rebalancing. The alliances and coalitions America built in the Cold War no longer suffice for the tasks ahead. As a result, under both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, American foreign policy has been moving toward the creation of new, sometimes difficult partnerships as it retools for the tasks ahead... Read the Rest

For Obama, Green is the Color of Money Wasted on More Solyndras - Editors [Washington Examiner]
Last week, as President Obama delivered his economic speech deriding the so-called "trickle-down" economic policies that created 16 million jobs under President Reagan, his Energy Department was preparing to announce the next stage of a policy that may never create any.
David Frantz, chief of the DOE's clean energy loan program, informed Congress by letter on Thursday that his department will "begin issuing conditional commitments over the next several months" for new loans and loan guarantees to green energy companies. Why Obama is doubling and tripling down on one of his worst and most embarrassing policy mistakes is anybody's guess. Maybe it's change that only he and global warming diehards can believe in... Read the Rest
Barack Obama and Racial Double Standards - Peter Wehner [Commentary]
Late last week I heard from a theologian of liberal leanings, someone with whom I have been in (often friendly) correspondence for years. He wrote me to voice his objections to my recent “diatribes” against President Obama. That didn’t particularly surprise me. What didsurprise me is how he framed his objections. He didn’t take issue with the facts I’ve presented or even my interpretation of the facts. Rather, his concerns were expressed this way:
When I read your constant barrages aimed at the first black president, I think to myself, “Doesn’t Pete, the devout Christian, understand what it took to get to this place? And where would Pete have been in the years of the freedom struggle that finally eventuated in some measure of equality for African-Americans and even a black president?” Isn’t there some way you can temper your attacks on Obama with this history in mind?... Read the Rest
Federal Debt On An Accrual Basis - Timothy Taylor [Conversable Economist]

Ed Note: Don't read on an empty stomach.
The U.S. federal budget is typically measured on a cash basis: that is, how much tax money came in and how much spending went out. But for a more complete picture of any budget, it is useful to look at an accrual budget: that is, including not just current spending, but what spending has already been committed for the future. The federal government takes a stab at providing an overview of an accrual budget each year in a report from the U.S. Treasury called the Financial Report of the United States Government: the 2011 edition is here.
Here's a graphic showing all the assets and debts of the U.S. government from an accrual perspective. Federal debt held by the public, the usual measure of federal debt, is about $10.2 trillion. "As of September 30, 2011, the Government held about $2.7 trillion in assets, comprised mostly of net property, plant, and equipment ($852.8 billion) and a combined total of $985.2 billion in net loans receivable, mortgage-backed securities, and investments." The big addition here is the $5.8 trillion in already owed in employee and veterans' benefits. Taking these legal obligations into account increases the government's liabilities by more than half... Read the Rest
Demolishing Paul Ryan - Daniel Henninger [Wall Street Journal]
With the presidential battle begun, the Obama campaign has revived the Cold War nuclear strategy of launch on warning. At any suggestion that a conservative idea might be threatening its ideological fortress, the American left now launches ICBMs of rhetorical destruction.
So it was after the Supreme Court's hearings on the Obama Affordable Care Act, which put in jeopardy the federal command to buy health insurance. After the president green-flagged the assault, the Supreme Court's "legitimacy" was in play. The Roberts Court, wrote one blogger, is "on trial."
On current course, House GOP Budget Chairman Paul Ryan himself may exhaust their entire thermonuclear arsenal before November. Once again, the Campaigner in Chief threw the switch himself, calling the Ryan House budget "social Darwinism," "a Trojan horse" and "antithetical to our entire history." Rev. Samuel Rodriquez of the Hispanic Evangelical Association said the poor would be "budget-war collateral damage."... Read the Rest

Where Are All The Moderate Democrats - Deborah Saunders [Real Clear Politics]
President Barack Obama chastised the media last week. "I think that there is oftentimes the impulse to suggest that if the two parties are disagreeing, then they're equally at fault and the truth lies somewhere in the middle," the president chided those attending the American Society of Newspaper Editors luncheon.
Obama also claimed that he holds positions that 20 or 15 years ago "would have been considered squarely centrist positions. What's changed is the center of the Republican Party." Oh, and Ronald Reagan "could not get through a Republican primary today."... Read the Rest

The Obama Rule - Editors [The Wall Street Journal]
Forget Warren Buffett, or whatever other political prop the White House wants to use for its tax agenda. This week the Administration officially endorsed what in essence is the Obama Rule: Taxes must be high simply to spread the wealth, never mind the impact on the economy or government revenue. It's all about "fairness," baby.
This was long apparent to those fated to closely watch the 2008 campaign, but some voters might have missed the point amid the gauzy rhetoric about hope and change. Now we know without any doubt. White House aides made it official Tuesday in their on-the-record briefing on the new federal minimum tax that travels under the political alias known as the "Buffett rule."... Read the Rest
Down to the Wire - Charlie Cook [National Journal]
...When a president runs for reelection, his job-approval ratings are more significant than the trial heats. Voters who approve of the job a president is doing are very likely to vote to reelect him. Voters who disapprove are very likely to support the president’s opponent. Obama’s job ratings have ranged in recent weeks from as low as 44 percent to as high as 50 percent. The RealClearPolitics average and theHuffington Post/Pollster.com trend estimate show Obama’s approval rating at 48 percent and his disapproval score at 47 percent.
How quickly and effectively Romney makes the turn from the primary season to a campaign aimed at the general election’s swing voters is key. Obama has been running a general-election campaign all along. With Rick Santorum’s decision on Tuesday to suspend his campaign, Romney can accelerate his transition. Simply talking to, rather than past, independent and swing voters should gain him a few points... Read the Rest
The Battle of All Mothers - James Taranto [Wall Street Journal]
In a February article about the unwieldily named Democratic National Committee chairman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, The Wall Street Journal noted that "Obama advisers have occasionally told her to 'tone it down,' " an end toward which she agreed "to enlist two seasoned Democratic female pros, Anita Dunn and Hilary Rosen, to begin giving her occasional political advice and media training."
One shudders to think what Wasserman Schultz would have said had she, rather than the understated Rosen, been assigned to attack Ann Romney, wife of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. Even the toned-down version shocked a lot of people.
Here's what Rosen said on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees": "What you have is Mitt Romney running around the country saying, well, you know, my wife tells me that what women really care about are economic issues. And when I listen to my wife, that's what I'm hearing. Guess what, his wife has actually never worked a day in her life. She's never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing."... Read the Rest
Seven Ways 2012 Won't Be Anything Like 2008 For Team Obama - William Galston [The New Republic]
With the general election now underway, it’s tempting to assume that President Obama has a built-in advantage by having at his disposal a campaign operation that earned universal plaudits in 2008. But as Team Obama itself already knows—or, if not, will soon come to realize—the 2012 contest will be very different from the president’s triumphant march to the White House four years ago. The key question will be how the old campaign staff responds to the new electoral landscape. Here are seven realities that Team Obama will have to adjust to.
2012 will be a referendum, not a choice. One of the best established findings of contemporary political science is that in presidential contests involving an incumbent, the incumbent’s record is central to the public’s judgment. A race for an open Oval Office is about promises and personalities; a campaign for reelection is about the record and performance of the person currently occupying the White House. To be sure, Obama can offer his vision for the future and new proposals to flesh it out. But if the people don’t approve of his record, that won’t matter much... Read the Rest
The Funniest Thing I Saw This Week

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