Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s effort two weeks ago to end collective bargaining for public employees in his state was the worst thing to happen to the union movement in recent memory—until it unexpectedly became the best thing to happen to the union movement in recent memory.
The GOP tries to discredit a voice of neutrality.
In Washington last week the temperature dipped into the 20s, which is evidently the point when hell freezes over. President Obama reached an agreement with the Republican Senate leader, who said, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”
There has never been a better moment for America to rebuild. An unlikely and unwelcome array of forces has converged to match our needs and the economy’s bargains almost perfectly. The only question is if we’ll run our government like a business, alert to good opportunities, or if we’ll run it as we have been, squabbling among ourselves while things get worse.
Remember the good old days, when Washington cared about deficits? I do. That’s when President Obama signed an executive order forming a commission to consider spending cuts, tax hikes, and other reforms to balance the budget. Sen. Mitch McConnell opposed that commission, but he seemed equally concerned: “Most Americans would say the real emergency here is a $13 trillion debt.”
Our anti-business White House proposed hundreds of billions in tax cuts for businesses and reiterated support for $30 billion toward small businesses. House Minority Leader John Boehner released a “two-point plan for immediate, bipartisan action on jobs and spending.” But Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels offered a plan that put to shame the proposals from both the administration and House Republicans.
I pride myself on being a man of substance. A wonk. A nerd, even. And like most nerds, I don’t have a great eye for fashion. So I ask this question seriously: what did you think of Chelsea Clinton’s Vera Wang wedding dress? Want to buy it? What if I can sell it to you really, really cheap?
I’ve got some good news for deficit hawks: earlier this year, Congress passed legislation reducing the deficit by about $125 billion over the next 10 years. But, as they say on the infomercials, that’s not all! The bill cuts the deficit by $1.3 trillion in the second decade. That more than pays for every dollar we’ve spent on stimulus since 2008. The bill also sets up a new—and actually credible—system to keep Medicare’s costs under control.
It’s begun. With merely four months until the elections, we’re starting to see the articles outlining the angry divisions between the president’s counselors. The fight apparently pits the political team, which wants the president to turn his attention to the political problem of deficits, against the economic team, which wants him to keep focusing on economic stimulus.
One of the reasons the idea of debt causes so much confusion is that we say things like “this issue of debt.” When we talk about the debt, we need to talk in specifics, not vague generalities. First, there’s the difference between accumulated debt (how much our country owes) and annual deficits (how much we’re spending in a year compared with how much we’re getting in tax revenues). People often use the two terms interchangeably. They shouldn’t.
The federal government has to step in with aid for the states. The Obama administration has asked for about $50 billion for 2011, but experts say they'd really need about twice that. The trick, however, is that you don't want to reward profligate spending under the cover of mitigating an economic disaster. And helping states solely on the size of their budget holes would do exactly that.
The problem for Tourre—and for Wall Street more broadly—is that they’re so intent on proving that what they did was legal that they can’t see that what they did was wrong. These are men (and they usually are men) of the market, and they played by the market’s rules. And the market’s rules are these: you make as much money as you can without actually going to jail.