The Great Debate UK

from Breakingviews:

Bush still shows blind eye for financial crisis

By James Ledbetter

During his presidency, George W. Bush was not known as an overly reflective man, or as someone with a powerful thirst for economic knowledge (despite being the only president with a Harvard MBA). It is thus unsurprising that his memoir is not overly reflective about the causes of the financial meltdown that closed out his presidency, nor even very generous with details about what it was like to preside over. Anyone who opens his new memoir, "Decision Points," intent on unearthing Bush's heretofore buried financial insights will be disappointed.

Still, there is some value in glimpsing how Bush perceives the crisis, in part because his economic perspective is so widely shared in the newly resurgent Republican Party. In the chapter devoted to the financial crisis, Bush paints an economic picture using almost exclusively his favorite primary color: tax cuts. Tax cuts, in his view, got America out of the recession that began shortly after he took office. Tax cuts provided another critical boost in 2007. Tax cuts are beautiful because they take money out of the government's hands and place it into citizens' hands; that is all Bush knows, and all he thinks he needs to know, about the economy.

Just about everything else can be delegated, which is to say ignored until it explodes. As he recounts the reasons why the financial system fell apart -- the complexity of Wall Street's mechanics, the booming housing market, overleveraging -- he says the system was "fated to collapse," but admits that he didn't see it at the time. (In another section, he claims he did see the problem of overleveraging at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but that his reform efforts were blocked by Democrats.) His curiosity did not increase very quickly; Bush professes to have been "surprised by the sudden crisis" when Bear Stearns was sold at a forced bargain price in March 2008. He clearly had no idea what caused the problems at American International Group in September of that year.

More telling is his admission that when Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told him the crisis could be the worst since the Great Depression his reaction was that he would rather be Franklin D. Roosevelt than Herbert C. Hoover. Yet his refusal to even consider that his administration's, or the Fed's, policies might have contributed to the crisis is distinctly Hooverian. About as close as Bush gets to anything approaching taking responsibility is an admission that "my administration and the regulators underestimated the extent of the risks taken by Wall Street."

from The Great Debate:

The U.S. war in Iraq is over. Who won?

The end of America's combat mission, after seven and a half costly years, has raised questions that will provide fodder for argument for a long time to come: Was it worth it? And who, if anyone, won?

It's too early to answer the first question, according to U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, a man of sober judgment. "It really requires a historian's perspective in terms of what happens here in the long run ... How it all weighs in the balance over time remains to be seen."

Online gaming market on the verge of an explosion

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LEISURE PARTYGAMING

-Richard Law is CEO of GB Group. The opinions expressed are his own.-

Online gaming is currently experiencing exponential growth and all the signs are there for this sector to sky rocket over the next few years. This is particularly relevant in Europe, where governments are seeking to capture tax revenues by regulating online gaming.

A recent report by KPMG entitled ‘Online Gaming: A Gamble or a Sure Bet?’ echoes this statement, stating cash-strapped governments around the world may consider relaxing current online gaming rules and restrictions in order to provide a much needed boost to tax revenues.

from Tales from the Trail:

Victory for Karzai, minefield for Obama?

Former President George W. Bush used to talk about the "soft bigotry of low expectations." He was talking about education in the United States.

But these days, that phrase could easily refer to the U.S. government's attitudes towards Afghanistan. Just look at the following phrases from American officials this year.

from The Great Debate:

Obama in the footsteps of George W. Bush

Bernd Debusmann-- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. --

Words of wisdom from an American leader: "The United States must be humble and must be proud and confident of our values but humble in how we treat nations that are figuring out how to chart their own course.

from The Great Debate:

Spare a thought for Hugo Chavez

Bernd Debusmann- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own -

Spare a thought for Hugo Chavez, the larger-than-life Venezuelan leader who flourished in the role of Latin America's defender against an evil empire led by a devil who smelt of sulphur and was named George W. Bush.

Those were the easy days for Chavez. Now he has become a dragon-slayer without a dragon, an actor on a stage without the most important prop. It was one thing to rally the Latin masses against the widely-detested Bush, it is another to deal with Barack Obama, "the first (U.S.) president who looks like us," in the words of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

from For the Record:

After the warm glow, telling the cold, hard truths

dean-150Dean Wright is Global Editor, Ethics, Innovation and News Standards. Any opinions are his own.

The president was inaugurated in front of adoring crowds and positive reviews in the media. As the unpopular incumbent sat on the platform with him, the new Democratic chief executive took office as the nation faced a crippling economic crisis. The incoming president was a charismatic figure who had run a brilliant campaign and had handled the press with aplomb. The media were ready to give him a break.

from The Great Debate:

Scoop! U.S. offers to cooperate with world

Paul Taylor Great Debate-- Paul Taylor is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

An American president vowing to cooperate with the rest of the world would barely be news if it did not follow eight years' of George W. Bush's tenure in the White House.

Barack Obama's inauguration address was thin on foreign policy specifics, but his pledge to work with allies and adversaries on global problems from nuclear weapons to climate change was a message many have waited impatiently to hear.

from The Great Debate:

Bush’s auto plan will test Obama’s union loyalties

morici-- Peter Morici is a professor at the University of Maryland School of Business and former Chief Economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission.  The opinions expressed are his own. --

President Bush has agreed to lend GM and Chrysler $17.4 billion on the condition these firms complete a plan to accomplish financial viability.

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