Opinion

The Great Debate

Immigration can speed economic recovery

 Diana Furchtgott-Roth

– Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. –

It’s welcome news that President Obama will turn his attention to immigration reform this year, as was announced on Wednesday by Deputy Assistant to the President Cecilia Muñoz. Economic recovery will happen more quickly if both high- and low-skill immigrants are permitted to enter the United States and work legally.

Two years ago, when Congress was considering comprehensive immigration reform, both President Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers and the Congressional Budget Office, headed by Peter Orszag, an economist closely identified with the Democratic Party, estimated that the benefits of additional immigrants outweighed the costs. If Congress allowed more immigration, then American taxpayers would come out ahead financially.

Yet, after Congress refused to pass President Bush’s plan to allow most undocumented workers to receive work visas and wait in line for citizenship, the Bush administration’s immigration policy deteriorated into a series of arbitrary raids on different companies, rounding up undocumented workers and deporting them, in many cases separating husbands and wives, parents and children.

We can do better. Although the unemployment rate reached 8.5 percent last month, the jobs are going to come back, and, as has been the case in the past, native-born Americans will want jobs that are different from those of immigrants, according to economics professor Giovanni Peri of the University of California at Davis.

Keep the charitable tax deduction

 Diana Furchtgott-Roth– Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. —

The economy is in a painful slump. Growing numbers of people need help, charities are facing a decline in donations and states are cutting back on services. The April employment report from the Labor Department will show a further increase in the number of unemployed.
Yet, rather than harnessing the generosity of Americans to help out, President Obama has proposed to reduce the tax incentives for charitable giving. He wants Congress to limit to 28 percent the tax saving from contributions for taxpayers who itemize their deductions.

Mr. Obama proposed to use the revenue gained to fund universal health care. He would make the 28 percent cap on the tax saving for contributions take effect in 2011, when he contemplates letting the Bush 2001 tax cuts for upper-income people expire.
The combination of higher rates and a 28 percent cap on the value of deductions for charitable contributions (and mortgage interest) would diminish donations to charities ranging from local churches to national opera companies. Cutbacks on charitable giving would be more pronounced among the well-to-do, not only because they have more to give, but because their tax rates would rise at the same time as their deductions would be limited.

One rule for banks, another for autos

jimsaftcolumn6– James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

There is one law, it appears, for failing U.S. automakers but sadly quite another for similarly failing banks.

The Obama administration has decided to play hardball with auto firms; rejecting recovery plans from General Motors and Chrysler LLC (GM.N) and warning they could be thrown into bankruptcy. Chrysler, which is controlled by Cerberus Capital Management CBS.UL, has 30 days to complete an alliance with Italy’s Fiat SpA (FIA.MI) or face losing its government funding. GM chief executive Rick Wagoner is out at government request, as will be most of his board of directors in coming months.

Trillion-dollar deficits are not the answer

– Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. —

On Tuesday, President Obama suggested that his new proposed spending, if adopted by Congress, would be an investment that will pay for itself.

Mr. Obama declared: “We invest in reform that will bring down the cost of health care for families, businesses, and our government.” Such investments, he argued, will in the long run make the economy operate more efficiently.

To pay for vital programs, Congress must make tough choices

- Deborah Weinstein is the executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs. The opinions expressed are her own -

As the House and Senate Budget Committees begin work this week on their versions of the Congressional Budget Resolution, the usual suspects are lining up to oppose proposals that would pay for health care reform, reduce global warming, create more jobs and improve our education system. Beyond the expected Republican opposition, however, some key Democrats are also calling for changes that would seriously weaken Presidents Obama’s groundbreaking budget.

Although the chairs of the House and Senate Budget Committees are expected to craft resolutions that remain faithful to the President’s priorities, many of the revenue sources proposed by Obama are being called into question.  Further, the skittish-on-spending Blue Dog Democrats in the House and similarly inclined Senate Democrats are urging reductions in domestic appropriations, which pay for education, job training, housing, child care and child welfare services, public health, and other family and community services.

A show trial for AIG?

 Diana Furchtgott-Roth– Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. —

Republicans and Democrats in Congress, along with President Obama and Treasury Secretary Geithner, have been raking AIG over the coals in hearings and speeches for paying employees bonuses totaling $165 million. But today’s Los Angeles Times reports that the Treasury Department specifically agreed to the bonuses in a 586-page agreement signed on November 25. The deal allows AIG to pay out bonuses for the 2009 year that equal bonuses paid for 2007.

It stands to reason that the contracts to pay bonuses would have been known to Treasury officials a half-year ago, when they reviewed AIG’s financial position before funneling $85 billion into the firm to prevent its collapse. Basic due-diligence scrutiny of the firm’s books would have revealed the contractual obligations to make bonus payments to retain talented staff. What is puzzling is why the administration pretends not to know.

Nationalization by autumn, bank on it

– James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

jimsaftcolumnLike it or not the United States will be forced to nationalize large swathes of its banking system by the time the leaves fall from the trees in Washington.

The tragedy is that we will have to wait that long and that the costs will mount.

from India Insight:

U.S. on Israel — double standards or a double-edged sword?

December 24 - Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip ratchet up rocket fire towards Israel after Hamas ended a six-month ceasefire.

December 27 - Israel launches air strikes on Gaza in response killing more than 200 people in Gaza, the highest one-day death toll in 60 years of Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

December 27 - The United States blames Hamas for breaking the ceasefire and provoking Israeli air strikes.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Do Obama’s Afghan plans still make sense post-Mumbai?

The United States is aiming to send 20,000 to 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan by the beginning of next summer, according to the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.  The plan is not unexpected, and from a military point of view is meant to allow U.S. and NATO troops not just to clear out Taliban insurgents but also to bring enough stability to allow economic development, as highlighted in this analysis by Reuters Kabul correspondent Jon Hemming.

But does it still make sense after the Mumbai attacks -- intentionally or otherwise -- sabotaged the peace process between India and Pakistan?

As discussed many times on this blog, most recently here, a crucial element of President-elect Barack Obama's Afghan strategy was to combine sending extra troops with a new diplomatic approach looking at the Afghanistan-Pakistan-India region as a whole. The argument was that Pakistan would never fully turn its back on Islamist militants as long as it felt threatened by India on its eastern border and by growing Indian influence in Afghanistan on its western border.  India and Pakistan, so the argument went, should therefore be encouraged to make peace over Kashmir, to reduce tensions in Afghanistan and pave the way for a successful operation by the extra U.S. troops.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Israel and India vs Obama’s regional plans for Afghanistan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will Israel and India -- the first the United States' closest ally and the second fast becoming one of the closest -- emerge as the trickiest adversaries in any attempt by the United States to seek a regional solution to Afghanistan?

The Washington Post reported earlier this week that the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama plans to explore a more regional strategy to the war in Afghanistan — including possible talks with Iran.

The idea has been fashionable among foreign policy analysts for a while, as I have discussed in previous posts here and here. The aim would be to capitalise on Shi'ite Iran's traditional hostility to the hardline brand of Sunni Islam espoused by the Taliban and al Qaeda to seek its help in neighbouring Afghanistan. At the same time India would be encouraged to make peace with Pakistan over Kashmir to end a cause of tension that has underpinned the rise of Islamist militancy in Pakistan and left both countries vying for influence in Afghanistan.

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