James Pethokoukis

Politics and policy from inside Washington

Best of the blogosphere

May 11, 2010 19:50 UTC

The best bits of the best stuff I have read today:
Larry Kudlow, CNBC, on the European bailout:

And in addition to Western Europe’s failure to enforce real welfare-state reductions, there really is no flat-tax reform — such as adopted in Eastern Europe — to promote growth. Ironically, the countries of Western Europe, including the southern tier of Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Italy, have a lower corporate tax rate than the United States. That is good. But they could build on that with real flat-tax reform, rather than jacking up value-added taxes.

So there are no enforced spending cuts, there is no flat tax, and there is plenty of political upheaval. (Angela Merkel just lost an important regional election.) So right now, on the day after a big relief rally in stock and bond markets, a sober assessment of the so-called rescue package doesn’t look so great. Actually, the real winner looks to be gold, which is up $20 this morning and is almost at its all-time high of $1,226. That’s a sign of no confidence in the European story. The euro currency has been compromised and the European welfare state continues. Not good.

Josh Barro, RealClearMarkets, on California debt problems:

California’s permanent budget crisis stems from institutional failures. Ballot measures have made it nearly impossible to raise taxes or cut spending, and have cemented the idea in voters’ minds that they can get government services without paying for them. The state has repeatedly failed to reform its inefficient tax code (which relies too much on highly volatile taxes on high-income people, and not enough on property taxes) or to tackle the problem of runaway public employee compensation. … The trouble with California is that it has a Mediterranean budget to match its Mediterranean climate. April’s numbers show that rosy tax receipts aren’t likely to improve matters any time soon. Like any Mediterranean EU member, California desperately needs an aggressive fiscal adjustment if it is to remain solvent.

Veronique de Rugy, Reason, on inflation:

The Federal Reserve is unwilling to take the inflationary route today. But investors know that other central banks have done so in the past and that the scenario could happen again. … If these growing deficits aren’t addressed by immediately and dramatically slashing spending—and there’s zero indication that such a shift will happen anytime soon—we are about to embark on the most massive transfer of wealth from younger taxpayers to older ones in American history. It will be not just unprecedented but unfair: Our children will have to pay for the decisions we make today.

Eileen Norcross, NY Post, on Chris Christie and NJ:

The governor is also directly challenging the monopoly hold of the NJEA. He backs a bipartisan bill to create a voucher program for students in the worst-school districts, and he supports the expansion of charter schools. Each reform would expose the teachers unions to competition, bringing down the cost of public schools while releasing students from some of New Jersey’s highest-spending and worst-performing schools. Christie inherited an unenviable budgetary framework, strangled with court-ordered school-spending formulas. He’s responding to voter anger over property taxes, but he knows that capping one source of revenue without capping total state spending only shifts the bill. Most important, he understands that New Jersey doesn’t have a revenue problem — it has a spending problem.

COMMENT

Gaius, you must be a true believer! Sorry, though, your facts are false. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here’s a picture for you to study closely before repeating your lie about “Bush…running up greater deficits than Obama….”
http://blog.heritage.org/2010/02/05/past -deficits-vs-obamas-deficits-in-pictures  /
Not that I actually think you’ll repent, but there’s always hope for redemption.

Posted by OldBull | Report as abusive

State capitalism, crony capitalism

May 11, 2010 18:42 UTC

When Ian Bremmer offers to tell you “what comes next, it is wise to pay attention:

I believe that things are going to get worse for free markets before they get better. China might be sitting on a bubble, but it’s not the one that James Chanos is pointing toward, one that will pop as soon as China’s real estate boom goes bust. Nor is it the scenario described by Gordon Chang in which the Chinese people rise up to challenge the Chinese government. I could mention the labor bubble (200 million Chinese men with no hope of finding spouses), the environmental bubble (no water, no arable land, no breathable air), or any of the dozens of other bubbles floating ominously across the Chinese landscape. All of them are serious. None are certain to threaten China’s state capitalist system anytime soon. I’d bet confidently on strong state-led Chinese growth over the next decade. Intensified national pride will only strengthen the system in the near term.

Second, the situation will get much worse for free markets because anemic growth and high unemployment in the developed world will feed a backlash against free market sentiment. We’re already seeing more support for protectionism and a tougher stance on immigration in both Europe and the United States. In America, Goldman Sachs is today’s scapegoat, but China is next in line, whether the subject is currency policy, cyber-security, trade imbalances, product safety, or something else.

All of that makes the recommendation that you and I share — strong government support of basic free market principles — one that looks increasingly vulnerable to populist politics within free market democracies. The problem is even larger in Europe and Japan than in America.

COMMENT

Dear editor friend,
Well and wish to hear the same from you.
You have already a email for my new theory on world economics.
About this article, you have given more spaces on world trade and commerce, currency values, European nations different approach to tackle their economic mess and economic uncertainty.
Which economic theory holds good on now a days.
Only Mixed economy,that is, capitalism,capital growth, more wealth generations, a correct corporate taxes on industrialists, business men, and from new enterprises for more capital, more revenue to government treasuries,government governance, national security and more save and investment on permanent returns by mutual funds, government bonds, post office savings-more popular in Asian nations had saved this world economic crisis.
Indians are prospering day by day on account of some free liberal economy, more IT industries, more outsourcing, more labor in selected fields, more rural and urban growth on many sects had made India and state capitalist country China are created a new milestones to entire world.
Whereas, in many western countries, America,England, Germany are mainly depending stock markets, artificial creation for demand in real sectors, no proper auditing mechanism, election gimmicks on social welfare, less productivity in major industries had contributed a strong negative results and they are facing the past mistakes with terrible financial problems, social inequalities,frustrations, tensions and conflicts, a sudden reemergences of single nation identities,some law and order problems, huge cry on migrants, who asked them to allow more migrants for manual labors, ego on super thinking on other nations are to be corrected at the earliest.
Previously Dollar was talk of the town.
Now Euro is talk of the town.
Now, clashes had happened to these super,world currencies.

Posted by mdspatsy | Report as abusive

The false choice of higher taxes and less spending

May 11, 2010 17:41 UTC

Over at NRO, Kevin Williamson tries to figure out how to reduce the US budget deficit:

I am not, in general, in favor of tax increases, but I think that Chait is correct that conservatives would do better to support a budget plan that combines real spending cuts with tax increases than to support a budget that does nothing to reduce spending but leaves taxes where they are or reduces them. The point being, from my point of view: Reducing government spending is paramount, and it is a much more important agenda item than tax cuts that will only defer the financial reckoning that our spending inevitably entails.

Closing the gap from revenues that equal 15 percent of GDP and spending that equals 25 percent of GDP still looks pretty hard to me. To repeat yesterday’s thought-experiment, say we construct a point-by-point trade-off, equalizing spending and revenue at 20 percent of GDP. I don’t see Republicans supporting a 33 percent tax increase or Democrats supporting a 20 percent spending cut. Lots of readers have made clever suggestions about how we get there, but none of them seem convincing to me. The trade-offs would have to be pretty significant, like collecting that 20 percent of GDP via a flat tax and enacting deep entitlement reform.
Me: First of all, let’s keep in mind that all the scary long-term deficit forecasts assume long-term US growth will be about a third slower than its historical average.  Smart tax policy, along with other pro-growth initiatives, could keep the US economy humming along.  Second, the higher-tax/less-spending austerity policy formulation has a poor track record. It brings weak growth and grumpy voters. More likely countries try to grow or inflate their way out of trouble.
COMMENT

Historical average is meaningless, sorry. One can’t assume the past will repeat itself in these matters. America was industrialized only up to the Mississippi as little as 100 years ago, and the growth that ensued up to the Korean War was based on building up the west and the industry to support that build up. After that followed a lull in economic growth as there was no more easy organic growth. It wasn’t until Nixon relieved the USD from the gold standard and then the policies of Reaganomics that growth approached the numbers from the days of yore – and those numbers were skewed by the growth of debt! In my opinion a fully developed economy like America should really only expect 1% growth + population growth (in America’s case a total of 2%.) For most of the rest of developed nations, that means 0-1%. Forcing up those numbers into 2-4% range in effect really only creates bubbles because the support isn’t there for those growth valuations. And so we’ve seen in the last 15 years… well, really since ’86-87, but I’ll limit to the dot-com build up to be fair

Posted by CDNrebel | Report as abusive
  •