James Pethokoukis

Politics and policy from inside Washington

Why Chris Christie’s war may determine America’s future

Dec 20, 2010 20:27 UTC

Why the combative governor of New Jersey must succeed in dismantling the NJ teachers unions:

There are many teachers who inspire students. And then there’s Curtis Robinson, the sort of teacher who inspires tenure reformers. During his 18 years teaching disabled students in Paterson, Robinson hurled classroom chairs, punched a boy in the chest for failing to do his homework and shoved another kid against a blackboard until he cried, staff and students said.

Robinson still insists he had a gift with children. But he admits that using cocaine after school early in his career sometimes made him “preoccupied.” “Immediately after work, I’d have a line or two,” he told The Record in August. “I been teaching so long, you can function with your eyes closed.”

That’s probably true, thanks to the extensive job protections for teachers in New Jersey. Because Robinson was tenured, it took more than four years of legal proceedings to fire him, costing the state more than $100,000 in legal costs.

Please, read the whole thing.

What to do about China?

Dec 20, 2010 19:21 UTC

More and more, I think, China will be the defining issue of the 2012 presidential campaign. This Weekly Standard piece by Irwin Stelzer is a must-read on the topic:

The Communist regime sees trade policy as merely one weapon in a war aimed at overtaking the United States as the world’s preeminent economic and, by extension, military power. The undervaluation of the renminbi is a necessary means of keeping China’s export machine running at full tilt so as to create jobs for the millions who are moving from the country to the nation’s cities. Lacking democratic legitimacy, the regime’s principal claim to the loyalty, or at least the submission of its people, is its ability to provide jobs and a rising standard of living, doubly important in this period of transition to a new generation of leaders in 2012. Americans chortle: that mercantilist program of subsidizing exports cannot be sustained forever, as the inflow of dollars will sooner or later trigger inflation. Right: indeed, that is already happening, and forcing the regime to adopt a variety of measures to curb credit and inflation.

But largely irrelevant in the longer term on which the Chinese are focused. By the time the Chinese decide they will have to allow the renminbi to appreciate, they will have accomplished two long-standing objectives. First, their vaults will be stuffed with an even larger hoard of American IOUs, enough to give them an important influence over U.S. foreign policy. “How do you deal toughly with your banker?” asked Hillary Clinton of the then-prime minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, at a luncheon last year. His answer is not recorded.

It is true that if the Chinese start to dump U.S. Treasuries and dollars, the value of their own piles of dollar-denominated assets would decline. But if the broader geopolitical objective were served, that would merely be a cost to consider as part of the military budget.

Second, by then the Chinese will have copied enough American and Western technology to be in less need of an undervalued renminbi—they will have made-in-China products that can dominate world markets even if their currency approximates its market value. The camels that trod the old Silk Road laden with spices and porcelain will have been replaced with air and sea freighters hauling solar panels and all sorts of goods based on copied technologies and purloined intellectual property. To cite just one example, the high-speed trains that China is now selling worldwide are based on technology brought to China by French, German and Japanese companies.

Obamanomics replaced by Reaganomics?

Dec 20, 2010 19:02 UTC

This Larry Kudlow commentary is a nice companion piece to my previous post:

In one fell swoop, Obamanomics is out the window. Reaganomics 2.0 is now in the driver’s seat. …  In the new session of Congress — which will feature a true Tea Party GOP conservative majority — new spending-limit policies can fill in the blanks left by the tax deal. But if President Obama has the acumen to see that a pro-growth economic policy is tied to low tax rates, the GOP should take great care not to cede that message and lose the economic-growth high ground. … A great battle will be joined over the spending, taxing, and regulatory mandates of Obamacare, which is probably the biggest job-killer of all. Conservative reformers in the new Congress will force this fight, along with tax, spending, entitlement, and monetary reform. Behind all this, however, the new Tea Party GOP must maintain a message of economic growth and prosperity.

COMMENT

The next big battle must be over regulations. The public prefers lower taxes thanks to several years of debate. But regulations are less visible to the public, politicians use corporations as agents to impose them, and the public thinks corporations are responsible for them. This is Reaganomics 2.0.

Posted by wfl | Report as abusive

Obama pivots as liberal dream collapses

Dec 20, 2010 18:58 UTC

Well, that was quick. America’s supposed generational shift toward an embrace of high-tax, high-service Big Government didn’t even make it a full two years. The new public policy consensus — built around favorite liberal issues of the environment and income inequality — promoted by Washington elites has been a flop with the public.

The nation’s ruling class thought for sure the financial crisis and subsequent Great Recession would create so much economic insecurity that it would be easy to pass a broad expansion of the welfare state — all financed by a combination of higher income taxes on the rich and new energy taxes on the middle class.

Instead, concerns about the federal budget deficit and competition with China became paramount. And the liberal agenda of healthcare reform and cap-and-trade suddenly seemed terribly off-point. So within a span of seven weeks, Democrats lost control of the House and then their legislative agenda.

First, the $858 billion tax deal. The near-term economic impact may modest. Some $500 billion of that total is merely the “cost” — as government bean counters look at things — of extending current income tax policy. Consumers will save most of the payroll tax cut, while extending the funding of unemployment insurance will make unemployment a bit higher than it would otherwise be.

But longer-term, the package is extremely bullish. It shows clearly that the “battlespace” of the coming Republican-Democrat fiscal clash will almost entirely be on the spending side of the ledger. There is little appetite among the public for sending more tax dollars to a wasteful and inefficient Washington. And the debate over restructuring the U.S. healthcare system will be between trusting government rationing or trusting market efficiency and choice.

The failure to pass a 2011 budget is also tremendously positive. It shows the impact of the Tea Party movement has not waned since the November midterms. This creates a situation next year where the flood of new Tea Party Republicans can combine a threat of government shutdown with a refusal to raise the national debt ceiling so as to squeeze spending cuts out of Obama and congressional Democrats.

Indeed, some GOP insiders believe the president — with a bit of nudging — may be ready to strike a deal to reform the tax system and cut future Social Security benefits along lines suggested by his own debt commission earlier this month. And as the tax compromise shows, Obama now seems willing to anger some within his own party in order to get legislation passed and win the reelection.

But if Obama does manage to somehow eke out a second term, it will be as president of a country that he may understand a bit better than he did two years ago. His true value and concerns in 2008, it turns out, were not those of most of his countrymen. Most Americans were not itching for government-run healthcare, a vast energy bureaucracy, an expansion of union power or new penalties on success and wealth creation. To a great extent, the term Tea Party America is redundant. The U.S. remains a center-right nation, and prosperity usually ensues when its leaders understand this.

COMMENT

Obama did not pivot-he lost, and Harry Reid caved. They’re not happy. This is not going to help any Dem in 2012.

Posted by pduggan | Report as abusive
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