My blogging has been particularly light of late. I am visiting several cities in China, including Beijing, Urumqui, Kashgar and Shanghai. I will be back full-force after Memorial Day, though I hope to post from time to time. A few quick thoughts on what has been happening back in the US:
To employ the phrasing of Gov. Chris Christie, America hit the debt ceiling and didn’t vaporize. New borrowing has put the U.S. Treasury right up against its $14.3 trillion borrowing limit, but financial markets aren’t crashing over fear that this will lead to default.
During his private equity career, Mitt Romney was famous as a supersalesman who could dazzle clients with data. But his PowerPoint mastery may not be enough to make him U.S. president. Thursday’s slide-show defense of the controversial health plan he created as Massachusetts governor likely failed to satisfy conservative critics.
Stu Rothenberg thinks there is plenty of danger to go around:
The nature of the Republican risk is obvious. If the GOP looks inflexible, excessively ideological and extreme, voters are likely to turn against it. This is more likely, of course, if Democrats look reasonable and emphasize their willingness to compromise. (Swing voters love the idea of compromise.) It’s also more likely if the most vocal and ideological elements of the GOP define their party.
Good stuff on means testing from Charles Blahous over at e21:
As it happens, the two largest and fastest-growing areas of federal spending, Social Security and Medicare, are both ones for which the wealthiest Americans are fully eligible for rising benefits. Both programs are, to be sure, of extreme political sensitivity. But the financial imbalances in these two programs require correction by elected officials in any event. To the extent that spending on the wealthy is constrained within these programs, it will reduce the financial pressure for even more politically-sensitive changes to them.
Democrats want to raise taxes on oil companies. They want to slap fees on high-frequency trading firms. And they want to raise taxes by$2 trillion over the next 10 years, including a 3 percent surcharge of millionaires. All of which will solve nothing since we either need to radically restructure entitlements (such as through the Paul Ryan approach) or hit the middle class with broad new taxes (the true “progressive” approach which they will not fess up to.) For now, though, liberals are focusing on the easy targets for higher taxes: Big Oil, Wall Street and The Rich. But that is not where they will stop …
Peter Wehner of Commentary gives the tale of the tape:
We are now in the fifth month of Barack Obama’s third year in office. Unemployment is at 9.0 percent. We’re about 7 million jobs short of where things stood when Obama took office. Economic growth in the first quarter was 1.8 percent. Housing prices have fallen for 57 consecutive months. Only one in three Americans approve of the way Obama is handling the economy, the lowest point since he took office, and nearly eight in 10 American are less optimistic about the economy than they were a few months ago.
On its face, House Speaker John Boehner’s demand for perhaps more than $2 trillion in spending cuts may look like a dangerous escalation in the political battle over raising the federal debt ceiling by a similar amount. But the reductions would be over 10 years, they’d be in line with several budget proposals, and they would represent only a modest down payment on austerity.