James Pethokoukis

Debt ceiling battle could turn into trench warfare

February 2, 2011

Republicans aren’t scared to toy with the U.S. debt limit. Both parties now seem to agree that failing to raise the country’s borrowing cap would be a disaster. But brinkmanship looks likely as Republicans hold out for cuts far deeper than Democrats will easily accept. Pushed far enough, the tactic could still rattle Treasury markets.

Obamacare court ruling gives a shoutout to Tea Party movement

January 31, 2011

From page 42 of the ruling by Judge  Roger Vinson:

It would be a radical departure from existing case law to hold that Congress can regulate inactivity under the Commerce Clause. If it has the power to compelan otherwise passive individual into a commercial transaction with a third party merely by asserting — as was done in the Act — that compelling the actual transaction is itself “commercial and economic in nature, and substantially affects interstate commerce” [see Act § 1501(a)(1)], it is not hyperbolizing to suggest that Congress could do almost anything it wanted. It is difficult to imagine that a nation which began, at least in part, as the result of opposition to a British mandate giving the East India Company a monopoly and imposing a nominal tax on all tea sold in America would have set out to create a government with the power to force people to buy tea in the first place. If Congress can penalize a passive individual for failing to engage in commerce, the enumeration of powers in the Constitution would have been in vain for it would be “difficult to perceive any limitation on federal power”[Lopez, supra, 514 U.S. at 564], and we would have a Constitution in name only.

The tough job of cutting corporate taxes

January 28, 2011

President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech delivered on an idea he’s been telegraphing for weeks: corporate tax reform. And there are hints the changes he will seek could be major. But some companies will lobby hard against losing tax breaks to pay for a rate cut. Turning even sensible proposals into law is no sure thing.

As U.S. debt goes up, Obama’s concern goes down

January 26, 2011

In the space of less than 24 hours, the Congressional Budget Office managed to stomp all over President Barack Obama’s dovish debt speech. That Obama failed to use the State of the Union address to explicitly endorse any of his own debt panel’s major budget-cutting recommendations was, shall we say, a glaring omission. Now that failure appears absolutely blinding. Give us the bad news CBO bean counters:

Thoughts on Obama’s SOTU speech

January 26, 2011

Whenever I would ask folks at the White House about how they planned on dealing with America’s long-term debt problem, they would more or less tell me the same thing: “Wait for the deficit commission.” Well, Obama’s panel has come and gone. And in his speech last night, he failed to explicitly endorse any of its budget-cutting recommendations. This part particularly frosted my pumpkin:

Did Wall Street nix GOP push to let states go bankrupt?

January 25, 2011

As they used to say in the Soviet Union, “It’s no coincidence.” At least, I suspect is isn’t. Yesterday, House Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor came  out strongly against the idea of changing the federal bankruptcy code to let states declare bankruptcy, an idea being pushed by some Republicans, including Newt Gingrich:

On the GOP, bankrupt states and government unions

January 21, 2011

The NYTimes finally picked up on a story I had six weeks ago:

Policy makers are working behind the scenes to come up with a way to let states declare bankruptcy and get out from under crushing debts, including the pensions they have promised to retired public workers. … For now, the fear of destabilizing the municipal bond market with the words “state bankruptcy” has proponents in Congress going about their work on tiptoe. No draft bill is in circulation yet, and no member of Congress has come forward as a sponsor, although Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, asked the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, about the possiblity in a hearing this month.

Does America need a “tiger mother” economy?

January 20, 2011

Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to Washington has triggered debate about whether the United States should copy his country’s hands-on, interventionist economic model. But the Middle Kingdom’s feisty “tiger mothers” may provide a better guide for Washington policymakers than turning to Big Government, Chinese style. A new book extolling their tough-love approach could help America escape its debt trap and boost growth.

Obama finally discovers that bad rules kill jobs

January 19, 2011

U.S. federal regulations impose nearly $2 trillion in annual costs on American business, according to the Small Business Administration. President Barack Obama thinks that’s probably too much and now wants regulators to strike out needless red tape. Better late than never. Even better, Congress should have more power to do the cleanup itself.