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 Richmans' Trade and Taxes Blog



A Comment on Recent News
Raymond Richman, 8/6/2017
Congress voted sanctions against Russia nearly unanimously for interfering in the U.S. presidential election of 2016 and voted restrictions on Pres. Trump’s ability to lift those sanctions. Congress cannot do much about curbing Russian interventions in the internal politics of other nations. But Congress is hypocritical because the CIA has been interfering in other countries elections since the middle of the last century, including most recently in the Ukraine. Our intervention in the Ukraine overthrew a pro-Russian President, and justified the action Russia took, seizing back the Crimea which it had given to the Ukraine when the latter was part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The U.S. interfered in the elections in Germany, France, and Italy after WWII to prevent them from voting Communist, helped break-up Yugoslavia which was one of Hitler’s goals, and more recently the U.S. aided the rebellions in Libya, Syria and Iraq all of which became political basket cases. Congress ought to investigate the CIA. Sen. John McCain who enthusiastically supported all the U.S. interventions voted to retain Obamacare. Had he voted with 99 other Republicans, Obamacare would have been repealed. Three Republican congressmen, (R-Tenn.), and two Senators, Rand Paul, Republican, and Bernie Sanders, a Democrat voted against the Congressional approval of sanction. Instead of voting sanctions, Congress should have voiced America’s thanks to the Russians for doing what the American media failed to do, showing Americans how corrupt the Democratic National Committee was, a scandal that forced Rep. Wasserman Schultz to reign her post as head of the DNC. . What do we know about Russian interference in the election? What we do know is that someone leaked thousands of e-mails from members of the Democratic National Committee that revealed that the committee was taking sides, favoring Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. Cong. Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, resigned after emails were disclosed showing she had worked to undermine the presidential campaign of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. As Thomas Hawk wrote in Legislation 8/3/2017. “In the hyper-partisan environment where it appears Republicans and Democrats are always at each other’s throats, it is easy to forget that both respond to what’s at the fore of the national dialogue the same way: they do whatever they believe is the most politically expedient thing to do. This inevitably results in knee-jerk, reactionary policy decisions that are more responsive to the media elite and special interests than the American voter.” ...

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Why Conservatives should Support Raising the Gas Tax
Howard Richman, 5/11/2017

By Jesse Richman, Howard Richman ­­and Raymond Richman

[This piece was also published in the American Thinker on May 8.]

On May 1, President Trump mentioned that he might be willing to support raising the gasoline and diesel tax to pay for infrastructure improvements. Bloomberg News reports:

“It’s something that I would certainly consider,” Trump said Monday in an interview with Bloomberg News in the Oval Office, describing the idea as supported by truckers “if we earmarked money toward the highways.”

However, the next day Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform, tried to quash Trump’s openness on this issue. He told Fox Business that the current rate of taxation would be sufficient if certain other changes were enacted.

In contrast, to this “conservative” defender of taxpayers, the lobbyists for those who would pay the tax actually favor raising its rate, so long as the revenue really goes toward improving the roads. For example, in 2015 the American Automobile Association and the American Trucking Association joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in a letter to lawmakers which stated:

Americans are frustrated with our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, including increasingly congested highways and deficient roads and bridges. Thirty-two percent of major roads are in poor or mediocre condition. This neglect costs the average driver $324 each year in additional vehicle repairs and operating costs.

In this case, the taxpayers are right, and this “conservative” defender of taxpayers is wrong. User taxes are an appropriate and efficient way to pay for highway spending. They fall directly on those who benefit from such spending. Each purchase of fuel to run an automotive vehicle helps pay for the roads on which that vehicle will drive.

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War on Drugs Killed Thousands Here and Abroad and Cost Taxpayers Trillions  
Raymond Richman, 4/28/2017

The immense cost of the U.S. war on drugs is unbelievable. Its cost in money and resources has been hundreds of billions of dollars. It cost in lives lost and careers ended runs into the hundreds of thousands. In spite of its costs, the drugs problem is worse than ever. It is not only a national, state, and local government problem but an international problem, involving many countries around the world, the UN, and numerous international bodies as well. Thousands of persons have been incarcerated whose only crime is marketing substances that drug users demand, a market response to a failed anti-drug policy.  And the drug user is seldom prosecuted although he is the one governments are trying to save from addiction and spends billions trying to rehabilitate. Are we crazy or what?

 

Drug users, who include a number of Hollywood and society celebrities as well as  ordinary people seeking a high while engaging in private sexual activities, ordinary thrill seekers, caused the death of thousands of innocent people, including judges, soldiers, and an army of black and white workers growing, marketing and distributing the drugs. You would think that the USA would have learned from its experience with its prohibition of alcoholic beverages. The eighteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution was enacted in 1919 and repealed in 1933. It caused thousands to become rum-runners, to engage in selling drugs, to open speakeasies, and to become racketeers like Al Capone.

 

The War on Drugs" began in 1914 with passage of a law to forbid prescribing drugs for addicted patients. Between 1915 and 1938, more than 5,000 physicians and pharmacists were convicted and fined or jailed. Hardly any patients were prosecuted. The Federal Bureau of Narcotics was established in 1930. In 1971, it was reported that ten to fifteen percent of the servicemen in Vietnam were addicted to heroin. In the 1980s, while the number of arrests for all crimes had risen by 28%, the number of arrests for drug offenses rose 126%. Prisons became a booming business. In 1994, the New England Journal of Medicine reported that the "War on Drugs" resulted in the incarceration of one million Americans each year. What was their crime? Meeting the demand of their fellow-citizens for drugs. ...

 

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CERN Study Casts Doubt on Man-made Global Warming
Raymond Richman, 10/18/2016

The following article appeared in London's Sunday Express in May, 2016. I came across it while browsing on Google. I found no reference to the study referred to in any American news source. The study casts doubt on the validity of the belief that the use of man-made fossil fuel is the major contributor to global warming much of which occurred before man began using fossil fuels. The assertion that scientists are in agreement with the notion that man-made global warming is principally responsible for global warming appears to be utter nonsense. The study has not been publicized in any American journal or news source that I have been able to find. A leading study of the negative effects of global warming world-wide showed that the U.S. would be one of countries least affected by global warming in the next century.  Until more research is done and it is reasonably certain that man-made fossil fuel emissions are the major or a significant cause of global warming, it is foolish to spend hundreds of billions of dollars world-wide measures to reduce fossil fuel emissions. The U.S. and the States give subsidies and tax benefits to the wealthy producers of so-called "clean fuel" a number of whom are not even American-owned and forces utilities to pay high prices for the electricity they produce.  And it gives tax credits to the wealthy consumers of Tesla and other electric and hybrid motor vehicles.

CERN is the largest nuclear research institution in, the world. The leading CERN researcher on the cause of climate change is a British scientist Jasper Kirkby. The article follows:

Has climate change been disproved? Large Hadron boffins cast shock DOUBT on global warming

MANKIND'S burning of fossil fuels may not be the primary cause of global warming, according to the shock results of a new study by scientists behind the Large Hadron Collider (LCH).

By JON AUSTIN

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Two interesting articles
Jesse Richman, 8/16/2016

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/cover_story/2016/08/the_week_democracy_died_how_brexit_nice_turkey_and_trump_are_all_connected.html

Puts together many of the pieces of the current crisis without recognizing the critical role of Asian mercantilism. 

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/aug/13/rising-power-of-china-new-political-fissures-in-west 

Outlines some key challenges of the present.  Including this: "The era when globalisation seemed like a process that could create only common interests between China and the west is over. It is now giving way to...

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The Last Time Europe Committed Suicide by Refugee -- Ray and I are published in today's American Thinker
Howard Richman, 10/4/2015

We begin:

The year was 375. The Roman Empire contained about a fourth of the world’s people stretching across Europe from Brittania in the north to Egypt in the south, from Spain in the west to what is now Bulgaria in the east.

Meanwhile, just east of Bulgaria, the Visigoths (Western Goths), fleeing the depredations of Hun horsemen, wanted to cross the Danube River into the safety of the Roman Empire. The Visigoths were also attracted by the glorious wealth of the Roman Empire.

The story of the refugee crisis is told in the final chapter of Edward Gibbon’s classic The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. About 500,000 Goths, men, women and children, lined the bank of the Danube River for miles, seeking to cross:

To read the rest, go to: http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2015/10/the_last_time_europe_committed_suicide_by_refugee.html

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States Have the Right Under the 10th Amendment to Refuse to Obey an Unconstitutional Order of the U.S. Supreme Court
Raymond Richman, 9/9/2015

Elected Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis refused to grant a marriage license to homosexuals. She did so on religious grounds but it is not the freedom of religion clause of the First Amendment that justified her refusal but the 10th Amendment which recites: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively or to the people.” What the US Supreme Court rules is not the “Law of the Land.” The Law of the Land is the Constitution of the United States. Relying on a single clause, the due process clause of the 14th Amendment which was designed to protect the rights of former slaves, the majority of the Court consisting of four political appointees and one “independent” made a decision “at odds not only with the Constitution but with the principles upon which our nation was built”, as Justice Thomas wrote in his dissent.  

The majority decision held that all the states must give under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment the law of a single state declaring that homosexuals have the right to marry even when thirty states have laws that state that marriage can only be a union of a man and a woman. Nothing in the Constitution gives the Supreme Court the right to nullify a State’s law that marriage can only take place between a man and a woman. Kim Davis, the county clerk may refuse to marry homosexuals because the Supreme Court unconstitutionally exceeded its constitutional authority....

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A Column This Week by Thomas Sowell
Raymond Richman, 7/24/2015

Thomas Sowell is the Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

His most recent books on economics include Housing Boom and Bust (2009), Intellectuals and Society (2009), Applied Economics (2009), Economic Facts and Fallacies (2008), Basic Economics (2007. Sowell's journalistic writings include a nationally syndicated column that appears in more than 150 newspapers from Boston to Honolulu. Over the past three decades, Sowell has taught economics at various colleges and universities, including Cornell, Amherst, and the University of California at Los Angeles. Sowell received his bachelor’s degree in economics (magna cum laude) from Harvard in 1958, his master’s degree in economics from Columbia University in 1959, and his PhD in economics from the University of Chicago in 1968.

His column points out, as we have done on this site in several blogs, on the racist, anti-black nature of the federal minimum wage. Before the minimum wage was enacted under Pres. Roosevelt and before it was increased in the  1950s. black teen-age unemployment was in the single digits. He writes:

As the minimum wage kept getting raised, so did the unemployment rate for black 17-year-old males. In 1971 it was 33.4 percent and it hasn’t been under 30 percent since. It has often been over 40 percent and, occasionally, over 50 percent. ...

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What Is the Remedy When the Supreme Court Exceeds Its Constitutional Authority?
Raymond Richman, 6/29/2015

The Constitution of the U.S. made no provision for judicial review of federal or state legislation. Articles III, of the Constitution of the U.S. created the federal judicial system, but made no provision for declaring unconstitutional Congressional legislation or Presidential actions. In the  case of Marbury v. Madison (1803), the Supreme Court  arrogated to itself the power to declare actions of the President and the Congress and the several states unconstitutional. But the power is not unlimited. The Court has no power to legislate as it has done in cases stemming back to Pres. F. Roosevelt when the President attempted to pack the Court. It has the power to interpret laws and the constitution when there is ambiguity in the letter of the law or conflicting legislation. The President and the Congress are entitled to challenge any excessive arrogation of power.

The U. S. constitution created a republic with the federal government having limited powers with all rights not granted to it being reserved to the states or to the people under the 10th amendment. The 14th amendment ratified in 1868 reduced states’ rights. Section 1 recites that “no state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Of course, the Civil War denied the States the right to secede gainst states’ rights to secede from the union. The 14th Amendment went further; it reduced the rights of states that had not attempted to secede.

The States created the Constitution and established a republic. The States and the Federal Government were not created co-equal with the States. The States retained the power to determine the members of the Senate. Until the 17 Amendment was adopted in 1913, the legislatures of the States appointed the members of the Senate. That amendment marked the end of any state control over the actions of the federal government, including the Supreme Court. ...

 

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Michelle Malkin: U.S. harmonizes its patent laws with Europe
Howard Richman, 5/24/2015

In preparation for the Obamatrade deal with Europe, the United States has adopted Europe's anti-innovation patent laws. Michelle Malkin is on the story. She writes:

The AIA’s [America Invents Act's] primary agenda? “Harmonizing” our patent laws with the rest of the world to reward paper-pushers who are “first to file” at the patent office, instead of those who are “first to invent.” These and other measures enacted by Obama threaten to drive garage tinkerers and small inventors — the designers, engineers and builders of American prosperity — out of the marketplace. Longtime venture capitalist Gary Lauder noted that the first-to-file system has suppressed solo and small-business innovation in Europe and Japan. “The U.S. gets 10 times the angel and venture capital of Western Europe — which recently declared an ‘innovation emergency,'” Lauder observed. “So why are we harmonizing with them? They should be harmonizing with us.”

America's patent laws have been moving in this direction for years, due to foolish decisions by the DC federal court. More and more, patents are being filed, not by those who are developing new inventions, but by those who wish to sue those who eventually develop the new inventions.

Inventors should, at the very least, be forced to produce working prototypes of their invention before they can apply for patents. I would like to see a much tougher patent process in place, but also one which includes automatic grants to produce the invention whenever a patent is awarded.

Which American President Holds a Patent?

By the way, Malkin includes a fun fact in her article. She writes:...

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CNN quickly cuts away from Japanese leader saying that Fast-Track will enable free flow of people
Howard Richman, 5/11/2015

At his April 28 Press Conference with Obama, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan confirmed that the Trans Pacific Partnership, the secret treaty that he is negotiating with Obama, is designed to enable the free flow of people among the 12 participating countries (which include both Mexico and the United States). You can watch this statement at the 47:06 mark. He says (according to the simultaneous translation):

"First of all on TPP, this is not something that we create out of consciousness about China. The economic growth of the region will be a positive and create opportunities for Japan, the United States, and the world. The TPP is such that to the eyes of many countries, it has to become a model.

It should be a model for China in that it's an ambitious attempt to create a new economic sphere in which people goods and money will flow freely within the Asia-Pacific region....

On these points we see completely eye-to-eye between President Obama and myself. 

Watch this humorous YouTube video from Redacted Tonight to see CNN instantly cutting away before its viewers could hear Abe's statement:

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Daniel Greenfield: Why Scott Walker is Right on Immigration
Howard Richman, 4/25/2015

On April 23, 2015, Daniel Greenfield (Why Scott Walker is Right on Immigration), defended Scott Walker's call for limitations on legal immigration to protect the jobs of American workers.

Greenfield's observes that the issues of unlimited immigration and unlimited trade are closely entwined in the eyes of some Republicans. Here is a selection from Greenfield's op-ed:...

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News stories you may have missed in today’s news and blogs
Raymond Richman, 2/23/2015

I.In our blogs in the past, we dealt with the fact that the wage causes unemployment among unskilled workers, particularly blacks, and more particularly black teenagers. In today’s Wall Street Journal (2/23/2015), Prof. Thomas MaCurdy, professor of economics at Stanford university has an op-ed entitled “The Minimum-Wage Stealth Tax on the Poor” describes how, the minimum wage, in addition to causing unemployment, amounts to a sale tax, raising prices of goods consumed by low-income families and falls with greater weight on low-income families. Here is a quote: “But will low-income families earn more from an increase in the minimum wage that they will pay as consumers of the now higher-priced goods? My research strongly suggests that they won‘t.” And “My analysis, using the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure showed that the 1996 minimum-wage hike raised prices on a broad variety of goods and services. …My analysis concludes that more poor families were losers than winners from the 1996 hike in the minimum wage.”

II. The David Horwitz Freedom Center today listed the “Ten Most anti-semitic campuses in the U.S. 

  1. Columbia University, New York, NY
  2. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
  3. George Mason Universityk, Fairfax, Va
  4. Loyola University, Chicago, IL
  5. Portland State University, Portland, OR
  6. San Francisco State,  San Francisco, CA
  7. Temple University, Philadelphis, PA
  8. San Diego State University, San Diego, CA
  9. University of California Los Angeles, CA
  10. Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY

Reference was made to the following site: www.jewhatredoncamppus.org, which listed incidents at Vanderbilt University, Northwestern University, Stanford University, and UC Davis. ...

 

 

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Let's end means-tested benefits
Howard Richman, 1/22/2015

In his 2015 State of the Union speech, President Obama proposed programs to assist people who work. In fact, he denigrated those who sit at home, enjoying benefits without contributing. For example, he asked: 

[W]ill we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?

Then more of the same when he said:

Tonight, together, let's do more to restore the link between hard work and growing opportunity for every American. 

And yet more of the same when he said:

We don't just want everyone to share in America's success – we want everyone to contribute to our success.

Was Obama intentionally leaving out the many poor people who make no effort? Does this emphasis imply that he would favor bills that would end the means-tested work-discouraging system built by Washington over the last several decades?

Perhaps the clearest presentation of these disincentives appeared in a slide from a July 2012 presentation by then Pennsylvania Secretary of Public Welfare Gary D. Anderson. Here is one of the graphs that he presented:

WelfareCliffAlexander.JPG

 

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The Perils of Outsourcing Congressional Expertise
Jesse Richman, 9/10/2014

An under-appreciated but critical reason why Congress is less effective -- more polarized, more unproductive -- now than it was in the past is that Congressional committees are a shadow of their former selves. Committees are the intelligent heart of the lawmaking process. Woodrow Wilson, somewhat reluctantly, acknowledged that "Congress in committee is Congress at work." Today the committees know less, do less, and influence less. Congress has outsourced policy expertise to think tanks which, according to a recent NYT article are increasingly bought by foreign interests.

Congress is awash with information. Each member of Congress maintains a staff of legislative aides to help them write bills, negotiatiate legislative language, research issues, frame strategy. And there are hundreds of think tank 'scholars' in each of the major think tanks, thousands of lobbyists, and many many others outside of government who are happy to provide 'expertise'.

But all of this information can simply lead to polarization, idiocy, and a war of talking points without intelligent integration by people who are working for the public interest (as senior members of the committee see it), and have the long-term perspective to see through propaganda and spin to elucidate the best policies. Worse yet, this information stream can be bought and influenced by foreign interests interested in steering US policy in directions that serve themselves. From the New York Times:

More than a dozen prominent Washington research groups have received tens of millions of dollars from foreign governments in recent years while pushing United States government officials to adopt policies that often reflect the donors’ priorities, an investigation by The New York Times has found.

The money is increasingly transforming the once-staid think-tank world into a muscular arm of foreign governments’ lobbying in Washington. And it has set off troubling questions about intellectual freedom: Some scholars say they have been pressured to reach conclusions friendly to the government financing the research.

Over the last several decades, both chambers of Congress have systematically degraded their capacity to engage in this process. Much political science research suggests that an especially important source of expertise in making good policy is the expertise of committee staff. And the committee staff has been starved. The graph below shows the size of the committee staff in the House and Senate over time, based on data collected by the Brookings Institution....

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Returning to the Roots of the Republican Party?
Jesse Richman, 9/6/2014

Heather Richardson has an insightful piece on the Republican Party in the September 4th New York Times.  The title: "Bring Back the Party of Lincoln."  She emphasizes a longstanding tension within the party between (1) centering the party's platform on the promotion of opportunity for the common man, and (2) centering the party's platform on promoting the interests of the wealthy.  She argues that when the party has centered its platform on the first program it has won, when centered on the second program it has lost eventually as an emiserated populace turns away from the party, only to be won back by a return to the first principle.

This is a vast oversimplification of a complex political history that is surely sketched in more detail in the book on which her op-ed is based.  But it does connect to important fundamental principles, and it offers an effective road forward for the Republican Party -- or some other party.  In our present crisis the lack of opportunity for the common man is the problem.  In some instances the solution is less government, in other instances the solution is more government, and in other instances, the solution is re-directing government.  But our current political parties, fixated as they are on redistribution of the pie, seem quite unable to frame an effective and thoughtful national program that places opportunity at the center. 

Let us turn for a moment to the Republican Platform of 1860... 

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State of Play, 2014
Jesse Richman, 8/25/2014

 "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity." -- Yeats, 1919

We are at the dawn of a new and much more dangerous period of world history. The last vestiges of the post-cold-war dominance the United States enjoyed are fading. A multi-polar world is emerging in which several great powers compete for influence, and the old assumptions that had guided our thinking and complacency are fading away.

...

As the world become more multi-polar, there is increased potential for conflict among enemies that may win the US new allies. The rise of the Islamic State is a case in point, arguably. Tied with this is the potential for more burden sharing with allies.

There are enormous, but currently being missed, opportunities to tip the policy balance in Washington towards policies that would better serve the long term economic and political interests of the United States. For instance we have the capacity (if not yet the will) to balance trade and reform the tax code.

Finally, the democratic system offers the opportunity to replace shortsighted and ideologically blinded leaders with leaders who are more effective -- who recognize the challenges and opportunities of the current moment, and craft effective responses.

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The Minimum Wage is a Racist Law -- we were published in today's American Thinker
Howard Richman, 7/5/2014

We begin:

In his 2014 State of the Union Address, President Obama praised the states that had recently raised their minimum wages, and he called upon Congress to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10. He said:

Tom Harkin and George Miller have a bill to fix that by lifting the minimum wage to $10.10.  This will help families.  It will give businesses customers with more money to spend.  It doesn’t involve any new bureaucratic program.  So join the rest of the country.  Say yes.  Give America a raise.

He didn’t mention that young unskilled workers would be harmed....

To read the rest, go to:

http://www.americanthinker.com/2014/07/the_minimum_wage_is_a_racist_law.html

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Minimum Wage Misconceptions -- Ray was published in yesterday's Tribune-Review
Howard Richman, 6/23/2014

Here's how he begins:

Economists are divided on how much unemployment the minimum wage causes. But there is little doubt that a minimum wage decreases the demand for unskilled workers. What wage potential employers are willing to pay depends on what the employer believes that hiring an additional worker would be worth to him. No employer will hire a worker unless he believes the worker will contribute as much value as the worker costs.

Who is hurt the most by a minimum wage? Teenagers having no work experience and the unskilled, 20 or over, without work experience. And as the data show, black teenagers and the black unskilled are affected the most, which is an unintended consequence.

The unemployment statistics speak for themselves....

To read the article go to: http://triblive.com/opinion/featuredcommentary/6291221-74/wage-minimum-percent#ixzz35SPgmUqV

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Saving Mr. Smith -- How to Fix the Filibuster
Jesse Richman, 5/29/2014

In Frank Capra's 1939 classic Mr. Smith Goes to Washington the filibuster is described as "democracy's finest show, the filibuster, the right to talk your head off, the American privilege of free speech in its most dramatic form."

Claims that the filibuster is "Democracy in action." may seem odd on their face. A central tenet of democracy is majority rule. The filibuster can thwart majority rule. It protects minorities against majorities. In the modern U.S. Senate, ending a filibuster requires that 60 Senators vote for cloture. If only 59 Senators support a measure, there is nothing they can do. The 41 against the measure win every time.

....

In Mr. Smith goes to Washington, Jefferson Smith's willingness to engage in an individual filibuster even in the face of broad opposition signaled the credibility of his case, and blocked Senatorial action Smith opposed. By bringing back legislative rules that support filibuster wars of attrition, we can save the valid core of Capra's case for the filibuster from the abuses of tyrany by the minority.

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Franklin's The Way to Wealth
Jesse Richman, 4/24/2014

The U.S. personal savings rate spiked in the wake of the Great Recession, temporarily arresting a long downward trend.  The trend is gradually reverting toward the declining norm of recent decades -- a spend-thrift pattern.  In the recently released February estimates, the rate was 4.3 percent, down more than four percent from the post-recession high of 8.7 percent. Full data is available from the St. Louis FED

fredgraph.jpg

As a solution, I offer you Benjamin Franklin...

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Reading the Tea Leaves in Virginia
Jesse Richman, 11/7/2013

Last night the votes were counted in Virginia's state-wide elections for Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General along with all members of the House of Delegates.  The results defy the strong interpretations partisans of all stripes and on all sides would like to read into them. The electorate, in the end, fits no one's ideological box, and serves no party's crusade....

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Time to Eliminate the IMF, the World Bank, and the WTO
Raymond Richman, 10/31/2013

On this site, October 29th, I reviewed Benn Steill’s book on the Bretton Woods conference where the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were created. At the conference, Dr. Harry Dexter White, representing the United States, later shown to have been a Soviet agent, and John Maynard Keynes, the eminent economist, battled to achieve a post-war world of financial stability. White’s views prevailed and now we are burdened by the two international institutions mentioned above which have no justifiable excuse for continuing to exist. In fairness to White, Keynes’s proposals had they been adopted would have been equally bad. The trouble is that once created, like most bad legislation, they are incredibly difficult to get rid of. They develop constituencies which seem able to prevent their repeal. 

The global sentimentality which motivated Woodrow Wilson to found the League of Nations and Franklin Roosevelt to establish the United Nations, the World Bank, and the IMF, has badly served the USA. This is true as well of many other global institutions such as the World Trade Organization and many international treaties where the U.S. is a signatory. These organizations go out of existence.  They no longer serve any useful purpose if they ever did.  

Take first the IMF. The IMF was created to provide financial stability, to prevent countries from manipulating their foreign exchange rates to gain a competitive advantage in international trade, a favorable balance of trade, which stimulates their economies while weakening the economies of its trading partners. A good example of that is the enormous trade surplus of China with the United states, but China is not the only country enjoying a chronic trade surplus with the USA, Japan post WWII engaged in similar practices and has enjoyed a chronic trade surplus with the USA. Germany and others have chronic trade surpluses with the U.S. The IMF has done nothing to prevent any of this from happening. Neither has the World Trade Organization.  ...

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The Missing White Working Class Vote
Jesse Richman, 7/11/2013

One of the signal events of the 2012 presidential election, as Sean Trende has noted in a series of insightful analyses on Real Clear Politics was the disappearance of a significant block of white voters from the electorate.  Sean notes that the participation drop-off was most pronounced among working class whites in blue collar counties, and particularly finds a significant association between change in turnout and the vote share for Ross Perot in 1992.

"Mainly, they fit the profile of “Reagan Democrats” or, more recently, a Ross Perot supporter. For these no-shows, Mitt Romney was not a natural fit.

Winning these voters, he argues, will require that the parties alter their trade policies...

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Sarah Hall Ingram is being written out of the IRS scandal
Howard Richman, 6/19/2013

Sarah Hall Ingram is being written out of the IRS scandal. Take, for example, this selection from an article in today's Insurance Journal which states:

Some Republicans are also highlighting the fact that Sarah Hall Ingram, who heads the IRS health care office, oversaw the tax-exempt division when agents first started improperly targeting conservative groups. The IRS said Ingram was re-assigned to help the agency implement the health care law in December 2010, about six months before her subordinate learned about the targeting.

The height of the scandal was January 2012 when, for the second time, a BOLO (Be On the Look Out) list was instituted which specifically targeted groups whose names included words such as "Tea Party." And Ingram was Commissioner of the relevant IRS division at that very time:...

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IRS Scandal: Economic Freedom At Stake
Howard Richman, 5/24/2013

Watch the following video from the May 18 Huckabee Show if you want to understand how the IRS scandal could eventually hurt our economy:

And if you want to understand where this behavior comes from, read this May 17 commentary from the Chicago Tribune by John Kass (IRS scandal a reminder of how I learned about The Chicago Way). Kass reminisces about family discussions within his large Greek-American family growing up in Chicago. Here is a selection from this engaging commentary about why his family members enjoyed talking about politics but were afraid to engage in political activities:...

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Is Justice Department trying to keep up US Credit Rating by intimidating Rating Agencies?
Howard Richman, 2/7/2013

Of all the rating agencies that overrated mortgage bonds in the mid 2000s, the Justice Department has singled out Standard and Poors for a court case, Standard and Poors being the only agency, so far, that has downgraded the U.S. government credit rating. Peter Morici (Fed's decision to single out Standard & Poors should raise concern) writes:...

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Again! Misleading Data From the Department of Labor
Raymond Richman, 12/27/2012

ALERT!    Alert!

Once again there is misleading information from the Department of Labor about the number of initial unemployment insurance claims filed during the preceding week.  In its release for the week ending December 22, it reported that seasonally adjusted initial claims amounted to 350,000, a decrease of 11,250 from the previous week. One paragraph later, the release reported that the actual number of initial claims filed was 440,887, an increase of 39,458! We believe the seasonally adjusted figure is unreliable. CNBC and Bloomberg television reported only the seasonally adjusted number. This is a great disservice to investors who tuned in to CNBC and Bloomberg television at 8:30 A.M. on Thursday to get the latest data.  ...

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Will turnout be lower in 2012
Jesse Richman, 10/26/2012

I recently published a piece on The Monkey Cage, a political science blog on the question of whether turnout will be lower in the 2012 election.  Here is how I begin:

This year one of my favorite informal election prediction metrics has been silent: the pizza indicator.  In nearly every election year since 2006 either the college Democrats or the college Republicans post signs by the elevators in the Arts and Letters building inviting students to come to a meeting and offering free pizza.  The Party offering pizza was the one that won the election in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2010.  (2007 and 2011 were lower turnout state legislative election years with little pizza to be had).  This year neither organization is offering pizza, and there has been precious little paper spent even advertising their meetings.

Pizza aside, there are more powerful suggestions that 2012 will be a low turnout election.  I focus here on the frequency of Google searches for election-related information.  Searches for “vote” should be an indicator of interest in electoral participation....

The entire post can be read here:

http://themonkeycage.org/blog/2012/10/25/will-2012-be-a-low-turnout-election-some-evidence-from-google-search-activity/

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"Technocrats" may be blocking accession of China's reform-minded president-in-waiting
Howard Richman, 9/14/2012

There appears to be a succession fight going on in China, as indicated by the disappearance from public view of its designated next president Xi Jinping shortly after his reform-minded intentions came to light. According to Malcolm Moore, writing on September 14 in The Telegraph (Xi Jinping 'under huge pressure' from inside the Communist party), the succession struggle is between the "red princelings" represented by Xi and the "technocrats" who currently run China under President Hu:

A new rift appears to have emerged between the two main factions in the Communist Party: the "red" princelings, the up-and-coming children of Communist Party heroes, and the technocrats.

Mr Xi is a princeling, while Mr Hu is a technocrat, although Mr Xi has been successful at bridging the divide. "Song Ping and the other elders are suspicious of Mr Xi and the other princelings because they are not obedient. They saw these princelings grow up and know the difference between them and Mr Hu and Wen Jiabao [China's premier], who are more polite and less personally ambitious".

Xi Jinping and his fellow "red princelings" may have angered the "technocrats" by their advocacy of economic and political reform. On September 7, a Reuters article by Chris Buckley (Exclusive: China president-in-waiting signals quicker reform - sources) began:...

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Op-ed in the Ripon Forum
Jesse Richman, 8/21/2012

My op-ed analyzing the 2012 Virginia elections was just published online in the Ripon Forum.  The paper copy will be sent out next week.  One important aspect of the Virginia presidential election which I discuss in the op-ed is the candidacy of anti-free trade candidate Virgil Goode (Conservative Party).   

One wild card in the Virginia presidential contest is Constitution Party candidate (and former VA 5th District Congressman) Virgil Goode. Goode's platform is broadly conservative, although his position against free trade agreements has the potential to draw support from voters dissatisfied with the trade actions and positions of both parties. Goode appears poised to qualify for ballot access, as his campaign claimed on August 1, 2012 to have collected more than 18 thousand signatures, nearly twice the ten thousand required under Virginia law.

Goode has the potential to spoil Romney's electoral prospects. He retains a base of support in the 5th district, although he is relatively unknown in other parts of the state. Polls have put Goode at 5 to 9 percent of the statewide vote if included on the ballot...

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Is America Slouching Into Fascism Under Both Democrats and Republicans ?
Raymond Richman, 8/5/2012

It is a measure of the strength of the Communist movement that it got the media and most academics to accept the notion that fascism is a right wing movement.  The important political difference between Communism and Fascism is that Communist parties wherever they are located see themselves as part of an international Marxist socialist movement whereas Fascist parties are single-country socialist movements, initially at least. Trotsky’s complaint against the Stalinist wing of the party, which got him killed, was that the latter was insufficiently international. Communism is his view was and should be a worldwide revolutionary movement. 

The word Nazi is a German contraction of the name Adolph Hitler gave his political party, the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. The word Fascist is derived from the name Mussolini gave his Italian national socialist party. Its symbol was the fasces, a Roman symbol of authority. Why have the media always subscribed to the myth that Nazis and Fascists were rightist political movements? Was it because to identify them as socialists would have been to reveal how close to the Communists they really were? They did not want workers to realize that the Nazis and Fascists were socialist parties. Getting workers worldwide to believe the lie that fascism was a rightist movement was a great Communist political achievement. ...

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Obama stopped the falling house prices (in Washington DC)
Howard Richman, 4/25/2012

Republicans do not give President Obama credit where credit is due. He stopped the fall off in house prices. When he took office in January 2009, house prices were falling rapidly. Both in Washington DC and in the nation they were 81% of what they had been just one year previously (after subtracting for inflation).

But President Obama almost completely halted that decline. In Washington DC, according to the Feb 2012 data released yesterday by S&P/Case-Shiller, house prices still held 96% of their January 2009 value. His success is shown in the following graph of real house prices (house prices after subtracting for inflation):

CaseShillerWashThru0212.gif

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Comments: 25


Let 50 different health care flowers bloom!
Howard Richman, 3/28/2012

The U.S. Supreme Court may be about to declare Obamacare to be unconstitutional. This would throw the health care ball back to the states, who can look beyond their borders to find out what works.

Obamacare required much too much in the way of coverage, much too much in the way of "free" care and much to much in the way of mandates. One recently publicized example: It even requires that insurance policies provide free birth control pills to single women attending Catholic universities. The inevitable result: higher premiums, increased government spending, increased business costs, price ceilings, shortages and rationing.

In contrast, some of the states are coming up with economically-sensible plans. Take North Carolina for example. In a class essay, one of my students reported her family's experience moving from New Jersey to North Carolina. She wrote:

I am one of them—those uninsurable children and teenagers who are denied health care insurance due to preexisting conditions. I have severe asthma and am on a long-term asthma controller....

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The Historical Background of Purim
Howard Richman, 3/8/2012

[Note: I posted an earlier version of this commentary on March 8, 2011.]

For thousands of years people have been inspired by Esther's brave choice when she risked her safety in the king's harem to save the Jewish people from annihilation. Her cousin Mordecai had called her to greatness when he asked her, “Who knoweth whether thou art not come to royal estate for such a time as this?” (Esther 4: 14). She had bravely replied to Mordecai:

Go gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day; I also and my maidens will fast in like manner; and so shall I go in unto the king; which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish. (Esther 4: 16)

Some think that the Book of Esther is fiction. But I do not. It fits too well with what we know about Persian history. Even though the Persian libraries were destroyed by Alexander the Great and the Greek reports conflict wildly, the Jewish account of Persian history is quite consistent. Esther is part of a chain of historic Jewish figures (Mordecai, Esther, Ezra and Nehemiah) who worked together to save the Jewish people at a time of extreme peril. The following timeline shows how Persian and Jewish history fit together:

timeline.GIF

Each Jewish event is dated as having taken place during such-and-such year of the reign of such-and-such monarch, so the reigns of the Persian monarchs give us the approximate year of each major Jewish event. On the timeline, the Jewish events are shown above the horizontal axis, while the Persian monarchs are shown below....

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Comments: 4


Listen to Ray on the Ron Morris (The American Entrepreneur) Radio Show
Howard Richman, 12/9/2011

Ray was on Ron Morris' show on November 26. If you want to listen, click on the following link:

  http://recordings.talkshoe.com/TC-139/TS-563192.mp3

 

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Comments: 0


McCotter Moving Up (a bit) in Polls
Jesse Richman, 8/18/2011

It is a small step, but it may signal a transition toward a viable national campaign.  In the most recent poll to examine support for Republican primary candidates, Thaddeus McCotter achieved his first non-zero showing of the polling season so far, earning the support of one percent of the respondents in a recent Fox News poll once the pool of candidates was restricted to those who had announced their candidacies.  McCotter is the only declared GOP candidate who has partially broken with party orthodoxy on free trade...

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Comments: 17


Washington postponing real budget cuts
Howard Richman, 7/19/2011

According to the Los Angeles Times, the House Republicans just passed a plan that would only reduce the $1600 billion 2012 budget deficit by $111 billion. Here's a selection from the story:

The proposal would cut spending by $111 billion in 2012 and cap future outlays to 19.9% of the nation's gross domestic output. It also would require that Congress send a balanced-budget constitutional amendment to the states for ratification, a lengthy process.

Meanwhile the so-called "gang of six" consisting of three Senators from each party put together a plan which is a lot like Rep. Paul Ryan's House Budget Plan in that it would slow the growth in government spending while reforming the tax code in hopes that lower marginal rates would help the economy. You can read the executive summary here....

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CBO supports our estimate that Fannie & Freddie will cost hundreds of billions more
Howard Richman, 6/10/2011

In a May 1 American Thinker commentary (House Republican Budget would Benefit the Poor) we lauded Paul Ryan's budget plan for proposing to end the hemorrhaging of government money to Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac. We wrote:

It ends government bailouts to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which have already cost the U.S. taxpayer hundreds of billions of dollars (and, with house prices continuing to fall, will likely cost hundreds of billions more).

Our estimate of hundreds of billions of dollars more is probably in the right ball park according to a CBO study. CBS News reports (True Cost of Fannie, Freddie Bailouts: $317 Billion, CBO Says):...

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Comments: 3


House Prices Falling - Except in DC
Howard Richman, 6/2/2011

The latest S&P Case-Shiller numbers (for March) show that house prices are still falling:

CasheShillerTrhu0311.gif

But there is good news, President Obama has stabilized house prices in Washington DC. In fact, the trend for house prices in Washington DC has been upward ever since January 2009, when Obama was inaugurated, as shown by the red line in the graph below.

CaseShillerWashThru0311.gif

In his inaugural speech in January 2009, President Obama made many promises. His most important was his promise to grow the federal government in Washington DC in order to help families, specifically: ...

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House Republicans need to change course after NY special election loss. In 2012, they should run on balanced budgets and trade
Howard Richman, 5/26/2011

In a special election in the NY 26th House District, the Democratic candidate just won what was formerly a "safe" Republican seat. The Republicans were split, with some of the Republican vote going to a self-proclaimed "Tea Party" candidate. Nevertheless, the election showed that the Republican Party has fallen drastically since November 2010, just 7 months ago, when they won the House in an overwhelming landslide.

Back then, they campaigned as the party that would balance the budget and oppose Obamacare's Medicare cuts. Once they won the election they morphed into the party that wanted tax cuts for the rich and cuts in Medicare.

They started to go awry during the lame duck session when they negotiated a continuation of the Bush tax cuts as well as new Social Security Tax cuts with the Obama administration, making an already bad budget situation even worse.

Then, this session, Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican chair of the House Budget Committee, put together a budget plan, approved in principle by the House Republicans, that didn't balance the budget. Instead it cut taxes for the rich from 35% to 25% and cut Medicare 10 years down the road, not helping at all with the 2012 budget....

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Comments: 1


Zillow Real Estate Research reports that home values are falling fast
Howard Richman, 5/9/2011

A new study from Zillow Real Estate Research (No Respite from Housing Recession during the First Quarter) reports that house prices are falling at their fastest rate since 2008. Here is a selection:

Nearly three-quarters (74.5 percent) of homes in the United States lost value from Q1 2010 to Q1 2011. That’s up from Q4 2010, when 69.2 percent had lost value, but is down substantially from a peak of 85.5 percent in Q1 2009.

A record (37.7 percent) number of homes sold in March were sold for a loss. The rate of homes selling for a loss has steadily increased since June 2010.

Negative equity in the first quarter reached new high with 28.4 percent of all single-family homes with mortgages underwater, from 27 percent in Q4....

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Obama, Bernanke and Congress losing war against supply and demand in housing market
Howard Richman, 4/26/2011

The just-released Case-Shiller data for Feb. 2011 shows that despite the expensive efforts by Obama, Bernanke and Congress to control prices, house prices are again in free fall:

CaseShillerThru0211.gif

My father, son I predicted this in the April 14 American Thinker (House Prices in Free Fall). We wrote:

In June 2006, house prices peaked as supply increased faster than demand and the housing price bubble stopped expanding. Starting early in 2009, the Federal Reserve, Congress, and the Obama Administration spent hundreds of billions of dollars trying to keep house prices from falling. They subsidized first time home buyers, bought mortgage-backed securities, subsidized mortgage buyers, and took other measures. Apparently, these subsidies only slowed the fall in house prices.

If current trends continue, real house prices (house prices after subtracting inflation) will likely lose about a quarter of their real value over the next 4 years. If inflation continues at about 2%, this would produce a four year fall in actual house prices of about 4% per year.

It may soon become clear that the Federal Reserve and the federal government wasted hundreds of billions of dollars simply to delay an inevitable fall in housing prices. Economic historians may compare their policies to the pervasive price subsidies that eventually bankrupted the Soviet government.

Meanwhile, the Republicans in Congress have been foiled by lobbyists from their attempt to end the bleeding. AP reports:...

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Obama reverses fall of house prices -- in Washington DC
Howard Richman, 4/1/2011

CaseShillerWashington0811.gif

As shown in the graph above, since January 2009, President Obama has successfully turned around the fall in house prices, but only in Washington DC.

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Average house prices may fall 15% over the next four years
Howard Richman, 3/30/2011

The Federal Reserve, Congress, and the Obama Administration have been engaging in an expensive attempt to keep house prices from falling along their trend line. They have spent hundreds of billions of dollars subsidizing first time home buyers, buying mortgage-backed securities, subsidizing mortgage buyers, and in other measures.

Yet, despite these subsidies, house prices have been falling rapidly for the past six months according to the S&P/Case-Shiller Composite-10 Index, and the trend downward looks pretty steady, as shown in the graph below:

CaseShillerJan10Jan11v2.gif

The following graph shows the long-term trend line. The red line shows the actual house prices, adjusted for inflation (using the CPI). The black line is my projection of where real house prices will go over the next four years:...

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Why Lt. Gen. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, Is Being Belittled
Raymond Richman, 3/24/2011

Air Force Lt. Gen. James R. Clapper was alleged in the media to have “flunked ABCs' quiz”  about a London terror case in which a dozen suspected terrorists were rounded up a few hours earlier. Diane Sawyer, who asked what he knew about the roundup, was shocked, shocked, shocked! that he had not been informed about the incident.   Participating in the interview with Gen. Clapper were Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano and white house terrorism chief John Brennan, who had read the Post or had been briefed, as they should have been, involved as they were in terrorist matters. The interview on a Monday morning aired on the following Tuesday evening. Gen. Clapper, like Sarah Palin, does not apparently read the Post first thing every morning during breakfast.

Should Gen. Clapper have been alerted to the story by his staff? Yes, if they brief him every morning about what’s in the press and if they met with him that morning. But they did not. What’s the shock; what’s the surprise? It was news to Diane Sawyer and her question was legitimate but she did not ask him if he was aware of the roundup. She just assumed that because she knew about it, surely Gen. Clapper did, too.

Gen. Clapper was accused of another faux pas when asked in another interview his opinion of the Muslim Brotherhood....

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When the Jews and Persians were Friends
Howard Richman, 3/8/2011

[Please bear with me as I depart, temporarily, from trade and taxes to present one of my pet topics.]

For thousands of years people have been inspired by Esther’s brave choice when she risked her safety in the king’s harem to save the Jewish people from annihilation. Her Uncle Mordecai had called her to greatness when he asked her, “Who knoweth whether thou art not come to royal estate for such a time as this?” (Esther 4: 14). She had bravely replied to Mordecai:

Go gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day; I also and my maidens will fast in like manner; and so shall I go in unto the king; which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish. (Esther 4: 16)

Some think that the Book of Esther is fiction. But I do not. It fits too well with what we know about Persian history. Even though the Persian libraries were destroyed by Alexander the Great and the Greek reports conflict wildly, the Jewish account of Persian history is quite consistent. Esther is part of a chain of historic Jewish figures (Mordecai, Esther, Ezra and Nehemiah) who worked together to save the Jewish people at a time of extreme peril. The following timeline shows how Persian and Jewish history fit together:...

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Comments: 11


Morici: "Democrats will stubbornly argue the economic recovery will collapse if the deficit is cut by any more than $100bn"
Howard Richman, 2/15/2011

In a commentary that appeared this morning (Budget demagoguery; White House says deficit in current year to spike to $1.65trn - - the largest dollar amount ever) University of Maryland economist Peter Morici explains one of the reasons why Congress and the President are only proposing paltry cuts in the federal budget. He writes:...

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Election Mandates, Party Principles, and the Tax Cuts
Jesse Richman, 12/18/2010

The recent decision by Congress to pass a tax-cut focussed stimulous package consisting of roughly 875 billion in deficit spending over the next two years reflects a compromise between the Democratic and Republican Parties, but it is a compromise in which both parties suggest a lack of concern about debt and deficit spending, this in spite of a midterm election in which Republicans won on the basis of that issue. 

Although the 2010 election was a stark repudiation of the Democrats, it was not an endorsement of Republicans... 

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Schwarzenegger's Sea Level Prediction, One Year Later
Howard Richman, 12/16/2010

On December 2, 2009, Governor Schwarzenegger unveiled a map showing the effect upon the California coast of sea level rising by 1.5 meters over the next century due to increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The press reported the unveiling, showing no skepticism whatsoever.

How is his prediction doing? The red line is accurate satellite data through September reported by the University of Colorado; the black line is Schwarzenegger's dramatic prediction:

 SeaLevelthroughFall2010.gif...

 

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Comments: 1


Debt and American Power
Jesse Richman, 12/6/2010

In the recent issue of Foreign Affairs, Roger Altman and Richard Haass argue that growing government debt poses a serious threat to American power by increasing American vulnerability to sudden currency devaluation.  The United States must move to put its fiscal house in order, or face a sudden sharp loss of power and prestige in the future as financial markets lose faith in the capacity of the American government to pay its debts.  Paul Krugman's column in Monday's NYT also addresses debt, arguing that the President should allow the Bush tax cuts to expire. 

In Washington, however, the current move towards compromise appears to be one in which both parties agree to the policies they prefer that increase the deficit.... 

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House-Senate negotiators likely to throw out good provisions of financial reform bill, while institutionalizing future bailouts
Howard Richman, 6/7/2010

Three provisions remain on the table as the House and Senate conference committee negotiates the final provisions of the financial reform bill this weekend. An Associated Press analysis by Daniel Wagner discusses their likelihood of being included in the final draft:

  • Derivatives. A Senate provision preventing big banks from dealing with risky derivatives will be deleted by negotiators from the bill because it would cut into banking industry profits and is opposed by the Obama administration.
  • Volcker Rule. This provision would break up banks so that they would no longer be "too big to fail." In the House and Senate versions of the bill, the Volcker Rule was made optional, at the discretion of regulators, but the Obama administration is pushing for the rule to be restored by the conference committee. Wagner reports: "It's hard to predict what the final bill will say."
  • Institutionalized Bailouts. This provision institutionalizes bailouts of the big banks through a bailout fund created by taxing banks. It lets Federal government regulators take over banks even if they are solvent,  firing their executives and wiping out their stockholders, with a full 100% Federal government guarantee of their debts, no matter how large those debts. Banks would gain by being able to borrow at low interest rates with the full guarantee by the government of their debts. Politicians and regulators would gain because bank executives would have to corrupt the political and regulatory process so that they won't lose their jobs. Wagner reports "most observers expect it to be adopted."...

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British economists urge Greece to default on its debts, abandon euro
Howard Richman, 6/1/2010

On April 29, my father predicted on this blog that the Southern European countries would be forced to leave the euro zone. He wrote:

Unfortunately, Greece, Portugal, and Spain cannot print euros or levy import duties. It seems likely that Greece, Portugal, and Spain will have to retire from the EU – at least from the euro zone until they get control of their foreign trade and their domestic budgets. One other way out would be for Germany to invest more and import more from Greece, Portugal, and Spain. If it invests enough and soon enough and imports enough, the evil decree can be avoided.

Nouriel Roubini was the next to make this claim. See my blog posting from May 12.

On May 29, in the American Thinker (The Euro: This Marriage Can't Be Saved), we repeated my father's prediction that Southern European governments would give up the euro, based upon their self-interest.

On May 30, Times On Line reported that British economists at the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) recommended that Greece give up the euro, based upon its own interest. Here's a selection from the report:...

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The Euro: This Marriage Can't Be Saved -- We're published in American Thinker this morning
Howard Richman, 5/29/2010

Here's how we begin:

At the time of the euro's launch in January 1999, Milton Friedman declared that the euro would not survive the first major European economic recession. He believed that the member nations would pursue their own fiscal policies, which would be inconsistent with a common monetary standard. The debt crisis in Greece shows just how right he was.

If the Southern European governments comply with "Le Tarpe's" requirement that they move their bloated government budgets toward balance in order to get loans, then their fall in government spending and increased taxes will move their economies into recession. If they don't comply with those conditions, then the effect will be even more pronounced. They will immediately have to balance their budgets, because few lenders will lend money to a government that is about to default....

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Comments: 0


Senate punts on Volcker Rule
Howard Richman, 5/21/2010

Having learned nothing from the BP oil spill, partly caused by a failure of government regulators to require testing of deep-sea shut-off valves, the United States Senate just passed a financial reform bill which relies upon the intelligence and incorruptibility of government regulators.

What was actually needed was the Volcker Rule, proposed by Obama's competent economic advisor, former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker. That rule would have  broken up "too big to fail" banks so that they would no longer be too big. The UK Guardian has a summary of the bill. Here's what it says about the Volcker Rule:...

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Comments: 1


Rand Paul's victory in Kentucky puts the Federal Reserve on notice
Howard Richman, 5/19/2010

On May 18, in a victory over the Republican establishment, Rand Paul, son of the Federal Reserve's chief opponent in the U.S. Congress, won the Republican Senatorial primary in Kentucky. He and his father object to the important roles being played by the Federal Reserve in the American economy.

It's time for the Federal Reserve to clean up its act. The Federal Reserve under Greenspan and Bernanke has been blowing it big time. The United States is mired in economic stagnation due to the loss of a large part of its manufacturing sector from 1998 through the present. Even worse, the solution endorsed and enacted by the Federal Reserve has been a corrupt bailout of the big banks.

The Pauls want to take the United States back to Andrew Jackson's closing of the Federal Reserve's predecessor which, when combined with a return to a strict gold standard, caused such a constriction in the U.S. money supply that a depression ensued which lasted from 1837 to 1844. The Pauls would throw the baby out with the bathwater. The Federal Reserve has important roles to play:...

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Comments: 6


The UN's hopeless war against Afghan opium - We're published today by Enter Stage Right
Howard Richman, 5/3/2010

Our commentary begins:

On September 11, 2001, al-Qaida, then sheltered by the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan, bombed the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In response, during the winter of 2001-2002, we attacked Afghanistan, driving al-Qaida and their Taliban protectors out of the country. The Taliban had ceased to be an organized force. We had won!

Afghan opium productionAmerican troops had been welcomed as liberators in the Afghan countryside because the Taliban had banned the cultivation of the opium poppy in 2001, a disaster for the Afghan farmers whose chief crop was the poppy. The graph shows the 2001 drop-off in Afghan opium production.

As the supply went down, the price of opium poppies skyrocketed. According to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC):..

An abrupt decline of illicit opium poppy cultivation was recorded in Afghanistan in 2001, following the ban imposed by the Taliban regime in its last year in power. Despite the existence of significant stocks of opiates accumulated during previous years of bumper harvests, the beginning of a heroin shortage became apparent on some European markets by the end of 2001. Furthermore, the absence of the usual harvest in Afghanistan in spring 2001 and the subsequent depletion of stocks pushed opium prices upwards to unprecedented levels in the country (prices increased by a factor of 10), creating a powerful incentive for farmers to plant the 2002 crop. (p. 3)

There is an important economic lesson here. You can't stop an addictive drug by interdicting its supply. Addicts will demand the drug, no matter what the price. If you want to reduce consumption, you have to cut demand, not supply.

After the U.S. victory, the UN was anxious to prevent the resumption of opium planting. In February 2002, the UNODC (then called UNODCCP) conducted a quick survey which revealed the resumption of opium planting. That's when President Bush snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. With UN bureaucrats cheering from the sidelines, he used American troops to conduct an unsuccessful eradication campaign which turned the countryside against both American troops and UN surveyors, as the UNODC noted:...

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Comments: 1


Obama adopts Bush's losing strategy in Afghanistan
Raymond Richman, 4/7/2010

[co-authored with Howard Richman]

Do we want to win the war against Al Qaida, which is winnable, or fight a war on drugs that cannot be won? We won the war in a blitzkrieg in Afghanistan in 2002 with the help of a people that welcomed us as liberators. We drove the little that remained of the Taliban army out of Afghanistan. The Taliban had ceased to be an organized force.

Why were we welcomed in the Afghan countryside as liberators? The Taliban were hated in the countryside because their religious leaders banned the cultivation of the opium poppy in 2000, a disaster for the Afghan farmers whose chief crop was the poppy.

But after the victory, President Bush made a huge mistake. In order to keep our troops occupied, he began a moral crusade against opium, urging the farmers to grow other products. What nonsense as it turned out! We destroyed their crops of poppy where we could. The resurging Taliban offered them protection to continue growing poppies, the chief cash crop of Afghanistan, and, as a result, regained power over the Afghanistan countryside.

On October 26, 2009, while President Obama was determining his Afghanistan policy, we wrote a commentary, published by Enter Stage Right, which urged him not to repeat Bush's mistakes. We wrote:

Have we lost the war? Probably. Can we win it? Perhaps. We would have to declare that we shall no longer interfere with the cultivation of poppy in Afghanistan. To show we are serious, we should encourage the Afghan government to legalize the cultivation of poppy. It should tax poppies and opium as the Taliban have been doing. And to do it right, we ought to legalize drugs in the U.S. as well.

Let us recognize the fact that prohibition did not work with alcohol and has not worked with cocaine, marijuana, or heroin. Instead of wasting money as we have been doing for decades, we shall gain revenues instead. We shall gain friends instead of making enemies abroad as we have been doing.

We believe the war against the Taliban and al-Qaida is unwinnable as long as the drug war continues in Afghanistan.

But President Obama, decided to continue President Bush's losing crusade against opium. He attacked Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai, with whom we were allied, for not joining the U.S. war against the Afghanistan farmer. Here's a selection from an April 7 commentary by Tony Blankley detaling Obama's attacks against Karzai:...

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Good joke in today's American Thinker
Howard Richman, 4/2/2010

The following joke introduces a commentary by Harold Witkov:

A lifelong Democrat runs into a lifelong Republican, and they begin to debate the just-passed health care bill:...

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The Age of Scientific Conformity
Howard Richman, 1/23/2010

[originally published on our old blog on April 10, 2009]

We live in an age of scientific conformity that is the result of the peer-review system for determining whether a scientific paper is worth publishing and whether scientific research is worth funding.

There are two types of standards that can be used in judging science: (1) objective standards based upon a theory's ability to make predictions and (2) subjective standards based upon the popularity of a theory among scientists. In this age of scientific conformity, objective standards are often ignored.

Take the case of Gioacchino Giuliani, a researcher at the Gran Sasso Physics Institute in Italy. He predicted the recent Itallian earthquake and tried to warn the populace. But scientists who oppposed his theory convinced the local politicians to suppress Giuliani's warnings while convincing the local press to ignore his alarms. Wikinews reports the story. Here is a selection:
Giuliani claims to have predicted the quake by monitoring radon gas emissions. Last month, cars with loudspeakers drove around the area, broadcasting the researcher's warning that a quake would soon strike. He was then reported to the authorities for making false alarms, and was obliged to remove his findings from the Internet....

Giuliani holds a patent on a device measuring atmospheric levels of radon in order to predict earthquakes. In 2005 he gave a seminar at Gran Sasso discussing the device and its use to predict tremors in the area of L'Aquila, but has not published papers on the topic....

The use of radon levels to anticipate seismic events has been under study by the seismological community since the 1970s, but a generally-accepted proven link has not been established.
Or take climate change. The carbon dioxide global warming theory has been unable to make accurate predictions. Michael Crichton, author of many science fiction books about man-made disasters, started out to write a book about the coming climate disaster. But when he did his research, he discovered that the predictions made by the carbon dioxide theory were not coming true. He ended up writing State of Fear, a book that debunks that theory. He drew heavily from the writing of retired professors who no longer had to conform.

There is now an alternative climate change theory, cosmoclimatology, which is being developed by scientists from countries where peer pressure is less powerful than it is in the United States. Cosmoclimatology has been able to make many accurate predictions. Every step of the theory has been proven: (1) cosmic rays cause ionization, (2) ionization causes cloud formation, (3) low lying clouds reflect sunlight and heat back into space, and (4) solar activity wards off cosmic rays. This theory precisely predicts the periodic ice ages and greenhouse ages of the geological past as well as the opposite temperature trends in the northern hemisphere and Antartica. It also successfully predicts the current cooling period resulting from low solar activity. But the entire field of cosmoclimatology is ignored by the American press.

For example, Marilyn Head wrote a report this week for ABC Science about the current cooling of the earth in correspondence to the quieter sun, a prediction made by cosmoclimatology. But instead of interviewing a cosmoclimatologist, she interviewed a New Zealand mathematician who claimed that there was no scientific basis for a link between solar activity and earth temperatures. Here is a selection:
Dr Sean Oughton, an associate professor of mathematics at New Zealand's Waikato University, says the sun's lack of solar activity is expected.

"What we are experiencing is a very deep solar minimum, but it is still completely within the bounds of what is normal," he says....

He says no mechanism has been found which would prove a connection between minimal sunspot activity and cooler temperatures.
There you have it. The refuge of the subjective scientists is to claim that “no proven link" has been found or that “no mechanism has been found which could prove a connection.” What they mean is that they have not yet been subjectively persuaded by the arguments of the theory's adherents.

In the field of economics, there is a similar phenomena. You can't get tenure as an economist in academia if you disagree with the consensus that unilateral free trade is always the best policy. Economists invariably "prove" the benefit of unilateral free trade with examples in which trade is in balance. They never consider what would be the effect of unilateral free trade upon on a country running trade deficits.

My father broke with the conformist thinking of the economics profession in a September 2003 commentary in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review which advocated balanced trade. He did not have to fear that he would lose out on publications, promotions, or research money because he had already retired.

We expanded his 2003 piece and brought it up to date as part of our 2008 book Trading Away Our Future. Even though we predicted what is happening now and will happen in the next several years, nobody in the economics profession will review our book because doing so might encourage "protectionism."

The problem is the over-conformity encouraged by the peer-review process. Government research grants should no longer be authorized by peer review. Instead, they should be contest awards for the research work that makes the best predictions or achieves engineering goals. Predictions and achievements are the measure of objective theory. Peer review is the conformity-enforcing process that is currently corrupting science.

I am not the only researcher to identify this problem. Scientists all over the country are arriving at the same conclusion. University of Washington professor of surgery, Donald W. Miller, and University of Washington professor of bioengineering Gerald Pollack were two of the scientists from the Seattle area who hold the same belief as noted in an March 2008 editorial column about enforced scientific conformity in the Seattle Times by Bruce Ramsey. Here is a selection:
Here is a list of beliefs in the biomedical and climate sciences that must not be questioned if you're applying for a government grant:
  • That global warming is caused by humans;

  • That AIDS is caused by a virus;

  • That radiation, cigarette smoke and other toxins are dangerous in proportion to their strength, no matter how small the dose;

  • That heart disease is caused by saturated fats;

  • That cancer is caused by mutations.
This is part of a list offered by a University of Washington professor of surgery, Donald W. Miller, who is a heart surgeon at the VA Medical Center in Seattle....

What that means, Miller says, is that "If you say low doses of radiation aren't bad for you, or that global warming is due to variations in the sun, you can't get funded."

He says this happened to University of California scientist Peter Duesberg, who challenged the viral theory of AIDS, and to Harvard's Willie Soon, who challenged the pollution theory of global warming, and to others. In a paper published in 2007 in the Journal of Information Ethics, Miller argued that conformity is built into the system of government grants....

In 2005, in the scientific journal Cellular and Molecular Biology, Pollack made an argument similar to Miller's. American science, he wrote, has become "a culture of believers" whose rule is, "just keep it safe and get your funding."
The press has an important role here. Reporters must learn to ignore the scientists who are trying to suppress the predictive theories. They should no longer ignore earthquake warnings. They should no longer ignore cosmoclimatology. They should no longer ignore plans that would achieve balanced trade. Instead, they must learn to ignore barriers set up by incompetent scientists and give a hearing to those scientists whose predictions are coming true.

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Volcker may have replaced Summers as Obama's chief economic advisor
Howard Richman, 1/22/2010

Possibly as a result of the Republican victory in the Massachusetts Senate race, President Obama appears to have changed economic advisors. His bank reform ideas come from the previously-ignored Paul Volcker, not Larry Summers, who made economic policy last year. The White House's January 21 Press Release features Paul Volcker, but does not even mention Summers by name. It begins:

WASHINGTON, DC- President Obama joined Paul Volcker, former chairman of the Federal Reserve; Bill Donaldson, former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission; Congressman Barney Frank, House Financial Services Chairman; Senator Chris Dodd, Chairman of the Banking Committee and the President's economic team to call for new restrictions on the size and scope of banks and other financial institutions to rein in excessive risk taking and to protect taxpayers.

Volcker was America's most competent Federal Reserve Chairman ever. He slowed the increase in the money supply in order to reduce the inflation rate from 10.4% in the first quarter of 1981 down to 3.3% in the third quarter of 1984.

In contrast, Summers may be America's most incompetent economic advisor ever. He let Congress take most of the infrastructure spending out of Obama's recovery plan. He let China grow by stealing our manufacturing jobs. He has wasted hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpaper money in a doomed attempt to keep house prices from falling to their normal values. He has added more than a trillion dollars to the American government debt, creating huge problems for the future.

I don't know whether Volcker will be able to get America out of the Great Recession. But I do know that the policies that he will suggest will be based upon America's long-term good, not just short-term considerations.

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Obama's Anti-Bank Rhetoric Fails in Massachusetts
Howard Richman, 1/20/2010

Just before yesterday's Massachusetts election, President Obama tried to skewer Republican candidate Scott Brown for opposing a just-proposed $9 billion tax on some banks. President Obama was trying to save the U.S. Senate seat for the Democrats through populist rhetoric. Blomberg reported:

“Bankers don’t need another vote in the United States Senate -- they’ve got plenty,” Obama said in Boston, signaling a broader political strategy to tie Republicans in this year’s races to Wall Street greed.
But it didn't work. Scott Brown,the Republican candidate in an overwhelmingly Democratic state, still won an overwhelming victory. Obama's attempt to paint Brown as a Wall Street lackey failed because the voters knew that Obama is the phony populist, while Brown is the real thing. Brown is a man of the people who serves in the National Guard and drives a pick-up truck. To Obama, the American pick-up truck is a clunker that should be scrapped.

Obama thinks that typical Americans are motivated by a desire to see the rich hurt. But typical Americans don't hate bankers; they oppose handouts to Wall Street because they understand corrupt pay-offs to campaign contributors. They aren't the frustrated hatemongers of Obama's mind when he reportedly told his contributors at an April 2008 San Francisco fundraiser:

You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not.

And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

The Scott Browns of America will eventually figure out how to bring back American manufacturing jobs. But the Obamas of the world will never understand them.

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Obama now claims to be a populist!
Howard Richman, 1/19/2010

President Obama is trying to skewer the Republican Senate candidate in today's Massachusetts election for opposing his new proposal to place a special tax on some banks. Here's a selection from the Bloomberg article about the Massachusetts Senatorial campaign:

“Bankers don’t need another vote in the United States Senate -- they’ve got plenty,” Obama said in Boston, signaling a broader political strategy to tie Republicans in this year’s races to Wall Street greed.

In the world of Obama, proposing a $15 billion tax on banks makes him a populist! But on Christmas eve he raised the limit from $400 billion that he is willing to shovel out to banks as part of his mortgage bailout, and he has done nothing about Chinese currency manipulations, which benefit American banks (who get Chinese money to lend), while hurting American producers. And let's not forget the Geithner Plan to rescue the banks from their troubled assets, which, as Paul Krugman noted, invites banks to play  "heads I win, tails the taxpayers lose." 

The top 10 campaign contributors to President Obama's campaign included Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and JP Morgan Chase & Co, yet Obama wants us to think of him as a populist, representing the people against the banks.

He is right, though, when he said "Bankers don't need another vote in the United States Senate." The bankers don't need another Senator; they've got the President!

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    Wikipedia:

  • [An] extensive argument for balanced trade, and a program to achieve balanced trade is presented in Trading Away Our Future, by Raymond Richman, Howard Richman and Jesse Richman. “A minimum standard for ensuring that trade does benefit all is that trade should be relatively in balance.” [Balanced Trade entry]

    Journal of Economic Literature:

  • [Trading Away Our Future] Examines the costs and benefits of U.S. trade and tax policies. Discusses why trade deficits matter; root of the trade deficit; the “ostrich” and “eagles” attitudes; how to balance trade; taxation of capital gains; the real estate tax; the corporate income tax; solving the low savings problem; how to protect one’s assets; and a program for a strong America....

    Atlantic Economic Journal:

  • In Trading Away Our Future   Richman ... advocates the immediate adoption of a set of public policy proposal designed to reduce the trade deficit and increase domestic savings.... the set of public policy proposals is a wake-up call... [February 17, 2009 review by T.H. Cate]