What’s Wrong With Spain?

Posted by , 13th December 2010

José María AznarJosé Maria Aznar
12/13/2010

Spain faces its worst political crisis and a critical economic situation, writes Aznar. Now at the center of Europe’s financial turmoil, just six years ago Spain was creating six out of 10 new euro-zone jobs, its government accounts were in surplus, and public debt was decreasing swiftly. Yet today investors are assigning the highest default risks to the Spanish government’s debt since it entered the euro zone. In the social sphere, the situation is distressing. Aznar explains that Spain’s crisis is rooted in decisions to encourage regional divisions and to abandon successful market-based policies. He concludes that with a new national political project and the implementation of the appropriate policies, Spain can recover confidence in itself.

Aznar is the former prime minister of Spain (1996-2004).

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Block Those Metaphors

Posted by , 13th December 2010

Congress USAPaul Krugman
12/13/2010

The Obama-McConnell tax-cut deal will probably pass Congress, with both good and bad elements. Krugman says the deal will boost the economy in the short-term but isn’t addressing the heart of the problem. Highly indebted Americans are paying down their debts and not spending in while others who can spend are not spending more. To solve our nation’s economic problems, the government should be spending more while the private sector is spending less to support employment while debts are being paid down. This is a form of stimulus, which will be expensive but is worth it if it is done well and rights the economy. The tax deal will likely not give the nation much “bang for the buck,” he says, and the country will be having this conversation again in 2012.

Krugman is a New York Times columnist.

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A Kindle for Christmas? Spare Me

Posted by , 10th December 2010

Dan Newman
12/10/2010

Newman says he should be the perfect candidate for an e-reader: he owns thousands of books, lacks space for more, and often schleps several heavy volumes in his bag. So when he begged his family to refrain from getting him a Kindle for Christmas, they were confounded. Newman reflects on his enjoyment of actual books and notes that he remembers passages by where they are in his books–this or that detail is two-thirds of the way through, on the bottom left. Physical memory runs deep. Newman sees e-books as a companion format that will always share space with printed volumes and concludes that it’s best to read a book you can hold in your own hands.

Newman is a writer at work on his first novel.

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Making Disability Work

Posted by , 10th December 2010

Peter Orszag
12/10/2010

Disability insurance provides support for people who can no longer work because of a disability, but the likelihood that someone will re-enter the work force is almost nonexistent. There has been a spike in disability applicants, and Orszag says this is due to a weak labor market driving people who qualify for the program to apply because they cannot find work. He says the current economic downturn could cause a long-term reduction in workers. To counter that we need more stimulus immediately, an extension of unemployment insurance, and reforms of the disability program that encourages recipients to return to work. Orszag offers some program reform ideas.

Orszag, the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget from 2009 to July 2010, is a distinguished visiting fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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An Obama foreign policy win in South Sudan

Posted by , 10th December 2010

Michael Gerson
12/10/2010

The new independence of South Sudan is a diplomatic success worth celebrating. After the Obama administration offered the Khartoum regime (the Muslim north of Sudan) a series of incentives called “the road map,” the regime agreed to allow southern Sudan to “go quietly.” The bipartisan nature of this pending diplomatic solution is worth noting: the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was begun in 2005 under the Bush administration, and helped create a unified national government in Sudan and guaranteed an “independence referendum” for south Sudan in 2011. That referendum will be voted on this January 9, with many southern Sudanese who now live in Khartoum returning to their home region to vote. Of course there will be challenges as the newly independent South Sudan becomes a nation, but this successful venture shows how government officials can do a great deal of good in the world.

Gerson is a nationally syndicated columnist who appears twice weekly in the Washington Post.

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A case for trying pirates before a U.N. tribunal

Posted by , 9th December 2010

piratesDavid B. Rivkin Jr. and Carlos Ramos-Mrosovsky
12/9/2010

International law classifies pirates as “enemies” of all mankind, but developed countries have been reticent to try and convict pirates, choosing instead to funnel suspects to Kenya for legal action. But the Kenyan government is running out of funding for the large number of prosecutions, and the international community needs to develop a comprehensive framework for dealing with piracy. The authors suggest an international tribunal by the United Nations as a long-term solution, and they believe that Washington should be a legal and military leader in the effort to secure the freedom of the seas.

Rivkin, a Washington lawyer, served in the Justice Department and the White House counsel’s office in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. Ramos-Mrosovsky is a New York-based attorney whose practice focuses on international and federal litigation.

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Why Mike Pence catches conservatives’ eyes

Posted by , 9th December 2010

Mike PenceGeorge F. Will
12/9/2010

Tea Partyers and social conservatives are urging Republican Rep. Mike Pence to run for president in 2012. The author says it is unlikely that Pence will run, but given the congressman’s voting history and family-oriented personal life, conservative support for his candidacy is understandable. Pence voted no on both versions of the TARP legislation, and he also voted no on President Bush’s proposed addition to Medicare in the form of a prescription drug entitlement. Pence’s dedication to his family and participation in wholesome Americana is a common thread that runs throughout his political career and is attractive to social conservatives.

Will is a twice-weekly columnist for The Post, writing about foreign and domestic politics and policy.

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China’s Global War on Human Rights

Posted by , 9th December 2010

zhongnanhaiJamie F. Metzl
12/9/2010

Wherever human rights are massively abused today, China is the main protector of the abusing government, writes Metzl. Beijing is promoting a world-wide rejection of postwar international norms. This is in part because China’s concept of sovereignty stands in sharp contrast to the norms of the human rights system. And China’s rise poses challenges to the international community’s ability to effectively confront rights abusers. Metzl concludes that those unlucky souls around the world who find their rights massively abused by their own governments can, thanks largely to China, expect little or no help from foreign states.

Metzl, the executive vice president of Asia Society, served in the State Department during the Clinton administration and as a United Nations human rights officer in Cambodia.

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Contagion’ and Other Euro Myths

Posted by , 3rd December 2010

EurosJohn H. Cochrane
12/2/2010

Cochrane considers the lessons to be learned from Europe’s recent bailouts. He argues that restructuring short-term debt as long-term debt would hardly be the end of the world. Our governments have also guaranteed trillions of dollars of debt–everything from mortgages to student loans, to say nothing of implicit guarantees to banks and state and local governments. These guarantees don’t show up anywhere on the books, but investors could start adding them up very quickly. Remember that Ireland got into trouble by guaranteeing bank debt. US government debt is also remarkably tilted to short maturities, with the majority being rolled over every year. The Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing will tilt us further to shorter debt.

Cochrane is a professor of finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

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