Podesta Returns to WH, Barry Behaves Like Bill

With John Podesta, Bill Clinton’s former chief of staff, returning to the White House to help Barry battle back, Barry suddenly seems to have turned into the Big Dog.  Um, Barry, you know how Michelle feels about healthy foods, so no Danish for you, if you get my drift.

And Britain’s David Cameron was in full Hooray Henry mode, as he and Barry and the Danish took a photo of themselves, behaving like ill-mannered teenagers rather than heads of state at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service.  So clueless and classless. Why didn’t we send Biden?  Hell, why didn’t we send Rob Ford and Alec Baldwin?

Poor Barry, it’s a long, long flight home with Michelle.

“Utter Revulsion” Is an Emotion, Not a Policy

“I accept that Britain can’t be part, and won’t be part, of any military action on that front but we must not in any degree give up our utter revulsion at the chemical weapons attacks that we have seen and we must press this point in every forum that we are a member.”

British P. M. David Chamberlain Cameron

You’ve gone all wobbly, David.  What would Maggie say?

That British Sex Scandal

It looks as if the two people in the British sex scandal that has David Cameron freaked out and that the Daily Mail has said it can’t name for legal reasons might be Cameron pal Rebekah Brooks and  former Cameron press secretary Andy Coulson, both awaiting trial in the Murdoch phone hacking scandal.

It would be embarrassing for Cameron, but for Brooks and Coulson, I think such a revelation would be the least of their problems.

Scolding the Scolds

From “Deficit Hawks Down,” Paul Krugman, NYT:

“President Obama’s second Inaugural Address offered a lot for progressives to like. … But arguably the most encouraging thing of all was what he didn’t say: He barely mentioned the budget deficit.

Why have the deficit scolds lost their grip? I’d suggest four interrelated reasons.

First, they have cried wolf too many times. They’ve spent three years warning of imminent crisis — if we don’t slash the deficit now now now, we’ll turn into Greece, Greece, I tell you. It is, for example, almost two years since Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles declared that we should expect a fiscal crisis within, um, two years.

“But that crisis keeps not happening. The still-depressed economy has kept interest rates at near-record lows despite large government borrowing, just as Keynesian economists predicted all along. So the credibility of the scolds has taken an understandable, and well-deserved, hit.

Second, both deficits and public spending as a share of G.D.P. have started to decline — again, just as those who never bought into the deficit hysteria predicted all along.

“The truth is that the budget deficits of the past four years were mainly a temporary consequence of the financial crisis, which sent the economy into a tailspin — and which, therefore, led both to low tax receipts and to a rise in unemployment benefits and other government expenses.

“And it was, in fact, a good thing that the deficit was allowed to rise as the economy slumped. With private spending plunging as the housing bubble popped and cash-strapped families cut back, the willingness of the government to keep spending was one of the main reasons we didn’t experience a full replay of the Great Depression. Which brings me to the third reason the deficit scolds have lost influence: the contrary doctrine, the claim that we need to practice fiscal austerity even in a depressed economy, has failed decisively in practice.

Consider, in particular, the case of Britain. In 2010, when the new government of Prime Minister David Cameron turned to austerity policies, it received fulsome praise from many people on this side of the Atlantic. For example, the late David Broder urged President Obama to “do a Cameron”; he particularly commended Mr. Cameron for “brushing aside the warnings of economists that the sudden, severe medicine could cut short Britain’s economic recovery and throw the nation back into recession.”

“Sure enough, the sudden, severe medicine cut short Britain’s economic recovery, and threw the nation back into recession.

“At this point, then, it’s clear that the deficit-scold movement was based on bad economic analysis. But that’s not all: there was also clearly a lot of bad faith involved, as the scolds tried to exploit an economic (not fiscal) crisis on behalf of a political agenda that had nothing to do with deficits. And the growing transparency of that agenda is the fourth reason the deficit scolds have lost their clout.”  Emphasis added.

Murdoch’s Rebekah Brooks Charged

Rebekah Brooks, former head of Rupert Murdoch’s News International, has been charged with perverting the course of justice (the British version of obstruction of justice) for trying to conceal evidence in the investigation of phone hacking and bribery of government officials.  Her husband Charlie and her personal assistant have been charged as well.

Not a happy day for her, obviously, but neither is it good for James and Rupert Murdoch or David Cameron.  Will she sing, or will she keep her mouth shut and be “rewarded” by the Murdochs?

This scandal is a lot of fun, but from my American perspective, it won’t be completely satisfying unless it reaches Fox News.

David Cameron Has Some Splaining To Do

Look, I know that these days the sun sets pretty early on the British Empire and that being Prime Minister is not as strenuous as it used to be when Brittania ruled the waves, but still, you have to wonder why David Cameron wouldn’t have something better to do than text Rebekah Brooks, the flame-haired former News International CEO, more than a dozen times a day, as the British papers are reporting.  Brooks is scheduled to testify before the Leveson Inquiry on Rupert Murdoch’s Evil Empire next week, and apparently she’s saved her voluminous texts and emails from Cameron.

If Cameron doesn’t have splaining to do to the British people, I suspect he might to his wife Samantha.

The Myth of “Expansionary Austerity”

My favorite voice in the wilderness these days is Nobel-prize-winning economist Paul Krugman and his derision of “expansionary austerity,”* which he defines as “the notion that instead of increasing government spending to fight recessions, you should slash spending instead — and that this would lead to faster economic growth.”

He says that Britain, Spain, and Italy are doing worse today than during the Great Depression by the measure of changes in their GDP since the Great Recession began.

“[S]urpasing the track record of the 1930s shouldn’t be a tough challenge.  Haven’t we learned a lot about economic management over the last 80 years?  Yes, we have — but in Britain and elsewhere, the policy elite decided to throw that hard-won knowledge out the window, and rely on ideologically convenient wishful thinking instead.”

Krugman says that because President Obama has refused to “do a Cameron” (in the sense of emulating Prime Minister David Cameron’s austerity in Britain), things aren’t as bad here as they could be.  But he notes that while federal spending hasn’t been slashed, local and state spending has, and that has hurt our overall economy.  Krugman laments, “Without those spending cuts, we might already have been on the road to self-sustaining growth….”

Krugman concludes:

“The infuriating thing about this tragedy is that it was completely unnecessary.  Half a century ago, any economist…could have told you that austerity in the face of depression was a very bad idea.  But policy makers, pundits and, I’m sorry to say, many economists decided, largely for political reasons, to forget what they used to know.  And millions of workers are paying the price for their willful amnesia.”


* “The Austerity Debacle,” by Paul Krugman, NYT