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Archive for February, 2013

Entitlement reform key to U.S. future

February 27th, 2013

by and

This piece was originally published in Politico.

As the sequester blame game hits fever pitch this week, Republicans’ stance on taxes is simply indefensible, falling hundreds of billions short of even their own prior positions. But as Democrats, we also share a large portion of responsibility for the coming cuts to domestic discretionary spending, as the party has decided in both action and rhetoric that meaningful fixes to the major entitlement programs of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are off-limits.

Think about it. Over the past three years, from debt ceiling deals to the supercommittee and the fiscal cliff, social insurance programs have escaped virtually unscathed while every other category of spending took some hit and revenue grew. And because of the sheer enormousness of the Big 3 entitlements, Democrats face a serious new crisis that is closer to home and will linger long past the sequester: There is now barely a farthing left in the budget for any new investments.

Over the past century, Democrats can boast two major economic legacies. The first is the safety net programs of the New Deal and the Great Society — successful programs that lifted the elderly and vulnerable out of poverty. The second is the New Frontier investment programs defined and expanded under President John F. Kennedy. These investments in science, space, defense, education, as well as highways, rails, ports and medical breakthroughs helped power the U.S. economy during the latter half of the 20th century.

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Bill Schneider’s Political Oscars 2012

February 24th, 2013


Best picture

It was a terrible tragedy that ended in a touching love story. Chris Christie and Barack Obama in A Sandy Love Story. It helped Obama get re-elected, and it may do the same for Governor Christie in New Jersey this year.


Best performance by an actor

Karl Rove’s meltdown on Fox News election night, trying to argue that Ohio went for Romney. A bravura performance.

Best performance by an actress

Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill performs in the Republican Senate primary. She runs ads calling Todd Akin—who invented something called “legitimate rape”—“the most conservative congressman in Missouri.” It works. She gets the opponent she wants. And wins.

Best supporting actor

Bill Clinton speech at the Democratic convention: “Now, people ask me all the time how we got four surplus budgets in a row. What new ideas did we bring to Washington? I always give a one-word answer: arithmetic.”

Best supporting actress               

Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown University law student Rush Limbaugh insulted. Fluke endorsed Obama. And the Republican “war or women” became an issue.

Best director

Chief Justice John Roberts directed the Supreme Court to uphold the Obama health care law. That may have turned the tide in the election.

Best song

Mitt Romney singing “America the Beautiful.” And he wasn’t lip synching.

Best live action short

Mitt Romney talking about the 47 percent of Americans he didn’t care about. Credit to Jimmy Carter IV, who made the tape public.

Best foreign language film

Clint Eastwood at the Republican convention speaking in “chair” to a piece of furniture.

Best cinematography

The Etch-a-sketch image, created by Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom .

Resulting in

Best costume design

The Tea Party movement. No one could beat their get-ups.

Best adapted screenplay

Newt Gingrich attacking the news media in the South Carolina debate. This story was adapted from a long history of conservative attacks on the media, going back to Spiro Agnew. The attack delivers victory to Gingrich in the S.C. primary.

Best original screenplay

New York Times blogger Nate Silver, who provided the authoritative narrative of the election. If there was any big winner in this election besides President Obama, it was Mr. Silver. And Big Data.

Can GOP blame Obama for the sequester?

February 20th, 2013


This piece was originally featured on Reuters.

More than 25 years ago, Representative Jack Kemp told me, “In the past, the left had a thesis: spending, redistribution of wealth and deficits. Republicans were the antithesis: spending is bad.”

He went on to explain, “Ronald Reagan represented a breakthrough for our party. We could talk about lower taxes and more growth. We didn’t have to spend all our time preaching austerity and spending cuts. The question now is: Do we take our thesis and move it further, or do we revert to an anti-spending party?”

We now have the answer. Republicans have reverted to an anti-spending party. Their latest cause? Austerity. Their argument? A shrinking economy is better than big government.

President Barack Obama tried to call the Republicans’ bluff in his State of the Union Address. “Deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan,” the president said. He didn’t come out against deficit reduction. He said it should not be given a higher priority than economic growth. There are many reasons why it is important to reduce the national debt. Short-term economic growth is not one of them.

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Rethinking How We Value Global Trade

February 20th, 2013


This piece was originally published in U.S. News & World Report.

In his most recent State of the Union, President Obama touted the fact that American companies like Apple, Ford, and Intel are bringing manufacturing operations back to the United States. This key trend will support good American jobs—while strengthening the manufacturing and innovation ecosystem that’s a vital source of America’s global competitiveness.

Where things are “made” is crucial. But as America pursues important new trade deals in Asia and Europe, it’s also critical that we secure more “value” from our trade.

The iPhone in my pocket was “made” in China. When it was imported into the United States, it was treated by U.S. Customs as a 100 percent Chinese product, and it added somewhere around $230 to America’s $315 billion trade deficit with China.

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Telephones, computers, electric vehicles, and other market failures

February 15th, 2013


By W. L. Leow

In some circles in Washington, DC, the future of electric vehicles (EV) has become as hot a topic as sequestration or immigration reform. Some skeptical journalists and policymakers are rushing to declare the entire electric vehicle sector a mistake or failure at the first sign of difficulties. Their rhetoric is cogent, writing lucid, and numbers seem compelling. At first glance, the fact that Americans bought just 71,000 plug-in hybrids or all-electric vehicles in the past two years might make the EV look like a failure. The emergence of EVs, however, needs to be viewed from the framework of technology adoption and diffusion, rather than raw numbers or road trips, to tell the true story.

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13 Thoughts on President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union Address

February 13th, 2013


  1. The spirit was less confrontational than the inaugural address. The President repeatedly called for bipartisanship and compromise. He denounced partisanship and called for common purpose.
  2. One thing Republicans will likely object to: the President’s repeated call for the wealthiest Americans to do “their fair share’” and pay more in taxes and Medicare premiums. Republicans will call that class warfare and more tax hikes.
  3.  The President made a strong argument that economic growth is a higher priority than deficit reduction. That’s where he and Republicans part company. Republicans believe deficit reduction is a prerequisite for economic growth. Obama said that “reckless spending cuts” will inhibit growth. He insisted on a “balanced’” approach to deficit reduction, including both “revenue increases” (mostly through tax reform) and cautious spending cuts.
  4. He called the looming sequesters (across-the-board spending cuts) a “manufactured crisis.”‘ That is exactly what they are. The American public has no idea where this impending crisis is coming from and they do not see it as real. The President re-enforced that notion and warned that allowing the sequesters to go into effect would jeopardize the nation’s security, devastate our priorities and cost “hundreds of thousands of jobs.” Bottom line: he called the sequesters “a really bad idea.”
  5. President Obama argued that nothing he proposed “should increase our deficit by a single dime.” Several of the initiatives he proposed would be financed without tax revenues. The Energy Security Trust would come from “oil and gas revenues.” Private capital would pay for the Partnership to Rebuild America.” The non-partisan commission to improve voting procedures would cost very little tax money.
  6. The only real anti-poverty measure he talked about was raising the minimum wage and pegging it to inflation — which costs government nothing.
  7. He probably rattled a lot of college and university administrators when he said that federal aid to colleges would be based partly on “affordability and value.” College costs have been increasing much faster than inflation, and he wants to force colleges to hold down costs.
  8. On foreign policy, he touted two things:
    • His record of ending wars, not starting them; and
    • His shift from massive military intervention to targeted counter-terrorism strikes. He responded to criticism of drone strikes by promising to “engage with Congress” to ensure that counter-terrorism strikes would be legal and transparent.
  9. Two foreign policy issues received particular emphasis:
    • Cyber security, which he depicted as a “rapidly growing threat,”; and
    • Human rights, which is likely to be elevated to a top foreign policy priority by the New America coalition that elected him.
  10. His call for comprehensive immigration reform was loud and clear. That’s where he knows Republicans are on the defensive.
  11. He mentioned gay rights only in passing — for instance, at the beginning, when he said that you should be able to get ahead in this country no matter “who you love.” But it may be unprecedented for any President to mention gays in a State of the Union speech.
  12. The most emotional moment in the speech came when he discussed gun violence and called attention to the victims. But the President did not specifically call for Congress to pass new gun controls. He simply said ”They deserve a vote.” That was very clever. He was insisting that members of Congress go on record for or against background checks, tougher gun trafficking laws and bans on high-capacity magazines and assault weapons, even if the measures fail (as many probably will). When legislators cast a vote against those things, they will become vulnerable to attack by their opponents as insensitive to gun violence. The President’s call got a rousing response from legislators, who chanted, “Vote! Vote! Vote!”
  13. Altogether, the State of the Union speech was not particularly bold or ambitious. It was realistic.