Ukraine is a complicated question worldwide. It is a relatively large Eastern European economy – certainly the biggest, after Russia, among the former Soviet Republics. It is also a major natural gas conduit for sales of Russian natural gas from Russia to the European Union.
As such, it’s important to Russia, not just as a transit point for natural gas to its biggest customers in Europe, but also as a large economy that exports a lot of its agricultural products, its workers and its steel to Russia. Having an economy such as this in the Russian-led customs union would lend legitimacy to an organization the Russians have been trying to transform into a European Union-type economic alliance.
In this post I’m going to attempt to lay out some issues, as well as some possible outcomes and solutions.
First, let’s get something straight. There have been rumblings that the U.S. government has somehow been funding the protesters in Ukraine, hoping to topple the corrupt, pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych. This is a silly idea. Why would the United States work to create a power vacuum? Why would the United States want to facilitate the rise to power of Julia Timoshenko, who by many accounts is just as corrupt as Yanukovych AND has ties to organized crime? It doesn’t make sense.
Contained within last night’s speech were many examples of how young people lose out in the big-government status quo.
It’s easy to lampoon the State of the Union address. A speech full of pomp and circumstance but relatively devoid of specifics is difficult to take seriously.
Few can see through the charade more clearly than younger generations. Marketers and ad execs know that traditional TV marketing techniques are ineffective with Millennials, so it’s obvious last night’s promises are liable to fall particularly flat with 20-somethings.
Young people today face a government that is more bloated, more invasive, and less efficient than ever. Tuesday night’s speech promised to continue this status quo.
The State of the Union was a study in contrasts and omitted information, and young people can see right through it. The President praised a low unemployment rate – leaving out the fact that the job-seeking numbers are low because many people have given up on finding work. He touted a reduced deficit – while praising the end of the Budget Control Act and sequester that led to the reduction.
Since Barack Obama took office in 2009, more Americans say that big government is a much greater threat to the country than big business. The latest Gallup shows that the number of Americans who believe that big government is the biggest threat to the United States has been increasing in a rather steady fashion.
According to Gallup, 72% percent of Americans now believe that big government is the number one threat to the country. The poll also demonstrated that only 21% of Americans now believe that big business is the major issue. The historical high choosing big business over big government or big labor, 38%, was registered in 2002.
What happens when businesses aren’t able to provide the service that customers were promised? That’s right: customers get mad.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has published a report indicating that the National Security Agency’s massive surveillance programs aren’t simply putting an end only to our privacy rights; they are also causing major damage to the economy.
Once revelations surfaced and the public was made aware that the spying programs were collecting phone and Internet data from average Americans, major sectors of the U.S economy started to feel the financial damage caused by the loss of consumer confidence. According to EEF, companies that have been compromised by the revelations regarding the surveillance programs are watching as U.S. trade partners simply distance themselves to avoid any potential problems or even lawsuits in the future.
Vodafone, a major European company, was on its way to becoming a sister company to AT&T, whose desire to purchase the European giant was well documented, until the moment details concerning the NSA’s data-collection programs came to light. According to the Wall Street Journal, AT&T could face major issues trying to purchase Vodafone since the company has been under scrutiny for participating in the NSA’s surveillance programs.
Quinnipiac University has released its latest poll of President Obama’s approval rating and opinions on various political issues of the day, and the results aren’t pretty:
American voters disapprove 54 - 39 percent of the job President Barack Obama is doing, his lowest approval rating in any Quinnipiac University national poll since he became president, as even women disapprove 51 - 40 percent, according to a national poll released today.
Perhaps even worse, for the first time in their polling, Quinnipiac finds a majority of voters (52%) think the President is not “honest and trustworthy”:
“Any Democrat with an 11-point approval deficit among women is in trouble. And any elected official with an 8-point trust deficit is in serious trouble.”
“President Obama’s job approval rating has fallen to the level of former President George W. Bush at the same period of his Presidency,” Malloy said.
President Bush’s party lost control of both the House and the Senate a year later, and with less favorable electoral maps to the opposition party at the time than what we’re seeing for next year’s elections.
As bad as the overall ratings are, the specific issue approval ratings are even worse. Ironically, after Fort Hood, Boston, the drone war, and NSA leaks, the only issue where Obama has a positive approval rating is terrorism. On every other issue, he is at least 15 points underwater:
Radical environmentalists are urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to heavily regulate or ban hydraulic fracturing (also known as “fracking”), the process employed to extract shale oil and natural gas from underground sources, which could undermine a thriving part of the post-recession economy.
The fracking boom has been one of the success stories in an otherwise tepid American economy, which is still trying to recover five years after a deep recession. Just last month Bloomberg Businessweek covered a recent study by IHS CERA that showed the significant economic benefits of fracking.
“In 2012, the energy boom supported 2.1 million jobs, added almost $75 billion in federal and state revenues, contributed $283 billion to the gross domestic product and lifted household income by more than $1,200,” noted Bloomberg Businessweek. “The competitive advantage for U.S. manufacturers from lower fuel prices will raise industrial production by 3.5 percent by the end of the decade, said the report from CERA, which provides business advice for energy companies.”
The Wall Street Journal noted last week that the United States is “overtaking Russia as the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas,” producing the “equivalent of about 22 million barrels a day of oil, natural gas and related fuels in July” compared to the 21.8 million barrels produced by our former Cold War foe.
What used to be a value even to the Democratic Party has now become a forgotten lesson: it’s impossible to control the economy by decree.
According to President Barack Obama, he is perfectly capable to, as a president, fight income inequality and actually stop it. Leaving things alone, President Obama said during ABC’s Sunday “This Week” program, can “accelerate these trends (growing income inequality).” The President was also quick to note that technology, globalization and the GOP’s opposition to his personal agenda are all responsible for the growing income gap between the wealthiest and the poorest Americans.
For Obama, the government must intervene in the economy during the recovery in order to promote income equality and ensure the poorest among us have an easier time climbing the income ladder. The President highlighted his goals, which include increase funding for research, education and infrastructure. He also reported to be interested in reforming the tax code in order to keep companies from leaving the country.
In one of the most iconic and powerful political ads in America history, Americans were reminded that, under the leadership of Ronald Wilson Reagan, it was once again “Morning in America”. Having suffered through the decline of America’s economic, military, and political exceptionalism under the feckless Jimmy Carter, confidence in America’s future was being restored.
Under Reagan, the ad proclaimed, “Today, more men and women will go to work than at any time in our country’s history…nearly 2000 families will today buy new homes, more than at any time in four years…Under the leadership of President Reagan, our country is prouder and stronger and better. Why would we ever want to return to where we were just four short years ago?” It was a powerful message that resonated with the American people, and Reagan was re-elected in a landslide, taking 59% of the popular vote and 49 of the 50 states, losing only Minnesota (Mondale did not even get a majority in that state, winning 49.72% to 49.4%).
I was a boy of just eight years old when Reagan was first elected. Though I was too young to understand the intricacies and minutiae of the political debates, I remember sitting in front of our old Zenith black-and-white TV and being mesmerized by Reagan, whose cheerful demeanor and unquenchable optimism was inspiring after four years of Carter malaise, where we were told that we would have to accept a declining American economy and the spread of communism. Reagan made me proud to be an American, and I believed him when he said that America had a brighter future ahead, and that we did not have to settle for what America had become.
Over at R Street, Andrew Moylan makes a fascinating comment regarding President Obama’s recent speech on climate change and his plan to reduce carbon emissions. To wit: doesn’t matter much what your personal opinion is on carbon emissions and their relationship (or lack of relationship) to the already-defined-as-fact (accurately or not) science of climate change, the issue will be addressed by the federal government:
Moylan concluded by saying, “Regardless of one’s views on climate change, the simple reality is that federal policy is going to address the matter. That can happen through ill-advised regulations, like those proposed by the President today, or it can happen through a vibrant market with clear price signals attached to all fuels. Conservatives should seize the opportunity to once again emphasize the superiority of free markets over central planning.”
On climate change and the President’s plan specifically, it’s hard to accept something that will cost the country hundreds of thousands of lost jobs and $1.47 trillion of lost national income by 2030, according to a report by the Heritage Foundation. And, to Moylan’s point, it’s a situation conservatives, libertarians, and those who lean center-right on economic issues should begin to get in front of by doing the work of presenting their own plans to address something people are convinced needs addressing.
Written by Tad DeHaven, a budget analyst at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.
When it comes to reporting on the Small Business Administration, it seems to me that most journalists simply assume that if a government agency exists to “help” small businesses then it must be good. So I was pleased to read a weekend piece from two investigative journalists with the Dayton Daily News that challenges the conventional wisdom on the SBA.
As the reporters explain, the SBA’s main job is to back loans issued by private lenders to small businesses that couldn’t get financing on market terms. The result is that taxpayers end up holding the bag when these naturally riskier loans go bad.
And quite a few go bad as this Cato essay on the Small Business Administration explains.
Lenders have little skin in the game so for them it’s heads they win, tails they win. Thus it was shocking – absolutely shocking – that a representative from the SBA and the head of the Ohio Bankers Association provided the reporters with the most favorable quotes.
The entire piece is worth reading, but the authors did a particularly good job of turning the spotlight on the racket that exists between the SBA, lenders, and national franchisors: