Sunday, 18 May 2014

The Two-Santa theory – politics as a battle between two forms of munificence and other news and views for Sunday 18 May

18-05-2014 deadmenruling
  • How “Dead Men” Fiscal Policy Is Paralyzing Government – “In his new book, Dead Men Ruling, … Gene Steuerle … argues that for short-term political gain, lawmakers have abdicated the future. They have made it almost impossible for government to adjust policy to reflect changing circumstances. … The future is being written by lawmakers who will be long dead when our grandchildren come of age.“We are left with a budget for a declining nation,” Gene writes, “that invests ever-less in our future…and a broken government that presides over archaic, inefficient, and inequitable spending and tax programs.”All this has happened due to a confluence of two unhappy trends: The first is what the late conservative writer Jude Wanniski memorably described almost four decades ago as the “Two-Santa Theory.”Wanniski’s insight was that Democrats had monopolized the role of Santa Claus by identifying themselves as the party of new government programs while budget-balancing Republicans played the unpopular role of Scrooge. Now, it was now time for Republicans to rebrand themselves as the second Santa, only instead of distributing generosity through spending, they’d do it through the tax code.
    No longer would the party of largess be pitted against the party of austerity. Now, American politics could be defined as a battle between two forms of munificence.”
  • No sign of major central banks tightening the reins – “Government bond yields have tumbled on the basis that the world’s major central banks will continue to keep monetary policy easy and in some cases loosen further.”
  • Street by street, Assad extends grip in central Syria – “From his base in Damascus, Bashar al-Assad can contemplate a broad sweep of Syria clawed back from rebels who once threatened to drive him out.”
  • Climate change to hit credit ratings of countries, especially poor ones, warns S&P
  • Lebanon on the brink – “Political gridlock, economic torpor and the machinations of pro-Syrian Hizbollah – the non-state regional superpower – have once more pushed the crossroads of the Middle East to the edge of collapse.
  • The media, the market and truth – “If people are only told the facts that they are comfortable with, they will never change their minds. And as Paul Krugman observes … , if it is only the media read by your political opponents who will cry foul, politicians who just want to ‘play to the base’ are tempted to also distort or manufacture evidence, perhaps leading to descent into a world of fantasy. Does this selection of facts actually influence people? Fewer people in the US think climate change is a major threat to their country than almost anywhere else … The figure for the UK is also unusually low. This is particularly ironic as a good deal of the science telling us it is a major threat is done in these two countries. A major reason … why people in the US and UK think this way is that they are allowed the freedom to not to be told about the science, or to be given the opinions of skeptics as if they carried equal or more weight than the vast majority of scientists.”
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