The red-blue, rural-urban dichotomy has solidified into a basic fact of American politics. The Democrats are now the party of diverse, urban areas, which also constitute the nation's hubs of cutting-edge financial, technological, medical and entertainment activity. The Republicans, meanwhile, dominate "flyover country," the ranches, farms and hamlets between the California coast and the Northeast corridor.
Though very different men, soon-to-be-former House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and ousted FBI Director James Comey have something in common. Both fell prey in recent years to the same Washington occupational hazard: reliance on conventional wisdom. Both made crucial decisions during the 2016 election year believing, as everyone else in town - all the players, all the pundits - that Donald Trump was a cinch to lose.
The 2014 Olympic Winter Games haven’t started, but they’ve already produced their first scandal. The host country’s president, Vladimir Putin, runs a notoriously despotic regime whose victims include not only independent journalists and political opponents but also gay men and lesbians, who have recently been targeted by a law prohibiting “propaganda of nontraditional sexual practices” among minors.
The left wing of the Democratic Party is trumpeting a new test of true progressivism: support for a dramatic expansion of Social Security. Although some Democrats — including, at times, President Obama — have spoken of reining in future transfer payments to the elderly as part of a long-term fiscal stabilization plan, defenders of the faith, led by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., are promoting a bill to expand benefits.
The United States has experienced many periods of crippling partisan conflict in Congress. It has also experienced bouts of heavy national indebtedness. Yet it has seldom, if ever, experienced both simultaneously. This helps explain why Treasury securities have come to be regarded as “risk-free,” safe enough to use as reserves in banks — and central banks — around the world.
Say what you want about Republicans’ obsession with destroying Obamacare. One thing they can’t be accused of is acting in calculated, partisan self-interest. If all the GOP cared about was hurting Democrats, Republicans might support the health-care law — because it threatens a core Democratic Party constituency: organized labor.
There are two iron laws of energy policy in the United States. Iron Law No. 1: A higher federal excise tax on fuel would efficiently reduce gasoline consumption and its negative side effects (air pollution, traffic congestion, carbon emissions, dependence on foreign oil). Iron Law No. 2: Although economically rational, gas taxes are politically unpopular, so Congress will go to almost any length to avoid raising them, even if that means resorting to far less transparent policies.
Edward Snowden told the Guardian that he leaked details of National Security Agency surveillance because he doesn’t “want to live in a world where there’s no privacy.” Oddly enough, he also has posted the following tidbits on the Internet: his employer, the type of gun he owns, his photograph — and the fact that he and his girlfriend “have sex marathons from sundown til sunrise.” Snowden used a pseudonym, but it was transparent, given the personal information he disclosed.
For those of us trying to sort out the debate over economic “austerity,” there’s a limit to what can be learned by inspecting the credentials of the contending economists. Yes, the fiscal-stimulus vanguard includes a couple of famous Nobel winners, but those pesky Swedes also gave their prize to the harshest postwar critic of Keynesian economics, a man whose signature policy proposal was the balanced-budget amendment. I refer to the late James Buchanan, dean of the “Public Choice” school of economics and the 1986 Nobel recipient.
C harlie Hebdo, a French satire magazine, published on Wednesday cartoons that nastily mock the prophet Muhammad, and European governments immediately feared more violence like the murder and arson at U.S. diplomatic installations that followed the appearance of a crude video about Muhammad. France closed 20 embassies as a precaution; the French foreign minister chided the magazine for pouring “oil on the fire.” Germany’s foreign minister used the same phrase.