I’m fed up with the anguished deliberations about whether former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, who served 21 months in jail for promoting dog-fighting and killing, should be allowed to play pro football again. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who has spent his adulthood as a pro football front office guy, is going to judge whether Vick is morally fit to put on a helmet and pads and risk life and limb before thousands of screaming fans. I don’t condone breeding dogs to kill each other.
Why care about what happens in Iran? There's the prospect of a nuclear arms race in the region--and of Israel initiating a war with Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons. There's also Iran's major role in Iraq and somewhat less important but still significant role in Afghanistan. Iran could be a force for stability or instability in the most volatile region in the world stretching from Israel and Lebanon on the west to Afghanistan and Pakistan in the east.
How many times have you heard that the key to reviving the economy is fixing the banks? The thinking usually goes: If the banks are fixed--if bad loans are taken are taken off the books, and if regulations are put in place to prevent risky new loans--then they will resume lending to consumers who will buy cars and homes, and to businesses that will invest in plants and hire new workers. That's probably why Washington has spent the last six months proposing bank reforms, but not worrying about whether the first stimulus adopted is going to be sufficient. In my opinion, that's a mistake.
Our country’s unemployment rate, which has risen every month this year, now stands well above the worst case scenario of the Treasury Department’s stress tests. Yet we are inundated each month with reports that, in spite of a rising rate of unemployment, the slump has "bottomed out” or is even over.
No one who has written about Kansas politics can be unfamiliar with Dr. George Tiller, who was assassinated Sunday as he was entering the Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita. Tiller has been the target of the state’s right-wing Republicans for two decades. He was also the focus of the fanatical anti-abortion group, Operation Rescue, founded by Randall Terry, which is now headquartered in Wichita.
As Barack Obama ponders who to appoint to the Supreme Court, recent polls from Pew and Gallup are showing that Americans have become less supportive of abortion rights. In the Gallup poll, more Americans chose to call themselves "pro-life" than "pro-choice"--by 51 to 42 percent. That's the first time pro-lifers have outpolled pro-choicers since Gallup began asking this in 1995.The political reaction to these results has been predictable.
Almost four months after his inauguration, President Barack Obama is still riding high in the polls. According to Gallup, 66 percent of Americans approve of the job he is doing. But I expect that Obama’s popularity will begin to fall, even plummet, as the leaves turn brown.
My colleagues Frank Foer and Noam Scheiber have written a compelling account of the Obama administration’s approach to economic policy. And although I don’t pretend to know the president’s mind, I might agree with their summary statement that “Obama has no intention of changing the nature of capitalism.” Still, I want to make what may seem to be a paradoxical argument: that regardless of the president’s intentions, he will change American capitalism in fundamental ways--in particular, he will alter the relationship between the government and the economy.
One of the most important lessons of Karl Marx’s Capital is that capitalism is not a self-regulating mechanism (with which the government interferes at its own peril), but a set of government-enforced social relations that structure the production and distribution of wealth. These relationships--depicted in Economics 101 textbooks as “natural” rather than “man-made”--are largely invisible except in times of economic crisis, when they can become key factors in shaping the government’s response.
There is no question that the Obama administration has abandoned any vestige of laissez-faire capitalism. It may not be socialism, and it’s certainly not fascism, as some idiots--sorry, conservative thinkers--have declared, but it is at the least capitalism with a very strong dose of state planning. The real question is on behalf of whom, or under whose dictates is the planning being conducted.