Economy

By now, it’s easy to be cynical about the Internet’s ability to degrade rational argument. After all, one can only read so many birther blogs without starting to go numb. Still, once in a while, the foggy chaos that is the online world parts, and we catch a glimpse of how the realm’s worst ideas form, adapt to the environment, and, despite their utter lack of fitness anywhere else (well, with the popular exceptions of AM radio and Fox News), thrive in cyberspace. Perhaps the best recent example is a chart that has been racing around the conservative blogosphere for the last few months.

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Material World

Cairo, Egypt—Egypt’s economy has by all accounts ground to a halt as a result of curfews, travel restrictions, and communications blackouts. Here in Cairo, the effects are readily apparent: Reduced delivery of goods and a shortage of wheat have shuttered subsidized bread-distribution points, reducing the quantity of bread available and generating long, angry breadlines snaking down the city’s alleyways. “I’ve been waiting here for two hours,” one man in a military-run breadline told me.

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[Guest post by Noam Scheiber:] We've all heard that Republican ideas man Paul Ryan--who's slated to give the GOP response to the State of the Union--has some deep thoughts on how to save the country from fiscal ruin. (Though, alas, not everyone understands that these ideas are spectacularly vague and substantively dodgy.) Less well known is that Ryan has some equally dodgy ideas about monetary policy. FrumForum's Noah Kristula-Green unpacked them last week:   [H]e wants the Federal Reserve to set monetary policy from the price of a "basket of commodities"...

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Karat Top

In the summer of 1932, Louis McFadden, a former bank president turned Pennsylvania Congressman, stood up on the House floor to reveal a sinister plot. Over the course of a 25-minute speech, he explained how the Federal Reserve—“one of the most corrupt institutions the world has ever known”—was being steered by a cabal of European bankers who had, among other sins, paid for Leon Trotsky’s return ticket to Russia and funded the October Revolution. But McFadden’s pleas to dismantle the Fed and embrace gold (in his view, “the only real money”) were greeted with ridicule.

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[Guest post by Noam Scheiber:] The rumors are flying that Bill Daley--the former Clinton Commerce Secretary, current JP Morgan executive, and longstanding member of that Daley family--is under consideration for a senior White House position, "most likely chief of staff," as the Washington Post puts it.

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[Guest post by Noam Scheiber:] If you’ve spent much time talking to Treasury officials over the past two years, you’ve probably heard them joke that Gene Sperling, a counselor to Secretary Tim Geithner, is the department’s in-house populist. What makes this funny (insofar as wonk humor can be funny) is that Sperling isn’t exactly your classic pitch-fork wielder. He was director of Bill Clinton’s National Economic Council (NEC) in the late ‘90s, a period when the White House got pretty good marks for its understanding of business and the broader economy.

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[Guest post by Noam Scheiber:] My favorite paragraph in the McConnell op-ed Chait mentioned earlier:  Some Democrats have responded to the election by reaffirming their belief in government’s ability to solve our problems. But many others have acknowledged with their votes on the tax bill that the policies of the last two years have fallen short, and that it’s time to move in a different direction.

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[Guest post by Noam Scheiber:] Anyone interested in this question has no doubt read about Altman's multiple White House visits to discuss relieving Larry Summers as head of the National Economic Council (NEC). And yet, here we stand, just days from Summers's planned departure--NEC staffers have been busy writing exit memos, as I understand it--without an announcement about his replacement.

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Dublin Down

Geoffrey Wheatcroft on the mirage of Irish independence.

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Two weeks after a mid-term election in which the U.S. Chamber of Commerce helped thwart Barack Obama and the Democrats, the group’s CEO, Tom Donohue, gave a speech that read like a doubling down of sorts. “We cannot allow this nation to move from a government of the people to a government of the regulators,”he said.

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