Archive

  • Low Oil Prices Are History's Greatest Case of Market Failure

    (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, File)
    (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, File) R emember "Peak Oil?" The world was running out of oil , we were told: Prices would soon skyrocket, and we had better find other fuels. Well, that argument didn't work out so well for environmentalists, did it? As oil reserves and those of other carbon fuels became scarce and prices rose, the law of supply and demand kicked in. The industry invested the profits from those higher prices in new technologies, and the oil barons found even more destructive ways to extract oil and gas—by exploiting the muck from tar sands, inventing hydro-fracking, and despoiling sources in developing countries. So now, oil is cheaper than it's been in years, about $66 a barrel. Regular unleaded gasoline can be had for well under $3 a gallon. One of the few things sustaining U.S. consumer purchasing power in the face of dismal wages is close to $100 billion saved in energy costs. OPEC's pricing power has been broken , and the United States is about to surpass Saudi Arabia as...
  • Is Obama Bold Enough For You Now?

    Barack Obama, being all passive and weak. (White House photo by Pete Souza)
    Remember when the problem everyone had with Barack Obama was how passive he was? In late October, Charles Krauthammer lamented Obama's "observer presidency with its bewildered-bystander pose." Dana Milbank agreed that "The real problem with Obama is not overreach but his tendency to be hands-off." Milbank quoted Mitt Romney approvingly for his criticism of Obama for not being sufficiently "focused" on the Ebola threat (I guess a more focused president would have managed to avert the thousands of American Ebola deaths—oh wait). Anonymous Hillary Clinton aides tell reporters that unlike the "passive" Obama, their boss is going to be "aggressive" and "decisive" when it comes to foreign crises. Leon Panetta writes a memoir criticizing Obama for being passive, but the specific criticisms look a lot like, "I told the President to do something, and he didn't follow my advice!" This isn't a new complaint. For years, pundits who are supposed to have some sense of how politics actually works...
  • How Obama Boxed In Republicans With His Immigration Order

    (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
    (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) President Barack Obama shakes hands with people in the crowd following his remarks on immigration reform at Chamizal National Memorial Park in El Paso, Texas, May 10, 2011. I f there's an elected Republican who thinks it wasn't a bad idea for President Obama to take executive action on immigration, he or she has yet to make that opinion known. Not surprisingly, the 20 or 30 men (and one woman ) hoping to get the GOP nomination for president in 2016 have been particularly vocal on the topic. But while thunderous denunciations of the Constitution-shredding socialist dictator in the White House may seem to them today like exactly what the situation demands, before long they're going to be asked a simple yet dangerous question: If you become president, what are you going to do about it? Although they haven't actually answered that question yet, their feelings have been unambiguous. Ted Cruz said Obama has "gotten in the job of counterfeiting...
  • In Early Polling, God Remains Undecided On Pick For 2016 GOP Nominee

    I believe those are Iowa caucus voters behind him. (Flickr/Sebastian Bergmann)
    Had you asked me which of the 20 or so potential Republican presidential candidates would be first to claim that his candidacy was endorsed by God himself, I would have said Ben Carson, who has the necessary combination of deep religious faith and self-aggrandizing nuttiness. And today we learn that while the creator of the universe is still mulling his options, he's not exactly giving Carson a no : In an interview on Thursday with Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network, Carson said he felt the hand of the Lord pushing him toward the White House. "Has He grabbed you by the collar yet?" host David Brody asked. "I feel fingers," Carson said. "But, um, you know... It's mostly me." Admirably modest and self-aware, I'd say. But I still bet that eventually Carson will announce that he's received a signal from above that the campaign is a go. If and when he does, he'll surely have some competition, that is if 2016 is anything like 2012. In case you don't recall, God was awfully busy...
  • Why There Won't Be Any Grand Immigration Confrontation Between Obama and Republicans

    Flickr/SEIU
    Republicans are, as expected, utterly livid about President Obama's announcement last night of executive actions he'll be taking on immigration, even as they completely ignore the substance of the moves (some of which are things they support). If one of Obama's goals was to divide Republicans against themselves, he certainly seems to have succeeded; as Robert Costa reported late last night, Republicans have "been thrust back into the same cycle of intraparty warfare that has largely defined the GOP during the Obama years and that has hurt the party's brand among the broader electorate." If you were just listening to members of Congress talk today, you'd think this issue will inevitably result in a bloody confrontation between Congress and the White House. This conflict is being portrayed in apocalyptic terms by some—Sen. Tom Coburn said "you could see instances of anarchy" and "You could see violence" as a result of Obama's actions, while another well-known Republican warned of "...
  • Obama's Immigration Move About Much More Than Politics

    (Protest: Esther Yu-Hsi Lee for ThinkProgress)/Obama: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
    (Esther Yu-Hsi Lee for ThinkProgress) Demonstrators at a protest on the national Mall in Washington, D.C., on October 8, 2013. This essay originally appeared on the op-ed page of The Washington Post , where the author has a column. T he commemorations of the 25th anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s fall have thrust into the public spotlight the border guard who ordered the gates opened. The subject of both a new German-language book and film, one-time Stasi Lt. Col. Harald Jäger has recounted why he defied his orders. And his story couldn’t be more relevant to the debate consuming our own nation. On the evening of Nov. 9, 1989, prompted by an erroneous announcement from an East German Politburo spokesman that his compatriots would be free to cross the border, thousands of East Berliners flocked to the checkpoint Jäger supervised. His superiors told him to keep the gates closed, though he could let a few people through, provided he marked the passports of those he determined were...
  • Why Republicans Are So Mad About Obama's Immigration Order

    Flickr/Mindaugas Danys
    President Obama is going to detail some executive actions he plans to take on immigration in a speech tonight , and you may have noticed that the debate over this move is almost completely void of discussion of the particulars. Instead, we're discussing whether Obama is exceeding his powers. That's an important question to address, but it also frees Republicans (for the moment anyway) of having to visibly argue for things like deporting the parents of kids who are already allowed to stay in the United States. One thing you'll notice as you watch coverage of the issue is that Republicans are seriously pissed off at Obama. And not in the faux outrage, pretend umbrage way—they are genuinely, sincerely angry. And while there may be a few here or there whose blood boils at the thought of an undocumented immigrant parent not living in constant terror of immigration authorities, for the vast majority it isn't about the substance at all. So what is it about? Here's my attempt at explaining it...
  • Charticle: Good News About America (Really!)

    Flickr/Brandon Anderson
    S ince we in the journalism/commentary business tend to find negative developments in the world more newsworthy than positive ones, every once in a while it's nice to offer up some good news. The recent release of the annual FBI crime statistics offers just such an opportunity. Crime is not just down over the long term, it seems to be declining every year; in almost every category you can find, crime was down between 2012 and 2013. It's down in cities and suburbs, in violent and non-violent offenses, in north and south, east and west. Now, it should be said that compared to most of our peer countries, America is still a terrifying hellscape of chaos and cruelty. We have about 17 times as many murders per capita as they do in Iceland, where apparently everyone's too busy huddling together for warmth to kill each other. But let's look at some charts, shall we? First up is overall violent crime: The average American is only half as likely to be a victim of violent crime as he or she was...
  • How Republicans Are Learning to Love the Shutdown

    Flickr/Rich Renomeron
    Conventional wisdom is malleable, and it appears that conventional wisdom on the wisdom of shutting down the government is shifting, at least within the Republican party. While the old CW was that it was a terrible idea that Republicans suffered for, and it would be foolish to do it again, the new CW seems to be, "Hey, didn't we shut down the government and win the next election?" The other day, influential conservative journalist Byron York began pushing this line, writing that the 2013 shutdown "so deeply damaged GOP prospects that Republicans exceeded expectations in 2014, winning control of the Senate in spectacular fashion and making unexpected gains in the House." And now, as Dave Weigel reports, Republicans are taking it up : In [conservative] circles, it's clear that the president can be stared down on immigration. And it's clear that a fight, even if it led to shutdown, would be either rewarded or forgotten by voters when they returned to the polling booths in November 2016...
  • Hillary Clinton's "Connection" to White Voters: What Could It Possibly Be?

    One of these things is not like the other. (White House photo by Pete Souza)
    In an interview published yesterday at Talking Points Memo, Mitch Stewart, an adviser to the nascent Hillary Clinton quasi-campaign, argued that Clinton could expand the map of states that Barack Obama won, putting more places in play. The reason, he said, that "Secretary Clinton has more appeal than any other Democrat looking at running is that with white working-class voters, she does have a connection." The idea of Clinton's "connection" to the white working class is something you hear now and again, and I think it's worth examining in some detail. Because it raises some uncomfortable questions that I doubt the Clinton campaign wants to confront. Something tells me she isn't going to be putting "Hillary Clinton: A Democrat, But White!" on her bumper stickers. But that's the essence of what we're talking about about here. It seems like a long time ago now, but during the 2008 primaries things got extremely racially charged for a while, at a time when the Clinton campaign was...

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