Matthew Yglesias

Matthew Yglesias is a senior editor at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a former Prospect staff writer, and the author of Heads in the Sand: How the Republicans Screw Up Foreign Policy and Foreign Policy Screws Up the Democrats.

Recent Articles

Fight of the Living Dead

Like zombie banks that made bad loans, supporters of the Iraq War have dug in their heels on past mistakes.

(Flickr/Ijonas Kisselbach) An Iraq War protest in the U.K.
Japan's "lost decade" of the 1990s gave the world "zombie banks." A zombie bank is, in effect, bankrupt. It's made loans to companies that aren't going to be able to pay them back, and the total value of those bad loans exceeds its equity. Normally, a bank in that position has gone bust. Sometimes, when the government doesn't want to let the bank fail but also doesn't want to pay to bail it out, it simply agrees to pretend that the bank is still sound. A bank in that situation faces unusual incentives. The smart strategy is to just double down on bad bets and hope for the best. Writing about the European Central Bank, Berkeley economist Brad DeLong recently extended the concept to political elites with zombie reputations who double-down on past bad calls because to implement smart policy now would require embarrassing admissions of error. It's a cute idea with broad applicability. For example, Brookings Institution fellow and noted hawk Michael O'Hanlon published an op-ed Monday...

Regrets, We Have a Few

Iraq and Afghanistan taught us that we don't know how to rebuild a nation -- in Libya, we're just not trying.

(AP Photo/Abdel Magid Al Fergany) A Libyan woman wears a cap with the colors of a pre-Gadhafi flag and the Arabic words, "Long live free Libya."
Remember the winter of 2001, when the Taliban halted the U.S.-allied Northern Alliance -- a collection of Afghan military groups -- on the road to Kabul and forced the country into a decade-long military standoff with the Afghan government? Recall 2003, when Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard fought off the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq and set the stage for extended battles between the American and Iraqi militaries? Me neither. Because, of course, neither of those things happened. Whatever you think of either war, in both Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. military proved capable of dislodging enemy forces from the capital and securing a tidy victory. The problems all came afterward. So why is the capture of Tripoli by American-backed rebel forces being trumpeted as a glorious win that proves skeptics of the intervention in Libya wrong? To be clear, the mere fact that initial victory in Iraq and Afghanistan was followed by years of chaos and irregular warfare doesn't mean the same thing...

No Swagger in Reserve

Texas Governor Rick Perry objects to the Fed printing money for exactly the reasons we ought to do it.

(Flickr/alancleaver_2000)
In his first week on the presidential campaign trail, Governor Rick Perry of Texas discovered the answer to a question that's long puzzled me: How do you get mainstream political reporters to care about monetary policy and central banking? All it takes, it turns out, is the threat of a little violence. "If this guy prints more money between now and the election," he told an Iowan who asked a question about Ben Bernanke, "I dunno what y'all would do to him in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treasonous in my opinion." The remarks set off something of a firestorm of criticism, and everyone from the White House to Karl Rove slammed them as inappropriate. Washington Post "Fix" blogger Chris Cillizza, conversely, analyzed Perry's subsequent refusal to back down in terms of an effective "no apologies" political style that's served the Texas governor well in the past. Perry's...

European Central Blunder

Greece's economic problems were a sign of fundamental problems with the euro.

(AP Photo/Luca Bruno) A man passes close to a stock exchange board monitor inside a bank in Milan, Italy.
With America's debt-ceiling crisis resolved, the time is ripe for a brand-new set of financial calamities on the other side of the Atlantic. The "rescue" plan for Greece put forth by European leaders on July 22 is unraveling with surprising speed. The relatively narrow scope of the solution seems to underscore how little political will there is to resolve the underlying issues with the European economy. Those structural problems are now wreaking new havoc. On Tuesday, the Italian government called an emergency meeting and Spain's prime minister canceled his vacation because the crisis is getting worse in bigger countries than Greece. Even France has the jitters, now needing to pay a 0.75 percentage point premium on its debt over Germany's. That's still a small number, but it's the highest spread since the introduction of the euro. The premium reflects, in other words, a growing sense that the euro project may collapse. The problem is that Europe's leaders looked at a situation driven...

Founding Falter

Does the current impasse over the debt ceiling augur a constitutional collapse?

(Flickr/cliff1066) James Madison
As the endless debt-ceiling debate drags on, the conventional take has become Washington Post writer Robert Samuelson's: a pox on both the parties . More interestingly, over the weekend, David Brooks, albeit in the most polite way, joined with progressives to note that Republicans are acting insane and are largely responsible for the current gridlock in Washington. Still, crazy and feckless politicians have always been around. It's worth considering the possibility that the debt-ceiling fiasco reflects not an upsurge in insanity but long-simmering problems with the basic structure of American political institutions. Americans love to heap praise on the Founders, especially in early July. But it is precisely because they were visionaries that they had little in the way of experience to guide them in thinking about how political institutions would evolve. In the intervening 200-plus years since the founders were around, scholars have learned a lot about constitutional systems. In his...

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