The Ticker Quick Views on Politics, Economics and Finance
One of the greatest ironies of the 2012 presidential campaigns was that both candidates framed the U.S. as a champion of free trade under assault from malevolent "cheaters." In fact, the U.S. is basically the world's biggest loner.
Trade accounted for about 29.2 percent of U.S. economic activity in 2010. That makes the U.S. the most closed of all developed nations according to "trade intensity," which is calculated as the sum of exports and imports, divided by gross domestic product.READ MORE
“Under current law, on January 1, 2013,” Bernanke said, “there's going to be a massive fiscal cliff of large spending cuts and tax increases.”READ MORE
Albert R. Hunt
The fastest-growing U.S. demographic group is highly educated, relatively affluent and, politically, increasingly Democratic.
That's Asian-Americans, who comprised 3 percent of this year's electorate, a share that will keep growing. They voted almost three to one for President Barack Obama, according to the exit poll. Yet unlike African Americans or Latinos, Asian Americans are more highly educated -- half have at least bachelor's degrees -- and are more affluent than whites.READ MORE
Republicans would like us to believe the administration has been caught red-handed lying about the true cause of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya before the elections, after former CIA Director David Petraeus testified behind closed doors at Congress today. Maybe.
It's hard to be sure, given that we don't have the transcript, and Republican and Democrat legislators emerged with opposing interpretations of what he said.READ MORE
The militants of the Palestinian group Hamas are sending a clear message: They are prepared to take great risks to kill Israelis.
When it fired rockets at Jerusalem today from the Gaza Strip -- the first time Jerusalem has been targeted -- Hamas hoped to hit Jewish residents. The rockets, however, might just as easily have damaged Islamic holy sites or killed Palestinian residents. Even the late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who hit Tel Aviv with missiles during the 1991 Gulf War, refrained from attacking Jerusalem because of its sacred status and large Palestinian population.READ MORE
Left to their own devices, President Barack Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner would surely be able to cut a deal on the fiscal cliff. They are both reasonable men. Senators of both parties also appear eager for a deal.
There is just one sticking point: House Republicans are every bit as loopy today as they were in 2011, when they decided it would be a good idea to drive the economy into a ditch rather than raise the debt ceiling. (They ultimately did raise the debt limit, but only by creating the current crisis -- the combination of tax hikes and spending cuts knows as the fiscal cliff -- in the process. Great work, guys.)READ MORE
Outgoing Maine Republican Party chairman Charlie Webster caused a controversy this week when he raised concerns about voter fraud due to a suspiciously large number of black voters. The Portland Press Herald quotes him:
In some parts of rural Maine, there were dozens, dozens of black people who came in and voted on Election Day. . . . Everybody has a right to vote, but nobody in (these) towns knows anyone who's black. How did that happen? I don't know. We're going to find out.READ MORE
George Entwistle's tenure as head of the British Broadcasting Corp. must rank among the shortest and unhappiest in the history of media: It lasted just 54 days and included two pedophilia-related news scandals, one formal apology to the victims and a resignation speech.
The scandals (more on those later) have severely damaged the BBC's reputation as one of the world's finest media organizations -- fine enough to tempt the New York Times to hire Entwistle's predecessor, Mark Thompson, as chief executive officer. Fine enough, too, for every U.K. citizen with a TV set to pay "Auntie," as the BBC is affectionately known, a special TV tax, called a license, of 145.50 pounds ($230.75) a year.READ MORE
The first big scoop provided to reporters at the Great Hall of the People this morning in China was courtesy of the stage managers.
Under orders from somebody clearly in the know, they had placed seven numbers on the stage -- where the new members of the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s top decision-making body, were expected to stand after being trotted out for the news media. That cleared up a lot: For months, rumors had run rampant that the nine-member body would be reduced by two.READ MORE
The escalating conflict between Israelis and the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip puts Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi in a tight spot. His reaction could shape how large the conflagration grows.
Mursi's supporters were hostile to Israel even before it launched air strikes today on Gaza, a small slice of land between the two countries. Among those killed was Ahmed Jabari, the military chief of Hamas, which is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Mursi emerged. The raids are bound to renew calls in Egypt to sever relations with Israel.READ MORE
Budget geeks may have been momentarily confused by President Barack Obama's suggestion at today's news conference that extending the Bush tax cuts for the top 2 percent would cost "close to $1 trillion."
After all, Obama's own Treasury Department estimates allowing those tax cuts to expire would bring in just $441 billion over the next decade.READ MORE
Overseas Shipholding Group Inc. (OSG), the New York-based tanker-fleet operator that was the subject of my column last week, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy-court protection today. In hindsight, it was a perfect short for anyone paying attention to the company's securities filings.
On Oct. 3, Overseas Shipholding disclosed that a member of its board and audit committee, G. Allen Andreas III, had resigned, citing a disagreement with the company over its handling of a tax issue. Andreas, a former vice president at the Wall Street investment bank Allen & Co, is a 43-year-old money manager in New York at Galaco Capital, which oversees his family's holdings.READ MORE
Jordan's government had the right idea, but the sequencing was off. To cushion the blow of fuel-subsidy cuts that went into effect yesterday, Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour promised poor households would receive direct cash transfers from the state -- but not for some days.
By ensuring the money had already been deposited in special accounts before prices increased, Iranian authorities in late 2010 managed to eliminate $50 billion to $60 billion in energy subsidies without stirring a public uproar. By contrast, Ensour's vague pledge of relief down the road failed to prevent protests in the Jordanian capital and several provincial towns.READ MORE
Is the U.S. getting ready to "lead from behind" its European allies again, this time on Syria?
First the U.K. said it would look for ways around the European Union's embargo on the supply of arms to Syria and was open to putting troops on the ground. Then France on Tuesday recognized the newly proposed -- though not fully constructed -- unified Syrian opposition and said it too would consider arming them.READ MORE
Bloomberg View columnist Ramesh Ponnuru has an essential piece in the forthcoming National Review, rebutting several narratives of Mitt Romney’s loss in the presidential election and Republicans’ simultaneous loss of three Senate seats.
Ramesh argues that the Republican Party's key problem is that its economic agenda does not strike most Americans as likely to improve their economic fortunes:READ MORE
Japanese leadership, it's often said, is a revolving door, one that spits out a new prime minster every 12 months or so. You know something's wrong, though, when it's spun so far around that it begins churning out yesterday's castaways.
Such is the case with Shinzo Abe, the man poised to replace Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who will dissolve the Diet on Friday. That paves the way for an election as early as Dec. 16. Then, Noda's Democratic Party of Japan is almost certain to lose power after just three years. That would put Abe's Liberal Democratic Party, which ran Japan for roughly 54 years until August 2009, back in control. Abe was an LDP prime minister (and a mediocre one at that) from 2006 to 2007.READ MORE
Chalk up another face plant for the federal government in its quest to imprison, sue, fine, penalize or generally hold anyone of note accountable for their actions during the financial crisis.
The latest case involves the father-son team of Bruce Bent Sr. and Bruce Bent II, the former managers of the Reserve Primary Fund, a defunct money-market mutual fund that played a crucial part in spreading panic throughout the markets in the days after Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. failed. The pair was cleared by a jury of civil intentional fraud charges, the most serious accusations. The younger Bent was dinged, though, and found liable for the lesser accusation of negligence.READ MORE
Conservatives have taken a lot of well-deserved mockery about their overconfidence in last week’s election. But this week, I am seeing overconfidence from liberals that they are about to win the coming tax fight in Congress. They’re not.
On Dec. 31, all of the Bush tax cuts are set to expire, and, just like two years ago, Republicans want to extend them all while Democrats only want to extend about 80 percent of them, applying them to taxpayers making less than $250,000 a year. Matt Yglesias assures readers that Democrats are going to get their way, in a piece titled “Boehner is Bluffing”:READ MORE
Democrats in Texas had some good news on Election Day. They gained seven seats in the Texas House, enough to end the Republican supermajority in the lower chamber. They also retained all their seats in the Texas Senate.
This is what counts as progress these days for beleaguered Democrats in the Lone Star State. While their gains won't change many policies, let alone people's lives, Democrats will be slightly more relevant. Now at least it will matter if they show up, because the Texas House can't conduct business without them. In other words, Republicans won't be able to do whatever they want.READ MORE