Thursday, June 17, 2010

Press Briefing

Jan 18, 2010

New START and implications for National Security Programs. By Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State. Opening Statement Before the Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on the New START. Washington, DC

U.S. Assistance in Response to the Current Humanitarian Crisis in the Kyrgyz Republic and Uzbekistan. US State Dept

The Trouble With Teacher Tenure - We can't make progress if bad teachers have jobs for life

Good Jobs and a Level Playing Field in the Next Recovery

The Gulf Spill Record - Here's the rest of the story on USA Today's "Oil spills escalated in this decade."

The White House Blog: A New Process and a New Escrow Account for Gulf Oil Spill Claims from BP

BP at first sounded arrogant and now is so obsequious it won't even stand up for its legal rights

New York and the New England Journal of Medicine. By Peter R. Orszag, Director, OMB

Reforming Main Street - A trial-lawyer bonanza gets air-dropped into the financial bill

Greenspan: U.S. Debt and the Greece Analogy - Don't be fooled by today's low interest rates. The government could very quickly discover the limits of its borrowing capacity.

New York and the New England Journal of Medicine. By Peter R. Orszag, Director, OMB

In Medical Malpractice Reform, States Should Shirk the Washington Way

U.S. Treasury Department Targets Iran's Nuclear and Missile Programs. Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation

Cisneros Rewriting HUD History

Missile Defense: We've committed to developing proven technologies, and the new START Treaty won't stand in our way. By M Flournoy, Under Sec of Defense for Policy & A Carter, Under Sec of Defense for Acquisition, Technology & Logistics

Rahming Through a Lame Duck Climate Bill?

Expert: Obama speech too 'professorial' for his target audience

An Offer BP Couldn’t Refuse

The Water Cost of Carbon Capture

Cisneros Rewriting HUD History

Cisneros Rewriting HUD History

Posted by Tad DeHaven, Cato, June 17, 2010 @ 1:50 pm

In a recent speech to real estate interests, former Clinton HUD secretary Henry Cisneros preposterously claimed that the recent housing meltdown “occurred not out of a governmental push, but out of a hijacking of the homeownership process by some unscrupulous interests.”
The only criticisms Cisneros could muster for the government’s housing policies over the past 20 years were that regulations weren’t tough enough and it should have focused more on rental subsidies.

The reality is that Cisneros-era HUD regulations and policies directly contributed to the housing bubble and subsequent burst as a Cato essay on HUD scandals illustrates:
  • Cisneros’s HUD pursued legal action against mortgage lenders who supposedly declined higher percentages of loans for minorities than whites. As a result of such political pressure, lenders begin lowering their lending standards.
  • On Cisneros’s watch, the Community Reinvestment Act was used to pressure lenders into making more loans to moderate-income borrowers by allowing regulators to deny merger approvals for banks with low CRA ratings. The result was that banks began issuing more loans to otherwise uncreditworthy borrowers, while purchasing more CRA mortgage-backed securities. More importantly, these lax standards quickly spread to prime and subprime mortgage markets.
  • The Clinton administration’s National Homeownership Strategy, prepared under Cisneros’s direction, advocated “financing strategies, fueled by creativity and resources of the public and private sectors, to help homebuyers that lack cash to buy a home or income to make the payments.” In other words, his policies encouraged the behavior that he now calls “unscrupulous.”
  • Cisneros’s HUD also put Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac under constant pressure to facilitate more lending to “underserved” markets. It was under Cisneros’s direction that HUD agreed to allow Fannie and Freddie credit toward its “affordable housing” targets by buying subprime mortgages. Fannie and Freddie are now under government conservatorship and will cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars.
Cisneros now serves as the executive chairman of an institutional investment company focused on urban real estate. Might that explain why Cisneros is now a fan of subsidizing rental housing?
“Unscrupulous” would be a good word to describe the millions of dollars Cisneros has made in the real estate industry following his exit from government.
From the Cato essay:
In 2001, Cisneros joined the board of Fannie Mae’s biggest client: the now notorious Countrywide Financial, the company that was center stage in the subprime lending scandals of recent years. When the housing bubble was inflating, Countrywide and KB took full advantage of the liberalized lending standards fueled by Cisneros’s HUD. In addition to the money he received as a KB director, Cisneros’s company, in which he held a 65 percent stake, received $1.24 million in consulting fees from KB in 2002.
When Cisneros stepped down from Countrywide’s board in 2007, he called it a “well-managed company” and said that he had “enormous confidence” in its leadership. Clearly, those statements were baloney—Cisneros was trying to escape before the crash. Just days before his resignation, Countrywide announced a $1.2 billion loss, and reported that a third of its borrowers were late on mortgage payments. According to SEC records, Cisneros’s position at Countrywide had earned him a $360,000 salary in 2006 and $5 million in stock sales since 2001.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Missile Defense: We've committed to developing proven technologies, and the new START Treaty won't stand in our way

The Way Forward on Missile Defense. By M Flournoy, Under Sec of Defense for Policy & A Carter, Under Sec of Defense for Acquisition, Technology & Logistics
We've committed to developing proven technologies, and the new START Treaty won't stand in our way.
WSJ, Jun 17, 2010

Ballistic missile defenses have matured from a Cold War idea to a real-world necessity. Threats today from ballistic missiles are real, present and growing. Iran and North Korea have extensive inventories of these weapons that threaten their neighbors. Both are working on longer-range missiles capable of posing a direct danger to the United States in the coming years. Iran's continued pursuit of an illicit nuclear program and North Korea's rash intimidation after sinking a South Korean navy ship are but the most recent reminders of the real need for effective U.S. missile defenses.

To counter Iran's ballistic missile program, President Obama announced a phased adaptive approach for European missile defense last September—a move unanimously welcomed by our NATO allies. The first phase begins next year with the deployment of radars and ship-based systems in southern Europe. Romania and Poland have agreed to host land-based defenses for the second and third phases.

A similar phased adaptive approach is being applied to missile defenses in the Middle East and East Asia. While the details of the deployments and host-country arrangements will differ by region, the common thread is significant improvement in ballistic missile defense capabilities, meant to protect our deployed forces overseas and our allies and partners.

In a departure from past approaches, we are no longer building systems anchored in one place and wedded to current threat assessments. We know that the capabilities of potential adversaries do not always progress according to intelligence assessments. Our program must adapt accordingly in the face of evolving and unpredictable threats.

We are also making continued progress in improving our ability to defend the U.S. homeland from ballistic missile attack. By the fall, the U.S. will have 30 deployed ground-based interceptors in Alaska and California, with eight more missile defense silos near completion.

The U.S. is committed to a "fly before you buy" approach supported by a rigorous and independently-monitored testing program. An essential element of that program, and a key capability for the phased adaptive approach, is the Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) interceptor. The SM-3 version deployed on Navy ships today has hit—within inches—its exact target in nine out of 10 tests. The accuracy of these tests has been confirmed in a variety of ways: by fiber-optic grids that can precisely indicate the point of impact on the target; by images taken from the interceptor in the very last moment before impact (images not available to the public for security reasons); by data from highly accurate radars and airborne sensors; and by extensive rocket sled tests and computer simulations on the ground. All these verification sources confirm that when a missile warhead was hit, it was destroyed. These results have been validated by an independent panel of experts with access to all of the classified and unclassified test data.

Missile defenses have become a topic of some discussion in the context of the Senate's consideration of the New START Treaty with Russia. The fact is that the treaty does not constrain the U.S. from testing, developing and deploying missile defenses. Nor does it prevent us from improving or expanding them. Nor does it raise the costs of doing so. We have made clear to our Russian counterparts that missile defense cooperation between us is in our mutual interest, and is not inconsistent with the need to deploy and improve our missile defense capabilities as threats arise.

U.S. ballistic missile defenses are effective, affordable and increasingly adaptable. These capabilities are critical to protecting U.S. citizens, our forces abroad, and our allies from real and growing threats.

Press Briefing

Jan 17, 2010

The White House Blog: More Support for Curbing Special Interest Influence in Our Elections

Conservative: The Bad News About ObamaCare Keeps Piling Up - It's now obvious that many millions will lose the coverage they have.

At Last, Financial Reform - Barney Frank helps prevent another crisis in the credit markets

A Stealth Attack on Capital Gains - Congress has proposed a discriminatory 'enterprise value tax' on hedge funds and other partnerships. It is a threat to any business or industry that politicians decide is no longer popular

The President's Meeting with BP Executives: "An Important Step Towards Making the People of the Gulf Coast Whole Again"

Pakistan-U.S. Strategic Dialogue Energy Working Group Meets in Islamabad

The President's Animosities - Since when was the American idea us versus them?

Remarks by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, USAID Administrator Raj Shah, and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack
2010 World Food Prize Laureate Announcement Ceremony, Ben Franklin Room, Washington, D.C.

Crude Politics - The drilling experts speak out on the Obama deepwater moratorium

United States identifies science and innovation as critical drivers to end global hunger

Conservatives on the oil spill and federal president: A Crisis of Competence

U.S. Engagement With The International Criminal Court and The Outcome Of The Recently Concluded Review Conference. By Harold Hongju Koh, Legal Advisor, & Stephen J. Rapp, Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, State Dept
Washington, DC, June 15, 2010

Libertarian: Obama's Vision Deficit on Display

The way Mr. Obama sees life in XXI century America: a tooth-and-fang world of private interests in constant struggle against the benevolent goals of government

The President's Animosities. By DANIEL HENNINGER
Since when was the American idea us versus them?WSJ, Jun 17, 2010

The oil company formerly known as British Petroleum is starting to look kind of beaten up. So it goes when a business finds itself tossed into the ring with the current president of the United States.

"We will make BP pay," Mr. Obama said Tuesday night.

There is a mood in the land that BP is getting what it deserves. Maybe so. But players in the political game who've found it convenient to join the president in the BP bear-baiting should not delude themselves that BP is a free hit. In politics, nothing happens in isolation.

The beating Mr. Obama is giving BP isn't the exception. It's the rule when this president finds himself in tension with the private sector. I can't recall any previous president with this depth of visceral, antibusiness animosity.

Amid the BP crisis, the president traveled to Carnegie Mellon University to give what was billed as a major speech on the economy. In its entirety, the speech is a guided tour through Mr. Obama's mind. The pundits carping yesterday that the president's oil-spill apologia was limp—even as BP gave him $20 billion in tribute—should check out this one.

That Pittsburgh speech wasn't just about "the economy," but the way Mr. Obama sees life in 21st century America: a tooth-and-fang world of private interests in constant struggle against the benevolent goals of government. All of this described in a tone that is extraordinary for a president.

"As November approaches," the president said, "leaders in the other party will campaign furiously on the same economic arguments they've been making for decades." They gave "tax cuts . . . to millionaires who didn't need them. They gutted regulations and put industry insiders in charge of oversight."

Mr. Obama believes that "if you're a Wall Street bank or an insurance company or an oil company, you pretty much get to play by your own rules, regardless of the consequences for everybody else." Al Gore campaigned hard against these same targets, but never with such ill will.

Americans, he says, want to compete but can't "if the irresponsibility of a few folks on Wall Street can bring our entire economy to its knees." A president is not some backwater pol running for sheriff. But his explanation of the financial crisis—the whole economy brought down by "a few" on Wall Street—is a scenario found nowhere outside a James Bond movie.

He punched out WellPoint and other insurers verbally for months until they dropped and the Democrats passed the president's health-care bill. And they'd better stay down. No longer, said Mr. Obama, would it be possible for people to be "thrown off" their coverage for reasons "contrived" by an insurance company.

He complains his predecessor left him with projected deficits of $8 trillion caused by unpaid-for tax cuts, a familiar analysis, except that Mr. Obama adds that the cuts were "skewed to the wealthy."

When in the Carnegie Mellon speech Mr. Obama turns from what he called "the dangers of an unfettered market" and discusses government—"only government has been able to do what individuals couldn't do and corporations wouldn't do"—he is virtually delirious with joy.

Of his proposed research and experimentation tax credit he says, "The possibilities of where this research might lead are endless." Regenerative medicine, educational software, intelligent prosthetics. "Imagine all the workers and small business owners and consumers who would benefit from these discoveries."

He then identifies what stands in the way of "a better future." It's that "there will always be lobbyists for the banks or the insurance industry that don't want more regulation; or the corporation that would prefer to see more tax breaks . . ." A president seeking tax breaks to the horizon for green industries wouldn't say this, unless whacking "corporations" was just too much fun.

The agenda Mr. Obama described at Carnegie Mellon is so vast you'd think he'd at least enlist the private sector's help. But there's nothing in the speech's enumerations to suggest any desire to have them along on these projects. If they contribute or comply, it will be out of intimidation. It's all him or the government or its "investments."

Some might say that instead of being a cheerleader for business, Mr. Obama is simply a tough-minded public official holding well-shod feet to the fire. I don't buy it. His tone and vocabulary, in use since he took office, goes beyond public policy. It sounds personal. Too personal for a president.

Populism in the United States is a trickier proposition than in, say, South America. Here, the private sector isn't automatically a suspect proposition. Bill Clinton played the populism card as well as anyone. Harry Truman and JFK had famous fights with big steel. But none of these Democratic presidents routinely pistol-whipped private interests in the language this one does. No previous president assembled a Cabinet with not one member from the private sector, as now.

The worldview in this White House is distinct and unusual. It wasn't a voting issue in 2008. The opposition should make it an issue in 2012, and this November. Since when was the American idea us versus them?

Press Briefing

Jan 16, 2010

The New START Treaty, by Rose Gottemoeller, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Verification, Compliance, and Implementation.
Opening Statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Washington, DC

Russia Rises While Kyrgyzstan Burns - The violence highlights Moscow's power in a country with an important U.S. military base

Libertarians: Guns and Free Speech - The NRA sells out to Democrats on the First Amendment

U.S. Priorities on sub-Saharan Africa. By Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs
Remarks for the Diplomacy Briefing Series Conference, Washington, DC

Hungary Goes for Growth - Glimmers of policy hope on the Continent

Good Business in the Global Landscape. By Maria Otero, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs
Ronald Reagan Building, Washington, DC

A Smart Response to China’s ‘Indigenous Innovation’ Policies. By Dieter Ernst

EPA Paints Rosy Picture of American Power Act

Government to the Economic Rescue - Historians will look back at this time and say the three-pronged strategy of TARP, fiscal stimulus and bank stress testing kept us out of the abyss

Captains of Subsidy - Famous CEOs plead for more energy cash from Washington

BP Doesn't Deserve a Liability Cap - The best way to deter future spills is to expose drillers to the full costs of any mistake and not let any company without proper insurance near an oil derrick

Oil Talk - Obama is trying to link the Gulf gusher to his moribund green agenda

Susan Rice Accepts Possibility of International Investigation of U.S. Military

Libertarian: Obama vs. BP (and You) - The government holds a company's stock price hostage

The White House Blog - Keeping the Plan You Like

Conservatives: "Side Effects: Obamacare Adds to the Ranks of the Uninsured"

Lifetime Learners: One Student at a Time

The Obama Energy Tax Game Plan

The White House Blog - Cooking as a Way of Life

Conservatives: Don't Repeal "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" - Don't sacrifice unit cohesion for a social experiment

Press Briefing

Jan 16, 2010

Good Business in the Global Landscape. By Maria Otero, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs
Ronald Reagan Building, Washington, DC

A Smart Response to China’s ‘Indigenous Innovation’ Policies. By Dieter Ernst

EPA Paints Rosy Picture of American Power Act

Government to the Economic Rescue - Historians will look back at this time and say the three-pronged strategy of TARP, fiscal stimulus and bank stress testing kept us out of the abyss

Captains of Subsidy - Famous CEOs plead for more energy cash from Washington

BP Doesn't Deserve a Liability Cap - The best way to deter future spills is to expose drillers to the full costs of any mistake and not let any company without proper insurance near an oil derrick

Oil Talk - Obama is trying to link the Gulf gusher to his moribund green agenda

Susan Rice Accepts Possibility of International Investigation of U.S. Military

Libertarian: Obama vs. BP (and You) - The government holds a company's stock price hostage

The White House Blog - Keeping the Plan You Like

Conservatives: "Side Effects: Obamacare Adds to the Ranks of the Uninsured"

Lifetime Learners: One Student at a Time

The Obama Energy Tax Game Plan

The White House Blog - Cooking as a Way of Life

Conservatives: Don't Repeal "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" - Don't sacrifice unit cohesion for a social experiment

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Press Briefing

Jan 15, 2010

PM: Statement on Saville Inquiry about the Bloody Sunday events, Jan 2972

Trafficking in Persons: Ten Years of Partnering to Combat Modern Slavery

It's Time to Nationalize Fannie and Freddie - Any solution that allows private companies to have a special relationship to government is destined to fail

Immigration: What Would Reagan Do? - The Gipper repeatedly declared that openness to immigration represents adefining aspect of our national identity

Who's the Enemy in the War on Terror? - The U.S. is at war with violent Islamist extremism, and the Obama administration does moderate Muslims no favor by refusing to recognize this

Latest BIS Quarterly Review discusses financial turbulence

Afghan Staying Power - The President needs to speak up for his war strategy

The United States and Africa: Partnering for Progress

Obama's Political Oil Fund - In its Gulf spill panic, the White House runs roughshod over the rule of law

China's high saving rate: myth and reality, by Guonan Ma and Wang Yi
BIS Working Papers No 312, June 2010
The saving rate of China is high from many perspectives - historical experience, international standards and the predictions of economic models. Furthermore, the average saving rate has been rising over time, with much of the increase taking place in the 2000s, so that the aggregate marginal propensity to save exceeds 50%. What really sets China apart from the rest of the world is that the rising aggregate saving has reflected high savings rates in all three sectors - corporate, household and government. Moreover, adjusting for inflation alters interpretations of the time path of the propensity to save in the three sectors. Our evidence casts doubt on the proposition that distortions and subsidies account for China's rising corporate profits and high saving rate. Instead, we argue that tough corporate restructuring (including pension and home ownership reforms), a marked Lewis-model transformation process (where the average wage exceeds the marginal product of labour in the subsistence sector) and rapid ageing process have all played more important roles. While such structural factors suggest that the Chinese saving rate will peak in the medium term, policies for job creation and a stronger social safety net would assist the transition to more balanced domestic demand.

The Government Bailouts Must End

Monday, June 14, 2010

Jordan's Nuclear Ambitions Pose Quandary for the U.S.

Jordan's Nuclear Ambitions Pose Quandary for the U.S. By Jay Solomon
WSJ, Jun 14, 2010

SAWAQA, Jordan—The Kingdom of Jordan is in a sprint to become the Arab world's next nuclear power. And America wants to help it succeed.

King Abdullah II says he wants to reduce Jordan's dependence on energy imports by developing nuclear energy.

U.S. and Jordanian officials are negotiating a nuclear-cooperation agreement that would allow American firms to export nuclear components and know-how to the Mideast country, America's closest Arab ally in the volatile region.

The Obama administration views Jordan as a key potential partner in its global program to promote the nonmilitary use of atomic energy—part of a broader plan to increase pressure on other Middle East countries, particularly Iran and Syria, to bring transparency to their own nuclear programs.

"I believe nuclear energy in Jordan will be done in such a way where it is a public-private partnership so everyone can see exactly what's going on," Jordan's King Abdullah II said in an interview. "If we can be the model of transparency, it will push others."

But it's a partnership that puts the Obama administration in a bind: It is trying to make good on its pledge to promote greater civilian use of atomic energy, without angering Israel and risking a Mideast arms race.

The deal has catches for the Jordanians, too: The U.S. is demanding that Amman not produce its own nuclear fuel. That's a right Jordan enjoys as a signatory to the United Nations key nonproliferation treaty—and is reluctant to surrender, thanks to its recent discoveries of big deposits of uranium ore.

The U.S. last week pushed through the United Nations a fourth round of economic sanctions against Iran in a bid to curtail its advancing nuclear work. Tehran says its program is purely for civilian purposes, a charge challenged by the U.N. and the West. U.S. officials worry the Arab states, fearing the Iranian threat, could one day seek to develop atomic weapons themselves.

Senior Jordanian officials say Amman can't renounce its right to produce nuclear fuel under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, both for strategic and economic reasons. They say that if Jordan cuts a side agreement with the U.S. on this point it would undermine the integrity of the treaty. They also say such an agreement would limit Jordan's ambition to become a "regional nuclear fuel supply and export center."

Failure to reach consensus on this point, U.S. and Jordanian officials acknowledge, could kill the cooperation deal.

"We believe in the universality of the NPT," said Khaled Toukan, the head of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission. "We do not agree on applying conditions and restrictions outside of the NPT on a regional basis or a country-by-country basis."

[Known recoverable resources of uranium, 2008, in thousands or metric tons]

Jordan is among a slew of Arab countries, including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, that are seeking to become among the first Mideast countries to develop a civilian nuclear-power industry. Israel is the lone country in the region believed to possess atomic weapons, but it hasn't moved to build nuclear power plants.

Jordan's nuclear ambitions are driven by economics. Wedged between Israel and oil giants Saudi Arabia and Iraq, the kingdom is 95% dependent on imported oil and has among the world's smallest reserves of potable water.

But the discovery of at least 65,000 tons of uranium ore in the deserts outside Amman in 2007 has led King Abdullah to order a drastic reshaping of his nation's economic strategy.

French and Chinese geologists are combing southern, central and eastern Jordan in search of additional uranium deposits. In addition to fueling its own plants, Jordan hopes to use its projected four nuclear power plants to begin exporting electricity to neighbors including Iraq and Syria by 2030 and to commercially mine and export uranium. Even if it doesn't process any nuclear fuel itself, Jordan could still produce and export electricity by buying the fuel for its reactors on the international market.

"Now that we have a raw material, people are coming for the first time in our history and knocking on our door," King Abdullah said in the interview.

U.S. officials say they recognize Jordan's desire to achieve energy independence. They praise Jordan's early outreach to the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and Amman's willingness to allow international inspectors unhindered access to its growing nuclear infrastructure.

But U.S. negotiators are unwavering in their insistence that Amman commit to purchasing its reactor fuel from the international market to guard against its potential internal diversion for military purposes. Iran's insistence on producing its own nuclear fuel stands at the center of its current conflict with the West.

U.S. officials argue if Jordan doesn't surrender its rights to produce fuel, it raises proliferation risks. Countries with the complete nuclear fuel cycle—from mining uranium to processing it into fuel—can convert their civilian plants for military applications. Under terms of the U.S. agreement, Jordan could mine the ore but not convert it into fuel for nuclear power.

Such fears could hamstring Washington's ability to win necessary Congressional approval for a nuclear cooperation agreement with Jordan. Last year, Congress approved a similar deal with the United Arab Emirates only after the country agreed to buy its nuclear fuel overseas.

Jordan could pursue its nuclear ambitions without the U.S., but would face steep diplomatic and financial hurdles. Still, Amman is aggressively pressing forward: In March, it purchased a research reactor for a northern Jordanian university and is in talks with four international consortia to buy its first nuclear power plant.

Those moves are stoking tensions with neighboring Israel.

In the interview, King Abdullah said Israel has been pressuring countries like South Korea and France not to sell nuclear technologies to Jordan. He said Israel's "underhanded" actions have helped bring Jordan-Israeli relations to their lowest point since a 1994 peace agreement.

"There are countries, Israel in particular, that are more worried about us being economically independent than the issue of nuclear energy, and have been voicing their concerns," King Abdullah said. "There are many such reactors in the world and a lot more coming, so [the Israelis must] go mind their own business."

Israeli officials denied any effort to undermine Amman's nuclear procurement efforts.

Jordan's fixation on nuclear power is rooted in its near total dependence on imported oil.

When global oil prices spiked above $100 a barrel in 2007, Amman was forced to spend the equivalent of 20% of its total economic output on energy. That bill could rise sharply over the next decade, say Jordanian officials, as electricity demand is projected to double.

Energy shortages have also threatened Amman's ability to address its severe water deficiency with power-hungry desalination plants near the Red Sea.

The oil-price shock led King Abdullah and his ministers in 2007 to fashion a new energy strategy. The project calls for Jordan to draw 10% of its energy from solar and wind by 2020; 30% from natural gas; and 14% from oil shale. The strategy foresees a special role for nuclear power: 30% of Jordan's overall energy needs by 2030.

The center of Jordan's uranium push is the desolate Bedouin village of Sawaqa, an hour south of Amman. Here the French nuclear-power giant, Areva SA, is partnering with Jordanian mining firms and geologists to try to transform the area into a major center for uranium production.

An encampment of rowed housing units, a cafeteria and sheds used to store and test mineral samples stands amid central Jordan's barren, gravely landscape. A lone camel occasionally meanders past the walled site.

Jordanian geologists have explored the Sawaqa area for decades, confirming sizable deposits of phosphates and oil shale. But the joint Areva-Jordanian camp's general manager, Gilles Recoche, has been tasked to ensure the uranium ore found here and nearby can be mined on a commercially viable scale. He then hopes to process the ore on-site into the powdery substance known as yellowcake, which can in turn be processed into the low-enriched uranium used to power nuclear reactors.

On a recent afternoon outside the Sawaqa camp, Mr. Recoche and his Jordanian colleague, Allam Saymeh, walked through a dug-out excavation trench with gamma-radiation guns.

Moving through the narrow sandy passage, they point out the yellow stains on the trench's rock walls that indicate uranium ore. They then pass their guns over the yellow markings to gauge the grade of the uranium—anything over 100 particles-per-million is judged to have commercial prospects.

"This project is my child," said the 52-year-old Mr. Saymeh, noting that he'd explored the areas around Sawaqa since the 1980s.

Jordan's government is also putting in place the bureaucracy and infrastructure to run its nuclear program. Parliament has passed laws establishing the country's first nuclear regulatory body and the Atomic Energy Commission.

Amman has signed nuclear-cooperation agreements with eight countries, including France, China and Russia. Negotiations have begun with such companies as Russia's Rosatom Corp. and Seoul's Korea Electric Power Corp. to construct Jordan's first power reactor.

The nuclear program's point man is Mr. Toukan, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology-trained nuclear scientist and a former education minister. As chairman of the country's Atomic Energy Commission, the 55-year-old has broad powers, overseeing everything from choosing the reactor's construction site to negotiating the cooperation agreement with the U.S. He views Jordan's nuclear program as providing the base for a scientific resurgence across the Middle East.

A focal point is the nuclear-engineering department at the Jordan University of Science and Technology in the northern city of Irbid. Here, Mr. Toukan's agency contracted in March with a South Korean consortium to build Jordan's first 5-megawatt research reactor, which could break ground later this year.

Students and teachers on the expansive palm-tree-lined campus talk excitedly of the research reactor's arrival. The nuclear-engineering department is only three years old, with just 100 students.

"Right now, we have nothing practical to work on here," says Abtihal Almalahim, a 21-year old junior and one of the program's female candidates. The reactor's arrival "will make our study a lot more real."

A key to achieving King Abdullah's ambitions, however, remains the cooperation agreement with the U.S., say Jordanian officials.

[Jordan's energy sources, 2007]

They say it could prove difficult to secure some of the core technologies for their nuclear infrastructure without the Obama administration's seal of approval. The U.S. is a leading player in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a Vienna-based body aimed at controlling the flow of nuclear technologies internationally. Many reactors from France, Japan and Canada contain significant U.S. components and would require Washington's approval for a sale.

Mr. Toukan nearly concluded a nuclear-cooperation pact with George W. Bush's administration in 2008, according to Jordanian and American officials. It got sidelined in the final months of Mr. Bush's term as Washington aggressively pushed forward and completed a separate nuclear deal with the United Arab Emirates, which does not have its own uranium reserves and agreed to purchase all its reactor fuel from international suppliers.

The Obama administration views the U.A.E. deal as a model for its nonproliferation drive. American experts say it would be virtually impossible for the Emirates or any other nation to develop atomic weapons without the ability to produce highly enriched uranium at home.

The White House has good reason to stick to its guns in its talks with Jordan: the U.A.E., in its agreement with the U.S., won the right to negotiate a new deal if another Mideast country concludes a nuclear pact with the U.S. on more favorable terms.

King Abdullah, is pushing ahead. He met one-on-one with President Obama during Washington's nuclear security summit in April to discuss regional peace and nonproliferation issues, according to Jordanian officials.

The king also instructed his foreign minister to formally reprimand Israel's ambassador to Jordan over the charges that Israel has been seeking to block the sale of the South Korean or French reactors to Jordan.

On the outskirts of the port city of Aqaba, just miles from the Israeli resort city of Eilat, international contractors have been conducting feasibility studies to gauge whether the site can house Jordan's first nuclear-power reactor. Aqaba also lies close to a seismic fault line. Israeli officials have publicly voiced concerns about a reactor being situated so close to the fault.

"We are way ahead of Israel" when it comes to securing new reactor technology, King Abdullah said. "And if you have the private sector involved in nuclear power, it's difficult to do anything sinister."

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Press Briefing

Jan 14, 2010

Banks and financial intermediation in emerging Asia: reforms and new risks, by Madhusudan Mohanty and Philip Turner
BIS Working Papers No 313, June 2010
The conventional view is that microeconomic reforms after the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis have greatly strengthened banking systems in Asia. Banks have become better capitalised, external exposures have been reduced and credit risk has been managed more effectively. But this conventional view does not take enough account of the macroeconomic background. A sharp rise in domestic savings, combined with the recent large-scale sterilised intervention and easy monetary policy, has led to very easy financing conditions for banks. Bank credit expanded. Banks have accumulated a large stock of government bonds. How these conditions will change and how this will affect banks in Asia is uncertain. Supervisory authorities therefore need to be sure that the present very liquid position of most banking systems in Asia does not allow significant (but so far only latent) increases in market and credit risk to go undetected.

Obama's Foreign Policy Success - He has repaired our alliances, isolated Iran, unnerved Chávez, and he is systematically destroying al Qaeda in a way Bush never did

David Souter's Bad Constitutional History - The former justice's logic would justify Plessy v. Ferguson

The White House Blog - A New Health Care Survey and the Affordable Care Act

The Gulf Spill, the Financial Crisis and Government Failure - Both Republicans and Democrats fail to see the limits of centralized regulation in a modern market economy

State Dept: Anniversary of Iran’s Disputed Presidential Election

California Union Rebuke - Voters rebel against project labor deals that raise costs

How to prevent huge teacher layoffs. By Christina D. Romer

Hillary on Honduras - An education in Latin democracy

The White House Blog - Focusing on the Gulf

Lula's Dance With the Despots - The president of Brazil is preserving his country's unfortunate image as a resentful, Third-World ankle-biter

America's Municipal Debt Racket - State and local borrowing as a percentage of U.S. GDP has risen to an all-time high of 22% in 2010

Politicizing the Fed - Congress seeks more control over the 12 regional banks

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Press Briefing

Jan 12, 2010

The White House Blog - "The President of the United States of America believes in you"

Hillary for Defense? - The president may also want her for veep to rally the base in 2012

Iran's Revolution Has Only Just Begun - The shrinking number of loyalists around the Ayatollah Khamenei are shaken by their failure to break the will of the opposition

Turkey, Hamas and the PKK - Erdogan's double standard on terrorism

Crashing Real Estate - Is this really the time for a tax increase on commercial property?

Cutting the Pentagon Budget - Reductions in military spending are both necessary and possible

Administration Modifies “Peer-Reviewed” Report After it was Reviewed by Scientists

Statement by the Press Secretary on the Visit of President Medvedev of the Russian Federation to the White House

Prolonging Education’s Race to the Bottom

"Hands off my plastic stuff!"

One year later, women at forefront of Iranian democracy movement

Past ability to execute "indicates the degree to which we can provide the kinds of support and good service that the American people expect"

Friday, June 11, 2010

Past ability to execute "indicates the degree to which we can provide the kinds of support and good service that the American people expect"

Past ability to execute "indicates the degree to which we can provide the kinds of support and good service that the American people expect"
WSJ, Jun 11, 2010

Byron York writing in the Washington Examiner, June 6:

It's not mentioned much now, but in the late summer of 2008, a major hurricane, Gustav, was in the Gulf of Mexico and headed toward New Orleans, threatening a replay of the disastrous Katrina experience. On September 1, 2008, Barack Obama, fresh from his Roman-colonnade speech on the final night of the Democratic convention in Denver, talked to CNN's Anderson Cooper about Gustav and the Gulf. The question: As president, could he handle an emergency like that? Obama pointed to the size of his campaign and its multi-million dollar budget as evidence of his executive abilities. "Our ability to manage large systems and to execute, I think, has been made clear over the last couple of years," Obama said. That executive ability, he added, "indicates the degree to which we can provide the kinds of support and good service that the American people expect."

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Press Briefing

Jan 11, 2010

Palm-Size NMR - The portable but powerful magnet could be used to find archaeological artifacts or to detect contamination in products

An Energy Strategy for Grown-Ups - Wind power is not a realistic substitute for oil

Global Financial Industry Leaders Support Constructive Dialogue to Secure Financial Sector Stability and Economic Growth
The IIF study compares a projected economic growth scenario without the introduction of new bank regulatory reforms with one that sees reforms coming into effect with the capital and liquidity calibration as currently projected. Mr. Sands said, “The analysis suggests that rapid implementation of the Basel Committee proposals would have a significant negative impact on economic growth and job creation. Specifically, in the core G-3 (the United States, the Euro area & Japan), the analysis indicates that GDP by 2015 would be 3% lower than it would otherwise be, which implies under reasonable assumptions, that some 9.7 million fewer jobs would be created over this five year period than would otherwise be the case.

The Gulf Spill and the Limits of Science - TV has fueled unrealistic expectations of a quick fix

How the West Can Help Iran's Green Movement - Please do not barter away our democracy for nuclear weapons negotiations with the current unworthy leaders in Tehran

The Rise of Chinese Labor. WSJ Editorial
Wage hikes are part of a virtuous cycle of development.

The recent strikes at Honda factories in southern China represent another data point in an emerging trend: Cheap labor won't be the source of the Chinese economy's competitive advantage much longer.

The auto maker has caved and given workers a 24% pay increase to restart one assembly line. Foxconn, the electronics producer that has experienced a string of worker suicides, has also announced big raises. This is all part of the virtuous cycle of development: Productivity increases, which drive wages higher, forcing businesses to adjust, leading to more productivity growth.

The supply of Chinese migrant workers from the countryside, once thought to be endless, is running dry, and that is giving workers leverage to demand bigger pay packets. The brief drop-off in orders brought on by the global financial crisis provided a respite, as did a recent drought in southwest China that spurred extra migration to the coastal factory zones. But shoe manufacturers are the canary in the coal mine. An American industry association recently polled its members and found that 88% saw a labor shortage in China, and almost as many had experienced late deliveries as a result.

While higher wage costs could mean more expensive sneakers for consumers and squeezed profit margins for the big brands, it has some silver linings. For instance, tamping down protectionism.

New York Senator Charles Schumer is again threatening to impose punitive tariffs on Chinese goods unless there is progress toward revaluing the yuan. The Senator says that currency manipulation holds down the cost of Chinese labor, at the expense of "millions" of American jobs. If wages rise in southern China regardless of the fixed exchange rate to the dollar, it undercuts the protectionist claims.

Jobs are hardly going to flood back to the U.S. merely because final assembly costs in China rise by 20%—just as they didn't after the yuan appreciated by 21.2% from 2005-08. More likely, some labor-intensive operations will shift to the likes of Vietnam or Bangladesh.

However, rising wages would hasten the long-awaited "rebalancing" of the Chinese economy toward greater consumption. The high savings rate has been a function of profits being reinvested by both private and state-owned companies, not the savings decisions of households, whose income has lagged behind the stunning GDP figures. Government spending and bank lending have been geared toward investment, which remains the main driver of growth. Greater spending power for individual Chinese would make for more sustainable growth and also encourage imports, lessening the trade surpluses that cause tension with the U.S.

Some investors may question to what extent Beijing is encouraging workers to be more assertive in demanding higher wages from foreign companies to favor local producers, as competition for the domestic market heats up. However, the trends that are making labor more costly will ultimately force all employers to adjust, including less efficient state-owned enterprises.

No doubt the government would prefer that foreign firms go first, which is reflected in the fact that state-owned media have been allowed some freedom to report on the Honda strikes. But as China leaves behind the era of cheap labor, the quality of management will become ever more critical to success in the marketplace. That should favor foreign companies honed by global competition, and drive China's next round of state-owned-enterprise reform.

Reckless Endangerment - The Senate votes for the EPA, but only barely

The White House Blog - Saving Taxpayer Dollars by Streamlining and Modernizing Government

How the White House is Making Oil Recovery Harder

Open Skies Treaty Remains Vital Instrument for Cooperation, Transparency. By Rose E. Gottemoeller, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Verification, Compliance, and Implementation. Also served as the head of the U.S. delegation and Chair of the 2010 Review Conference for the Treaty on Open Skies.

Farewell, Medicare Advantage - Democrats strike up the funeral parade for private insurance options

The iPhone, Net Neutrality and the FCC - Regulatory uncertainty is spoiling the rollout of Steve Jobs's latest inspirations. There's a better way to spur broadband competition.

Success with 'cisgenics' in forestry offers new tools for biotechnology

Iran and the 'Freedom Recession' - Facebook had no answer to the pro-regime vigilantes who ruled the streets. And the U.S. president, who might have helped, stood aside.

The Ongoing Administration-Wide Response to the Deepwater BP Oil Spill: June 8, 2010

How Not to Spur Credit-Ratings Competition - Europe would rather attack the messengers than address overspending and stagnation

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Liberals issue dire warnings to argue for more stimulus spending. Conservative Republicans argue (quite plausibly) that hundreds of billions in "stimulus spending" has proven counterproductive so far.The economy isn't that bad.

Don't Believe the Double-Dippers. By ALAN REYNOLDS
Liberals issue dire warnings to argue for more stimulus spending. Conservative Republicans argue (quite plausibly) that hundreds of billions in "stimulus spending" has proven counterproductive so far.The economy isn't that bad.WSJ, Jun 10, 2010

'We're falling into a double-dip recession," former Labor Secretary Robert Reich declares in a Christian Science Monitor blog post. His evidence? The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated that only 41,000 private jobs were added in May. But that is much too flimsy a statistic to justify predicting an aborted recovery—something that has happened only once since 1933.

The only double-dip recession in modern times began during the election year of 1980, when President Jimmy Carter's newly appointed Fed Chairman Paul Volcker slashed the federal-funds rate to 9% that April from 17.5% in July. Inflation returned with a vengeance, so the Fed gradually reversed course by pushing the fed-funds rate above 19% by the time Ronald Reagan took office in January 1981. Are those currently predicting a double-dip recession expecting the Fed to raise interest rates to 19%?

It is also misleading to label this a "jobless" recovery, which indeed took place in the early 2000s. After the recession of 2001 ended that November, the number of private jobs continued to fall by 1.3 million through July 2003. Yet production continued to grow.

This year, by contrast, civilian employment has increased by more than 1.6 million jobs, according to the BLS Current Population Survey of households. True, the Current Employment Survey of employers shows a smaller gain of 982,000 in nonfarm jobs over the past five months, nearly half of which were government jobs. But that still leaves private employment up by 495,000 or roughly 100,000 a month.

Mr. Reich divined an imminent recession largely because the increase in private jobs supposedly slowed to 41,000 in May, according to the BLS. But these monthly estimates are much too rough and variable to be taken so seriously. The household survey, for example, would have us believe the labor force suddenly surged by 805,000 in April then collapsed by 322,000 in May. By smoothing out such wild gyrations, it turns out that the labor force rose by 267,000 a month this year, while employment rose by 326,000 a month. The combination was enough to trim unemployment, but not by much.

Double-dippers use dubious devices to make mediocre job gains appear much worse than they are. One is to claim, "There are still nearly six workers competing for every available job," as Rep. Jim McDermott (D., Wash.) wrote in a May 28 letter to this newspaper.

After talking to me about those figures, CNNMoney reporter Tami Luhby wrote, "Though Labor Department statistics say there are 5.5 job seekers for every opening, Reynolds said there is work available if people are willing to relocate or take jobs in a different field." What I actually told her was that it is completely untrue that BLS statistics "say there are 5.5 job seekers for every job opening." I also remarked, with less emphasis, that making 79-99 weeks of unemployment benefits available only in states with the highest unemployment rates has the perverse effect of punishing people for moving to the 14 states where unemployment ranges from 4% to 7%.

The myth that there are nearly six job seekers for every available job arises from the misnamed BLS "Job Opening and Turnover Survey" (JOLT), which asks a few thousand businesses how many new jobs they are actively advertising outside the firm. But note well that this concept of "job openings" does not purport to include "every available job." On the contrary, it is closer to being a measure of help wanted ads.

"Many jobs are never advertised," explains the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook; "People get them by talking to friends, family, neighbors, acquaintances, teachers, former coworkers, and others who know of an opening." Because many jobs are never advertised they are also never counted as job openings!

The BLS Handbook also notes that, "Directly contacting employers is one of the most successful means of job hunting." Those jobs are also not counted as job openings. Job openings inside a firm are also excluded—including laid-off workers who are rehired or relocated within large corporations.

Despite these severe limitations, the trend has been more upbeat than you might gather from depressing news reports. "The number of job openings increased in April to 3.1 million," reports the BLS. "Since the most recent trough of 2.3 million in July 2009, the number of job openings has risen by 740,000."

Another popular device for denigrating this year's modest-yet-positive job gains is to claim the "real" unemployment rate is actually 16.6%. That figure, called U6, is the largest of six BLS measures. The more familiar U3 rate (now 9.7%) defines "unemployment" as people who say they have looked for work at some time during the past month but have not yet started a new job.

An alternative U2 measure includes only those who were unemployed because they were laid off or fired—not because they quit or were newcomers to the job market. That rate of job loss unemployment is 6%.

A broader U4 measure, by contrast, adds "discouraged workers." People need not have looked for a job recently to be counted as discouraged. It is sufficient for them to think no work is available, or think they are too young or too old, or think they lack the necessary schooling or training. Psychological discouragement adds relatively little to the conventional unemployment rate, lifting the U4 measure to 10.3% in May (down from 10.6% in April).

The broadest U6 statistic goes much further by adding "all marginally attached workers, plus total employed part-time for economic reasons."

The phrase "working part-time for economic reasons" implies a clear divide between part-time and full-time status. That creates the misimpression that those working part-time for economic reasons means would rather have different ("full-time") jobs. In reality, only a fourth of them say they could not find a full-time job; the rest work in occupations where hours vary. The BLS counts anything below 35 hours as part-time, so those who normally work 9-to-5 are counted as working part-time for economic reasons if they report losing even a single hour due to "slack work or unfavorable business conditions . . . or seasonal declines in demand."

The "marginally attached" in the U6 statistic do not even claim to imagine they can't find work. They are not looking for work, the BLS explains, "for such reasons as school or family responsibilities, ill health, and transportation problems." To describe people who are not available for work as unemployed or even underemployed is a misuse of the language.

Using all of this statistical trickery to convert a weak job market into an imminent recession has become a bipartisan political strategy. Robert Reich and other big government Democrats play the "double dip" card to peddle more deficit spending on refundable tax credits and transfer payments. Conservative Republicans often become double-dippy for very different reasons—to argue (quite plausibly) that hundreds of billions in "stimulus spending" has proven counterproductive so far, contributed to the debt, and will eventually lead to higher taxes.

Those who want to know what is going on must sift through all of this bipartisan gloom to distinguish between (1) agenda-driven dire warnings and (2) the boring reality of a sluggish recovery being partially paralyzed by ominous threats of punitive taxes and onerous regulation.

Mr. Reynolds is a senior fellow with the Cato Institute and the author of "Income and Wealth" (Greenwood Press, 2006).

Press Briefing

Jun 10, 2010

The White House Blog: "The Toughest Sanctions Ever Faced by the Iranian Government"

Women as Agents of Change: Advancing the Role of Women in Politics and Civil Society. By Esther Brimmer, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Organization Affairs
House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight, Washington, DC

Tocqueville said that Americans 'love change but dread revolutions.'

Gates Foundation and USAID Announce Innovative Fund to Incentivize Mobile Money Services in Haiti
Access to financial services by mobile phone can dramatically improve the lives of Haitians as country rebuilds from devastating earthquake

Stalin Storms Omaha Beach - The National D-Day Memorial has added a bust of Joseph Stalin

Women Setting the Economic Policy Agenda. By Maria Otero, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs
National Press Club, Washington, DC

Erdogan and the Israel Card - Last year the Turkish prime minister called Shimon Peres a killer at Davos. He returned home to a hero's welcome

Assessing the Strength of Hizballah. By Jeffrey D. Feltman, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, and Daniel Benjamin, Coordinator, Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism
Testimony before the Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Washington, DC

Drilling Bits of Fiction - The Obama Administration is under political pressure to reverse its ill-considered deep water drilling moratorium, and the latest blowback comes from seven angry experts from the National Academy of Engineering who say their views were distorted to justify the ban

Award-Winning DOE Technology Scores Success in Carbon Storage Project - Tracers Track Subsurface Movement of CO2 at New Mexico Pilot Test Site

Atomic affairs - Nervousness over nuclear moves

National Deficit-Reduction Commissioner: "The market-worshipping, privatizing, de-regulating, dehumanizing American financial plan has failed and should never be revived"

In 2009, only 25 new drugs were approved—less than half the number in the mid-’90s. Why are new pharmaceuticals so hard to bring to market?

Don't Believe the Double-Dippers - Liberals issue dire warnings to argue for more stimulus spending. Conservative Republicans argue (quite plausibly) that hundreds of billions in "stimulus spending" has proven counterproductive so far.The economy isn't that bad.

Unions Just Flushed $5 Million of Your Tax Dollars Down the Toilet

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Press Briefing

Jun 09, 2010

Another Reason to Vaccinate Against HPV

Washington and Your Retirement - The agency that guarantees private-sector pensions is deep in the red
The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) Is Billions in Deficit

The White House Blog - On Board with the VP: Day 2 in Kenya

Conservatives: Freer Political Speech - The Ninth Circuit loses again - suspension of part of Arizona's political matching-fund law

Remarks by the First Lady at Congressional Service Event

Two Steps Forward in the War Against Cancer - The time from lab to market for new drugs keeps getting shorter, but bad government policies threaten to reverse this trend

Wall Street Still Doesn't Get It - The business community has fueled populist anger by disclaiming responsibility for the excesses of the last bubble

Helen Thomas never shied from piping up. In the end, that was the problem.

Remarks by the President at a Tele-Town Hall with Seniors

A Second Oil Disaster - The deep water drilling moratorium threatens Gulf state economies

U.S. Soccer Team Connects With South African Youth

Libertarians: Liberals discover regulatory capture, one of the right's critique of regulation

The President Meets with His Cabinet on BP Spill: "This Will Be Contained"

The Alien in the White House - The distance between the president and the people is beginning to be revealed

The Affordable Care Act: Strengthening Medicare, Combating Misinformation and Protecting America's Senior

CBS Reporter: Thin-Skinned White House Won't Tolerate Reports Elena Kagan Is Liberal

Naive Keynesianism and Other Fallacies, by Roger Kerr

Self-identified liberals and Democrats do badly on questions of basic economics

Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? By DANIEL B. KLEIN
Self-identified liberals and Democrats do badly on questions of basic economics.WSJ, Jun 08, 2010

Who is better informed about the policy choices facing the country—liberals, conservatives or libertarians? According to a Zogby International survey that I write about in the May issue of Econ Journal Watch, the answer is unequivocal: The left flunks Econ 101.

Zogby researcher Zeljka Buturovic and I considered the 4,835 respondents' (all American adults) answers to eight survey questions about basic economics. We also asked the respondents about their political leanings: progressive/very liberal; liberal; moderate; conservative; very conservative; and libertarian.

Rather than focusing on whether respondents answered a question correctly, we instead looked at whether they answered incorrectly. A response was counted as incorrect only if it was flatly unenlightened.

Consider one of the economic propositions in the December 2008 poll: "Restrictions on housing development make housing less affordable." People were asked if they: 1) strongly agree; 2) somewhat agree; 3) somewhat disagree; 4) strongly disagree; 5) are not sure.

Basic economics acknowledges that whatever redeeming features a restriction may have, it increases the cost of production and exchange, making goods and services less affordable. There may be exceptions to the general case, but they would be atypical.

Therefore, we counted as incorrect responses of "somewhat disagree" and "strongly disagree." This treatment gives leeway for those who think the question is ambiguous or half right and half wrong. They would likely answer "not sure," which we do not count as incorrect.

In this case, percentage of conservatives answering incorrectly was 22.3%, very conservatives 17.6% and libertarians 15.7%. But the percentage of progressive/very liberals answering incorrectly was 67.6% and liberals 60.1%. The pattern was not an anomaly.

The other questions were: 1) Mandatory licensing of professional services increases the prices of those services (unenlightened answer: disagree). 2) Overall, the standard of living is higher today than it was 30 years ago (unenlightened answer: disagree). 3) Rent control leads to housing shortages (unenlightened answer: disagree). 4) A company with the largest market share is a monopoly (unenlightened answer: agree). 5) Third World workers working for American companies overseas are being exploited (unenlightened answer: agree). 6) Free trade leads to unemployment (unenlightened answer: agree). 7) Minimum wage laws raise unemployment (unenlightened answer: disagree).

How did the six ideological groups do overall? Here they are, best to worst, with an average number of incorrect responses from 0 to 8: Very conservative, 1.30; Libertarian, 1.38; Conservative, 1.67; Moderate, 3.67; Liberal, 4.69; Progressive/very liberal, 5.26.

Americans in the first three categories do reasonably well. But the left has trouble squaring economic thinking with their political psychology, morals and aesthetics.

To be sure, none of the eight questions specifically challenge the political sensibilities of conservatives and libertarians. Still, not all of the eight questions are tied directly to left-wing concerns about inequality and redistribution. In particular, the questions about mandatory licensing, the standard of living, the definition of monopoly, and free trade do not specifically challenge leftist sensibilities.

Yet on every question the left did much worse. On the monopoly question, the portion of progressive/very liberals answering incorrectly (31%) was more than twice that of conservatives (13%) and more than four times that of libertarians (7%). On the question about living standards, the portion of progressive/very liberals answering incorrectly (61%) was more than four times that of conservatives (13%) and almost three times that of libertarians (21%).

The survey also asked about party affiliation. Those responding Democratic averaged 4.59 incorrect answers. Republicans averaged 1.61 incorrect, and Libertarians 1.26 incorrect.

Adam Smith described political economy as "a branch of the science of a statesman or legislator." Governmental power joined with wrongheadedness is something terrible, but all too common. Realizing that many of our leaders and their constituents are economically unenlightened sheds light on the troubles that surround us.

Mr. Klein is a professor of economics at George Mason University. This op-ed is based on an article published in the May 2010 issue of the journal he edits, Econ Journal Watch, a project sponsored by the American Institute for Economic Research.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Press Briefing

Jun 08, 2010

Economic Growth and Institutional Innovation: Outlines of a Reform Agenda

The Obama Spending Nightmare Continues

ACLU's Shapiro: The Thompkins Decision: A Threat to Civil Liberties . . . The Supreme Court has undermined our Miranda protections

Yoo: The Thompkins Decision, A Sensible Bow to Post-9/11 Reality - The Supreme Court may mitigate the harm of the president's weak antiterror policies

Gates on China - Speaking the truth makes the Pacific a safer place

The White House Blog: "Every Child, Every Opportunity, Every Time"

Obama's 'Whisper Number' - White House jobs predictions are confusing investors

Travel Diary: Secretary Clinton Addresses Organization of American States 40th General Assembly

Auctions for Overbooking - A better idea than airline bumping

Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? - Self-identified liberals and Democrats do badly on questions of basic economics

The Bullish Case for U.S. Equities - Though America faces long-term problems, our economy is making extraordinary improvements, especially compared to Europe

Arrogance in the Executive - What the oil spill has revealed about the Obama presidency

In Praise of Blockades - Israel upholds an honorable tradition

Public Education Costlier Than You Think

Press Briefing

Jun 07, 2010

Press Briefing on the New START Treaty. By Rose Gottemoeller, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Verification, Compliance, and Implementation, Geneva, Switzerland

With Friends Like the United States . . . President Obama has emboldened America's adversaries and unnerved its allies

Travel Diary: “Wheels Up” With Secretary Clinton to Latin America and the Caribbean

Jack McConnell, The Judge From Motley Rice - The lead paint lawsuit king gets a judgeship

Bailouts as Usual - The credit-raters say 'too big to fail' is alive and well

Stop The Fearmongering Over Cancer - Despite recent hysteria, cancer mortality rates have fallen throughout the past decade

Response to Paul Krugman's "Things Everyone In Chicago Knows Which happen not to be true"

James R. Clapper Jr. as DNI: "Four Decades of Service"

Obama's Oil Crisis Politics - Democrats want to change the subject from the Gulf spill to cap and tax. BP approves.

Cooperation and Pragmatism: Malaysian Foreign Policy under Najib. By Joshua R. Johnson

News briefing at WH to discuss the progress of the ongoing crisis in the Gulf.
 Watch live:

Why Obama’s Stimulus Failed

Homeownership Is Overrated - Today's economy requires a more mobile workforce

The Ongoing Administration-Wide Response to the Deepwater BP Oil Spill: June 5 and June 6, 2010

Pelosi's Loss Could Be Obama's Gain - A pivot to the center (and re-election) would be easier without the House speaker

The U.S.-ROK Alliance and China: Beyond the Sinking of the Cheonan. By Ji-Young Lee

Tax Hikes and the 2011 Economic Collapse - Today's corporate profits reflect an income shift into 2010. These profits will tumble next year, preceded most likely by the stock market

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Press Briefing

Jun 05, 2010

Indicting the First Amendment - Bruce Shore's case

The Ongoing Administration-Wide Response to the Deepwater Oil Spill: June 4, 2010

America and the Meaning of Courage - Abraham Lincoln called the U.S. last best hope of earth—and that description is at least as true in our own day as it was in his

Weekly Address: President Obama Outlines Administration Response Efforts to the BP Oil Spill from Grand Isle, LA

Storming the School Barricades - A new documentary by a 27-year-old filmmaker could change the national debate about public education

How to Prevent the Next 'Flash Crash' - Nasdaq is committed to protecting you from excessive volatility

California's Pension Protection Bill - Unions try to block the bankruptcy option

The 2010 U.S. QDR and Its Impact on China, by Shen Dingli

Slouching Towards Athens - The Obama agenda and the Europeanization of America

U.S., India Partnership Goes Beyond Government-to-Government Linkages

Employers on Strike - Congress keeps giving business reasons not to hire

Larry Lindsey: Up to 20% of May Private Sector Job Growth May Be Due to BP Oil Spill

Federal President's Meeting with Arizona's Governor

The Jobless Obama Recovery

Dead in the Water: A Floating Cemetery for Hong Kong

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Hoosiers vs. Crony Capitalism - How Indiana took on the federal bailout machine and restored the rule of law

Hoosiers vs. Crony Capitalism. By MITCH DANIELS
How my state took on the Obama bailout machine and restored the rule of law.WSJ, June 04, 2010

June 10 will be a silent anniversary, but one worth noting by those alarmed at the past year's assault on free institutions. It was last June 10 when the federal government tossed aside the option of proven, workable bankruptcy procedures in order to nationalize Chrysler on behalf of its union allies.

In order to provide preferential treatment to its cronies, the Obama administration confiscated the property of those creditors who had lent money to Chrysler in good faith, believing that their interest was legally secured and that they stood at the head of the line in the event of the auto company's failure.

The shock wave through the economic markets from this arbitrary redefinition of "secured creditors" rights was profound. Could centuries of crystal-clear law really be overthrown by executive fiat? Apparently, yes. The Supreme Court declined to intervene in the takeover. The cost of corporate borrowing was clearly headed upward as the U.S. for the first time imitated those Third World despotisms where economic rules can be changed without warning at the ruler's whim and convenience.

Equally profound was the message sent to the legal community, which quickly began to cite the "Chrysler precedent" as the now-acceptable judicial model for stripping secured creditors' rights in the name of expediency. Just days after the decision, the Phoenix Coyotes of the National Hockey League invoked the Chrysler case in an attempt to undermine secured creditors' rights and hasten bankruptcy.

Those brave few who protested the brute force taking of their money were attacked by administration apparatchiks for the sin of doing their fiduciary duty to their investors and shareholders. Calls went out from the White House, encouraging submission and warning of the consequences of opposition. One by one, potential plaintiffs surrendered.

The one effort to stop the Chrysler cramdown was launched by three Indiana pension funds. Believing they were making both a wise investment and a gesture supportive of a longtime state employer, Hoosier retired teachers and state policemen had purchased some $19 million in Chrysler's secured debt. The market consensus at the time was that, at 43 cents to par, the bonds were well below their value if bankruptcy ultimately came.

Bankruptcy came, all right, but in a new, extra-legal form run by the federal government. The United Auto Workers, who owned no interest in the company, were simply handed a 55% interest, a gift valued then at $4.5 billion. When no one else wanted to buy the firm, Fiat was given a 20% stake for free to take it over. After this looting, the legitimate creditors were told to be happy with the remnants. For Indiana's retired teachers and state policemen, this amounted to 29 cents on the dollar, a loss of $6 million versus the purchase price and millions more below the expected value in a standard Chapter 11 proceeding.

When, alone among the victims, Indiana retirees went to court, they caused a lot of discomfort but no change in the outcome. The Second District U.S. Court of Appeals declined to overturn the cramdown, but the judges refused to go within a mile of the merits. How could they? The law calls certain instruments "secured" credit for a reason, and there was absolutely zero precedent for the Chrysler confiscation.

In an article by Zach Lowe published last fall in the Am Law Daily and the American Lawyer magazine, UCLA Law School Prof. Lynn LoPucki said of the cramdown: "What happened . . . was so outrageous and illegal that until March of this year [2009], nobody even conceptualized it." The Second Circuit opinion, like the Supreme Court's refusal to stay the nationalization, went out of its way to state that the ruling did not reach the substantive issues raised.

Aided by incensed counsel donating much of their time pro bono, Indiana returned to the Supreme Court with a slim hope of recovering its pensioners' assets, reinstating traditional American property rights and making secured credit secure once more. It seemed to some an exercise in futility: The judge in the Coyotes case commented from the bench that the "poor pension manager from Indiana . . . was kind of like the gentlemen in Tiananmen Square when the tanks came rolling."

On Dec. 14, 2009, in the under-reported news story of the year, the Supreme Court granted the request of Indiana pensioners and took the case. The Court immediately ruled from the bench to strike down the decision of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, eliminating it as a possible precedent in any future proceeding. Our retirees are still out the $6 million but enjoyed the small vindication of being awarded the court clerk's costs at Chrysler's expense.

The nation is not safe from crony capitalism. In the past year we've experienced the nationalization of the student loan industry and the passage of national health-care and financial-services regulation, each of which is rife with new opportunities for government favoritism and preferential handouts to favored corporations like Chrysler.

But thanks to a quiet correction by the Supreme Court—and a little Hoosier stubbornness—the rule of law has been re-established. The greatest benefits will accrue not to lenders and borrowers but to all those whose jobs are created because investors once again can trust that the money they've risked is safe from seizure by the state.

Mr. Daniels, a Republican, is the governor of Indiana.

Press Briefing

Jun 04, 2010

Consensus Achieved at Critical Nuclear Nonproliferation Conference

Hoosiers vs. Crony Capitalism - How Indiana took on the federal bailout machine and restored the rule of law

Capital Gains Taxes and the Recovery - Long-term investments should be rewarded with lower rates

The Gaza Blockade and International Law - Israel's position is reasonable and backed by precedent

'To Be Fair' - When does the statute of limitation run out on blaming George W. Bush for all the world's problems?

Federal Spending by the Numbers 2010

New Treatments Needed to Alleviate Growing Burden of Alzheimer's Disease

Could More Cancer Be a Good Sign?

iRobot Demonstrates New Weaponized Robot

Turkey's Radical Drift - The Islamic charity behind the Gaza flotilla and its links to terror

Wireless Heart Pressure Monitor Promises Revolution In Coronary Care

Tom Vilsack’s Unconvincing Case for Farm Subsidies

Obama and the Oil Spill

Press Briefing

Jun 03, 2010

Health and Safety Tips for Your Summer Vacation (Update 2010)

How Far Will the Gulf Gusher Spread? - Trapped in water pockets, the oil from Deepwater Horizon will ride the Gulf Stream across the Atlantic. In years to come, some will even wash up on European shores

Central bank co-operation and international liquidity in the financial crisis of 2008-9. By Richhild Moessner and William Allen. Working Papers No 310. June 2010
The financial crisis that began in August 2007 has blurred the sharp distinction between monetary and financial stability.It has also led to a revival of practical central bank co-operation. This paper explains how things have changed. The main innovation in central bank cooperation during this crisis was the emergency provision of international liquidity through bilateral central bank swap facilities, which have evolved to form interconnected swap networks. We discuss the reasons for establishing swap facilities, relate the probability of a country receiving a swap line in a currency to a measure of currency-specific liquidity shortages based on the BIS international banking statistics, and find a significant relationship in the case of the US dollar, the euro, the yen and the Swiss franc. We also discuss the role and effectiveness of swap lines in relieving currency-specific liquidity shortages, the risks that central banks run in extending swap lines and the limitations to their utility in relieving liquidity pressures. We conclude that the credit crisis is likely to have a lasting effect on the international liquidity policies of governments and central banks.

India’s Future Aircraft Carrier Force and the Need for Strategic Flexibility

Entitlement Reform and the Global Budget Crisis - Putting Social Security on a sustainable path isn't nearly enough. But it would do a lot to convince markets that Washington can be serious

Introducing U.S. Cyber Command, by William J Lynn III, Deputy Defense Sec
More than 100 foreign intelligence agencies and militaries threaten U.S. defense networks.

Iran's Nuclear Progress - Even the U.N. now says Iran has enough fuel for two weapons

Pacific Partnership Arrives in Vietnam

Maybe the constitutional case for ObamaCare isn't so open and shut: Justice Needs More Time

Taiwan’s Unending Dialogue over ECFA. By Jagannath P. Panda

The Blue Dogs Roll Over - How they abet Pelosi's spending agenda

Erdogan and the Decline of the Turks - When I asked the prime minister about stories alleging a U.S.-Israeli murder and organ selling scheme in Iraq, he could not bring himself to condemn them

Remarks Before the Ministerial Meeting at the Alliance of Civilizations Rio Forum. By Esther Brimmer, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Organization Affairs. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, May 28, 2010

Rethinking Darfur, by Marc Gustafson

Remarks by the President After Meeting with BP Oil Spill Commission Co-Chairs

BP Oil Spill: Who's Your Daddy?, by Gene Healy

Breast Cancer Vaccine (For Mice)

Obamacare’s True Costs Coming to Light

ObamaCare's Ever-Rising Price Tag - Voters will understand plenty about the hidden costs of the law by November