Monday, November 17, 2008

In Which I Read the Outlook Section

Despite the fact that we get both the NYT and WaPo during the week and I read at least the front sections of both papers to start my day, I don't read much of the weekend paper at all. We only get the WaPo on the weekend and I read the comics and at least skim the front page but it had been a long time since I read much of the Outlook section, which I find weird but not weird enough to spend much time ruminating on.

This past Sunday was different for some reason and I skimmed most of Outlook and read and enjoyed three pieces, so I thought that I would share.

The cover piece was by Eliot Spitzer and was on the current economic situation and his thoughts on te deregulation and various other sketchy accounting practices that got us into this mess.

The reality is that unregulated competition drives corporate behavior and risk-taking to unacceptable levels. This is simply one of the ways in which some market participants try to gain a competitive advantage. As one lawyer for a company charged with malfeasance stated in a meeting in my office (amazingly, this was intended as a winning defense): "You're right about our behavior, but we're not as bad as our competitors."
Rememberthat as the state attorney general before becoming the Governor of New York probing wall street shenanigans was a big part of Spitzer's claim to fame. I also dared to wonder aloud if he might make a good Attorney General in the Obama Administration and just now I saw Steve Benen's notion of Spizter as Chairman of the SEC. Something to think about, after all he does know a bit about these things. So is Spitzer's rehab nigh, and if so what might be next for John Edwards?

Inside and still on the topic of the economy was Charles Morris (of whom I've never heard) explaining the need for a recession to clear out the muck of our current economic mess.
Our economic model is broken, and trying to restart it will just dig us deeper into a hole. The massive changes that are required can be made only through the violent rejiggering that takes place during recessions. That may sound coldhearted, but there's a precedent.
Morris goes on to detail Paul Volcker's actions as Federal Reserve Chairman in the early '80's and his eventual success. Worth noting that Volcker is one of Obama's economic advisers and has been getting some mention as Treasury Secretary.

On an entirely different topic I was happy to see that at least one Republican understands what this election actually means, that we are no longer a center-right nation. Tod Linberg, editor of Policy Review from Stanford's Hoover Institution and informal adviser to the McCain campaign makes the case as clearly as any liberal author has yet managed and with a really catchy title - The Center-Right Nation Exits Stage Left.

The only problem: It isn't true. Or at least, not anymore. If you'd asked me a year ago whether the United States is really a center-right nation, I would have said yes -- after pausing for a second to contemplate the GOP's big congressional losses in 2006. At the time, Republicans cheered each other up by assuring ourselves that the worst was over: If you were running for Congress and survived 2006, you could hold your seat forever.

Tell that to Christopher Shays. After 2006, he was the sole surviving GOP House member from all of New England, but he went down this year, 51 to 48 percent. We are now two elections into something big. This month's drubbing is just the latest sign that the country's political center of gravity is shifting from center-right to center-left. Republicans who fail to grasp this could be lost in the wilderness for years.

So there you go, I still read the newspaper. Do you?

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