George V. Reilly

The Big Fix

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2009/02/01/opinion/01richlarge.jpg

Frank Rich in Sunday’s paper on the Re­pub­li­cans who’ve run out of ideas:

The crisis is at least as grave as the one that confronted us — and, for a time, united us — after 9/11. Which is why the antics among Re­pub­li­cans on Capitol Hill seem so surreal. These are the same politi­cians who only yesterday smeared the patriotism of any dissenters from Bush’s “war on terror.” Where is their own patriotism now that economic terror is inflicting far more harm on their con­stituents than Saddam Hussein’s nonex­is­tent W.M.D.?

The current G.O.P. acts as if it — and we — have all the time in the world. It kept hoping in vain that the fast-waning Blago sideshow would somehow impale Obama or Rahm Emanuel. It has come perilously close to wishing aloud that a terrorist attack will ma­te­ri­al­ize to discredit Obama’s reversals of Bush policy on torture, military tribunals and Gitmo. The party’s sole consistent ambition is to play petty politics to gum up the works.

David Leonhardt discusses ideas in The Big Fix in the NYT Magazine:

Rahm’s Doctrine[:] “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” Emanuel said. “What I mean by that is that it’s an op­por­tu­ni­ty to do things you could not do before.”

Germany and Japan, on the other hand, were forced to rebuild their economies and political systems after the war. Their interest groups were wiped away by the defeat. “In a crisis, there is an op­por­tu­ni­ty to rearrange things, because the status quo is blown up,” Frank Levy, an M.I.T. economist and an Olson admirer, told me recently. If a country slowly glides down toward ir­rel­e­vance, he said, the con­stituen­cy for reform won’t take shape. [Mancur] Olson’s insight was that the defeated countries of World War II didn’t rise in spite of crisis. They rose because of it.

ONE GOOD WAY TO UNDERSTAND the current growth slowdown is to think of the debt-fueled consumer-spending spree of the past 20 years as a symbol of an even larger problem. As a country we have been spending too much on the present and not enough on the future. We have been consuming rather than investing. We’re suffering from investment-deficit disorder.

WASHINGTON’S CHALLENGE on energy policy is to rewrite the rules so that the private sector can start building one of tomorrow’s big industries. On health care, the challenge is keeping one of tomorrow’s industries from growing too large.

In Orszag’s final months on Capitol Hill, he specif­i­cal­ly argued that health care reform should not wait until the financial system has been fixed. “One of the blessings in the current en­vi­ron­ment is that we have sig­nif­i­cant capacity to expand and sell Treasury debt,”

Goldin’s and Katz’s thesis is that the 20th century was the American century in large part because this country led the world in education. The last 30 years, when ed­u­ca­tion­al gains slowed markedly, have been years of slower growth and rising inequality.

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