With turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa continuing to spread in the wake of the departure of Egypt’s longtime dictator and U.S. stooge Hosni Mubarak, it is difficult to predict the short-term, let alone the long-term, future for that profoundly troubled region. Inspired by the relative ease and nonviolence with which determined resistance managed to unseat long-entrenched dictatorships, first in Tunisia and then in Egypt, people elsewhere in the Arab world are finding the struggle for self-emancipation much tougher slogging.
Faced with widespread criticism of his once-vaunted “9-9-9” tax scheme, former pizza maker Herman Cain has changed a few ingredients. 9-9-9, readers will recall, was an attempt to simplify America’s Byzantine tax system by replacing the current system of graduated income and corporate taxes with three flat taxes, all assessed at 9 percent: a personal income tax, a corporate income tax, and a national sales tax. Social Security and Medicare taxes would be eliminated, and a bewildering array of deductions and schedules would be abolished. Today’s misnamed “progressive” tax system would be replaced by a simple, straightforward levy that would allegedly reduce both the time and expense of paying taxes for both individuals and corporations. Such a system — especially in comparison with rival Rick Perry’s newly-announced 20 percent flat tax, might seem like a beleaguered taxpaying public’s deliverance.
No extended society has ever existed without some form of law enforcement. However, it is important to understand that there are two very different approaches to maintaining public order.
After spending hundreds of billions to bail them out, the federal government is now turning on the big banks it once protected. Earlier this month, the Federal Housing Finance Agency launched a broad legal assault on 17 major banks, claiming the banks misled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in misrepresenting the quality of mortgage-backed securities. The FHFA�s lawsuit is a new attempt on the part of the federal government to recoup from big banks some of the taxpayer money lost during the financial crisis. Banks named in the action include Bank of America, J.P. Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, and Deutsche Bank.
In 1941, the United States was first assigned the so-called “triple A” or AAA rating, a reflection of the widespread belief, at least in the free world, that the United States government could be relied upon absolutely to pay its debts. At the time, the United States had recently grown into the world’s largest economy. The dollar, after the end of the Second World War, became the world’s reserve currency under the terms of the Bretton Woods agreement. Other hard currencies were to be convertible to U.S. dollars, which were in turn convertible (for international investors, at least) into gold (the so-called “gold exchange standard”).
No one has ever accused Rick Santorum of being coy. The former Pennsylvania Representative and two-term Senator has built a reputation for being outspoken and unapologetic, a political point man for opinions that have become politically incorrect.
Former Congressman Newt Gingrich has never shied away from controversy, so the recent turmoil among his presidential campaign staff, leading to the abrupt departure of a number of his senior aides, was very much in character. At the time, the candidate whom Robert Novak of the Washington Post had once identified as a top presidential contender seemed to be dead in the water. Gingrich, however, has opted to soldier on, and while campaign funding is lagging, the toxic political climate and economic turbulence have made presidential electoral politics more uncertain than at any time in recent memory.
Congressman Ron Paul has joined the presidential race again, but with a difference: This time around, there’s no House seat to return to as a consolation prize. The Texas congressman, long known for holding the line on the U.S. Constitution, limited government, and sound economics, has announced his retirement from the House of Representatives, regardless of the outcome of his latest bid for the White House.
What news could possibly draw a smile from the normally sphinx-faced Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke? The news that his longtime adversary on Capitol Hill, Ron Paul, is retiring from Congress. But it’s doubtful that Bernanke will have many other light moments in the months to come.
With the federal borrowing clock allegedly ticking down to financial Armageddon on August 2, discourse on Capitol Hill is becoming predictably envenomed. The official Republican position, framed repeatedly by House Speaker John Boehner, is that no legislation to raise the debt limit will be admissible without deep spending cuts, and that tax increases of any sort will not be countenanced by the Tea Party-fueled Republican majority in the House. The Obama administration and its allies in Congress are making calls from a time-dishonored playbook, pushing for tax increases on the rich rather than meaningful cuts in government spending, and accusing Republicans of calculated obstructionism.