Visual source: Newseum
The New York Times on "austerity on autopilot":
Stocks on Wall Street dropped sharply on Thursday, with investors spooked, again, about the euro-zone debt crisis and the sputtering United States economy.
Yet, even at this hour, leaders on both sides of the Atlantic seem determined to handcuff fiscal policies — the main tools that can increase jobs, consumer demand and economic growth — with an unquestioning devotion to rigid austerity.
Stephen Stromberg on Michelle Bachmann's ridiculous pledge that she'll bring back gas under $2 a gallon:
Usually, politicians manifest their dishonesty on gas prices as mere hints, implications or vague predictions about being able to bring down gas prices, and they are sensible enough not to say by exactly how much. This is because none of them can really determine the world market price of oil, a commodity that every country demands in bulk and that America doesn’t control. Bachmann not only promised to drop gas prices below $2 a gallon — “that will happen,” she said — she also didn’t try to explain how she would do it.
But — wait! — Bachmann has a fact that apparently makes her case: “The day that the president became president gasoline was $1.79 a gallon. Look what it is today.”
President Obama also took office amid a massive global economic shock that reduced demand for oil across the world. Prices — and carbon emissions — were down because people were burning less fossil fuel, not because of some brilliant Bush-era low-gas-price policy, unless you consider “entering a punishing global recession” to be a policy.
And Domenico Montanaro debunks another crazy Bachmann claim:
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) likened the federal government today to Enron.
"If you spend more than you earn, the sheriff comes to your door," she said, per NBC's Jamie Novogrod. And then added, "Ever heard of Enron before? You get shut down when you don't pay your bills."
Of course, this is inaccurate as a literal comparison.
First, this isn’t a Dickens novel. If you don’t pay your bills, you don’t go to debtor’s prison. The sheriff doesn’t come to your door, it’s more like letters and calls from collections agencies from guys who are more Romney than Rosco.
Second, Enron was defrauding its employees -- and its executives went to jail. By that logic, does Bachmann presume that the federal government is defrauding taxpayers and President Obama should go to jail?
When pressed further, however, Bachmann -- who, as a candidate for president, has toned down her sometimes far-flung rhetoric -- deflected.
Ronald Brownstein on Mitt Romney's advantage:
The GOP race has been clarified by a succession of closely bunched developments last weekend: Bachmann’s victory in the Iowa straw poll, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s subsequent decision to quit the race, and Perry’s entry from a position firmly on stage right. Taken together, these developments present the three main candidates with a new calculus of risks and opportunities.
For Romney, the new alignment offers one clear advantage: the possibility that the voters least likely to support him will be splintered between two opponents rather than consolidating behind one. Both in his 2008 bid, and in early 2012 polling, Romney has run best with voters holding at least a four-year college degree and those who do not identify as evangelical Christians -- what might be called the party’s managerial wing. Romney has always struggled with the party’s populist wing, composed mostly of evangelical Christians and Republicans without a college degree.
Douglas Rushkoff takes a look at government crackdowns on social media:
Is access to technology through which a network of friends can so easily be turned into a gang of thieves or assailants just too dangerous for people to handle? By putting what had formerly been the capability of broadcast networks in the hands of everyone owning smartphones, have we unwittingly empowered the "mob" and given new life to the lowest form of crowd behavior?
Maybe. But the abuse of these networks and their capabilities hardly justifies recent talk of limiting access, shutting them down, or entrusting corporations and central authorities to monitor them at the expense of our privacy. As the ever-growing News Corp./Scotland Yard scandal illustrates, it is not unregulated phone hackers we need to be afraid of so much as the folks who are supposed to be entrusted with maintaining these networks and our security.
George Condon Jr. brushes off attacks on President Obama's vacation time and gives an interesting perspective on historical POTUS vacations:
It's vacation time for President Obama. So cue the critics and listen to the echoes of history in their complaints. You'll hear that this vacation is too long. Or too lavish. Or too insensitive. Or too far removed from the struggles of average Americans.
In the two centuries since John Adams was the first president to seek solace outside Washington and the 109 years since Theodore Roosevelt invented the modern presidential vacation, the critics have always been there to attack. Now, it's Obama’s turn to weather the storm. [...]
In contrast to some of [his]predecessors, though, no one will be able to accuse Obama of using Navy battleships and submarines, Army dirigibles, or Air Force planes to enhance his vacation enjoyment. There was always criticism; but in the past, there were also some vacation perks that went with being commander in chief. [...]
Truman and all of Obama’s predecessors learned the same lesson the president will learn over the next nine days: Vacations cannot stop recessions, end wars, or cure political problems. And on Martha’s Vineyard, Obama won’t have submarines, yachts, dirigibles, or battleships to help take his mind off them.