Paul Krugman in Hell: Why Oh Why Can’t We Have a Better Press Corps?

Paul Krugman writes:

Revisionist Histor: On the This Week panel today I didn’t get a chance to weigh in on the biggest whopper from Sen. Lamar Alexander, who told Elizabeth Vargas that reconciliation — I don’t have the exact transcript — had in the past been used for small things and “to reduce the deficit”. In fact, reconciliation was used to pass the two major Bush tax cuts, which increased the deficit — by $1.8 trillion. And there’s no penalty for this kind of deception.

Read through the 'This Week' Transcript. It's truly terrifying. You try to figure out why anybody thinks it's a good idea for these people to have the jobs that they do--and you can't:

KRUGMAN: I think the [health care] summit actually served its purpose, from [Obama's] point of view, which was to demonstrate that the Republicans are not going to give on anything... they're going to make every possible claim, they're going to say things that aren't true, like premiums are going to go up under this bill, which isn't going to happen.... George [Will] and I actually have the same view [on this], but I think the better metaphor is [that health care reform is] a three-legged stool. You have to have guaranteed issue... [so that] pre-existing conditions are covered. To make that work, you... have to have a mandate. And to have that work, you have to have large subsidies. So the bill has to be more or less what it is. It has to be a comprehensive reform. And the Democrats... have to do this. They... can't go into November elections...

VARGAS: And that's the big question, Cokie.

ROBERTS: That's the big question. That is the big question. There's no certainty at this point that there are 217 votes in the House and 51 in the Senate, no matter what procedure they use. So that is still where they are hung up, which is where they've been hung up all along. Now, the White House did a couple of smart things in terms of what people were upset about. You heard Senator Alexander talk about, in the dead of night, 2,700 pages, Christmas Eve. Those are the talking points. And -- and so the White House puts it up on the Web, has a, you know, seven-hour meeting, and takes out the special provisions, particularly for Nebraska. And so that -- they're trying to fix the things that they see are -- that the public has had problems with. And it is true that you can -- you can sing it round or flat, George, about whether the public's for this bill or not. In a recent poll that we came out with, 58 percent -- a Kaiser poll -- 58 percent said they would be angry or disappointed if a bill didn't pass. So I think that that is what the Democrats are going with.

VARGAS: They want something. They're just...

ROBERTS: They want something, and the Democrats just have to, you know, say their prayers, and vote for a bill, and hope it works for them.

DONALDSON: But, Cokie, it's true. I think in the short run they're going to lose seats, because they dropped the ball... (CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: They're going to lose seats anyway.

DONALDSON: They dropped the ball last summer. The Republicans brilliantly picked it up. It probably won't be reversed by November. But this is the only chance in how many years to do this?


DONALDSON: And I think history will show that they were right if they get it done.

VARGAS: George?

WILL: Two things. First of all, Sam, you want the president to be Ulysses Grant, who won the war by his wonderful indifference to his own casualties, and I think some members in the Senate and in the House would not approve of that.

DONALDSON: Did I not just say that they may lose some seats? Were you listening?

WILL: By the millions. Now -- second, now, Paul says that, in fact, the Republicans have no ideas. They do, cross-selling across state lines, tort reforms, all those. Just a second, Paul. Then you say they're telling whoppers. That was your view about Lamar Alexander when he said, for millions of Americans, premiums will go up. You said in the next sentence in your column, I guess you could say he wasn't technically lying, because the Congressional Budget Office says that's true.

KRUGMAN: No, it's not what it says.... Can I explain? This is...

WILL: Wait. Let me -- let me set the predicate here, because you then go on and say the Senate does say the average premiums would go up, but people would be getting better premiums.

KRUGMAN: Look, let me explain what happens, because you actually have to read the CBO report.... [T]he CBO report tells you... that... what the bill will do is bring a lot of people who are uninsured, who are currently young and therefore relatively low cost, into the risk pool, which will actually bring premiums down a little bit. It will also... lead a lot of people to get better insurance... people who are currently underinsured, who have insurance policies that are paper thin and don't actually protect you in a crisis, will... get... full coverage. That makes the average payments go up, but it does not mean that people who currently have good coverage under their policies will pay more.... [T]hey'll end up paying a little bit less.

WILL: One question. If the government came to you and said, "Professor Krugman, you have a car. We're going to compel you to buy a more expensive car," but it's not really more expensive, because it's a better car, wouldn't you tell them to get off your land?

KRUGMAN: Catherine Rampell did a very good piece in the Times blogs recently which said that the main obstacle to the people who are uninsured is not that they are choosing not to be insured. It is income.... [Y]oung people who are not buying insurance because they're not... able to afford it will be brought in through the subsidies. And that will end up being better even for the people who are currently insured.

ROBERTS: One of the things that the -- the Congress has failed to do until now is convince people who have insurance, which is most of us, that this bill will work for them, and that's why this argument is important. But the -- the one thing that has been added on, apparently, since we haven't actually seen the bill in the last week, is the decision to have the federal government regulate rates, and that could be extremely popular with people...

DONALDSON: ... old guys, they say to us, "We're going to cut your Medicare." They're not going to cut Medicare benefits, not touch them. What they want to cut in the bill, as I understand it, is Medicare Advantage, which was put in with a government subsidy of 15 cents for every dollar, take the 15 cents away. The private insurers now can compete on their own and use that money elsewhere, and you could argue where it should be used, but it's not correct that they're trying to cut Medicare.

VARGAS: I do want to get to one other issue related to this health care bill, which is the language on abortion, because it almost died in the House, the health care bill, because of abortion. There was the Stupak amendment, which attached highly restrictive language to when abortions could be covered, and there -- Bart Stupak says this is unacceptable, this current bill, as Obama has proposed it, and he says 20 other members of the House will have problems with it, too. Will abortion kill this thing in the end?

WILL: Well, Alan Frumin's 15 minutes of fame have arrived. He is the hitherto obscure, but soon to be quite famous parliamentarian of the Senate, and it will be his job to rule on what can and cannot be passed under reconciliation. That is, is it a budgetary-related thing? You can argue about a great many things in the health care bill. Can you say that's budget-related? No one thinks you can change the abortion language under reconciliation.

KRUGMAN: Let me just point out...

VARGAS: And, Cokie...

KRUGMAN: ...that in 2001 the Senate parliamentarian was in doubt about... things Republicans were doing through reconciliation, and they dealt with that by firing him and replacing him.

VARGAS: And, Cokie, can Speaker Pelosi, given this issue, if they can't get through on reconciliation some sort of changing of the abortion language... can she find the votes?

ROBERTS: It's going to be very, very tough. That's what I said at the beginning. I mean, this -- this bill is not at the moment passable by Democratic votes.

DONALDSON: She'll get the votes.

ROBERTS: I think in the end she will, too.

DONALDSON: In the end, the Democrats understand the old phrase, "We hang together or we hang separately."

ROBERTS: At the moment...

VARGAS: Well, and they're on record already taking an unpopular vote.

ROBERTS: ... the calculation...

VARGAS: It's going to kill them in November.

ROBERTS: The calculation that they've made all along -- and I personally think it's a correct calculation -- is that it's worse to do nothing than to do something and that, in the long run, people will like this bill.

WILL: Can I say something that Paul and I might actually agree on?


WILL: Twenty years from now, the country is going to be spending a larger portion of its GDP on health care than it is now for three reasons. We're getting older, and as we age, we get more chronic diseases that interact with one another. Second, we're getting richer; we can afford to buy more medicine. And, third, medicine is becoming more competent. Therefore, we're going to spend more on health care.

KRUGMAN: But there's a...

(What Paul wanted to say here was: "There is a big difference between, twenty years from now, spending 20% of GDP on health care with universal coverage and spending 25% of GDP on health care with one-quarter of the non-elderly population uninsured and getting substandard coverage.)

ROBERTS: The other thing is, you know, the health care industry is the biggest employer in most of our cities now. So when -- when the speaker talks about a job creation bill...

VARGAS: A jobs bill, exactly.

ROBERTS: ... it's true.

VARGAS: Let's shift a little bit to Charlie Rangel, because we heard Speaker Pelosi talk about the fact that what he did didn't endanger national security, but it doesn't look good. We've got a handful of Democrats who have now started to join Republicans and calling for him to step down as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, a powerful post in the House of Representatives. Can he hold this post, Cokie?

ROBERTS: Yes, he can hold it, as long as people -- you know, his colleagues say he can hold it. But whether it becomes too hot for him to hold is something that, you know, sort of evolves. And you see what happens in the papers in New York and all of that and whether he can withstand it....


VARGAS: And now let's go to the New York governor, because the state of New York has quite a brouhaha playing out this weekend, the end of last weekend, this weekend. Governor David Paterson stepping down amid allegations that he and his state police contingent improperly tried to influence a woman involved in a domestic violence dispute with one of his closest aides...


VARGAS: And then, of course, this weekend, we have a brand-new White House social secretary appointed to replace Desiree Rogers, a close friend of the Obamas who is exiting after a bumpy tenure, I would say. Cokie, you spoke with her. She -- she was highly criticized after the Obamas' first state dinner in which she arrived, looking absolutely gorgeous, but in what some people later said was far too fancy a dress, but most importantly, that was the state dinner that was crashed by the Salahis, who walked in without an invitation when the social secretary's office didn't have people manning the security sites.

ROBERTS: Well, I talked to -- I did talk to her, Desiree, yesterday at length. She is from my home city of New Orleans and fellow Sacred Heart girl.

DONALDSON: What's the name of the city?

ROBERTS: New Orleans.

DONALDSON: I love to hear her say it.

ROBERTS: But -- and she has lots of good explanations about that dinner. And basically, the bottom line is, it's the Secret Service. But she -- but her -- her major point is -- and I -- and I completely take this -- is that she -- she put on 330 events at the White House last year and did open the building to all kinds of people who had not been there before. And they had wonderful music days of all kinds of music, where you had during the day, the musicians would work with kids in Washington and teach them things before coming on at night.

DONALDSON: Cokie, that's irrelevant.

ROBERTS: Well, I don't think it's irrelevant.

DONALDSON: I mean, it's irrelevant. People who work for the president understand or should understand their place, which is to be spear-carriers. There are two stars in anyone's White House, the president and the president's spouse. After that, this passion for anonymity that once was a hallmark of people who worked for a president, has been lost. She wanted to be a star herself...

ROBERTS: And it's been lost. Look at all the people who work for presidents and then go out and write books about them.

DONALDSON: I think you're right.

VARGAS: Do you think she was -- did she quit, or was she asked to leave?

DONALDSON: She was asked to.

ROBERTS: She says she quit.

DONALDSON: Oh, well...

ROBERTS: And she certainly has lots...

DONALDSON: And to spend more time with your family.

ROBERTS: No, no, to go into the corporate sector and make some money, where she'll make a lot of -- she'll do fine.

DONALDSON: Good luck to her. I don't wish her ill.

DONALDSON: It's just that she didn't understand...

ROBERTS: She'll do very well.

DONALDSON: ... she was not a star in the sense that she should make herself prominent.

VARGAS: George?

WILL: It is axiomatic that when there's no penalty for failure, failure proliferates. She failed conspicuously in her one great challenge, which was the first state dinner, and she's gone. If she's gone because she failed, that's a healthy sign.

VARGAS: The big question, of course, because she was one of that close contingent of Chicago friends is whether or not she's just the first to leave or if we'll see other...

ROBERTS: But you'll see people leave.

ROBERTS: I mean, that's what happens. It's a perfectly normal thing that happens in administration, is that people come, and they come in at the beginning, and then it's time to -- to go back to life.

KRUGMAN: Can I say that 20 million Americans unemployed, the fact that we're worrying about the status of the White House social secretary...

VARGAS: It's our light way to end, Paul.

DONALDSON: Paul, welcome to Washington.

VARGAS: Thank you.

DONALDSON: Nice to see you.

VARGAS: All right. You can get the political updates all week long by signing up for our newsletter on Thank you, everybody.

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

„Financial Zombies“

Der einst weltgrößte Versicherer American International Group, Inc. (AIG) meldete einen Nettoverlust für das 4. Quartal 2009 von -8,873 Milliarden Dollar, nach einem Nettoverlust von -61,659 Mrd. Dollar im Vorjahresquartal. Für das Gesamtjahr 2009 belief sich der Verlust auf -10,949 Mrd. Dollar nach -99,289 Mrd. Dollar im Jahr 2008! Am Konzernergebnis der AIG ist jedenfalls noch kein Ende der

A Carbon Tax Last Year Would Have Been Nice… A Carbon Tax Last Year Would Have Been Really Nice…

Hell, a BTU tax seventeen years ago would have been even better.

Reuters: World warming unhindered by cold spells: The pace of global warming continues unabated, scientists said on Thursday, despite images of Europe crippled by a deep freeze and parts of the United States blasted by blizzards.... "It's not warming the same everywhere but it is really quite challenging to find places that haven't warmed in the past 50 years," veteran Australian climate scientist Neville Nicholls told an online climate science media briefing. "January, according to satellite (data), was the hottest January we've ever seen," said Nicholls of Monash University's School of Geography and Environmental Science in Melbourne. "Last November was the hottest November we've ever seen, November-January as a whole is the hottest November-January the world has seen," he said of the satellite data record since 1979. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in December that 2000-2009 was the hottest decade since records began in 1850, and that 2009 would likely be the fifth warmest year on record. WMO data show that eight out of the 10 hottest years on record have all been since 2000....

Scientists say global warming is not uniform in all areas and that climate models predict there will likely be greater extremes of cold and heat, floods and droughts. "Global warming is a trend superimposed upon natural variability, variability that still exists despite global warming," said Kevin Walsh, associate professor of meteorology at the University of Melbourne. "It would be much more surprising if the global average temperature just kept on going up, year after year, without some years of slightly cooler temperatures," he said in a written reply to questions for the briefing...

I think it's time for me to make a formal apology to Al Gore for not doing enough to boost his issues and his voice over the past two decades.

Griechenland: Nun auch Frankreich und Holland als Käufer im Gespräch…

Related Post: “Griechenland: Gerüchte über einen möglichen Abnehmer griechischer Staatsanleihen…“. Gefunden bei

UPDATE 2-Germany, France, Dutch to buy Greek bonds-MEP

Sat Feb 27, 2010 2:53pm EST

* MEP and newspaper say Germany, France to buy Greek bonds
* German official denies report, no comment from Greeks
* Follows signs of diplomatic efforts to resolve crisis

(Recasts with MEP comments)

By Lefteris Papadimas

ATHENS, Feb 27 (Reuters) – Germany, France and the Netherlands plan to buy Greek bonds to help Athens cope with a severe debt crisis, a German member of the European Parliament said on Saturday.

The comments by MEP Jorgo Chatzimarkakis on Greek television echoed details of an aid plan that were reported by a leading Greek newspaper on Saturday. That report was dismissed by a senior German government official as “nonsense”.

“The plan is that Germany, France and the Netherlands will buy Greek bonds,” Chatzimarkakis, a German of Greek heritage, told Mega TV in an interview aired on Saturday evening.

“Germany is planning to buy immediately 5-7 billion euros (of bonds),” he said, adding that Germany’s state-owned development bank KfW and France’s state-owned bank Caisse des Depots were part of the deal and would buy Greek bonds.

It was unclear how Chatzimarkakis, who is not a high-profile politician in Germany, knew of the plan he described.

Earlier, Greek newspaper Ta Nea reported, citing unnamed banking and official sources, that Germany and France — it did not mention the Netherlands — planned to help Greece with its debt problems by buying bonds or providing guarantees via the same state banks mentioned by Chatzimarkakis.

The report said French President Nicolas Sarkozy had discussed the plan by telephone with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou.

In return for the aid, the newspaper said the Greek government had agreed to introduce additional austerity measures worth some 4 billion euros ($5.4 billion) to reach its target of cutting the budget deficit by 4 percentage points this year.

The Greek finance ministry and the European Commission declined to comment on the report, which came after signs of a diplomatic push to resolve Greece’s debt crisis. There was no immediate comment from France’s government.

But the senior German official, who declined to be named, said there was no such agreement. “No, this report is nonsense,” the official said.

Nevertheless, a German parliamentary source told Reuters that the government was quietly preparing emergency budget provisions for possible aid to Greece. The finance ministry denied this.

With German public opinion strongly against aiding Greece, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has been reluctant to offer any concrete monetary assistance, beyond a vague pledge that it will take action “if needed” to protect financial stability in the euro zone.


In private, however, senior German financial officials admit contingency plans have been drawn up in case Berlin needs to intervene in Greece’s debt crisis, which has caused turmoil in European markets and hurt confidence in the euro currency.

Sources in Germany’s ruling coalition told Reuters earlier this month that the coalition was considering having KfW buy Greek bonds.

European Union inspectors visited Athens this week to discuss the crisis. EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn plans to visit Athens next week, and Ta Nea said Rehn would announce the aid plan for Greece during his visit.

Papandreou said on Friday that he would visit Berlin for talks with Merkel on March 5, while Deutsche Bank Chief Executive Josef Ackermann met Papandreou in Athens on Friday.

Media reports in Germany and France have suggested governments in the 16-country euro zone might offer aid worth a total of 20 to 25 billion euros to Greece. Officials have declined to comment on the size of any aid plan.

Greece, which is preparing to tap the euro debt market with its second bond issue this year, has said its funding needs are met until mid-March, and it will need to refinance about 20 billion euros of debt maturing in April and May. Markets worry that Greece may not be able to borrow at affordable rates. (1 euro = $1.36) (Additional reporting by Ingrid Melander in Athens, Matthias Sobolewski in Berlin, Astrid Wendlandt in Paris and Foo Yun Chee in Brussels; Editing by Andrew Torchia and Noah Barkin)

Greece Bailout Plan and Further Austerity Measures moving forward

From Stephen Castle and Landon Thomas Jr. at the NY Times: Europe Union Moves Toward a Bailout of Greece
[T]he European Union is moving toward the first bailout in the history of its common currency, which is expected to involve loan guarantees from the German and French governments to encourage their banks to buy Greek debt.

Even as the negotiations continue, the bloc is insisting that Athens impose further, painful austerity measures ...

During a brief visit, due to start Monday, Olli Rehn, the European commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, will press for more spending cuts and tax increases in Greece as a precursor to an emerging package of financial support.
These guarantees and further fiscal cuts are expected to be announced well in advance of the March 16th deadline Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg's prime minister and chairman of the 16 euro-zone finance ministers, discussed two weeks ago.

And from Reuters:
Greece may soon announce new steps to cut its budget deficit, a [economy Minister Louka Katseli] said on Sunday, amid signs that Athens might be nearing a deal with European Union governments to ease the Greek debt crisis.
"If more measures are to be taken, they will be announced soon" [Katseli said]
It sounds like this debt guarantee package and further cuts might be announced later this week.

When Economic Stress Becomes Terrorism

The Bell has an op-ed worth reading.

When Economic Stress Becomes Terrorism

Poverty, Rather Than Anti-Anything Ideology, Is the Common Thread

Joseph Stack is not a terrorist in the sense that we apply this word to operatives for al-Qaida and other groups and he certainly is not a Tea Party terrorist. The same is true for Terry Hoskins. However, both these men provide useful illustrations of the link between economic distress and terrorism.

Stack, of course, is the Austin Texas software engineer who last week set fire to his house and then flew his single-engine Piper Cherokee airplane into the Ecehelon building, housing government tax workers. Friends in Austin called him a straight-laced, quiet person who struck them as incapable of such carnage. However, those who knew him longer said Stack had great animosity for the IRS.

Back in the 1980s and 1900s, two entrepreneurial ventures started by Stack ultimately were put out of business by California’s Franchise Tax Board. The first was suspended for non-payment of back taxes totaling $1,153. The second was suspended for failure to file a tax return. Stack acknowledged his errors but was apparently driven over the edge by the federal government’s bailout last year of various troubled banks and auto companies.

Stack wrote that a little guy like him making little mistakes was ultimately hounded by the government in disputes that cost him his marriage, more than $40,000, and “ten years of my life.” Yet when the companies were deemed too big to fail, Stack wondered, “Why is it that a handful of thugs and plunderers can commit unthinkable atrocities . . . and when it's time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty coming to their aid within days if not hours?”

Terry Hoskins probably is not known to most but in my hometown of Cincinnati he was making headlines locally at about the same time as Stack was making them nationally. Hoskins is a successful businessman. Several years ago, he built himself a sprawling, luxurious $350,000 home, complete with swimming pool and tennis courts. Over the years, he got into several payment disputes with RiverHills Bank, which holds the mortgage on his property.

When his brother and former business partner sued Hoskins, the IRS placed liens on his commercial properties. The bank promptly claimed his home as collateral. Hoskins asserts he eventually found someone else to loan him the $160,000 he needed to pay off the mortgage but the bank refused, saying it could get more from selling the house in foreclosure.

“When I see I owe $160,000 on a home valued at $350,000, and someone decides they want to take it – no, I wasn't going to stand for that,” Hoskins said. So two weeks before he was due to turn the property over to the bank, Hoskins rented a bulldozer and turned his dream house into rubble. His business is scheduled to go up for auction on March 2 and Hoskins says he is considering leveling that building too.

Stack and Hoskins clearly committed acts of violence and wanton destruction but are they terrorists?

In response to Stack crashing his plane, Democratic Representative Lloyd Doggett of Texas released a statement calling it “a cowardly act of domestic terrorism.” Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said he preferred to describe it as “a criminal act by a lone individual.” Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post reports that caused an acquaintance of his to wryly observe, “If a white Texas guy flies into a government building, it is a contained criminal act.”

Democrats seem eager to depict Stack as a terrorist and none too coyly point out some striking similarities between his list of complaints and the sorts of things sometimes said/yelled at Tea Party gatherings. Republicans call this nonsense, insisting there is no equivalence – ideologically or in results – between Stack’s plane crash versus the men who crashed four commercial jet airliners into the Pentagon, World Trade Center, and a Pennsylvania field, killing thousands.

I have to agree that neither Stack nor Hoskins were likely inspired to their acts by Tea Party rhetoric, even if it turns out they attended or closely followed the events. While these gatherings attract their share of fringe individuals, they are far too loosely organized to be called an anti-government group. Nor is it fair to characterize Tea Partiers as exclusively Republicans, even if they generally trend toward conservatism.

Moreover, as Stack’s suicide note/manifesto, posted on the Internet hours before his death, reveals, the same individual can mix hatred toward big government, big business, and even big religion in equal measures.

However, I think it is a mistake not to consider the presence of distinctly terrorist elements in Stack’s and Hoskins’s mental states and actions. Robert Wright observes in today’s New York Times that, like other terrorists, Stack “saw himself as part of a cause, as one in a long line of fighters against tyranny.” More than a few Americans identify with that cause, even finding a heroic component in Stack’s desperation. Hoskins has received similar expressions of support.

Mark Potok, a Director at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, say that extreme and violent acts of rebellion, such as those committed by Stack and Hoskins, “[tap] into a very deep vein of rage against the government.”

Also like other terrorists, Stack had a message to get out and was willing to foster fear through violence until his grievances were addressed. “Sadly,” he wrote, “though I spent my entire life trying to believe it wasn’t so, violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer . . . Nothing changes unless there is a body count.”

Likewise, Hoskins hopes banks view his act of destruction as a kind of veiled threat, leading to a desired end. He told reporters he hoped to “make banks think twice before they try to take someone's home, and if they are going to take it wrongly, the end result will be them tearing their house down like I did mine.”

When a crazed olive-skinned Muslim Army psychiatrist goes on shooting rampage at Fort Hood and/or crazed black-skinned Muslim student attempts to blow up an airplane with an underwear bomb, conservatives accused the Obama Administration as being soft on terror and decried resistance to wide scale profiling of Muslim males as “political correctness.” Yet when the attackers are white, middle-class males, these same conservatives are quick to dismiss them as unconnected lone crazies. It seems a tad inconsistent.

Yet in one sense, they may have a point. Wright and others think the term “terrorist” has become overused and ought to be dropped. I sympathize with their frustration. Terrorists” have come to connote all-powerful super-villains, so evil and so impossible to contain that our ordinary system of laws is powerless against them and citizens should gladly sacrifice basic rights for safety.

However, assuming we keep the term, Stack and Hoskins nicely demonstrate how economic distress can turn to terrorism. Granted, they are/were not Third World impoverished peasants. Both are/were affluent, educated, middle-class men who took advantage of numerous opportunities afforded them and made some foolish choices along the way that came back to haunt them.

Yet if the sudden loss of affluence – and perhaps more important, a sudden sense of no longer being in control – could drive these educated, middle-class men to acts of violent desperation, consider how a life of abject poverty with no hope of advancement might affect Third World Muslims or create guilt in Muslims living in Western democracies.

Radical Muslim clerics do not create the violent hatred that fuels terrorism anymore than Tea Party organizers; they simply use it constructively or destructively toward their own ends. The roots of terrorism and violence lie in poverty and hopelessness.

That is something to think about as we consider the current economic distress sweeping across this country and debate the best ways to address it. We are faced with a situation where more and more middle class are quietly drifting in desperation into an underclass.

If we do not address how to create employment and stem the bleeding of jobs overseas, if we do not address how to reduce the spiraling costs resulting from continued reliance on non-renewable energy sources, if we do not address how to reduce the spiraling costs from out-of-control healthcare and health insurance industries, we are heading for a reckoning.

Failure to deviate from the status quo means that the anti-government and anti-business activists of the near future will not need to poke about the fringes of society to find a few extreme individuals driven to desperation, such as Stack and Hoskins. Instead, their potential converts will be legion.

The Bell
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