TCG Weekly Digest – August 15th, 2015


Week ending August 15, 2015

Weekly roundup about our democracy and The Common Good community

Republican Primary Race

Trump is still ahead in Iowa post-debate:
He is up by 8 points. Carson, Walker and Cruz follow [CNN/ORC]

Trump leads Rasmussen poll by 7 points, followed by Bush, Rubio and Walker. [Rasmussen]

Democratic Primary Race

Bernie Sanders leaps over Hillary Clinton 44 percent to 37 percent in New Hampshire primary.
[Franklin Pierce University/Boston Herald]

Clinton is still way ahead in Iowa. 19 points over Sanders.

Mark your calendars!
Next GOP debate: CNN, September 16, Wednesday
First Democratic debate: CNN, October 13, Tuesday

2016 Presidential Campaigns

The “political outsider” surge: “Early-state observers say the momentum of outsider candidates has brought new potential voters into the fold and that this could help propel the party. And the phenomenon is not exclusive to Republicans. Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is running as a Democrat in the presidential primary, is also surging in the polls and showing himself to be a worthy competitor for Clinton, at least in New Hampshire. Sanders has been in the U.S. Senate for decades, but has positioned himself as an outsider of the institution. Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a freshman, is also running as a Washington outsider. The challenge for the surging outsider candidates, however, is to avoid becoming just a summer headline, or a punch line of past polls, like Cain turned out to be.” Caitlyn Huie-Burns, RealClearPolitics [More]

The American public created Donald Trump: “We now utterly conflate entertainment and politics, routinely confuse celebrity with authority and regularly lose sight of the difference between a cult of personality and a claim to leadership. And Donald Trump — still going strong, still dominating the polls — is the emblem, apotheosis and ripe, fleshy, orange-crowned fruit of this. (Yes, Donald, I called you a fruit. Deal with it.) He’s not just some freaky mascot for a preternaturally angry electorate, though he’s plenty freaky and the electorate brims with disgust for career politicians and rage at a system that seems impervious to meaningful change. He’s not just the Frankenstein that the Republican Party created, and he’s not just a blip. He’s the show that we’ve been sucked into and that we’ve asked for. He’s the carnival that we invited to town. He’s been a long time coming: The bleed of entertainment into politics is hardly new. It’s been rued and prophesied for many decades.” Frank Bruni, The New York Times [More]

The rise of “Moderate Independents”: “These ideologically moderate, politically unaffiliated voters are a powerful group to watch. For one thing, many of them are younger voters. Nearly two-thirds of Moderate Independents are either millennials or Generation X – which means their influence will continue for some time. Second, Moderate Independents do have a slightly larger presence in so-called swing states. While in general the ideological makeup of swing states versus non-swing states is strikingly similar, the share of Moderate Independents is somewhat higher (6 percent versus 5 percent).” Stefan Hankin, Washington Monthly, [More]

Most GOP presidential candidates favor increased military spending and big changes in foreign policy: “Republican presidential candidates called for a sharp realignment of U.S. foreign policy during two debates Thursday, alleging the Obama administration had lost influence in the Middle East and allowed Islamic State and Iran to gain dangerous footholds in the region. Many of the candidates offered similar prescriptions for dealing with Israel, voiding a nuclear agreement with Iran, and taking a more aggressive posture with Islamic State.” Damian Paletta, The Wall Street Journal [More]

Clinton offers major plan to help with college debt: “The plan, which would change the way a large swath of Americans pay for college, borrows ideas from the left and the right and even expands a program enacted by her husband. It includes ideas already being discussed in Congress and for which groundwork has been laid by the Obama administration. The proposal, dubbed the New College Compact, is unlikely to win over many in the GOP because the $350 billion over 10 years would come from cutting tax deductions for the wealthiest Americans.” Nirvi Shah and Kimberly Hefling, Politico [More]

Marco Rubio tougher than Obama on Iran and Cuba: Rubio “wants Iran to terminate its nuclear program in exchange for any sanctions relief. He also plans to ask Congress to impose ‘crushing new measures’ to target human-rights abuses and any Iranian leaders involved in financing terrorist operations. Mr. Rubio said he would end diplomatic relations with the country unless the government carries out “meaningful political and human-rights reforms,” and he threatened to return Cuba to the list of state sponsors of terror. If elected president, Mr. Rubio also promised to invite political dissidents from Cuba, China and Iran to his inauguration ‘as a symbol of solidarity between my administration and those who strive for freedom around the world.’” Patrick O’Connor, Wall Street Journal [More]

Dem Candidate Martin O’Malley (TCG Speaker) on lack of Dem debates: “What have we come to as a party? Its ridiculous.” (Video) [More]

The Economy

Economists polled on timing of Fed rate hike: “The U.S. Federal Reserve will probably raise interest rates twice this year, with the first increase in almost a decade coming as early as next month, according to a Reuters poll of economists published on Thursday. The survey gave a median 55% chance that the U.S. central bank would raise its short-term lending rate twice this year. Economists put a 60% probability on a September rate hike and an 85% chance that it would move by year-end.” Megan Cassella, Reuters [More]

After tumultuous descent of its stock market, China devalues its currency: The People’s Bank of China announced on Tuesday morning that it would initiate a “one-off depreciation” the renminbi by just under 2 percent. It justified the move by saying that this would ensure a more market-based rate for China’s currency—after weeks of bad economic news out of China, all signs have pointed toward a downward adjustment in the yuan. The move marks the biggest single-day move for the renminbi since 2005, when China let the renminbi float within a managed range, ending its days a fixed-rate currency pegged to the dollar. Ankit Panda, The Diplomat [More]

New financial hardships facing millennials: To some, millennials – those urban-dwelling, ride-sharing indefatigable social networkers – are engaged, upbeat, and open to change. To others, they are narcissistic, lazy, and self-centered… Regardless of your opinion, be fretful over their economic well-being and fearful – oh so fearful – for their prospects. The most educated generation in history is on track to becoming less prosperous, at least financially, than its predecessors.” Steven Rattner (TCG Speaker), The New York Times [More]

Stiglitz: Why nations go broke: The US is also blocking the world’s path towards an international rule of law for debt and finance. If bond markets, for example, are to work well, an orderly way of resolving cases of sovereign insolvency must be found. But today, there is no such way. Ukraine, Greece, and Argentina are all examples of the failure of existing international arrangements. The vast majority of countries have called for the creation of a framework for sovereign-debt restructuring. The US remains the major obstacle. Joseph Stiglitz, The Guardian [More]

Foreign Relations and National Security

Psychologists banned in interrogations: The American Psychological Association on Friday overwhelmingly approved a new ban on any involvement by psychologists in national security interrogations conducted by the United States government, even noncoercive interrogations now conducted by the Obama administration. The council of representatives of the organization, the nation’s largest professional association of psychologists, voted to impose the ban at its annual meeting. James Risen, The New York Times [More]

Obama’s foreign policy agenda: “President Barack Obama’s two-week Martha’s Vineyard vacation is a brief reprieve before what’s shaping up to be a hugely consequential month for the core components of his second-term foreign-policy agenda. When he returns to Washington, the president has to keep his top priorities- securing the Iran nuclear deal, a 12-nation Pacific trade pact and climate-change initiatives among them-from losing momentum.” Carol E. Lee (TCG Speaker), Wall Street Journal [More]

Lessons from the Gulf War: “The Gulf War looks today like something of an anomaly: short and sharp, with a clear start and finish; focused on resisting external aggression, not nation-building; and fought on battlefields with combined arms, not in cities by special forces and irregulars. Most unusual of all in light of what would follow, the war was multilateral, inexpensive and successful. The Gulf War was a signal success of American foreign policy. It avoided what clearly would have been a terrible outcome—letting Saddam get away with a blatant act of territorial acquisition and perhaps come to dominate much of the Middle East. But it was a short-lived triumph, and it could neither usher in a “new world order,” as President Bush hoped, nor save the Middle East from itself.” Richard Haas, Wall Street Journal [More]

Keeping the Iran debate civil: Let’s debate this agreement. Let’s analyze its provisions and listen to the experts. But let’s not allow the very serious threat of anti-Semitism to be cheapened by ignoring its unwelcome presence in some of the vitriol directed at Senator Schumer, or by its cynical misuse in false accusations against the President. Jeremy Ben-Ami  (TCG Speaker), The Jewish Week [More]

Zakaria: Why Schumer is wrong about Iran deal: “Rejecting this deal would produce an Iran that ramps up its nuclear program, without inspections or constraints, with sanctions unraveling and a United States that is humiliated and isolated in the world. You cannot want this. I respectfully urge you to reconsider your position.” Fareed Zakaria, The Washington Post [More] 

Energy and the Environment

EPA is the culprit in huge toxic sludge spill: “Missouri-based Environmental Restoration LLC was the contractor whose work caused a mine spill in Colorado that released an estimated three million gallons of toxic sludge into a major river system, according to an Environmental Protection Agency official and government documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The EPA, which was overseeing the servicing of the mine, had previously said an unnamed outside contractor was using heavy equipment when it accidentally triggered a breach in the abandoned Gold King Mine, letting out wastewater that had built up inside it.” Amy Harder, The Wall Street Journal, [More]

Japan brings back nuclear power: “After a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami hit Japan’s northeastern coast in 2011, leading to the infamous reactor meltdown at Fukushima, the country decided to hit the pause button on nuclear power. Over the next two years, Japan took all 54 of its reactors offline as regulators reevaluated their safety rules. This week, Kyushu Electric Power announced that it had restarted one of two reactors at its Sendai plant, which is located in the country’s southwest and had been closed since 2011. This is all part of a gradual effort to bring at least some of Japan’s 43 remaining operable nuclear reactors back online. But it’s a sluggish process. Restarting a reactor requires approval from both the country’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) and from the local government. And both are serious hurdles.” Brad Plumer, Vox [More]

Oil theft in Nigeria increasing concern for economy and environment: “Every day, oil companies in Nigeria lose between 300,000 and 400,000 barrels of oil to illegal theft. Theft accounts for roughly 15 percent of Nigeria’s 2.4 million barrels per day produced. Oil theft, or “bunkering,” occurs throughout the Niger Delta, where pipelines crisscross the region. Oil export revenue accounts for 70 percent of Nigeria’s total government revenue and 95 percent of the country’s export income. A loss of 300,000 barrels a day costs the government roughly $1.7 billion a month.” Emily Mangan (TCG Intern), Council on Foreign Relations [More]