TCG Weekly Digest – October 23rd, 2015


Week ending October 23, 2015

Weekly roundup about our democracy and The Common Good community



Carson pulls ahead in Iowa for the first time, leading 28% to Trump’s 20%. Marco Rubio follows with 13% and Ted Cruz polls at 10%. Rand Paul is at 6%, and Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina are at 5% each. Quinnipiac University [More]

2016 Presidential Campaign

Clinton must be breathing easier, but Benghazi hearing proves unlikely to change people’s minds: “…So deep is the partisan divide over the attack that the exhaustive hearing is unlikely to have changed many minds. Republicans are sure to still view Clinton as resistant to scrutiny and to blame her for security lapses in Benghazi. Democrats are sure to continue to see the hearing as a witch hunt designed to wound the Democratic front-runner’s 2016 campaign.” Stephen Collinson, CNN [More]

Jeb Bush cuts spending and pay due to struggling campaign: “Bush’s struggling presidential campaign is cutting salaries across the board and reducing staff in a money-saving effort intended to concentrate resources on early voting states, an internal memo said on Friday. The memo said payroll costs were being slashed by 40 percent and staff at the Miami headquarters drastically cut back with some workers offered positions at reduced pay in early voting states…” Steve Holland, Reuters [More]

Ted Cruz, the fundraising front-runner: “If you believe in the predictive validity of fundraising numbers, Ted Cruz is actually the front-runner in this race, with Donald Trump his only serious competition. Cruz is the only candidate who has shown that he can extensively raise hard dollars from both large and small donors, ranking second in hard dollars to Carson and second in total dollars (including from Super PACs) to Jeb Bush. Cruz’s fundraising is almost evenly balanced between small and large donors. Furthermore, toxic as his relations are with some parts of the party establishment and Congress, it is notable that he has endorsements from the largest number of elected officials of any candidate except Bush.” Lawrence Brinton, National Review [More]

Ryan testing GOP direction:  “Ryan is essentially asking conservatives within the GOP: What is your actual goal? Is it to govern in the public interest according to a conservative vision while building a political coalition capable of supporting needed reforms? Or is it the expression of outrage, rooted in a right-wing populism that is in fundamental (and continual) revolt against the political establishment? This has been the main question posed to Republicans since the wave election of 2010: governing or rage?” Michael Gerson, Washington Post [More]

Why Biden didn’t run: “Biden made the rarest of choices in Presidential politics today: dignity over ambition…Biden would have had to begin with no money (and no love for raising it), no staff, and no organization in the states.” Evan Osnos (TCG Speaker), Op-Ed, The New Yorker [More]

Chafee and Webb drop out of Dem primary race: “Lincoln Chafee’s announcement, coming just days after Jim Webb also withdrew, leaves Clinton with only two opponents for the Democratic nomination: Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley.” David Jackson, USA TODAY [More]

Explaining the unpredictability of the 2016 race: “An anemic economy that has Americans questioning incumbents, doubting experts and worrying about their own prospects…The discontented hail from both ends of the political spectrum, and their numbers are getting larger. If we combine the voters supporting Mr. Sanders, Mr. Trump, Dr. Carson and Ted Cruz, we might not reach a majority of the country, but we would get awfully close. This motley assortment of critics hardly agrees on anything, beyond what isn’t working.” Jay Cost, Wall Street Journal  [More]

The Economy

Deficits shrink, but deficit hawks still worried: “The U.S. budget deficit is lower than before the 2008 financial crisis. But the good news is tempered by concerns on two fronts, one about the nation’s debt load and the other about the economy.  Deficit hawks are concerned that the improvement will lead both parties to overlook the red ink set to rise later this decade from a surge in spending on health care and retirement benefits for the baby-boom generation.” Nick Timiraos, Wall Street Journal [More]

Without bailouts and stimulus, U.S. economy would be far worse off: “TARP, fiscal stimulus, quantitative easing and auto bailout remain dirty words to many people who increasingly blame them for prolonging the Great Recession and the slow pace of recovery…We found the reverse to be true: These extraordinary policies ended the crisis and jump-started an economic recovery that is stronger in the U.S. than in most countries. The U.S. economy has outperformed the plodding European and Japanese economies is the timely, massive and unprecedented responses of U.S. policy makers in 2008-09. So let’s get the history right.” Alan S. Blinder (TCG Speaker) and Mark Zandi, Op-Ed, Wall Street Journal [More]

Orszag on wage inequality: In the US, growing wage disparities may be the result of differences between highly successful companies and sectors, not differences in employee talents.  A recent report by Jason Furman, Chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, and Peter Orszag, suggests just that. “Some companies in, say, the technology or financial sectors could generate consistently supernormal returns. Their employees would share the wealth by earning higher wages. Consistent with this possibility, other research suggests that the rise in wage inequality is driven more by a widening gap in the average earnings of workers in different companies…” Peter R. Orszag, Op-Ed, Bloomberg [More]

China easing: cutting interest rates and removing caps on bank deposit rates: “Just days after reporting its worst economic performance since the global financial crisis, China has unveiled a one-two punch to prop up growth, while also sweeping away a major control on how banks set deposit rates. The country’s central bank combined a quarter-point cut in benchmark interest rates with a half-percentage reduction in banks’ reserve-requirement ratios, moves aimed at lowering corporate financing costs and pumping liquidity into the economy…Simultaneously with the moves easing rates, China also took a crucial step toward reforming its creaky banking system by removing caps on deposit rates, illustrating a persistent dilemma for the country’s economic stewards.” Lingling Wei, Wall Street Journal [More]

ECB prepares to extend its quantitative-easing program in December: “The European Central Bank (ECB) did not act to further ease its already extraordinarily loose monetary stance…[but] gave a broad hint that it was preparing to do so when the council convenes for its final monetary-policy meeting of the year, on December 3rd. Mario Draghi, the head of the ECB, highlighted “the strength and persistence” of the factors that were currently preventing inflation from returning to the central bank’s goal of nearly 2%.” The Economist [More]

El-Erian on the Fed: “The fragility of the global economy, weakening conditions in the U.S. and recent statements from some Federal Reserve officials have led to a growing acceptance that the central bank won’t raise interest rates this year. But those who now predict the Fed will put off its first increase in almost 10 years until March 2016 may be misreading the broader domestic and international context.” Mohamed A. El-Erian, Op-Ed,  Bloomberg [More]

Foreign Affairs and National Security

U.S. and Russian officials reach a deal on Syrian flights: Pentagon officials said a “memorandum of understanding was signed Tuesday to set a series of basic protocols Russian and American jets will follow to avoid collisions or other problems as they conduct their air campaigns at cross-purposes inside Syria.” Gordon Lubold, Wall Street Journal [More]

U.S. soldier killed in raid to free hostages of ISIS: “[The soldier] was killed as American Special Forces conducted a raid in support of with Kurdish Iraqi forces to free dozens of hostages held in Northern Iraq, U.S. defense officials said Friday. About 70 hostages were rescued in the operation, including more than 20 members of the Iraqi Security Forces.” CBS News [More]

What did we learn from Benghazi hearing?: “The hearing revealed two new pieces of information: that in the aftermath of the attack Clinton told an Egyptian official that the violence was planned rather than the result of a spontaneous demonstration in response to an anti-Islam video and that she sent her family an email attributing the violence to a known terrorist group…Clinton chalked up the differences… to shifting intelligence assessments during a chaotic period.” Jeremy Diamond and Elise Labott, CNN [More]

Kissinger: the US needs a new Middle East strategy: “American policy runs the risk of feeding suspicion rather than abating it. Its challenge is that two rigid and apocalyptic blocs are confronting each other: a Sunni bloc consisting of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States; and the Shiite bloc comprising Iran, the Shiite sector of Iraq with Baghdad as its capital, the Shiite south of Lebanon under Hezbollah control facing Israel, and the Houthi portion of Yemen, completing the encirclement of the Sunni world. In these circumstances, the traditional adage that the enemy of your enemy can be treated as your friend no longer applies. For in the contemporary Middle East, it is likely that the enemy of your enemy remains your enemy.” Secretary Henry Kissinger (TCG Speaker), Op-Ed, Wall Street Journal [More]

The myth of Putin’s strength: “Five years ago, Russia was in a much stronger position, both at home and in the world…Mr. Putin is adept at short-term tactical responses to setbacks, but less talented at long-term strategy. Even with no response from the West, Mr. Putin’s foreign adventures will finally fail, especially as domestic economic problems continue to fester. But the United States and its allies should seek to shorten that time by pushing back against Russia on multiple fronts. As Mr. Putin goes all in to prop up his ally in Syria, we should do the same with our partners and allies — not only in Syria, but in Europe and around the world.” Michael McFaul, Op-Ed, New York Times [More]

Putin on the march: “President Obama says Russia is doomed to fail in the Syrian quagmire. But Russia is not trying to reconquer the country for Assad. It is consolidating a rump Syrian state in the roughly 20% of the country he now controls…It’s a partition. It will leave the Islamic State in control in the interior north and east. Why is this doomed to failure? Putin’s larger strategy is also obvious. He is not reconstructing the old Soviet empire. That’s too large a task. But he is rebuilding and reasserting Russia’s ability to project power beyond its borders.” Charles Krauthammer, Op-Ed, Washington Post, [More]

Trudeau wins with “sunny” message and center-left change in Canada’s policies: Trudeau will use major infrastructure investment to fuel jobs and growth.  “The first major shift came when Trudeau announced he had spoken with President Barack Obama and told him he will remove Canada’s six fighter jets from the U.S.-led bombing campaign against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. Among the other areas in which Trudeau differs from Conservative Stephen Harper: climate change, immigration and whether relations with the U.S. should hinge on the future of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.” Rob Gillies, ABC News [More]

Domestic Affairs

 The unprecedented insurgency of the Freedom Caucus: “Congress has never seen anything quite like the House Freedom Caucus. There’s always someone unhappy on Capitol Hill and it’s not unusual for malcontents to band together. A rebellion made up of members who refuse to work with either party, however, is something that hasn’t happened in living memory…The Freedom Caucus, rather than breaking from Republican ranks, has forced Republican leaders to break from them. It’s a perverse sort of political jujitsu.” Alan Greenblatt, Op-Ed,  POLITICO [More]

Dems in denial, their Party is in trouble down the ballot: “The GOP might be in chaos …But Democrats have nothing at all in the works to redress their crippling weakness down the ballot. Democrats aren’t even talking about how to improve on their weak points, because by and large they don’t even admit that they exist.” Matthew Yglesias, Op-Ed, Vox [More]

With support from the Freedom Caucus and other GOP groups, Paul Ryan will run for speaker: “The latest to support him was the Republican Study Committee and the so-called Tuesday Group. The former represents mainstream House conservatives and claims over 170 members…..The Tuesday Group, which also backed Ryan, represents GOP moderates. Their support comes after the House Freedom Caucus, which earlier had endorsed another candidate, put out a statement Wednesday saying that the overwhelming majority of its members now support Ryan – though it wasn’t technically an endorsement.” Fox News [More]

Obama vetoes defense authorization bill: “[He] exercised his veto power for just the fifth time in his presidency, rejecting a defense authorization bill because of the way it would sidestep budget limitations for the military and because it would restrict the transfer of detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay. The White House said that the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would tap an overseas contingency operations account designed for emergencies and war costs and use it as a “slush fund” to avoid budget restrictions. Those restrictions — known as sequestration — would impose offsetting across-the-board cuts if spending passed certain levels.” Steven Mufson, Washington Post [More]


Review of Dennis Ross’ “Doomed to Succeed: The U.S.-Israel Relationship From Truman to Obama”: “Ross, who served most notably as President Clinton’s special envoy to the Middle East, has produced a work that is simultaneously comprehensive, quite fair-minded and somewhat ponderous. As the subtitle suggests, this is not a history of Arab-­Israeli peace efforts per se, but rather of the evolution of Israeli-American diplomatic relations — except these two matters are so inextricably linked as to pose an almost semantic difference. Because of that linkage, and because of American fears of repercussions from Arab nations should they appear too cozy with Israel, those relations have not always been as close as one might assume.” Scott Anderson, Review, New York Times [More]

Archive of Past Digests

TCG Weekly Digest – October 16th, 2015

TCG Weekly Digest – October 9th, 2015

TCG Weekly Digest – October 2nd, 2015

TCG Weekly Digest – September 25th, 2015

TCG Weekly Digest – September 18th, 2015

TCG Weekly Digest – September 11th, 2015

TCG Weekly Digest – September 4th, 2015

TCG Weekly Digest – August 28th, 2015

TCG Weekly Digest – August 21st, 2015

TCG Weekly Digest – August 15th, 2015

TCG Weekly Digest – August 7th, 2015

TCG Weekly Digest – July 30th, 2015

TCG Weekly Digest – July 24th, 2015