Politics Noir: Donald Trump, Chinatown, Breaking Bad, House Of Cards

By Ralph Benko

hero_image_main_2“Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.” Donald Trump continues to dominate and fascinate. Why? Politics, like comic books, thrillers, detective stories, science fiction, professional wrestling, movies and TV is a pulp medium. We Credentialed Members Of The Media Elite wish to sanctify it (and, thereby, ourselves). But come on. Continue reading “Politics Noir: Donald Trump, Chinatown, Breaking Bad, House Of Cards”

As Bernie Sanders Dismantles Hillary Clinton Let The GOP Discover Human Capitalism

By Ralph Benko

GOP_Logo1_svgWhile the Mass Media has been obsessing on the Donald Trump phenomenon, Bernie Sanders has been packing stadiums.  Sanders’s Madison speech pulled in nearly twice as many as Mrs. Clinton’s official campaign kickoff event (which The Atlantic dubbed “uninspiring”).  Mrs. Clinton’s relaunches and presentations continue to draw tepid reviews. The Sanders phenomenon, so reminiscent of 2008, must make Hillary Clinton nervous. It should. Bernie’s stump speech is a thing of beauty.  That said, it is not a joy forever. Continue reading “As Bernie Sanders Dismantles Hillary Clinton Let The GOP Discover Human Capitalism”

High Tech Guru George Gilder Demolishes A Critical Myth About The Gold Standard

By Ralph Benko

gold-standard-liberty-coinWhat if the gold standard is not an antique but, rather, a “timeless classic” (as termed in a speech by Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann in September 2012)?  High tech guru George Gilder deploys cutting-edge science to show why this is so, based on Shannon information theory. Gilder’s analysis is neither eccentric nor anomalous. The intellectual pedigree of the classical gold standard runs through two of the greatest scientists in history: Continue reading “High Tech Guru George Gilder Demolishes A Critical Myth About The Gold Standard”

Reagan Economist Larry Kudlow Reveals The Republicans’ Secret Agenda

by Ralph Benko

GOP_Logo1_svgThe Revelation: “All we want,” said Kudlow, “is for everybody to get richer.” Therein hangs a tale.  And therein, perhaps, hangs the outcome of a presidential race. The Republican Party (much to the astonishment of practically everyone) is composed exclusively of … people. It thus is subject to human nature. It is undeniable that a significant part of the Republican voter base is made up of rich (or at least affluent) people. Rich people (except in California, a parallel universe) vote Republican. So, naturally, Republicans love rich people. And hate the poor. Nothing personal. Poor people vote Democratic. Continue reading “Reagan Economist Larry Kudlow Reveals The Republicans’ Secret Agenda”

Jeb Bush And Rand Paul Throw The 2016 Presidential Race Into Overdrive

By Ralph Benko

GOP_Logo1_svgLast month the GOP suddenly awoke. As Michael Tomasky wrote in the March 19 issue of the New York Review of Books:

As matters are shaping up so far, the sense of many people I speak to is that the election appears destined to be about the condition of the middle class, the issue of wage stagnation, and the recognition (finally) that the American economy has been working far better for those at the top than for those in the middle or, obviously, on the bottom.

Tomasky is dead right. Those of us committed to equitable prosperity have been impatiently waiting for the GOP to seize on (and own) its destiny. At last, thanks to Bush and Paul, the GOP emerges from its lethargy. Continue reading “Jeb Bush And Rand Paul Throw The 2016 Presidential Race Into Overdrive”

John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, And The Congress Ride Into A Box Canyon….

by Ralph Benko

uscapitolThe New York Times considerately gives us an early look at the Box Canyon into which the 114th Congress, the GOP leading, is riding.  In G.O.P. Is Divided as Budget Bills Start Piling Up we discover:

WASHINGTON — In their first major test of governing this year, Republicans stumbled, faltered — and nearly shut down the Department of Homeland Security.

And that vote may have been the easy one.

In April, physicians who treat Medicare patients face a drastic cut in pay. In May, the Highway Trust Fund runs dry. In June, the charter for the federal Export-Import Bank ceases to exist. Then in October, across-the-board spending cuts return, the government runs out of money — and the Treasury bumps up against its borrowing limit.

All will require congressional action, and while many of these measures used to be pushed through in an almost unthinking bipartisan ritual, there is no such thing as simple in Congress anymore.

Militant conservatives are calling for a coup against House Speaker John Boehner.  The hard core right is expressing fury toward Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The real villain, however, is an economic “ice age,” not feckless Congressional leadership. Continue reading “John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, And The Congress Ride Into A Box Canyon….”

Rand Paul Draws Liberal Fire As The Left Discovers Its Inner Love Of The Fed

By Ralph Benko

randpaulThe New Republic, in its February 8th issue, carries an article by Danny Vinik entitled Rand Paul Has the Most Dangerous Economic Views of Any 2016 Candidate. It appears that TNR’s fact checkers decamped along with its top journalists. Vinik:

Speaking in front of more than 150 Iowa activists, Paul ripped into the Federal Reserve and promoted his “Audit the Fed” bill, which he introduced earlier this week. “I think there needs to be some sunshine,” he said, according to reports of the event. …

Paul’s bill …would significantly damage the Fed’s independence, which exists so that politicians cannot influence the central bank for their own political purposes. In other words, “Audit the Fed” would lead legislators to interfere with monetary policy matters and put the entire economy at risk.

Continue reading “Rand Paul Draws Liberal Fire As The Left Discovers Its Inner Love Of The Fed”

Jeb Bush Makes A Grand Supply Side Entrance

By Ralph Benko

jebbushThe Republican Party has an embarrassment of riches in good prospective presidential contenders for next year’s race. Thus Gov. Jeb Bush’s debut speech — on February 4th, in Detroit, the start of of his “Right To Rise” tour — took on heightened importance. Presidential campaigns are about much more than name recognition, résumé, charisma, and money. All of these matter.  Yet… Continue reading “Jeb Bush Makes A Grand Supply Side Entrance”

Vopak sells U.S. terminals to Kinder Morgan

logo_vopakRoyal Vopak has entered into a binding agreement to sell three wholly owned terminals and its plot of land in the United States to Kinder Morgan Inc., a US-based energy infrastructure company. This is in line with Vopak’s business review, which was announced on 2 July 2014, to amongst others divest around 15 primarily smaller terminals. Continue reading “Vopak sells U.S. terminals to Kinder Morgan”

Exclusive Interview With Rand Paul, Human Capitalist

by Ralph Benko

randpaulRand Paul recently sat with me to share some of his views. The insights on his worldview left me persuaded that he deserves to be considered the most important public intellectual serving in the United States Senate. Time Magazine calls him “the most interesting man in American politics.” The Senate’s public intellectual chair has been vacant since the departure of Daniel Patrick Moynihan. As an M.D. rather than a Ph.D. Paul is less academic than was Moynihan. Yet Paul demonstrates a comparable wit, keen intelligence, and coherent worldview. Continue reading “Exclusive Interview With Rand Paul, Human Capitalist”

Guantanamo Bay’s Place in U.S. Strategy

By Sim Tack

stratforLast week, the Cuban government declared that for the United States and Cuba to normalize relations, the United States would have to return the territory occupied by a U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay. Washington clearly responded that returning the base is not on the table right now. This response makes sense, since quite a bit of politicking goes into the status of the base. However, the Guantanamo Bay issue highlights a notable aspect to the U.S.-Cuban negotiations — one that is rooted in the history of the U.S. ascension to superpower status as it challenged European powers in the Western Hemisphere. Continue reading “Guantanamo Bay’s Place in U.S. Strategy”

The Biggest Money Player In Politics Is The Fed

By Ralph Benko

fedWashington finally shows signs of coming to grips with the importance of money to politics. This is not about mere campaign finance. Recently there was a breakthrough in bringing the money policy issue out of the shadows and to center stage … where it belongs. The real issue of money in politics is about the Fed, not the Kochs. The Fed’s political impact is orders of magnitude greater than all the billionaires’ money, bright and dark, left and right, combined. There was a real breakthrough in the discourse last week. This breakthrough deserves far more attention than it yet has received. Continue reading “The Biggest Money Player In Politics Is The Fed”

The Unsung X-Factor That Could Upend The Next Presidential Election

By Ralph Benko

uscapitolOne, and only one, candidate, Barack Obama, caught the X-factor and improbably got himself nominated and elected, and re-elected, president.  Another improbable candidate could catch it again. What is that X-factor?  How does it upend things? Peace and personal security continued to flourish in 2014 and are likely to continue into 2015 and beyond. This is important news. It also is news the news media can ill afford to report. But voters sense it. Continue reading “The Unsung X-Factor That Could Upend The Next Presidential Election”

George Friedman’s Top Five Events in 2014

By George Friedman

stratfor‘Tis the season to make lists, and a list shall be made. We tend to see each year as extraordinary, and in some senses, each year is. But in a broader sense, 2014 was merely another year in a long chain of human triumph and misery. Wars have been waged, marvelous things have been invented, disease has broken out, and people have fallen in love. Nonetheless, lists are called for, and this is my list of the five most important events of 2014. Continue reading “George Friedman’s Top Five Events in 2014”

The Geopolitics of U.S.-Cuba Relations

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanLast week, U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro agreed to an exchange of prisoners being held on espionage charges. In addition, Washington and Havana agreed to hold discussions with the goal of establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries. No agreement was reached on ending the U.S. embargo on Cuba, a step that requires congressional approval. Continue reading “The Geopolitics of U.S.-Cuba Relations”

The Fed War: Yellen Doctrine vs. Volcker Doctrine

by Ralph Benko

fedThe financial markets are on a hair trigger as to when, and how quickly, the Fed will tighten and raise interest rates.  Billions of dollars will be won or lost by investors on this wager. For the rest of us, getting it right — as did Chairman Volcker and (during his first two terms), Greenspan is crucial to the creation of a climate of equitable prosperity in which jobs are created in abundance.  39 million jobs were created during the “Great Moderation.” We haven’t seen anything remotely like that since. Continue reading “The Fed War: Yellen Doctrine vs. Volcker Doctrine”

How the ‘Reserve’ Dollar Harms America

By Lewis E. Lehrman And John D. Mueller

gold-standard-liberty-coinFor more than three decades we have called attention in the Wall Street Journal to what we called the “reserve-currency curse.” Since some politicians and economists have recently insisted that the dollar’s official role as the world’s reserve currency is instead a great blessing, it is time to revisit the issue. Ending the greenback’s reserve-currency role will raise savings and make U.S. companies more competitive. Continue reading “How the ‘Reserve’ Dollar Harms America”

Viewing Russia from the inside

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanLast week I flew into Moscow, arriving at 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 8. It gets dark in Moscow around that time, and the sun doesn’t rise until about 10 a.m. at this time of the year — the so-called Black Days versus White Nights. For anyone used to life closer to the equator, this is unsettling. It is the first sign that you are not only in a foreign country, which I am used to, but also in a foreign environment. Yet as we drove toward downtown Moscow, well over an hour away, the traffic, the road work, were all commonplace. Moscow has three airports, and we flew into the farthest one from downtown, Domodedovo — the primary international airport. There is endless renovation going on in Moscow, and while it holds up traffic, it indicates that prosperity continues, at least in the capital. Continue reading “Viewing Russia from the inside”

SBM settles Angola, Brazil corruption affair

sbmSBM Offshore has reached an out-of-court settlement ex Article 74 of the Dutch Criminal Code with the Dutch Public Prosecutor’s Office (Openbaar Ministerie) over the inquiry into alleged improper payments.  Furthermore, the United States Department of Justice has informed SBM Offshore that it is not prosecuting the Company and has closed its inquiry into the matter. The settlement with the Openbaar Ministerie and the United States Department of Justice’s decision relate to payments to sales agents in Equatorial Guinea, Angola and Brazil in the period from 2007 through 2011. Continue reading “SBM settles Angola, Brazil corruption affair”

The Gold Standard Did Not Cause The Great Depression, Part 2

by Ralph Benko

gold-standard-liberty-coinAs noted in my previous column, AEI’s James Pethokoukis and National Review‘s Ramesh Ponnuru — among many others — appear to have fallen victim to what I have called the “Eichengreen Fallacy.” This refers to the demonstrably incorrect proposition that the gold standard caused the Great Depression. Pethokoukis proves exactly right in observing that “Benko is a gold-standard advocate and apparently doesn’t much like the words ‘Hitler’ or ‘Nazi’ to be in the same area code of any discussion of once again linking the dollar to the shiny yellow metal.” “Doesn’t much like” being falsely linked with Hitler? Perhaps an apology is more in order than an apologia. Continue reading “The Gold Standard Did Not Cause The Great Depression, Part 2”

The Gold Standard Did Not Cause The Great Depression, Part 1

by Ralph Benko

gold-standard-liberty-coinAEI’s James Pethokoukis and National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru — among many others — appear to have fallen victim to what I have called “the Eichengreen Fallacy,” the demonstrably incorrect proposition that the gold standard caused the Great Depression.  This fallacy is at the root of much confusion in the discourse. Continue reading “The Gold Standard Did Not Cause The Great Depression, Part 1”

Principle, Rigor and Execution Matter in U.S. Foreign Policy

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanU.S. President Barack Obama has come under intense criticism for his foreign policy, along with many other things. This is not unprecedented. Former President George W. Bush was similarly attacked. Stratfor has always maintained that the behavior of nations has much to do with the impersonal forces driving it, and little to do with the leaders who are currently passing through office. To what extent should American presidents be held accountable for events in the world, and what should they be held accountable for? Continue reading “Principle, Rigor and Execution Matter in U.S. Foreign Policy”

Janet Yellen, Politicizing the Fed?

By Ralph Benko

fedJanet Yellen gave a widely noted speech, Perspectives on Inequality and Opportunity from the Survey of Consumer Finances, at the Conference on Economic Opportunity and Inequality held  by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston on October 17th. The speech presented as a if ghostwritten for her by Quincy Magoo, that beloved cartoon character described by Wikipedia as “a wealthy, short-statured retiree who gets into a series of comical situations as a result of his nearsightedness compounded by his stubborn refusal to admit the problem.” What was most interesting was how political was the speech… and what Madame Yellen didn’t say. Continue reading “Janet Yellen, Politicizing the Fed?”

End the Fed’s War on Paychecks

By Ralph Benko

fedThe Democratic Party has made “income inequality” a signature issue for the 2014 (and, presumably, 2016) election cycle.  Democrats, en masse, shout “J’accuse!” at Republicans. There is a very different story to tell. “Income inequality” is a crude, and twisted, heuristic for stagnant median family income.   “Income inequality” does not really resonate with voters, as noted by the Washington Post‘s own Catherine Rampell, with a mountain of evidence showing that Americans don’t begrudge the wealthy their wealth, just are frustrated at the lack of widespread economic opportunity. So let’s get down to cases.  Stagnant median family income is not the GOP’s fault.  It’s the Fed who done it. Continue reading “End the Fed’s War on Paychecks”

Global growth continuing at a moderate pace

logooecd_enA moderate expansion is underway in most major advanced and emerging economies, but growth remains weak in the euro area, which runs the risk of prolonged stagnation if further steps are not taken to boost demand, according to the OECD’s latest Interim Economic Assessment. Continue reading “Global growth continuing at a moderate pace”

A Money Revolt is needed: Fix The Dollar With Gold

By Ralph Benko

gold-standard-liberty-coinThe Tax Revolt has run its course. A Money Revolt is needed. Steve Forbes, with Elizabeth Ames, in Money: How the Destruction of the Dollar Threatens the Global Economy—and What We Can Do About It has thought the issues through. So has, among others, Lewis E. Lehrman (founder and chairman of the Lehrman Institute, whose monetary policy website this columnist professionally edits) in The True Gold Standard  and Money, Gold, and History. Continue reading “A Money Revolt is needed: Fix The Dollar With Gold”

The Virtue of Subtlety: A U.S. Strategy Against the Islamic State

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanU.S. President Barack Obama said recently that he had no strategy as yet toward the Islamic State but that he would present a plan on Wednesday. It is important for a president to know when he has no strategy. It is not necessarily wise to announce it, as friends will be frightened and enemies delighted. A president must know what it is he does not know, and he should remain calm in pursuit of it, but there is no obligation to be honest about it. This is particularly true because, in a certain sense, Obama has a strategy, though it is not necessarily one he likes. Strategy is something that emerges from reality, while tactics might be chosen. Given the situation, the United States has an unavoidable strategy. There are options and uncertainties for employing it. Let us consider some of the things that Obama does know. Continue reading “The Virtue of Subtlety: A U.S. Strategy Against the Islamic State”

Ukraine, Iraq and a Black Sea Strategy

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanThe United States is, at the moment, off balance. It faces challenges in the Syria-Iraq theater as well as challenges in Ukraine. It does not have a clear response to either. It does not know what success in either theater would look like, what resources it is prepared to devote to either, nor whether the consequences of defeat would be manageable. A dilemma of this sort is not unusual for a global power. Its very breadth of interests and the extent of power create opportunities for unexpected events, and these events, particularly simultaneous challenges in different areas, create uncertainty and confusion. Continue reading “Ukraine, Iraq and a Black Sea Strategy”

Who is Rand Paul?

by Ralph Benko

randpaulFor starters, Rand is short for Randal, not an allusion to Ayn Rand, after whom Sen. Paul was not named by his libertarian (not Objectivist) father Ron Paul. Reportedly, growing up he was called Randy … until his wife shortened the diminutive to Rand. Washington, ordinarily, is committed to maintaining the status quo or making, at best, incremental changes. As we struggle with the political consequences of the end of an era of all-out war the old political status quo is ripe for transformation. Continue reading “Who is Rand Paul?”

Europe’s Malaise: The New Normal?

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanRussia and Ukraine continue to confront each other along their border. Iraq has splintered, leading to unabated internal warfare. And the situation in Gaza remains dire. These events should be enough to constitute the sum total of our global crises, but they’re not. On top of everything, the German economy contracted by 0.2 percent last quarter. Though many will dismiss this contraction outright, the fact that the world’s fourth-largest economy (and Europe’s largest) has shrunk, even by this small amount, is a matter of global significance.

Continue reading “Europe’s Malaise: The New Normal?”

Turkey’s Geographical Ambition

By Robert D. Kaplan and Reva Bhalla

stratforAt a time when Europe and other parts of the world are governed by forgettable mediocrities, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister for a decade now, seethes with ambition. Perhaps the only other leader of a major world nation who emanates such a dynamic force field around him is Russia’s Vladimir Putin, with whom the West is also supremely uncomfortable. Continue reading “Turkey’s Geographical Ambition”

Signs Of The Fed’s Era Of Secrecy Coming To An End

By Ralph Benko

fedThe Federal Reserve increasingly is attracting scrutiny across the board.  Now add to that a roller coaster of a thriller, using a miracle of a rare device, shining a light into the operations of the Fed — that contemporary riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma: Matthew Quirk’s latest novel, The Directive. “If I’ve made myself too clear, you must have misunderstood me,” Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan once famously said. Continue reading “Signs Of The Fed’s Era Of Secrecy Coming To An End”

Obama checkmate?

By Ralph Benko

uscapitolHouse Speaker John Boehner’s proposed lawsuit against Barack Obama is causing a great deal of chatter in Washington.  Political stunt, as Obama has called it?  Or, maybe, checkmate, Obama? There is a quiet gap in the U.S. Constitution.  There is no explicit mechanism to discipline a president who fails to carry out his Constitutional duties.  This gap sat there, barely noticed, for centuries.  Barack Obama, apparently, noticed it.  He is exploiting it.  That exploitation is a serious departure from Constitutional principle … whether or not one supports his policies, whether one is a progressive or conservative. Continue reading “Obama checkmate?”

Is Paul Krugman Leaving Princeton In Quiet Disgrace?

By Ralph Benko

KrugmanProfessor Paul Krugman is leaving Princeton.  Is he leaving in disgrace?

Not long, as these things go, before his departure was announced Krugman thoroughly was indicted and publicly eviscerated for intellectual dishonesty by Harvard’s Niall Ferguson in a hard-hitting three-part series in the Huffington Post, beginning here, and with a coda in Project Syndicate, all summarized at Forbes.comContinue reading “Is Paul Krugman Leaving Princeton In Quiet Disgrace?”

The Middle Class Squeeze: Can The Populist Elizabeth Warren Champion The Little Guy With Big Government?

uscapitolWho will prove the champion of the little guy and gal?  Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) — on deck for her party’s presidential nomination should Hillary Rodham Clinton bow out — has become the political leader of choice for those who advocate Big Government as that champion. This columnist is skeptical about Big Government improving the lives of the citizens.  Yet … there is a case to be made for Warren.  She is, at very least, a magnificently worthy adversary for advocates of limited government and deserves to be taken seriously. Continue reading “The Middle Class Squeeze: Can The Populist Elizabeth Warren Champion The Little Guy With Big Government?”

Is James Rickards Right About A Coming Monetary Apocalypse?

By Ralph Benko

gold-standard-liberty-coinIs a monetary apocalypse imminent? James Rickards, bestselling author of Currency Wars, has a new New York Times bestseller out, about the possible imminent collapse of the dollar: The Death of Money: The Coming Collapse of the International Monetary System  (Portfolio/Penguin). More interestingly, he writes about what could come next: a golden age. Advance praise (“A terrifically interesting and useful book….”) from Brookings senior fellow Kenneth W. Dam, former Deputy Secretary of the Treasury and author of The Rules of the Game: Reform and Evolution in the International Monetary System, is an attention getter. Rickard’s Currency Wars was a hot best seller on the New York Times list, and also, more significantly, in the United States Senate. Continue reading “Is James Rickards Right About A Coming Monetary Apocalypse?”

Top earners capturing growing share of total income in many countries, says OECD

logooecd_enThe share of the richest 1% in total pre-tax income have increased in most OECD countries over the past three decades. This rise is the result of the top 1% capturing a disproportionate share of overall income growth over that timeframe: up to 37% in Canada and 47% in the United States, according to new OECD analysis. Even in countries which have a history of a more equal income distribution, such as Finland, Norway and Sweden, the share of the top 1% increased by 70%, reaching around 7-8%. By contrast, top earners saw their share grow much less in some of the continental European countries, including France, the Netherlands and Spain. Continue reading “Top earners capturing growing share of total income in many countries, says OECD”

The U.S. Opts for Ineffective Sanctions on Russia

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanThe United States announced new sanctions on seven Russian government officials April 28. A long-used tactic, sanctions can yield unpredictable effects or have no effect at all, depending upon how they are crafted. It is commonly assumed that sanctions are applied when a target country’s actions are deemed unacceptable. The sanctioning nation presumably chooses sanctions to avoid war when war would be too costly or could result in defeat. Sanctions’ stated purpose is to induce behavioral changes in a target state by causing economic pain. To work, sanctions must therefore cause pain. But they must not be so severe that they convince the target state that war is more desirable than capitulating to the demands of the sanctioning nation.

Continue reading “The U.S. Opts for Ineffective Sanctions on Russia”

In the “War on Youth” the youth strike back for liberty

By Ralph Benko

GOP_Logo1_svgPolitics is no country for old men. The left likes to lampoon the GOP as a party of grumpy old men. Wrong. A new generation is rising. The most striking display at the recent CPAC was a barrage balloon emblazoned with the words War On YouthIt was lofted over one of the most popular booths there, Young Americans for Liberty. A new generation is rising fast.  It is not grumpy. It is, however, militant for liberty and justice for all. Continue reading “In the “War on Youth” the youth strike back for liberty”

Not a New Cold War, but Great Game II

By Mark Galeotti

logo_isn_0Are Russia and the West about to revisit the ritualized competition of the Cold War? Not according to Mark Galeotti. A more useful analogy is the Great Game, that freewheeling 19th century struggle between Great Britain and Russia over Central Asia. Continue reading “Not a New Cold War, but Great Game II”