Thursday, July 22, 2010

Should The GOP Take Control Of Congress?

When I first suggested, early this year, that Republicans could take control of one or both houses of Congress, my observation was greeted with disbelief by politicos on all sides. Since that time, my “off-the-wall” prediction has acquired so much credibility that several pundits and political operatives of both parties are now openly predicting a GOP takeover of the House.

At the same time, however, self-styled “sophisticated” political observers, particularly conservative ones, have been expressing “profound” reservations about winning control of Congress in the 2010 mid-term elections. These “sophisticated” operatives argue that if the Republicans control the Congress, this will enable President Obama to run against the GOP much as President Truman did in 1948. So these pundits say they hope the GOP makes significant gains in 2010, but also hope the Democrats remain in control so that the GOP ticket can win in 2012.

Whether or not this is a “ridiculous” argument, it is certainly an irresponsible one. If the Republican Party and its candidates for House and Senate truly believe that the now-controlling Democratic Party and its leaders, President Obama, Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid, are taking the nation and its economy down a disastrous path, then they should be prepared to take charge of the legislative branch now (before even more damage is done), rather than later just for political advantage in 2012. It is true that, as long as Mr. Obama is in the White House, the GOP will not likely be able to enact much, if any, of its own agenda, but they would thus have almost two years to show the country what their alternative agenda is. I would argue this enhances their chances in 2012.

Perhaps there is some political risk in this (obviously I think the risk is exaggerated), but I think the prospects are ominous enough that mere childish maneuvers for advantage are greatly outweighed by the grown-up needs to shut off the catastrophe-prone policies of the current administration, and serve the needs of the whole country, and not just some partisan short-term gains.

Just as the nations of the European Union, ultra-welfare states all, are cutting back on their bloated bureaucracies and other public spending, the United States under Obama-Pelosi-Reid is trying to take the U.S. in the opposite direction. This is a prescription for eventual economic collapse. Merely lowering the margins of Democratic control of Congress will not really halt this dangerous direction. Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Reid have already demonstrated their willingness, with Mr. Obama’s concurrence, to “work around” the rules. Only control of at least one house of Congress will stem the economic bleeding until 2012 when the nation’s voters will have the option of changing the occupant of the White House, too.

Arguments against taking control, now enjoying some fashion among certain so-called “sophisticated” conservative political analysts, are an implied admission that the opposition party is not willing to take command, now or later. Thesedefeatist notions should be rebuked by party leaders and those GOP presidential candidates who want to rescue the nation in 2010 and 2012.

When an economic and political body incurs serious wounds, and faces even more serious threats, band aids and swabs of hydrogen peroxide will not do the job required.

If children and those without proper training are in charge of the hospital, its time to put adults in charge, and bring in those who can make the body better again.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

2010 U.S. House Races, Or What Price A Dubious Legacy

As I recently pointed out, the 2010 mid-term congressional races have been successfully nationalized so far by Republicans. Taking control of the U.S. senate is a tall order for the GOP this year because they currently have only 41 seats, (they would need a net gain of 10 seats), and because only one-third of the senate seats are up for election.

In the U.S. House, however, all 535 seats are up, and when an election has been nationalized by unpopular legislation and policies of the ruling party, the opportunity for a takeover is substantially increased. Early this year, I suggested that about 55 net house seats could be moved to the GOP side of the aisle. At that time, such a prediction seemed “far out,” but today it might be considered a conservative estimate (in more ways than one).

Also working against the current Democratic majority in the House is the fact that a substantial number of Democrats elected in 2006 and 2008 won in normally conservative and GOP districts, but won’t have the favorable conditions of those years to enable them to repeat many or most of those upset victories. Even in more liberal districts, a number of senior Democratic members are retiring or running for higher office, and the resulting “open seat” is vulnerable to a GOP takeover in a year trending to the Republicans.

Many Democratic strategists, as well as more neutral observers and pundits, are openly forecasting a Republican takeover. The usual caveats apply, e.g., the state of the economy and the stock market, international conditions, and the impact of constantly new and often unpleasant details revealed about Obamacare legislation (including higher insurance premium rates and large numbers of citizens deciding not to participate). I take caveats seriously, so I am more cautious about an “absolute” prediction of a GOP-controlled house.

One part of the Democratic base, furthermore, seems secure for now. These are the voters in the inner cities of the most northern, eastern and midwestern U.S. These voters, including large numbers of black voters, provide President Obama and the Democrats with a major share of their base vote. The problem for the liberal party with these voters is that, lacking Mr. Obama on the ticket this year, and with the economic crisis still in full swing, they are less likely to vote than during a presidential year.

In Minnesota, for example, the Democrats (here called the DFL) are likely to have notable losses in their large majorities in the state legislature. With the DFL heading into a bruising gubernatorial primary, and the Independence Party likely to field a serious candidate in the governor’s race, DFL margins are likely to be cut seriously in November, even though he DFL has not elected a governor in 20 years. First District incumbent DFL Congressman TIm Walz is not currently listed among vulnerable House members seeking re-election, but his slavish support of Speaker Pelosi’s liberal agenda and his vote for Obamacare make him at risk in this conservative rural district.

Similar vulnerabilities exist for incumbent Democrats in neighboring states, including Earl Pomeroy in North Dakota, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin in South Dakota, Steve Kagan in Wisconsin, the long-time Democratic seat held by retiring Congressman David Obey also in Wisconsin, and Leonard Boswell in Iowa, just to mention one midwestern region.

This circumstance can be repeated all over the country. In 2008, Democrat Kathy Dahlkemper upset veteran GOP Congressman Phil English in Pennsylvania’s 3rd District. But Dahlkemper, representing a pro-life swing district, voted for Obamacare and other liberal measures not favored by many voters in this blue collar western Pennsylvania district that voted for John McCain. I don’t see Dahlkemper on any list today of vulnerable Democrats, but it would not take much to put her there. There are dozens of similar situations throughout the country.

Most damaging to Democratic prospects is the stubborn insistence of President Obama, Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid on advancing their radical legislative agenda and policies which put their incumbent House members increasingly at risk in November. There is simply no recent historical precedent for this kind of political behavior, although we can easily figure out their motive, i.e., a liberal law legacy that cannot be undone by succeeding Congresses.

What price a dubious legacy? With less than four months to go until election day, we will find out soon enough.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

U.S. Senate Races In 2010

Almost daily polls are now being made available in the U.S. senate races slated for November, 2010. Without questioning the relative accuracy of any one of them, I say they should be read with considerable caution. Serious readers of these polls, available on numerous national political websites and blogs, have already witnessed substantial volatility in many of them. For example, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has been trailing badly in his polls for months, and now a poll appears with him ahead. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has been ahead for months, and now polls appear with her trailing. Richard Blumenthal was way ahead initially (after incumbent Chris Dodd decided not to run), then dipped after a scandal, but now is way ahead again. Joe Sestak won the Democratic primary against Arlen Spector, and then went several points ahead in the polls against his Republican opponent, Pat Toomey. Now he is several points behind again.

What does this all mean?

The answer is multifaceted, but there are some irreversible realities of the 2010 senate elections. First, the mid-term elections have been successfully nationalized by both the Republicans and, involuntarily, by President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. This, so far, works heavily in favor of the Republicans, especially since the legislative agenda of the Democratic administration has been mostly quite unpopular with the electorate as a whole. This caused a number of long-time incumbent Democratic senators to decided not to run for re-election this year (Dodd in CT, Dorgan in ND, et al) and otherwise strong Democrats (e.g., Beau Biden in DE) to decided not to run for open seats. Normally secure Democratic incumbents (Boxer in CA, Murray in WA, Feingold in WI, Lincoln in AR, et al) are also in trouble. Most open seats (OH, NH, FL, IL, UT and CO) now lean to the Republicans, or would certainly go that way if the nationalized election trends continue.

As I wrote in this column last January, there were a total of 12 senate seats the GOP might pick up. Since that time, two seats unexpectedly became open. One was actually won by a Republican, Scott Brown, in Massachusetts, and another has just opened up in West Virginia with the death of Democrat Robert Byrd. The latter will be filled with a short-term appointment, and popular Democratic Governor Joe Manchin almost certainly run this autumn. GOP Congresswoman Shelley Moore Caputo may or may not run, but the Democrat would now be favored.

Yet West Virginia demonstrates the problem the Democrats face this year with a nationalized election. If Moore Caputo or whomever the GOP picks to run this year can make the senate election about President Obama’s popularity (he is not popular currently in this state), even Manchin could be in trouble. And no matter what, West Virginia has become an unexpected and another state the national Democratic senate committee has to defend with money and time in a negative year.

Senate and House elections that become nationalized generally produce voter over-reactions in November. In 2006, there were about eight close senate elections in which there were GOP incumbents. All the Republicans had to do was win one of them to keep control. They lost every one of them, albeit some by very small margins. The same story was told in other past mid-year elections that became nationalized over the president’s and majority party’s policies.

In the inevitable lull of summer, poll numbers often do a bit of a dance of their own. They also tend to revert to local issues and personalities. Only after Labor Day, and the final campaigns get underway, do the polls begin to tell us how the voters really feel.

Right now, the Republicans seem assured, barring unforeseen events, of picking up 5-7 U.S. senate seats. But if the nationalized election continues to favor the GOP, and President Obama continues to push for unpopular policies and legislation, that number grows to 10-13 seats. The latter numbers seemed impossible last January when I first suggested them. Now they seem realistic if present trends continue.

But current polls, many of which are not objective, large enough to be accurate, or are just plain propaganda, indicate the former number.

During the primary season, the emergence of the grass roots Tea Party appeared, and some of their candidates won. The impact of this movement was to make the Republican message more conservative and clearer for November, a trend which, I believe, has generally (but not in all cases) helped the Republicans.

Let’s revisit this subject in September and October. Meanwhile, I again urge readers not to call 9-1-1 over the possibility of change of control of the next U.S. senate.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Pawlenty's Last Coup

A few days ago, a new chief justice and a new associate justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court were sworn in at the Landmark Center in St. Paul. Most of the state’s district and appeals court judges were present, as were many regional federal judges. It was a brilliant display of democratic and judicial ritual and passage, and given added drama by the unexpected appearance of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to speak briefly before swearing in the young associate justice, his former law clerk.

This was an unexpected turn of events inasmuch as Governor Tim Pawlenty had appointed a new chief justice only three years ago, and it was expected that he would at least fill out his 10-year term (and that Pawlenty would have no more appointments to the state’s highest court). Pawlenty is a conservative Republican who is completing his second term a governor of a state which used to vote liberal and Democrat (in this state, the party is named the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party or DFL). Pawlenty’s two predecessors, Governors Arne Carlson (a moderate Republican) and Jesse Ventura (a conservative independent) were given praise by all sides for their judicial appointments. Inasmuch as the there has not been a liberal governor in the state for 20 years, the tone of the judiciary is is moderate to conservative. (With the governor’s seat open this year, DFLers are more than thirsty for a return to gubernatorial power for a wide range of public policy issues, not the least of which would be the opportunity to appoint liberal judges to the state’s district benches, court of appeals and supreme court.)

Pawlenty’s previous choice for chief justice did not always seem comfortable in the job, including his presiding over the 2008 senate election recount (which remains controversial) and deciding against the governor’s consitutional right to unallotment in the recent budget-balancing confrontation with the DFL-controlled legislature.

His sudden resignation gave his former law partner (Governor Pawlenty) an opportunity to not only replace him, but by elevating the most conservative sitting associate justice to the chief justiceship, he got to appoint a new justice as well. This is similar to the opportunity that faced President George W. Bush when he nominated John Roberts to be chief justice to replace the recently-deceased William Rehnquist instead of nominating Roberts, as he originally did, to fill the seat of retiring Sandra Day O’Connor. He then appointed Samuel Alito to fill the O’Connor seat. This transformed a split court into a mostly conservative court, and even though President Obama now has had two appointments (to replace retiring liberal justices), he has not been able to change the ideological bent of the Court.

Governor Pawlenty, now leaving office this year to run for president in 2012, has been able to accomplish the same goal. His appointment of a new associate justice to replace the newly-elevated chief justice was a 35 year-old conservative wunderkind who had previously been law clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas. The choice of this new justice has provoked muttering and even complaint from some liberal members of the Minnesota bar, but no one could deny his qualifications and brilliance. For liberals to also argue against him because his primary legal experience has been as a professor of law at the University of Minnesota Law School might seem colossally hypocritical inasmuch as President Obama has just nominated a woman for the US. supreme court whose credentials likewise are primarily as a legal teacher and scholar.

Having made a powerful imprint on the Minnesota judiciary that will last long past his departure from office, Governor Pawlenty now leaves his strongest legacy with a “two-fer” at the level of the state supreme court.

None of this will likely be lost on national political observers trying to decipher what a President Pawlenty might do in 2013 or later.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Democratic Party Revolt Is Coming

As I noted in my most recent post, President Obama and his administration continue on a political path of self-immolation. I have stopped trying to figure out why there are doing this. It defies, after all, reason, history and good sense. The political consequences of this path are simple. It leads to defeat. A huge defeat this November in the mid-term elections, and then an even bigger defeat two years later in the presidential election.

As I previously suggested, Democratic elected officials at all levels, but particularly this year at congressional and statewide levels, will tolerate this only so long. As their poll numbers dip to unrecoverable levels, and they become premature lame ducks, anxiety will become panic. To lose an election in an off-year is not without precedent, and end-of-the-first-term presidential dips in popularity are the rule not the exception, but to throw away huge majorities in both house of Congress, and to demolish the recently revived brand of the Democratic Party in less than two years, is politically unforgiveable when it is done incompetently and for no visible reason.

As long as the bulk of the old media pretended that Mr. Obama was doing an acceptable job as president, and the Congress was fulfilling the will of the people, this administration had some cover and, combined with the majority of Americans unwilling at first to admit to themselves they had made a grievous mistake in 2008, Democrats went along and continued to rationalize that everything was o.k.

Now even the old media is increasingly skeptical and critical of Mr. Obama, his cabinet, his foreign policy and his domestic legislative agenda. Once a huge draw for Democratic candidates and a dependable fundraiser for them, Mr Obama is now seemingly only welcome in inner cities where his radical brand of liberalism retains popularity. Independent voters have begun to abandon Mr. Obama big time, and suburban middle class and rural voters are following close behind.

Mr. Obama now faces two simple choices. He can continue on his current path, e.g.., sue Arizona over immigration, bail out and take over U.S. industry, press on for unfunded healthcare reform, insult and turn away from our historical allies while pandering to our enemies in the world, etc. or he can change course to a path that would be at least understandable if not more acceptable to the voting public.

Actually, he has only the latter choice. The former choice will, at some point in the near future, lead to an open revolt in his own party. I do not know if this would happen before or after the November elections. I suspect it will happen after they occur, when there is not even an iota of ambiguity about what he has done to his own party.

A political revolt will then occur in the Democratic Party, the like of which we have not seen since the 19th century. A small version this almost happened in 1980 when Jimmy Carter faced double digit inflation and interest rates, and a hostage crisis in Iran. That intraparty effort failed, although Carter went on to an historic defeat in November that ushered in a new conservative era in U.S. politics.

Mr. Obama is also trying to expand the public sector of the economy, and to increase federal governmental intrusion into questions of privacy, clear constitutional rights of the states, and even areas where government has not ever had, nor should not have, any business. Even welfare state Europe, facing the same crises we face, has turned its back on this kind of neo-Marxism, and is cutting its bloated public sectors.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

After The Summer, Comes The "Fall"

I took a month-long departure from U.S. politics to try to understand a bit about European politics. I thought I might miss something of the former in seeking the latter, but on my return, I discover almost nothing has changed in the prospects of the U.S. mid-term elections, now only four months away.

This is particularly bad news for the Democrats who have been facing an historic reversal in their electoral fortunes.

Like many others, I have been confused by President Obama’s refusal to change at least part of his political course. I have NOT been confused by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate majority Leader Harry Reid in their stubborn political death wishes in the form of radical and unpopular legislation. The latter, combined with President Obama’s amazingly weak performance as chief executive, has fueled the unpopularity and disapproval of the new administration. Pelosi and Reid, as Newt Gingrich has pointed out, are psychic prisoners of their political generation. They are old and inflexible. They are not going to change course. They are also not going to remain in the kind of power they have held for the past two years. In fact, Mr. Reid is unlikely to return to the senate next year following a probable defeat in his Nevada senate race. But a much younger President Obama faces re-election in 2012, as well as renomination, and one would think he has very high motivation to recover his popularity.

Some pundits have suggested that Mr. Obama and his coterie want to lose the 2010 election, that is, lose control of both houses, and then run in 2012 against the GOP “blockade” that results. That is, on the face of it, superficially rational, but, looking more closely, politically absurd.

First, the Republicans will make dramatic gains, but are still quite some distance from control of both houses. Second, Mr. Obama is no Bill Clinton (who did, after reversing field, pull off a comeback in 1996). Third, the Democratic program, perceived widely, according to Democratic strategist James Carville, as “socialist” has virtually zero chance of appealing to an anxious and generally conservative electorate.

We are now halfway into July. The state fairs of August aren’t far away, and the election cycle is now in high gear. The Republican Party, through Tea Party participation, is generally strengthening its electoral appeal. At same time, the Obama administration continues to fail so far in its economic measures, and the negative financial impact of Obamacare begins to be revealed.

I don’t want to suggest there is no hope for the Democrats and President Obama. They are still in control, and they still hold the pulpit. Four months, contrary to some platitudes, is not that long a time, even in politics, but it is long enough to allow for electoral reversal if the political actors do something to make their prospects better. Of course, events and history could intervene, but I don’t know how one can bet one’s political fortunes on something unpredictable, and win the bet, when predictable action so clearly improves the odds.

Summer will become autumn soon enough. As a writer, I prefer to use the word “autumn,” but this year the only appropriate word might be “fall.”

Friday, July 9, 2010

Spain vs. The Netherlands

Although most American sports fans are not paying attention to the climactic moments of the World Cup competition taking place in South Africa, most of the rest of the world is paying close attention the finals which will match Spain against The Netherlands.

Having just returned from Europe, I could not avoid these games, although my own preoccupation was in getting nightly baseball scores and how my favorite team was doing.

When it comes to Europe, incidentally, I love the way current news, even sports news, almost always brings up some historical irony, paradox or coincidence.

Five hundred years ago, this year’s match-up could not have occurred because Spain and The Netherlands were one country ruled by the same king. King Phillip II was a Spaniard who married the queen of England, thus also became king of England, lived in The Netherlands, and who came to think that the Spanish part of his vast empire was more important than the rest of his kingdom, so he moved back to Spain and heavily taxed his Dutch subjects, provoking a revolution that eventually separated the two countries.

The leader of the Dutch revolution was a man named Prince William of Orange, and after Phillip II had him assassinated, his son became king of the Netherlands. Later, he also married another royal Princess Mary of England, and so he also became king of England. The English later made a German, George I the king of England, and that Hanoverian German line of the British throne continues to this day (although the royal family had the good PR sense as the 20th century world wars with Germany approached to change the royal family name to “Windsor”).

Actually, World War I was fought mostly between large kingdoms whose heads of states were cousins. King Edward VII, the son of Queen Victoria (who had married her first cousin, a German prince), was the cousin of German Emperor Wilhelm II, the grandson of Queen Victoria. The mother of Czar Nicholas II of Russia was an English princess, and later Danish princess, and sister of Edward VII and daughter of Victoria. The Czarina Alexandra was the first cousin of Wilhelm II. Before 1914, all of these folks used to hang out together at fabulous parties during holidays at various castles, palaces and resorts owned by them or the nobility over which they presided in opulent 19th century splendor. More recently, Queen Elizabeth II, the current chief of state of the United Kingdom, married a Greek prince who was, like her, a great-great grandchild of Queen Victoria, but also directly related by blood to the last Russian czar. Even today’s heir to the British throne, Prince Charles, has married the direct descendant of the woman who was the mistress of his great-great grandfather, Edward VII.

Confused? It gets much more complicated than this. I have not even mentioned the blood relationships of the other European royal families to the Hapsburg dynasty which ruled Austria-Hungary for 300 years, and was the other large kingdom in World War I. The Hapsburgs intermarried so much that they developed their own genetic deformities. Since I know most of my readers don’t care about World Cup soccer or European royalty, I only mention this in light of the current crisis in the European Union whose leaders have been trying to advance their tentative economic cooperation into a true political union that would take away the remaining sovereignty of each member nation. If the European leaders of a century ago were closely related to each other, played and socialized with each other, and then fought some of the bloodiest wars in history against each other, what makes anyone think that the Europe of today will give up their national and cultural identities, and turn their governments over to bureaucrats? I have already suggested in previous posts that such a political union simply is not going to happen any time soon (if ever). Should any proof be needed, just try to imagine a future World Cup in which all of Europe is represented by just one team. Right now, the Flemish half of Belgium is trying to secede. The Scots are trying to break away from the United Kingdom, as are the Welsh. The Catalans have their own parliament, and would like to separate from Spain, as would the Basques. As for the former Yugoslavia, it is now broken up into numerous small independent countries, and they are still fighting. Czechoslovakia is now The Czech Republic and The Slovak Republic. There are separatist impulses in Rumania. Andorra, San Marino, Lichtenstein, Monaco, Vatican City, S.M.O.M. remain as microscopic nations placed as punctuation marks scattered throughout the continent.

The dreamers who thought up the notion of Europe as a single nation were bureaucrats who put mechanical efficiency and centralized power ahead of anything that Europeans might wish for themselves. The nations of Europe will always have an economic interdependence on each other, but language, culture and customs of a thousand years cannot, and should not, be dismissed by bureaucratic fiat.

Just look at the World Cup finals for why this is so. Aupa Espana! Hup Holland! May the better team win, and may they all come back for the next World Cup.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Back Home

As my readers have probably noted, I have been away for a month, traveling to Great Britain and The Netherlands to observe how those two countries are reacting to their recent national elections. I also spent much time going each way by ship so that I could discuss international politics with a lot more persons that I could on land.

Both plans worked out well. Although the short time I was able to spend abroad could not give me the same in-depth understanding I could have by spending more time there, I think I now have a reasonable and first-hand appreciation of political feelings in at least those two nations. Some of my conclusions and stereotypes made before the trip were changed. Because this was my fifth trip to that continent, one of which included study at the University and Madrid and extended visits to Great Britain, Italy and France, I did not have to be much of a tourist, and could spend most of my time at work.

Just as perhaps we American have much misinformation about Europe today, it became very clear to me that Europeans have some distorted views of the United States. If I thought that the U.S. media had a strongly liberal bias, I learned that the media bias in Europe, particularly in Great Britain and The Netherlands, is even more extreme. President Obama, for example, is almost universally admired, and I found Europeans were shocked to learn that his popularity is well under 50% in the U.S. today, and that he and his party are headed for major losses in the mid-term elections this coming November. Europeans are also “shocked” to learn that most Americans oppose the recently-passed Obamacare legislation. They have had “free” healthcare all of their lives, and take it for granted that government should provide it. They are also taxed at much higher rates. A lot of Americans passionately opposed President George W. Bush after September 11 led to our activity in Iraq. I thought it often became an obsession among many liberals. But in England and Holland today, the anger at George W Bush is even more widespread and obsessive. I suspect this is also true throughout Western Europe (but not necessarily so in Central and Easter Europe).

Europeans, most of whom had not yet been born when World War II ended, also have a certain amnesia about the nature of totalitarian states and their insatiable aggressive appetites. Only in Germany does any collective memory (and guilt) exist about the world wars of the 20th century.

I thought it was revealing that when, on the Queen Mary 2, I found outspoken conservatives (Tories) speaking of their admiration for President Obama until mid-voyage when Mr. Obama denounced British Petroleum for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Overnight, several of these Tories told me that they had changed their mind about him. (British Petroleum is the largest publicly-held British corporation, and most Britons, through their pension funds and stock holdings, have taken a big loss as the company’s shares have declined.) As they say, most or all politics is local…..

Europe is now undergoing, country by country, a decidedly conservative trend as conservative leaders and more conservative parliaments are winning elections. This is clearly what happened in Great Britain and The Netherlands. But to say the word “conservative” about Europe does not mean the same thing as it does in the U.S. Nevertheless, the Europeans now seem ahead of the U.S. as they take stronger and stronger measures to deal with their enormous public deficits. Swollen public employee bureaucracies are being reduced sharply, and taxes are rising. Austerity is the notion of the day. Of course, conservative economists know that the reduction of public spending is a good thing, but raising taxes at the same time is counterproductive (as was the reverse, practiced by President Bush). Lower taxes is apparently not in the European public sector DNA.

President Obama, on the other hand, is not cutting the bureaucracy and is raising public debt as well as raising taxes (as the Obamacare legislation will clearly do). So Americans have no reason to feel smug. At least the Europeans seem to realize they have to do something about their economic problems. To their credit, it is not only European officials who have become economic realists, I found most British and Dutch “persons in the street” aware of the problem, and resigned to change. Again, our Western European friends overall seem a bit ahead of us in this regard.

I suspect, however, that the European left will not allow sensible measures and public austerity to occur without demonstrations, strikes and other public expressions of their outrage and disapproval. It could be a volatile summer this year across the Pond.

But now it’s time to turn back to our own “volatile” election environment, and the mid-term elections ahead. It’s always good to be back home.