Monday, June 17, 2013


There are a number of domestic and international issues
competing for our attention recently, so The Prairie Editor
is going to look, in this column, at some of them in
shorter-than-usual discussions.

The newly-elected leader of Iran is being described as a
“moderate.” There is no evidence that he is truly that. A
hardliner on Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, and totally
committed to the destruction of Israel, he won by a large
margin. That could only have happened if he was
supported by the ruling mullahs. He is “moderate”
apparently only in that he will not be in-your-face
anti-American as was his predecessor, a strategy
obviously intended to soften the embargo on Iran which
has become very problematic for the Iranian economy.
There will now likely be a period of “public relations,”
but very little hope of any true change.

I am reluctant to be critical of President Obama’s moves
in Syria. It is one of those moments when U.S. interests
are few, ambiguous and opaque. Egged on by Senator
McCain and Bill Clinton (the latter projecting his regrets
about the Rwanda genocide when he was president),
Mr. Obama is taking small steps to aid the rebels who
are a hodgepodge of various local Syrian groups, most
of which are anti-American or otherwise extremist. As
others have pointed out, the present Syrian conflict is
not a “holocaust,” but really a civil war with high
casualties. It might seem “heartless” for the U.S. to
stay out of this conflict, but it is more likely that we
have nothing to gain, and something to lose, by
intervening. Neither Mr. McCain nor Mr. Clinton are
serving U.S. interests by nagging the president to engage
in this civil war.

President Obama’s popularity, as measured by major
polls, is in a significant decline, Most of this is
probably attributable to the recent “scandals”
involving his administration, particularly the
alleged abuses by the Internal Revenue Service, and
the admitted widespread surveillance by the agencies
of the justice department and intelligence community
beyond normal national security needs. The president
has recovered from such declines before, although his
prospects ahead might be even more problematic,
particularly (as I have been saying for three years now)
when the full force of the Obamacare law hits virtually
every American in the next several months. At their
outset, these and other “scandals”were supposed to
go away, many in the media said, and be forgotten, but
that does not seem so far to be occurring.

The special U.S. senate elections this year, one in New
Jersey and another in Massachusetts, do not seem
likely to produce upsets. In New Jersey, Newark Mayor
Cory Booker is way ahead in the polls, and is almost
certain to be elected in October. Those who know Mr.
Booker best suggest that he will become almost
instantly a national Democratic figure, and potentially
even a 2016 presidential candidate. (Skeptics of such a
prospect need to be reminded that a certain recent
and successful presidential candidate was nominated
with much less political experience.) In Massachusetts,
there is more suspense about the outcome, primarily
because the heavily favored Democratic nominee, Ed
Markey, is a flawed statewide candidate; and the
Republican nominee, Gabriel Gomez, is an attractive,
albeit inexperienced, newcomer. Polls of this race
vary, but Markey’s advantage in this very liberal state
is considerable, including his campaign finance
advantage. If Mr. Markey somehow were upset in this
race, it would signal that the Democratic brand was
indeed in very big trouble.

An interesting contrast is emerging in the public
policies of two adjoining midwestern states which
usually behave in a similar fashion. Minnesota and
Wisconsin make up two of the three states I have
previously named as the political mega-state
“Minnewisowa” (the third is Iowa). With similar
climate, geography, history, demographics, and
agriculture, these states have been bastions of
alternating conservative and populist impulses in
recent years. In 2012, however, Minnesota moved
distinctly to the left with a liberal governor and
legislature, This has resulted in many new taxes
and fees, more regulations, higher government spending,
special favors to public unions, and various attempts
to redistribute wealth in the state. In next-door
Wisconsin, however, a conservative governor and
legislature has resulted in lower taxes, fewer regulations,
reduced state spending and curbs on public labor unions.
It will be interesting to observe the outcomes of these
two very different public policy approaches on the
economy of these states. So far, the “experiment” in
Wisconsin, like similar conservative approaches in
Indiana, Ohio, Virginia, Florida, Michigan (not counting
bankrupt Detroit), Louisiana and Texas, seems to be
working, and the”experiment” in Minnesota is
producing a negative backlash. But we will know more
after each of these governors run for re-election next

Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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