Commentary

It is not unusual for nations hosting the Olympic Games to orchestrate a false charm for visiting athletes and spectators, and most of all for the media. This typically extends to covering up graffiti and chasing the homeless from the streets. In China , host of the 2008 Beijing Games, residents tell me schools plan to open several weeks late. As has occurred with other games, some businesses are closing. China ’s twist is that it is the state forcing businesses to close, and not just near the games but nationally, to alleviate the nation’s appalling air, water and other... continue reading
Six years. That’s how long it took for the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac crisis to grow from warning sign to $25-billion bailout. In most cases, six years is ample warning. We won WWII in less time. But when The Wall Street Journal compared Fannie Mae to Enron in February, 2002, no one wanted to listen. Most of Washington had their hands too deep in the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac piggy banks to work on the problem. And though other print outlets followed the Journal, the network news shows waited until a bailout was a foregone conclusion to do much reporting. A day... continue reading
Julius Caesar’s decision to cross the river Rubicon touched off three years of bloodshed and strife that changed the Roman world. So it is (in less dramatic fashion) with the decisions Congress will make about whether and how to bail out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two Government-Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) that facilitate a majority of home mortgages in the United States. These choices will change the way the federal government interacts with financial markets for years to come. Amid concerns over the stability of Fannie and Freddie, which operate as corporations under federal charter, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson recently... continue reading
Politicians and pundits are crying about the economy, from oil prices to housing and the U.S. dollar. But they rarely pause to consider how we arrived at our situation, as they call for more government help and often for the Federal Reserve to “do something.” Two Noble Laureates, Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek, have given us some insights into what effects the Federal Reserve’s actions have had on the economy. Friedman held that attempts by the Fed to stabilize the economy were likely to have, instead, a destabilizing effect. One of the reasons he put forth for this is that... continue reading
On my desk is a book of the hundred greatest political speeches in American history. I am always struck by how harsh they were. The speeches were rough-and-tumble and politically incorrect by today’s standards. In those days, candidates could react to criticism and tailor their speeches to the audience. If a speech was reprinted in a newspaper, it would take weeks to publish and even longer for the words to be picked up across the country. In addition, newspapers acted autonomously and had very little interaction or accountability for what they wrote. Until recently, America had a large and robust... continue reading
“We’re going to scare you to death.” That’s not the advertising slogan for “Saw XVII.” It might well be the motto of modern journalism. “If it bleeds, it leads” has always been a news motto. Somewhere along the way, news went from public service announcement to slasher flick. The latest example is the attack of the killer tomatoes. All three broadcast networks covered the deadly “salmonella scare” or “tomato scare” sweeping the nation. In all, we got 20 stories and briefs on three broadcast networks – nearly 34 minutes of gripping TV about the red menace. The level of hype... continue reading
Truth, it is said, is the first casualty in war. CACI International Inc. Chairman of the Board Jack London found that out the hard way. His company went to Iraq to help the war effort. That commitment led employees to a war zone and to one of the biggest controversies of the war – Abu Ghraib. CACI ( NYSE:CAI) was caught up in the ugly episode and unfairly accused of responsibility for mistreating prisoners at the facility. One of the common errors was linking one worker at the facility to CACI though he had never worked for the firm. London... continue reading
One look at statistics – from GDP growth to the unemployment rate – and it’s obvious this isn’t the worst economic time in U.S. history. But it might be the worst journalistically. The major media give us only two degrees of economic news – close to “apocalyptic” and worse. They are so outlandishly negative that coverage of the Bear Stearns buyout was vastly worse than reporting of the 1929 stock market crash. As the stock market reeled from the Bear Stearns collapse back in March, ABC News asked: Is the “economy heading over a cliff?” Journalists made it seem so,... continue reading
The $307-billion, five-year farm bill recently passed both houses of Congress with more than the two-thirds majority necessary to override a presidential veto. The Cato Institute has estimated that the last 20 years of farm programs have cost the taxpayer more than $1.7 trillion, and there is no end in sight to the direct payment subsidies to be given to certain farmers. This mammoth piece of legislation ought to lead us to ask the question: why should the government give certain groups subsidies? Economists generally agree that the market system will yield the most efficient allocation of resources. There are,... continue reading
Angry about the price of gas? It used to be you could simply blame Bill Clinton. In December 1995, Clinton helped make sure our margin for error with oil supplies would one day be no margin at all. Clinton vetoed a budget that authorized drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Cowardly congressmen refused to overturn that veto that placed our oil security firmly in the hands of nations that hate our guts. Just this week, Congress repeated its mistake. According to the Associated Press, the Senate “rejected a Republican energy plan that calls for opening an Alaska wildlife refuge... continue reading