Lessons from the debt ceiling debate: Obama is not Phil Ivey, GOP took a small pot, and other tortured poker metaphors

From my column on TheBlaze.com

Last week I began to write a column asking: who is Phil Ivey? It was a 1,500 word, Bill-Simmons-wannabe, tortured and ultimately failed metaphor comparing the debt ceiling debate to a famous hand of Texas Hold ‘Em. In the hand, Phil Ivey (the best poker player in the world) and Paul “Action” Jackson have terrible hands, but embark on an amazing back-and-forth of bluff-bet-bluff-raise. Check it out:

The similarities to the debt ceiling negotiations are…cute. Neither Republicans or Democrats control government and therefore can’t control the hand…or…ram through their agenda. And they both knew they had to raise the debt ceiling. So, just like in the card game, they were both bluffing.

To read the rest of the column, click here.

Debt and Deficit, Politics

Paul Krugman is Right. A Downgrade Doesn’t Matter

From my column on TheBlaze.com

Trust me, I understand. This is no way to introduce yourself to The Blaze audience, but … I have to do it…because it’s true. Paul Krugman is right.

That is not a sentence I make a habit of repeating. But when Krugman says it doesn’t matter whether the ratings agencies (S&P, Moody’s, Fitch) downgrade American debt from AAA to AA … he’s right. That’s not a political thing, a partisan thing, a left-right thing, it’s just an economic reality. Let me explain.

First thing first. Let’s not pretend that S&P, Moody’s and Fitch are pillars of wisdom and foresight with a stellar record of accuracy. In fact, in the clutch they’re less Dirk Nowitzki and more LeBron James. From 2002-2007 the ratings agencies slapped AAA ratings on subprime and Alt-A securitized loans that amounted to crap and almost sunk the economy.

Secondly, the opinion of the ratings agencies are just that…opinions.

To read the entire column…click here.

Debt and Deficit, Finance

The Number That is Killing the Economy

From my CNN.com column. I’m posting the entire thing here because the chart was lost in the archiving.

New York (CNN) — This is the only number that matters: 350.

When you’re talking about the economy, start the conversation and end the conversation with the number 350. That number reflects the total debt Americans and their government owe as a percentage of the gross domestic product, the total of everything produced in the country. That number is what’s killing the U.S. economy.

Each month recently, we’ve been bombarded with bad numbers: Only 54,000 jobs added in May, unemployment at 9.1%, housing prices down 33.1%, and on and on. These numbers, though, are all symptoms. If we continue, every 30 days, to focus on these numbers — well, we’re like the doctor of an AIDS patient who can only see his patient’s lesions, pneumonia and bronchitis. Yes, each one of those can kill the patient, but he’ll never get better until you focus on the underlying disease. Debt is this economy’s AIDS. And that debt is represented by the number 350.

We spend a lot of time talking about federal government debt. But the debt I’m talking about reflects — yes, federal government debt — but also, more importantly, business and household debt. Over the past 20 years, the U.S. private sector — consumers and businesses — has taken on historic levels of debt.


Essentially this chart means that every neighbor of yours is sitting on a pile of debt (most likely living in it — in an upside down house) and can’t spend. In turn, banks are sitting on portfolios of bad debt — potential defaults — and hoarding cash. In turn again, businesses have no interest in hiring, investing or spending in a world of uncertain buyers. There’s your economic recession … stagnation … potential depression … right there.

For historical context consider this: In the 1870s, (the Long Depression) debt-to-GDP reached 166%.

In the 1930s, (The Great Depression) debt-to-GDP reached 300%.

Again, today, debt-to-GDP is 350%.

Deleveraging — or working off all that debt — is a must for the economy to move forward. Besides, it’s not like we have a choice.

A 2010 McKinsey study found that long periods of deleveraging — periods of six to seven years — followed nearly every major financial crisis since World War II. And this isn’t your everyday “credit-bubble-turned-major-financial-crisis.”

There is simply no pretty way to work off all that debt. You can print money and inflate away the debt, which won’t win you any world popularity contests.
You can take the laissez-faire approach and allow for massive defaults, which could suck the economy into depression. Or you could muddle through, hoping GDP outpaces credit growth, which could take a really long time.

Regardless, deleveraging is an enormous economic drag. So much so, that in his 1933 article “The Debt-Deflation Theory of Great Depressions,” Irving Fisher said the negative effects of debt reduction trumped all other economic factors put together. It’s the only number that matters.

We’ve already reduced the debt from 370% to 350% over the last three years. But right now, too many people are treating the recent recession as though it’s your normal, once every decade, recession. The numbers above suggest that this is not your daddy’s recession. The numbers above suggest this will be long and hard. We could start by focusing on the right number: 350.

Debt and Deficit, Finance

The Gang of Six…In 15 Minutes…In Ali Velshi’s Greenroom

(My CNN.com column)

It took U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn six months to realize the Gang of Six was dead on arrival. It took me 15 minutes.

The Gang of Six was a group of senators — three Democrats and three Republicans — who seemingly understood the nation’s debt problem required a solution beyond Republicans yelling, “No more tax revenue!” and Democrats scoffing, “Don’t you dare touch Medicare.”

It was our best hope for a solution. And, for me, it was legitimized by the presence of Coburn, an unwavering conservative from Oklahoma. But Coburn dropped out of the Gang in late April, citing Democratic resistance to reforming entitlements. I’m surprised only that it took him so long.

A few weeks ago, on and off the set of CNN’s “Your Money” with Ali Velshi, former New York Times columnist Bob Herbert and I unwittingly recreated the Gang of Six negotiations. And my experience seemingly ended the exact same way as Coburn’s.

Click here to read the rest of the column.


Post-Debate Running Diary

My column from TheBlaze.com.

My retro-diary of Monday night’s CNN GOP primary debate. (I know it’s a cheap rip-off of a Bill Simmons concept. But…but…you’re not the boss of me.)

7:54 The Pre-Game Handshakes

The candidates file-out onstage one-by-one. Romney is acting like the party host, ushering people down the greeting line, “Michelle, you’ve met Tim, right? He was governor of your state. Thanks for coming, can I get you anything to drink?” This subtle condescension is the political equivalent of bouncing up-and-down in the tunnel and screaming “We must protect this house!”

During the group photo Ron Paul looks uncomfortable. He always does. Like he doesn’t know where to place his hands.

8:01 Introductions

The opening introductions turn into a procreation competition. Pawlenty announces he has two kids. Cain tops him with two kids and three grandkids. Romney announces that he has spawned five sons and 16 grandkids. Santorum says he has seven kids. Seven! You can almost feel that he’s about to fist pump when Bachmann calmly throws down that she has five kids and 23 foster children. Everyone exhales in defeat. And then…amidst the silence Paul says, “I’ve delivered 4,000 babies.”

Read the entire column here.


Uh Oh, Your Humanitarian War May Be Racist

My column on TheBlaze.com (posted back in March)

For your consideration, I nominate “a humanitarian crises has been averted” as the most racist statement of the year. This nominee is certain to lose to Halle Berry’s old-timey-one-drop-theory or Mel Gibson’s lifetime achievement award. But, still…it should be considered.

From the outset of the “Why Are We Going to War in Libya” debate I have asked: if we are going for humanitarian purposes, why we don’t go to Ivory Coast, Congo, or Yemen? I have been told that consistency doesn’t apply to foreign policy. I have been told that the “if you don’t go everywhere, you can’t go anywhere” argument is stupid. Fine. Submitted.

So, don’t be confused, I’m not making the consistency argument here. Now, I’m just trying to figure out how we inconsistently pick where we will go to stop humanitarian crises. As Ted Koppel asked on Meet the Press this weekend, “how did Libya win the humanitarian defense sweepstakes of 2011?”

Read the rest of the column here.


Weiner Is A Sexual Deviant…But You Probably Are Too

My CNN.com column.

*****Excerpt 1******

In the last two days we learned again what we learned two weeks ago – and before that two months ago – and before that a little over two years ago. We’ll learn it again in another two months. People are sexual deviants. Damn near all people.

*****Excerpt 2*****

Because here’s the difference between these guys and your average cross-section of “normal” American men: When these guys get caught, you hear about it. Let me be clear, this isn’t to excuse Weiner or any of these men, I’m just saying don’t be so surprised, don’t be so naive, and tread a little carefully with your moralizing.

You cannot imagine what the guy in the cubicle next to you is imagining.

*****Excerpt 3*****

Sidenote: I have the hardest time understanding Weiner. I mean, I think most guys — even those committed to a faithful relationship with their wives — can understand, without excusing, the fidelity issues of some of the men listed. But sending out pictures of your excited pants to women you’ve never met? I know Weiner’s not the only one to do this; I just don’t get it.

Sidenote 2: I heard some of my favorite radio guys on KTCK The Ticket in Dallas who I heard asking why so many dudes adopt the “Jersey-Shore look” (‘roided up, tight T-shirt, jeans with designs on the pocket, chain, etc. etc.). One of the hosts noted that these clowns are almost always with hot girls. Their conclusion: it must work. That’s why guys dress that way; it works. I have to come to a similar conclusion on Weiner: it must have worked.

To read the entire column, click here.


The Right Should Denounce Trump and Palin

My CNN.com column.

The other night, having a few beers with a conservative friend, I mentioned how hacked off I was that there hadn’t been a wholesale denouncement of the likes of Donald Trump and Sarah Palin from conservative politicians and opinion-makers.

To be sure, many, many, many, many have denounced both — but I think a chorus as simple and clear as a Cee-Lo Green song is deserved. It should be unanimous and unmistakable. (The past 48 hours should make it pretty easy to dump on Trump.) My buddy, though, responded with an (almost) perfect analogy. He said:

It’s kind of like having a friend who’s engaged to a total b!@$h. Everyone knows she’s awful — everyone except your friend. Do you:

a.) Tell him she’s no good. In which case he will almost certainly kill the messenger. Pride will force him to dig in, he’ll cuss, you’ll cuss, you’ll trade “you’ve changed” insults, and the friendship will be ruined. Or…

b.) Say nothing. In which case he’ll maybe marry her, pay off her credit card debt, have a couple of kids, turn his drinking from fun to sad, and emerge seven years later divorced and a shell of his former self.

You’re in a no-win situation. It seems that either way you lose the friend. So you just sit and wait and hope he comes to his senses before it’s too late. Many conservatives find themselves trapped in that analogy, being afraid to tell their ideological soulmates what’s wrong with Palin and Trump.

To read the rest of the column, click here.


Obama Is Telling America A Fairytale

My column on CNN.com

One of these days, I want to make a list. Actually, I want to make two lists of liberal pundits, commentators and politicians.

On one, I will list all of the people who are incapable of or unwilling to have a serious discussion about the budget crisis. On the other, I will list all of the people who are simply wrong. It might look something like this:

Incapable: Joan Walsh, Ed Schultz

Simply wrong: Ezra Klein, Matt Yglesias

To understand the difference between the two lists, you need to understand the difference between “Catwoman” and “Hard Ticket to Hawaii.” You see, both movies are bad. Both are horribly written, display no character development and have incomprehensible plots. But while “Catwoman” thinks it can suck you in with fancy casting (Halle Berry … so, granted, it was a valiant effort), it ultimately leaves you pissed that you gave away $10. Meanwhile, “Hard Ticket to Hawaii,” a 1987 B movie starring four Playboy Playmates, has action sequences that are off by a couple of beats and a random snake appearance, but it’s endearing.

The difference is honesty. One group is trying to put one over on you. The other is being honest about what it’s offering. We need an honest debate about the hard choices we face in our national budget crisis, and we’re not getting it.

Click here for the rest of the column.


2012 Mel-Kiper-Style GOP Presidential Draft Rankings

From my first column on TheBlaze.com

Below is my 2012 Big Board Presidential Draft Rankings and Analysis for Team Cain. My General Manager, South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, and I have talked it over and this is who we’ll select if given the opportunity.

Note – Senator DeMint disqualified himself from the Big Board by saying that openly gay people and unmarried but sexually active women shouldn’t teach in public schools. Not, um, my style. But as a maverick political GM, who bucked the GOP establishment, and found Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Ron Johnson and more – he can GM of any of my teams.

Note 2 – Senator Jim DeMint had nothing to do with this incredibly long column.

137. John Thune, Senator from South Dakota

John Thune is what you get if you had a machine that spit out superficially perfect Republican presidential candidates. You can just imagine Karl Rove hunkered over the motherboard turning the dials to “Optimal Candidate.” Finely tailored Hickey Freeman and/or Brooks Brothers (American made, of course) suit – check. From the Heartland – check. Perfectly parted hair – check. Invokes Reagan at the right time and/or often – check.

Thune looks perfect. He superficially defines “Republican Presidential Candidate” the same way William Zabka defined 80s movie bad guy in Karate Kid, Back to School, European Vacation, etc. The problem is, I don’t know if Thune is anything more than that image.

To see the entire column, click here.