Don’t Give Up On The U.S.

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Forbes.com

If the U.S. were a stock, it would be trading at historic lows. The budget deficit is out of control, the economy is anemic and the political system is controlled by academic ideologues and Chicago hacks. Opposing them is a force largely comprised of know-nothings–to call them Neanderthals would be too complimentary.

Not surprisingly, many Americans have become pessimistic. Two in three adults now fear their children will be worse off than they are. Nearly 40% think China will become the world’s dominant power in the next 20 years, as indicated by a recent survey.

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The Green Movement’s People Problem

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Forbes.com

The once unstoppable green machine lost its mojo at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. After all its laboring and cajoling, the movement at the end resembled not a powerful juggernaut but a forlorn lover wondering why his date never showed up.

One problem is that the people of earth and their representatives don’t much fancy the notion of a centrally dictated, slow-growth world. They proved unwilling to abandon either national interest or material aspirations for promises of a greener world.

The other problem is that divisions are now developing within the green camp. There are members, like Michael Shellenger and Ted Nordhaus, who recognize the serious fall out from the “Climategate” scandal, while others, including large parts of the media claque, dismiss any such possibility. There are the corporatists aligned with big business–who will live with any agreement that allows them to exact monopoly profits–and the zealots–like Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Bill McKibben–who see Copenhagen as an affront to themselves and to our endangered planet.

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Nurturing Employment Recovery

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Forbes.com

President Obama’s quick exit from Oslo and late arrival in Copenhagen suggest he’s finally ready to shift focus from Nordic adulation and fighting climate change and diplomacy to fixing the American economy. About time. As former Clinton adviser Bill Galston observed recently, the president needs “to pivot and make 2010 the year of jobs.”

White House operatives, as well as the Democrats in Congress, know high unemployment could bring big political trouble next year. But in their rush to create new jobs, policy makers would do well to focus on the quality of jobs created over the next year and beyond.

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Is Obama Separating from His Scandinavian Muse?

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Politico.com

Barack Obama may be our first African-American president, but he’s first got to stop finding his muse in Scandinavia. With his speech for the Nobel, perhaps he’s showing some sign of losing his northern obsession.

On the campaign trail, Obama showed a poet’s sensitivity about both America’s exceptionalism and our desire to improve our country. His mantra about having “a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas” resonated deeply with tens of millions of Americans.

Obama’s more recent recasting as a politically correct Nordic seemed out of sync. His speech in Oslo – a surprising defense of American values and rle in the world – must have shocked an audience that all but the most passionate courtiers suspect he does not deserve. Read more

Capping Emissions, Trading On The Future

Whatever the results of the Copenhagen conference on climate change, one thing is for sure: Draconian reductions on carbon emissions will be tacitly accepted by the most developed economies and sloughed off by many developing ones. In essence, emerging economies get to cut their “carbon” intensity–a natural product of their economic evolution–while we get to cut our throats.

The logic behind this prediction goes something like this. Since the West created the industrial revolution and the greenhouse gases that supposedly caused this “crisis,” it’s our obligation to take much of the burden for cleaning them up.

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Obama Can Still Save His Presidency

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Forbes.com

A good friend of mine, a Democratic mayor here in California, describes the Obama administration as “Moveon.org run by the Chicago machine.” This combination may have been good enough to beat John McCain in 2008, but it is proving a damned poor way to run a country or build a strong, effective political majority. And while the president’s charismatic talent–and the lack of such among his opposition–may keep him in office, it will be largely as a kind of permanent lame duck unable to make any of the transformative changes he promised as a candidate.

If Obama wants to succeed as president he must grow into something more than movement icon, become more of a national leader. In effect, he needs to hit the reset button. Here are five key changes that Obama can implement to re-energize and save his presidency.

1. Forget the “Chicago way.” The Windy City is a one-party town with a shrinking middle class and a fully co-opted business elite. The focused democratic centralism of the machine–as the University of Illinois’ Richard Simpson has noted–worked brilliantly in the primaries and even the general election campaign. But it is hardly suited to running a nation that is more culturally and politically diverse.

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GOP Needs Economic Populism

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Politico.com

You would think, given the massive dissatisfaction with an economy that guarantees mega-bonuses for the rich and continued high unemployment, that the GOP would smell an opportunity. In my travels around the country — including in midstream places like suburban Kansas City and Kentucky — few, including Democrats, express any faith in the president’s basic economic strategy.

Ask a local mayor or chamber of commerce executive in Kentucky or Kansas City about the stimulus, and at best you get a shrug. Many feel the only people really benefiting from Obamanomics are Wall Street grandees, public employees, subsidized “green” companies and various other professional rent seekers. Read more

Let Freedom Ring: Democracy and Prosperity are Inextricably Linked

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Forbes.com

With autocratic states like China and Russia looking poised for economic recovery, it’s often hard to make the case for ideals such as democracy and rule of law. To some, like Martin Jacques, author of When China Rules, autocrats seem destined to rule the world economy.

A columnist for the Guardian, Jacques predicted that by 2050 China will easily surpass America economically, militarily and politically. The belief in the power of autocracy even extends to such leading American capitalists as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, who have nothing but high praise for what Gates enthusiastically describes as a “brand-new form of capitalism.”

Fortunately a new study released Monday by my colleagues at the Legatum Institute refutes the notion that the road to worldly riches lies in autocracy and repression. In a careful study of everything from economic opportunity, education and health to security, freedom of expression and societal contentment, the Legatum “Prosperity Index” makes a powerful case for the long-term benefits of democracy, free speech and the rule of law.

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Our Euro President

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Forbes.com

Barack Obama’s seemingly inexplicable winning of the Nobel Peace Prize says less about him than about the current mentality of Europe’s leadership class. Lacking any strong, compelling voices of their own, the Europeans are now trying to hijack our president as their spokesman.

There’s a catch, of course. In their mind, Obama deserves the award because he seems to think, and sound, like a European. In everything from global warming to anti-suburbanism to pacifism, Obama reflects the basic agenda of the continent’s leading citizens–in sharp contrast to former President George W. Bush.

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Purple Politics: Is California Moving to the Center?

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Forbes.com

You don’t have to be a genius, or a conservative, to recognize that California’s experiment with ultra-progressive politics has gone terribly wrong. Although much of the country has suffered during the recession, California’s decline has been particularly precipitous–and may have important political consequences.

Outside Michigan, California now suffers the highest rate of unemployment of all the major states, with a post-World War II record of 12.2%. This statistic does not really touch the depth of the pain being felt, particularly among the middle and working classes, many of whom have become discouraged and are no longer counted in the job market.

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