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  • Originally published 02/24/2013

    GOP Leaders are Playing Chicken with the American Economy

    The illustrious House leadership of the Republican Party. Credit: Flickr/DonkeyHotey.In recent months the U.S. economy has been gaining strength. “Weekly Jobless Claims Plunge to 5-Year Low,” announced The Huffington Post. “Home Prices Hit a Milestone,” reported The Wall Street Journal. “Consumer Sentiment Rises,” announced the New York Times.Now that progress is endangered. Republicans have been acting like it’s a great time to drive the economy into a storm.

  • Originally published 01/15/2013

    Julian Zelizer: America Lives Under the Shadow of George W. Bush

    Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of "Jimmy Carter" and of "Governing America."Although some Democrats are pleased that taxes will now go up on the wealthiest Americans, the recent deal to avert the fiscal cliff entrenches, rather than dismantles, one of Bush's signature legacies -- income tax cuts. Ninety-nine percent of American households were protected from tax increases, aside from the expiration of the reduced rate for the payroll tax.In the final deal, Congress and President Barack Obama agreed to preserve most of the Bush tax cuts, including exemptions on the estate tax.When Bush started his term in 2001, many of his critics dismissed him as a lightweight, the son of a former president who won office as result of his family's political fortune and a controversial decision by the Supreme Court on the 2000 election.

  • Originally published 01/10/2013

    We're All [Ancient] Greeks Now When It Comes to Debt

    The Parthenon from the south. Credit: Wiki Commons.Following the Peloponnesian War, Athens’ interim government borrowed 100 talents ($37 million) from the victorious Spartans. Shortly thereafter, when Athens’ democratic government returned to power, it assumed the debt incurred by the interim government and repaid the Spartans in full. This story is noteworthy as it marks one of the first discernable instances of sovereign debt. The Athenians’ timely repayment, however, is anomalous in the long history of public borrowing. Default and renegotiation of public debt is a practice nearly as old and constant as public debt itself. As the spotlight of sovereign debt returns to the Greek people -- pioneers of public debt -- it is important to recognize that throughout history governments have rarely been careful stewards of borrowed money.

  • Originally published 12/17/2012

    Thomas Jefferson's Radical Plan to Avert the Fiscal Cliff

    Those looking for guidance on how to chisel the federal debt today might re-examine how Thomas Jefferson and his Democratic-Republican party tackled the issue. Jefferson, who fought personal debt all his days, made the erasure of the federal debt his number one priority after his first election in 1800. He believed debt siphoned money from taxpayers by forcing them to pay interest, giving more funds -- and hence, power -- to bankers, who Jefferson deeply distrusted. The choice for Americans, Jefferson believed, was between “economy and liberty” and “profusion and servitude.”Jefferson understood that debt was necessary to pay for war and to invest in the public good, but he believed that “neither the representatives of a nation, nor the whole nation itself, assembled can validly engage debts beyond what they may pay in their own time....” That was a generation, according to Jefferson, and his debt reduction plan, devised by his Secretary of Treasury Albert Gallatin, was to eliminate the debt he inherited in sixteen years.

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