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The border is not the problem

the economistVie, 21/11/2014 - 06:03

BARACK OBAMA gives a good speech: that much is clear. For your British correspondent, inured to the lazy xenophobic rhetoric of his country’s politicians, it is hard not to be uplifted by the president’s appeal to Americans to accept immigrants as equals. Giving the example of a brilliant young girl from Nevada, he asked Americans: “Are we a nation that kicks out a striving, hopeful immigrant… or are we a nation that finds a way to welcome her in?” A British politician would never ask such a question, for fear that the answer would be “nope, kick her out.”

But, for all of the inspiring rhetoric Mr Obama produces, his speech underlined the way all politicians seem to approach immigration in broadly the same way, regardless of where they are from. For example, take the obsession with borders. The very first thing that Mr Obama said that he has done is tighten border security: “Today, we have more agents and technology deployed to secure our southern border than at any time in our history.” This supports the common idea–reinforced by Republican complaints—that most illegal immigrants smuggle themselves over the border....Continue reading

Those huddled masses

the economistJue, 20/11/2014 - 20:37

LET'S put aside the political, legal and constitutional implications of the executive action on immigration that the president will announce tonight for a moment and look at the problem that Barack Obama is trying to address. Here are all the numbers you need to have a well-informed argument about illegal immigration and deportation in America.

The Pew Research Center puts the number of illegal immigrants in America at 11.3m. If they were all in a single state it would be America's eighth largest by population, just behind Ohio. As the chart below shows, this is not a new phenomenon. Though Mr Obama's political opponents accuse him of being lax on immigration, the big increases took place before he took office.

 

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Selective empathy

the economistMié, 19/11/2014 - 06:57

WITH the latest legal challenge to Obamacare coming to their courtroom in early 2015, and with arguments over same-sex marriage likely to follow, the nine justices will soon decide whether to roll back rights and benefits that millions of Americans already enjoy. Cancelling tax subsidies for some 5m low-income Americans or stripping gays and lesbians of a right to wed in dozens of states would fuel the ultimate summertime rewrite of “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.”

Such rulings would be stunning, but not out of place for the most conservative Supreme Court we have witnessed in decades. But they may point to a deeper problem in the Court, says Dahlia Lithwick in the New Republic. The justices, she argues, are no longer...Continue reading

Lighting the fuse

the economistMar, 18/11/2014 - 18:15

WHEN I was a correspondent for The Economist in Brazil, people still occasionally used the phrase "deu no New York Times" (it was in the New York Times) to mean that something was undoubtedly true. The fallout from the Times’s story about Barack Obama’s mooted executive action on immigration reminded me of this, even though it seems a presidential directive is not quite imminent. There is talk now of delaying it until after a budget is passed in December. Yet the story's appearance in the Grey Lady substantiates suspicions that the president is seriously considering a turn borrowed from the Guy Fawkes manual for dealing with parliamentarians.

The proposed move has been described as “poisoning the well”. Mitch McConnell, the next Majority Leader of the Senate, has likened it to “waving a red flag in front of a bull''. But you don’t need a dramatic analogy to grasp that a sweeping executive action on immigration would probably lead to a...Continue reading

I wanna take your hand

the economistLun, 17/11/2014 - 18:48

IF ALL you need is love, as the Beatles say, perhaps it makes sense that a shrinking share of Americans are even bothering with marriage. In 1960 85% of American adults had been wed at least once; last year just 70% could say the same. Young people are proving particularly reluctant to try: 28% of men aged between 25 and 34 in 2010—and 23% of women—will not yet have tied the knot by 2030, according to estimates from the Pew Research Centre, a think-tank.

There are several reasons for this change in marriage trends. More women are working outside the home, and for fairer pay, so a husband is no longer a meal ticket. And attitudes to cohabitation have shifted: almost a quarter of young adults now live with a partner. Given the exorbitant costs of both weddings and divorces in America, living "in sin" seems increasingly sensible, particularly for the many youngsters who are now drowning in college debt.

But while a larger proportion of Americans are shying away from saying “I do”, those that have done it before remain keen to do it again. Last year 40% of new marriages included at least one...Continue reading

Japan

Tom PetersLun, 17/11/2014 - 14:35

For a two-day event in Japan, Tom chose as his topic “Re-imagine Excellence.” On the 16th of November, he expanded that to “Innovate or Perish,” and on the 17th, his concentration was on “Talent, Value Added, and More.” You are invited to download the PPTs he used: 16 Nov, Japan, Re-imagine Excellence: Innovate or Perish […]

The post Japan appeared first on Tom Peters.

Drafting laws, maps and vows

the economistJue, 13/11/2014 - 00:53

TWO years ago Obamacare survived a constitutional assault by the narrowest of margins, but its opponents have not given up. On November 7th the Supreme Court agreed to hear another challenge which, if upheld, could gut the president’s health-care law.

In King v Burwell the challengers are demanding that Obamacare be enforced as it was written. Since it was badly written—Congress passed a shoddy and confusing first draft, which Barack Obama signed—this could cause problems. The law specifies that subsidies will be available to people who buy their health insurance on an exchange “established by the State”. At the time, Democrats assumed that the states would all set up exchanges, but 27 refused to do so. Mr Obama got round this by setting up a federal exchange and offering subsidies through that, too. The plaintiffs say such subsidies are illegal.

The administration argues that Congress never intended to doom its own law with a four-word time bomb. Over 5.4m Americans have bought their policies via federal exchanges. If the justices strike down their subsidies, millions could lose coverage, or have to pay more for it out of their own pockets. The court will hear the case early next year and...Continue reading

Spare the rod

the economistMié, 12/11/2014 - 19:10

GEORGE STEWART’S teacher in Jamaica used to wait by the school door with a switch to punish tardy pupils. His parents whipped him, too. Now he lives in the Bronx and refuses to hit his own children. “I don’t think beating works,” he says. “It instils in them a cruelty that they pass down, generation to generation.”

Ample evidence backs his view, say Richard Reeves and Emily Cuddy of the Brookings Institution, a think-tank. Nearly 30 studies from various countries show that children who are regularly spanked become more aggressive themselves, as both children and adults. They are also more likely to be depressed or take drugs, even after correcting for other factors.

Smacking is effective in the short run: it stops children pulling their sisters’ hair. But in the long run it has all sorts of bad effects. A study in 20 American cities, published in the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2013, found that young children in homes with little or no spanking showed swifter cognitive development than their peers. Other studies find that children in physically punitive schools perform worse.

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Difficult transitions

the economistMié, 12/11/2014 - 02:05

FOR around 550 American servicemen, today marks the start of something new: a return to civilian life. That is the number of veterans who leave the military every day, on average. As America draws down from a decade of remote warfare, the armed forces are expected to shed nearly 250,000 soldiers a year over the next five years. Some of these men and women will return wounded in some way. Most will face the challenge of finding a new job and learning new skills.

The government is trying to help. The Defence Department, the Labour Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs have worked to upgrade the programme that prepares soldiers for the rigours of life at home. Everyone leaving the military is now required to go through "Transition GPS", a days-long course that teaches soon-to-be veterans how to prepare a resume and apply for jobs. The goal is to help them translate their battlefield skills into something that works in a cubicle.

Promisingly, companies are eager to hire former servicemen. Employers...Continue reading

A phoenix emerges

the economistVie, 07/11/2014 - 23:47

“THERE is an exciting feeling of a new beginning,” says John Pottow, a bankruptcy expert at the University of Michigan. After years of decline that ended in disaster when Detroit filed for bankruptcy last year, one of America’s biggest cities has been given a new lease of life. Today Steven Rhodes, a bankruptcy judge, approved Detroit’s plan for the adjustment of debts that will allow the city to slash $7 billion of unsecured liabilities off its $18 billion debt mountain.

Detroit has a long history of mismanagement. But the handling of its bankruptcy so far has been a textbook example of efficiency and pragmatism. Much of the credit for getting Detroit back on track in less than 16 months must go to Kevyn Orr, the bankruptcy lawyer appointed by the state of Michigan to sort out the mess. Mr Orr had the powers of a “benevolent dictator”, says Mr Pottow, and he used them well. Under the agreement both pensioners and bond holders will take pain, albeit at varying degrees. The pensions of retirees will be cut by 4.5% and the cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) will go. Retirees from the police force and the fire brigade will have to live...Continue reading

Two depressing thoughts

the economistVie, 07/11/2014 - 23:06

HERE are two depressing thoughts for Americans who fear that money is killing their democracy, and who pin their hopes on campaign-finance reform saving the day. The first comes from some back-of-an-envelope maths, spurred by a press release from the estimable folk at the Brookings Institution who track campaign spending.

As Brookings announced:

Totaling more than $111,000,000.00, the 2014 North Carolina Senate contest between Kay Hagan and Thom Tillis is the most expensive Senate election in the nation’s history (not adjusted for inflation).

Their report then listed the ten costliest Senate races in 2014. The numbers towards the bottom of the top ten, in the $50m range, rang a bell in Lexington’s memory, reaching back to the days, a few years back, when I wrote the Bagehot column on British politics.

Campaign spending is tightly regulated in Britain, along with other forms of free speech (broadcasters are still required to demonstrate...Continue reading

Can decency be regulated?

the economistVie, 07/11/2014 - 16:13

“I'M HARASSED when I smile and I’m harassed when I don’t. I’m harassed by white men, black men, Latino men. Not a day goes by when I don’t experience this,” says Shoshana Roberts, the subject of a much-discussed video on street harassment by the non-profit Hollaback!. The video, “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman”, records over one hundred instances of verbal harassment: “How you doing today?” “Smile!” “Hey, beautiful.” “If I give you my number, would you talk to me?”

The two-minute video has been watched nearly 40m times. Many women apparently identify with Ms Roberts’s experience. Street harassment is common, especially in urban settings, and some find it oppressive: a threatening, daily reminder of their vulnerability. To avoid it, many women say they change their routes, behaviour, transportation or dress. Hollaback! and other activists are calling for an end to...Continue reading

Closer to crunch time for gay marriage

the economistVie, 07/11/2014 - 12:35

LAST month, the Supreme Court confounded the nation by refusing to hear seven cases that would have clarified whether same-sex marriage is a constitutional right. With yesterday’s 2-1 ruling from the Sixth Circuit Court upholding four state bans on gay marriage, the Supremes may find it hard to stay mum on the issue much longer. We now have a “circuit split”—a disagreement among federal appeals courts as to whether state bans comport with the Constitution—and only the nine berobed justices can resolve the clash. Depending on how the losing parties respond to the setback, America’s highest court may settle the matter as early as next June.

Jeffrey Sutton, the Sixth Circuit judge who wrote the 42-page...Continue reading

Stumbling blocks

the economistJue, 06/11/2014 - 11:52

ACCORDING to some civil-rights groups, voting on Tuesday was a bit of a mess. Changes to voting laws in more than a dozen states caused confusion, frustration, long lines and turned-away voters. Some people arrived at the polls in Texas without a valid photo-ID, while others in North Carolina were sent packing even though the state’s voter-ID law doesn’t take effect until 2016. Thousands of voters called hotlines complaining about inaccurate voter rolls, malfunctioning machines and bewildering new rules. Some volunteers at polling stations were reportedly just as flustered as everyone else.

Such complaints are unsurprising. America wins few awards for administering orderly and streamlined elections. The way citizens register and vote is “still in the dark ages in many ways,” says Wendy...Continue reading

Republicans on a roll

the economistJue, 06/11/2014 - 00:18
 THE Republican Party was disciplined and united. Voters were dismayed at the state of America, made acute by collapsing public confidence in Barack Obama. As a result, the Republicans seized control of the Senate in mid-term elections on November 4th, taking as many as eight seats from Democrats. Another, in Louisiana, is likely to fall their way after a run-off election in December. That will leave Republicans with a haul that still falls short of the 60-seat super-majority needed to pass laws without Democratic support. Republicans increased their majority in the House of Representatives and pulled off stunning wins in governors’ races, not just in the conservative heartlands but in such Democratic bastions as Maryland. It was an unhappy, angry election. Two-thirds of voters told exit polls the country was on the wrong track. Hefty majorities expressed dissatisfaction or anger at the job performance not only of Mr Obama, but also of both parties and Congress. Excuses can and will be offered by Democrats for their thumping. Some of the closest Senate races involved...Continue reading

Clear winners

the economistMié, 05/11/2014 - 17:29

“THIS has been a wild ride,” said David Perdue, the Republican winner of Georgia’s open US Senate seat, to 400 supporters in a smart Atlanta hotel late last night. “I’ll work every day to turn your trust into results,” he added, promising “I’m trying to make America a better place for our kids and grandkids.” Women in heels and men in suits toasted Republican success, then filed out quietly soon after the victor left the stage.

In similarly grand ballrooms elsewhere in the state, the mood was less festive. Democrats had a tough night. Both Michelle Nunn, Mr Perdue’s defeated opponent, and Jason Carter, a gubernatorial candidate (and the son of former president Jimmy Carter), presided over gatherings that were heavy with disappointment and fatigue.

Fears that Libertarian candidates in the two top contests would force runoffs proved unfounded. In both races the Republicans won soundly, and by the same proportions. Mr Perdue and Nathan Deal, the incumbent governor, each scooped 53% of votes against 45% garnered each by Ms Nunn and Mr Carter. 

Approximately 2.5m Georgians voted, a figure similar to...Continue reading

Meet the majority

the economistMié, 05/11/2014 - 08:04

THE results are not counted and, in Alaska, they may not be for a while—but that does not matter. Republicans have their majority. The party needed a net gain of six and started with three in the bag. By the time Colorado was called for Cory Gardner it looked like there would only be one winner. The scale of the victory now looks impressive. The GOP held on in Kansas, where Pat Roberts faced a strong challenge from Greg Orman, an independent, and won in North Carolina, where the speaker of the statehouse, Thom Tillis, beat Kay Hagan. Washington's herdlike political reporters (this one included) failed to notice there was a tight race on their doorstep in Virginia, where but for the presence of a libertarian candidate on the ballot Ed Gillespie might have beaten Mark Warner, the incumbent.

Democrats can rightly point to a map that did their side no favours—all but one state in what was once the Confederacy chose a Senator on November 4th (Florida is the odd one out)—and to the woeful mid-term results in the past from the party that held the presidency. Yet Democrats also lost in some places the party thinks of as its backyard: Maryland...Continue reading

The Republicans win the Senate

the economistMié, 05/11/2014 - 06:25

In a dismal night for the Democrats, the Republicans have swept the Senate elections to take control of the chamber. A map with the results can be found on our Graphic detail blog here

Eager for change, hold the hope

the economistMié, 05/11/2014 - 00:25

TO ADAPT Barack Obama’s old campaign motto, Americans voting today sound desperate for change, but few hold out much hope that this election will provide it. Your columnist is in Louisville, where the senior senator from Kentucky, Mitch McConnell, will soon learn whether he has kept his seat, and—as results flood in from around the country—whether he is the new Majority Leader of a Republican-controlled Senate. As the first polls close in the state, it looks very likely that Mr McConnell will be delivering a victory speech tonight.

Earlier on Election Day Lexington headed to four polling stations, two in fairly conservative suburbs and two in deep-blue Democratic territory. This is a blog posting, not a polished column: a snapshot of one place on one day. But some consistent themes jumped out. 

First, voters who can be bothered to drive to school gymnasiums, fire houses and church halls to cast ballots in today’s races are an unusually motivated bunch, and more partisan than the folk this reporter encountered at the polls on Election Day in 2012, when the top job was also up for grabs. This is fairly typical for...Continue reading

Video: Tom on Mittelstand

Tom PetersMar, 04/11/2014 - 19:34

Tom recently had a chance to talk to CNBC on a subject that’s dear to him: Germany’s Mittelstand. Medium-sized companies that are a driving force in the economy. He’s been a champion of the phenomenon for years, so it’s good to see that others are joining the discussion. Watch the video to get in on […]

The post Video: Tom on Mittelstand appeared first on Tom Peters.

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