How to Remain the Number One Economy as China Ascends to Number Two


The news that China’s GDP will surpass Japan’s this year, making China the world’s number two economy, raises important issues for the United States.   There’s no prospect of China taking over our number one slot anytime soon:  Even in our present shape, the American economy will produce at least $14.3 trillion in goods and services this year, compared to China’s $5.3 trillion.  But the Sino-Japanese shakeup in global economic rankings is a sign that we have to raise our game.

The lesson here comes less from China’s ascendance than from Japan’s decline.  Twenty years ago, Japan had racked up 30 years of extraordinarily rapid growth – just as China has today – and scaremongers predicted that Japan would soon overtake us.  Yet, Japan’s good times ended abruptly in 1991, ushering in two decades of economic stagnation.  The origins of Japan’s long downward slide should be all too familiar to Americans, since it began with the sudden collapse of a huge real estate and stock market bubble, which then triggered a banking crisis and deep recession.  

Sweden had a financial meltdown the same year as Japan; yet Sweden put together a new policy consensus around economic liberalization, and the Swedish economy came roaring back within three years.  On the other side of the world, Japan suffered year-after-year of policy mistakes and paralysis by the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party, and the result was two decades of economic languish.  Moreover, the particulars of Japan’s decline should be an object lesson for our own public officials: Hemmed in by powerful interests and an irresponsible opposition, the LDP couldn’t bring itself to clean up Japanese banks or fix the country’s housing market, much less undertake deeper economic reforms to prepare Japanese businesses and workers for the intense competition of globalization.  So, Japan was left instead with years of financial-sector weakness that limited business investment – sound familiar? – especially for the new enterprises that drive technological innovation and job creation.

As Japan continued to falter economically, the LDP spent trillions of yen on new public projects – and invested almost nothing in reforming their economic policies or upgrading the skills of Japanese workers, especially millions of Japanese women consigned to positions with no future in a modern, idea-based economy.  The result has been the country’s prolonged economic stagnation, and faltering competitiveness even for its global companies.  From 1990 to 2005, for example, Japan’s share of the world market in producing high-tech goods collapsed from 24 percent to less than 15 percent.

The question for the United States is whether our own political system has the capacity to address the challenges here which echo Japan from a generation ago.  We may not face the prospect of a national economic reversal as severe as Japan’s, and our world-class corporations should continue to prosper.  Yet we face serious challenges of our own which, if left unaddressed by Washington, could consign a majority of ordinary Americans to economic stagnation for a long time.

At the top of this catalog of challenges are jobs, because the storied capacity of America’s companies to create new jobs has eroded badly.  In the Bush expansion of 2002-2007, our private sector generated less than half as many net new jobs, relative to growth, as it did in the Clinton expansion of the 1990s, the Reagan expansion of the 1980s, and even the Carter expansion of the mid-to-late-1970s.  The best policy response here is to reduce the cost to businesses of creating those new jobs.  And we know just how to do that – cut the employer’s payroll tax burden for net new hires, and slow future increases in the health care costs which employers have to pay.

The outstanding question is whether Washington can raise its game and enact these kinds of reforms.  Let’s frame the political challenge in the terms that have dogged economic reform in Japan for so long.  Can congressional Republicans accept a tax increase, even one designed to fund a corresponding payroll tax cut?  Optimally, the tax increase could contribute something on its own – for example, a carbon fee that also would help address issues of energy security and climate change.  For the other side of the aisle, can Democrats support a tax cut for business, even if it’s the most effective way to spur job creation?  Similarly, can Republicans swallow hard and support more regulation of our broken health care market, in order to reduce costs for business – and are Democrats prepared to trim federal outlays for powerful health-care interests if doing so will ultimately help create jobs and raise wages? 

Here’s another challenge we have to meet in order to avoid a version of Japan’s fate: Restore higher levels of domestic savings to support higher levels of both private investment and public investments, especially in education and training, and in 21st century infrastructure including universal broadband and a modern electricity grid.  We know, after two generations of trying, that tax breaks aren’t enough to convince most Americans to save more: Since the 1990s, we’ve provided generous tax breaks in various forms that cover 80 percent of all personal saving, to no avail.  The only certain way to raise national savings, it appears, is to reduce public dissaving by lowering budget deficits.

Facing a slow economy that could go on for a long time, can Republicans accept cuts in defense spending – even with Secretary Robert Gates’ blessing – and measures to expand revenues?  Ronald Reagan, of course, took the same two difficult steps a generation ago; but he was more willing to compromise, it seems, than many of his current-day followers.  Across the aisle, will Democrats vote for measures that expand revenues from those they don’t call “rich,” even gradually, along with initiatives to trim future Medicare and Medicaid costs in part by trimming benefits?  

Stating these challenges so directly exposes the political difficulties.  But we should know by now what can happen eventually when a wealthy country – one like Japan – loses the political will to raise its’ game.  


Japanese Ambassador to Address NDN Tomorrow, 4/7 - Join Us

I am excited to invite you to a special event we are putting on tomorrow, admist the blossoming cherry trees here in the District - a speech by the Japanese Ambassador to the United States reflecting on the 50th Anniversary of our historic security alliance. 

Having recently visited Japan I want to encourage you to attend, watch live on-line, or send on to others you think might be interested.   The winds of political change are blowing strong in Japan.  A relatively new political party, the Democratic Party of Japan, won last year's general election, and unseated the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan, who had been in power for over 50 years.  New leaders and new political ideas are on the table now in Japan, a country who has been the cornerstone of our geopolitical strategy in Asia for decades.

So while it is time to celebrate our historic and successful Alliance with the world's 2nd largest economy, it is may also be time to renew, update and modernize our approach to a nation who like the United States is working to update its traditional approaches to the fast-changing world of the 21st century. 

So, please join us tomorrow at noon at NDN in DC or on the site live for what will be an interesting and important dialogue with an accomplished and thoughtful diplomat, Ichiro Fujisaki, the Ambassador of Japan to the United States of America.

Japan PM To Offer New Plan on Base Relocation

When in Japan last week, the news was dominated by a single issue - the new government's struggle to find a path on a long planned relocation of American troops on and from Okinawa Island. It is a complex issue, and one I won't try to explain now, but the Times is reporting that Prime Minister Hatoyama has publically committed to offer a plan to the US next week:

TOKYO — Japan’s prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, said Wednesday that he wanted to present concrete proposals to President Obama next week in hopes of ending a growing rift between his new government and Washington over an American military air base in Okinawa.

Mr. Hatoyama did not disclose the content of the proposals, which he and members of his cabinet appeared to be still working out at the prime minister’s residence. Mr. Hatoyama said he may seek a meeting with Mr. Obama during the climate change conference in Copenhagen to relay the proposals directly to him.

In particular, it remained unclear if the proposals would seek to significantly alter a 2006 deal to relocate Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from the middle of the city of Ginowan to a less populated part of Okinawa.

Mr. Hatoyama, who took office three months ago, is under political pressure in Japan to fulfill campaign pledges to move the base off Okinawa, if not out of Japan altogether. But Washington has adamantly opposed changing the current deal, which is part of a broader, laboriously negotiated agreement to move about 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam.

The discord over the base’s relocation has emerged as the most contentious topic in the countries’ increasingly tense relationship. Recent comments by some Japanese cabinet members, however, seem to reflect a growing sense of urgency to prevent the Futenma issue from causing a serious rupture in the relationship with the United States, Japan’s longtime protector.

Political analysts have said the dispute highlights the lack of communication between Tokyo and Washington after an election victory in August by Mr. Hatoyama’s Democratic Party ended a half-century of leadership by the pro-American Liberal Democrats.

Fears of a rupture seemed to increase this week after Japan’s foreign minister, Katsuya Okada, announced Tuesday that talks over the Futenma issue had been suspended. A Japanese official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with the news media, said American negotiators had become irritated by Mr. Hatoyama’s delays in making a decision on the issue.

The handling of the Futenma issue has become an early and important test of the new government and its Prime Minister.  Whatever the final outcome, the new team has come off looking very indecisive and undisciplined.  Each morning last week we woke to news reports of different ministers offering competing and often contradictory positions on Futenma.  As a veteran of politics, I was astonished how their daily statements was keeping the story alive, and reinforcing the conflict with the US in the Japanese media.  On this issue, the new Hatoyama government has very much looked like a party new to power, struggling to find its way, caught in a political trap of their own making, and stumbling in their public management of it all.  All on arguably the single most important bilateral relationship and security matter the country has. 

So this new commitment to resolve the issue quickly is a critical early test for the new Prime Minister and his very popular government.   Solve it and they will look strong, decisive, ready to lead.  Letting this linger will likely begin to erode the DPJ's popularity, particularly as the country prepares next year to celebrate the 50 year anniversary of the very successful, extraordinary security alliance with the United States.  There will be no way to ignore this issue now, sweep it under the rug, change the subject.  A better path must be found, and this story this am is welcome news for the Alliance and the new government of Japan.

Feel free to review the blog over the past few days to find other observations from my week long trip to Tokyo and Kyoto sponosored by the Tokyo Foundation (which is still keeping me mighty jet-lagged).

Leaving Japan Now. Some More Impressions.

At the Kansai airport outside Osaka now, heading home.  Been just about a week since I came to Japan, and it is been a rewarding, productive and inspirational trip.  I was fortunate enough to spend the last few days in Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan, and a truly incredible place.  I toured the shrines and temples of Eastern Kyoto these last few days with great enthusiasm, perhaps finding the Buddhist Zen temple, Nanzen-Ji the most compelling.  Since studying eastern religions in my teens I have always wanted to come to Kyoto, and I was in no way disapointed.   I hope I can return, with my whole family, someday.  

I leave with many impressions.  First the fun stuff.  The automatic taxi doors, the outdoor vending machines everywhere serving so much, the running of the gauntlet of "good mornings" in the hotel lobby, the excellence of the food, coffee, beer and even single malt scotch, the ambitious toilets, the almost comical complexity of the Tokyo subway system map, the modernity of Tokyo, the beauty and grace of old Kyoto, the intensity of the two handed business card delivery.  

More seriously, Japan, like so many other places I've traveled of late (and of the US too), seems to be struggling to chart a new course for itself.  It has achieved so much since the American occupation ended in 1952, becoming a thoroughly modern state, the world's 2nd largest economy, a regular World Cup participant, and home of the most successful automobile company, Toyota  Its cuisine is known all over the world, as are its global brands of Sony, Panasonic, Honda and more.  The Yankees' World Series MVP this year was Japanese.  And finally, by giving a 2nd political party power this year after more than 50 years of LDP rule, Japan has also become an even more complete democracy.  All of this from a medium-sized nation of several islands, living not far, and increasingly in the shadow of, rising China. 

America needs to listen carefully to the clumsy debate happening in Japan today over its bases on Okinawa island. While much can be made of the Democratic Party of Japan's struggle to manage this complex issue, something deeper I think is really going on here.  There is a restlessness with the old order in Japan today, one that has produced too much debt, not enough broad-based growth, and way too much government arrogance.  With much higher education and income levels, much higher level of access to basic information, the Japanese people are doing what many others in the world are doing today - demanding a better, more modern, more open and accountable government, one more focused on the struggles and concerns of every day people than on back-room deals or the decisions of an opaque bureaucratic elite. America must be very careful not to become an inhibitor of this process, particularly as it is very much in alignment with the global vision of President Obama.  

Need to go catch my plane.  More soon.  Want to share more on this sense of "restlessness" I am feeling with many countries I've visited of late. 

More on the US-Japanese Alliance

Tokyo - This morning's International Herald Tribune/Asahi Shimbun ran a very good story by Martin Fackler on US-Japanese relations.  It comports with what I've been learning/hearing from my many meetings here.  It begins:

Two months after taking power, Japan’s new leadership is still raising alarms in the United States with its continued scrutiny of the countries’ more than half-century-old security alliance. But this reconsideration is not a pulling away from the United States so much as part of a broader, mostly domestic effort to outgrow Japan’s failed postwar order, say political experts here.

More important, the analysts say, these stirrings may also be the first signs of something that both Tokyo and Washington should have had years ago: a more open dialogue on a security relationship that has failed to keep up with the changing realities in Japan and, more broadly, in Asia.

Read here for more.

Reporting in From Japan

Had a productive first full day in Tokyo yesterday. Met with two leading members of the Japanese Diet, one from each of the two main parties (DPJ and LDP), and covered a great many issues.   The photo to the left is of me and Shoichi Katayama of the Tokyo Foundation, who along with Dr. Fumiaki Kubo, has put my trip together.  Afterwards I was able to tour the beautiful campus of the University of Tokyo and led a seminar for students of American politics there.  Ended the night with a wonderful dinner with Dr. Kubo and several members of the influential think tank here, Asian Forum Japan. I am, needless to say, learning a great deal at a time of siginifcant political foment and change here in Japan.

Some initial observations:

- Absent some significant blunder, the newly in power Democratic Party of Japan appears to be in a very strong position for the short and medium term, and is likely to take over the Upper House in next year's elections.  They are aggressively attacking some of the LDP's sacred political cows, shaking up politics here more than it has been shaken up in perhaps half a century.  It feels like a transitional moment, from one political era to the next, with the DPJ in control but not quite yet on an even keel.

- As Rob Shapiro and other analysts have noted, it is important for America to be following what is happening in this economy, the 2nd largest in the world.  While not directly analogous to what is happening in the United States, the lack of income growth, overall slugishness of this mature, developed economy and a newly elected political party not yet exactly sure what to do next to revive broad-based prosperity reminds me a bit of the debate at home.   The Times/Herald Tribune has this piece today looking at the latest move by the Bank of Japan to increase lending and investment.  Our two large, technologically advanced, global, mature economies may have more in common than either country would like to admit, suggesting greater collaboration opportunities in the future.

- Finally, the Hatoyama Administration's review of the US-Japan relationship.  I will have more to say about this in coming days, but there can be no doubt that the DPJ is raising fundamental questions about this long and successful alliance that have perhaps not been raised in the last 50 years.  This is a complex issue, and feels like in the end, if handled well by all involved, could result in a strong affirmation of our powerful alliance with our old and good friend here on this remarkable island nation.  Of course it could end up otherwise too.  But it is clear the new Party is putting some important issues on the table here and intend to have a substantive conversation about whether Japan needs to recalibrate its foreign policy in a changing world.  It will be important for American policy makers, led by our able Ambassador here, John Roos, to be significantly engaged in this important debate in the months and perhaps years ahead. 

More meetings today.  Will report in later on.

In Japan, Busy Days Ahead

Have landed in Japan on my Tokyo Foundation sponsored trip, and already held an informative dinner with several professors of American politics here, led by my host and good friend, Dr. Fumiaki Kubo. 

It certainly is an interesting time to be here, home of the world's second largest economy, as a political observer.  The Japanese economy is deflating, the Yen is rising, the Democratic Party of Japan is in its first few months in power after decades of LDP rule, the rise of China is on everyone's mind, and the DPJ is attempting to recalibrate Japan's old and deep relationship with the United States.  Like in the US, and perhaps all across the world, the winds of change are blowing forcefully here in Japan.  

In the next several days I will be giving several talks on American politics and meeting with leaders of both political parties.   Just finished up breakfast at Hotel Okura and am off to my first set of meetings of the day aided by my Japanese sherpa here, Shoichi Katayama.  More soon.

Heading to Japan at the End of the Month

Thanks to a major foundation in Japan I am off to visit Tokyo and Kyoto at the very end of the month.  While there I will be giving a series of talks about American government and politics, and meeting with politicians, academics, business leaders and the members of the media.  I am looking forward to it of course, and will provide more details as we get them.  I think there will be a public event or two on the schedule which would allow folks in the NDN network to invite friends of theirs in Japan to come by and join the conversation.   

So, two things.  First thoughts on things I should do while there? Sites, restaurants, places of historical significance?  Books or articles I should read to prepare?  Please let me know. 

Second, just a big thank you to the members of NDN who have helped make this trip possible.  In the last two years I have visited Mexico twice, Chile, Great Britain and Israel.  All of these trips have incredibly informative for me and NDN, and have helped make sure that the global perspective we are trying to fashion at NDN is informed by more than just stuff we are picking up on the internet, or people we meet or feature in DC.   I am planning a few more interesting trips next year, and will let know as they develop.

These recent and future trips are only possible because of the generousity of supporters, so I end with big thanks to all of you who fund our work at NDN and our sister organization, the New Policy Institute.

The Potential Cost of Political Paralysis: The Lesson of Japan

A political earthquake hit Japan this week, one which could hold important lessons for America's current political stalemates.  After a half-century of one-party rule, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was buried in parliamentary elections by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), a loose coalition of generally left-of-center opposition parties.  The elections were less a matter of partisan competition than an explosion of pent-up disgust with an utterly failed political system personified by the LDP's long rule.  Ask yourself, what powerful popular forces could be unleashed here, if yet another presidency cannot manage to reform our dysfunctional health care system, restore rising wages for most American workers, and take steps to preserve the climate?

One striking aspect of this week's events in Japan is how long they took to happen.  For two decades, Japanese have lived with the consequences of economic stagnation and a feeble financial system, including declining incomes and wealth, as well as deflation.   Japan's private sector didn't lose its edge -- over the same years, for example, its auto companies became the world's best, and Japanese companies adopted information technologies at a prodigious rate.  The problem was consistently wrong-headed policies by a succession of LDP governments unwilling to enact any reforms that might impose costs on the entrenched interests - big banks, construction companies, small farmers, and more - vital to the LDP.  Sound familiar?

Junichiro Koizumi's prime ministership from 2001 to 2006 was a hiatus of sorts, but also a fluke and ultimately a failure: Following a series of scandals involving LDP leaders, the party gave ordinary LDP members a new role in choosing the next party leader - and was shocked when those members chose the outsider Mr. Koizumi.  But he was a maverick sitting atop a corrupt parliamentary party determined to resist new policies to address the country's deepening economic problems, and he finally left with little changed. 

Our own outsider president has much more support within his own party in Congress than Koizumi did in Japan's LDP-dominated Diet.  Yet, Democrats in Congress are not immune from the corrosive politics of entrenched interests, pulling them in many directions that together could fatally weaken new policy directions for our long-festering problems with health care, wages and climate change.  And if the current economic policies do not produce a strong recovery - and they might fail to do so - the pull of those interests and the push of rabid Republican opposition could produce a decade of stagnation here as well. 

For now, President Obama may have the same advantage with the public that the LDP enjoyed for a generation  - a discredited opposition.  Republican leaders from Sarah Palin and Dick Cheney to Dick Armey and even John McCain thus far have offered the public little beyond emotion-laden grievances bound up in outlandish attacks on the President as a Marxist, an appeaser, and even a budding Hitler.  They know better, but the attacks appease the far-right interests that now constitute much of the GOP's diminished base.  Moreover, the Republicans' growing resistance to talk seriously with the White House and the majority party, about the serious challenges facing average Americans, comes from entrenched economic interests as determined to avoid any of the costs of change as those that hobbled the LDP for a generation.  

Unlike Koizumi, President Obama won his office, in part, by putting together a financial as well as popular organization organized through the Internet, and so much less dependent on established interests.  One way to break the stalemate might be to direct that organization to help fund congressional candidates relatively independent of those interests.  But that would force the President to take on members of his own party, a risky and confrontational course at odds with his moderate and pragmatic temperament and political views.  Mr. Obama has one other course open to him: Exercise the mobilizing leadership that won him the nomination, targeted this time to members of Congress rather than the millennial generation and independent voters.  It will require knocking more heads together than he might like.  He can do that - just ask Hillary - and our ability to avoid a decade of decline may lie in the balance.

Sunday Roundup: China's weakening economy, Lessons from Japan, On Liberalism

A selection of things I found interesting this weekend. From the Economist

A SMALL stretch of land, a two-hour drive from end to end, reveals much about the economic transformation of a vast country. This slice of southern China runs from Guangzhou, the old treaty port reserved for foreigners before Mao expelled them, to Shenzhen, the city established after Mao's death as an experiment in private enterprise. Over the past decade it has become one of the world's fastest-whirring economic engines-a global hub in the manufacture of clothing, shoes and electronics-serviced by tens of millions of migrant workers.

Now the region is undergoing an equally remarkable contraction. In the past year thousands of factories, perhaps one-third to one-half of the total, have closed. Reliable statistics are hard to come by, not least because many factories operate in a legal netherworld, but the severity of the slump is plain. The flow of migrants has gone into reverse. Some of the newly unemployed have stuck around (and a few have started a new industry: street crime). The lucky ones have found work at factories that moved inland, although at lower pay.

On the road through Dongguan, a sprawling industrial city roughly halfway between Guangzhou and Shenzhen, building after building-residential as well as industrial-displays red banners advertising its availability. Local agents say there is no interest from buyers. A lack of demand for whatever a factory might make is part of the explanation. So is concern about the quality of properties for sale: a lot of factories were put up in a hurry and have been maintained poorly if at all. And so is the nebulousness of Chinese property laws. Purchasers cannot be sure that what they buy they will truly own.

The rapid collapse of economic activity around Dongguan indicates that China's private companies are being subjected to the same battering as their counterparts in many other countries. Yet it also raises questions about the long-term survival of many of these companies. They have been among the most dynamic components of China's fast rise towards prosperity. Their turmoil may be transient. Then again, there are also worries that it is in fact tied to profound flaws in the Chinese economy.

From a New York Times piece today about lessons from Japan's Lost Decade

As recession-wary Americans adapt to a new frugality, Japan offers a peek at how thrift can take lasting hold of a consumer society, to disastrous effect.

The economic malaise that plagued Japan from the 1990s until the early 2000s brought stunted wages and depressed stock prices, turning free-spending consumers into misers and making them dead weight on Japan's economy.

Today, years after the recovery, even well-off Japanese households use old bath water to do laundry, a popular way to save on utility bills. Sales of whiskey, the favorite drink among moneyed Tokyoites in the booming '80s, have fallen to a fifth of their peak. And the nation is losing interest in cars; sales have fallen by half since 1990.....

"Japan is so dependent on exports that when overseas markets slow down, Japan's economy teeters on collapse," said Hideo Kumano, an economist at the Dai-ichi Life Research Institute. "On the surface, Japan looked like it had recovered from its Lost Decade of the 1990s. But Japan in fact entered a second Lost Decade - that of lost consumption."

The Japanese have had some good reasons to scale back spending.

Perhaps most important, the average worker's paycheck has shrunk in recent years, even after companies rebounded and bolstered their profits.

That discrepancy is the result of aggressive cost-cutting on the part of Japanese exporters like Toyota and Sony. They, like American companies now, have sought to fend off cutthroat competition from companies in emerging economies like South Korea and Taiwan, where labor costs are low.

To better compete, companies slashed jobs and wages, replacing much of their work force with temporary workers who had no job security and fewer benefits. Nontraditional workers now make up more than a third of Japan's labor force.

Sounds a little too familiar for my taste.  As I wrote recently in a series of posts about Spend? Save? I still think the economic narrative being used in Washington today does not adequately take into account what happened to the incomes of everyday Americans during the Bush Recovery.  Jake Berliner also posted on this subject last week.  

And finally, Leon Wieseltier, writing in the New Republic

Can liberalism still explain itself? Does it remember its concepts and its words? It has been many decades since liberalism could fall back upon the power of platitudes; the platitudinous authority now belongs to the other side. Cliche may represent a failure in literature, but in politics it is the evidence of a philosophy's success. The repudiation of George W. Bush is not in itself a renovation of liberalism, and neither is the apotheosis of Barack Obama. The public has not yet broken the grip of the conservative discourse that has dominated America for a generation. Consider the insane headline on Newsweek's cover, "We Are All Socialists Now": an exclamation of its inner Hannity, as if the president is preparing to abolish private property or expropriate the means of production. All that is happening, comrades, is that our democratically constituted central government is acting to protect the whole of our economy by taking over, for a period, a part of our economy. But second natures, which are made more by culture than by thought, are not easily extinguished. Sean Wilentz was shrewd to contain the Clinton years in his recent study of "the age of Reagan," because Bill Clinton's inglorious role in the history of liberalism was to teach it to sleep with its enemy. Insofar as his renunciation of ideology was the revival of an experimental frame of mind about public policy, the good sense of "best practices," it was a welcome turn; but it was also a lousy defeatism about the war of ideas, a loss of interest, or of nerve, about first principles. On the day that Clinton pragmatically announced that "the era of big government is over," liberalism forgot itself. Pragmatism has a dark side. The allure of pragmatism was lost on the conservatives, of course. They sought power so that they could act on what they believed. And when they got their chance, they ran the republic down in almost all its aspects. We must not draw the wrong conclusion from the rubble. The problem was what they believed, not that they believed. 

Amen to that I say.  

I visited this subject in a recent post, The Utter Bankruptcy of Today's Republican Party and agree with Mr. Wieseltier that the President must make the choice the nation has in front of it much starker.  It is possible for our new President to love the sinner but hate the sin; to work with Republicans but reject their irresponsible and reckless approach to governing.  To accept their failed notions as a price for cooperation is a steep steep price for the nation to pay at this time where our great national project is dig ourselves out of the whole they dug for all of us.

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