Stunning American Financial Statistics (just don’t mention O’Donnell).

Posted by on Sep 15, 2010 in Blog

O’Donnell has won the primary in Delaware. It is perhaps for the best that I do not dwell on this woman. She’s so socially conservative she has criticised MTV for allegedly promoting masturbation as an alternative to sex.

Anyway. I read two more statistics yesterday which shocked me to the core, although perhaps on balance, I’m not altogether surprised.

The USA’s poverty rate is expected to have been 15% in 2009, up from 13.2% – the largest one year increase since the government began keeping records. However, things are improving for the wealthiest Americans – the millionaire class held a larger percentage of the country’s wealth than in 2007.

I am lucky to be in America and I do love it here. But some Americans really do confuse me sometimes.

Stunning Statistics: The Real Problem – And Tragedy – Of American Healthcare?

Posted by on Sep 13, 2010 in Blog

Perhaps sometimes statistics just say it all.

56% of Americans ate snacks 3 or more times daily in 2007 and 2008. That’s up from 11% in 1977-78.

1 in 3 Americans is obese.

America spent $147 Billion on obesity related healthcare last year.

The Op-Ed Everyone Is Talking About

Posted by on Sep 9, 2010 in Blog

Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Imam behind the NYC “Community Center” that has provoked all the controversy, wrote an Op-Ed in the New York Times yesterday.

Love the Imam or loathe him, it was undeniably a beautifully written piece. To what extent it was ghostwritten or edited we will probably never know, but you can absolutely see why the State Department has brought the Imam on board.

On reading the article, these words struck me in particular: “I know there will be interest in our financing, and so we will clearly identify all of our financial backers”. At last count, I believe the project had $18,000 in the bank – and it is supposed to cost $100 Million.

After all of this controversy, is the Community Center actually going to find the number of backers willing to be identified as donors that it needs?

$100 million is a lot of money. Realistically will the Community Center ever be built at all?

Gibbs: I Don’t Think (This Time) His Foot Really Reached His Mouth

Posted by on Sep 8, 2010 in Blog

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs seems to have got himself into trouble by saying yesterday: “I think by virtually any measure, our economy is in a better place than it was two years ago”.

On many levels, he does have a point. Two years ago we were facing financial Armageddon. On September 18, 2008 Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke met with key US legislators and told them: “… we may not have an economy on Monday.”

The biggest financial crisis the world has known in decades happened on Bush’s watch. Clinton bequeathed Bush a surplus, policies were pursued which squandered it – Dick Cheney did say that deficits don’t matter after all.

America was not alone in its policies. Most developed countries made similar mistakes and were in absolute dire straits two years ago.

How best to proceed? Stimulus or cuts? Democrat or Republican? Of course that’s all up for debate. But although Gibbs’ turn of phrase was perhaps unfortunate, fundamentally he has a point. Give all of us the situation today rather than our darkest days two years ago, where our entire economic structure was at risk. We still have bank accounts and there’s a recovery, however fragile.

Neither political party exactly has an exemplary record here…

Sorry… The Bush Tax Cuts Are Unsustainable

Posted by on Sep 1, 2010 in Blog

Much debate is going on about whether the Bush tax cuts will remain in place or not – is the American economy robust enough to survive their removal without going into double dip territory?

I’m afraid it is inevitable that these tax cuts will have to go to some extent – they come from another era. A time when Dick Cheney commented that in relation to tax cuts, deficits didn’t matter.

Well, deficits do matter – the size of the US’s federal deficit, running at 10% of GDP, has led to talk that its Triple A rating is under threat.

Latest projections show that holding onto the Bush tax cuts will add $2 trillion to the federal deficit over the next 10 years. They are a form of stimulus that America cannot afford.

We are living in a time of limited resources, where we all are having to cut back. Which is why a Presidential deficit reduction commission is studying the UK’s Cameron-Osborne formula of a combination of 4 pounds of spending cuts for every 1 pound of tax increases…

We are all going to have to become accustomed to this new reality.

Will the US Lose It’s “Triple A” Rating?

Posted by on Aug 27, 2010 in Blog

The idea was floated yesterday that the US is in danger of losing its “Triple A” rating.

I don’t think it is… yet. However I do believe, especially after November, that it is inevitable the US is going to go the way of Europe and focus on deficit reduction rather than stimulus. It is absolutely correct that the US starts taking action on its untamed deficit, currently running at 10% of GDP.

There is nothing like the threat of losing the Triple A rating to focus those in power’s minds – look at the UK. The UK government, with its new deficit reduction plan, is hanging on to its Triple A rating, but is acutely aware that it has to follow through with its spending cuts if it is to retain it. All eyes will be on the new review due in October.

I truly believe the US will have to follow the UK’s lead – Obama will have to cut spending without compromising his core values (in the UK’s case, this has been done with the ringfenced spending for the NHS and foreign aid with other departments getting savage 25-40% cuts). It can be done. It has to be done to restore confidence in the American economy.

Christie: A Typical (Male) Politician

Posted by on Aug 27, 2010 in Blog

Governor Christie of New Jersey’s office has managed to lose his state $400 million in education funding because they filled in a form wrong. It was all part of Obama’s laudable “Race To The Top”, a competition to reward states with exemplary educational ideas and practice, in the hopes that other states will adopt similar practices.

Christie, in textbook political (and very typically male) fashion, has gone on the offensive and blamed Washington, not himself.

Oh please. If you are applying for $400 million and you’re in competition with other people, surely the onus is on you to make sure your application is correct? For $400 million believe you me, I’d be doubly, triply, checking the numbers. All the other States seemed to manage OK. Christie has complained that the application was 1000 pages long.

For $400 million I would hope it was 1000 pages long. $400,000 a page seems to me positively cheap.

Men. Just occasionally when you are in the wrong, admit you are wrong. An “I’m sorry” is not weak: it demands so much more of strength of character to say.

“Ground Zero” Mosque – A Few Thoughts

Posted by on Aug 23, 2010 in Blog

There are tens of thousands of American troops in Afghanistan. The military strategy there is to win Muslim hearts and minds so the troops can come home. How can they do so when Muslims are being called, as one journalist put it this week, “every filthy name in the book” in the US at the moment?

1 in 4 people in the world are Muslim. The vast majority are not radical. However discriminating against them in various forms that infringe their freedom could radicalise some of them. It strikes me that some of the more extreme comments about this Mosque is the perfect ammunition to the PR crusade of Muslim fanatics and militants. Playing into their hands if you will.

9/11 was a tragedy on a massive scale. But Mosques are not symbols of terrorism and not all Muslims are terrorists. The Imam in charge of the “Ground Zero” Mosque is not a terrorist sympathiser – he is even an ambassador for the State Department. He states clearly that “fanaticism and terrorism have no place in Islam.” Bin Laden fears such clerics who can cite the Koran to denounce terrorism.

Mandela perhaps said it best when referring to his former oppressors: “We have to surprise them with our restraint and generosity”.

I fear what I hear in some quarters at the moment. The only way to win the battle against radical Islam is for the West to stick to its democratic values of liberty, equality and freedom for all. We cannot compromise those values as a result of a few militant Muslims’ manipulation of religion as cover to commit crimes. If we do, they win.

The US Economic “Recovery”

Posted by on Aug 20, 2010 in Blog

I’m not someone who thinks that the US economy isn’t recovering. It is, but slowly and it will be a while before Main Street really sees it.

In saying that, I’m just back from Europe and I was feeling general astonishment there that the US deficit is sitting at an untamed 10% of GDP and there seems to be no immediate signs to tackle it.

In austere Germany, where deficit reduction is most definitely a focus, the economy has recorded its best quarterly surge in decades.

Possibly worth considering, Mr President…

Coming To America

Posted by on Aug 15, 2010 in Blog

It is almost a year since I realised that it was now or never – if I was going to move to America, this was my moment. Six months, 150 pages in my application dossier, three interviews at the US embassy and a lot of legal fees later, I had my work visa and I was sitting on a plane enroute to the USA.

It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. That doesn’t mean that I’m not incredibly homesick – I miss my family and friends in the UK so very much. But I don’t miss my life in London. Yesterday I counted that I’m involved with seven writing projects and that I currently regularly feature on eight TV shows. I’m getting to write and talk about everything from Afghanistan to Wall Street to Entertainment. And I need to produce theatre again…

It’s odd. My world is running at a crazy speed, but I feel at peace in a way I never have done before. I have absolutely no idea where life will take me, or where I’ll end up. But I will know I’ve tried, and I’ve learnt that is all I can ever ask of myself.