David Corn

David Corn

Washington Bureau Chief

Corn has broken stories on presidents, politicians, and other Washington players. He's written for numerous publications and is a talk show regular. His best-selling books include Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War.

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Economist Mark Zandi on Default: "We Will Be Dooming Our Economy and the Entire Global Economy" for Years

| Tue Oct. 15, 2013 2:40 PM EDT

On Monday, I took a shot at Sarah Palin after she wrote, "To suggest that raising the debt limit doesn't incur more debt is laughably absurd. The very reason why you raise the debt limit is so that you can incur more debt. Otherwise what's the point?" In a tweet, I noted, "No, you do it so you can pay the debt you accrued." That is, the government's debt is not created by the extension of borrowing authority; it is created when Congress establishes entitlements or passes spending bills that require government borrowing. If you sign a tuition contract with a college for your kid and need to take out a loan to cover all or part of it, you assume a debt when you enter into that agreement, not when you go to the bank and ask for an extended line of credit. Put another way, raising the debt ceiling does not change the amount of money the US government owes.

Nevertheless, a mass of conservative trolls rushed to Palin's defense and howled about my tweet. Looking for further edification on this matter that I could share with the Palinites, I sent her quote to Mark Zandi, the prominent economist who was one of the policy advisers to the McCain-Palin campaign in 2008, and asked him to evaluate it. Zandi, who is now chief economist of Moody's Analytics, emailed back with a bigger message:

The point is that with each passing day the debt limit is not increased the more damage it will do to our economy. If lawmakers don’t raise the debt limit by November 1, the economy will fall back into recession. If they can't raise it by the end of November, we will be dooming our economy and the entire global economy to a wrenching economic downturn with implications for years if not decades to come.

Whoa. This is a rather dire prediction, suggesting the very real possibility of global economic catastrophe. While the email doesn't address Palin's description of the debt limit, it does undercut her charge that President Barack Obama is shamefully "scaremongering the markets with his talk of default." More important, Zandi's note is a reminder that all those tea partiers who have pooh-poohed the consequences of not raising the debt ceiling—including Palin—are risking the country's future by continuing their always-fervent crusade against Obama.

Obama's Second Nobel Peace Prize?

| Fri Oct. 11, 2013 12:20 PM EDT

There was a fair bit of huffing when the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded President Barack Obama the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, less than eight months after Obama had moved into the Oval Office. Too soon, declared critics and skeptics, who had a point. The president had not earned the award through any particular action. And he recognized that in his initial remarks about winning the prize: "Let me be clear: I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations. To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize."

But Obama may well deserve a smidgen of credit for the Nobel Peace Prize that was handed out this week. The winner is the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the Hague-based body created to enforce the UN Chemical Weapons Convention that bans such arms. The OPCW is now busy overseeing the cataloging and destruction of Syria's chemical arsenal. Hence, the Obama connection.

It seems fair to argue that the OPCW is destroying chemical weapons equipment in Syria because Obama took a stand after the regime of Bashar al-Assad presumably attacked a suburb of Damascus with chemical weapons in August and killed about 1,400 people. After Obama threatened to launch a retaliatory attack on Syria with the aim of deterring Assad from again using these horrific weapons—a threat that resulted in a political kerfuffle in Washington—Russian leader Vladimir Putin brokered a deal under which Assad acknowledged he possessed chemical weapons and agreed to place them under international control. The subsequent negotiations are still under way, but, at least for the time being, Obama did achieve his aim—preventing the further use of chemical weapons in Syria. Moreover, he placed Putin on the hook for Assad's chemical weapons.

Partly as a result of Obama's actions, Assad's use of chemical weapons became a top-line priority of the global community, and the work of the OPCW received far more notice. As Thorbjoern Jagland the chairman of the award committee, noted, "Recent events in Syria, where chemical weapons have again been put to use, have underlined the need to enhance the efforts to do away with such weapons."

In trying to build support for a strike on Syria, Obama cited the importance of supporting the global ban on chemical weapons and echoed his previous calls for steps toward nuclear disarmament. Recognizing the OPCW award is a boost for international disarmament endeavors. After it was announced, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute made this point:

SIPRI warmly welcomes the award of the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize to the OPCW, an organization closely aligned with the aims and work of SIPRI. The world is a safer and more peaceful place as a result of the work of the OPCW.

Achieving disarmament is a long-term, incremental process and implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention has not always been a high-profile activity. Awarding the prize to the OPCW at this time is also a recognition of the hard work of chemical weapons inspectors now working in Syria under dangerous conditions.

The achievements of the OPCW show that, thanks to international cooperation, it is possible to rid the world of chemical weapons. Indeed, they demonstrate that a world free of weapons of mass destruction is politically and technically feasible.

This Nobel Peace Prize is hence a reminder that the reduction and abolition of nuclear weapons are possible, and that it must be tackled as well. And once states have completely abandoned all nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, they must work together to prevent their re‑emergence, whether in the hands of states or non-state actors. The work of the OPCW—and its dedication to peace and security to help to form a safer world for all—will thus remain important for many years to come.

Don't expect Obama to claim any credit for this award. But perhaps the leaders of OPCW can send him a thank-you card.

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