Tonight, Gov. Rick Perry and the other Republican presidential candidates continued waging war on government regulations, arguing that they're a huge reason why the economy is struggling.

But International Finance Corporation, a private sector investment group that's part of the World Bank, found that the United States is the 4th easiest country in the world to operate a business, just behind Singapore, Hong Kong, and New Zealand. From the New York Times:

Hong Kong beats the United States, but mainland China—that bugaboo of American employment protectionists—does not. Instead, China comes in 91st. Despite the higher regulatory burden, American-based multinational companies have increased their employment in China by 161,400 from 2007 to 2008, a gain of about 20 percent, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. (The most recent data are for 2008.) In fact, American employment in China rose 77 percent in the prior decade, from 1998 to 2008.

India does even worse, with a ranking of 132nd...

As they have done in China, American companies have ratcheted up their employment in India by 43,000, or about 13 percent, from 2007 to 2008. From 1998 to 2008, the number of people in India working for American companies rose by 54 percent, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

In another measure of business climate and competitiveness put out by the World Economic Forum, the United States ranks fifth, again ahead of China (26), India (56) and a host of other countries where American companies are adding jobs.

Presumably, then, American companies are not attracted to these places because the business climate is more favorable.


2012 GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain.

The audience at Tuesday's Republican debate booed CNBC's Maria Bartiromo when she asked Herman Cain about the sexual harassment allegations dogging his campaign.

Cain, for his part, tried to blame the media for focusing on "unfounded accusations." (There were at least two instances of sexual harassment allegations that lead to financial settlements for the alleged victims while Cain was head of the National Restaurant Association, so it' s not accurate to call the reports "unfounded.")

Cain went on to offer a rather strange defense, saying, "For every one person that comes forward with a false accusation, there are probably thousands who will say that none of that sort of activity ever came from Herman Cain."

While having the majority of women you've met not accuse you of sexual harassment might seem like a low bar for a human being, let alone a presidential candidate, the debate audience cheered enthusiastically.

At Wednesday's CNBC debate, Gov. Rick Perry said government should get out of the way and "let consumers pick winners and losers."

Too bad his economic record doesn't reflect that, even remotely. Through the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF), Perry's office handed out huge tax breaks and grant packages to lure companies to move their operations to Texas—i.e., picking winners and losers, and none too well, according to a new report from Texans for Public Justice reviewed by reviewed by Good Jobs First:

A summary that Governor Perry's office published in August suggests that $440 million in taxpayer TEF grants have created 59,600 Texas jobs. Perry claimed in an October presidential debate that TEF has produced 54,600 jobs. Putting aside five TEF projects that TPJ asserts are fraudulent job claims and a sixth project that appears to be undergoing an audit, TPJ found evidence that TEF had created 22,349 jobs by the end of 2010. That number amounts to 37 percent of the job claims made by the Governor’s Office.

Analyzing the 65 TEF projects, the new report found that:

  • 24 projects (37 percent) failed to deliver on their original 2010 job promises;
  • 17 projects (26 percent) complied with their 2010 job commitments;
  • 11 failing projects were terminated prematurely (17 percent);
  • 7 projects are troubled (11 percent), usually because they defaulted on 2010 job pledges but covered the shortfall with job credits earned by exceeding their job targets in past years;
  • 5  projects (8 percent) were found by TPJ to fraudulently claim that they created more jobs than they actually did (this category includes most of TEF’s largest grants); and
  • One project claimed "new" jobs that had hiring dates predating its TEF contract.

The most pressing economic issue currently facing the world, as my colleague Kevin Drum pointed out on Wednesday morning, is the ongoing collapse of the Italian economy. With CNBC's presidential debate set to focus on jobs, it was an obvious question—and it came immediately after the candidate introductions.

So were the GOP candidates ready for it? Well, not exactly. Asked point-blank what he would do as president during such a crisis, Herman Cain's first answer was a bizarre non sequitur. His response, he said, would be to...create jobs. Pressed by the host, Maria Bartiromo, as to how specifically he would react as president to the Italian crisis, he punted. "There's not a lot the US can do for Italy right now," he said. "They've gone beyond the point where we can help them." (That's news to Europe.)

It's an odd answer not just because Cain has had three weeks to prepare for the debate, but because his biggest liability—other than that whole harassment thing—is that he never offers any specifics about anything. Italy would have been a good chance to demonstrate that, if nothing else, he read the newspaper this morning.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney didn't get much more specific in his answer to the question, stating that America's best choice was to let Italy fail.

CNBC's Rick Santelli gestures frantically during his famous 2009 rant.

On Wednesday, the eight GOP presidential candidates will gather at Michigan's Oakland University for a debate about jobs. CNBC's John Harwood and Maria Bartiromo will moderate the debate, which makes a good deal of sense, because the event is being sponsored by CNBC. But then Mike Allen drops this bomb: "Jim Cramer, Steve Liesman, Rick Santelli and Sharon Epperson will join in the questioning."

Rick Santelli? Rick Santelli!? Are you kidding me? The Rick Santelli who helped kick off the first round of tea parties by referring to Americans with underwater mortgages as "losers"?

Yes, that Rick Santelli. This Rick Santelli:

Certain high-ranking officials within the Iranian government seem to believe that if the Israelis bomb Iran's nuclear installations, they'll be able to retaliate by creating a Modern Warfare-style global battlefield. Iran's Fars News Agency reports:

"Israel is not in the size to launch a military strike on Iran, but if it takes such a foolish action, the Iranian militaries will fight with the Zionist soldiers in Tel Aviv streets and will force them out of the Palestinian soil," member of the Iranian Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Seyed Hossein Naqavi told FNA on Tuesday.

Naqavi also warned that in case Iran comes under a military attack, the battlefield won't be Iran, but "the entire Europe and the US". "Iranian forces will fight with the enemies with maximum might and power all throughout the European and US soil, if Iran comes under attack," he reiterated.

The lawmaker noted the reports on certain military measures recently adopted by the British government against Iran, and said, "A look at the history reveals that the British regime has been using threat, intimidation, terror and colonialism all throughout the last 500 years. Now a country with such a long record of crimes and colonialist actions should know very well that the Islamic Republic enjoys a high military capability today." ...

Iran has warned that in case of an attack by either the US or Israel, it will target 32 American bases in the Middle East and close the strategic Strait of Hormoz. An estimated 40 percent of the world's oil supply passes through the energy lifeline.

Okay, let's unpack this for a sec: according to these statements, if one missile from an Israeli F-16 falls on Iranian soil, the Persian mullahs and military would kick off a series of ground offensives in:

  • The United States of America
  • Israel and the Palestinian territories
  • The United Kingdom
  • The rest of Europe
  • Nearly three dozen American military bases across the Middle East

(The government also vowed—and has vowed before—to seal off the super-vital Strait of Hormuz in the event of attack, which I imagine would require plenty of infantry and firepower, as well.)

The various threats were issued amid high tensions relating to a recently foiled assassination plot on US soil (which allegedly involved operatives of the al-Quds Force, an elite faction of Iran's Revolutionary Guards), and the renewed possibility of an Israeli aerial assault on Iran's nuclear program. These warnings were (shall we say) spectacularly over-the-top, even when held up next to the trusted Ahmadinejad standard. Sure, bluster and overkill are to be expected from the Iranian regime's defensive-offensive rhetoric, particularly when Israel enters the conversation. But there is something uniquely ridiculous about a top member of the Majlis of Iran speaking so confidently about kicking off World War III.

Point, point, point. Snap, snap, snap. Occupy Wall Street is the latest hotspot for tourists in the Big Apple. So I stopped by with my camera to get their take on the movement.

I talk Occupy Oakland, Herman Cain, and the inappropriateness of the term "high-tech lynching" with Reason magazine's Katharine Mangu-Ward:

There's a little immigration and death fence at the border stuff thrown in.

Mother Jones reporter Andy Kroll joined Keith Olbermann on Tuesday evening to discuss early reports that Ohio's Issue 2, the up-or-down ballot referendum deciding anti-union law SB 5's fate, was losing in the polls. Later that night, AP called the race: With nearly 2.4 million votes cast, Issue 2 was headed for a whopping defeat.

Fewer than 1 percent of all civil lawsuits in this country ever make it to a jury trial. But somehow, a bunch of angry tea party activists have managed to land one. Their target? A fellow tea partier.

Tea Party Patriots (TPP), one of the country's largest tea party groups, has spent the last two years and thousands of dollars of its members' donated funds suing Amy Kremer, now the chairwoman of Tea Party Express, another tea party group founded by a GOP political consulting firm in California. Kremer was one of the original TPP board members. She was there in the beginning and even registered the group's domain names and set up its website. But in the fall of 2009, Kremer defied the rest of the board by participating in a Tea Party Express bus tour. So TPP kicked her off the board and then sued her, trying to wrest control over the group's email list, its trademark and other intellectual property. The fight has been nasty and, well, sort of pointless.

In 2009, TPP won a restraining order (PDF) barring Kremer from using the Tea Party Patriots' name, trademark, domain name, and especially its most valuable asset—its email list. She countersued (PDF) for slander and also opposed TPP's trademark application, on the grounds that she put the term into circulation months before TPP was incorporated. In May, TPP won a restraining order against Kremer ordering her to hand over control of an inconsequential TPP Google group that gets about four posts a day, mostly from the same person.

Then things really got personal. In October, Kremer's daughter, Kylie, sued Jenny Beth Martin, TPP's co-founder, and her husband, Lee, who was TPP's treasurer for a while. Kylie Kremer argues that the Martins defamed her by posting false and scurrilous allegations about her on Facebook. Kremer is asking for unspecified damages and legal fees.

In the meantime, though, the original TPP lawsuit is finally going to trial in Georgia. Opening arguments were scheduled for Tuesday and the trial is expected to run for at least a week. It will feature a parade of tea party luminaries, including the Martins, Kremer, and Mark Meckler, the frequent Fox News guest and TPP co-founder. But a verdict in the case won't be the end of the tea party's legal infighting.

The Atlanta Tea Party, which is associated with Jenny Beth Martin, recently filed a new lawsuit against Kremer and her boyfriend, who they allege collected money for a tea party event in 2009 but failed to turn it over to the group's leaders. Now, they're suing to get it back. Given all the litigation between these tea party factions, it's entirely possible the lawsuits could outlive the movement itself.