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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review August 15, 2008 / 14 Menachem-Av 5768

What leaders can and cannot do

By Dick Polman

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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Whenever I hear the '08 presidential candidates voicing despair about the U.S. economy and talking about how they're going to cure its ills, I remember the gut wisdom of Dave Vasvari.

During a stump speech by John Kerry in Youngstown, Ohio, in 2004, I fell into conversation with Vasvari, a hard-hat electrician. At that moment, Kerry was vowing to cure our economic ills, and Vasvari snorted an inch from my ear. He said, "This is all just showboatin'. See this guy right here? You think he can do anything about (the economy)? The economy runs on its own cycles, no matter who's in there."

Barack Obama and John McCain won't ever say that, because in this country we cling to the myth of the omnipotent presidency. A candidate would probably commit political suicide if he admitted the truth, which is that, while presidents are indeed powerful in certain respects (they can now listen in on your phone calls), they cannot control global economic markets. They cannot stop China and India and Brazil from joining the capitalist money chase and sometimes beating us at our own game. Heck, they cannot even control the crafters of monetary policy at the Federal Reserve.

In fact, a study by two economists, Ben Olken of Harvard and Ben Jones of Northwestern, has basically confirmed all that. They wanted to know whether the top dogs on the world scene have any clout over their economies. They ultimately concluded that "the effects of leaders are very strong in autocratic settings, but much less so in the presence of democratic institutions." If you really want to flex economic muscle, it pays, evidently, to be a dictator.

The presidential candidates know the deal, which is why they revert so often to rhetorical smoke and mirrors. They really have no idea whether their economic agendas will make a difference, and besides, those agendas are tough to communicate in sound bites. It's much easier for a candidate to exude empathy, to insist that he feels the voter's economic pain, to paint the other guy as out of touch. The subtext of McCain's latest slam on Obama - that he's a Paris Hilton celebrity who likes to eat those effete protein bars - is the insinuation that the Democrat is living large, and therefore incapable of bonding with the doleful average Joe.

It's much harder to fess up about the hard truths, which is why they won't. For instance, it's true that presidents can nudge the economy at the margins, via the tax-and-spend fiscal powers they share with Congress, and they can use the bully pulpit to encourage a mood of confidence. But they cannot wave a wand, trigger a plummet in the global price of oil, and make America safe for SUVs again.

China alone has precipitated a 12 percent increase in global oil demand since 2000, at a time when supplies have been pinched by conditions beyond any president's control - civil unrest in Nigeria, the nationalization of the Venezuelan oil fields, and the fact that OPEC, the 12-nation combine that produces roughly 40 percent of the world's oil, has barely increased its output since 1979.

Or consider another facet of our current predicament, the subprime-mortgage crisis. Some liberal bloggers derided President Bush the other day, after word got around that Bush, speaking at a fund-raiser, had blamed Wall Street for the mess. Their derision implied that Bush had tried to dodge responsibility (after all, isn't the president supposed to be in charge?), but actually, he was right when he said that "Wall Street got drunk." The banks generated all kinds of speculative capital, luring millions of prospective homeowners (as well as upscale folks seeking to build second homes) with the promise of sweet terms and easy money.

No president can cure the cyclical outbreaks of all-American greed - or control the Federal Reserve, which helped make it all possible by relentlessly lowering interest rates. Indeed, the independence of the Fed and the failure of presidential influence are best illustrated by the relationship, nearly two decades ago, between the first President Bush and Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan.

Plagued by a recession in 1990, Bush wanted Greenspan to cut interest rates sharply and flood the market with money. Greenspan, who feared the onset of inflation, repeatedly refused. Greenspan's term as chairman was ending, but Bush reappointed him anyway, fearing Wall Street would be angry if he didn't. And after Bush lost the '92 election, he blamed Greenspan, saying in an interview, "I reappointed him, and he disappointed me." It was a rare confession by a president of his own lack of economic clout.

Actually, the country was emerging from recession when Bush stood for re-election. But he was defeated, in part, because he flunked the symbolic tests I cited earlier. He allowed himself to be perceived as "out of touch." On the stump, he literally read the phrase Message: I Care from an index card his aides had handed to him; it didn't look good that he needed prompting. Later that year, he expressed awe while being shown a new supermarket scanning device, and, while it's possible he was just being polite, the incident suggested to many that he was clueless about the way real people lived.

The same kind of shorthand symbolism is happening now. Few voters are acquainted with the substance of McCain's economic agenda; far more are aware that McCain's chief economic adviser, Phil Gramm, recently assailed us as "a nation of whiners" suffering merely from a "mental recession." That incident made McCain appear out of touch with real people, which is why Gramm is no longer the chief economic adviser.

And any day now, as an empathy test first introduced in the '96 campaign, I'm expecting somebody to ask McCain or Obama to cite the correct price of a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk. But here, I think, is a more substantive question we should be asking ourselves: If a president really did have control over the economy, then why would the economy ever be bad?

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Dick Polman is a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Comment by clicking here.


PREVIOUSLY

06/12/08: Obama and McCain would do well to follow a few tips
05/14/08: Obama-Clinton? Stranger things have happened
02/20/08: Clinton faces two unpleasant alternatives at this critical moment in her campaign
01/24/08: If Hillary takes down black guy who embodies the black American dream, she will break the Democratic coalition
01/17/08: Sobs, gulps and a few long sighs: Dems articulate their views
11/08/07: Thompson's federalism draws no ‘amens’ from religious right
11/02/07: Getting white men to jump
10/08/07: Clinton talks reform, but takes cash
07/03/07: Tapping Hillary fashion flap to raise funds
07/27/07: Hillary owes Elizabeth big time
03/09/07: For liberals, Clinton fatigue rooted in policy
03/01/07: Fading memories of Newt: Former speaker could benefit if conservatives forget some of his actions




© 2007, The Philadelphia Inquirer. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

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