Recently, via satellite at the New Yorker Festival, Edward Snowden said he would «love» to stand trial in the United States.He should. It would transform what he has done from theft into civil disobedience – which by definition means being willing to accept the consequences of your actions.At the New Yorker event, Snowden explained to Jane Mayer that, given the stipulations the government is putting on his return, he doesn’t think he could get a fair trial. But the legal scholars I consulted – none of them die hard conservatives or national security hawks – believed that Snowden could get a fair trial.The most striking aspect of Snowden’s substantive foreign intelligence revelations is how few consequences they have had. That’s because they mostly showed the U.S. government doing secretly what it has said it was doing publicly – fighting the Taliban, spying in countries like Pakistan and searching for Al Qaeda cells around the globe.The disclosures also revealed routine foreign intelligence operations. Some of these are entirely justified, such as hacking into Chinese computer systems – something that Beijing does on a much larger scale to the United States. Others are perhaps unwise, such as tapping the phones of the leaders of Brazil and Germany. But none are morally scandalous.
The U.S. Treasury and the U.S. Federal Reserve have got a pretty good job responding to the financial crisis. It’s always easy to do Monday morning quarterbacking, but what they were concerned about was a situation that looked very much like the Great Depression. The drop in global GDP was actually as great as during the 1930s and the Treasury and the Fed did avert that by very, very aggressive actions.But if you pull back a little bit and ask how they handled things over the last 10 years, I would say pretty badly, especially when compared with China.If you look at the Chinese government, the Chinese did something very important: When growth was strong, they raised interest rates. They wanted to take the froth off the economy. They tightened consumer credit because they didn’t want the consumers to max out and they accumulated a budget surplus because they knew these were the good times and that this was when you save money for the bad times.
All of these things helped create the situation where, dramatically, the Chinese economy barely dropped during the crisis. It had a small hiccup and then was back to boom.In contrast, during the last 10 years in the United States, when growth was good, we lowered interest rates to further goose growth – to squeeze out the last drop of growth you could get. The U.S. eased up on consumer credit, particularly housing credit in a variety of ways –Fannie and Freddie being the most important.And then the U.S. destroyed the federal budget. In 2000, we had a budget surplus. Then the Bush Administration did three things: