Iwan Morgan

Iwan Morgan is the author of "Reagan: American Icon" , which will be published in the UK in October and in the US in January.

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  • The European Debt Crisis: A Problem of Political Will?

    Back in the summer, as US politicians seemed on the verge of failing to agree a debt limit extension to avoid default on America's obligations, Europeans looked on in scornful amazement at an apparent failure of leadership.  Now the shoe is very much on the other foot.  Speaking on November 16, President Barack Obama accused the Eurozone of suffering from "a problem of political will" that put the future of the single currency at risk. America's leaders succeeded in averting a default crisis when common sense finally prevailed (though the Democrats paid a higher price for reason than the Republicans).  Whether Europe's leaders can pull off their own great escape is much more open to doubt because in their case their sovereign debt problem is much graver than America's debt limitation problem and the solution to it is far less readily apparent.

    Signifying the sense that there is a problem of political will, the current leaders of the single currency project - Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy - are widely compared unfavorably in the media with their predecessors who built the foundations of the European project in the

  • Lessons from History on the Double-Dip Recession

    In early August, The Economist put America's chances of a double-dip recession in the coming year at 50 percent.  If anything, things look even bleaker some two months on.  The recovery that began in 2009 is in danger of petering out.  In the first two quarters of 2011 the United States achieved an annualized growth rate of just 0.8 percent, far below the 2.5 percent annual expansion that economists consider the minimum necessary to make a dent in the present unemployment rate of 9.2 percent.  On a per-person basis, inflation-adjusted GDP now stands at virtually the same level as in the second quarter of 2005.  If this trend continues the United States is in the sixth year of what could go down in history as its version of Japan's "lost decade" of the 1990s.

  • The European Sovereign Debt Crisis and America

    Three years ago, the conventional wisdom in Europe was that its economic problems were made in America.  This was widely believed true because of the toxic spread of the sub-prime crisis from the U.S. through the agency of debt-financing derivatives.  Now, however, Europe's problem with sovereign debt has worrying consequences for the United States.  As such, America's prospects of economic recovery continue to be entwined with those of Europe.  

    Although other euro zone countries have experienced sovereign debt problems, the epicenter of the crisis continues to be Greece.  Fear of a Greek default remains the source of considerable agitation in European banking circles.  It is now evident that French banks, which were largely immune from the effects of the sub-prime crisis, are particularly vulnerable to such a development because of their holdings in Greek bonds.  This is especially the case with BNP Paribas (the biggest French funder), Societe Generale, and Credit Agrocole.  To make matters worse, French banks did not build up their reserves in the wake of the sub-prime crisis in the manner of U.S. and UK banks because they did not consider the effects to be so severe for them. 

  • The Fed's Not the Cavalry in this Crisis


    Iwan Morgan is Professor of U.S. Studies and Head of U.S. Programmes at the Institute for the Study of the Americas [ISA].  He was previously Professor of Modern American History and Head of Department of Politics and Modern History at London Guildhall University and Professor of American Governance at London Metropolitan University.  He has also taught at Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne as a Fulbright Educational Exchange Lecturer. 

    Most recently, Professor Morgan's work The Age of Deficits won the American Politics Group's 2010 Richard Neustadt Book Prize.

  • Five days that shook America

    There was fictional movie called "Seven Days in May" about the foiling of a military coup in the United States.

  • Are America and Europe Sinking into Meltdown 2.0?

    On August 5, the Dow had its largest single-day fall since December 1, 2008.  Things were just as bad across the Atlantic, with the equivalent of nearly $80 billion wiped off the shares of Britain's 100 biggest companies.

    The recent debt ceiling crisis in the U.S. produced a very inward-looking perspective among pundits and economist, and the same was true in Europe when the financial crisis hit individual countries over here.  However, yesterday's stock market declines show that America and Europe are in the same sinking boat.  We are no longer the different planets of Mars and Venus, to use Robert Kagan's terms.  We're one and the same planet  (and I'd say it was Pluto with its all its gloomy connotations). 

  • A minority victory without precedent?

    Drawing on nearly forty years of teaching and researching US history and politics, I cannot think of a greater victory won by a minority party than the Republican success in forcing a solution to the debt limitation controversy that met GOP preferences.

    I would be grateful if anyone could provide me with a better example.

    The Democrats know all too well that they have been bested.  It's possible to pick out any number of admissions to this effect after the House vote, but two will suffice.  Raul Grijalva (Arizona) declared: "We have given much and received nothing in return.  The lesson today is that Republicans can hold their breath long enough to get what they want." Congressional Black Caucus chair Emmanuel Cleaver of Missouri , a Methodist pastor, graphically described the House bill as a "sugar-coated Satan sandwich."

    Republican success is mainly built on the party's determination to stand by its clearly held beliefs, while the Democrats were always looking for a deal (though not necessarily this one).  The impending crisis of default also played to the advantage of the intransigent party in the negotiations.  Yet it should be recognized that the GOP's success is further built on its ability to define the debt/deficit problem as a spe

  • The debt deal in sight - but what next?

    To the relief of financial markets from the Far East to London and by now Wall Street, the congressional leadership appears to have a debt limit deal to hand.  Assuming that it gets approved by both Houses, however, the debt problem is simply moving onto a different level rather than being resolved.

    There's still a danger that the current imbroglio over debt limitation will result in a downgrading of the US debt by credit rating agencies.  That's less serious than would have happened in the event of a default, but lenders could interpret it as signaling that the US is no longer risk-free in terms of debt repayment.

    More significantly for those of us more interested in the impact of the debt issue on ordinary people, there's a lot of politics still left to flesh out the details of the debt limit agreement.  There's still room for revenue enhancement and a portion of the spending retrenchment will come from the rundown of US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.  But that still necessitates a big bite out of federal domestic spending.

    Whatever the distribution of the eventual fiscal retrenchment that will follow a debt limit deal, the effect on the economy is likely to be contraction.  There is a school of economic thought which argues that fiscal austerity brings expansionary ben

  • The Perils of Moderation

    In the past Europeans have often been critical of American political parties for being non-ideological coalitions dedicated to election-winning and deal- making.  Now these distant days seem like a golden age of common sense and pragmatism!

    We hear a lot over here about Republican ideological commitment, currently manifested in intransigence over raising the debt limit.  But we're not sure what to make of the Democrats.  If American politics is polarized, it's difficult to make out where President Obama's party is situated.  They are certainly nowhere near as liberal as the Republicans are conservative - in fact, the partisan battle seems to be right v center-right rather than right v left.  Paul Krugman's commentary "The Centrist Cop-Out" in yesterday's New York Times has certainly resonated over here.   

    President Obama has made so many concessions to the Republican preferences on taxation and spending that it is difficult for us outsiders to make out what the fight is all about.  The agenda seems dominated by the party that controls just one chamber of Congress, while the party that controls the other chamber and the White House appears in retreat from power.

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