You are browsing the archive for 2013 August 09.

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How Aid Helped Turn Egypt into a Disaster

August 9, 2013 in Economics

By Dalibor Rohac

Dalibor Rohac

Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham might be personae non gratae in Egypt but their call to stop US aid to the Egypt is fully justified. The story of Egypt displays all the pathologies commonly described the critics of foreign aid: waste, unintended consequences and the emergence of a culture of dependence and policy inertia.

This should not come as a surprise given that the aid — coming from the US, Europe or from the Gulf — has not been motivated by economic reasons but rather by the political importance of Egypt as the most populous Arab country.

A part of the aid was directed at the promotion of human rights and good governance. In retrospect, much of it seems like a waste of money. Between 2007 and 2013, Egypt received €1bn from the EU, making it one of the largest recipients of European aid. According to the European Court of Auditors, the aid — half of which was simply given to Egypt’s Treasury as direct budget support — did nothing to foster good governance, human rights, or fight corruption. Similarly, in 2009, US Office of Inspector General concluded that the continued American support to Egyptian NGOs had essentially no positive effect on civil society because of the oppressiveness of Mubrarak’s regime.

But waste is a relatively minor problem compared to the corrosive effect that continued aid has had on the Egyptian political and economic landscape. Since Egypt’s independence, the US has provided Egypt with some $70bn in aid, most of it going to the country’s military. Egypt’s Armed Forces are the largest on the African continent and control a large fraction of the economy, between 15 and 40 per cent of GDP, according to some estimates. The military runs hotels, resorts, and numerous manufacturing businesses producing anything from kitchen appliances to olive oil and bottled water.

The aftermath of the coup makes it very difficult to claim, as some did in the past, that the military is a benign force — or that the west has any leverage over it. Instead, the bloated, opaque, and powerful organisation is now the single biggest obstacle to Egypt’s transition to a representative form of government.

But it gets worse. The aid that has come after the Arab Spring — particularly from Qatar — likely deterred the government from tackling the country’s soaring budget deficit. During his year in power, Qatar gave Mohamed Morsi’s government $7bn in …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Washington Times Op-Ed: National security run amok

August 9, 2013 in Politics & Elections

In March, Sen. Ron Wyden asked Director of Intelligence James Clapper if the federal government had ‘any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.’ Clapper replied, ‘Not wittingly.’
In June, we learned that the National Security Agency (NSA) had not only been collecting millions of Americans’ phone data-but every American’s phone data, wittingly.
This astounding level of surveillance that government officials first denied quickly became something they were eager to defend. All of it was essential and necessary, we were told. President Obama and others also assured us that the NSA was only collecting ‘metadata’ and not eavesdropping on our phone calls.
Never mind that you can learn a lot about a person by tracking their private communications even if you’re not necessarily privy to the nature of those communications. Never mind that we have little reason to trust the government’s claims that it does not listen to our private conversations. Never mind that we have a Fourth Amendment that requires the government to acquire a warrant before it can pry into our private lives-for metadata or any other data. Never mind that we should never simply trust our government’s ‘good intentions’ when it steps beyond its constitutional bounds.
This week, Reuters reported ‘A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.’
Reuter’s continued, ‘Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin – not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.’
The DEA is supposed to track drug dealers. The NSA is supposed to track terrorists. We already know that the NSA now monitors every American as a potential terrorist, something the Director of National Intelligence once denied.
We now know that federal agents have been trying to cover up a program that investigates Americans. Is the DEA now operating above or outside the law as well?
And if not, why the cover up?
Government agencies back tracking their investigations to make it harder for lawyers and judges to know where a case originated does not exactly enhance the public trust. Former federal judge and Harvard Law School professor Nancy Gertner remarked, ‘I have never …read more


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Why I changed my mind on weed

August 9, 2013 in PERSONAL LIBERTY

By drosenfeld

Watch Dr. Sanjay Gupta's groundbreaking documentary “WEED” at 8 p.m. ET August 11 on CNN.

(CNN) — Over the last year, I have been working on a new documentary called “Weed.” The title “Weed” may sound cavalier, but the content is not.

I traveled around the world to interview medical leaders, experts, growers and patients. I spoke candidly to them, asking tough questions. What I found was stunning.

August 8, 2013


Dr. Sanjay Gupta

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Liberalization of Standards for Disability Benefits Is Turning Able-bodied Workers into Government Dependents

August 9, 2013 in Economics

By Tad DeHaven

Tad DeHaven

Several weeks ago, I witnessed an able-bodied individual who had parked in a handicapped-only space proceed to put in a strenuous workout at my gym. Indeed, a casual internet search reveals that abuse of handicapped parking spaces is a real problem — so much so that cell phone apps have been created to help catch abusers. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that federal programs intended to help the truly disabled are also being abused.

The federal government’s main disability programs, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), will cost taxpayers almost $200 billion combined this year. These programs have grown enormously over the last decade, despite the fact that the actual incidence of disability in the population has not increased.

The rapid growth in SSDI is particularly troublesome. With an estimated price tag of $144 billion in 2013, SSDI expenditures will have roughly doubled in real (inflation-adjusted) dollars since 2000. Disability insurance benefits are funded by a 1.8 percent tax on workers’ wages as part of the broader Social Security tax, but because payments are outpacing tax revenues the system is running deficits and the SSDI trust fund will be exhausted by 2016.

The number of people enrolled in SSDI has expanded rapidly in recent years, even as the share of the U.S. working-age population reporting a severe disability has remained stable. In addition, medical advances have aided people with disabilities and fewer workers are engaged in hard physical labor. However, the ratio of SSDI beneficiaries to all working-age people has doubled in the last two decades.

The problem is that policymakers have liberalized eligibility standards for disability benefits, with the result that many people who are capable of working are choosing to seek a government check. And once people get on SSDI, they rarely leave the program. In 2011, only 3.6 percent of workers on SSDI had their benefits terminated because of medical improvement. Almost 90 percent of people had their benefits stopped because they either died or reached retirement age.

The story is similar for Supplemental Security Income, which is funded with general revenues and will cost an estimated $57 billion in 2013. Although SSI was created with the elderly poor in mind, today the program mainly benefits non-elderly disabled adults and children. In 2011, less than one percent of disabled adult SSI recipients left the program because their disability had improved. About seven percent left the …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Deconstructing Barack Obama, Part III

August 9, 2013 in Economics

By Daniel J. Mitchell

Daniel J. Mitchell

Two days ago, I shared an insightful article from Kevin Williamson as we contemplated the President’s ideology.

Yesterday, we reviewed an article by Richard Epstein in hopes of deciphering Obama’s approach to economic policy.

Let’s conclude our series by looking at whether there’s something special about the scandals swirling around the White House.

Big government is the mother’s milk of corruption, so it would be foolish to expect any administration to have a perfectly clean record. So what we’re looking for is some indication as to whether President Obama is better or worse than average.

There’s definitely a lot of smoke. Here’s some of what Victor Davis Hanson wrote for National Review on “Obama’s Watergates.”

The truth about Benghazi, the Associated Press/James Rosen monitoring, the IRS corruption, the NSA octopus, and Fast and Furious is still not exactly known. Almost a year after the attacks on our Benghazi facilities, we are only now learning details ofCIA gun-running, military stand-down orders, aliases of those involved who are still hard to locate, massaged talking points, and the weird jailing of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula. We still do not quite know why Eric Holder’s Justice Department went after the Associated Press or Fox News’s James Rosen — given that members of the administration were themselves illegally leaking classified information about the Stuxnet virus, the Yemeni double agent, the drone program, and the bin Laden document trove.

But is there fire underneath all the smoke? Hanson obviously is rather suspicious.

Almost everything the administration has assured us about the IRS scandal has proven false: It was not confined to rogue Cincinnati agents; liberal and conservative groups were not equally targeted; and there were political appointees who were involved in or knew of the misdeeds. The NSA debacle can so far best be summed up by citing Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who has now confessed that he lied under oath (“clearly erroneous”) to the U.S. Congress. Even his earlier mea culpa of providing the “least untruthful” statement was an untruth.

Indeed, he suggest that the current administration is eerily reminiscent of the Nixon White House.

There is also nothing new in administration denials. Both President Obama and his press secretary, Jay Carney, characterized the Benghazi, IRS, AP, and NSA allegations as “phony.” So too Nixon’s press secretary, Ron Ziegler, characterized the Watergate break-in as “a third-rate burglary attempt” and insisted that “Certain elements may try to stretch the Watergate burglary beyond …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Enough of America's Hypocritical Foreign Policy

August 9, 2013 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

The U.S. backed military regime in Cairo is killing more supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi. Yet Washington continues to proclaim its inability to see a coup, so America’s aid money still flows. The Obama administration is turning hypocrisy into an art form.

The great foreign policy illusion in Washington is that the U.S. government controls international events. Thus, the administration proclaims that it must continue to hand $1.55 billion annually to the generals in Cairo to preserve its influence. Yet when did America ever exercise influence in Egypt?

Washington has provided almost $75 billion in foreign “aid” over the years, most of it since the 1978 Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel. The peace has been kept, but Egypt always had the most to lose from another war with Israel.

Beyond that, Cairo has consistently ignored American advice. Presidents Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak made no pretense of promoting democracy or protecting human rights. When the revolution upended Mubarak, the administration successively backed the dictator, urged a negotiated departure, and supported his overthrow.

U.S. President Barack Obama unsuccessfully counseled President Morsi to be inclusive and military commander Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi not to stage a coup. Since then Washington has urged the military ruler not to target the Muslim Brotherhood and risk driving it underground. He responded by shooting even more pro-Morsi demonstrators.

Yet, explain administration officials, if U.S. President Barack Obama acknowledged the obvious — that a military coup had overthrown an elected government — and applied the law, which requires the cutoff of U.S. aid, al-Sisi might ignore American advice. Oh, right.

It would have been better years ago had American officials shut up and done nothing. No money would have been wasted. Washington’s impotence would not have been demonstrated. The U.S. would not be complicit in decades of military rule.

Alas, Egypt is not the first time when the U.S. government looks stupid while spending a lot of money. In fact, that is far more the rule than the exception for Washington.

For decades the U.S. government has given tens of billions of dollars a year in economic assistance. Recipients continued to wreck their economies by following dirigiste policies. Washington was the largest single contributor to the World Bank and other multilateral development banks, which routinely underwrote the most monstrous regimes, such as Nicolae Ceausescu’s Romania and Mengistu Haile Mariam’s Ethiopia.

A lot of foreign “aid” was walking around money for the secretary …read more

Source: OP-EDS