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Incompetency at Home

September 11, 2013 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

While everyone’s attention has been justifiably focused on whether or not we will be going to war in Syria, a pair of important fiscal deadlines has been quietly sneaking up on us. On September 30, the continuing resolution (CR) currently funding the government will expire, and by the middle of October, the federal government will once again reach its legal borrowing limit.

Word from the Hill suggests that Republican leaders will offer a short-term CR that funds the government through December 15 at a cost of $988 billion. This resolution would keep most of the sequester intact, but would still increase appropriations by roughly $21 billion relative to the previous CR. Still, it is roughly $70 billion less than President Obama requested. That’s what counts as fiscal discipline these days.

And, in an exceptionally cynical maneuver, the leadership plans to use a parliamentary vehicle to allow House members to take yet another symbolic vote to defund Obamacare. The maneuver, last used in 2011, would have the House vote on two items, the continuing resolution to fund the government and a separate “enrollment correction” that would defund Obamacare. The Senate would have to vote on both items, but if it passes the CR while rejecting the Obamacare addendum, as it almost certainly will, the CR would go on to the president with funding for the health-care law intact. That is exactly what happened in 2011. The Senate rejected the resolution to defund Obamacare, 53–47, and then went on to pass the “clean” CR, 81–19.

The House vote to defund Obamacare would be as meaningless as any of the 40 previous such votes. In fact, it’s worse than that. It’s dishonest — an attempt to fool voters into believing that the House has voted to defund the law, when it really has done no such thing. If congressional Republicans lack the courage to actually do something about Obamacare, they should just go ahead and pass a CR without the subterfuge.

Then again, simply maintaining the sequester can be counted as a victory of sorts. After all, some Republicans, such as Representatives Buck McKeon (Calif.) and Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.) have reportedly offered to trade support for President Obama’s Syrian intervention for eliminating the sequester cuts to defense. Now that’s a winning formula — more spending and a war.

On the debt ceiling, Majority Leader Eric Cantor suggested Tuesday that the House might tie an increase to a one-year …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Joe Stiglitz: The People Who Break the Rules Have Raked in Huge Profits and Wealth and It's Sickening Our Politics

September 11, 2013 in Blogs

By Joseph Stiglitz, AlterNet

In his powerful speech to the AFL-CIO convention, the famed economist says '95% of the gains from 2009 to 2012 went to the upper 1%.'


The following is taken from a transcript of Joseph Stiglitz's remarks to the AFL-CIO convention in Los Angeles on September 8.

I'm an economist– I study how economies work and don't work. It’s been clear to me that our economy has been sick for a long time.  One of the reasons it's been so sick is inequality, and I decided to write an article and a book about it.

Two years ago, I wrote an article for Vanity Fair called, “Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%,” which really got to the gist of it.  For too long, the hardworking and rule-abiding had seen their paychecks shrink or stay the same, while the rule-breakers raked in huge profits and wealth.  It made our economy sick, and our politics sick, too.  

You all know the facts:  while the productivity of America's workers has soared, wages have stagnated. You've worked hard – since 1979, your output per hour has increased 40%, but pay has barely increased. Meanwhile, the top 1% take home more than 20% of the national income.

The Great Recession made things worse.  Some say that the recession ended in 2009.  But for most Americans, that's simply wrong:  95% of the gains from 2009 to 2012 went to the upper 1%.  The rest — the 99% — never really recovered.

More than 20 million Americans who would like a full time job still can't get one, incomes are still lower than they were a decade and a half ago, wealth in the middle is back to where it was two decades ago. Young Americans face a mountain of student debt, and dismal job prospects.

We have become the advanced country with the highest level of inequality, with the greatest divide between the rich and the poor.  We use to pride ourselves–we were the country in which everyone was middle class.  Now that middle class is shrinking and suffering.  

<p …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Misesians on 9/11, Then and Now

September 11, 2013 in Economics

By Ryan McMaken

I attended the Mises Institute’s Supporters Summit in September or October of 2001. It was a relatively somber affair. Occurring shortly after 9/11, which was itself unsettling in its pointless bloodshed, we also knew that so much more bloodshed was to come, and that all the planned attacks on human liberty and decency, such as the USA-PATRIOT ACT, were all in the works.

Libertarians were virtually alone in opposing the planned expansions of government power in the wake of 9/11, and then as now, we saw the attacks for what they were: criminal attacks on human persons and property which nonetheless have not been set right or rendered impossible by more than a decade of nearly untrammeled government theft, war, regulation, and spying.

An updated ’9/11 Reader:’

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Twelve Years After 9/11: Let’s End the Politics of Fear

September 11, 2013 in Blogs

By Robin Koerner

Lights at WTC

Since 9/11, it seems that the American Left and the American Right have agreed on something of profound importance: We’re scared.

The politics of the last 12 years have been the politics of fear.

Because of fear that one of us is a terrorist, we’ve allowed our intelligence services to listen into our private conversations; because of fear of terrorists from abroad, we have killed innocent people in foreign nations (supposedly to protect ourselves here); because of fear that our planes will get blown up, we let government agents put their hands on our children’s crotches and look at our naked bodies, and because of fear that the economy will implode, we’ve given trillions of dollars to organizations that have brought us to that point.

None of it feels very brave or free. None of it feels very American.

Nations confident of their strength don’t seek fights. The most powerful nations win without firing a shot. Nations confident of their security and the ability of their agents to maintain it don’t compromise the dignity or legal rights of its citizens. Nations confident that the innovativeness and entrepreneurism of its people can provide prosperity don’t reward bad custodians of financial resources to “save the system.”

America has surely been a great nation. But with true greatness — true power — comes self-confidence. What has happened to the America that the world used to love, even if in some quarters, grudgingly? It was always American self-confidence, justified largely by the examples we set regarding the treatment of our people and, during our grander historical moments, other people, on which our leadership depended. We were respected and powerful to the extent that other nations wanted to be like us — to have our prosperity, our freedom and our openness.

Twelve years after 9/11, who have we become and who do we appear to be?

Minimizing risk at reasonable cost is the action of a sensible man or nation. Trying to eliminate all risk at any cost — not only financial, but also of principle — is the action of a man or nation that has become obsessive, compulsive, scared, or all three.

A few years ago, a friend of mine returned from a tour in Iraq as a proud American soldier to be required at Seattle airport to remove his shoes and equipment …read more

Source: ROBIN KOERNER BLOG

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Chomsky: 9/11 Is the Basis for 'Obama's Massive Terrorist War'

September 11, 2013 in Blogs

By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!

Chomsky weighs in on 9/11 anniversary, Syria’s “bloody partition” and why U.S. role ensures failure of mideast talks


Noam Chomsky, the world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author, weighs in on today’s 12th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks and how the civil war in Syria appears destined to permanently break the country apart. “[9/11] was very significant, a major terrorist act, thousands of people killed,” Chomsky says. “It’s the first time since the War of 1812 that U.S. territory had been attacked. The United States has had remarkable security, and therefore was, aside from the horrible atrocity, a very significant, historical event. And it changed attitudes and policies in the United States quite considerably.

And in reaction to this, the government was able to ram through laws that sharply constrained civil liberties. It was able to provide pretexts for the invasion of Afghanistan, invasion of Iraq — the destruction of Iraq, with consequences that spread through the region. And it’s the basis for Obama’s massive terrorist war, the drone war, the most extreme terrorist campaign that’s underway now, maybe most extreme in history, and the justification for it is the same: the second 9/11, 9/11/2001. So, yes, it’s had enormous effects on society, on attitudes, on policies. Many victims throughout the world can testify to that.” On Syria, Chomsky says the country “is plunging into suicide. If negotiations [don’t] work, Syria is moving towards a kind of very bloody partition.”

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Our guest for the hour is Professor Noam Chomsky. In 2007, Noam, Democracy Now! interviewed General Wesley Clark, the retired four-star general who was the supreme allied commander of NATO during the Kosovo War. General Clark described how an unnamed Pentagon official, just after the September 11th attacks, talked about a memo that said the U.S. planned to take out seven countries in five years, including Syria. _

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: About 10 days after 9/11, I went through the Pentagon, and I saw Secretary Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz. I went downstairs just to say hello to some of the people on the joint staff …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Shocking UN Report Reveals 1 in 4 Men Admit to Raping Women for 'Fun' and Because of 'Sexual Entitlement'

September 11, 2013 in Blogs

By Jodie Gummow, AlterNet

As prosecutors fight for death penalty in Delhi fatal rape case, UN study finds disturbing facts about prevalence of sex crimes in Asia.


A disturbing newreport on sexual assault released by the United Nations reveals that one in four men have admitted to raping a woman once in their lives for entertainment, punishment and revenge amongst the top reasons listed, IBT reported.

The study which was published in the British Medical Journal The Lancet and conducted by the World Health Organization in the Asia-pacific region involved interviewing 10,178 men aged between 18 and 49 years old in Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Papua New Guinea about engaging in non-consensual sex.

Almost 75 percent of those interviewed said they committed rape because of “sexual entitlement,” or as form of punishment because the man was angry:

“They believed they had the right to have sex with the woman regardless of consent. The second most common motivation reported was to rape as a form of entertainment, so for fun or because they were bored. Perhaps surprisingly, the least common motivation was alcohol,” report author Dr. Emma Fulu said.

The study also highlighted, poverty, personal history of violence and victimization as contributing factors that led to rape crimes.  

Dr. Michelle Decker of John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore said the findings should generate global outrage particularly in light of recent high profile rape cases such as the New Delhi student gang rape case in India:

“More than half of non-partner rape perpetrators first did so as adolescents, which affirms that young people are a crucial target population for prevention of rape. The challenge now is to turn evidence into action, to create a safer future for the next generation of women and girls,” she said in an interview with BBC.

The report comes amidst the news that prosecutors of the four men found guilty of the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old in New Delhi, India in December say the men should face the death penalty for the crime that shocked the “collective consciousness,” of the people, BBC News reported.

In …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Bill De Blasio, Anti-Stop and Frisk, Anti-Bloomberg Progressive Tops NYC Dem Mayoral Primary

September 11, 2013 in Blogs

By Ed Pilkington, The Guardian

Spitzer and Weiner fail in redemption quest. Joe Lhota tops Republicans.


 

Bill De Blasio, the liberal pragmatist who sprang from nowhere to storm the Democratic race for New York mayor, was within a hair's breadth of winning his party's nomination outright on Wednesday.

Unofficial tallies put De Blasio at 40.2%, just over the 40% needed to avoid a run-off on 1 October. A decisive result would place De Blasio in the front-runner position for the November general election, where he would go up against the former chief of New York's transport agency, Joe Lhota, who won the Republican nomination.

But official results put him just under 40% and should a final count force De Blasio to go to a second round, he would go face Bill Thompson, the city's former comptroller, or chief auditor, who took second place with 26%. Christine Quinn, the city council leader and early favourite, was beaten into a distant third place.

In his election night speech, delivered close to midnight, Thompson made it clear that he would not go easily. He said that he would ensure that “every vote counted” – a strong hint that he intends to wait for an official declaration that included absentee ballots, which may not come for three weeks.

In exit polls conducted by Edison Research, De Blasio trounced his rivals among all main demographic groups. He held sway among men (44%) and women (42%), whites (46%), blacks (44%) and Hispanics (41%), all the city's main religious communities and all age groups.

The result was a resounding vindication for De Blasio's unconventional approach to the New York mayoral race in which he cut across traditional racial and ethnic lines to build what the Guardian analyst Harry Enten called “the most diverse coalition in modern history”. Key to his success, propelled from a little-known fourth place contender just a few weeks ago to his party's front-runner, was his message of a “tale of two cities” – an implicit attack on the style of leadership of the current mayor, billionaire Michael Bloomberg.

In his …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Voice, Exit, and Managed Decline

September 11, 2013 in Economics

By Dalibor Rohac

Dalibor Rohac

The recent, thoroughly ill-advised Slate piece on the immorality of those who send their children to private schools has the merit of reminding one of the importance of issues of voice and exit and raising the question of how effective exit is in shaping public policy. Albert Hirschman’s distinction between exit and voice as two ways of addressing problems in organizations is probably one the most important ideas in the social sciences.

When individuals within organizations have grievances, they typically face a choice between voice and exit. One does not try to set up an appointment with the CEO of Starbucks if one believes that their coffee is overroasted (a friend of mine holds that view), one simply takes one’s business elsewhere. Conversely, few people would seek a divorce because their spouse can’t make bisque—in a marriage, voice is generally a more sensible way of resolving problems. In short, the choice between the use of voice and exit will likely depend on factors like transaction costs, the severity of collective action problems that are involved, asset specificity, and so on.

In the real world, the Tiebout model operates slowly.”

Governments sit awkwardly between these polar extremes, as people use both voice and exit in different contexts. Public choice economics suggests that the traditional exercise of voice in a democratic society—i.e., once in four or five years, at the ballot box—is pretty much useless. In many ways, exit can get people what they want much more effectively.

Parents move to a better school district or send their children to private schools; similarly, high-skilled workers and investors move to jurisdictions with friendlier tax or regulatory regimes, such as Dubai or Singapore. Clearly, exit has become much easier than it once was. Capital is more mobile (p.5), and new technologies and cheap travel make it easier for people to move countries or continents without jeopardizing their social ties and friendships.

While exit is clearly good for people and entrepreneurs who are able to move, how effective is it in improving policies? The original Tiebout model assumed that with many jurisdictions to choose from, and with perfectly mobile and well-informed consumers, different communities will accommodate people’s preferences over government-provided goods and tax rates. Even without the idealized assumptions driving Tiebout’s result, models of tax competition have depicted governments as actively competing for mobile taxable bases, resulting in the widely maligned ‘race to the bottom’.

Given …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Lefty Apple Fans, Prepare to Support the Koch Brothers

September 11, 2013 in Blogs

By Jodie Gummow, AlterNet

Right-wing billionaire brothers to buy Apple iPhone supplier – what is a liberal to do?


This week Apple launched the new iPhone 5 which will hit stores on September 18.  However, the debut was overshadowed by the news that Koch Industries are to buy the electronics company Molex for $7.2 billion – a company that is one of Apple’s component suppliers.

Such a move is a slap in the face for liberal Apple fans who will now be faced with the dilemma of filling the pockets of “left-wing hate objects” if they choose to buy their favorite Apple product, The Daily Beast reported.

Koch Industries, the giant conglomerate, owned by brothers Charles and David Koch, is known for dabbling in everything from oil to manufacturing to paper towels, and using their sky-high profits to directly fund projects for the sole purpose of engaging in “relentless political combat.”

“They have deployed their cash in campaigns against global warming, against renewable energy, against Obamacare, against President Obama and congressional Democrats and against all sorts of progress. If liberals and progressives like it, it’s a good bet the Koch brothers are against it,” The Daily Beast’s Daniel Gross writes.

Molex specifically is a company which specializes in vital devices like connectors, antennas and switches with many of its components found in Apple iPhone products.  According to the Wall Street Journal, sales to Apple accounted for 14 percent of Molex’s $3.62 billion in revenue for the fiscal year ending June 30.

While the deal is unlikely to affect Molex employees or customers, it is likely to cause some ethical anguish particularly amongst those Apple-loving liberals opposed to Koch Industries and everything the conglomerate stands for politically. 

Read more

 

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Source: ALTERNET

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World Has Not Stopped for Syria

September 11, 2013 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

Events around the world do not obligingly come to a halt while U.S. officials focus all their attention on the crisis du jour in the Middle East—this time in Syria. In fact, significant developments continue to take place, even in other portions of the Middle East. For example, the renewed sectarian violence next door in Iraq is escalating at a frightening pace, Sunni-Shiite tensions in Bahrain are at a vigorous simmer, Libya is imploding, and Egypt is perched on the verge of civil war.

Outside the Middle East, there are a number of important developments, both good and bad, involving countries that are far more significant than Syria to long-term U.S. interests. That is especially true in South Asia and East Asia. In the former region, the once-pervasive assumption that India would be the next country to enter the ranks of elite global powers has faded badly. Economic growth rates are stagnating, and the rupee is plunging in value on world exchanges, in part a victim of profligate spending by government leaders who assumed the soaring pace of economic expansion would never diminish and they, therefore, need not worry about small matters like budgetary discipline.

Events around the world do not obligingly come to a halt while U.S. officials focus all their attention on the crisis du jour in the Middle East.”

India’s new financial woes are not merely a matter of concern for regional and global economic health, although they do have troubling ramifications on that front. If predictions of India becoming one of the world’s great powers prove erroneous, or at least decidedly premature, that development also has important diplomatic and security implications. For well over a decade, U.S. policy makers have tended to view India as a possible security competitor to China and even as an emerging strategic counterweight. The crude version of that thesis envisioned New Delhi as a de facto U.S. ally in efforts to contain Chinese power. The more sophisticated version understood that Indian leaders might not be eager to play that game on Washington’s behalf and would instead seek to play a more balanced role between Washington and Beijing. Still, India’s economic and military rise, combined with the country’s history of border disputes and other frictions with China, suggested that New Delhi’s enhanced status would benefit U.S. interests and at least give Beijing some concerns to ponder. If India instead …read more

Source: OP-EDS