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Republicans Will Win the Foreign Policy Debate in 2016, Unless They Blow It

March 17, 2015 in Economics

By A. Trevor Thrall

A. Trevor Thrall

Republicans should dominate the 2016 presidential foreign policy debate, but only if they can avoid shooting themselves in the foot. Winning this debate could be crucial given the recent Huff Post/YouGov poll that found more Americans think the 2016 presidential election will focus on foreign policy issues than domestic issues. Historically speaking this is unlikely; elections almost always turn on the economy and domestic issues. But if the polls prove prophetic, it gives the GOP the advantage. Maybe.

Why Republicans Should Win the Foreign Policy Debate

Though it’s too early to know which Republican will win the party’s nomination, the general arguments don’t change much for any of the current frontrunners.

First, Republicans will benefit from the fact that Obama’s foreign policy approval ratings have not broken 50% during his second term; they sat at 37% a January 2015 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Since 2012, after seven years of favoring Democrats in the wake of the Iraq War, Americans again have more trust in Republicans to handle foreign policy. In short, Obama’s incumbency will be a liability for any Democratic nominee no matter how much he or she tries to separate from the administration.

Republicans have a cornucopia of legitimate criticisms to fuel the attack.”

Moreover, Republicans have a cornucopia of legitimate criticisms to fuel the attack. The public, though not in agreement about what should happen, clearly believes that Obama should have been doing more to manage the turmoil in Iraq, Syria, Ukraine„ Iran, Nigeria…the list goes on. With so much to be unhappy about, Republican contenders should have little trouble making the general case that it is time for a change.

As a bonus, the Huff Post/YouGov poll also found that Obama’s handling of foreign policy is tied with immigration for what upsets Republicans most about his presidency. Coupled with the Republican Congress’ ability to keep Clinton’s email and Benghazi role in the voters’ minds, this means foreign policy should be useful for motivating the Republican base in 2016 and generating donations even if it doesn’t woo any swing votes.

Why It Might Not Be So Easy…

Hillary Clinton, almost certain to be the Democratic nominee, is no Barack Obama when it comes to foreign policy. When she left her post as Secretary of State, Clintonenjoyed a 69% approval rating for her performance; just 25% disapproved. Republican frothing about Benghazi and private emails aside, most …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Europe's Quantitative Easing Has Already Failed

March 17, 2015 in Economics

By Alan Reynolds


Alan Reynolds

The European Central Bank has ballooned its “quantitative easing” bond-buying spree to about 60 billion euros a month, as announced in late January. Judged by a key rationale for QE — namely, to raise inflation to 2% — world markets have already given the plan a resounding vote of “no confidence.”

On the first day of QE, 10-year debt was about 0.33% in Germany and below 1.3% even on dodgy Italian and Spanish bonds. The 5-year German yield was below zero. Global investors would surely not settle for such meager yields if they expected 2% inflation.

It is true that eurobonds offered the prospect of capital gains while yields fell (aside from foreign exchange losses for American investors). With the least risky euro yields approaching zero, however, the ECB is risking big capital losses if it ever succeeded in raising inflation, real growth or both. In that sense, the ECB is betting heavily on its own failure.

With long-term rates so low, the euro yield curve has also become dangerously flat. Banks make money by borrowing short and lending long, so the flattened yield curve discourages lending and thus threatens small companies that depend on bank loans.

A Raw Deal

Many point to the falling euro as proof that the ECB policies are a “stimulus.” Since last May, the euro has fallen by nearly one-fourth against the dollar — to a 12-year low. But that has had unintended consequences.

In fact, the one unmistakable impact of the lower euro has been to raise the cost of production for European industry and the cost of living for European consumers — largely because key commodities are priced in dollars.

By March, the Economist index of commodity prices was down 18.4% in dollars but up 5.7% in euros. Europeans have seen only a fraction of the benefit of falling oil prices, because oil is priced in dollars but paid for with shrinking euros. Costs of raw materials have gone up for European manufacturers and consumers, but down for their U.S. counterparts.

What Europe desperately needs is to slash the marginal cost of government.”

Proponents of a weaker euro tell us a lower exchange rate will (1) raise inflation, yet (2) make exports cheaper to those paying in dollars. The goal is somehow to raise prices at home while lowering them abroad.

Pricey Inputs = Cheap Exports?

How are higher costs of energy, metals, fabrics and agricultural raw …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Robert Reich: In Our Horrifying Future, Very Few People Will Have Work or Make Money

March 17, 2015 in Blogs

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog

Think you're safe because you're a professional? Think again.

It’s now possible to sell a new product to hundreds of millions of people without needing many, if any, workers to produce or distribute it.

At its prime in 1988, Kodak, the iconic American photography company, had 145,000 employees. In 2012, Kodak filed for bankruptcy.

The same year Kodak went under, Instagram, the world’s newest photo company, had 13 employees serving 30 million customers.

The ratio of producers to customers continues to plummet. When Facebook purchased “WhatsApp” (the messaging app) for $19 billion last year, WhatsApp had 55 employees serving 450 million customers.

A friend, operating from his home in Tucson, recently invented a machine that can find particles of certain elements in the air.

He’s already sold hundreds of these machines over the Internet to customers all over the world. He’s manufacturing them in his garage with a 3D printer.

So far, his entire business depends on just one person — himself.

New technologies aren’t just labor-replacing. They’re also knowledge-replacing.

The combination of advanced sensors, voice recognition, artificial intelligence, big data, text-mining, and pattern-recognition algorithms, is generating smart robots capable of quickly learning human actions, and even learning from one another.

If you think being a “professional” makes your job safe, think again.

The two sectors of the economy harboring the most professionals — health care and education – are under increasing pressure to cut costs. And expert machines are poised to take over.

We’re on the verge of a wave of mobile health apps for measuring everything from your cholesterol to your blood pressure, along with diagnostic software that tells you what it means and what to do about it.

In coming years, software apps will be doing many of the things physicians, nurses, and technicians now do (think ultrasound, CT scans, and electrocardiograms).

Meanwhile, the jobs of many teachers and university professors will disappear, replaced by online courses and interactive online textbooks.

Where will this end?

Imagine a small box – let’s call it an “iEverything” – capable of producing everything you could possibly desire, a modern day Aladdin’s lamp.

You simply tell it what you want, and – presto – the …read more


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The Export-Import Bank's Hidden Tax on America's Companies

March 17, 2015 in Economics

By Daniel J. Ikenson

Daniel J. Ikenson

For those hoping the Republican congress will allow the charter of the Export-Import Bank to expire on June 30, two recent House reauthorization bills and an imminent bipartisan Senate bill to accomplish the same are not particularly reassuring.

What’s not to like about the Export-Import Bank? The U.S. government’s official export credit agency finances sales of American companies to foreign customers, increasing exports, stimulating output, and creating jobs. Only the most cynical, anti-government zealots could have a problem with this vital engine of economic growth and global engagement. Well…not so fast.

Ex-Im supporters — mostly corporate beneficiaries and politicians — work hard to sculpt the Bank’s image as an institution of costless necessity. But closer examinations have revealed corruptioncorporate welfare, and hidden taxation on thousands of U.S. businesses. Victims abound across the country.

For all the praise Ex-Im heaps upon itself for its role as a costless pillar of the economy, it is difficult to make sense of the collateral damage left in its wake.”

Despite the Bank’s claims that it primarily serves small and medium enterprises and that it provides financing for transactions that the private sector won’t service, in 2013 about 75 percent of Ex-Im largesse was dispensed to the benefit of ten large, creditworthy companies, including Boeing, General Electric, Bechtel, Dow Chemical, and Caterpillar. But another large company, Delta Airlines, raised objections last year over Ex-Im’s financing of Boeing aircraft sales to foreign carriers, such as Air India. Delta’s complaint was that the U.S. government, as a matter of policy, was subsidizing Delta’s foreign competition by reducing Air India’s cost of acquiring airplanes. Those lower capital costs enabled Air India to offer lower prices than it otherwise could, which had an obvious, adverse impact on Delta’s bottom line. In essence, Ex-Im forces taxpayers to underwrite the success of some U.S. companies at the expense of others.

This same dynamic has been playing out across the U.S. manufacturing sector, where American companies are put at similar disadvantages because their suppliers are getting Ex-Im to subsidize sales to their foreign competitors. In other words, Ex-Im’s transactions benefit two parties: the U.S. exporter and the foreign customer. And, accordingly, those transactions tax two sets of parties: the U.S. competitors of the lucky U.S. exporter (the intra-industry cost) and the U.S. competitors of the lucky foreign customer (the downstream industry cost). So, for Ex-Im subsidies that allegedly …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Watch: Dallas Police Kill a Mental Patient Holding a Screwdriver

March 17, 2015 in Blogs

By Michael Arria, AlterNet

His family hopes the video helps change the way officers deal with the mentally ill.

The family of Jason Harrison, a mentally ill African-American man shot by Dallas police as he held a small screwdriver, has released a short video showing the moments that led to his death.

The 38-year-old Harrison was bipolar, schizophrenic, and off his medication. His mother had called the police because she wanted assistance in bringing him to the local hospital. The video shows her calmly walking out of the front door, before her son, seconds before the shooting. When she called to request assistance, she made the particulars of Harrison's situation known to the department.

The shooting took place last June, but the release of the video comes less than two weeks after police in Georgia killed Anthony Hill, an unarmed African-American 27-year-old who was not only unarmed, but naked when he was shot to death.

The family has launched a lawsuit against the department, which is how they were able to obtain a copy of the body-camera video. In a story in the Dallas Morning News, Jason Harrison's brother, Sean Harrison, explains how he hopes the video will serve as a warning in future, similar situations. “This is a perfect video for the Dallas Police Department to use in training as an example of what not to do,” he said. “You don’t yell at them — that only agitates them.”

Last year, Reason's Elizabeth Nolan Brown compiled a list of mentally ill individuals killed by cops in 2014. She ended up with 14 names and the list was composed before the summer had even ended. It's worth noting that the list was, in no way, complete. As she wrote in her introduction, “[This is] simply the results of a couple hours of Google searching.” She also left out any case where the victim was carrying a gun.

Dallas police say that the department has already completed an investigation into the matter, but have not made any ruling, instead forwarding the necessary information to the district attorney's office. The two officers from the video, John Rogers …read more


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Jon Stewart: Who's Drunker, the Secret Service or the Media?

March 17, 2015 in Blogs

By AlterNet

Clearly both need an intervention.

After a spate of misbehavior by the Secret Service that was breathlessly covered by the media, Jon Stewart has realized something about both institutions: neither is very good at their jobs. As it turns out, recent reporting about Secret Service agents drunkenly crashing their car into a White House barricade was widely overblown. 

Clearly both the Secret Service and the media need an intervention. Watch below: 


…read more