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“Ending Greece’s Bleeding”: Europe’s Self-Styled Technocrats Are Like Medieval Doctors Who Insisted On Bleeding Their Patients

Europe dodged a bullet on Sunday. Confounding many predictions, Greek voters strongly supported their government’s rejection of creditor demands. And even the most ardent supporters of European union should be breathing a sigh of relief.

Of course, that’s not the way the creditors would have you see it. Their story, echoed by many in the business press, is that the failure of their attempt to bully Greece into acquiescence was a triumph of irrationality and irresponsibility over sound technocratic advice.

But the campaign of bullying — the attempt to terrify Greeks by cutting off bank financing and threatening general chaos, all with the almost open goal of pushing the current leftist government out of office — was a shameful moment in a Europe that claims to believe in democratic principles. It would have set a terrible precedent if that campaign had succeeded, even if the creditors were making sense.

What’s more, they weren’t. The truth is that Europe’s self-styled technocrats are like medieval doctors who insisted on bleeding their patients — and when their treatment made the patients sicker, demanded even more bleeding. A “yes” vote in Greece would have condemned the country to years more of suffering under policies that haven’t worked and in fact, given the arithmetic, can’t work: austerity probably shrinks the economy faster than it reduces debt, so that all the suffering serves no purpose. The landslide victory of the “no” side offers at least a chance for an escape from this trap.

But how can such an escape be managed? Is there any way for Greece to remain in the euro? And is this desirable in any case?

The most immediate question involves Greek banks. In advance of the referendum, the European Central Bank cut off their access to additional funds, helping to precipitate panic and force the government to impose a bank holiday and capital controls. The central bank now faces an awkward choice: if it resumes normal financing it will as much as admit that the previous freeze was political, but if it doesn’t it will effectively force Greece into introducing a new currency.

Specifically, if the money doesn’t start flowing from Frankfurt (the headquarters of the central bank), Greece will have no choice but to start paying wages and pensions with i.o.u.s, which will de facto be a parallel currency — and which might soon turn into the new drachma.

Suppose, on the other hand, that the central bank does resume normal lending, and the banking crisis eases. That still leaves the question of how to restore economic growth.

In the failed negotiations that led up to Sunday’s referendum, the central sticking point was Greece’s demand for permanent debt relief, to remove the cloud hanging over its economy. The troika — the institutions representing creditor interests — refused, even though we now know that one member of the troika, the International Monetary Fund, had concluded independently that Greece’s debt cannot be paid. But will they reconsider now that the attempt to drive the governing leftist coalition from office has failed?

I have no idea — and in any case there is now a strong argument that Greek exit from the euro is the best of bad options.

Austerity hasn’t worked. Five years is enough! It’s time to try something new. The financial elites resist with an obduracy that defies…

Imagine, for a moment, that Greece had never adopted the euro, that it had merely fixed the value of the drachma in terms of euros. What would basic economic analysis say it should do now? The answer, overwhelmingly, would be that it should devalue — let the drachma’s value drop, both to encourage exports and to break out of the cycle of deflation.

Of course, Greece no longer has its own currency, and many analysts used to claim that adopting the euro was an irreversible move — after all, any hint of euro exit would set off devastating bank runs and a financial crisis. But at this point that financial crisis has already happened, so that the biggest costs of euro exit have been paid. Why, then, not go for the benefits?

Would Greek exit from the euro work as well as Iceland’s highly successful devaluation in 2008-09, or Argentina’s abandonment of its one-peso-one-dollar policy in 2001-02? Maybe not — but consider the alternatives. Unless Greece receives really major debt relief, and possibly even then, leaving the euro offers the only plausible escape route from its endless economic nightmare.

And let’s be clear: if Greece ends up leaving the euro, it won’t mean that the Greeks are bad Europeans. Greece’s debt problem reflected irresponsible lending as well as irresponsible borrowing, and in any case the Greeks have paid for their government’s sins many times over. If they can’t make a go of Europe’s common currency, it’s because that common currency offers no respite for countries in trouble. The important thing now is to do whatever it takes to end the bleeding.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, July 5, 2015

July 7, 2015 Posted by | Austerity, European Union, Greece | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Protecting Equality”: What Some Black Church Leaders Have Wrong About Gay Marriage — And Civil Rights

On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that same-sex couples had a right to marry anywhere in the country.

The African American church and its leadership have often been at the forefront of movements for equality. But the recent Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage has shed light on the resistance to social change among some black church leaders —and has left them sounding more like white conservative leaders.

On June 26, the Court ruled that two consenting adults have the right to get married—even if they are the same gender. As conservatives lamented the loss of morality and warned of the hellfire that would soon rain down upon us, President Barack Obama and the White House celebrated the decision.

Just a few hours later, Obama delivered a eulogy for Clementa Pinckney. Pinckney was a South Carolina state senator and a pastor at the historically black Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church before he was shot and killed, along with eight other members, by white supremacist Dylann Roof during a Bible study on Wednesday, June 17. The juxtaposition was quite remarkable. It was a day marked by joyous celebration and indescribable pain: the first black president at the funeral of a black man killed by a white supremacist, on the same day same-sex marriage became the law of the land.

In May 2015, the Pew Research Center found that support for same-sex marriage among all Americans increased drastically from 39 percent in 2009 to a whopping 57 percent. Opinions on same-sex marriage vary by race, with 59 percent of whites, 56 percent of Hispanics, and just 41 percent of blacks in support.

One of the biggest indicators in whether a group is in favor of same-sex marriage is religion. Of those unaffiliated with religion, 85 percent support marriage equality. In contrast, 70 percent of white evangelical Protestants oppose gay marriage, as do 57 percent of black Protestants.

Since at least 1992, blacks have voted overwhelmingly for Democrats, the reason being that the modern-day Democratic Party champions causes that appeal to the black community: economic inequality, fair housing, taxing the rich, welfare, and public education. Meanwhile, the modern-day Republican Party consistently stands for causes that disproportionately hurt blacks. And much to the chagrin of conservative black pastors, the Democratic president (and those who hope to succeed him) is publicly in favor of same-sex marriage.

In May 2012, after Vice President Joe Biden came out in support for marriage equality, Obama quickly did as well. “I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” he said during an interview with ABC News. And while many across the United States celebrated Obama’s voiced support, he faced backlash from black pastors.

The Coalition of African-American Pastors (CAAP) is a socially conservative organization made up of black church leaders. After Obama’s endorsement of marriage equality, the president of CAAP, Reverend William Owens, sounded the moral alarm. “We were once proud of President Obama, but our pride has turned to shame,” he said. “The man holding the most powerful position in the world is stooping to lead the country down an immoral path.”

After the Supreme Court ruling last week, CAAP doubled down on Facebook. “Pres. Obama’s legacy: Obamacare and Gay care,” read one post. Another update used the “unelected judges” talking point, widely used by conservative politicians when they don’t agree with a SCOTUS outcome:

Today is a significant setback for all Americans who believe in the Constitution, the rule of law, democratic self-government, and marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The Court got it wrong: it should not have mandated all 50 states to redefine marriage.

Five unelected judges do not have the power to change the truth about marriage or the truth about the Constitution.

According to The Christian Post, CAAP and other African American Christian leaders threatened mass civil disobedience. “If they rule for same-sex marriage, then we’re going to do the same thing we did for the civil rights movement,” proclaimed Owens. The fact that protesting a law protecting equality is antithetical to the civil rights movement must be lost on Owens and CAAP. Just as notable is the lack of recognition they seem to have for how the black LGBT community has long been at the intersection of racial equality and gay rights.

Two trans women of color were at the forefront of the Stonewall riots, widely considered the beginning of the modern LGBT equality movement. Sylvia Rivera, of Puerto Rican descent, was later one of the founders of both the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activist Alliance. She and Marsha P. Jackson, who was black, started the Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries, which advocated for homeless LGBT people.

Today’s Black Lives Matter movement, which mirrors so much of the movement of the 1960s, was started when three queer black women created the hashtag—Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi—after George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin in 2013. Writing for The Feminist Wire this past October, Garza declared that, “Black Lives Matter affirms the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, Black-undocumented folks, folks with records, women and all Black lives along the gender spectrum.” The Black Lives Matter movement was inclusive and intersectional from the beginning.

The black LGBT community is strong and has been fighting for civil rights for decades. The coalition of black pastors who invoke the civil rights movement when they rail against the rights of gay couples should consider reading some history books.

 

By: Nathalie Baptiste, The American Prospect, July 3, 2015

July 6, 2015 Posted by | Black Church Leaders, Civil Rights Movement, Marriage Equality | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Paul LePage Is Facing Impeachment”: Why The Tea Party Hero’s Luck May Have Finally Run Out

Even among the gaggle of hopping mad reactionaries swept into power by 2010’s Tea Party wave, the unbridled anger of Paul LePage, the former businessman who is currently in his second term as Maine’s governor, has always allowed him to stand out.

If the average Republican was outraged, for example, you could count on LePage to be incensed. If the average Republican was ignoring people of color, LePage was responding to their concerns with an invitation to give a specific part of his body a kiss. If the average Republican pandered to Fox News’ geriatric and terrified viewers, LePage offered them nothing less than the personification of their collective id.

All of which is to explain why it’s not a complete shock to read from the New York Times that state legislators in Maine are considering the nuclear option of impeachment. He’s a twice-elected conservative in a state that leans increasingly toward centrist Democrats, but watching his administration has often felt like getting a window into an alternative universe where Bill O’Reilly runs a state government. So now that Republicans in the Legislature have effectively abandoned him, the talk of canceling the Paul LePage Show mid-season actually makes sense.

If you’re one of those vanishingly few number of people who don’t pay close attention to Maine politics, however, you probably think this sounds excessively dramatic. You probably haven’t heard of LePage; so can he really be that bad? It’s not as if he did something truly remarkable, like destroy his state’s public unions or engineer gridlock on the world’s busiest bridge. It’s true that LePage doesn’t have many legislative accomplishments of significance. But to view him solely through the bills he signs — or, increasingly, vetoes — is to look at Maine’s historically genteel politics through the wrong lens.

Not unlike New Jersey’s Chris Christie, another Republican governor in an even bluer state, most of LePage’s troubles can be summed up in one word: temperament. Simply put, the guy is a walking firestorm of pettiness, fury and resentment. Infamously, one of the first things he did upon taking office in 2011 was order the removal of a pro-worker mural from the state’s Department of Labor. He said the painting suggested the government had an anti-business bias. The story earned LePage negative attention from the national media. The whole thing was gratuitous and stupid.

Taking down a mural is, obviously, not a big deal. I bring it up, however, because I think it’s a useful case-in-point for understanding two important elements of LePage’s personality. One, the severity of his lack of judgment; and two, how the overriding, distinctive feature of his approach is one of thoroughgoing meanness. For example, here’s how LePage tends to talk about his opponents — who are, in many cases, members of the general public: They’re idiots, liars and spoiled little brats; they’re corrupt, spineless and like the Nazis. He’s attacked Democrats in the state Senate with homophobia; and he’s joked about having his critics shot.

Maine’s comparatively sober-minded GOPers, perhaps the final representatives of a long New England tradition of Republican moderation, put up with LePage for years. As has been the case all over the country, the more confrontational and ideologically rigid elements of Maine’s GOP were better-organized than the other factions. And at least LePage cut taxes. But now that the governor has responded to his 2014 reelection by trying to ram through an elimination of the state’s income tax; and now that LePage promised to veto any bill that comes his way — be its author Republican or Democrat — until Democrats allow a referendum to that end, they’re feeling differently.

What Republicans are now realizing is that LePage’s kind of anti-government conservatism is in truth profoundly authoritarian. They probably knew this already, but new allegations that LePage had threatened to deny a charter school state funds unless it fired a political rival has made it impossible to ignore. The governor has all but declared war on the Legislature itself, and he has ground much of state government into a veto-induced halt. When combined with his machine-style tactics against the charter, these assaults on the state’s balance of power have given Republicans the cover they need to go after one of their own. Thus the talk of impeachment.

Saber-rattling is easy, though; so I wouldn’t be surprised if LePage ultimately finishes his second term. Then again, very little about the political career of Paul LePage, a man who’s earned the title of “America’s craziest governor,” has gone as one would expect. It certainly would be better for Maine — and the whole country, really — if LePage’s Fox News-style politics eventually brought him to an ignominious end, but a significant chunk of Maine voters evidently like having Bill O’Reilly as their governor. The Paul LePage show goes on.

 

By: Elias Isquith, Salon, June 30, 2015

July 6, 2015 Posted by | Maine, Maine Legislature, Paul LePage | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Scott Walker Picks A Fight He Can’t Win”: Walker’s Boast About His State’s “Dramatic” Economic Recovery Is Belied By, Well, Reality

Neither President Obama nor anyone on his team have spoken publicly about who they think might win the Republican presidential nomination. It’s not, however, unreasonable to think they have one candidate on their minds.

In March, for example, Obama raised eyebrows by taking a not-so-subtle shot at Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) far-right agenda, and a month later, the president did it again, calling out Walker – by name – as a candidate who needs to “bone up on foreign policy.”

Today, the president will be in Wisconsin, where Walker will greet him at the airport, before Obama fleshes out his new overtime policy at a University of Wisconsin campus. Politico reported that Walker has “become the White House’s bete noire” – the conservative governor is the one Republican “the president’s aides always hold up as an example of exactly what’s wrong with politics.”

And it’s equally clear the president is on Walker’s mind, too. Today, the Wisconsin Republican has a new piece, published by Real Clear Politics, suggesting Obama could learn a few things from GOP policymakers in the Badger State.

Bright spots in the Obama economy are few and far between, as opportunities for small businesses and entrepreneurs are often quashed by a federal government that has grown too large, powerful and pervasive. That’s why it’s telling that the president is scheduled to be in La Crosse, Wis., this week for an event focusing on the economy.

To be sure, Wisconsin’s economy has enjoyed a dramatic recovery over the last few years. But our fortunes have improved in spite of – not because of – the president’s big-government policies.

Walker’s piece added that he intends to tell the president how great far-right governance is, and “for the sake of hard-working taxpayers across the country, I hope he will listen.”

Whether he realizes it or not, the governor is picking a fight he’s unprepared to win.

Let’s put aside, at least for now, the fact that President Obama has a pretty amazing record on job creation and ending the Great Recession. Let’s instead focus on his critic because Walker’s boast about his state’s “dramatic” economic recovery is belied by, well, reality.

Just last week, the Chicago Tribune published a report with this headline: “Wisconsin economy lags after Walker’s spending and tax cuts.”

In 2011, new Republican Gov. Scott Walker set the creation of 250,000 jobs as the benchmark for success of his new administration. Walker missed that goal by a wide margin over his first term despite an embrace of sweeping tax cuts aimed at stimulating growth. Instead, the cuts helped dig a more than $2 billion hole in the state budget.

Wisconsin ranked 36th among the states and District of Columbia in the pace of private-sector job growth during Walker’s term, trailing all Rust Belt states and all but one other state in the Midwest.

More specifically, when it comes to job creation, Wisconsin ranked 35th in the nation in 2011, 36th in 2012, 38th in 2013, and 38th in 2014. Walker not only failed to keep his promise about creating 250,000 in his first term, he barely made it to 129,000.

In May, the Washington Post reported that the state’s rate of private-sector job growth “is one of the worst in the nation” and Wisconsin’s middle class “has shrunk at a faster rate than any other state in the country.”

It’s against this backdrop that the state is also struggling badly with a major budget shortfall, which Walker still doesn’t know how to close.

This is the guy who wants to brag about his economic record? The one who hopes to teach Obama a few things?

Seriously?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 2, 2015

July 6, 2015 Posted by | Economy, Scott Walker, Wisconsin Budget | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Mainstream Media’s Bernie Sanders Trap: Deranged Clinton Hate Turns Them Into America’s Socialist Vanguard

If only the great Michael Harrington had lived to see this. So many brave Americans fought in vain to spread socialism in the United States, but it’s advancing in the summer of 2015 thanks to an unlikely vanguard: lazy and apolitical political reporters who love horse races and hate the Clintons.

Yes, the MSM is making sure that socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders is taken seriously in his uphill run against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination. He’s surging in Iowa and New Hampshire, polls tell us, and attracting 10,000 people at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Wednesday night.

This lifelong lefty who attended Madison is thrilled to see it – and yet a little cynical, too.

I mean really, folks: If Sanders had a chance to become president, Mark Halperin would be the first in line to red-bait him, rather than shaming Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Clinton supporter, into doing it on Morning Joe.

But the rise of Sanders, alongside that of the GOP’s surging star, blustering racist Donald Trump, also shows the media the difference between the ideological moorings of the folks who make up the Democratic and Republican base. The Democrats have a lot of lefties, FDR Democrats, folks who want single payer health insurance, people who think we can learn from Western Europe not stigmatize it — and yes, Sanders excites them. On the GOP side, there is a loud, large, angry segment of the GOP base that’s frankly xenophobic, nativist, even racist. Trump speaks to them.

Sanders and Trump thus offer different kinds of challenges to their party rivals. So far only George Pataki has tried to galvanize a Trump backlash, while Sen.Ted Cruz has defended him. Jeb Bush has said nothing, so far, which is a little weird, given that his wife is Mexican and his kids are of Mexican descent. But Trump is a stand-in for that portion of the GOP base — and these guys haven’t been terribly courageous in rebuking the nativist, racist element in their base. So they apparently think they have to be careful in the way they treat Trump, too. Of course, whoever gets the nomination may regret cozying up to Trump and his extremism, if they do so, when they get to a general election.

By contrast, Hillary Clinton can afford to welcome Sanders’ candidacy, and even endorse a lot of his platform. As Jim Newell points out here, she’s enormously popular even among Sanders supporters in Iowa. And Sanders isn’t the polarizing figure that Trump is. He’s good for the Democratic Party — and for socialism too. He explains it in simple terms. He points to the strong, social democratic economies of Western Europe, not the USSR. And his rising popularity shows that millennials and other voters too young to remember the Cold War aren’t going to be red-scared away from Sanders because of the socialist label.

Meanwhile, as Republicans compete to see who can abolish Obamacare most cruelly, Democrats will be debating whether the system should move to a single payer approach. This is all great.

Now, if Clinton endorses too much of what Sanders supports, you can bet that media figures hailing the Vermont senator’s campaign today will be red-baiting him, and Clinton, when the fall of 2016 comes around. That’s how they roll. So progressives should be a little wary of the media’s Bernie-mentum. The Clinton-hate that inspires admiring Sanders takes today will turn him into Clinton’s problem once she defeats him for the nomination, as she almost certainly will. Still, it’s fun to see the MSM so excited about socialism. Michael Harrington would be smiling.

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, July 2, 2015

July 6, 2015 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Mainstream Media | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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