Category Archives: CONGRESS WATCH

A Dangerous Choice

By Kenneth T. Walsh – President Donald Trump’s decision to give the Pentagon the authority to make policy in Afghanistan is one of his most important, far-reaching and dangerous choices as commander in chief so far.

In the near term, it will almost certainly mean an escalation of the conflict with the addition of thousands of U.S. troops to the war zone. The fighting in Afghanistan has already lasted for 16 years and is America’s longest sustained war, extending over the tenure of three presidents of both major parties – George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump. Only the U.S. commitment to Vietnam came close to this mark, and it was a very polarizing, detested venture and ended in a defeat that Americans want to avoid repeating.

Over the long term, it means more U.S. entanglements in a region that few Americans understand, that U.S. policy makers often misjudge, and that has been the graveyard for potential occupiers and conquerors such as Alexander the Great, Great Britain and the Soviet Union. more> https://goo.gl/pmjecw

Supreme Court Just Ruled That Using Social Media Is a Constitutional Right

By Ephrat Livni – Public space in the digital age has no shape and no physical place. But the Supreme Court is now sorting out what that means for free-speech rights.

On June 19, the justices unanimously held that states can’t broadly limit access to social media because cyberspace “is one of the most important places to exchange views.”

“A fundamental First Amendment principle is that all persons have access to places where they can speak and listen, and then, after reflection, speak and listen once more,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote. Given the fact that social-media platforms in particular allow for this kind of free communication, and that the constitution protects the right to exchange, more> https://goo.gl/XRLDt7

Sending a strong signal on global internet freedom

By Stuart N. Brotman – The growing restrictions on internet freedom around the world are easy to document; less so any visible American strategy that would reverse the ominous trends at hand.

According to its most recent annual report in this area, Freedom on the Net 2016, two-thirds of the world’s internet users live under government censorship. Internet freedom around the world declined in 2016 for the sixth consecutive year.

The types of blocked content include political communication aimed at promoting democratic values, such as online petitions and calls for public protests. Even satire can be punished severely: a 22-year old in Egypt was imprisoned for three years after photo-shopping Mickey Mouse ears on President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Unfortunately, this type of criminal penalty is hardly unique.

Overall, Freedom House deemed only 17 surveyed countries to have real internet freedom; 28 were partly free and 20 were characterized as not free. The leading bad state actors should not be surprising: China, Syria, Iran, Ethiopia, Uzbekistan and Cuba (North Korea was not included in the survey, alas).

The U.S. would be hurt if the marketplace of ideas and the online commercial marketplace that thrive here are diminished overseas.

However, there has been radio silence to date about this issue from the White House and the Department of State. more> https://goo.gl/msTcLz

Make Congress Great Again

By Matthew Spalding – Today, the primary function of government is to regulate.

When Congress writes legislation, it uses very broad language that turns extensive power over to agencies, which are also given the authority of executing and often adjudicating violations of their regulations in particular cases. The result is that most of the actual decisions of lawmaking and public policy – decisions previously the constitutional responsibility of elected legislators – are delegated to bureaucrats whose “rules” have the full force and effect of laws passed by Congress.

The modern Congress is almost exclusively a supervisory body exercising limited oversight over administrative lawmakers.

If the development of the rule of law and constitutional government is the most significant accomplishment of the long history of human liberty, the greatest political revolution in the United States since the establishment of the Constitution has been the shift of power away from the lawmaking institutions of republican government to an oligarchy of experts who rule by regulation over virtually every aspect of our lives.

The result is an increasingly unbalanced structural relationship between what amounts to an executive–bureaucratic branch that can act with or without Congress to pursue common goals, and an ever-weakening legislative branch unable or unwilling to exercise its powers to check the executive or rein in a metastasizing bureaucracy. more> https://goo.gl/Jp3xRz

How the Obama phenomenon and Trump earthquake happened

By Reid Wilson – The Hill spent months digging deep into decades of data that illustrate the nation’s changing demographics, economics, culture and politics.

Those glimpses of a changing America are evidence of a series of countervailing demographic, political and economic forces that have long exerted themselves on the nation — and now define the quadrennial struggle between two sides of the political aisle that are deeply polarized along race, class, economic and educational lines.

At the center of the divide are two sets of divergent trends.

The first set contrasts the changing face of America, which is being hastened by the rising influence of the most diverse generation in American history, with a radical political shift among the nation’s still-dominant cohort of older whites, who now act as a more homogenous voting bloc than ever before.

The second set reflects the changing nature of how Americans live, work and build economic power. A generations-long trend toward wage stagnation, automation and globalization is in the final stages of exterminating the blue-collar manufacturing jobs that once sustained America’s middle class in the heartland. more> https://goo.gl/YgDUA0

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Beware The Ghost Of Antitrust’s Past

By David Kully – The source of the increasing concentration in many markets, in the view of some commentators, was a shift that began in the 1970s in how antitrust enforcers and the courts view the role of antitrust enforcement.

At that time, economists in the “Chicago School” led an evolution away from concern about protecting small competitors from larger competitors to a current enforcement paradigm that emphasizes “consumer welfare” and calls for intervention by the government only if a merger or alleged anticompetitive practice is likely to harm consumers – through higher prices, lower output, poorer quality products or services, or diminished incentives to innovate. This shift, according to critics, made antitrust enforcers less likely to go to court to block large mergers or take on monopolies, with the result being the concentrated marketplaces we see today.

The nostalgia for the antitrust enforcement of the past, however, ignores important concerns about an approach predicated on attacking large firms merely because of their size. The evolution in antitrust thinking that began with the Chicago School was driven by economic research establishing that some mergers and certain practices that antitrust law previously forbade offer tangible benefits to society. Critics offer no countervailing basis to believe that these benefits would not be lost if we were to revert to past thinking. more> https://goo.gl/rt1ZSQ

A Dangerous Game

By Kenneth T. Walsh – President Donald Trump is playing a dangerous game. He is adding a very disruptive ingredient to his governing approach – potentially alienating and confusing his own staff and the lawyers who are trying to defend him in his legal battle to crack down on terrorism and illegal immigration. In the process, Trump is giving everyone a window into his mind, and the view is filled with anger and an eagerness for combat, not unity or conciliation.

Overall, Trump typically wraps his Twitter rants in an angry and dismissive tone, and his diatribes frequently go far afield from the issues that Trump says are his top priorities, such as creating jobs, cutting taxes and overhauling the healthcare system. He even got into a public feud with London Mayor Sadiq Khan over how to respond to terrorism in the wake of the lethal attacks in London a week ago. more> https://goo.gl/aYN2iY

The end of globalisation as we know it?

By Durukal Gun , Christian Keller, Sree Kochugovindan, Tomasz Wieladek – Modern globalisation has gone well beyond the trade of goods, as technology allowed for transfer of know-how and skills.

Since glottalization began in the middle of the 1800s, it has been through several different cycles. Now it appears to have reached yet another turning point.

Only recently has globalization matched the heights it reached before World War I.

  • First wave of globalization (1850s to 1914)
  • Protectionism (1914 to 1945)
  • Second wave of glottalization (1945 to 1990)
  • Hyperglobalization (1990 to present)

Among the clear beneficiaries of hyperglobalization are the emerging economies, which have become increasingly integrated into more and more complex global value chains. Their role in processing raw materials, and in value-added manufacturing and services has grown rapidly.

The first signs of opposition to hyperglobalisation emerged amid major demonstrations at the 1999 meeting of the World Trade Organization in Seattle. Concerns mounted in the wake of the 2008-09 financial crisis and subsequent global recession, reflected more recently in public resistance to trade and investment agreements such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Discriminatory protectionist tariffs and trade measures are on the rise. more> https://goo.gl/K54eeK

The world is sitting on a $400 trillion financial time bomb

By Allison Schrager – Financial disaster is looming, and not because of the stock market or subprime loans. The coming crisis is more insidious, structural, and almost certain to blow up eventually.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) predicts that by 2050 the world will face a $400 trillion shortfall (pdf) in retirement savings. (Yes, that’s trillion, with a “T”.)

The US will find itself in the biggest hole, falling $137 trillion short of what’s necessary to fund adequate retirements in 2050. It is followed by China’s $119 trillion shortfall.

Much of the massive shortfall is baked into retirement systems; setups in which nobody, neither individuals nor the government, saves enough.

About three-quarters of the projected comes from underfunded promises from governments, with the rest mostly accounted for by under-saving on the part of individuals. more> https://goo.gl/UUisEk

Deficits In Trade And Deficits In Understanding

By Omar Al-Ubaydli – To see why the current trade deficit is benign, we need to understand the relationship between trade and the dollar’s value. Greenbacks are like any commodity in that the more people want to possess them, the higher their price. People acquire dollars primarily for two reasons: buying American goods and investing within the United States.

If the United States is importing more than it exports, then American consumers are exchanging dollars for foreign currencies to buy foreign goods more than foreigners are doing the reverse, meaning that foreigners are accumulating lots of dollars that they’re not using to buy American goods.

So why has America been recording a large, persistent trade deficit, and why isn’t the dollar devaluing? It’s due to the second major difference (from 1970s): The investment-based demand for foreign currencies—which we momentarily set aside—has ballooned. People no longer exchange currencies just to buy foreign goods.

Consequently, the dollar no longer corrects trade imbalances. more> https://goo.gl/L1VHHr