Tag Archives: Congress Watch

Crisis of capitalism? Perhaps, but don’t blame it on globalization

By Simon Tilford – Donald Trump, Brexit, serious populist pressures in other EU countries: are we entering a full-blown crisis of international liberal capitalism? There is no doubt that globalization poses policy challenges for governments.

But globalization by itself did not force governments to adopt policies that have divided their countries, exacerbated inequality and hit social mobility. Many of them did those things by choice.

The problem is not that we have allowed an increased role for markets, as many on the left (and increasingly on the populist right) argue. Open markets remain the best way of generating wealth and opportunities, of challenging vested interests and of expanding people’s freedom. We are in this mess because we’ve forgotten the lessons of the post-war period. Basically, we have a crisis of distribution and opportunity.

Globalization is a net positive, and has played a huge role in reducing poverty globally over the last 30 years. But there are winners and losers from increased trade and movements of capital, as there are from rapid technological change, and many countries, notably the US and the UK, have failed to take the necessary corrective action. more> https://goo.gl/ei52Zk

Proper fiber broadband is not a waste, but you need a little socialism to do it properly

By Chris Duckett – To overcome the lust of corporations to hit the next quarterly target by squeezing the very last dollar from aging assets and instead roll out more future-proof technologies, a little government encouragement is needed in the form of monetary incentives or legislation.

There is no point in running down the path of smart infrastructure and digital interactions with authorities if the rural section of the community is stuck on outmoded systems, and governments can also enforce another important aspect to dealing with broadband on a societal level: Universality.

Broadband is a paradoxical beast once baseline speeds in double digits are attained as the benefits it can provide to society become proportional to the difficulty in reaching them, and this inversely impacts profitability.

Consequently, users end up in a situation where those who need it most often have to go without, or live with poor connections because it doesn’t make economic sense to service them. Private companies will not willingly enter regional areas, because even if there is a very slim profit margin, it could take decades before the investment paid for itself. more> https://goo.gl/wZTkjB

A New Reason for Foreigners to Avoid Google and Facebook

By Leonid Bershidsky – A Philadelphia court has made the unfortunate decision to reopen the legal debate on whether the U.S. has the right to access e-mails stored on foreign servers if they belong to U.S. companies.

That’s a dangerous approach that hurts the international expansion of U.S. tech companies. Privacy-minded customers in Europe are already suspicious of the U.S. government’s cooperation with the tech giants, revealed by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden. Nationalist politicians in some countries — for example, Marine Le Pen of the French National Front — want to ban cross-border personal data transfers, arguing that such data must be stored on servers inside the internet user’s country. That, however, does not appear to guarantee that the U.S. won’t get at it, either.

Those who are uneasy about the degree of the U.S. government’s reach into their private files and communications need to start thinking about alternatives, no matter how hard it may be to replace Google, Microsoft or Facebook. more> https://goo.gl/a1hqfP

Europe Must Defend Itself Against A Dangerous President

By Klaus Brinkbäumer – There are times in life that really do count. Times when a person’s character is revealed, when the important is separated from the unimportant. Soon decisions are taken that will determine the further path a person takes.

Germany must stand up in opposition to the 45th president of the United States and his government. That’s difficult enough already for two reasons: Because it is from the Americans that we obtained our liberal democracy in the first place; and because it is unclear how the brute and choleric man on the other side will react to diplomatic pressure. The fact that opposition to the American government can only succeed when mounted together with Asian and African partners — and no doubt with our partners in Europe, with the EU — doesn’t make the situation any easier.

Under President Trump, both the justified and the contemptible will be melded. Injustice is a major issue of our times, as are fears of digitalization and globalization — and rightfully so given that the division of society and the speed of modern life is, in fact, extreme. Trump fuses these worries of his voters with nationalism and xenophobia. That’s how demagogues work and it is how they become effective.

The fact that the United States, a nuclear superpower that has dominated the world economically, militarily and culturally for decades, is now presenting itself as the victim, calling in all seriousness for “America first” and trying to force the rest of the world into humiliating concessions is absurd. But precisely because this nonsense is coming from the world’s most powerful man, it is getting trapped by him. more> https://goo.gl/PwClWJ

Liberals Will Not Like How This Revenge Plot Ends

By Megan McArdle – I thought Republicans should have confirmed Garland, and I’ve written before that the arms race to procedurally hack the U.S. government — via controlling the Supreme Court, or dreaming up ever-more-arcane uses of the parliamentary rules — is bad for the country and needs to stop. That doesn’t mean I think it’s going to.

The escalating tit-for-tat game over the Supreme Court has been going on at least since the 1980s, and arguably long before that, in the post-New-Deal era when courts began tilting noticeably leftwards.

Under Reagan, conservatives sought to reverse that by grooming conservative justices for all levels of the courts. Democrats tried to keep them from doing so, culminating in the disgraceful treatment of Robert Bork. Ever since, we’ve been locked in a spiraling cycle of payback.

Everyone understands that this is destructive; everyone wishes it to stop. The catch is, they also believe that it needs to stop after they themselves get last licks in. And so it continues. more> https://goo.gl/ZY6FYW

How to Build an Autocracy

By David Frum – No society, not even one as rich and fortunate as the United States has been, is guaranteed a successful future. When early Americans wrote things like “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” they did not do so to provide bromides for future bumper stickers. They lived in a world in which authoritarian rule was the norm, in which rulers habitually claimed the powers and assets of the state as their own personal property.

The exercise of political power is different today than it was then—but perhaps not so different as we might imagine. Larry Diamond, a sociologist at Stanford, has described the past decade as a period of “democratic recession.” Worldwide, the number of democratic states has diminished. Within many of the remaining democracies, the quality of governance has deteriorated.

Yet the American system is also perforated by vulnerabilities no less dangerous for being so familiar. Supreme among those vulnerabilities is reliance on the personal qualities of the man or woman who wields the awesome powers of the presidency.

A British prime minister can lose power in minutes if he or she forfeits the confidence of the majority in Parliament. The president of the United States, on the other hand, is restrained first and foremost by his own ethics and public spirit.

What happens if somebody comes to the high office lacking those qualities? more> https://goo.gl/IjMqiK

A Blunt and Counterproductive Travel Ban

By Mohamed A. El-Erian – As designed and implemented, there are genuine doubts about the order’s effectiveness in meeting its stated objective of preventing terrorism. It also risks a lot of collateral damage and unintended consequences that ultimately could prove counterproductive and harmful to national security, the economy, and America’s moral authority, values and standing in the world. Even the order’s merits as a domestic signal are in doubt, and it risks damaging the credibility and effectiveness of future policy initiatives from the White House.

This is an extremely blunt approach to an important issue. Early reports on its application suggest that even long-time holders of multiyear visas for the U.S., together with green card holders and dual nationals, are being refused entry at airports or being prevented from boarding planes destined for America. This includes people who have been living in the U.S. legally for many years, have been vetted, and are productive and integrated members of their local communities. more> https://goo.gl/sljXfS

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The US has been downgraded to a “flawed democracy,” but not just because of Trump

By Eshe Nelson – The US has been “teetering on the brink of becoming a flawed democracy” for years, the report says. Regardless of the result of the 2016 presidential election, the US was due a downgrade.

Trust has been declining in the US for decades, leaving the country’s institutions battling a “legitimacy crisis” and struggling to sustain representative democracy in its current form, the report says.

The decline began in the late 1960s with the Vietnam war, civil rights movement, assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy, and the Watergate scandal. Over the past decade, it got worse following wars in the Middle East, a financial crisis, and persistent gridlock in Washington. And along came Trump:

By tapping a deep strain of political disaffection with the functioning of democracy, Mr Trump became a beneficiary of the low esteem in which US voters hold their government, elected representatives and political parties, but he was not responsible for a problem that has had a long gestation.

In total, democracy, as measured by the EIU, declined in 72 countries and increased in 38 countries last year. more> https://goo.gl/4DCag4

Updates from GE

Is Health Care Too Big To Fail? Or Is Failure Exactly What We Need?
By Sam Glick – There is a looming challenge facing U.S. hospitals, which are being forced either to reduce costs at the expense of creating potentially devastating impacts on their local communities, or take less aggressive cost-cutting measures and risk going broke.

The backdrop to this veritable Sophie’s Choice has developed through a series of public policy and market moves to shift financial risk onto local health systems that have little experience in such areas. When the hospital is the largest employer in many towns, with financing coming from insurance companies and mutual funds, we have the makings of 2008-financial-crisis-style systemic risk.

This year, nearly one in five dollars in the U.S. will be spent on health care. As a percentage of GDP, this is nearly twice the global average, yet we receive no clear benefit from a significant portion of this spending. The U.S. ranks first in per capita health care spending, but last in the Commonwealth Fund’s assessment of health system performance in 11 major developed countries. As a society, we have a health care return-on-investment problem. more> https://goo.gl/oedfxf

Seven Trump foreign policy assumptions

By Daniel L. Byman – Let’s consider some of the assumptions Trump and his team appear to bring to the table as they enter office. Some are about how the world works, while others concern the best way to design and implement U.S. foreign policy.

  • Assumption #1: Calling it “Radical Islam” Makes a Difference
  • Assumption #2: Foreign Public Opinion Doesn’t Matter
  • Assumption #3: Allies are Overrated
  • Assumption #4: Russia Is America’s Natural Partner
  • Assumption #5: Israel Can Do What it Wants
  • Assumption #6: The Rough Stuff Works
  • Assumption #7: Tough Policymakers Make for Tough Policy

In short: Trump’s foreign policy assumptions fly in the face of many traditional U.S. policy approaches and the preferences of powerful bureaucracies. We should expect international realities and bureaucratic obstacles to obstruct, or at least water down, some initiatives, while those that get through might not just fail but may leave the United States worse off for pursuing them.

As a candidate, Trump excelled at destroying truisms about how politics works; over the coming years, we will find out if this holds true for foreign policy as well. more> https://goo.gl/PVWnOe

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