CK MacLeod's

What Europe’s Problems Do NOT Tell Us

Legends of the Fail – NYTimes.com

Now that the euro project is on the rocks, what lessons should we draw?

I’ve been hearing two claims, both false: that Europe’s woes reflect the failure of welfare states in general, and that Europe’s crisis makes the case for immediate fiscal austerity in the United States.

The assertion that Europe’s crisis proves that the welfare state doesn’t work comes from many Republicans. For example, Mitt Romney has accused President Obama of taking his inspiration from European “socialist democrats” and asserted that “Europe isn’t working in Europe.” The idea, presumably, is that the crisis countries are in trouble because they’re groaning under the burden of high government spending. But the facts say otherwise.

It’s true that all European countries have more generous social benefits — including universal health care — and higher government spending than America does. But the nations now in crisis don’t have bigger welfare states than the nations doing well — if anything, the correlation runs the other way. Sweden, with its famously high benefits, is a star performer, one of the few countries whose G.D.P. is now higher than it was before the crisis. Meanwhile, before the crisis, “social expenditure” — spending on welfare-state programs — was lower, as a percentage of national income, in all of the nations now in trouble than in Germany, let alone Sweden.

Oh, and Canada, which has universal health care and much more generous aid to the poor than the United States, has weathered the crisis better than we have.

The euro crisis, then, says nothing about the sustainability of the welfare state. But does it make the case for belt-tightening in a depressed economy?

You hear that claim all the time. America, we’re told, had better slash spending right away or we’ll end up like Greece or Italy. Again, however, the facts tell a different story.

First, if you look around the world you see that the big determining factor for interest rates isn’t the level of government debt but whether a government borrows in its own currency. Japan is much more deeply in debt than Italy, but the interest rate on long-term Japanese bonds is only about 1 percent to Italy’s 7 percent. Britain’s fiscal prospects look worse than Spain’s, but Britain can borrow at just a bit over 2 percent, while Spain is paying almost 6 percent.

What has happened, it turns out, is that by going on the euro, Spain and Italy in effect reduced themselves to the status of third-world countries that have to borrow in someone else’s currency, with all the loss of flexibility that implies. In particular, since euro-area countries can’t print money even in an emergency, they’re subject to funding disruptions in a way that nations that kept their own currencies aren’t — and the result is what you see right now. America, which borrows in dollars, doesn’t have that problem.

The other thing you need to know is that in the face of the current crisis, austerity has been a failure everywhere it has been tried: no country with significant debts has managed to slash its way back into the good graces of the financial markets. For example, Ireland is the good boy of Europe, having responded to its debt problems with savage austerity that has driven its unemployment rate to 14 percent. Yet the interest rate on Irish bonds is still above 8 percent — worse than Italy.

The moral of the story, then, is to beware of ideologues who are trying to hijack the European crisis on behalf of their agendas.

Posted in Miscellany Tagged with: , ,

summing up

Ultimately, Rick Perry is going to be remembered as the man too stupid to win this Republican nomination. That is a remarkable feat.

OR

In the end, all press is good press. Perry’s campaign has been on a downward spiral for months, and the debate brain melt at least puts the candidate back in the news. Perry’s media blitz will boost his name recognition, which could easily translate to a bump in the polls, at least temporarily. But a little push may be all Perry needs to regain momentum as his campaign heads into the home stretch before the real voting begins.

Posted in notes Tagged with: ,

Rick Is Dead, Long Live Rick

(snipped from Zero Hedge, link to YouTube)

Almost everyone sez Perry lost the R debate last night with a gaffe so humungous as to convert the name “Rick” into a synonym for “gaffe.”  The world’s other Ricks will have to hope that the very nature of the gaffe – blackout forgetfulness on stage – will result in those who might invoke the new term forgetting to do so.

Political scientist and pundit Jonathan Bernstein thinks that even a world-historical Rick didn’t make Perry the worst debater of the night.  Bernstein gives the award instead to “Prince Herman,” and unloads like a Malacca-class superfreighter on him: Read more ›

Posted in Politics Tagged with: , , ,

And as for Cain

Echoing Christopher Hitchens, pm carpenter describes the sexual harassment scandal as “a hand I’d prefer not to play“:

It is for that reason I find the Cain Affair(s) profoundly objectionable as a reason to politically object to Cain. One can, and in my opinion unequivocally should, protest the man’s candidacy because of his sweeping, manifest ignorance and thus utter unsuitability for the land’s highest office — or, for that matter, one of its many lower ones. But to bombard him because of his lusty boorishness tips a remarkably transparent and rather tacky partisan hand that I’d rather not play.

Once you accept that it’s all one, the epiphenomena are a lot less annoying. It’s the completely insane insubstantiality of Cain-ism that summons forth its own seemingly insanely irrelevant (except to the accusers and Cain) negation. Yet, if we understand Cainism as the political equivalent of sexual harassment – a harassment of the national body politic, a mediatized aggression against our self-respect, then the form its dissolution is taking seems natural and inevitable. If it had ever been possible to reduce Cain simply because he says nothing and is ignorant, then he never would or could have arisen in the first place.  Our disappointment in having to turn to “this stuff” indicates that the implicit indictment or diagnosis, as expressed and confirmed in the mere existence of Cain and his supporters, will stand, whatever happens to whichever particular human vehicle for its enunciation.

Posted in Politics Tagged with:

We get it, we do (per request, kinda)

Reagan representing the generational response to post-war imperial liberalism, it took another generation for a post-Reagan liberalism to mature, on schedule with the economic exhaustion of imperial financialism, an ideology and system of decline and diminishing returns.  So Obamaism as a negation of Reaganism is also its excrescence, as inevitably during the inherently uncertain and drawn-out transition between a macro-system (aka, financialize neo-liberalism) and its unnameable successor.  The Republican candidates express the exhaustion and irrelevance of Reaganism in and to that context, except as the active expression of that exhaustion and irrelevance, in the familiar zombie format.  None of which is to suggest that the electoral system, or we ourselves through the electoral system, are precluded from placing the exponent of an exhausted and irrelevant ideology as the placeholder, the empty spot, for a kind of slow-motion collective auto-decapitation.

We can perhaps discern most of the elements of the next phase, but its timing, its organization of pasts and futures, which each of us will tend to interpret differently, from each other and at different times, is a subject for struggle, as are the very forms of that struggle.

Posted in History, Politics Tagged with: , ,

oh how very exciting

a nationwide test of a nationwide emergency alert system.  The first stirrings of Colossus?  Skynet?  Wintermute/Neuromancer?  Mike?  Or maybe the coming to self-consciousness of the great mediatized Hegelian national-universal us?!  (Maybe that’s what the world-destroying super-computer entities express in alienated form…)

Oh here it is – 30 seconds of unity!

We were one so we are one…

Was it as good for you as it was for me?

Posted in notes

Defining Conservatism II – Facts on the Ground

The Tea Party’s Fatal Delusion – The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan – The Daily Beast

the recession’s damage to an incumbent president’s party merely put a misleading mid-term gust behind sails rigged for winds that were blowing in the 1970s, not the 2000s. The 2010 mid-terms were what might be called a “fatal success.” Yes, there was a backlash among older, whiter voters against the 2008 tide. But to conclude from that that there was a widespread, general support for further moves to the furthest right in an economy where many are struggling to get by and where economic inequality is still soaring, was a huge over-reach. And so we see the staggering results of last night’s votes.

The Ohio law against collective bargaining rights for public sector workers did not just go down. It went down in a landslide. Yes, the unions poured money into the battle and outspent opponents. But the scale of the victory is hard to gainsay. In a critical swing state, the GOP is in full retreat. In Arizona, the recall of the official who had pioneered the anti-illegal immigration measures is another remarkable event. Ditto even Mississippi’s rejection of a ballot initiative that is a theocon’s wet dream (if theocons are allowed such things), and takes the concept of personhood at conception to new, bizarre heights and exposes the stealth theocon campaign against contraception as well.

We’ve seen the polls showing a shift in Americans’ views of inequality and their support of higher taxes for the wealthiest as part of a debt-reduction package. We’ve seen the accelerating moderation on marriage equality and marijuana. We’ve noticed the Tea Party’s further alienation of minority voters, and now, with the Cain circus, possible intensification of the gender gap. We’ve noticed that increasing numbers of voters, including independents, regard the GOP as potentially sabotaging the economy purely in order to defeat Obama. Now we are seeing the effect of all this in actual elections. And the GOP primary campaign has also underlined just how marginal, ideological and inexperienced many of the presidential candidates are. A party that gives a motivational speaker ten times the support of a two-term governor of Utah, re-elected with 84 percent of the vote, with strong bipartisan credentials and an even stronger tax reform plan … well, it’s a party in free-fall that also doesn’t understand that it is.

Look at PPP’s polling in Ohio right now:

Obama continues to suffer from poor approval ratings in Ohio with only 41% of voters approving of him to 49% who disapprove. But voters don’t seem to consider any of his opponents to be viable alternatives … On our weekend poll, which got the final result of Issue 2 correct to within a point, Obama led all of his Republican opponents in the state by margins ranging from 9-17 points.

Obama led Mitt Romney 50-41 on our poll. He was up 11 points on Herman Cain at 50-39, 13 on Newt Gingrich at 51-38, 14 on Ron Paul at 50-36, 14 on Michele Bachmann at 51-37 and a whooping 17 points on Rick Perry at 53-36. It used to be Sarah Palin’s numbers that we compared to Barry Goldwater, but Perry’s deficit would represent the largest Republican defeat in Ohio since 1964.

For this party, Herman Cain is the perfect nominee (since Palin simply couldn’t overcome her lies and pathologies). Because it is increasingly clear he is the master of complete denial of reality and has no actual experience in any public office.

Posted in Miscellany Tagged with: ,

she is very reliable

Seems to me that if the Cain thing isn’t over now, it can only be because it never actually was.

Posted in notes

since the prior post was beginning to give rather than merely express mind-ache…

…seen now at a couple of the usual places, our old friend Cyriak’s new vid, “Kitty City”:

Welcome to Kitty City

It expands on, not sure it really improves on his net classic…

Read more ›

Posted in notes

from “visual poetry”

Visual-Poetry (h/t This Isn’t Happiness)

Posted in notes Tagged with: ,

State of the Discussion

+ You filled out your email address as a "mail.com" not "gmail.com." I edited the comment just above, and it's now showing the gravatar associated with [. . .]
The Video of Our Moment – This is America
+ btw I didn't get the confirmation email and it wasn't in spam. also my icon didn't show up here so if you do restart blogging [. . .]
The Video of Our Moment – This is America
+ Don't know whether I'll start blogging again, or why exactly this video led me to post again after such a long hiatus. Not sure why you [. . .]
The Video of Our Moment – This is America

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