Posts Tagged ‘Bipartisanship’

The USA has a bad bipartisan foreign policy

February 15, 2020

The so-called War on Terror is bipartisan.

George W. Bush ran in 2000 on a promise to adopt a more “humble” foreign policy.  He said the United States should stop dictating to the rest of the world.

But following the 9/11 attacks, he not only got authorization for an invasion of Afghanistan, whose government had given refuge to Osama bin Laden, the planner of the attacks.

He obtained authorization for an invasion of Iraq, which had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks, based on false claims that its ruler, Saddam Hussein, was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.

General Wesley Clark, the former commander of NATO, said he was shown a plan by the Secretary of Defense shortly after 9/11 that called for invasion of seven countries in five years—Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.

Barack Obama voted against the authorization to invade Iraq.  But during his administration, the US continued the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and financed radical Al Qaeda-like militias to overthrow the governments of Libya and Syria.  The U.S. also bombed Somalia and stationed troops in Sudan, among many other countries.

In fact, nobody knows how many countries U.S. forces have bombed or how many they are bombing right now.

Obama did try to ease hostilities with Iran.  He negotiated an end to international economic sanctions on Iran in return for the Iranians renouncing a nuclear weapons development program that never existed in the first place.

Donald Trump is continuing all the wars of the Bush and Obama years, including the ones in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, while working up to a possible new war with Iran.

He also is doubling down on the use of economic sanctions, which is a form of war.  The use of U.S. financial power to try to cut off Venezuela and Iran from world trade is the same as surrounding these two countries with ships and troops to prevent trade from getting in.  It creates just as much suffering as other forms of war.

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The bipartisan, dysfunctional US economic policy

February 15, 2020

The USA has had a bipartisan economic policy for 20 or 30 years now.  It’s what some people call “neoliberalism.”

The basic idea is that prosperity depends on rich people investing in the economy, so that the key to prosperity is to allow rich people to accumulate money.

It is reducing upper-bracket tax rates, reducing government regulation and reducing government spending except on the military and police.

It is allowing manufacturing companies to become competitive by shifting production to low-wage countries, holding prices down by allowing cheap imports, and shrinking the social safety net to encourage people to take low-wage jobs.

It is giving financial institutions free rein to make risky investments, because free markets are important, and bailing them out when they fail, because large-scale financial failure would destabilize the economy.

It is not enforcing the antitrust laws because business consolidation supposedly promotes economic efficiency.

It is now than then enacting some benefit for working people, but never anything that threatens the incomes of the wealthy or the power of big corporations.

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The North American Free Trade Agreement is an example of neoliberal bipartisanship.  The idea for NAFTA originated in the Ronald Reagan administration, the George H.W. Bush administration negotiated it, but it took the Bill Clinton administration to get it approved.

NAFTA shifted the balance of power against organized labor.  Employers could credibly threaten to pick up and relocate in Mexico if workers didn’t give them what they wanted.

Another joker in NAFTA was the investor-state dispute resolution provision.  It gave foreign companies the right to ask for damages if a local, state or national government passed some law or regulation that reduced their profits.  The theory was that this was a trade barrier, the same as a tariff.  Investor-state disputes are decided not by courts, but by arbitrators.

The investor-state dispute resolution provision was a main reason why Congress declined to endorse President Obama’s proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.  President Trump deserves credit for dropping the TPP.

The new U.S.-Canada-Mexico Agreement contains an investor-state dispute resolution provision.  However, unlike NAFTA,  it also contains labor and environmental standards and not just protections for companies.  If these turn out to be meaningful, President Trump and the present Congress will deserve a certain amount of credit.

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Bill Clinton was a good friend of the banking industry.  Early in his administration, Congress passed the Siegle-Neal Act, which eliminated restrictions on interstate banking.  Bank mergers followed in rapid succession.

He twice reappointed Alan Greenspan, advocate of banking deregulation, as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.  He proposed and got repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which separated commercial banks, whose deposits were insured by the federal government, from investment banks, whose deposits could be risked in potentially high-profit investments.

His administration explicitly forbid regulation of derivatives, which are investments not backed by any tangible asset—essentially a form of gambling on the economy.  All these decisions set the stage for the Great Recession of 2007-2009.

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The perils of bipartisanship

August 6, 2016

The GOP defections to Team Hillary were already well underway by the time of last week’s Democratic National Convention, which featured endorsement speeches from billionaire ex-mayor Michael Bloomberg and other Republicans.

Since then Hewlett-Packard executive and former Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman has come out for Clinton.  So has Republican-leaning hedge fund billionaire Seth Karman and Republican Congressman Richard Hanna.  A CNN poll showed that nearly one in four self-identified conservative voters said they would support Clinton over Trump.

From a tactical point of view, it makes sense for Clinton to welcome their support. But it poses a dangerous temptation for her – especially when, as is the case with Bloomberg, Whitman, and Klarman, it presumably comes with buckets full of campaign cash.  She may see this support as a mandate to form something like a unity government with Republicans, a call to tack right toward the failed “centrism” and “bipartisanship” of the past several decades.

That would be a tragic error, but it would it follow a well-worn groove in recent American politics.

“Bipartisanship,” in this context, is the notion that government works best when corporate-backed politicians from both parties get together behind closed doors and decide what’s best for the country.  The “bipartisan” ideology gave rise to Washington’s long obsession with deficit reduction at the expense of more pressing concerns.  It nearly led to a cut in Social Security benefits, which would have been disastrous for millions of seniors, disabled people, and children.  It is responsible for the government spending cuts that, as economist Robert Scott explains, have been largely responsible for the weakness and slow pace of our current recovery.

Source: Richard Eskow | Campaign for America’s Future

As my e-mail pen pal Bill Harvey pointed out, appeasing Republicans is not a “temptation” for Hillary Clinton.   It is her default position.   It is what she will do unless pressured to do otherwise.

The difference between an establishment Democrat such as Clinton and an establishment Republican such as Jeb Bush or Paul Ryan is that the Democrat depends on the votes of working people and therefore can be pressured to vote in their interests, provided this doesn’t threaten their wealthy donors, whereas the Republican will not vote in their interests in any case.

The pressure on Clinton would have to be unrelenting and uncompromising, and even then there is no certainty it would work.

LINK

As Republicans Defect, Will Clinton Be Tempted to Tack Right? by Richard Eskow for Campaign for American’s Future.