Posts Tagged ‘Dianne Feinstein’

Austerity: the global reach of a bad ideology

January 23, 2015

2014-12-25-racetothebottom-thumbThe Western world is in the grip of a bad idea that its governments can’t seem to shake off—although its peoples are starting to.

The idea is called “austerity.” It is the belief that public goods must be destroyed in order to increase private wealth.

Banks impose this policy on indebted nations such as Greece.  They say the governments must curtail public services, including schools and public health, while raising taxes and adopting economic policies that will result in higher prices and lower wages.

Supposedly the money saved can be used to pay off the nation’s debts.  The problem is that so-called austerity destroys the nation’s ability to generate new wealth, and so, as long as countries accept the “austerity” meme, they stay in debt indefinitely.

Nations that default on their debts, as American states frequently did in the era before the Civil War, are threatened with loss of credit.  But the fact is that the banking system literally has more money than the bankers know what to do with.  In practice, lending always starts up again after a few years.

Members of the European Union that use the Euro as their currency have a special problem.  Historically the exchange rates of currencies fell when the issuing nation had a balance of payments deficit.  This tended to bring the balance of trade into balance, because their exports became cheaper in relation to foreign currencies and their imports became more expensive.

Under austerity, nations attempt to achieve the same thing by increasing prices, lowering wages and cutting government services.  Unlike with change in the exchange rate, the burden does not fall upon the whole nation equally, but only on the less wealthy and politically powerless.

Austerity involves raising taxes, but never taxes on the wealthy.  That is because the wealthy are considered to be the “job creators” who must be catered to in order to bring about economic recovery.

The “job creator” philosophy is popular here in the USA.  The saying is, “No poor man ever gave me a job.”  The conclusion is that the key to jobs is to have more and richer rich people.

Well, we Americans have made that experiment, repeatedly, and it hasn’t worked.

If we want mass prosperity, we need to invest in the things that create wealth—education, public infrastructure and scientific research—and then see that the benefits of the new wealth are widely spread, so as to create markets for private business.

We Americans once made that experiment, too, and it did work.


The Senate votes to outlaw indefinite detention

December 1, 2012

On Friday, the Senate voted 67 to 29 for an amendment introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein to the defense authorization bill that read as follows.

Dianne Feinstein

Dianne Feinstein

An authorization to use military force, a declaration of war, or any similar authority shall not authorize the detention without charge or trial of a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States apprehended in the United States unless an Act of Congress expressly authorizes such detention

I’m encouraged that the Senate is pushing back against unchecked Presidential power, although this is a basic Constitutional principle that ought to be taken for granted.   I’m glad to see Democrats willing to stand up to a Democratic President on a question of basic principle.

I’m not sure what the House of Representatives will do.   Most of the opponents of the amendment in the Senate were Republicans, and the House has a Republican majority

Click on The Senate Voted to Outlaw Indefinite Detention…Or Did It? for a report on the vote by Adam Serwer of Mother Jones.@

[Added 12/3/12]  The problem with the amendment is that it makes a Constitutional right subject to an act of Congress.  Still, it is a step in the right direction.

[Added 12/22/12]  I was too hopeful. The bill died in the House.

[Added 1/9/13]  Congress added a rider to the defense appropriations bill restricting the authority of the President to release prisoners or put them on trial.