The president-whisperer 1

Discover the Networks is a superb resource, gifted to researchers by Front Page.

The “networks” are those of the Left. Together they constitute the Vast Leftwing Conspiracy.

We went there to read all about Valerie Jarrett, the decision maker who stands behind Barack Obama and speaks into his ear.

We know that Obama was raised a Communist, so it is not surprising that he picked a Communist to be his closest adviser.

We have extracted some of the most important facts from the Discover the Networks dossier on Jarrett – but urge our readers to see the whole account.

First we learn about her radical roots.

Valerie Jarrett was born as Valerie Bowman on November 14, 1956 to American parents in Shiraz, Iran. Her late father — a physician named James Bowman—worked as a pathologistand geneticist at a children’s hospital in Shiraz as part of a U.S. aid program to assist developing countries.

Jarrett’s mother is the early-childhood-education author Barbara Taylor Bowman (born1928), who in 1966 co-founded a Chicago-based graduate school in child development known as the Erikson Institute, named after the psychoanalyst Erik Erikson; in 1950 Erikson became a hero to the left by choosing to resign from his professorship at the University of California rather than sign an anti-communist loyalty oath as the school required. Indicative of the Erikson Institute’s radical political orientation is the fact that its board of trustees has included, in addition to Mrs. Bowman, such figures as Tom Ayers (father of the formerWeather Underground terrorist and lifelong Marxist Bill Ayers) and Bernardine Dohrn (longtime wife of Bill Ayers) 

 … and leading member of the Weather Underground.

Jarrett’s maternal grandfather was a Chicagoan named Robert Taylor, the first African-American head of the Chicago Housing Authority. In the 1940s he was involved with such Communist fronts as the American Peace Mobilization and the Chicago Civil Liberties Committee. Also a member of these groups was Frank Marshall Davis, the communist journalist who in the 1970s would mentor a young Barack Obama.

Jarrett’s maternal grandmother, Dorothy Taylor, was a Berkeley, California native who was active with Planned Parenthood in its early years.

When Valerie Jarrett was five, her family relocated to London for one year before settling in Chicago’s elite Hyde Park neighborhood in 1963.

Jarrett earned a B.A. in psychology from Stanford University in 1978, and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Michigan Law School in 1981. From 1981-87 she practiced law at two Chicago-based private firms. In 1983 she married Dr. William Robert Jarrett, son of the Chicago Sun-Times reporter Vernon Jarrett.

Vernon Jarrett (Valerie Jarrett’s father-in-law) was a pioneering black journalist in the 1940s. He freelanced at Kansas City’s The Call from 1954-58, then returned to Chicago to become the first nationally syndicated black columnist for the communist-influenced Chicago Defender, where he wrote columns extolling the Communist poet Langston Hughes and lifelong Stalinists W.E.B. DuBois and Paul Robeson. Also in the 1940s, Jarrett was a leaderof the Chicago chapter of American Youth for Democracy — youth wing of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA). Moreover, he served on a publicity committee for the Packinghouse Workers Union, a Chicago-based entity dominated by the CPUSA. In each of these endeavors, Vernon Jarrett had close contact with the Communist Frank Marshall Davis. When Jarrett died in 2004, he was saluted in the pages of People’s Weekly Worker, the house organ of the CPUSA.

As historian Paul Kengor summarized in 2014: “[Barack] Obama’s mentor, Frank Marshall Davis, worked with the literal relatives of Valerie Jarrett — her grandfather and future father-in-law — in Chicago’s Communist Party circles in the 1940s.” In an earlier piece, Kengor put it this way:

So, imagine where we are today: Barack Obama, Frank Marshall Davis’s political godson, and Valerie Jarrett, daughter-in-law to Vernon Jarrett and granddaughter of Robert Taylor—men with links to pro-Stalinism—are the two dominant figures in the White House, the power center that battled the USSR throughout the Cold War.

Jarrett enters politics: 

Valerie Jarrett entered Chicago politics in 1987 as Deputy Corporation Counsel for Finance and Development in the administration of Harold Washington, the city’s first African-American mayor. Jarrett’s father-in-law, whom The Washington Post called “a key influence in [Harold] Washington’s decision to run for the Chicago mayoralty”, may have facilitated Valerie’s rise through Chicago’s political ranks.

After Mayor Washington’s death in 1987, Valerie Jarrett served as deputy chief of staff for the next mayor, Richard M. Daley. During her tenure in that post, Jarrett met and befriended a young lawyer named Michelle Robinson, (the future Michelle Obama), who at the time was engaged to Barack Obama. In 1991 Jarrett and her colleague Susan Sher recruited Michelle to Chicago’s City Hall, and Jarrett quickly became a trusted confidante of both the Obamas.

From 1992 through 1995, Jarrett served the Daley administration as commissioner of the Department of Planning and Development. From 1995-2003, she chaired the Chicago Transit Board. Sometime in the early 1990s, Marilyn Katz, an activist/public-affairs consultant with close ties to City Hall — and a former Students for a Democratic Society radical — introduced Jarrett to Daniel Levin, a cousin of both Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan) and Rep. Sander Levin (D-Michigan).

She has a lucrative career as a slum manager:

From 1995-2008 Jarrett worked for Daniel Levin’s real-estate firm, the Habitat Company. In 2007 Jarrett became Habitat’s president and CEO, drawing a $300,000 in salary plus $550,000 in deferred compensation.

From 2001-08, the Habitat Company managed Grove Parc Plaza, a federally subsidized, 504-unit public housing complex situated in a neighborhood that Barack Obama had represented for eight years as a state senator. But under Habitat’s management, Grove Parc fell into disrepair and became largely uninhabitable, plagued by a host of unaddressed problems such as collapsed roofs, fire damage, rodent infestation, and sewage backups. According to a 2008 Boston Globe report: “In 2006, federal inspectors graded the condition of the complex an 11 on a 100-point scale — a score so bad the buildings now face demolition.” Eventually government inspectors seized control of the complex because of its horrid conditions.

Also under Jarrett’s stewardship, said the Globe, “Habitat … co-managed an even larger subsidized complex in Chicago that was seized by the federal government in 2006, after city inspectors found widespread problems.”

But for Jarrett the news was not all bad. Indeed she became immensely wealthy while presiding over the aforementioned slum apartments. As of 2012 Jarrett owned an 11-percent equity interest in Kingsbury Plaza, a 46-story luxury apartment complex developed by the Habitat Company during 2005-07 at a cost exceeding $100 million. On her 2011 financial disclosure form, she valued that investment — which a Jarrett spokesman said was “a direct result of her 13 years working for Habitat” — at between $1 million and $5 million. According to a 2012 report in the Washington Free Beacon: “Cook County records show the Kingsbury property’s worth at approximately $27.2 million, but thanks to a series of legal appeals beginning in 2003, the land and building are assessed at a much lower value for tax purposes. Since 2008, the property has been designated a ‘special commercial structure’ and is taxed at a value of just $6.8 million, or 25 percent of the actual value. Asked how such a property could enjoy such a low taxable value, an official with the Cook County Assessor’s Office told the Free Beacon that the property’s owners ‘must have good attorneys’.” …

She becomes President Obama’s closest adviser:

Following Barack Obama’s victory in the 2008 presidential election, Jarrett co-chaired the Obama-Biden Transition Project. After that, she was appointed to a prominent position in the Obama administration: Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs. In this role, Jarrett was one of President Obama’s (and Mrs. Obama’s) closest and most trusted advisers.

Consider the following observations, by a variety of informed sources, about Jarrett’s importance as an Obama adviser:

  • An Obama 2008 campaign official told the New York Times, “If you want [Barack Obama] to do something, there are two people [he’s] not going to say no to: Valerie Jarrett and Michelle Obama.”
  • Also in 2008, the aforementioned Susan Sher, who had helped Jarrett recruit Michelle Obama to the Chicago mayor’s office in 1991, emphasized “how incredibly instrumental [Jarrett will] be in virtually everything” in the White House.
  • In July 2009, President Obama himself told New York Times reporter Robert Draper, “I trust her [Jarrett] completely … She is family.” Obama said also that he trusted Jarrett “to speak for me, particularly when we’re dealing with delicate issues”. When asked, the President admitted that he was in the habit of soliciting Jarrett’s input on his every decision.
  • The New York Times described Jarrett as Obama’s “closest friend in the White House”, his “envoy”, his “emissary”, his “all-purpose ambassador”, and the “ultimate Obama insider”.
  • Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank says that Jarrett’s connection to Obama is “deep and personal’, calling her “the real center of Obama’s inner circle”.  Milbank also describes Jarrett as Obama’s “longtime mentor and friend”,  and as someone in a “position of unparalleled influence over the president”.
  • Obama’s former White House communications director, Anita Dunn, says: “Her [Jarrett’s] role since she has been at the White House is one of the broadest and most expansive roles that I think has ever existed in the West Wing”.
  • Chicago tycoon Martin Nesbitt says that Jarrett establishes both Michelle and Barack Obama’s “whole notion of authenticity”.  According to Nesbitt, Jarrett channels the Obamas’ inner voice, telling them, for instance: “That’s not you. You wouldn’t say that. Somebody else is saying that. Barack Obama wouldn’t say that”.
  • According to a November 2014 New Republic report: “Jarrett holds a key vote on Cabinet picks … and has an outsize say on ambassadorships and judgeships. She helps determine who gets invited to the First Lady’s Box for the State of the Union, who attends state dinners and bill-signing ceremonies, and who sits where at any of the above. She has placed friends and former employees in important positions across the administration — ‘you can be my person over there’,  is a common refrain. And Jarrett has been known to enjoy the perks of high office herself. When administration aides plan ‘bilats’,  the term of art for meetings of two countries’ top officials, they realize that whatever size meeting they negotiate — nine by nine, eight by eight, etc. — our [the U.S.] side will typically include one less foreign policy hand, because Jarrett has a standing seat at any table that includes the president”.
  • Jarrett herself is wholy cognizant of the influence she wields with Obama. “We have kind of a mind meld,” she said in 2009. “And chances are, what he wants to do is what I’d want to do.” On another occasion Jarrett told Vogue magazine, “I kind of know what makes them [the Obamas] who they are.”

Jarrett is deeply concerned with racial issues. After the tape recordings of Jeremiah Wright’s racist, anti-American diatribes threatened to sink Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, it was Jarrett who encouraged Obama to give his “race speech” at Constitution Hall. African-American administration staffers have said that without Jarrett’s patronage, “their opinions and the often-legitimate concerns voiced by black leaders like [Al] Sharpton would have been thoroughly disregarded by the white-dominated senior staff”.

When future White House press secretary Robert Gibbs tried to downplay Obama’s assertion (during the 2008 presidential campaign) that Republicans were emphasizing the fact that Obama “doesn’t look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills”,  Jarrett instructed white staffers: “You guys, you’re not getting this issue right.” After Jarrett’s intervention, candidate Obama told his white staffers that they were too “gun-shy on race issues’.  According to a campaign source, “[M]oving forward, the candidate made it very clear to us that we were just a bunch of white people who didn’t get it — which, by the way, was true.”

After Obama’s inauguration in January 2009, Jarrett successfully pushed to loosen restrictions barring government officials from meeting with lobbyists, a rule enshrined in Obama’s executive memo on the Recovery Act [stimulus bill], for fear that other “legitimate” concerns — raised by “civil rights organizations whose directors happen to be registered lobbyists — will not be heard”.

In early 2009 Jarrett lobbied President Obama to create the office of Chief Diversity Officer within the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), a position filled soon thereafter byMark Lloyd, an Alinskyite and a former senior fellow at the [George Soros supported] Center for American Progress.

Jarrett also helped recruit Obama’s regulatory czar, Cass Sunstein, who supports the Fairness Doctrine and has argued that Americans should “celebrate tax day”.

Without Jarrett’s patronage, the self-identified communist revolutionary Van Jones would not have gotten his appointment as the Obama administration’s green jobs czar in March 2009. A White House official told Politico that Jones “did not go through the traditional vetting process”. Instead, Jarrett interviewed Jones, a signal that she pushed for his appointment. Indeed, Jarrett gushed to the Netroots Nation conference in August 2009: “We were so delighted to be able to recruit him [Van Jones] into the White House. We were watching him … for as long as he’s been active out in Oakland. And all the creative ideas he has. And so now, we have captured that, and we have all that energy in the White House.” …

Examples are given of how she brought persons with a variety of subversive and (Islamic) terrorist connections into contact with the president, and urged them to promote his agenda. 

She is a keen advocate for “green energy” at any cost:

In 2010-11 Jarrett promoted the California-based solar-power company Solyndra, where one of her wealthiest Chicago connections, billionaire George Kaiser — a leading Obama bundler — held a 35% share in the company. On Jarrett’s advice, President Obama famously visited and publicly extolled Solyndra in 2010, even though auditors were already warning about the abysmal state of its finances. In September 2011 the company declared bankruptcy, but not before it had received a $535 million government-backed loan.

In general, it is her political philosophy that prevails:

In September 2011, Jarrett said the following about what she viewed as the proper role of government:

We have to give people a livelihood so they can provide for their families…. His [President Obama’s] is a moral vision. It’s a vision based very deeply in values and taking care of ‘the least of these’. And making sure that we are creating a country that’s a country for everybody, not just for the very, very wealthy. We are working hard to lift people out of poverty and give them a better life, a footing, and that’s what government is supposed to do.

A neat summary of the Left’s eternal pretext for extending government control over every aspect of lifeand the fail-safe recipe for keeping people in dependence and poverty.

There follows a story about her contact with illegal immigrants. In the light of all else that is revealed about her influence over Obama’s policies, a reasonable inference is that Jarrett has had much to do with Obama’s policy of amnesty for illegal aliens. And there is corroboration of this:

A September 2012 New York Times report identifies Jarrett as the person responsible for a number of controversial Obama Administration policy decisions, including …  the president’s decision to allow illegal immigrants to apply for work permits.

Then comes an outline of her influence on foreign policy:

…  Jarrett, prior to the May 2011 U.S. killing of Osama bin Laden, repeatedly urged President Obama not to kill the al Qaeda leader, prompting Obama to cancel the mission on three separate occasions—in January, February, and March of 2011.  …

And she has a large share of responsibility for the administration’s policy towards Iran:

In October 2012 it was revealed that for several months, Jarrett, who had no experience in international negotiations, had been leading secret negotiations with representatives of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, in an effort to develop normalized relations between the U.S. and Iran.

Obama is letting Iran become a nuclear power. When it is (and it may be so even now), it will very likely be the crowning achievement of Valerie Jarrett’s political career.

In sum, Valerie Jarrett, elected to no office, is governing the United States. And not without malice:        

A few days before the November 2012 presidential election, a representative from Jarrett’s office quoted Jarrett as having told several senior staffers the following:

After we win this election, it’s our turn. Payback time. Everyone not with us is against us and they better be ready because we don’t forget. The ones who helped us will be rewarded, the ones who opposed us will get what they deserve. There is going to be hell to pay. Congress won’t be a problem for us this time. No election to worry about after this is over and we have two judges ready to go. 

There speaks the spirit of Communism! Of Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and Castro. Its gloating use of naked ruthless power. Its mean, petty, cruel drive for vengeance on its perceived enemies. Its contempt for the people and their representatives in government. Its determination to have its hands on all the wheels of power and use them to advance its totalitarian ends.

And there are almost two years still to go in which that spirit will be presiding over America.

The elephant in ass’s clothing 4

Rule by the Democratic Party is nasty, and where can voters look for relief but to the Republicans?

Because the desperation was strong, too much hope was placed in the Republicans.

Now the disappointment begins. They are starting – so soon! – to copy the Democrats.

And already – of course – the Democrats are gloating.

Catherine Rampell writes in the Washington Post:

Republicans have taken the Senate and expanded their fiefdom in the House, but the Democrats seem to have won the intellectual narrative nonetheless. The GOP, inexplicably, is having its Thomas Piketty moment.

Seriously, guys: Republicans have suddenly started caring about inequality. …

When Republicans have taken note of our country’s income and wealth gaps, the sentiment has usually been dismissive and disdainful, full of accusations of class warfare waged by resentful, lazy people unwilling to hoist themselves up by their bootstraps.

Then, in just the past week, many of the likely 2016 Republican presidential contenders began airing concerns about the poor and condemning the outsize fortunes of the wealthy.

On Fox News after the State of the Union speech, Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) denigrated the administration’s economic track record by doing his best Bernie Sanders impression.

“We’re facing right now a divided America when it comes to the economy. It is true that the top 1 percent are doing great under Barack Obama. Today, the top 1 percent earn a higher share of our national income than any year since 1928,” he said, quoting an oft-cited (by liberals) statistic from the work of economists Piketty and Emmanuel Saez.

Likewise, here’s Mitt Romney, in a speech last week: “Under President Obama, the rich have gotten richer, income inequality has gotten worse and there are more people in poverty than ever before.” Sound-bite highlights from his past presidential campaign, you may recall, included a reference to the “47 percent” who don’t pay federal income taxes and a conclusion that “my job is not to worry about those people”.

Apparently his job description has changed.

Jeb Bush, too, has newfound interest in the lower income groups and deep inequity flourishing in our nation. His State of the Union reaction: “While the last eight years have been pretty good ones for top earners, they’ve been a lost decade for the rest of America.” Sen. Rand Paul, as well: “Income inequality has worsened under this administration. And tonight, President Obama offers more of the same policies — policies that have allowed the poor to get poorer and the rich to get richer.”

Someone up the GOP food chain seems to have decided that inequality and poor people now belong in everyone’s talking points, class warfare be damned. But why?

The rest of the article is not worth quoting. Rampell’s answers to her “why?” are unconvincing (you can judge them for yourself here).

What matters is that the Republican Party may not after all be the lesser of two evils. It may simply be the same evil under a different name.

In an open society, the rich are not rich because the poor are poor.

The poor are not poor because the rich are rich.

When Republican politicians encourage that misapprehension, they are encouraging the politics of envy.

As Thomas Sowell says (see our post Listen to Sowell, January 21, 2015), most people are poor when they are young and rich when they are older.

The main cause, in America, of poor people staying poor is that government keeps them so, by keeping them dependent on government.

The best cure for poverty is freedom from government “help”.

The more government “helps” the poor, the more poor people there will be, and the longer they will be trapped in poverty.

We had assumed that Republicans like conservative Ted Cruz and libertarian Rand Paul knew this. Seems we were wrong.

What do bleeding-hearted politicians think the rich do with their money? Keep it in boxes?

No. They invest it, generally in ways that do far more good for the economy than if they give heaps of it to government in taxes. Government uses tax money to pay a vast army of administrators to distribute some it to those they keep on hand-outs. Government wastes money. And higher taxes never did, never can, and never will cure poverty.

It cannot matter how unequal people are in wealth as long as everyone has enough to satisfy their wants. If they don’t have enough, they can do better for themselves in a market economy. Only if they are left free to work for themselves in an uncontrolled economy. Unless they are socialist tyrants, enriching themselves at the people’s expense. 

Poverty is a problem. Wealth is not.

A libertarian view of the state we’re in 2

John Stossel, in his plain-speaking, clear-headed way, deplores Obama’s failed economic policies:

President Obama sure is consistent. His State of the Union address sounded like his other speeches: What I’ve done is great! America is in a much better position. We’ve created a manufacturing sector that’s adding jobs. More oil is produced at home. I cut deficits in half!

Give me a break. The deficit is lower now not because of any prudence on Obama’s part but merely because the $800 billion stimulus spending blowout didn’t continue. All the president does is increase spending: free community college, free Obamaphones, free birth control, etc. Yes, our annual deficit is lower, but it’s still $488 billion! Our $18 trillion national debt increases by $3 million every minute!

Yes, more oil is produced at home, but that’s in spite of the administration. Oil production is down on public land.

Yes, the manufacturing sector added jobs, but that’s mostly because of cheaper natural gas created by fracking, which Obama’s cronies opposed. Also, America is finally recovering from recession. Obama’s policies probably slowed that recovery.

Does the President delude himself when he takes credit for oil production, lower deficits, etc.? Or does he mislead on purpose? I don’t know.

More recently he bragged, “I created the lowest unemployment rate in years.” He created it? He must know it’s “low” only compared to the 10 percent reached during the recession — and because millions have simply given up looking for work. This recovery is the slowest in 70 years.

Then he goes on to propose a very different speech from the one Obama gave last night:

If Obama gave the State of the Union address I’d like to hear, he’d say this:

I heard you, voters, in November when you took control of the Senate away from my party. I get it. I overreached. I was arrogant. I imposed Obamacare on a nation that was deeply divided about it. I ruled through executive orders instead of legislation. I threw money at “green” nonsense.

We’ve cut a bit out there, because at that point he pulled out the biggest bone of contention we have with libertarians like John Stossel: defense. He wants less spent on it – as Obama does – and  we want more spent on it. 

But on: 

I’ve been in government for years now. I know how badly it works. The last thing I should try to do is make it bigger. In fact, with Republicans now in control of Congress, it’s time I worked with them to shrink government. If we shrink it, we might even dig our way out of the debt hole we’re in. Heck, if we just slow the growth of government to 2 percent a year, we’d be in better shape.

But I didn’t even try to accomplish that. I pretended taxing the rich would solve our financial problems. But there aren’t enough rich people to tax.

That’s not what’s wrong with the idea. What’s wrong is the idea of redistribution itself. The right argument is against any form of redistribution by a central agency.

But on again:

I got drunk on the idea of promising voters “free” stuff such as low down-payment mortgages and guaranteed paid family leave. I told them that all good things come from government. That’s nonsense.

We should put an end to all bailouts. Businesses that screw up should accept the consequences, just like ordinary people who spend recklessly. Main Street should never again be forced to rescue Wall Street.

Instead of expanding government control of health care, we should phase it out. That includes Medicare. I know Medicare is popular, but it is unsustainable. Let current retirees receive their benefits as promised, but younger people should pay for their own health care.

People criticize the economic distortion created by welfare, but Medicare and Social Security are almost as bad. Both redistribute money away from the young and struggling toward those of us who have had decades to invest and save up.

To make these challenges a little easier to deal with, let’s make America richer by abolishing most regulations. They strangle opportunity.

The more I think about it, the more Congress and I could transform America for the better just by getting out of America’s way. The state of our union will be truly strong if the state – by which I mean government – is strictly limited.

That we would applaud.

Listen to Sowell 3

Some immigrants are valuable, some are not. “If they are graduates in Sociology from the University of Berkeley – get them out of here!”

Listen to Thomas Sowell for enlightenment, fresh ideas, some surprises, some laughter – and some very dark pessimism.

Posted under Capitalism, Commentary, Economics, History by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, January 21, 2015

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Two views of capitalism 4

At Townhall, John C. Goodman presents and discusses two views of capitalism as expounded by Professor Johnathan Haidt.

The two views are summed up by these videos, made by Professor Haidt.

Capitalism as Exploitation

Capitalism as Liberation

John Goodman comments:

Now I would argue that one of these views of capitalism is factually incorrect. It’s not just a matter of “political and moral values” [as Haidt asserts]. In fact, in a video presentation of his theory, Haidt shows a chart mapping per capita income throughout all of human history. The chart shows (and this should be well known to all economists) that up until the last few hundred years the average human lived on about a dollar a day – in modern terms. At times and places, they might have enjoyed two dollars a day. If they were really, really lucky they might have hit three dollars a day. But that was it.

In other words, for 100,000 years our ancestors lived at the subsistence level. And then [with the advent of the Industrial Revolution – ed] we got capitalism. By that I mean not just free exchange, but also the institutions of capitalism, including enforceable property rights …

In all its guises the exploitation theory has one central message: the reason why some people are poor is because other people are rich. Here is Paul Krugman explaining why middle income families don’t have higher incomes. …

Soaring incomes at the top were achieved, in large part, by squeezing those below: by cutting wages, slashing benefits, crushing unions, and diverting a rising share of national resources to financial wheeling and dealing. Perhaps more important still, the wealthy exert a vastly disproportionate effect on policy. And elite priorities — obsessive concern with budget deficits, with the supposed need to slash social programs — have done a lot to deepen the valley of despond.

Really? J K Rowling (author of the Harry Potter series) is the richest woman in the world. Did she get rich by “cutting wages, slashing benefits, crushing unions,” etc.? I thought she got rich by writing books. How about Oprah? Has she “slashed” any benefits lately? What about Bill Gates and Warren Buffett? When is the last time they were out there encouraging scabs to cross a picket line?

Krugman’s point about political influence is almost as silly as his view of the economy. Earth to Krugman: the real base of the Democratic Party (the party of the left) has become the ultra-wealthy. And their political goals are harmful to the middle class, but not in the way that Krugman imagines. …

The problem for Democrats is that the party is increasingly ruled by the “new oligarchs”  … [who]  are basically anti-job creation and anti-economic growth – which they see … as a threat to their life style. This puts them squarely at odds with the working class voters who used to be the backbone of the Democratic Party. …

The Democratic Party is [now] the party of the poor and the rich. It’s the middle class that is bolting and voting Republican. And what do the rich want from Democrats? Contra Krugman, they’re not demanding smaller deficits or smaller social programs or even lower taxes. What they want – in addition to looney environmentalism – is for government to protect their life style.

Once the plutocrats settle in a community they become fiercely anti-development and shape their communities in ways that price the middle class out of the housing market. As a result, wherever wealthy liberals tend to congregate, housing is more expensive …

Limousine liberals are a threat to the average worker. But not because they are wage-suppressing, union-busting, exploiters. It’s because their anti-capitalist goals are at odds with the aspirations of ordinary Americans.

It seems to be the case that most – probably all – of the successful entrepreneurs who live in Silicon Valley vote Democratic. Having achieved their own riches in the freedom of opportunity for the individual that the capitalist system gave them, they vote for socialism and the removal of individual freedom that it ensures, so others cannot do what they did.

The free market triumphs again 5

This is from an editorial at Investor’s Business Daily:

As Russia’s ruble plunges, its economy is fast melting down. …

Russia’s central bank raised official interest rates to 17% from 10.5% in a bid to halt the ruble’s stunning plunge, the largest since 1998’s ruble crisis. But on Tuesday, even that desperate rate-hike move failed, as the ruble continued to dive another 4%.

Next up, in all probability, will be capital controls. Putin might even confiscate citizens’ savings by forcing them to swap dollar-based savings accounts for debased ruble ones. This kind of shabby thievery has been done before, but mostly by Latin American dictators. …

How could Russia’s economy go into meltdown mode so fast? …

The major reason for Russia’s implosion is the decline in oil prices. The country relies on selling oil to earn dollars, and the more than 30% drop in oil prices has hit the economy and the currency hard.

A recent estimate by Russia’s Finance Ministry says oil has to average about $117 a barrel for the government to balance its budget. At a current oil price under $60 a barrel, Russia is a fiscal disaster.

The U.S. fracking revolution is a big reason for this. America now puts out more than 9 million barrels of oil a day — up from 7 million barrels just two years ago.

The oil and natural gas fracking boom is happening on private and states’ lands – against the will and the policy of the Obama administration.

As crude prices have declined, oil producers from Venezuela to Saudi Arabia to Iran have felt extraordinary economic pain. Now Russia’s feeling it too, and with political turmoil growing, Russian and foreign investors are leaving the country in droves — and taking their hard currency with them. …

Capital flight is a disaster for the ruble, and is likely to set off double-digit inflation soon.

Interest rates may have to go even higher to stave off a total ruble collapse – 20%? 25%? 30%? No one knows.

But higher rates, soaring inflation, a 60% decline in the stock market and reduced oil revenues mean 2015 is likely to be a nasty year for Russia’s caving economy. …

“Putin’s consistent policy of increasing state economic control may well be leading Russia on the path to stagnation and economic decline,” according to a report issued by the Heritage Foundation in September. …

[Russia’s] reliance on oil exports, the trigger for this crisis, is an obvious one. … Russia also faces a shocking demographic decline — its population is actually shrinking, and it has the odious distinction of being the only industrialized nation in which the average life span is falling. … Russians with skills and schooling are leaving in large numbers, a brain drain. A 2013 survey found 45% of university students wanted to leave the country and live permanently outside the former USSR. What’s left to run Russia’s enfeebled economy is a shrinking, unproductive remnant.

Russia should try a free market economy. It is the only way to prosperity. And then we could have peaceful trading relations with Russia at last. But Russia is very unlikely to do that. The Russian people have never known freedom under the rule of law. They have never wanted it. They get the governments they deserve.

End of the last best hope? 10

Today we dare to go further than we ventured a few days ago when we wrote about the systematic weakening of America by its elected leader. (The taking down of America, December 1, 2014.)

We declare that Obama and his gang, and the greater part of the political party that put him in power, and the international Left, in alliance with Islam, are deliberately destroying America. That is to say, destroying America as the embodiment in a free republic of the idea of liberty under the rule of law. And are close to succeeding.

It is dumbfounding, gobsmacking, how blatant they are about it. How large their plan is writ across their term in power. How openly they do their dirty deeds. They hardly take any pains to disguise their ugly intentions. And yet how the people of America and the world beyond it have managed not to notice, or fully comprehend, what is happening!

David Solway, writing at PJ Media, assembles the evidence that the general public seems unable or unwilling to see, and ponders the horrible work in progress towards the destruction of America.

In [his book] Marked for Death, Geert Wilders argues that Islam has marked not only him but ultimately every freedom-loving individual and so-called “Islamophobe” for death because of the supremacist nature of its doctrines. What outrages Wilders, in addition to the Islamic threat and the demographic inroads the religion of war is carving into the European urban landscape, is the scandalous complicity of Europe’s governing elites, leading to the eventual subversion of the continent.  Although Wilders does not address American vulnerability in any detailed way, what must surely strike a disinterested observer is the equal complicity with which the commander in chief of the United States is pursuing a program of American decline. On the domestic, economic, military, and foreign policy fronts, Obama is energetically and probably irretrievably weakening the country he has sworn to defend, with surprisingly little concerted opposition, or even awareness, from many politicians or from the still-infatuated members of his constituency.

We think the infatuated members of his constituency, or most of them, are aware – and applaud him for it. They want what he wants.

To start with Islam, it is mind-boggling to observe an American president vigorously facilitating the Islamic imperial agenda in a number of different but equally effective ways. He could not do better — or worse — if he were a transplanted Qatari sheikh. One notes the infamous Cairo address with its bloat of lies and factoids. The UN speeches, such as “the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.” The elevation of Muslim Brotherhood operatives into sensitive posts in his administration. Islamic outreach through official institutions such as NASA, once designed for space exploration, now, apparently, for Muslim apologetics. Iftar dinners at the White House. Congratulatory letters to mosques and his designation of terror attacks as “workplace violence”, “man-caused disasters” and “traffic incidents”. His concessionary engaging in a secret correspondence with Iran’s anti-American and anti-Semitic Ayatollah Khamenei. The withdrawing of troops from Iraq, thus opening the way for the establishment of the Islamic State. The purging of FBI training manuals of all reference to jihad. And the interviews in which Obama claims that the U.S. is “one of the biggest Muslim nations”. (In actuality, professing Muslims count for 1.5% of the American people, in comparison, for example, to Muslims amounting to 13% of India’s census.)

But it doesn’t stop there. Obama is not only manifestly pro-Islam; he is demonstrably anti-American. His policies across the board are all of a piece. Domestically, his economic projects have been calamitous. Obama has pied-pipered the nation to the brink of fiscal ruin … His racial interventions have set race relations back a generation or more — most recently his urging the Ferguson rioters to “stay on course“.  His attack on the Constitution is systematically undermining the republican nature of the US. Former New York lieutenant governor Betsy McCaughey cites the president for violating the Constitution 24 times with regard to Obamacare alone. …

Obama’s refusal to secure the permeable southwestern border is an open invitation to a veritable invasion of illegals and jihadists. His executive order to issue a temporary reprieve on the grounds of prosecutorial discretion, to delay deportation, and to provide work permits for millions of illegals is certain to create dismay, resentment and confrontation on a national scale … His mishandling of the Ebola crisis is only another example of anti-colonial politicking, placing American citizens at risk by allowing flights from infected West African countries into the U.S. The list goes on.

In terms of foreign policy, all of Obama’s actions seem dedicated to weakening American strength and resolve in a hostile world. His innumerable blunders — if that is what they are — whether the result of incompetence or, more likely, intention, …

Intention – we see no reason seriously to doubt it.

… have been scrupulously and abundantly documented in scores of books and hundreds of articles. (As an audience member at a recent Freedom Center symposium joked, Obama is “the most competent president we’ve ever had” — most competent, that is, as a malevolent and destructive force whose blunders are not accidents.) It might almost seem as if Obama’s “crimes and misdemeanors” are acquiring encyclopedic dimensions. Here we need only mention his clear bias against international allies, in particular Israel, his funding of the terrorist organization Hamas, his inability or unwillingness to deal effectively with ISIS, which he notoriously regarded as a jayvee outfit, and, most worrisomely, his pampering of the Iranian mullocracy in its determined march toward nuclear status.

His campaign against the American military is perhaps the most telling if under-the-radar sign of his animus toward his own country. His aim to reduce the military to pre-WWII levels and his sacking of ranking military personnel are especially troubling instances of a malign agenda. As retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, an original member of Delta Force and currently executive vice president of the Family Research Council, has argued, “our military is being devastated at the same time that all of our enemies, all of our potential adversaries are ramping up.” It is time, he insists on Twitter, that “top military MUST stand up to President + reckless policies.” It is hard to understand how a powerful military establishment could allow itself to be serially gutted, unless it is helmed by hand-picked Obama supporters.

For there is no evident, top-brass pushback against a president who has signaled to the enemy a timetable for withdrawal; who has shackled his forces in Afghanistan with so-called “rules of engagement,” putting their lives in jeopardy; whose concept of military propriety is a latte salute and whose concept of diplomatic propriety is chewing gum in the face of a prestigious welcoming delegation of a formidable power. This is a president under whose watch veterans were neglected and abused; who has exchanged an alleged deserter for five mid-to-high tier Taliban terrorists; and who has blithely abandoned servicemen under fire or held in captivity. The American armed forces find themselves in a position analogous to the Turkish military, once the guarantor of the country’s Kemalist experiment, now decimated under the authoritarian stewardship of Obama’s good friend, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose example Obama appears to be emulating.

As a result of Erdogan’s actions, a secular Muslim state has been transformed into an Islamic theopolitical nightmare. What the future augurs for America under Obama’s cataclysmic leadership is equally distressing.

Equally? While we agree with Solway’s argument, and value the useful list of proofs that he has gathered, at this point we murmur a respectful correction: What happens to America is immeasurably more important than what happens to Turkey.

And is he too pessimistic in this next passage? Is America “no longer the world’s only superpower” – or even not a superpower at all any more?

In the conclusion of his seminal book, Geert Wilders warned that the Islamic incursion into the body politic and social matrix of the U.S. is well underway; in the course of time, the nation will have lost itself in the Wilderness. But the gradual emirization of the U.S. is merely one among a host of premonitory indices. The nation’s spirit appears increasingly stagnant. It is drowning in a Noah’s flood of debt, it is coming apart at the racial seams, it is riven by a red/blue ideological conflict that appears unbridgeable, it is no longer the world’s only superpower — indeed, it is moot whether it is still a superpower, and it is considered either a hindrance or an irrelevance on the global proscenium. It is debatable whether the rot has gone too deep to be scoured, or if the recent change in party representation in Congress or a future Republican presidency would amount to anything more than a temporary hiatus. … The rot is not only political but has eaten deep into the culture as well, with growing levels of violence, welfare dependence, historical ignorance and general cynicism. In any event, once a nation has forfeited its pre-eminence, history shows it unlikely to reclaim its former position of authority and grandeur.

Finally he gives more reasons to be pessimistic, and they are all cogent:

Many have pointed out, as has Dinesh D’Souza to persuasive effect in America: Imagine a World without Her, that Obama’s main endeavor is to promote national enfeeblement, an enterprise which the American left, via its political, media, intellectual and academic elites, has been advancing for the last fifty years. When the fundraiser-in-chief is pastured out to the golf course or the United Nations and should the Democrats be returned to power, someone else will replace him to carry on his work. Certainly, should Alinsky-friendly Hillary Clinton or populist fraud and gentrified socialist Elizabeth Warren succeed to the presidency, one could write an early finis to the great American adventure in republican governance.

The question remains partially open. Can the country slip out from under the withering curse laid upon it by a runaway president, his subversive administration and the radically corrupt Democratic Party? Can the Augean Stables of a decaying political, intellectual and media culture be cleansed and fumigated? Can the Republicans connect with their staunchly conservative base to eventually form a credible, unified and revitalized governing party?

In the meantime, with the help of his compliant accomplices, Obama has, both as effect and cause, probably done more damage to American interests, security and patriotic fervor than any single president before him. Indeed, he has done more than any of his predecessors to ensure that America as we once knew her is marked for death.

Beyond hope? Not quite:

One can only hope against hope that the American spirit is still at least subliminally resilient.

The taking down of America 11

President Obama believes that America is arrogant.* If his foreign policy can be explained by anything, it would be his intention to bring America down a peg or ten. Looked at like that, the disasters we see happening in many parts of the world are testimony not to  Obama’s failure, but to his success.

Not that President Obama can have any objection to arrogance as such. He is an arrogant man. He just doesn’t want America to be proud of its superiority. He hates the very idea that it is superior. But while he would not even acknowledge its political-moral superiority as a republic constituted for liberty, he cannot deny that it is economically and militarily stronger than any other country. So he’s been working to change that for the last six years.

The whole world is the worse for his efforts.

This is from Front Page, by Bruce Thornton:

The 6 years of Barack Obama’s foreign policy have seen American influence and power decline across the globe. Traditional rivals like China and Russia are emboldened and on the march in the South China Sea and Ukraine. Iran, branded as the world’s deadliest state sponsor of terrorism, is arrogantly negotiating its way to a nuclear bomb. Bloody autocrats and jihadist gangs in the Middle East scorn our president’s threats and behead our citizens. Countries in which Americans have shed their blood in service to our interests and ideals are in the process of being abandoned to our enemies. And allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia are bullied or ignored. All over the world, a vacuum of power has been created by a foreign policy sacrificed to domestic partisan advantage, and characterized by criminal incompetence.

Incompetence is what it looks like. But if failure is the aim, then either the incompetence is only an appearance, or it is a means to the end.

How we have arrived at this point, the dangers to our security and interests if we don’t change course, and what must be done to recover our international prestige and effectiveness are the themes of Bret Stephens’ America in Retreat. The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder. …

A clear sign of American retreat is the precipitous decline in military spending. “In the name of budgetary savings,” Stephens writes, “the Army is returning to its June 1940 size,” and “the Navy put fewer ships at sea at any time since 1916.” The Air Force is scheduled to retire 25,000 airmen and mothball 550 planes. Our nuclear forces are being cut to meet the terms of the 2010 New Start Treaty with Russia, even as its nuclear arsenal has been increasing. Meanwhile Obama … issues empty threats, blustering diktats, and sheer lies that convince world leaders he is a “self-infatuated weakling”.

Unfortunately, 52% of the American people agree that the U.S. “should mind its own business internationally”,  and 65% want to “reduce overseas military commitments”, including a majority of Republicans. This broad consensus that America should retreat from global affairs reflects our age’s bipartisan isolationism, the centerpiece of Stephens’ analysis. This national mood is not a sign of decline, according to Stephens, who documents the enormous advantages America still enjoys globally, from its superiority in research and entrepreneurial vigor, to its healthy demographics and spirit of innovation. But it does bespeak a dangerous withdrawal from the policies that created the postwar Pax Americana – even though this global order policed by the U.S. defeated the murderous, nuclear-armed ideology of Soviet communism, and made possible the astonishing economic expansion that has lifted millions from poverty all over the world. …

For Stephens, isolationism has not been the only danger to American foreign policy success. What he calls “the overdose of ideals”, specifically the “freedom agenda” of the sort George W. Bush tried in Iraq and Afghanistan, has misdirected our efforts and squandered our resources in the pursuit of impossible goals. The success of the Cold War and the subsequent spread of democracy and free-market economies suggested that the world could be not just protected from an evil ideology, but “redeemed” by actively fostering liberal democracy even in countries and regions lacking the necessary network of social mores and political virtues upon which genuine liberal democracy rests. But in attempting to redeem the world, Stephens notes, policy makers “neglected a more prosaic responsibility: to police it”.

The failures to create stability, let alone true democracy, in Iraq and Afghanistan have enabled what Stephens calls the “retreat doctrine”, one to be found in both political parties. Barack Obama is the master of this species of foreign policy, incoherently combining idealistic democracy-promoting rhetoric with actions that further withdraw the U.S. from its responsibility to ensure global order. Under the guise of “nation-building at home,” and in service to traditional leftist doubt about America’s goodness, Obama has retreated in the face of aggression, and encouraged cuts in military spending in order to fund an ever-expanding entitlement state.

But also, equally, in order to make America weaker.

Meanwhile, “Republicans are busy writing their own retreat doctrine in the name of small government, civil liberties, fiscal restraint, ‘realism’,  a creeping sense of Obama-induced national decline, and a deep pessimism about America’s ability to make itself, much less the rest of the world, better.”

The “retreat doctrine” is dangerous because global disorder is a constant contingency. The remainder of Stephens’ book approaches this topic first from the perspective of theory and history, and then from today’s practice. History teaches us that all the substitutes for a liberal dominant global power have failed to prevent the descent into conflict and mass violence. The ideas of a balance of power, collective security, or the presumed peaceful dividend and “harmony of interests” created by global trade did not prevent World War I or its even more devastating sequel. Nor are they any more useful in our own times.

As for today, Stephens identifies several challenges to a global order fragilely held together by the commitment to liberal democracy, open economies, and the free circulation of ideas and trade. The “revisionists” attack this model from various perspectives. Iran sees it as a fomenter of godlessness and hedonism, Russia is moved to oppose it by “revanchism and resentment”,  and China believes that it “is a recipe for bankruptcy and laziness”,  lacking a “sense of purpose, organization, and direction”.  All three see evidence for their various critiques in the failure of the U.S. to exercise its massive power in the face of challenges, and in the willingness of American elites to revel in guilt and self-doubt. These perceptions of national decline invite rivals and enemies to behave as if the U.S. is in fact declining.

The other international players that could worsen disorder are “freelancers” and “free radicals”.  The former include those countries like Israel or Japan who, convinced that America will not act in its own or its allies’ interests, will understandably take action that necessarily entails unforeseen disastrous consequences. Much more dangerous are the “free radicals”, the jihadist gangs rampaging across 3 continents, and the nuclear proliferators like Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan, whose collaboration with each other and rogue regimes like Venezuela endangers the world through provoking even further proliferation on the part of rivals, or by handing off nuclear weapons to terrorist organizations. And then there are “free radicals” like Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, who have undermined global order by publicizing the necessarily covert tools, practices, and institutions that undergird and protect it.

Finally, there are the structural weaknesses of the globalized economy and its continuing decline in growth, which may create “breaks” in national economic systems that “will be profoundly disruptive, potentially violent, and inherently unpredictable”. Add America’s retreat from world affairs and reductions in military spending, and in the “nearer term”, Stephens warns, “terrorists, insurgents, pirates, hackers, ‘whistleblowers’,  arms smugglers, and second-rate powers armed with weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles will be able to hold the United States inexpensively at risk”,  provoking further American retreat from world affairs and the inevitable increased aggression by our enemies and rivals.

 So what can be done? In his conclusion Stephens applies to foreign affairs the “broken windows” tactics of urban policing that caused rates of violent crimes to plummet over the last few decades. Thus “the immediate goal of U.S. foreign policy should be to arrest the continued slide into a broken-windows world of international disorder”.

This foreign policy would require increasing U.S. military spending to 5% of GDP, with a focus on increasing numbers of troops, planes, and ships rather than on overly sophisticated and expensive new weapons. It would mean stationing U.S. forces near global hotspots to serve as a deterrent and rapid-reaction force to snuff out incipient crises. It would require reciprocity from allies in military spending, who for too long have taken for granted the American defense umbrella. It would focus attention on regions and threats that really matter, particularly the borderlands of free states, in order to protect global good citizens from predators. It means acting quickly and decisively when conflict does arise, rather than wasting time in useless debates and diplomatic gabfests. Finally, it would require that Americans accept that their unprecedented global economic, cultural, and military power confers on us both vulnerability to those who envy and hate us, and responsibility for the global order on which our own security and interests depend.

No matter how understandable our traditional aversion to military and political entanglements abroad, history has made us the global policeman, one committed to human rights, accountability, and political freedom. If we abdicate that position, there is no country powerful, or worthy enough, to take our place.

We agree with that.

And Thornton tantalizes us with this:

Stephens ends with an imagined “scenario” of how a serious global disruption could occur, one grounded in current trends and thus frighteningly believable.

When we’ve found out what that scenario is, which is to say when we’ve read the book, we’ll return to this important subject.

 

*  “In his first nine months in office, President Obama has issued apologies and criticisms of America in speeches in France, England, Turkey, and Cairo; at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and the United Nations in New York City. He has apologized for what he deems to be American arrogance, dismissiveness, and derision; for dictating solutions, for acting unilaterally, and for acting without regard for others; for treating other countries as mere proxies, for unjustly interfering in the internal affairs of other nations, and for feeding anti-Muslim sentiments; for committing torture, for dragging our feet on global warming and for selectively promoting democracy.” – Mitt Romney, quoted by PolitiFact.com

A kaleidoscopic shift of the political pattern of Europe 2

New political parties have been rising in many European countries to oppose established policies of both leftist and conservative governments, particularly policies towards the European Union and immigration.

Most of the new parties are on the Right, but recently some have been formed – or have quite suddenly grown from being inconsequential groupings into forces to be reckoned with  – on the Left.

The newly aggressive parties of the Left are mainly in the South, in countries at the receiving end of EU subsidies, angry that the subsidies are not substantial enough.

The new parties of the Right are mainly in the North, in countries at the paying end of the system, angry that they have to subsidize the failing economies of the South.

That sections of the Left should see how badly Europe needs a strategy for survival, should find fault with the EU, and object to unending immigration of dependents into their already hard-pressed welfare states, is a startling development. It means that new political patterns of alignment and opposition are emerging.

In the following article, which we quote from Gatestone, Peter Martino writes about the new parties’ concern with the adverse economic effects of EU membership. He only touches on immigration as a factor in the intensifying discontent which prompts the formation of new political organizations, movements and agendas, but it is in fact quite as hot an issue.

Last week, the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) won a landmark victory in the Rochester & Strood by-election. With this win, UKIP secured its second Member of Parliament. The UKIP candidate, Mark Reckless, won 42.1% of the votes, thrashing the Conservatives (34.8%), Labour (16.8%) and the Liberal Democrats (0.9%). It was the first time ever that UKIP stood in Rochester & Strood. The party won votes from all the major parties. The Conservatives lost 14.4% of the votes, Labour 11.7% and the Liberal Democrats a whopping 15.5%.

UKIP is expected to do very well in the British general elections next May. Last month, a poll predicted the party could win up to 25% of the vote in these elections. In the 2010 general elections, the party had only 3.1%.

UKIP stands for the preservation of the Britain’s national identity. It opposes the European Union (EU) and wants Britain to remain a sovereign nation rather than become a state of a federal Europe. The party is also critical of mass immigration, in particular from Eastern Europe. Though Nigel Farage, the UKIP leader, carefully avoids the issue of Islam, the party has also become the refuge of voters who worry about Islamization. Above all, however, the party embodies the dissatisfaction of the electorate with the traditional political establishment.

As such, UKIP is part of a broad trend that can currently be perceived all over Western Europe.

In Spain, a poll this week said that Podemos, a brand new party that was established only nine months ago, is currently the largest party in the country with 28.3% of the vote. The governing conservative Partido Popular of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy would finish second with 26.3% and the Socialist Party would get only 20.1%. Three years ago, in the November 2011 general elections, the Partido Popular won 44.6% of the votes.

Unlike UKIP, Podemos is a party that clearly belongs to the left of the political spectrum. Podemos (the Spanish for We can) was founded by “anti-capitalist” academics and trade unionists who want to “oppose the dominating EU politics from the left”. Unlike UKIP, Podemos does not want to abolish the EU. On the contrary, since Spain is receiving billions of euros in EU subsidies, a majority of the Spaniards clearly want their country to remain an EU member state.

However, the party opposes the austerity policies that the EU is imposing on Spain as a prerequisite for the continuation of the flow of EU subsidies. Both the Spanish Socialist Party and Prime Minister Rajoy’s Partido Popular are perceived by voters as implementing the same set of EU-prescribed policies.

In this regard, Podemos does resemble UKIP, which also accuses the British political establishment of simply implementing EU mandated policies. In Britain’s case, the dissatisfaction with the EU stems mostly from British taxpayers having to pay billions to the EU, which are then transferred to countries in the south of Europe [such as Spain -ed], where governments use them to fund welfare programs. In this sense, the rise of leftist tax-and-spend parties (or rather tax-other-countries-and-spend parties), such as Podemos, reinforces the rise of parties such as UKIP in the north of Europe.

Indeed, all along the Mediterranean, parties opposing the EU-mandated austerity policies are growing spectacularly.

One of the keynote speakers at Podemos’ recent first-ever party congress was Alexis Tsipras, the leader of Greece’s neo-communist party Syriza. In last May’s European elections, Syriza became Greece’s biggest party with 26.5% of the votes, ahead of the governing Nea Demokratia party of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. Syriza draws on the same kind of sentiments as Podemos and is popular for exactly the same reasons.

The same is true of Italy’s Five Star Movement, led by the comedian Beppe Grillo, which, with 21.2% of the vote, became the country’s second largest party in last May’s European elections.

And the same is even true for the Front National of Marine Le Pen in France. Ms Le Pen claims that without the euro, the EU’s common currency, there would be “no need for austerity”. Drawing on anti-EU sentiments, the Front National became the largest French party in last May’s European elections with 24.8% of the vote.

The popularity of these parties is still rising. A recent poll in France revealed that Marine Le Pen might win the next French presidential elections, not just in the first round, but also in the decisive second round. It is the first time ever that the FN leads in a presidential poll against France’s two major parties, the Socialist PS and the Center-Right UMP.

In the countries to the north, however, the popularity of the parties opposing the EU subsidization of the southern countries is rising equally spectacularly.

In the Netherlands, the anti-establishment Party for Freedom (PVV) of Geert Wilders is currently the biggest party in the polls. Wilders has consistently opposed the bailing out of countries such as Greece and Spain with Dutch taxpayers’ money.

In neighboring Germany, the Alternative for Germany (AfD), a party established last year to oppose eurozone bailouts, is shaking up politics with its astonishing wins in recent state elections.

In Sweden, the Sweden Democrats (SD), opposing both immigration and the EU, won 13% of the vote in last September’s general elections, but their popularity keeps rising. Last week, an SD spokesman said the party is currently expected to win up to 18% of the vote.

All across Europe, the electorate is deeply dissatisfied and disillusioned with both the Conservative and the Social-Democrat parties of the political establishment. Voters no longer see much difference between the traditional political protagonists, who are perceived as imposing an EU agenda that, for various reasons, is seen as bad for the country.

In Europe judging by the polls, political landslides are on the way.

The folly of raising the minimum wage 11

minwage

There should be no minimum wage at all in the interest of a thriving economy.

But if there is going to be such a misconceived thing, it should be very low indeed.

Many minimum wage jobs can be performed by machines. Automation will be hastened by the imposition of a minimum wage.

Minimum wage enforcement can only create unemployment.

It is not what an employee needs that should determine his wage, but how much he can contribute to the business that employs him. If his job earns the business at least three times his wage, he is worth what he is paid. The more he contributes, the more he is worth. If he needs more, he can get it by contributing more. The bigger and better his contribution, the better he’ll do for himself.

This is the way capitalism – what Adam Smith called “the natural order of liberty” – works.

From each according to his need, to each according to his ability.

Posted under Capitalism, Commentary, Economics by Jillian Becker on Friday, November 14, 2014

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