The basic idea behind austerity is that deflation via government cuts will rein in budget deficits and sovereign debt. However, austerity in practice, as Mark Blyth writes at Foreign Affairs, hasn't quite delivered.
In Spain, unemployment is at a record 27.2%. Great Britain could still enter the world’s first triple-dip recession. In the last quarter of 2012, the Eurozone as a whole contracted, which has never happened before. And yet, the ideals of austerity are still lauded by deficit and debt hawks in the US and abroad.
Portugal’s debt-to-GDP ratio increased from 62 percent in 2006 to 108 percent in 2012. Ireland’s more than quadrupled, from 24.8 percent in 2007 to 106.4 percent in 2012. Greece’s debt-to-GDP ratio climbed from 106 percent in 2007 to 170 percent in 2012. And Latvia’s debt rose from 10.7 percent of GDP in 2007 to 42 percent in 2012. None of these statistics even begin to factor in the social costs of austerity, which include unemployment levels not seen since the 1930s in the countries that now make up the Eurozone.
A brave Pakistani columnist questions the hatred for Israel inculcated by his state's institutions and proposes that Pakistan move to normal relations with Israel.
We, as a nation, are already suffering from the setbacks of hate-filled curriculum and society that seeped into our values allowing no space for minorities. It is time we start giving space to everyone and work towards inter-faith and inter-ethnic harmony and collaboration.
If we can have friends in India and the USA, why can’t we have friends in Israel? Why not pave a way for initiation of relations, primarily with the people, and not initially the government that may create opportunities for peace and a better future for the coming generations?
(h/t Kapil Komireddi)
Why should we cheer the European Union?
FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP/Getty Images
From a Foreign Affairs interview with Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski:
The European Union is extremely good for Poland. It was good for us even before we joined, because it gave us a strategic direction and a sort of civilizational template that secured democratic free markets in law. It required determination to get there, but now it is also the framework in which, for example, we no longer fear Germany, because we are both stakeholders in the same community. And the Visegrad Group -- Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary -- have the same number of votes as Germany and France combined. The Polish presidency in the European Union was particularly useful. It helped us to improve the quality of our state apparatus, gave us the experience of responsibility for 500 million people, and taught us to think on a continental scale.
The Wall Street Journal has labor news that - if not exactly good - at least is less bad than we are used to. Yes, labor force participation has declined, but as much because of demography as because of weak employment demand.
Americans are much more likely to work between the ages of 25 and 54 than when they are older or younger. But with the baby boomers aging, and many of their children now at least 16 years old but not yet into the prime of their working lives, it is the older and younger ends of the working-age population that are growing most quickly. Adjust for the changing population, and the "missing" workforce shrinks [from the usual figure of 7 million discouraged workers] to about 4.3 million.
Saudi woman sentenced to eight lashes for a text message.
The 30-year-old woman, identified only as YH, has been pronounced guilty for sending an SMS to another Saudi woman, containing a group of telephone numbers under the name 'Shiite Islamic religious services'. … The act of calling people for Shiism, or openly advocating the Shia faith, has been pronounced as haram (forbidden and despicable in Arabic) by the Attorney General, who publicly demanded that YH be severely punished.
Why do we need stricter background checks? A story from Oregon shows how the present rules invite terrible tragedies:
The woman at the counter of Keith's Sporting Goods wanted a handgun. She wasn't interested in price, quality or how to use it safely. She spoke slowly that day in June as she made one request: Would the clerk load it?
Maria Ward doesn't judge her customers. Americans have a right to buy firearms, after all. But this woman seemed traumatized. Ward worried she planned to hurt someone.
"I'm sorry," Ward told her. "I'm not going to sell you a firearm."
Reihan Salam, for his Reuters column, writes on the legacy of Bush 43. It's a less than fawning assesment that identifies the chief challenge for post-Bush Republicans:
One of the ironies of the Bush presidency is that for all its failures, it was rooted in a clear-eyed diagnosis of the challenges facing Republicans. The end of the Cold War and the success of the Clinton-era Democrats’ centrism had badly undermined the GOP, which by the late 1990s risked irrelevance. Newt Gingrich’s efforts to shrink government were successfully countered by President Bill Clinton’s protean progressive centrism, and so George W. Bush, as governor of Texas, identified an alternative way forward.
During his first presidential run, Bush famously lambasted congressional Republicans for “balancing their budget on the backs of the poor,” and he touted his various efforts to raise literacy and math scores for black and Latino students in Texas. Bush recognized that Republicans needed to be seen not as opponents of government but rather as its reformers, and his moderation was essential to his razor-thin, hotly contested 2000 victory.
Meet the Asian carp of dry land:
In southern states like Texas, backyard encounters with feral swine have become routine. The pigs — ill-tempered eating machines weighing 200 pounds or more — roam city streets, collide with cars, root up cemeteries and provide plot lines for reality TV shows like “Hog Hunters.”
But the pig wars are moving north. In Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon and Pennsylvania — states where not long ago the only pigs were of the “Charlotte’s Web” variety — state officials are scrambling to deal with an invasion of roaming behemoths that rototill fields, dig up lawns, decimate wetlands, kill livestock, spread diseases like pseudo-rabies and, occasionally, attack humans.
Don't miss this fascinating Wall Street Journal interview with Donald Kagan, classicist and one-time dean of Yale College - now in open despair at the state of the university to which he devoted his life.
Mr. Kagan resigned the deanship in April 1992, lobbing a parting bomb at the faculty that bucked his administration. His plans to create a special Western Civilization course at Yale—funded with a $20 million gift from philanthropist and Yale alum Lee Bass, who was inspired by the 1990 lecture—blew up three years later amid a political backlash. "I still cry when I think about it," says Mr. Kagan.
As he looks at his Yale colleagues today, he says, "you can't find members of the faculty who have different opinions." I point at him. "Not anymore!" he says and laughs
Here's a movie for the drug legalizer in your Twitter feed.
"Nothing here but Oxy and coal," says one of the subjects of Sean Dunne's mournful documentary Oxyana. The "here" is Oceana, a once-bustling mining town in West Virginia, now decimated by Oxycontin addiction to the point where the media have rebranded it "Oxyana."
An entire generation has been wiped out, and addiction touches everyone's lives. One guy interviewed says, "I'm 23. Half my graduating class is dead." …
The epic feud between Lyndon Johnson and Robert Kennedy is a story that reflects credit on nobody, except the author who has so minutely related it. Jeff Shesol served as a speechwriter to Bill Clinton, and that governmental experience may have inoculated him against the pro-Bobby romanticism that has biased so many other tellings of this story, including Robert Caro's most recent volume of Johnson biography, published 16 years after Shesol's study. Shesol's Mutual Contempt by contrast makes no excuse for the petty behavior exhibited by both men - and draws convincing conclusions about the harm done the country by their indulgence of their feud.
The Kennedy brothers arrived at the Democratic convention of 1960 with a careful war plan that came to a dash thirty dash at the moment the roll call was clinched. John F. Kennedy had given scant thought to his vice presidential choice.
Political logic pointed to Johnson as the inescapable choice. To win in 1960, the Democrats needed to regain Texas, once a solid-South state that had defected to Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956. If elected, Kennedy would then face the same impediment to governing that had bedeviled Franklin Roosevelt after 1938 and Harry Truman over his whole term: a Senate controlled by Southern conservatives and reactionaries. As Democratic Majority leader, Johnson had extracted results from that Senate for President Eisenhower, whom he admired. There was no guarantee he would work as hard for a President Kennedy, whom he notoriously did not admire - unless, that is, he were brought into the administration under presidential control.
If Jamaican bobsledding can be a movie, surely "Hockey Night in the Punjab" calls out even more for the Hollywood treatment
Harnarayan Singh and Bhola Chauhan sat at a desk in the CBC’s studio here last month, watching the first period of a game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Winnipeg Jets on two televisions.
Dressed in a pinstriped suit with gold cuff links, a blue-and-white tie and a matching turban, Singh, a play-by-play announcer, called the end-to-end action in an animated stream of Punjabi, punctuated with English words like “linesman,” “icing” and “face-off.”
Singh spoke at great volume as Toronto scored its first goal, crediting wing Joffrey Lupul for what translates to “picking up the wood,” a traditional Punjabi battle cry akin to bringing the house down.
One more reminder of how guns escalate ordinary disputes into deadly finality. Yesterday in Philadelphia,
Tyrirk Harris, 28, was sentenced for the February 2012 shooting death of a neighbor who confronted him for not cleaning up after his German shepherd and Chihuahua. Prosecutors said Harris pulled a gun and shot 47-year-old Franklin Manuel Santana once in the face and four times in the back.
"There were dog feces on several of the neighbors' yards. That's what led to this particular confrontation," Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Scott Small told NBC Philadelphia shortly after the crime. Police said the two had an ongoing dispute about the dogs.
You could say, "Guns don't kill people. Dog feces kills people." But more seriously: guns make killers of people who woke up that morning with no plan at all to do harm to anyone.
My National Post column: it's Trudeau who should be attacking, not Harper.
The Liberals and Conservatives should switch ad agencies.
In the past few days, both the Liberals and Conservatives have released ads starring Justin Trudeau. The Conservative ad jeeringly mocked the new Liberal leader as “out of his depth.” The Liberal ad showed a soft-focus Trudeau in a school classroom meltingly promising a “better country.”