Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

Ever since the financial crash of 2008, the subject of global economics has been at the tip of everyone’s tongues. A period of remarkable economic growth came to an abrupt end, and to this day most of us are feeling the effects of it. Now when it comes to understanding the strange and often contradictory world of economics, there are definitely worse people to look to than Paul Krugman. Professor of Economics at Princeton University, New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize winner aside, Krugman was voted 6th in a poll of the world’s 100 top intellectuals by Prospect.

The Conscience of a Liberal (also the name of Krugman’s blog) traces the path of inequality in the United States from the late 19th century to the present day, and how – after a period of relative economic equality in the 60’s – income distribution in the United States today is as bad as, if not worse than, it was in the early 20th century. By inequality, we’re essentially talking about the difference in the income of the richest and poorest members of society.

Over the course of the book, Krugman describes the evolution of the two main political parties in the US, the Democrats and the Conservatives. He shows how during the 70’s and 80’s, the Republican party was hijacked by ‘movement conservatives’, or as some have described it, the ‘conservative labrynth’ – a network of media outlets, right-wing think tanks and corporations supported by wealthy benefactors dedicated to spreading a version of conservatism that is vehemently opposed to the tenets of the New Dealintroduced by Roosevelt in the 1930’s.

Krugman spends much of the book discussing the rise of movement conservatives and their hijack of the Republican Party. He also talks about how they were able to achieve so much support – to the extent that they were able to win elections consistently – with such unpopular economic policies. The economics of these movement conservatives, Krugman argues, increased inequality as they decreased taxes for the richest segments of society while weaking social safety nets. So how did a party with such policies manage to consistently win elections?

Krugman discusses a number of interesting and valid methods in which the Republican party were able to convince voters to vote for them, but the most influential – and ugliest – of their tactics, he argues, was for them to play the race card. According to him, the Republicans were able to convince a majority of voters to choose them despite unfair economic policies was to play on the fears of white voters, at a time when racism, whether hidden or overt, was a major factor in American life. Now to those of us who did not grow up in America during this time, it can seem a strange argument, particularly when reading a book written by a prominent Economist, not a sociologist or historian. However, Krugman backs his argument strongly, and convinces the reader of the validity of his argument.

Towards the end of the book, the author looks to the future, and claims that progressives and liberals need to focus on one major issue in the coming years: healthcare. Krugman claims that achieving universal healthcare is a must. Every other developed economy has universal healthcare, and so the US lags behind. Krugman outlines the main features that a healthcare plan must have, and the difficulties that would be involved in trying to implement this in the US. Now this book was written before the recent healthcare bills were passed, and so comparing Krugman’s ideas with the actual details of the current healthcare would certainly make for interesting reading for those interested in the subject.

Krugman packs many a punch in this book, and is not afraid to tread on any toes. Theodore Roosevelt once uttered these words:

“We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace – business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionism, war profiteering. They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs.

We know that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. Never before in history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hatred for me – and I welcome their hatred.”

Krugman shares Roosevelt’s spirit in this regard, and offers a stinging indictment of the state of the modern Republican party. While Obama may be attempting a bipartisan approach, reaching out to a Republican party that has no interest in playing ball, Krugman argues that in many cases a bipartisan approach is simply unworkable.

The focus of the book is ultimately inequality in the US, but by demonstrating the direct effect of movement conservatism’s harmful economic ideology, Krugman shows us how this inequality came about, and why a progressive Government must focus on healthcare reform (which Obama has now done) in order to halt the rise in inequality and take major step towards a fairer society. The book provides a fascinating look at the rise of the Republicans in their current form, and Krugman makes a strong argument for the rejuvination of public institutions in the US. A must read.

No, you won’t find many blog posts like this one from me. The US has a long history of meddling in the affairs of other nations for its own national interest, without regard to the interest of the nation in question. So it is natural that, in the US’ latest intervention in Libya, most of those on the left of the spectrum are understandably ready to criticize Obama.

I have some sympathy for the man, as it seems like he just can’t win this time around. On the left, the criticism is that the US cannot and should not intervene wherever they feel fit. Justifications on the ground of humanitarianism are scorned – America does not have a reputation for that. Liberals remember the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, and are justifiably suspicious about this latest action in Libya.

On the other hand, those on the right have and will criticize Obama for “dragging America into another war” when there are domestic considerations, and budgetary concerns. America can’t afford to save these people, let them solve their own problems, they say.

So I find myself in the strange position of having to defend him. On the left they are suspicious of US imperialism: the Arab League was against this, the African Union was against this, and the UN vote wasn’t fair/representative. Well, what about the Libyans? What do they want? Everyone seems to have forgotten about them. Every single Libyan I’ve spoken to (admittedly, not many) has said that they are thankful that Obama ordered military action. If it weren’t for the airstrikes, Bengazi would have fallen, and that would have been that. There would have been a massacre.

There is value in humanitarianism, we must not forget that. The UN is too weak an organization to do it, and so it falls to the US (unfortunately). As uncomfortable as the idea is in my head, I can’t help but feel that Obama acted in the interests of the Libyan people before the US. There will be benefits to the US of a non-Gaddafi Libya, of course, but that is secondary. Regime change wasn’t a stated motive. The US is eager to hand control to NATO and other allies, rather than get stuck in. No ground troops. This is clearly not Afghanistan – a war waged in revenge, without a clear strategy, or Iraq – a very cynical war fought entirely for the greed and power. I believe this really is a reluctant intervention which the US has no intention of being involved in for very long, almost entirely for humanitarian purposes.

Further, comparisons with Bahrain and Yemen are incorrect. In Yemen, there is some negotiation going on, and while there is violence, there seems to be some progress being made internally. In Bahrain, unfortunately the Saudi and UAE armies went it, a grave turn of events, but again the level of violence was nothing like Libya. Crucially, the Bahraini and Yemeni leadership did not threaten to massacre their people, did not compare them to rats, did not urge them to take to the streets to slaughter the opposition. Those countries are not approaching civil war, and no massacres are on the brink of taking place.

Personally I found Obama’s speech to be a good one. It laid out the processes that took place and his intentions quite well. Click here to see it.

Juan Cole writes an excellent ‘Open Letter to the Left‘ on his blog. Do read it. He goes into a lot more depth than I possibly could in this hastily written, badly edited blogpost, and makes the case a lot better than I do. He’s also on Democracy Now debating the Libya issue (Part 1 and Part 2 here).

Finally, this excellent interview on The Daily Show with Dr. Mansour O. Al-Kikhia, another Libyan who supports the intervention. Watch it (and enjoy his energy!). I don’t know if he’s closely related to this Mansour Kikhia, disappeared by Gaddafi years ago, and he makes no mention of it.

Until next time.

Former Egyptian Dictator / Honcho-in-Chief gave the Egyptians what they’ve been asking for today, announcing his resignation from office after 30 years. In fact the news was not announced by him, but rather his Vice-President Omar Suleiman. Mubarak himself, meanwhile, had already disappeared, too cowardly to face the nation one last time after the insult that he delivered to them the night before.

 

Power has been handed over to the military, and we’ll talk about that in a second. Firstly, this is a great victory for all Egyptians. Young and old, rich and poor, they were part of a historic movement, one that will not be forgotten. The timeline of this movement is remarkable; it continued to pick up steam despite the efforts of the Mubarak government, the police, Saudi Arabia, and others. The Egyptian people were out there every day, at Tahrir Square most famously, but also at Alexandria, Suez, and other cities.

 

January 25th was the official ‘starting date’ of the revolution. Police soon clashed with protesters, using tear gas, water cannons, rubber bullets on the unarmed civilians. Realizing that the movement was being driven by telephones and the internet, the government cut all communications, in an attempt to destroy the means of organizing. It didn’t work. When the police disappeared, the Egyptian people knew that victory was only a matter of time. They now owned the streets; the whole of Egypt would soon be theirs.

 

Last night, after 17 days of protests, news emerged that Mubarak would soon announce his resignation on TV. The crowds gathered; they waited, anticipating victory. And finally, after hours, he spoke. And the people were furious; this old man, after 30 years in power, still refused to let go! He refused to step down! He told more broken promises – about reform, about changes – and uttered more empty words. Words the Egyptian people have heard again and again.

 

If Mubarak expected a positive reaction, then he will have been surprised.

 

And so today, after 18 days of nonviolent revolution, Mubarak scurried away like a coward. 18 days of popular dissent, up nonviolent uprising, and a brutal dictator of 30 years was sent scurrying away, his tail between his legs. He will probably end up in Saudi Arabia, or some other such place, and live out the rest of his days in a palace. But he will be a broken man, because after 30 years, he lost. Hosni Mubarak, you have been consigned to the trash can of history. Unloved, unwanted, and despite all your power and stolen riches, your end has inevitably come. Goodbye.

 

This may be the end for Mubarak, but it cannot be the end for the revolution. Mubarak may be out, but the regime is still there. The political structures remain in place. The economy is still the same as it was last week, and Mubarak’s cronies – none bigger than Vice President Omar Suleiman – remain in place. International political interests in the country have not changed overnight, so do not expect the powers that be to drop their interests in the country and hail democracy and the power of the people.

 

This is just the start. the Egyptian people will now need to fight tooth and nail not to remove the already rotting corpse of a corrupt dictator, but to continue on their path to liberation. A new political system must be put in place, one that guarantees free and fair elections, representation for all. The economy must be returned to the Egyptian people. It is they who have caused this revolution, it is they who own the country, and it must be returned to them.

 

Have a good day.