Other Writers, on Hillary, the dollar, and Russia

Other Writers

Hillary and the burden of being Clinton

Molly Ball in the Atlantic : Last week, in the first policy speech of her presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton staked out a position on criminal justice reform that was a direct repudiation of Bill Clinton’s tough-on-crime policies.

It wasn’t the first time Hillary Clinton has found herself up against Bill Clinton’s record, and it likely won’t be the last. As the former first lady stakes out a forthrightly liberal platform for her second presidential campaign, she is increasingly at odds with the legacy of her husband. If the promises she’s making now bear fruit, a second Clinton administration could well end up reversing many of the policies of the first one.

Though the criminal justice contrast was the most widely noticed, Hillary Clinton has already staked out multiple stances that contrast starkly with Bill Clinton’s policies. This week, in Las Vegas, she laid out a set of immigration policies including “full and equal citizenship” for undocumented immigrants, protecting the parents of young “Dreamer” undocumented immigrants from deportation, and softening deportation policies. Bill Clinton, on the other hand, signed several restrictive immigration measures during his tenure, speeding deportations, increasing penalties, and making it harder for the undocumented to gain legal status.

As the campaign continues, progressives can be expected to push Hillary Clinton to take more stances that contravene Bill Clinton’s record. Trade and financial regulation are two notable areas of liberal angst: Many critics blame Bill Clinton’s repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act for the 2008 financial crisis, and the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he championed, is frequently cited in the current debate over trade authority as an example of a bad free-trade deal.

Strong dollar hurts U.S. companies

Robert Samuelson in the Washington Post : It’s been called the “exorbitant privilege”; it might also be termed “the indestructible curse.” Americans are proud of the fact that the dollar — their money — is also the world’s dominant international currency. But this very same global role also helps explain some of Americans’ major complaints about the world economy: why we constantly run sizable trade deficits; and why U.S. manufacturers often are at a price disadvantage with foreign competitors.

It’s not that other currencies (mainly the euro and yen) don’t play a global role. They’re also used to pay for imports and for cross-border borrowing and lending. The dollar simply overshadows them. Dollars constitute 63 percent of countries’ foreign exchange reserves, almost triple the next closest currency, the euro (22 percent), says the International Monetary Fund.

It was Valery Giscard d’Estaing, French finance minister and later president, who called the dollar’s global role an “exorbitant privilege.” By this, he meant that the United States could pay for imports simply by printing more money. Other countries need to export to earn the foreign exchange (mostly dollars) to pay for imports. There’s a “something for nothing” quality to the dollar’s status that — paradoxically — also fuels discontent with globalization.

Is Putin as bad as Stalin?

Masha Gessen in the New York Times : “How bad are things, really?” This is a question that those of us who write about Russia — or live in Russia, or think about Russia — are asked often, and ask just as frequently. It has its variants: “Is it as bad as it was before perestroika?” “Is Putin as bad as Stalin?” And the rhetorical king of them all: “Is it 1937 yet?” The reference is to the year widely considered the beginning of Stalin’s Great Terror, or the most frightening year in Russian memory.

Every news event precipitates a new round of questions. Did the murder of the opposition politician Boris Nemtsov signal the beginning of a new, more frightening era? Did it communicate something even worse than the murder of the opposition journalist Anna Politkovskaya portended in 2006? How bad are things, really?

A young British academic is discovered in the Nizhny Novgorod region conducting research on early-20th-century Russian revolutionary movements, accused of espionage and deported. A mother of seven is accused of high treason and briefly arrested for spreading a rumor she heard on public transport (the charges have since been dropped). Is this a return to the spy paranoia of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s? Is Mr. Putin as bad as Stalin?

While Mr. Putin has done much to restore the ideological mechanisms of the totalitarian system, Russia is not run by means of total terror. Russians know — and some Russians actually remember — that things can indeed be much worse. The problem with that knowledgeis that it can make life in Russia seem tolerable in comparison. At least until the next firing, trial, deportation or murder happens.