On fear, austerity and the economy
Take perpetual war off the agenda
Sheldon Richman in Reason: They are doing it again. “They” are the war-party politicians, Democrats and Republicans. “It” is scaring you into supporting another war in the Middle East.
When will the American people learn? If in a republic the people are the ultimate check on government power, a gullible, easily frightened public is a disaster waiting to happen. Where is the derisive skepticism Americans are reputed to feel toward politicians? A high-ranking official and, say, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour need only say “Boogeyman!” and Americans line up for orders.
Administration officials leave the impression that the Islamic State (ISIS), which holds territory in Iraq and Syria, directly threatens Americans at home, although when pressed, these officials won’t say this outright. In interviews, President Barack Obama says there is no “immediate intelligence” concerning a threat, but he insists the U.S. military must strike ISIS now or else.
Obama wants it both ways: to scare the people into supporting a new American war in Iraq and Syria, without creating a panic. “We will not tolerate safe havens for terrorists who threaten our people,” Obama said.
Obama’s Republican critics show no restraint. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), for example, goes to absurd lengths to frighten Americans. “This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home,” Graham said. He forecast the deaths of hundreds of millions of Americans if something drastic is not done.
Thirty thousand ISIS fighters are going to invade and kill 319 million Americans?
Austerity fails in Germany
Harold Meyerson in The Washington Post: I’m no fan of Germany’s macroeconomics, which are more destructive and dangerous than those of any other nation. By using its power as the dominant nation in the European Union to impose austerity on the struggling economies of Southern Europe, Germany has condemned young people in Spain and Greece to unemployment rates in excess of 50 percent, shaken the social fabric of every nation on the Mediterranean and contributed to the rise of such far-right parties as France’s National Front and Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn.
Unlike other nations, Germany hasn’t offshored its best industrial jobs, but it has relentlessly offshored to its Southern neighbors conditions conducive to the rise of a xenophobic extremism that one would think Germany, of all nations, wouldn’t wish to nourish.
The challenges facing the nations of Mediterranean Europe are hard-wired into the structure of the European Union, but Germany has made them incomparably worse. Just as the euro has enabled Germany to boost its exports by making them cheaper than they’d be if the country had a currency that reflected the strength of its economy, it has also overpriced exports from the nations of Southern Europe, which cannot devalue their currencies to reflect their economic weakness.
Having forfeited the ability to adjust their monetary policy to boost their economies, the Mediterranean nations have also been blocked from stimulating their economies fiscally by the European Union’s prohibition of budget deficits that exceed 3 percent of nations’ gross domestic products. Historically, those budget limits have been amended or waived during downturns, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel has continually insisted that the union impose austerity on nations whose economies required the very opposite: public works projects to boost employment and consumption, not to mention political stability.
What Obama won’t say
Ralph Rieland in The American Spectator: In his speech the day before the federal government reported U.S. job growth was 248,000 in September, President Obama painted a picture that made the current state of the American economy look like the grand fireworks finale on the Fourth of July — everything simultaneously and beautifully exploding to more dazzling and far-reaching levels.
“By every economic measure, we are better off now than we were when I took office,” declared Mr. Obama.
Well, not exactly “every economic measure.”
“A key indicator of economic hardship — enrollment in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps — is higher in every state than it was five years ago,” reported Tim Henderson in his column in August in USA Today, “Food stamp use shows continued ‘underemployment’ pain.”
Economists say “the official unemployment rate underestimates economic pain,” explained Henderson, “since it doesn’t include people who have stopped looking for work or who are barely getting by with part-time or low-paying jobs.”
In September, the number of people in the U.S. labor force dropped by 97,000, lowering the labor participation rate (the share of the non-institutionalized population 16 years and older working or seeking work) to 62.7 percent, the lowest level since 1978, a 36-year low.