Yesterday, the German Parliament relented and agreed to let the Greek debt restructuring go forward, but only the price of crushing austerity for the Greek economy. This is a widespread attitude in Germany, where aid to the Greeks is unpopular.
The other day, Jörg Krämer, chief economist for Commerzbank in Frankfurt, said of the Greeks, ?If you live beyond your means, then you can repair your balance sheet only if your consumption goes down.?
But the Germans might take a moment and reflect on their own history.
In the aftermath of World War II, the Allies, remembering the disastrous consequences of German reparations after the First World War, did not insist on their pound of flesh. The entire Nazi public debt, amounting to over 600 percent of German GDP, was written off.
The pre-existing unpaid debt from the Weimar period was written down to a fraction of its original cost. Claims on old debt were strictly segregated from German reconstruction funds. The German Federal Republic finally paid off the last bit only in 2010.
Germany surely lived well beyond its means during the Nazi era, plundering the rest of Europe as well. The allies would have been within their rights to demand that Germany pay for its sins by reducing its consumption, but this time wiser heads prevailed. The Americans not only agreed to write off old debts, but gave the Germans billions of dollars in Marshall Aid.
The German Federal Republic itself, after 1989, did not condemn the former East Germany to austerity as a remedy for its fictitious communist economy. Instead, Chancellor Helmut Kohl allowed the eastern states to exchange their nearly worthless Ostmarks for Deutsch Marks at the inflated rate of 1 to 1, and then poured the equivalent of more than a trillion Euros into the reconstruction of the eastern economy.
If the Allies, and later the government of Germany itself, had practiced what the Germans are now preaching, Germany today would be a much poorer country.
One recalls Edmund Burke?s sage 1775 oration addressed to King George III on the perversity of the British government?s harsh policy towards its restive North American colonies. Burke averred, ?The question with me is not whether you have a right to render your people miserable, but whether it is not your interest to make them happy.?
Germany gains little and Europe stands to lose much by condemning the Greeks to misery as punishment for past profligacy. The Germans are also playing with fire. Greece is a nation that had a military dictatorship as recently as the 1974. No democracy can sustain this kind of economic punishment. What, then, to do?
Normally, a country that lost the confidence of its foreign lenders would devalue, disguising the decline in living standards and at the same time making its exports more competitive. But Greece?s membership in the Eurozone precludes that. It is also true that Greek public administration and tax collection are a mess.
So how to emulate the spirit of the allies? macro-economic mercy towards the Germans after 1945 and the West German far-sighted generosity toward their Ossie cousins after 1989?
In June, the Greek Parliament has voted an austerity program of 28 billion euros in budget cuts and tax increases over five years. Because dwindling GDP produces lower revenues, the latest agreement requires several billion more. These are devastating sums for Greece, but small in the context of the EU?s entire GDP, of which Greece is just two percent.
Why not couple Greek budget and tax reform with a large infusion of funds for economic modernization and public improvements in the spirit of the Marshall Plan? In the context of the vast sums going to bail out Europe?s banks, a $50 billion Recovery and Investment Plan for Greece would be a rounding error. For another $50 billion, the EU could add Portugal and Ireland.
Young Greeks, instead of looking at 40 percent unemployment, could gain productive jobs. The entire Greek economy would gain a big macro-economic boost and a path to greater competitiveness.
Most importantly, the EU would gain the moral authority to work with Greeks on politically awkward reforms. It?s one thing to grudgingly tolerate technocrats who are bleeding you dry in order to satisfy bankers?quite another to work with development specialists who come to Greece bearing gifts.
Call it the Merkel plan, so that Chancellor Angela Merkel might be remembered not as the jackbooted German who destroyed Greece but as the wise European leader who tempered austerity with sensible mercy.
[This updates and expands a column that ran in the Boston Globe]
According to Romney campaign spokesperson Andrea Saul (referring to unemployment insurance, not joblessness):
[O]ne of President Obama?s top advisors said that unemployment stimulates the economy. That?s like saying an iceberg stimulated the Titanic. Only in White House fantasy world do debt, unemployment, and higher taxes stimulate the economy.?Oh, snap. That's a very clever analogy, there, with the Titanic thing. Completely untrue, but, you know, what passes for a zippy and memorable utterance by a desperate campaign flack. The Obama campaign's AttackWatch site does to that statement what?wait for it?the train does to the cow on the tracks:
But what good are facts when your opponent has the awesome power of a Titanic analogy?
- An independent study found that every dollar the U.S. spends on benefits for the unemployed offers an overall return of $1.61 for the economy. The return on tax cuts like the Bush tax cuts, however, give a much smaller rate of return?32 cents? worth. [...]
- The Council of Economic Advisers estimates that, without unemployment insurance, the economy would generate 478,000 fewer jobs by the end of 2014.
- Unemployment insurance kept 3.2 million Americans from falling into poverty in 2010, increased GDP by $315 billion overall from the start of the recession through the second quarter of 2010, and kept an average of 1.6 million people on the job each quarter during the recession.
A Texas doctor was accused Tuesday in the largest Medicare fraud case in US history, with federal prosecutors charging him with scamming the government with $375 million in phony billings.
Justice Department officials announced that Dr. Jacques Roy was arrested in Texas and faces life in prison as well as fines of more than $250,000 if convicted, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The newspaper reported that Roy and his assistant, who was also charged, sent "recruiters" door-to-door in the Dallas area to get people to sign bogus medical forms that were then used in the alleged scam. The pair even went as far as to pay homeless people $50 each to sign the forms, according to the DOJ accusations.
Image from Losevsky Pavel / Shutterstock
One bill in a series of proposed laws that would devastate public unions in Arizona has come back to life and is set to be debated later today on the floor of the state Senate.
The measure was on life support two weeks ago after Republicans said they didn't have enough votes to pass it. But it was given a second chance and could quickly get a formal Senate vote if it moves past the debate.
The measure would ban any city, county or state government from paying employees to do union work, a practice known as "release time."
Brian Livingston, the head of the Arizona Police Association, told TPM his organization has been working with lawmakers to get the bill changed to leave out a wide array of government employees that may be called upon in emergencies.
Beyond police and firefighters, he said that includes people like geologists and construction workers. He said he wouldn't know until later today whether the amendment will be added to the bill.
Regardless, Livingston said he believes the bill has a good chance of passing the Senate. If that happens, it will move to the House.
Another bill, which would ban government workers from getting union dues automatically deducted from their paychecks, passed the Senate on Feb. 16.
Livingston said, however, that he's been promised the most contentious bill in the anti-union package will not be back. The bill would have banned collective bargaining by government workers.
"It's dead," Livingston said. "We've been assured by leadership that it's going nowhere."
A fourth bill, which was similar to the other paycheck measure, also appears to be stalled indefinitely.
A lawmaker in Alabama is backing off a provision that would have required women in his state to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound before getting an abortion -- similar to a much-maligned measure in Virginia that was also eventually scrapped.
State Sen. Clay Scofield (R) submitted a bill last week that would have required a woman to undergo an ultrasound before she could get an abortion. The bill would have mandated that the doctor decide whether to perform a transabdominal or transvaginal ultrasound, "whichever would display the embryo or fetus more clearly."
"We're not requiring it unless the woman wants to get an abortion. If she doesn't want to get an abortion, she doesn't have to do it," Scofield said last week.
Typically, in the early stages of pregnancy when a woman is more likely to get an abortion, the fetus is too small for a transabdominal ultrasound to provide a clear picture.
Which is why in Alabama, as in Virginia last week, Democratic lawmakers decried the bill as akin to state-sponsored rape. "It's an invasive procedure," said Sen. Linda Coleman (D), The Birmingham News reports. "To me, it is another form of rape, without a woman's consent."
The bill passed out of Alabama's Senate Health Committee by a 4-1 vote last Wednesday, but on Monday Scofield indicated that he is having second thoughts. Scofield said that he's planning to amend the bill so that the woman can choose which type of ultrasound she prefers -- though she would still be required to receive an ultrasound before getting an abortion.
''I am committed to amending this (bill) to specify that it is the woman's choice which method of ultrasound that she would be more comfortable with,'' Scofieled said.
Virginia ultimately stripped out a similar provision from its ultrasound bill after much public opposition. A vote on the bill, which passed the House, has been postponed several times in the state Senate.
Rush slams Romney for "Hair on Fire" line about the GOP base. [...]
Read The Full Article:
Joe Nocera has a bizarre column today, a riposte to anti-fracking activists, really, that can be summed up in three words: "Get over it." He describes how global emission could be dramatically reduce if only methane leaks could be limited, but there's[...]
Read The Full Article:
As news organizations are sifting through the five million emails released by Wikileaks today, they're posting their findings. (See the interview above with Julian Assange about the spying on Bhopal activists.) Oddly enough, the major news organizations (the same ones pounding the drums for an attack on Iran) are quiet about this interesting tidbit from Stratfor, the intelligence company:
Growing concerns over Iran?s nuclear facilities may prove to be all for naught. Officials from the global intelligence company Stratfor allegedly discussed that Israel may have already destroyed the Iranian nuclear facility, according to one of the emails released by Wikileaks Monday.
In one of the over five million emails leaked, the conversation centered on Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak praising the news of deadly munitions blasts at a base of Iran?s elite Revolutionary Guards.
?I think this is a diversion. The Israelis already destroyed all the Iranian nuclear infrastructure on the ground weeks ago,? one intelligence official wrote in an email dated November 14, 2011. ?The current ?let?s bomb Iran? campaign was ordered by the EU leaders to divert the public attention from their at home financial problems. It plays also well for the US since Pakistan, Russia and N. Korea are mentioned in the report. ?
One other Stratfor official allegedly indicated a similar finding.
?Israeli commandos in collaboration with Kurd forces destroyed few underground facilities mainly used for the Iranian defense and nuclear research projects,? he wrote on November 13, 2011. ?Even if the Israelis have the capabilities and are ready to attack by air, sea and land, there is no need to attack the nuclear program at this point after the commandos destroyed a significant part of it.?
Of course, any journalist worth his or her salt would want to ask the question of who benefits ? and why ? if there's an unnecessary U.S. attack on Iran, but our librul media wouldn't want to get people all confused so you're probably not going to hear anything about that.
Washington state Gov. Chris Gregoire (D) — who signed a marriage equality bill into law earlier this month — has apologized for not supporting same-sex marriage sooner. In an interview discussing her evolution on the issue, Gregoire says, “I apologize that it took me so long. I feel better about my head and my heart than I have in seven years. But it took me time. I regret that it took me that much time, but it just did.” Gregoire also reveals that she sought to avoid the issue during her re-election bid. “I remember saying to my campaign folks, ‘Don’t ask me again. I don’t want to discuss this issue.’ It was an anger that built up in me because I was too conflicted,” she says.
During his radio show yesterday, Rush Limbaugh unleashed “some of his patented brand of moronism” by condemning a popular female NASCAR driver. Danica Patrick, who raced yesterday in the Daytona 500, had recently done an interview in which she expressed support for the Obama administration’s contraception rule. Limbaugh seized on Patrick’s position to issue a gender-based attack:
She was talking, Danica Patrick was talking about Obama’s contraception ruling. She was not speaking in general though it applies generally… She said, “I leave it up to the government to make good decisions for America.” … What do you expect from a woman driver? I don’t know why everybody was so shocked.
Media Matters posted the audio:
Sadly, it’s the kind of remark Limbaugh has become famous for. A review of some of Limbaugh’s other sexist remarks:
“Behind” the women’s movement: “Oh, I?m a huge supporter of women. What I?m not a supporter of is liberalism. Feminism is what I oppose, and feminism has led women astray. I love women. I don?t know where all this got started. I love the women?s movement ? especially when walking behind it.”
Women vote “emotional”: “I?m starting to think here that conservative women are just like liberal women in that they?re inclined to vote on superficial and emotional things first. I never thought that was the case with conservative women!”
On the “ass-ets” of a sports reporter: “She knows she has ass-ets. … Boob-alicious, booty-licious, whatever you want to call it, she?s got it.?
Hillary supporters “paid their dues”: “You have to understand the mindset of a lot of these feminists and women…These women have paid their dues. They’ve been married two or three times; they’ve had two or three abortions; they’ve done everything that feminism asked them to do.”
Women’s lives are easier: “The life expectancy of men is drawing closer to that of women. Women still live longer than men because their lives are easier. This is — this is according to government statistics released yesterday.”
The “feminazi” agenda against boys: “You know, the feminazis forgot one thing. Well, one of the objectives of the feminazis over the last 20, 25 years has been to dominate the public education system so as to remove the competitive nature of boys. … This is part of feminazi grand plan.”
“What must I do now to own women?”: “But I want some of these women to start telling me what it is I must do to close the gender gap ? or, if not what it is I must do to close the gender gap, what it is I?ve done that has caused the gender gap; assuming the gender gap is true and that the poll is true. [...] I own the men, and what must I do now to own women?”
It’s no surprise that, with a record like this, Limbaugh ranks as America’s least favorite news personality.