In 2014, the world economy remained stuck in the same rut that it has been in since emerging from the 2008 global financial crisis. Despite seemingly strong government action in Europe and the United States, both economies suffered deep and prolonged downturns. The gap between where they are and where they most likely would have been had the crisis not erupted is huge…
In 1992, Bill Clinton based his successful campaign for the US presidency on a simple slogan: “It’s the economy, stupid.” From today’s perspective, things then do not seem so bad; the typical American household’s income is now lower. But we can take inspiration from Clinton’s effort. The malaise afflicting today’s global economy might be best reflected in two simple slogans: “It’s the politics, stupid” and “Demand, demand, demand.”
The near-global stagnation witnessed in 2014 is man-made. It is the result of politics and policies in several major economies – politics and policies that choked off demand. In the absence of demand, investment and jobs will fail to materialize. It is that simple…
Much of the growth deceleration in emerging and developing countries reflects China’s slowdown. China is now the world’s largest economy (in terms of purchasing power parity), and it has long been the main contributor to global growth. But China’s remarkable success has bred its own problems, which should be addressed sooner rather than later.
The Chinese economy’s shift from quantity to quality is welcome – almost necessary. And, though President Xi Jinping’s fight against corruption may cause economic growth to slow further, as paralysis grips public contracting, there is no reason for Xi to let up. On the contrary, other forces undermining trust in his government – widespread environmental problems, high and rising levels of inequality, and private-sector fraud – need to be addressed with equal vigor.
In short, the world should not expect China to shore up global aggregate demand in 2015. If anything, there will be an even bigger hole to fill…
The problem is that low interest rates will not motivate firms to invest if there is no demand for their products. Nor will low rates inspire individuals to borrow to consume if they are anxious about their future (which they should be). What monetary policy can do is create asset-price bubbles. It might even prop up the price of government bonds in Europe, thereby forestalling a sovereign-debt crisis. But it is important to be clear: the likelihood that loose monetary policies will restore global prosperity is nil.
This brings us back to politics and policies. Demand is what the world needs most. The private sector – even with the generous support of monetary authorities – will not supply it. But fiscal policy can. We have an ample choice of public investments that would yield high returns – far higher than the real cost of capital – and that would strengthen the balance sheets of the countries undertaking them.
The big problem facing the world in 2015 is not economic. We know how to escape our current malaise. The problem is our stupid politics.
You can see why Republicans blocked Joe Stiglitz from placement on a panel advising the SEC. They have spent every waking minute in Congress – apart from their War on Women – concentrating on pleasing Wall Street. When Stiglitz was told of his appointment being blocked, his response was “I think they may not have felt comfortable with somebody who was not in one way or another owned by the industry.” More politics of stupid by the Party of Stupid.
There hasn’t been an economist of note, conservative or liberal, who doesn’t identify the laggard rate of economic improvement as rooted in reactionary cowardice. Today’s Republican Party fits that definition as perfectly as any elitist club in the world.
He has been called the “superman pope”, and it would be hard to deny that Pope Francis has had a good December. Cited by President Barack Obama as a key player in the thawing relations between the US and Cuba, the Argentinian pontiff followed that by lecturing his cardinals on the need to clean up Vatican politics. But can Francis achieve a feat that has so far eluded secular powers and inspire decisive action on climate change?
It looks as if he will give it a go. In 2015, the pope will issue a lengthy message on the subject to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, give an address to the UN general assembly and call a summit of the world’s main religions…
Following a visit in March to Tacloban, the Philippine city devastated in 2012 by typhoon Haiyan, the pope will publish a rare encyclical on climate change and human ecology. Urging all Catholics to take action on moral and scientific grounds, the document will be sent to the world’s 5,000 Catholic bishops and 400,000 priests, who will distribute it to parishioners…
In recent months, the pope has argued for a radical new financial and economic system to avoid human inequality and ecological devastation. In October he told a meeting of Latin American and Asian landless peasants and other social movements: “An economic system centred on the god of money needs to plunder nature to sustain the frenetic rhythm of consumption that is inherent to it.
“The system continues unchanged, since what dominates are the dynamics of an economy and a finance that are lacking in ethics. It is no longer man who commands, but money. Cash commands.
“The monopolising of lands, deforestation, the appropriation of water, inadequate agro-toxics are some of the evils that tear man from the land of his birth. Climate change, the loss of biodiversity and deforestation are already showing their devastating effects in the great cataclysms we witness,” he said.
Pope Francis will be opposed by the Republican Party, lackeys for fossil fuel barons like the Koch Bros…and they have long forgotten how to act like traditional American conservatives in their rejection of science, education, the environment.
He will be opposed by conservative theologians within his church who care less about economic reality and scientific understanding of how destroying our world destroys our lives – and fear losing the brute power they have commanded for decades over a diminishing flock.
And finally, Pope Francis will offend the evangelical nutballs of America, the strident voice of our idjit vote – who will always cast their lot with junk vs sound science, conservative, traditional research. Especially if it reinforces their allegiance to bigotry, political power and deceit, a hatred of progress in their DNA.
Mary Landrieu with a map of her favorite pipeline
After President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he reportedly told a fellow Democrat that the party had lost the South for a long time to come. It took more than a generation for old Southern loyalties to the Democrats to fade, but that vision is on the verge of being realized this weekend.
If Mary Landrieu, a Democratic senator from Louisiana, loses re-election in Saturday’s runoff election, as expected, the Republicans will have vanquished the last vestige of Democratic strength in the once solidly Democratic Deep South. In a region stretching from the high plains of Texas to the Atlantic coast of the Carolinas, Republicans would control not only every Senate seat, but every governor’s mansion and every state legislative body.
Democrats held or controlled nearly every one of them when Mr. Johnson signed that bill in 1964. And they still held a majority as recently as a decade ago. Ms. Landrieu’s defeat would essentially mark an end to the era of the Southern Democrats: the conservative, Southern, white officials, supported by white Southerners, whose conflicted views helped define American politics for half a century…
Today, nearly all of the Democrats holding federal or statewide office in the South will represent so-called “majority-minority” districts or areas with a large number of new residents from outside the region. In the states of the former Confederacy, Democrats will control Senate seats or governors’ mansions only in Virginia and Florida. Not coincidentally, those are the two Southern states where people born outside the state represent a majority of the population. These Democrats bear little resemblance to the Southern Democrats who won by attracting conservative white voters…
White supremacist Democrats seized control of the South after the end of Reconstruction, the period that followed the Civil War. They instituted so-called Jim Crow laws disenfranchising African-American voters, who favored Republicans, the party of Lincoln. The so-called Solid South all but unanimously supported Democrats for more than half a century, with states like South Carolina and Mississippi routinely offering Democrats more than 95 percent of the vote, even to losing presidential candidates…
The timing of the demise of the Southern Democrat is not coincidental. It reflects a complete cycle of generational replacement in the post-Jim Crow era. Old loyalties to the Democratic Party have died along with the generation of white Southerners who came of age during the era of the Solid South, before Brown v. Board of Education, before the Civil Rights Act.
The party is also led by an unpopular president who has never appealed to the region’s white voters. President Obama won about 17 percent of white voters across the Deep South and Texas in 2012, based on an analysis of pre-election polls conducted by the Pew Research Center, census data and election results…
Yet nonracial factors are most of the reason for Mr. Obama’s weakness. The long-term trends are clear. Mr. Kerry, for instance, fared worse than Michael Dukakis among most white Southerners, often losing vast swaths of traditionally Democratic countryside where once-reliably Democratic voters had either died or become disillusioned by the party’s stance on cultural issues. It seems hard to argue that the Democrats could have retained much support among rural, evangelical Southern voters as the party embraced liberalism on issues like same-sex marriage and abortion.
A useful preamble to the kind of sensible analysis consistent with the Pew Foundation or some of the scientific blogs that dig a lot deeper than the average polling pundits. Not the NY TIMES.
Whether or not Democrats embrace the courage of their convictions is a feature ignored by the TIMES – as usual. Whether or not the generational changes already embraced by most folks younger than 30 across the nation can be mobilized by a business-as-usual campaign from the Democrats will play an important role. Most of the Democrats who went down to defeat in recent months sat back and hoped that being a Democrat was sufficient to counter the idjit vote and the racist vote guaranteed the Republican Party, nowadays.
The article also manages to avoid serious consideration of Nixon’s so-called Southern Strategy which dovetailed perfectly with racists like Strom Thurmond walking away from the Democrats after passage of the Civil Rights Act. There is, after all, an ethical difference between bigots getting angry and leaving a political party – and another political party bending a knee and saying “come on board folks – the South will rise again!”
The U.N. Committee against Torture urged the United States…to fully investigate and prosecute police brutality and shootings of unarmed black youth and ensure that taser weapons are used sparingly.
The panel’s first review of the U.S. record on preventing torture since 2006 followed racially-tinged unrest in cities across the country this week sparked by a Ferguson, Missouri grand jury’s decision not to charge a white police officer for the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager.
The committee decried “excruciating pain and prolonged suffering” for prisoners during “botched executions” as well as frequent rapes of inmates, shackling of pregnant women in some prisons and extensive use of solitary confinement.
Its findings cited deep concern about “numerous reports” of police brutality and excessive use of force against people from minority groups, immigrants, homosexuals and racial profiling.
The panel referred to the “frequent and recurrent police shootings or fatal pursuits of unarmed black individuals.”
“We recommend that all instances of police brutality and excessive use of force by law enforcement officers are investigated promptly, effectively and impartially by an independent mechanism,” said panel member Alessio Bruni…
“We have certain concerns about whether investigations are thoroughly completed and whether punishment of law enforcement (officers) when they have crossed the line are effectively put in place,” committee member Jens Modvig told reporters.
Activists welcomed the findings and called for reforms.
“This report – along with the voices of Americans protesting around the country this week – is a wake-up call for police who think they can act with impunity,” said Jamil Dakwar of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who attended the review.
Of course, we could elect a solid Republican federal administration in 2016 to match the Koch Bros/Heritage Foundation anschluss of state legislatures. Then, police brutality would take place with an absolute guarantee of impunity.
The Confederacy could be recognized as a federalist partner of our government and the US National Guard would give partner status to Oathers and other crypto-fascist militias. Woo-hoo!
For the solar and wind industries in the United States, it has been a long-held dream: to produce energy at a cost equal to conventional sources like coal and natural gas.
That day appears to be dawning.
The cost of providing electricity from wind and solar power plants has plummeted over the last five years, so much so that in some markets renewable generation is now cheaper than coal or natural gas.
Utility executives say the trend has accelerated this year, with several companies signing contracts, known as power purchase agreements, for solar or wind at prices below that of natural gas, especially in the Great Plains and Southwest, where wind and sunlight are abundant.
Those prices were made possible by generous subsidies that could soon diminish or expire, but recent analyses show that even without those subsidies, alternative energies can often compete with traditional sources…
And there have never been conventional power plant build-outs that got off the ground without state or federal assistance of some kind.
…In Oklahoma, American Electric Power ended up tripling the amount of wind power it had originally sought after seeing how low the bids came in last year.
“Wind was on sale — it was a Blue Light Special,” said Jay Godfrey, managing director of renewable energy for the company. He noted that Oklahoma, unlike many states, did not require utilities to buy power from renewable sources.
“We were doing it because it made sense for our ratepayers,” he said.
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the main trade group, the price of electricity sold to utilities under long-term contracts from large-scale solar projects has fallen by more than 70 percent since 2008, especially in the Southwest.,,
The price drop extends to homeowners and small businesses as well; last year, the prices for residential and commercial projects fell by roughly 12 to 15 percent from the year before.
The wind industry largely tells the same story, with prices dropping by more than half in recent years. Emily Williams, manager of industry data and analytics at the American Wind Energy Association, a trade group, said that in 2013 utilities signed “a record number of power purchase agreements and what ended up being historically low prices…”
“We’re finding that in certain regions with certain wind projects that these are competing or coming in below the cost of even existing generation sources,” she said.
…Solar executives are looking to extend a 30 percent federal tax credit that is set to fall to 10 percent at the end of 2016. Wind professionals are seeking renewal of a production tax credit that Congress has allowed to lapse and then reinstated several times over the last few decades…
Where that effort will go now is anybody’s guess, though, with Republicans in control of both houses starting in January.
Mail me a penny postcard when you find some Congressional Republicans interested in saving money, aiding the environment, contributing to sound ecological principles that make a better life for workingclass folks.
RTFA for details. There are answers for a few of the non-political questions.
Mike Luckovich rules!
That may be the US Embassy over on the right — or at least the inspiration for the one in Baghdad
The Assyrian Empire once dominated the ancient Near East. At the start of the 7th century BC, it was a mighty military machine and the largest empire the Old World had yet seen. But then, before the century was out, it had collapsed. Why? An international study now offers two new factors as possible contributors to the empire’s sudden demise – overpopulation and drought…
Adam Schneider of the University of California, San Diego and Selim Adalı of Koç University in Istanbul, Turkey, have just published evidence for their novel claim…
The researchers’ work connects recently published climate data to text found on a clay tablet. The text is a letter to the king, written by a court astrologer, reporting (almost incidentally) that “no harvest was reaped” in 657 BC.
Paleoclimatic records back up the courtier’s statement. Further, analysis of the region’s weather patterns, in what is now Northern Iraq and Syria, suggests that the drought was not a one-off event but part of a series of arid years.
Add to that the strain of overpopulation, especially in places like the Assyrian capital of Nineveh (near present-day Mosul) – which had grown unsustainably large during the reign of King Sennacherib – and Assyria was fatally weakened, the researchers argue…
“We’re not saying that the Assyrians suddenly starved to death or were forced to wander off into the desert en masse, abandoning their cities,” Schneider said. “Rather, we’re saying that drought and overpopulation affected the economy and destabilized the political system to a point where the empire couldn’t withstand unrest and the onslaught of other peoples…”
Schneider also sees an eerie similarity between Nineveh and Southern California. Though people weren’t forcibly relocated to Los Angeles or San Diego to help an emperor grow himself a “great city,” still, the populations of these contemporary metropolitan areas are probably also too large for their environments…
“The Assyrians can be ‘excused’ to some extent,” they write, “for focusing on short-term economic or political goals which increased their risk of being negatively impacted by climate change, given their technological capacity and their level of scientific understanding about how the natural world works. We, however, have no such excuses, and we also possess the additional benefit of hindsight, which allows us to piece together from the past what can go wrong if we choose not to enact policies that promote longer-term sustainability.”
Republicans – like their mentors at the US Chamber of Commerce – are tucked neatly into the wallets of legacy fossil fuel corporations. Wealth derived from out-of-date means of profit still sufficient to buy enormous political power is close to being one of the most contemptible uses of power in a capitalist economy.
Nineveh wasn’t this advanced. I’m not certain about Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats either.
Anyone out there gullible enough to believe any number of Republicans in Congress – majority or minority – would evaluate and vote for Loretta Lynch to replace Eric Holder? You know what the phony arguments will be. Lies.
She’s been through the vetting process before Congress twice before and passed handily. But, opposition to racism isn’t a virtue among what passes for conservatives, nowadays.