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Category Archives: Fiscal Freedom

The Terrible Cost of the War in Afghanistan – The Fiscal Times

Posted: December 13, 2019 at 1:48 pm

The war in Afghanistan is the longest armed conflict in U.S. history, and throughout the 18 years of fighting, U.S. officials have publicly said they were making progress. Yet a new investigative report by Craig Whitlock of The Washington Post based on thousands of pages of federal documents shows that many senior officials knew the reality was very different than their optimistic public pronouncements.

The American people have constantly been lied to, John F. Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, told The Post.

The documents, which the Post says it obtained under the Freedom of Information Act after a three-year legal battle, were created as part of a federal project studying the failures in Afghanistan and include notes of interviews with key players in the war.

With most speaking on the assumption that their remarks would not become public, U.S. officials acknowledged that their warfighting strategies were fatally flawed and that Washington wasted enormous sums of money trying to remake Afghanistan into a modern nation, Whitlock writes. Several of those interviewed described explicit and sustained efforts by the U.S. government to deliberately mislead the public.

The cost of the war: More than 775,000 troops have deployed to Afghanistan, and 2,300 died there while 20,589 were wounded, Whitlock writes, citing Defense Department data. As for the financial cost:

Since 2001, the Defense Department, State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development have spent or appropriated between $934billion and $978billion, according to an inflation-adjusted estimate calculated by Neta Crawford, a political science professor and co-director of the Costs of War Project at Brown University.

Those figures do not include money spent by other agencies such as the CIA and the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is responsible for medical care for wounded veterans.

One unidentified official at the United States Agency for International Development told interviewers in 2016 that officials on Capitol Hill only cared about spending and the burn rate of funding they provided. We were given money, told to spend it, and we did without reason, the unidentified officialsaid. And an unidentified contractor reported being told to give out $3 million a day for projects in one Afghan district.

The New York Timess Sarah Almukhtar and Rod Nordland offer a more detailed look at the money spent on the war, which they say totals more than $2 trillion so far and will end up being much more over time, with little to show for it.

Heres how the Times broke down the costs and results:

Read more at The Washington Post and The New York Times.

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The Terrible Cost of the War in Afghanistan - The Fiscal Times

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Draghi says Europe must pull together as Trump targets WTO – The Irish Times

Posted: at 1:48 pm

Former European Central Bank president Mario Draghi told business leaders in Dublin on Thursday evening that Europe must pull closer together to uphold rules of international commerce, a day after US president Donald Trump crippled a key body for settling trade disputes.

Mr Trumps administration effectively shut down the World Trade Organisations appeals court, which has the final say on disputes covering billions of dollars of international trade, on Wednesday by blocking appointments to replace two judges on the so-called appellate body.

At its core, the global system still depends on the willingness of the most powerful states to voluntarily accept constraints on their freedom of action, Mr Draghi said as he received a Business & Finance award in the name of the late Peter Sutherland, who was instrumental in setting up the WTO and became its first director general in 1995.

That willingness is not infinite, a fact we are seeing displayed today in the facing of the WTO appellate court.

Speaking on the day his successor, Christine Lagarde, presided over her first European Central Bank monetary policymaking meeting, Mr Draghi said the WTO problems throw into sharp relief why the European project is so unique and important. He didnt mention Mr Trump in the speech.

The difference between the EU and global bodies is that the unions institutions represent a genuine sharing of sovereignty in which all countries, small and large, have the same rights, Mr Draghi said, adding that when challenges arrive gradual improvements are made.

Mr Draghi said that the euro itself was created to prevent competitive devaluations that undermine open trade, while banking union was set in motion in the wake of the financial crisis.

The challenge for Europe is to extend this logic to completing economic and monetary union more broadly, in particular finishing banking union and deepening fiscal union, he said.

Progress will inevitably be slow and hotly debated. But the evolution from single market to single currency to single banking and fiscal union is, in reality, a logical extension of the aspiration in Europe to make openness among nations sustainable.

EU trade commissioner Phil Hogan said on Thursday the union would toughen its own laws in response to the loss of the WTOs appellate board. His proposal would allow the EU to impose sanctions against countries that illegally restrict commerce and simultaneously block the WTOs dispute-settlement process.

Its unacceptable that the EU cannot enforce its rights through adjudication, Mr Hogan said at a press conference in Brussels. Our actions today are fully compatible with international public law.

The EU is asserting itself more in a bid to prevent Mr Trumps America-First agenda and protectionism from undermining the rules-based global order to which Europe is committed.

Over the past three years, Mr Trump has angered Europe by hitting its steel and aluminium with tariffs based on controversial national-security grounds, dangled the threat of similar levies on foreign cars and drawn up plans to target French goods with levies as retaliation over a digital tax in France.

Meanwhile, Mr Trump tweeted on Thursday saying a deal with China to pause the trade war between the worlds two largest economies was very close. The statement comes just days before the US is due to impose another round of tariffs on Chinese goods. Additional reporting, Bloomberg

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Draghi says Europe must pull together as Trump targets WTO - The Irish Times

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UK stocks and pound surge on Johnson’s election triumph – Gulf Today

Posted: at 1:48 pm

The election result is projected onto the Broadcasting House in London on Friday. Reuters

Other European stock markets although lagging buoyant London, which rose over two per cent at one point also powered ahead.

Wall Street opened with a slightly softer tone.

Investors might have two early Christmas presents this week: a phase one trade deal between the US and China, and Brexit getting done, said Jasper Lawler, head of research at trading firm London Capital Group.

Johnson, whose governing Conservative Party swept to a decisive win, will now push ahead with Britains scheduled exit from the European Union on January 31 as he seeks to dispel three years of uncertainty and political deadlock, with a post-Brexit, probably expansionary, budget planned in March.

The UK general election has provided a clearer path towards a resolution to Brexit and looser fiscal policy, which should boost economic activity and push up sterling, UK equities, and Gilt yields, said Hubert de Barochez, an economist with Capital Economics.

But he also warned that as long as there remains the possibility of something like a no deal, those gains ought to be limited.

European leaders welcomed also what appeared to be an end to Brexit paralysis, but also warned Britain against becoming unfair competitor.

The sheer scale of Thursdays victory the biggest Conservative majority since Margaret Thatchers heyday in the 1980s sent the pound soaring to an 18-month dollar peak and to highs against the euro not seen since the June 2016 Brexit referendum.

Investors expressed relief that Johnson roundly defeated main opposition leader Jeremy Corbyns Labour Party which had vowed to renationalise formerly state-owned companies.

The threat to businesses from the Labour policies has been removed and there has been a collective sigh of relief, said Maurice Pomery, founder of trading group Strategic Alpha.

The pound held at elevated levels on Friday but pulled back somewhat from the multi-month peaks forged overnight.

Meanwhile, British business on Friday urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to provide clarity and assurances on his Brexit deal, while stimulating the stalled UK economy, after his Conservative partys emphatic election victory.

After three years of (political) gridlock, the prime minister has a clear mandate to govern, Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said in a statement.

Businesses across the UK urge him to use it to rebuild confidence in our economy and break the cycle of uncertainty. Fairbairn said early reassurance on Brexit will be vital, noting that firms will continue to do all they can to prepare for Brexit, but will want to know they wont face another no deal cliff-edge next year.

Britain is set to depart the EU by a deadline of January 31 thanks to Johnsons decisive victory in Thursdays general election.

But he still has to negotiate a new economic partnership with the bloc that remains Britains biggest trading partner.

Catherine McGuinness, policy chair at the City of London Corporation, a local government authority for the capitals powerful financial district, pointed to a long road ahead on Brexit with Britain having to negotiate trade deals also with non-EU nations.

For the City, it is vital that the future framework agreement recognises the enormous contribution of the services sector, securing maximum market access and developing a structure for the UK economy to prosper in the years ahead, she added.

Johnson, whose general election campaign message was Get Brexit done, has promised to forge a Canada-style free trade agreement with the European Union, handing Britain greater freedom from EU rules but would involve more barriers and costs to trade.

British companies... are eager for some clarity now, Jonathan Geldart, director general of the Institute of Directors, said on Friday.

For directors, Get Brexit done will only have meaning once the details of our long-term future relationship with the EU are clear. Geldart added: The prime minister must resist the urge for arbitrary negotiating deadlines, and should commit to a proper adjustment period that starts when businesses know the full detail of what changes they may be facing. - Skilled workforce - On the domestic front, business leaders on Friday urged the new government to be mindful of shaking up Britains immigration, noting the need for skilled workers to help grow Britains stalled economy.

The UKs future success depends on attracting, retaining and developing high quality talent, said McGuinness.

A critical first step is creating an effective and efficient visa system to meet demand for talented individuals. But the government also needs to look closer to home to supercharge our own skills agenda. Concerns about mass immigration from the EU was one of the drivers of the Brexit referendum in 2016.

Agencies

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UK stocks and pound surge on Johnson's election triumph - Gulf Today

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Present at the Demolition – Washington Free Beacon

Posted: at 1:48 pm

Economists at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund must feel pretty lucky these days. They work for just about the only institutions set up in the aftermath of World War II that aren't in the middle of an identity crisis. From Turtle Bay to Brussels, from Washington to Vienna, the decay of the economic and security infrastructure of the postwar world has accelerated in recent weeks. The bad news: As the legacy of the twentieth century recedes into the past, the only twenty-first century alternatives are offered from an authoritarian surveillance state.

The pressure is both external and internal. Revisionist powers such as China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea undermine the foundations of global governance and hijack institutions to the detriment of the liberal international order. The institutions themselves lack the self-confidence necessary to further the cause of human freedom. Meanwhile, the most powerful nation in the world has turned inward. Its foreign policy is haphazard and improvisational, contradictory and equivocal. The confusion and zigzagging contribute to the erosion of legitimacy. It delays the emergence of new forms of international organization.

The breakdown was visible at last week's NATO summit in London. Remarkably, the source of the immediate ruckus wasn't President Trump. It was French president Emmanuel Macron, who doubled down on his criticism of the Atlantic alliance that he'd expressed in a recent interview with the Economist. Trump disagreed with Macron's description of NATO as "brain dead." He and other allies didn't back Macron's call for rapprochement with Russia and China and renewed focus on terrorism.

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Macron wasn't the only troublemaker. Turkey's autocratic leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who recently tested his Russian S-400 air defense systems against his American F-16s, said he would block a Balkan defense plan unless NATO designates the Kurdish YPG a terrorist group. The summit ended with a leaked video of Macron, Justin Trudeau, Boris Johnson, and Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte sharing a laugh at Trump's expense. Haughty euro-elites mocking the American president is always an affront, but it is especially counterproductive now when the alliance is under attack from prominent voices within the United States.

When it was founded, NATO was one part of a strategy whose goal was the prevention of another global war. Security guarantees and the forward deployment of conventional forces bound America to Europe and the Europeans to each other. Another part of the strategy led to the EU. It integrates the economies of nations that unleashed the two most devastating conflicts in human history. It was thought that trade relations contribute to peace and nationalities can be submerged under a continent-sized umbrella. What the architects of Europe didn't anticipate was popular resentment of bureaucratic administration, the imbalances and fiscal consequences of monetary union without political union, and the reassertion of national identity that results from large-scale immigration.

Today the politics of every major European country is a mess. I write these words on the day of a British election that will determine whether the United Kingdom leaves the EU and whether an anti-Semitic socialist lives in 10 Downing Street. Germany flirts with recession, its chancellor is a lame duck, the grand coalition hosts an SPD under far-left leadership, and the largest opposition party is the Alternative for Germany. Macron might want to spend more time on domestic politics: His approval rating is around 30 percent, striking workers have paralyzed France, and 13 French soldiers were killed in Mali.

National populism has transformed Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic and plays a significant role in Germany, France, Austria, and Sweden. No longer deputy prime minister of Italy, Matteo Salvini remains the most significant political figure in his country. "Recent opinion polls indicate that if elections were held tomorrow, Mr. Salvini would not only easily become prime minister, but that a coalition of the League, the post-fascist Brothers of Italy and the remainder of Mr. [former prime minister Silvio] Berlusconi's Forza Italia would command an absolute majority in parliament," writes Miles Johnson of the Financial Times. The European leaders who fear Salvini are nonetheless ambivalent about the threat posed by Vladimir Putin and by Ayatollah Khamenei. They are happy to advance the Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream pipelines andcircumvent U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Frenetic institution building accompanied victory in World War II. The Allies created organizations devoted to international security, diplomacy, health, and economics. The first to go was the Bretton Woods agreement on international finance, which ended when Richard Nixon took America off the gold standard in 1971. The next was the United Nations, which revealed its corruption and domination by dictatorships in its resolution equating Zionism and racism in 1975. The Iraqi nuclear facility at Osirak (fortunately destroyed by the Israeli Air Force in 1981) was evidence that the Non-Proliferation Treaty is only as good as the regimes that sign it. NATO and the EU survived the Cold War and flourished in the two decades after the dissolution of the Soviet Union but both have run up against the limits of expansion. Both have lost sight of their historic function to preserve the peace.

Sometimes changing circumstances render institutions powerless. That is happening to the World Trade Organization. The WTO, endowed in 1995, was built for a unipolar world. When China joined in 2001, its GDP was one-tenth the size of America's. Now it's more than half and China has emerged as a military, industrial, and technological rival. But the WTO still designates China as a "developing" country, which entitles it to certain advantages. President Trump's campaign against this exorbitant privilege reached an impasse December 10, when his administration blocked judicial appointments to the organization's dispute-resolution court. It no longer has the capacity to arbitrate. The WTO is toothless. Hollowed out. What will replace it? Nothing has been proposed.

The motive power behind all of these institutions was American commitment. What upheld the structure was our willingness to sustain the costs of international security and global defense of democracy. That engagement began to wane after the Cold War. By 2008 it was practically nonexistent. The president's disinterest in foreign affairs is a reflection of his countrymen's. His administration, to its credit, has proposed great power competition as the basis for a renewed American grand strategy. The follow-through has been difficult.

That has left us with entropy. The international scene is filled with decayed institutions and unpalatable choices. On one hand is the status quo. On the other is China's Belt and Road Initiative and Made in China 2025. "The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born," wrote philosopher Antonio Gramsci. "In this interregnum, a great variety of morbid symptoms appear." And no one has a cure.

Matthew Continetti is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and founding editor of the Washington Free Beacon. The author of The K Street Gang: The Rise and Fall of the Republican Machine (Doubleday, 2006) and The Persecution of Sarah Palin: How the Elite Media Tried to Bring Down a Rising Star (Sentinel, 2009), his articles and reviews have appeared in the New York Times, Atlantic, and Wall Street Journal. He lives in Virginia.

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Present at the Demolition - Washington Free Beacon

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Electoral calendar and political risks in emerging markets in 2020 – ING Think

Posted: at 1:47 pm

Political risks weigh especially on countries with weaker fiscal capacities

While electoral periods have often been the source of political risks, we have recently seen unrest and violence spreading across large parts of emerging markets with hot spots in South America and the Middle East.

The roots often lie in perceived corruption, social injustice and political freedom but it is impossible to capture all elements. The chart below compares countries in emerging markets on political stability and perception of corruption, and we find that many of the recent high profile protests take place in countries with weaker scores on both (highlighted in bold). Chile is an exception, considered as strong on both dimensions and yet facing prolonged unrest. To assess governments capacity to deal with dissent (often via social spending), we included government debt as a 3rd element (bubble size). Lebanons fiscal position is undeniably stretched while Chile and Peru have the most comfortable positions.

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Electoral calendar and political risks in emerging markets in 2020 - ING Think

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Paul Volcker: The Man Who Helped Reagan Save the Economy – The American Conservative

Posted: at 1:47 pm

The 40th president refused to speak out even when Paul Volcker's austerity measures threatened his presidency. In the end, both were rewarded.

(Original Caption) Washington, D. C.: President Reagan meets with Paul Volcker, Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board in the Oval Office in 1981. (Getty Images)

It is fitting that the nation should note with respect and appreciation the manifold achievements of Paul A. Volcker. Volcker, who died last Sunday at age 92, is most well known, and most highly praised, for smiting the burgeoning inflation that threatened the countrys economic future back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when he served as Federal Reserve chairman.

It was a signal achievement. But his monetary policies, designed to wring inflation out of the economy by fostering high interest rates, also thrust the nation into a vortex of economic anguish. Two recessions can be directly attributed to Volckers policies, the second of which generated the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression. Thousands of companies went out of business, and millions of Americans lost their jobs. As The Wall Street Journal put it in an editorial, Volcker had an inner strength of character that helped him persevere through the bad times.

But there was another American back then who demonstrated similar strength of characterwith much more on the line than Volcker had. That was Ronald Reagan, who inherited the inflation monster upon taking office as president in January 1981 and who uttered nary a peep of protest as Volcker put the country through a wringer that could have crushed his presidency.

It is difficult, from this remove of nearly four decades, to imagine just how dangerous and scary those times were. During the week of Reagans inauguration, Time hit newsstands with a cover that pictured a crumbing dollar sign and the headline: Reagans Biggest Challenge: Mending the Economy. Newsweek blared that week: The Economy in Crisis.

The scourge of inflation had yielded an ominous new economic phenomenon called stagflationsimultaneous high inflation and stagnant or negative economic growth. The countrys gross domestic product had declined by 0.04 percent the previous year. Unemployment stood at 7.4 percent, with economists predicting even higher rates as Volckers monetary austerity rolled on. Inflation was approaching an unheard-of rate of 12 percent. Meanwhile, Volcker had the prime interest rate at a commerce-crunching 21 percent.

What the Great Depression was to the 1930s, said the prominent economist Walter Heller, the Great Inflation is to the 1980s.

It was amid this miasma of trouble and trauma that Reagan took the presidential oath of office and told his fellow citizens that their problems werent going away anytime soon. But they will go away he added, because we as Americans have the capacity now, as we have had in the past, to do whatever needs to be done to preserve this last and greatest bastion of freedom.

Reagans answer to the crisis was to curtail federal spending (which he was never particularly successful at doing) and to cut marginal individual tax rates (which he got through Congress within eight months of taking office). His fiscal formula, novel and controversial at the time, fell under the rubric of supply-side economics, the notion that the economy was being stifled by high tax rates that suppressed economic initiative and verve. High marginal ratesthose imposed on the last dollar earnedwere sapping Americans zest for saving, working, and investing, argued the supply siders. Slash those rates, they suggested, and the economy would come roaring back.

The problem was that the imperatives of legislative compromise required that he delay the effective dates of three successive tax cuts, while the first years reductions were cut in half. Thus if Reagans tax regimen was to work at all (and skeptics were howling that it never would), it wouldnt take effect for at least a year and a half. Meanwhile, Volckers powerful monetary machinery kept delivering what The New York Times called a kind of shock therapy that crushed economic activity.

By November 1982, as voters prepared to go to the polls for that years midterm elections, unemployment had risen to 10.8 percent. The country was headed for a 1.44 percent decline in GDP in 1982. When Republicans implored Americans to stay the course, Democrats retorted that it was more like stay the curse. Republicans, who had retaken the Senate in 1980 for the first time in 26 years, lost a single Senate seat that year. But they also yielded 26 House seats to Democrats. It was a political defeat for Reagans party, but not as large a blow as it could have been or as many had predicted.

Thats probably because both the Volcker austerity measures and Reagans tax reductions were beginning to show results. Inflation fell below 4 percent in 1983, which stifled many of the most strident anti-Volcker voices in the land. America under Reagans leadership also rebounded from the 1982 recession with a 7.9 percent surge in GDP. Subsequent years brought growth rates of 5.58 percent, 4.18 percent, 2.9 percent, 4.48 percent, and 3.8 percent. And those growth rates were achieved with minimal inflation throughout the remainder of the 1980s and beyond.

This dual success is a testament to the intertwined monetary and fiscal policies of Volcker and Reaganand to the respect and regard each of these leaders harbored for the other. Not everyone, even today, appreciates how well this all worked. The New York Times obituary of Volcker doesnt mention Reagans public silence as Volckers austerity measures threatened his presidency. It does suggest that Volckers early crunch policies probably contributed to President Jimmy Carters 1980 defeat, without noting that the inflationary surge necessitating Volckers actions commenced on Carters watch (though it should be noted that some of the root causes predated Carters presidency).

The Times also recounted an anecdote from Volckers memoir in which White House chief of staff James Baker, with Reagan present, warned against any interest rate increases leading up to Reagans 1984 reelection bid. Baker says he doesnt remember the incident, though there is no reason to question Volckers memory. No doubt the president, having gone through the crucible of the 1982 recession and emerged with a surging economy, feared that Fed concerns about an overheating economy could lead to such a faulty policy. Volcker writes in his memoir that he had no intention of raising rates in the first place and never did.

But the key point is Reagans avoidance of any actions, public or private, designed to curtail Volckers austerity measures when they posed their greatest threat to his fledgling presidency. Perhaps Reagan had full confidence that the combination of Volckers monetary policies and his own fiscal initiatives would work in the end. Perhaps he simply understood the necessity of such harsh measures in the face of the greatest inflationary threat in the countrys history. Perhaps he just felt that he shouldnt meddle in the Feds business.

Whatever the reason, Reagans actions, or non-actions, represented a noteworthy element of leadershipthe leadership of silence.

Robert W. Merry, longtime Washington journalist and publishing executive, is the author most recently ofPresident McKinley: Architect of the American Century.

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Paul Volcker: The Man Who Helped Reagan Save the Economy - The American Conservative

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Assessing Some Criticisms of the Trump Administration’s Executive Order on Antisemitism – Reason

Posted: at 1:47 pm

It strikes me that the best criticism of the order is that the executive branch is expanding the reach of Title VI, and has been since the Bush II administration, without either Congressional action or at least a formal rulemaking process that would allow public objections during the notice-and-comment period and also litigation against whatever winds up being published in the Federal Register. As someone who was strongly critical of the Obama administration for governing through executive order and informal guidance, I'd need some persuading as to why the same criticisms don't apply here.

As for measured substantive criticism, David Schraub in The Atlantic provides a useful and thoughtful summary of criticism from the left. Here are some of the prominent criticisms, and my response.

(1) While there is nothing inherently wrong with the Trump executive order, Schraub suggests that Jews and others rightly don't trust the Trump administration regarding antisemitism, and therefore don't trust the administration to properly and fairly enforce the order on college campuses. Whatever one thinks of Trump and his administrationand I have knowledgeable Jewish friends who think everything from 'the Trump administration is institutionally antisemitic' to 'the Trump administration is the most philo-semitic in history'it's not the "Trump administration" that enforces Title VI, it's the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. There's no reason to think that the civil servants at OCR have gone Trumpian. Ken Marcus, the political appointee who runs OCR, has made a career out of fighting antisemitism; it's ridiculous to think that Ken deserves Jews' mistrust.

(2) Shraub references the "more legitimately controversial aspect of the Executive Order: its misappropriation of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism for use in assigning civil liability." Schraub fails to make it clear that this definition is only to be used as possible evidence of discriminatory intent when otherwise potentially illegal discrimination is going on. No one is going to be civilly liable for saying something that violates IHRA by itself. True, aggressive bureaucrats can blur this distinction under hostile environment law, and ignore relevant First Amendment constraints. But that's a problem with hostile environment law and aggressive bureaucrats, not in using the IHRA definition as one factor in assessing discriminatory intent. I'm all for constraining hostile environment law with strong First Amendment protections, but I'm not in favor of the position that hostile environment law should be applied vigorously to protect other minority groups, but not Jews.

(3) Finally, Schraub suggests that the Trump administration has proven itself all-too-willing to crack down on speech on campus related to the Middle East it doesn't like. In particular he objects that the Trump administration has violated freedom of speech and academic freedom by starting to monitor academic balance in Middle East Studies programs that receive federal funds. I certainly agree, as a general matter, that the federal government has no business monitoring academic programs for balance. But the particular funding program at issue provides funding for Mideast studies to promote knowledge of the Middle East to serve U.S. foreign policy objectives. As a result of this mandate, the relevant funding law requires universities to pledge that their programs will be balanced. In other words, monitoring balance is not some bizarre or aggressive anti-academic freedom initiative, but just enforcing the lawa law, admittedly, that previous administrations failed to enforce. But aren't we having an impeachment right now in part over the notion that the executive branch is supposed to follow Congressional mandates with regard to appropriations? Universities should not accept money with such strings, especially when the money is not, as it is not in the Mideast Studies funding context, remotely crucial to their fiscal stability. But if they do accept federal money with such strings, they, and critics like Schraub, can hardly object that their academic freedom is being denied.

UPDATE: How might the IHRA definition of antisemitism be used as evidence of discriminatory intent? Imagine a university administrator who refuses to give a room reservation to a black student group. He claims that it was just a bureaucratic error, not discrimination. But he sent a note with the denial with a tagline "white lives matter." It's not illegal to say "white lives matter." But it can surely be evidence of discriminatory intent in that context. Similarly, Hillel, the Jewish student organization is denied a room reservation. Same scenario, but the tag line is "Zionists are Nazis." It's not illegal to say that. But it can surely be used as evidence that the Hillel room reservation denial was motivated by discriminatory sentiment against Jews, and it would be almost facetious in that context to say that the tagline was merely evidence of hostility to Israel and its supporters and not evidence of discriminatory animus toward Jews.

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What the general election result means for the UK economy, according to three economists: how it will affect jobs, Brexit and growth – inews

Posted: at 1:47 pm

OpinionBusiness confidence should recover, but Brexit will inflict damage and increase the price of living

Friday, 13th December 2019, 9:12 am

'There is an uncomfortably high risk of another Brexit cliff-edge'

Samuel Tombs, Chief UK Economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics

The Conservatives large majority will give the economy some much-needed breathing space over the next six months. Business confidence should recover, now that a no-deal Brexit isnt a risk in January 2020 and the outlook for domestic policy over the next five years is relatively clear. Many firms will be able to invest, knowing that corporation tax likely wont rise, wages wont increase rapidly and Labours socialist agenda will not be implemented soon. Consumers confidence also might recoverthough a majority of people didnt vote Conservativeand the recovery in sterling to $1.35 will help to keep CPI inflation below the 2 per cent target next year, supporting real incomes.

i's opinion newsletter: talking points from today

Nonetheless, Brexit is a losing game for the economy and now it is only a question of when and how much additional pain will be inflicted. In theory, the Conservatives large majority gives PM Johnson useful flexibility during the all-important trade talks with the EU next year.

A large majority makes it easier for him to make the Commons accept either an extension of the transition period or to accede to some rule-taking in order to facilitate a semi-decent trade deal. The group of 28 hardline Eurosceptic MPs who voted against Theresa Mays Withdrawal Agreement, in a bid to achieve a no-deal Brexitwho all have held onto their seatswill not be able to restrain Boris Johnson.

However, the Conservatives manifesto clearly states that the transition period will not be extended beyond December 2020. The Withdrawal Agreement also states that any extension request must be approved by the end of June, when the UK government probably still will have unrealistic expectations for the trade deal. In all probability, then, the UK will be facing the uncomfortably high risk of another Brexit cliff-edge in December 2020, dampening the economy again in the second half of next year.

The Conservatives large majority also eases pressure on them to loosen fiscal policy substantially next year. The likelihood that the next general election will not be held for another five years encourages the Chancellor to run a tight ship early on, before attempting to turbocharge the economy in the run-up to the next poll.

In the short-term, then, relief that the first Brexit hurdle has been safely surmounted should help quarter-on-quarter GDP growth to pick up to a 0.4 per cent rate in Q1 and Q2 2020, exceeding this years average 0.2 per cent pace. A window of opportunity for the MPC to raise Bank Rate might emerge in the summer, provided the global economy has perked up by then too. But with the threat of a hard Brexit in 2021 looming large, the economy will struggle to get out of second gear.

'More global free trade and market-oriented policy'

Kevin Albertson, Professor of Economics, Manchester Metropolitan University

Boris Johnsons clear majority gives him the freedom to act, if he chooses, to address the economic problems faced by the UK and by the world today. But it is not clear he fully understands what these problems are.

The world economy is slowing down, economic concentration means the fruits of economic growth are shared by fewer and fewer people, and what passes for economic growth is buoyed up by debt and ecological deficit more than by sustainable economic activity. These problems are not new, of course they have been bubbling under the surface for the last four decades.

They leave Johnson, like all world leaders, in a conundrum. There are only enough good jobs in the world for about one third of the adult population, but it is by no means clear, and perhaps not possible, to boost economic activity sufficiently to create all the extra employment needed under the current economic system.

It hardly needs to be said that leaving the EU is unlikely to address these issues.

The general thrust of the Conservative Partys agenda looks likely to continue down the route of global free trade and market-oriented policy. This has, since the 1970s, hampered the UKs efforts to adapt to a world economy which has reached economic and ecological constraints.

Its also likely that Johnson will be unlucky enough to be in office when the world economy moves into an economic slump over the next few years. This will not be his fault, but the economic tools in which he appears likely to place his and the nations trust are not adequate to cope with such a situation.

Republished from the Conversation. Read the original post here

'The rising cost of living is unlikely to be matched by public spending'

Hanna Szymborska, Lecturer in Economics, The Open University

The large Conservative gains are surprising because much of the dissatisfaction with the economy, which led to Brexit, was fuelled by the Conservatives austerity agenda. They oversaw rising inequality, deteriorating public services, sluggish real wage growth, and faltering investment levels over the past nine years particularly in the areas that have turned blue.

Because the Conservative Party manifesto did not offer any radical policies to boost the UK economy, it is hard to see how Boris Johnsons government will help turn things around. In the short term, the near-certain prospect of a 2020 Brexit may bring a period of long-awaited certainty, reinforcing the markets optimism by strengthening the position of the pound against other major currencies and restoring some confidence in consumer spending. But these initial feelings of stability may be short lived.

The transition period is bound to bring a fresh wave of uncertainty in the years to come as the UK begins to separate its legislative system from the EU. This is likely to discourage demand and drive investment away from the UK, which would put a further strain on the economy that already suffers from low productivity.

In the long run (depending on what kind of Brexit is concluded) the prospect of low demand, possible trade restrictions, and the potential loss of cheap migrant labour from the EU is likely to have a negative impact on firms and on consumers if prices rise. In this context, the Conservative manifesto promises for boosting public spending may be difficult to do and too modest to make up for the increase in the cost of living, which is likely to ensue in this situation.

Republished from the Conversation. Read the original post here

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What the general election result means for the UK economy, according to three economists: how it will affect jobs, Brexit and growth - inews

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Georgia Is Funneling Millions of Dollars to Fake Abortion Clinics – VICE

Posted: at 1:47 pm

When Georgias now-infamous 6-week abortion ban passed earlier this year, the law stood in stark contrast with the states devastatingly high maternal mortality rate (the 48th worst in the country) and Georgias decision not to expand Medicaid to ensure more people get health coverage.

But a clearer bellwether for this ban came three full years prior, when the state chose to fund fake abortion clinics, called crisis pregnancy centers. State Sen. t x crafted Senate Bill 308 to establish the Positive Alternatives for Pregnancy and Parenting Grant Program. Republicans voted unanimously for the bill, and the program went into effect in 2017. According to data the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) provided to VICE, 16 of these clinics have or will receive at least $6.7 million in funds before June 2020.

Crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) are nonprofits that are typically religiously affiliated and claim to provide free, legitimate medical services but actually use deceptive language on their websites and in their advertisements to get pregnant people considering abortion to walk through their doors. Once there, staff members and volunteers who typically lack medical training give the client faith-based misinformation about abortion, dissuade them from terminating their pregnancy, or tell them they have more time to think about it.

CPCs all over the state, both in rural and urban areas, are benefiting from taxpayer funds. According to documents obtained from DPH, the top three beneficiaries are Pregnancy Aid Clinic and A Beacon of Hope in the metro Atlanta area and Caring Solutions of Central Georgia in Macon, Georgiathey have received a total of $892,256, $878,433, and $767,500 respectively since 2017.

Unterman said she wrote SB 308 so that pregnant people could make "better decisions" (she sponsored the abortion ban in the state senate to ensure babies are saved and given the opportunity to have a fruitful, meaningful life), but many of her Democratic counterparts beg to differ, including state Rep. Renitta Shannon, whos been open about her own abortion.

If a woman knows she does not want to carry a pregnancy, and you are doing things to delay her being able to get the abortion that she knows she wants, thats very dangerous, Shannon told VICE. Youre running out the clock on her, and its never a good situation when women are forced into birthing.

Shannon asserted that the role CPCs play in delaying abortions until they can no longer get the procedure in the state (20 weeks in most cases) is contributing to Georgias maternal mortality rate. In Georgia, Black women are 2.3 times more likely than white women to die due to childbirth-related causes.

Knowledge of the myriad reproductive oppressions faced by Black women in Georgia and the harm that fake abortion clinics may cause spurred Shannon to write a bill in 2019 to repeal the Positive Alternatives program, House Bill 188. Shannon and her co-sponsors are representative of whos been spearheading the movement for reproductive health, rights, and justice in the state for decades: Black women. Four of HB 188s six sponsorsShannon, State Rep. Park Cannon, Rep. Jasmine Clark, and Rep. Pam Stephensonare Black. These women are determined to get the bill a hearing in the state legislature during its 2020 session.

Cannon, who was a part of the movement that fought to kill SB 308 in 2016, pointed to the Positive Alternatives programs one-page annual reports from fiscal years 2017, 2018, and 2019 as a sign of the states lack of transparency in revealing how grants are being spent.

When it comes to reproductive health, Republicans are not looking to compromise. Instead, theyre looking to push their own extremist agenda, said Cannon, who's also a doula. We know this because when SB 308 was being passed, we had women of lower economic means at the table, we had women of color at the table, but they were ignored.

Republicans not only ignored the lived experiences of those and other women, but also the findings of public health professionals.

Andrea Swartzendruber, a public health professor at the University of Georgia, began looking into CPCs during the SB 308 legislative battle and has been researching them ever since. She led the creation of the Crisis Pregnancy Center Map, which logs all CPCs in the country. There are currently 2,537 locations on the map, including 91 in Georgia alone. Finding a fake abortion clinic in Georgia is much easier than accessing an actual one; as of 2017, only 26 facilities provide abortion in the state.

Along with creating a map of CPCs, Swartzendruber and her co-investigators found that these facilities pose potential risks to individuals, to families, and to public health and that they often market their services to young people, people of color, and low-income peoplethose who are already disproportionately impacted by adverse sexual and reproductive health outcomes. Her team has a paper under review that examines the association between states support for CPCs, the number of CPCs in a state, and states restrictions on abortions.

Our data thus far suggests that having a greater number of crisis pregnancy centers by state in 2018 predicted introduction of legislation in the first half of 2019 that would have banned all or most abortions, Swartzendruber said.

Swartzendruber has also found that local, state, and federal government support for CPCs is on the rise. More states than ever are adopting grant programs like Positive Alternatives and more public schools are contracting with CPCs to provide abstinence-only sex ed programming to students. Title X, a federal family planning program, has undergone major rule changes under President Trump and now allows funds to be awarded to fake abortion clinics. Theyre even gaining legal protections, as evidenced by the Supreme Court case, NIFLA v. Becerra, that affirmed the First Amendment right of CPCs by striking down a California law regulating the facilities.

Clark first learned about CPCs when one of her constituents, appalled by her childs school system allowing CPCs to teach sex education, approached her about sponsoring a bill that would require public schools to provide medically accurate sex education. Clark ended up sponsoring that bill for the 2019-2020 legislative cycle in addition to becoming a co-sponsor for the bill to repeal CPC funding after a meeting with Shannon at the state capitol.

I did not hesitate to sign onto HB 188 because I firmly believe that you give people their options, and you let them decide, but what you dont do is mislead them down a specific path that you would prefer for them to go. If thats what youre going to do, I dont think the state should be funding your mission, Clark told VICE.

At the start of the 2019 legislative session, Cannon says that Democrats were told by Republican leadership that no bills related to abortion would receive a hearing. Yet, only a few weeks after the session began, Republicans held hearings for the 6-week abortion ban, which was signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp on May 7 despite heavy opposition from Democratic legislators and grassroots Black women-led organizations such as SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective and Feminist Womens Health Center. Those groups are plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union challenging the bill's constitutionality and they also filed a successful request for an injunction to stop the abortion ban from taking effect on January 1, 2020.

Energy that couldve gone toward advocating for CPCs to be defunded instead had to be funneled into fighting the abortion ban this year. Despite Republican majorities in both chambers, the bills sponsors are prepared to go to bat for HB 188 once the legislative session begins in January, with hopes that Georgians who believe in reproductive freedom are ready, too.

Georgians have said over and over again that we need to expand Medicaid, we know we have a maternal mortality crisis, we know we have a crisis of specialists in Georgia for reproductive healthcare, so they need to be demanding that their tax dollars be used to actually go towards those issues rather than fake clinics, Shannon said.

The bill's sponsors are also gearing up for a "peoples hearing" that will take place on Facebook early next year to increase awareness about the legislation and to enable oft-ignored constituents to have a voice in the process.

Many of the younger legislators in metro Atlanta, Democratic legislators, have been very intentional about holding peoples hearings, Cannon said. Peoples hearings are not a novel concept in America, but in the state of Georgia, they seem to be something quite new. What were finding is that were able to bring people in of all identities, orientations, levels of ability, and comfortability with public speaking and hear them out by hosting peoples hearings.

For the Black women lawmakers seeking to end state funding for fake abortion clinics, this fight is both personal and political. They say theyre prioritizing HB 188 to help end reproductive injustices in their own lives and in their communities.

As a doula, I work with pregnant women who are always asking me for resources on how to get another ultrasound just to double check that everything is developing correctly with their fetus, and unfortunately, when they Google free ultrasounds, crisis pregnancy centers show up, Cannon said. I really hope that with this legislation, we will be able to give more of an explanation to all women that just because youre looking for something free does not mean that you have to be misled.

This story, part of a series on reproductive injustices in Georgia, was supported by Press On's Freedomways Reporting Project fellowship.

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This article originally appeared on VICE US.

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Andrew Scheers resignation speech in the House of Commons – Maclean’s

Posted: at 1:47 pm

Mr. Speaker, I was elected to this House in 2004 at the ripe old age of 25. In many ways I grew up in this chamber. Some may say I havent yet grown up. I was barely out of university. Newly married with our first child on the way. Since then Ive had five beautiful children and my first born is now 14hes all arms and legs and I think hes going to be taller than me very soon, Mr. Speaker.

Ive logged many hours flying back and forth from Regina and Ottawa and all across this wonderful country. And along side my friends in the Conservative caucus weve accomplished a lot on both the government and opposition side of the benches. And most importantly weve kept our party united and strong. Which is why today I felt it was appropriate to speak to any friends and colleagues in the House of Commons about one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made. I just informed my colleagues in the Conservative caucus that I will be resigning as the leader of the Conservative party of Canada. And I will be asking the Conservative Party National Council to immediately begin the process of organizing a leadership election.As our party embarks on this exciting opportunity of electing a new Conservative leader and Canadas next prime minister I intend to stay on as leader of the party and the official opposition. Serving as leader of the party that I love so much has been the opportunity and challenge of a lifetime.

READ:Andrew Scheer is stepping down as Conservative Party leader

This was not a decision I came to lightly. This was a decision I came to after many long, hard conversations with friends and family over the past two months since the election campaign. This has been an incredible challenge for our family to keep up with the pace that is required to lead a caucus and a party into a general election. My wife Jill has been absolutely heroic. But in order to chart the course ahead, this party, this movement needs someone who can give 100 per cent to the efforts. And after some conversations with my kids, my loved ones, I felt it was time to put my family first.

Our Conservative team is always stronger when we are united. When fiscal Conservative, Red Tories, social conservatives, libertarians, Quebec nationalists, Conservative in rural Canada and urban Canada, in the east and west come together great things happen. We elect strong Conservative governments that deliver lower taxes, smaller government, more freedom and stronger human rights.

The party that we have all built together is far too important for one individual. Our party is not a cult of personality. Its not shaped by whoevers name is on the masthead, but by the hundreds of thousands of Conservatives who pound in lawn signs, sit on their riding associations and donate a few dollars every month.

And as our party beings to embark on this exciting opportunity, electing a new leader, my only ask to my fellow Conservatives is this: lets stay united. Lets stay focused on our one shared goal and our one shared priority, to deliver a strong Conservative government who can unite our country and make life better for all Canadians. For the oil worker out of a job, for the senior choosing between heating and eating and for Canadas position on the world stage.

I believe in this party, I believe in our movement, I believe that we will be a government after the next election. I got involved as a teen because I love this party. I ran because I love this party and I ran for leader because I wanted to help this party. I will continue to serve my Conservative caucus. I will continue to serve the great people in the fantastic riding of Regina-QuAppelle. Im proud of what weve accomplished in my time as leader. We knocked the Liberals down to a minority, we increased seats all over this country.

Whoever the hundreds of thousands of Conservatives across the country choose to lead our party into the next election, that person will have my 100 per cent support. And my message to the Prime Minister and the Liberals in the House is this: during this leadership election there will be no free rides in the House of Commons. Weve already hit the ground running. We had a 1000 per cent batting average for a brief period of time on Tuesday evening, we might see if we can increase that batting average. But we are going to continue to be here every single day. To represent our constituents, perform our duties as parliamentarians to put Canadians and Canada first. I want to thank you Mr. Speaker for indulging me in this statement. I want to thank my colleagues in the Conservative Party.

Merci beaucoup.

Ce fut lhonneur de ma vie professionnelle detre le chef du Parti conservateur. Je remercie tous mes collegues de leur appui et de leur confiance au cours des trois dernieres annees. Jai pris cette decision, car elle est la meilleure pour notre parti.

Ive made this decision because its the best thing for our party. Our party needs someone who can give everything theyve got. Ive always been honest with my colleagues, Ive always been honest with everybody. I know that the road ahead, the stress that would put on my family. I cant give them that 100 per cent assurance. I know the next person will and I know I can speak on behalf of my team that the next leader of this party will have support required from these benches to make sure were successful in the next election.

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