FIGHTING WORDS

Heather Boushey:”These stories are not only wrong — the reality is that there is no increase in recent years in women, even women with advanced degrees, choosing to be stay-at-home mothers over working mothers — they also imply that most mothers have a choice to work or not. This couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Matthew Yglesias: “Insofar as the most extreme right-wing views of national security imaginable — Bill Kristol’s apparent belief that the USA should be perpetually at war with whichever country he was asked about most recently — are treated as respectable elements of the discourse, while the most mild deviations from establishment conventional wisdom are branded as “extremism” then bleating about the need to build bipartisanship in foreign policy only leads us in ever-more-militaristic directions.”

Mark Weisbrot: “The IMF wrote in their country papers on Bolivia that the country would be hurting itself by raising the royalty rates. They were wrong, as were most of the experts in Washington and the US business press.”

Ezra Klein: “To put the contrast another way, where Obama promised to radically change our politics, Edwards promised to radically change our policies.”

Advertisements

WEISBROT ON CORRALES

Over at TPMCafe, Mark Weisbrot responds to my critique of Corrales’ argument about Hugo Chavez with a critique of Corrales’ factual claims. That includes Corrales’ allegation that Chavez made Venezuelans’ votes a matter of public record, an allegation which I inaccurately implied was grounded in fact. Weisbrot corrects this and a slew of other claims in Corrales’ piece, and provokes a spirited discussion amongst the commenters as well. Progressives, as I said last week, should take well-documented violations of human rights seriously regardless of the politics of the regime perpetrating them. We should also foster a healthy skepticism towards the claims of critics whose main grievance has less to do with democracy than with opposition to the undemocratic mandates of neoliberal institutions.

Weisbrot’s Center for Economic and Policy Research, incidentally, is an excellent resource using economic arguments to challenge some of the assumptions of the Washington Consensus.

FIGHTING WORDS

Matt Yglesias: “The difference is that throughout 2002 and 2003 the conventional wisdom in pro-war circles was that the war would turn out well, so the dissembling used to sell it wouldn’t be such a big deal and it was a bit naive of liberals to be obsessed with the lying point.”

David Cole: “It would actually make existing law worse by providing Congressional authorization for cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in certain circumstances. Right now the authority for such action is a highly dubious executive interpretation; the proposed exemptions would give this questionable interpretation legislative approval.”

Jo-Ann Mort: “It says a lot about the state of the Dems and the state of the Republicans that on the same day President Bush bowed to his right wing by nominating a conservative candidate to the Supreme Court, the story broke that Democratic operatives were working out of a ‘war room’ in Arkansas, making Wal-mart and their slash and burn economic strategy palatable to the American people.”

Mark Weisbrot: “The past 25 years have been the worst growth performance in modern Latin American history.”

THE WEEK IN COMPASSIONATE CONSERVATISM

Well, the Republican Majority has finally left DC for another one of those extended vacations that most of them like to impugn when French workers take them. They didn’t go home nearly soon enough though.

Wednesday night – by two votes – the House passed CAFTA, voting to accelerate the corporate-driven race to the bottom in working standards. As Mark Weisbrot reminds us:

CAFTA will increase some barriers to trade while lowering others. One of the barriers it increases is on patented pharmaceutical drugs. This is the most costly form of protectionism in the world today. The benefits from free trade in these goods are much appreciated by the millions of Americans who cross the Canadian or Mexican border to get their prescription drugs. But CAFTA will make it more difficult for countries like Guatemala to get access to affordable medicines…Over the last 30 years the typical (median) wage in the United States has hardly grown — only about 9 percent. Productivity — output per employee — has grown by 82 percent over the same period…Over the next decade, the dollar will fall further and our trade deficit will shrink. Measured in non-dollar currencies, the value of U.S. imports is expected to decline over the next decade. This means that CAFTA countries are making costly concessions for a prize that most likely won’t be there.

House Democrats did a much better job of bucking the “Washington Consensus” than their counterparts in the Senate, a quarter of whom backed the bill. That only fifteen House Democrats voted with Thomas Friedman on a “free trade” bill is a hopeful sign of how much that consensus has fractured in the past decade. Those fifteen votes, sadly, seem to have made all the difference Wednesday. David Sirota provides a helpful list of the eleven Democrats in Congress who voted not just for CAFTA but for the Bankruptcy and “Class Action Fairness” bills as well, and some much-needed skepticism about claims that they acted out of electoral necessity.

As if CAFTA wasn’t bad enough, yesterday the Senate passed up a bill protecting detainees’ human rights and passed a bill curtailing victims’ rights to a day in court against the gun industry. And an Energy Bill which, as John Podesta observes,

gives away our tax dollars to energy companies already making record profits. The challenges we face in moving to more secure and sustainable energy use are large. We need a bold energy policy for the United States. Sadly, even the modest commitment to increase the use of renewable sources for electricity or language acknowledging the danger of climate change did not survive in the final bill. We must continue to challenge the Bush administration and Congress to get serious about decreasing the oil consumption of the United States and combating global warming. The energy bill the Senate will vote on today ignores those challenges.

And the Senate voted to extend the PATRIOT Act, though in a slightly more constitution-friendly version than that passed by the House. As Lisa Graves of the ACLU said yesterday:

Although the ACLU was unable to endorse the final bill, it contains some provisions mindful of the Bill of Rights, and does not include such broad and unnecessary powers like administrative subpoenas.

Small victories.

The AP reports that Alan Greenspan today urged Congress to cut Social Security benefits in order to keep Social Security solvent. This is only the latest volley from those agitating to burn the village in order to save it. Real social security reform would mean taxing wealth and raising the five-digit maximum income taxed under the payroll tax. But we don’t hear much from either policy about those sorts of plans to “save Social Security.” Mark Weisbrot provides useful perspective in the columns archived here.