Tag Archives: Austerity

Good News From Iran, Greece And Cuba

The demand for Good News far exceeds the supply. That’s the finding of an unscientific sampling of opinion from readers of this blog.

So I was surprised to see that newspapers and other mainstream media have recently reported several cases of honest-to-goodness, big-time, Good News among nations. Two Good News breakthroughs this week alone!

  1. After years and years of tedious negotiations, the U.S. and six other nations reached a historic agreement with Iran to prevent that country from developing a nuclear weapon. In return, the U.S. and other nations will lift economic sanctions against Iran, sanctions that have caused real hardship for the Iranian people.
  2. After months of brinkmanship, Greece has given in to a deal with Germany and the rest of Europe that will keep Greece in the Euro zone and avert immediate financial default and economic chaos in Greece. Europe’s largest economies will provide yet another billion-dollar rescue to keep Greece afloat. In return, Greece has agreed to fast-track a new round of painful tax increases, budget cuts, and other austerity measures.

And more good news right here in the Western hemisphere! President Barack Obama recently decided to normalize  relations with the island nation of Cuba. The U.S. and Cuba have been estranged from each other for nearly my entire lifetime (and I’m 67). Now, suddenly, unexpectedly, the two nations have reconciled, at least to the point of “normalizing relations.” They’re looking for embassy sites in Washington and Havana. Trade and tourism and family visits will be allowed, even encouraged. Economic benefits will flow to both countries, but most especially to Cuba.

To be sure, these breakthroughs have NOT been universally hailed as GOOD. It is quite possible that any of these forward movements could be knocked off the rails by opponents. Or they could have disastrous unintended consequences. There are no guarantees; only good reason for HOPE.

Recalcitrants and nay-sayers are everywhere; many have legitimate objections. But I’ll not enumerate them all because that might take the winds of Good New of out my sails. I believe that the great majority of the people in all nations involved see these world events as positive, qualifying to be cheered as Good News. It’s OK to have misgivings and still cheer for Good News. To accept Good News requires a measure of Hope and Trust.

In the case of these three steps forward among the family of nations, I confidently declare Good News based on a simple presumption. All the people of the world agree as follows:

PEACE = GOOD;  FRIENDSHIP = GOOD

WAR = BAD;  ENMITY = BAD

The agreements between U.S and Iran, Europe and Greece, U.S. and Cuba, all turn in the direction of friendship and peace. Some will disagree. Some will openly prefer enmity and even war. I will ignore them unless they present persuasive facts.

Case closed. Good news for Iran, Greece, Cuba. 

What do you think? I tolerate differing opinions.

— John Hayden

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Cheap TVs And Costly Health Care

Once in a while, a sentence or paragraph in the daily news seems to capture the truth.

“America is a place where luxuries are cheap and necessities costly. A big-screen TV costs much less than it does in Europe, but health care will sink you.”   — Joseph Cohen, Queens College, New York

Makes you wonder, why do so many Americans ridicule Europe, especially the European model of universal health care?

That paragraph is from a story in the April 27, 2014, edition of The Washington Post, under then byline of Carol Morello and Scott Clement. The headline is, “Less Dream, More Reality: America’s middle class is shrinking and is being squeezed by the pressures of diminishing opportunity, stagnant wages and rising expenses.”

The story follows a typical American family with two full-time wage earners and three children. They’re not exactly poor; they qualify as middle class. But as the story reports, they’re “masters at scrimping,” out of necessity.

As the headline says, it’s just a glimpse of reality. Makes me glad I still subscribe to a good daily newspaper.

— John Hayden

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Russian Toilets

Now we know why Communism failed. — John

Clarissa's Blog

Everybody is shocked by the pictures of shared toilets for the Olympics in Sochi that are making the rounds. Putin’s government has reacted to the international outrage by issuing really funny disclaimers.

However, these toilets are well in keeping with an old Soviet tradition of not using separate stalls in toilets. This is a toilet in one of the Russian cities that is also used by athletes at the local gym:

russian toilets

 

And this is from an opera theater in Vladivostok:

russ toilets

 

People should be grateful that there are actual commodes and not just a hole in the ground, which is what we were using at my high school (and all other schools).

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College Debt Discussion

See the “Dwindling Jobs, College Debt” post from yesterday for an extended discussion in the comments below the post. The discussion focuses mostly on debt, especially college debt. In blogging, he comments generated by posts can often be more interesting and informative than the post itself.

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June 1, 2013 · 3:04 pm

Dwindling Jobs, College Debt, Clueless Politicians (With Extended Discussion in Comments)

Economic and political difficulties — especially issues of justice — are on my mind, as always. Guess I’ve been reading too many scary books about economics and the jobs outlook.

What is the outlook? In developing countries, manufacturing that’s always on the move, stalking the cheapest labor. In Western countries, an abundance of jobs for machines, robots and computers; for human beings, not so much. Continue reading

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Filed under Democracy, Economy, Social Security

Obituary For A “Rich Tyrant”

Please read “Margaret Thatcher’s dead and I want to cry” by Katy Evans-Bush at “Baroque in Hackney.” It might be the most important blog post you’ll read this year.

MARGARET THATCHER. (Photo via Baroque in Hackney)

MARGARET THATCHER. (Photo via Baroque in Hackney)

It’s a moving and honest essay on the death of a “rich tyrant.” It’s also a scathing indictment of a certain type of aristocratic leadership, and of the political and economic systems that empower and protect such leadership.

I believe Ms. Evans-Bush’s analysis is not limited to Margaret Thatcher. Didn’t Ronald Reagan represent the same harsh policies, but with a kinder, smiling face and a charming personality?

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Filed under Democracy, Economy, History

Sequestration In America, Dancing On Wall Street, Pain In Maryland And Virginia

As I write this on Tuesday, the Dow-Jones Index has hit an all-time high. It’s historic! Higher than the last record, set in 2007.

Sequestration, which I call Austerity, took effect on Friday.

Devastating economic pain is predicted throughout America, although some exaggeration is baked into the “sky-is-falling” rhetoric.

Exaggeration or no exaggeration, economic growth has been sluggish. Sequestration of $85 billion in federal spending will slow the economy even more.   Continue reading

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The Truth About Sequestration And Democracy, According to One Humble American

“Sequestration” went into effect in America this week, reducing U.S. government spending by $85 billion.

What does it mean? It means that the United States has accepted “Austerity.” 

It’s not the end of the world. The vast majority of U.S. government spending will continue as usual. The government will not grind to a halt, at least not because of sequestration. It’s still possible that Congress could force a shut-down of government sometime in the future, but not likely this year.

Failure of Government Decision-making

Most interestingly, Austerity was NOT imposed by the normal processes of legislative or executive action.  Continue reading

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Can A Ship Sail Right Over The Edge Of The Earth?

“The U.S no longer has a well-functioning self-government. . . .  American democracy has been hacked. The United States Congress, the avatar of the democratically elected national legislatures in the modern world, is now incapable of passing laws without permission from the corporate lobbies and other special interests that control their campaign finances.” 

The above quote is from Al Gore’s new book, “The Future.” It makes sobering reading as the U.S. ship of state drifts, apparently rudderless, toward “sequestration.” Is the bridge abandoned? Have the helm and the engine room broken down?

I don’t understand the panic over sequestration, but I am concerned about the ability of U.S. government institutions to function. Continue reading

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The Fiscal Cliff — Seize the Day, Cut Military Spending Now

The U.S. defense budget, worldwide military overreach, and the influence of the military-industrial complex — these are the root of America’s economic and debt crisis.

Not Social Security, not Medicare, not Medicaid, not government pensions, not anything else you want to label as “entitlements.”

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