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Hometown: Xenia, OH
Member since: Tue Sep 19, 2006, 03:46 PM
Number of posts: 24,691

Journal Archives

Poll: repub base/establishment agree (Obama, gov't role), disagree (immigration, gay rights)


All republicans agree on how bad Obama, the federal government and help for the poor are.

They disagree on immigration, acceptance of gays, the value of Wall Street and US efforts to solve global problems.

None are too surprising but interesting to see them summarized so succinctly in this poll.

How China views the TPP, the WTO and bilateral trade agreements.

China’s FTA Strategy

Beijing takes a strategic approach on free trade agreements, particularly in the face of challenges such as the TPP.

This post explores the motivations of China’s promotion of FTAs, and examines its FTAs to highlight underlying trends and the future strategies Beijing may pursue in the face of the challenges posed by mega-regional trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Regional Economic Comprehensive Partnership (RCEP.)

China has one of the busiest FTA programs in Asia. Agreements in place include FTAs with countries such as Chile, Costa Rica, New Zealand, and Switzerland. Meanwhile, FTAs now in the pipeline will boost China’s economic integration with Australia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Norway, and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates. China has recently taken a more comprehensive and vigorous approach to FTAs. For example, agreements with Iceland and Switzerland, signed in 2013, provide wider coverage in goods, services, and investments.

Meanwhile, a number of initiatives are underway to liberalize trade and facilitate investment within the region. For instance, RCEP incorporates a range of Asia-Pacific countries, such as ASEAN, Australia, China, India, Japan, and New Zealand. The fourth round of negotiations was held in Nanning, China, from March 31 to April 4, 2014. it is expected to be concluded by 2015.

On the other hand, the U.S.-centered TPP negotiations have put China under considerable pressure. Though it is open to joining TPP negotiations, given its domestic industrial structure China would find it difficult to accept some of the issues under negotiation. Issues such as state-owned enterprises or labor and environmental standards would impose very high costs on China’s domestic industries. Consequently, Beijing has been cautious on joining TPP talks.


China seems to be negotiating many bilateral trade agreements rather than going for multilateral deals. Perhaps this is because they are sensitive to maintaining control of their "domestic industrial structure" (weak unions, lots of pollution). That is easier to do with bilateral deals in which they are the larger, stronger partner rather than multilateral deals where things get more complicated.

There need to be labor and environmental standards in any trade agreement.

If TPP does not have them, and it sure seems like it doesn't, then sticking with WTO trading rules (which do not have labor nor environmental standards that affect labor rights in a place like Vietnam) is better than missing the opportunity that TPP could have represented.

To improve labor and environmental standards globally we will have to negotiate enforceable agreements with the rest of the world. Given what we know about TPP it looks like we will have to wait a long time for that.

One of many countries that actually does what many US politicians profess is impossible:

supporting a strong safety net with high progressive taxation without killing the economy that generates the wealth.

Great Title: “Change They Can’t Believe In: The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in America”

Another axis of difference between the two is that an establishment conservative will see policy differences or policy preference differences between them and progressives as merely political differences. But these reactionary conservatives see policy differences, or differences of policy preferences, as a contest between good and evil. They have this Manichaean way of looking at politics, this apocalyptic way of looking at politics. Therefore, compromise cannot be [allowed]. Compromise will not be tolerated whatsoever, because they see it as concession to evil, whereas an establishment conservative knows that compromise is necessary.

The bottom line is that a lot of people assume that the Tea Party people are just crazy … but that’s not the case. I mean, that’s really not the case, and I want to dismiss that misconception as soon as I can … Another misconception [is] that the Tea Party is really just a bunch of racist people and that their movement is about racism — and it’s really not … It’s bigger than racism. People who tend to support the Tea Party, they tend to be sexist, they tend to be homophobic, they tend to be xenophobic; so it’s not just about race. It’s about difference. It’s about anything that violates their phenotypical norm of what it’s supposed to mean to be an American: white, mainly male, middle-class, middle-aged or older, heterosexual, and native born. Anything that falls beyond that description is considered not to be a true American and therefore … these groups are encroaching on what they see as the “real” America, the America that they’ve come to know and love through their lifetime.

It’s not the astroturf movement that a lot of people think it is. I said that in that Brookings piece and I’ve backed that up with some evidence. Now, we saw what happened in Virginia, right? You had this guy, Brat, who got almost zero support from national Tea Party organizations — and look what happened. So I think there’s really valid data showing that the Tea Party movement is not the astroturf movement that people think it is.

People want to say that they’re crazy, and they’re really not. They want to maintain their social position, their social prestige; and as Frederick Douglass once said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and it never will.” So it’s rational to want to hold onto your position; it’s completely rational. It’s about the means through which [Tea Partyers] do that — that’s what the problem is.

Great find, xchrom. Thanks for posting it.

Certainly true that agreements (trade, peace or labor) can be "good or crappy" but

the republican accusation was that they were both crappy - "flooding our markets with foreign commodities" - and negotiated secretly - "It secretly has made tariff agreements with our foreign competitors".

Reciprocal Tariff Act of 1934

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act (RTAA) into law in 1934. RTAA gave the president power to negotiate bilateral, reciprocal trade agreements with other countries. This law enabled Roosevelt to liberalize American trade policy around the globe. It is widely credited with ushering in the era of liberal trade policy that persists to this day.

By giving the President the authority to negotiate these deals, the Congress effectively ceded a part of their power (authorized under US Constitution, Article I, Section VIII) to the executive branch.

After the Civil War, Democrats were generally the party of trade liberalization, while Republicans were generally for higher tariffs. This pattern was clear in congressional votes for tariffs from 1860 until 1930. Democrats were the congressional minority in the majority of Congresses between the Civil War and the election of Roosevelt. During their brief stints in the majority, Democrats passed several tariff reduction bills. Examples include the Wilson-Gorman Act of 1894 and the Underwood Tariff Act of 1913. However, subsequent Republican majorities always undid these unilateral tariff reductions.

... the administration decided to take advantage of having a Democratic-controlled Congress and Presidency to push through the RTAA. In 1936 and 1940, the Republican Party ran on a platform of repealing the tariff reductions secured under the RTAA.


FDR's RTAA is what gave us "secret trade deals" and 'fast track' for their approval or rejection by Congress.

The complaints against FDR in 1936 were quite similar to the complaints against Obama today even though times and the nature of the agreements has changed.

In 1936 Republicans accused FDR of making "secret" trade deals with "our foreign competitors".

The 1936 republican party platform looks like it could have been written for the tea party:

It has coerced and intimidated voters by withholding relief to those opposing its tyrannical policies.

It has destroyed the morale of our people and made them dependent upon government.

Appeals to passion and class prejudice have replaced reason and tolerance.

It has created a vast multitude of new offices, filled them with its favorites, set up a centralized bureaucracy, and sent out swarms of inspectors to harass our people.

It has bred fear and hesitation in commerce and industry, thus discouraging new enterprises, preventing employment and prolonging the depression.

It secretly has made tariff agreements with our foreign competitors, flooding our markets with foreign commodities.


Eurostat report: The EU continues to have the highest taxed countries in the world.

Danes the highest taxed in Europe, reveals Eurostat

Denmark, Belgium and France are the highest taxed EU countries according to research by the bloc’s statistical agency Eurostat.

The data in Eurostat’s report on ‘Taxation trends’ in the EU, published on Monday (16 June), found that the Danish government collected tax worth 48.1 percent of economic output in 2012.

Overall, the average tax-to-GDP ratio in the EU increased to 39.4 percent in 2012, slightly up from 38.8 percent the previous year. Eurostat says the rate continued to rise in 2013.

The EU continues to have some of the highest taxed countries in the world. Of the major OECD countries outside the bloc, only Norway, at 42 percent, has a higher tax burden. Meanwhile, the US, Canada and Japan have rates of 25 percent, 28 percent and 30 percent, respectively.


Germany's taxes totaled about 39% of GDP, Sweden and France at 44%. It's amazing how much in the way of social services and safety net these countries can provide with an extra 15% of GDP in tax revenue. Of course, a stronger middle class and greater income equality are the result.

The Eurostat report itself is at http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/cache/ITY_OFFPUB/KS-DU-13-001/EN/KS-DU-13-001-EN.PDF.

Krugman: Corporate shock over the defeat of Cantor.

The Corporates and the Crazies

Jeremy Peters and Shaila Dewan write about corporate shock over the sudden fall of Eric Cantor; it’s further confirmation of the story I told in my last column. Corporations and plutocrats had a good deal going: they bankrolled politicians who talked cultural populism during campaigns, but more or less ignored all that and focused on tax cuts and deregulation after the polls closed. And Cantor fit that profile perfectly.

But now the big money has lost control; the base is demanding politicians who don’t just talk the crazy talk, but walk the crazy walk. For a couple of months the story line was that the money was regaining control, but between Cantor and Cochran that narrative has been blown out of the water.

What’s unclear is what comes next. By pivoting so hard to the GOP, the money has lost much of its leverage over the Democrats — yes, there’s Andrew Cuomo and people like him, but it’s not the same as once it was.

How bad is it? So bad that some establishment Republicans — which means people who work for the corporate side — are pining for another run by, yes, Mitt Romney.


If corporate republicans are thinking about turning back to romney, you know things are bad.

Juan Cole: 7 Myths about the Radical Sunni Advance in Iraq

1. “The Sunni radicals of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are popular.” They are not. Opinion polling shows that most Iraqi Sunnis are secular-minded. The ISIS is brutal and fundamentalist. Where the Sunnis have rallied to it, it is because of severe discontents with their situation after the fall of the Baath Party in 2003 with the American invasion. The appearance of video showing ISIS massacring police (most of them Sunnis) in Tikrit will severely detract from such popularity as they enjoyed.

2. “ISIS fighters achieved victory after victory in the Sunni north.” While this assertion is true, and towns continue to fall to it, it is simplistic. The central government troops, many of them Shiite, in Mosul and in towns of the north, were unpopular because representatives of a sectarian Shiite regime. The populace of Mosul, including town quarters and clan groups (‘tribes’) on the city’s outskirts, appear to have risen up in conjunction with the ISIS advance, as Patrick Cockburn argues. It was a pluralist urban rebellion, with nationalists of a socialist bent (former Baathists) joining in. In some instances locals were suppressed by the fundamentalist guerrillas and there already have been instances of local Sunnis helping the Iraqi army reassert itself in Salahuddin Province and then celebrating the departure of ISIS.

3. “Iraqi troops were afraid to fight the radical Sunni guerrillas and so ran away.” While the troops did abandon their positions in Mosul and other towns, it isn’t clear why. There are reports that they were ordered to fall back. More important, if this was a popular uprising, then a few thousand troops were facing hundreds of thousands of angry urbanites and were in danger of being overwhelmed. In Afghanistan’s Mazar-i Sharif in 1997 when the Pashtun Taliban took this largely Tajik and Uzbek city, the local populace abided it af few days and then rose up and killed 8,000 Taliban, expelling them from the city. (A year later they returned and bloodily reasserted themselves). Troops cannot always assert themselves against the biopower of urban masses.

5. “The US should intervene with air power against ISIS.” The Sunni radicals are not a conventional army. There are no lines for the US to bomb, few convoys or other obvious targets. To the extent that their advance is a series of urban revolts against the government of PM Nouri al-Maliki, the US would end up bombing ordinary city folk. The Sunnis already have resentments about the Bush administration backing for the Shiite parties after 2003, which produced purges of Sunnis from their jobs and massive unemployment in Sunni areas. For the US to be bombing Sunni towns all these years later on behalf of Mr. al-Maliki would be to invite terrorism against the US. ISIS is a bad actor, but it so far hasn’t behaved like an international terrorist group; it has been oriented to achieving strategic and tactical victories in Syria against the Baath government and the Shiite Alawis, and in Iraq against the Shiite Da’wa Party government. But it could easily morph into an anti-American international terrorist network. The US should avoid actions that would push it in that direction. So far the Baath regime in Syria is winning against the Sunni radicals. The Shiite majority in Iraq can’t easily be overwhelmed by them. Local actors can handle this crisis.


Cole's knowledge always injects some sanity into a chaotic situation.
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