Why free trade is officially dead, by Alasdair Macleod

Free trade allows people to trade with each other regardless of their nationalities. Alasdair Macleod explains, brilliantly, the pitfalls of restricting free trade. From Macleod at news.goldseek.com, with a hat tip to SLL reader ikdr for the article:

G20 Finance ministers meeting in Baden Baden last weekend agreed, on America’s insistence, to drop the long-standing commitment to free trade from the final communiqué.

It is hard to know to what extent America’s position is driven by her autarkic view on world trade, or to what extent it is an acknowledgement of the fruitlessness of paying lip-service to an ideal which is never delivered. Doubtless, it’s a bit of both.

It is certainly true that finance ministers in the advanced nations have always shown a protectionist attitude towards international trade, protectionism that has intensified through attacks on American international corporations, which to a large extent can choose where to pay their taxes. The thrust of research by international NGOs, particularly the Paris-based OECD, has been to decry tax competition; however, even though it has bullied tax-havens to supply tax-related information to revenue-hungry states, it has failed to stop multinationals, armed with teams of tax lawyers, from complying with their statist demands.

Therefore, the reasons for anti-globalisation in high-spending governments so far have been based on job protection and maximising taxes. But with President Trump, it’s different. He wants to tilt the odds firmly in favour of American business, and he appears to believe that the World Trade Organisation is little more than an obstructive repository for anti-business bureaucrats. This view is misinformed, because over the years WTO officials have successfully managed to get their members to reduce tariffs to historically low levels.

The threat to this progress is not new. America has in the past often ignored WTO rules, banning or imposing tariffs on imports on overtly protectionist grounds. As always, vested interests and protectionism prove difficult for politicians to resist. However, Trump is different in one respect: he appears to be an old-fashioned mercantilist, seeing America as one gigantic commercial enterprise needing direction. It should, he doubtless reasons, secure and use its monopolistic power. You don’t do that by working to non-American regulations. For this reason, America is becoming more autarkic.

To continue reading: Why free trade is officially dead

 

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He Said That? 3/25/17

From Friedrich Nietzsche, (1844–1900), German philosopher, Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None (1891):

Everything the State says is a lie, and everything it has it has stolen.

A concise summary of government.

Italy at the Grim Edge of a Global Problem, by Don Quijones

You may be tired of hearing about Italy, but it’s only going to get worse. From Don Quijones at wolfstreet.com:

This trend is not your friend.

To be young, gifted, educated and Italian is no guarantee of financial security these days. As a new report by the Bruno Visentini Foundation shows, the average 20-year-old will have 18 years to wait before living independently — meaning, among other things, having a home, a steady income, and the ability to support a family. That’s almost twice as long as it took Italians who turned 20 in 2004.

A Worsening Trend

Eurostat statistics in October 2016 showed that less than a third of under-35s in Italy had left their parental home, a figure 20 percentage points higher than the European average. The trend is expected to worsen as the economy continues to struggle. Researchers said that for Italians who turn 20 in 2030, it will take an average of 28 years to be able to live independently. In other words, many of Italy’s children today won’t have “grown up” until they’re nearing their 50s.

That raises an obvious question: if Italy’s future generation of workers are expected to struggle to support themselves and their children until they’re well into their forties, how will they possibly be able to support the burgeoning ranks of baby boomers reaching retirement age (a staggeringly low 58 for men and 53 for women), let alone service the over €2 trillion of public debt the Italian government has accumulated (and which doesn’t include the untold billions it hopes to splash out on saving the banks)?

The trend could also have major implications for Italy’s huge stock of non-performing loans, which, unless resolved soon, threatens to overwhelm the country’s banking system. If most young Italians are not financially independent, who will buy the foreclosed homes and other properties that will flood the market once the soured loans and mortgages are finally removed from banks’ balance sheets?

To continue reading: Italy at the Grim Edge of a Global Problem

 

Trump and Healthcare, by Scott Adams

This may look like Scott Adams trying to make the lemon of the Obamacare fiasco into lemonade, but he’s probably got it right. From Adams on a guest post at theburningplatform.com:

Today we are witnessing one of the most important events in political history. But you probably can’t see it because the news is talking about healthcare, and how Ryan and Trump totally failed to get enough votes.

The real story is happening in parallel with the healthcare story, and that’s what renders it invisible. Something enormous is happening that has nothing to do with anything you are seeing in the news. In fact, you’ll probably read it here for the first time.

I’m dragging this out to see if you can guess the big news before I tell you. It is something I predicted would happen. It is something the country needs MORE than healthcare. It was, until yesterday, perceived as the biggest problem in the United States, if not the entire world.

And that problem almost totally went away yesterday. The smell might linger, but the problem has ended. We should be celebrating, but instead we will be yammering about healthcare.

Do you know what problem just got solved? It’s invisible for now, but later everyone will be able to see it.

Don’t see it?

Okay, I’ll just tell you.

With the failure of the Ryan healthcare bill, the illusion of Trump-is-Hitler has been fully replaced with Trump-is-incompetent meme. Look for the new meme to dominate the news, probably through the summer. By year end, you will see a second turn, from incompetent to “Competent, but we don’t like it.”

To continue reading: Trump and Healthcare

God Bless the Right-Wing Social Justice Warriors, by Gavin McInnes

Is the right wing beating the left wing at its own game? Gavin McInnes thinks so. From McInnes on a guest post at theburningplatform.com:

“Invent a weapon,” Jordan Peterson said on Tuesday, “and your enemies will have it within one generation.” He was talking about Gamergate feminist Brianna Wu, who was learning the hard way that YouTube’s Restricted Mode was hurting the gays it was supposed to protect. You may be thinking, “Wu who?” right now, but you should be saying, “Woo-hoo!” because Peterson’s observation is profound. Not only are the bots turning on their creators, we are too. We’ve taken Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals and turned it into our guidebook. We are the Social Justice Warriors now, and we’re way better at it than they ever were.

Right now, a man in a MAGA hat is suing a bar in New York called The Happiest Hour for booting him out solely because he loves Trump. Getting kicked out of bars is pretty common for people in MAGA hats above the Mason–Dixon line. The old right would venerate the entrepreneur and quietly take the high road out of the bar. Not anymore. Since the lawsuit was announced, Trump supporters have been flooding the bar. One MAGA woman was just paid $150 to get lost.

The new right wing does more than just get petty when the going gets rough. We appropriate. When you attack us, we turn it into a slogan. Hillary’s “basket of deplorables” made us into The Deplorables. Her “fake news” now defines all the news that lies about us. We even got her freaking out about a green frog. Since then, we’ve convinced them that everything from an “OK” gesture to a bobbing purple dove to a glass of milk is a secret Nazi code. It’s so easy to turn them into a dizzy Chihuahua frantically chasing his own tail that it’s almost cruel—almost.

To continue reading: God Bless the Right-Wing Social Justice Warriors

Trump’s Military Budget Is Not NATO’s Fault, by Sheldon Richman

The $54 billion increase in military spending President Trump requested is more than the entire military budget of every nation except Saudi Arabia and China. From Sheldon Richman at antiwar.com:

President Trump’s budget proposal would increase military spending $54 billion, not quite a 10 percent increase over the current level. According to Quartz, the increase alone is more than all but two countries – China and Saudi Arabia – spend on their militaries. (China spends $145 billion, Saudi Arabia $57 billion, Russia $47, and Iran $16 billion, the International Institute for Strategic Studies reports.)

Meanwhile, Trump implies that NATO members take advantage of America by not paying enough for own defense. When German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Washington recently, Trump tweeted: “Germany owes … vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!”

As we’ve come to expect, Trump gets it wrong. NATO members don’t pay dues to NATO, and they don’t pay the United States for defense. However, NATO requires members to budget at least 2 percent of their GDP for their own militaries. Some members haven’t spent that much, but that has changed in recent years.

Trump leaves the impression that Americans shoulder an unnecessarily large military burden because some NATO members underfund their military establishments. But that’s nonsense because that’s not how things work in Washington. Americans don’t pay more because Germans Italians, Spaniards, Portuguese, and Norwegians pay less.

At other times Trump seems to acknowledge this. In his campaign he never said the U.S. military budget would be smaller if NATO members paid up. Rather, he said he wanted to make America “strong again” – so strong that no one would dare “mess with us.” His budget message said, “In these dangerous times, this public safety and national security Budget Blueprint is a message to the world—a message of American strength, security, and resolve.” His address to a joint session of Congress also did not justify greater military spending by pointing to how little the allies spend. It was all about making America “great again.”

To continue reading: Trump’s Military Budget Is Not NATO’s Fault

How US Flooded the World with Psyops, by Robert Parry

This is an interesting, but detailed and long, account of how the Reagan administration set up psyops sell its interventions, primarily in Central America, both at home and abroad. From Robert Parry at consortiumnews.com:

Special Report: The mainstream U.S. media obsesses over Russian “propaganda” yet the U.S. government created a “psyops” bureaucracy three decades ago to flood the world with dubious information, reports Robert Parry.

Newly declassified documents from the Reagan presidential library help explain how the U.S. government developed its sophisticated psychological operations capabilities that – over the past three decades – have created an alternative reality both for people in targeted countries and for American citizens, a structure that expanded U.S. influence abroad and quieted dissent at home.

The documents reveal the formation of a psyops bureaucracy under the direction of Walter Raymond Jr., a senior CIA covert operations specialist who was assigned to President Reagan’s National Security Council staff to enhance the importance of propaganda and psyops in undermining U.S. adversaries around the world and ensuring sufficient public support for foreign policies inside the United States.

Raymond, who has been compared to a character from a John LeCarré novel slipping easily into the woodwork, spent his years inside Reagan’s White House as a shadowy puppet master who tried his best to avoid public attention or – it seems – even having his picture taken. From the tens of thousands of photographs from meetings at Reagan’s White House, I found only a couple showing Raymond – and he is seated in groups, partially concealed by other officials.

But Raymond appears to have grasped his true importance. In his NSC files, I found a doodle of an organizational chart that had Raymond at the top holding what looks like the crossed handles used by puppeteers to control the puppets below them. Although it’s impossible to know exactly what the doodler had in mind, the drawing fits the reality of Raymond as the behind-the-curtains operative who was controlling the various inter-agency task forces that were responsible for implementing various propaganda and psyops strategies.

To continue reading: How US Flooded the World with Psyops