October 24, 2011 § Leave a Comment
by Mark Weisbrot
This article was written for the Guardian’s Comment is free prior to Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s reelection yesterday.
Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is expected to coast to re-election as president of Argentina on Sunday, despite having faced hostility from the media for most of her presidency, and from many of the most powerful economic interests in the country. So it seems a good time to ask why this might happen.
Yes, it’s the economy. Since Argentina defaulted on $95bn of international debt nine years ago and blew off the International Monetary Fund, the economy has done remarkably well. For the years 2002-2011, using the IMF‘s projections for the end of this year, Argentina has chalked up real GDP growth of about 94%. This is the fastest economic growth in the western hemisphere – about twice that of Brazil, for example, which has also improved enormously over past performance. Since President Fernandez or her late husband Nestor Kirchner, who preceded her as president, were running the country for eight of these nine years, it shouldn’t be surprising that voters will reward her with another term.
The benefits of growth don’t always trickle down, but in this case, the Argentine government has made sure that many did. Poverty and extreme poverty have been reduced by about two thirds since their peak in 2002, and employment has increased to record levels. Social spending by the government has nearly tripled in real terms. In 2009, the government implemented a cash transfer program for children that now reaches the households of more than 3.5 million children. It is probably the largest such program, relative to national income, in Latin America.
October 23, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Cornel West speaks about inequality, injustice and America’s policy of routine extrajudicial killing.
October 20, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Smart analysis from one of Washington’s leading cassandras. Brzezinski opposed the Iraq war, has been warning against any confrontation with Iran, and has denounced the grotesque inequalities that beset the unregulated US economy.
August 14, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Al Jazeera Empire: Can the International Monetary Fund recover its lost credibility and fix the world economy?
August 13, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Author Hari Kunzru writes on the British riots in an excellent piece for The Guardian‘s Comment is free:
In a society that has abandoned or devalued most forms of mutual assistance in favour of a solipsistic entrepreneurialism, it’s hardly surprising that, faced with the end of the good times, people help themselves. Fear and greed are our ruling passions. That’s true of the kids smashing shop windows to steal trainers. It’s also true of the MPs fiddling their expenses, the police officers taking backhanders, the journalists breaking into phones. Why wouldn’t they? Why wouldn’t any of us? The example has been set by our new masters, the one per cent for whom and by whom we’re governed. The ability of powerful actors in the financial markets to socialise risk while privatising profit appears, to the financial peasantry, indistinguishable from organised crime. No reason for the rest of us to stand on ceremony.
One may object to this rhetoric (bankers = looters) on the grounds that markets have social utility, or that bankers don’t beat up shopkeepers (they don’t have to) and sometimes give to charity. One may also feel that any attempt to understand the rioters’ motivations risks shading into justification. The strongest objection to any argument based on social conditions is the oft-made one about individual responsibility: whatever the prevailing economic or social situation, not everyone chooses to behave in a particular way, whether that’s insider trading or knocking over Evans Cycles. However, it’s hard not to think we’ve made a culture in which the strong and swift are encouraged to feel they bear no responsibility towards the halt and lame. Now, as the wheels fall off the global financial system, fear and greed are free to roam unchecked, without bothering to mask their faces.
August 10, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Nina Power, senior lecturer in philosophy at Roehampton University, writes in The Guardian:
Those condemning the events of the past couple of nights in north London and elsewhere would do well to take a step back and consider the bigger picture: a country in which the richest 10% are now 100 times better off than the poorest, where consumerism predicated on personal debt has been pushed for years as the solution to a faltering economy, and where, according to the OECD, social mobility is worse than any other developed country.
As Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett point out in The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone, phenomena usually described as “social problems” (crime, ill-health, imprisonment rates, mental illness) are far more common in unequal societies than ones with better economic distribution and less gap between the richest and the poorest. Decades of individualism, competition and state-encouraged selfishness – combined with a systematic crushing of unions and the ever-increasing criminalisation of dissent – have made Britain one of the most unequal countries in the developed world.
August 5, 2011 § 15 Comments
Almost a month in, Tahrir-envy in Israel is now at what seems to be its peak. 150,000 people took the streets last Sunday, at what must have been the biggest protests here since the protests against the “disengagement” from Gaza. For months now, a public whisper was spread through the mainstream media; why don’t the Israelis take the streets?
“Where are the masses? With its lack of ideology and values, the phenomenon of postmodernism is one reason why downtrodden Israelis choose not to rise up and free themselves of latter-day bondage. Revolution Square is empty.”
April 15, 2011 § 15 Comments
By Huma Dar
Of Civilities and Dignities
On 22 June 2009, Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, asserted that burqas (or the burqa-clad?) are “not welcome” in France, adding that “[i]n our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity” and that “the veils reduced dignity.” France’s Muslim minority is Western Europe’s largest Muslim minority, estimated at six-million-strong. And this is just an approximation, as the French Republic implicitly claims to be post-race and post-religion via a prohibition on any census that would take into account the race or religion of its citizens. (This anxiety mirrors the brouhaha in Indian media àpropos the much-contested enumeration of OBCs or Other Backward Castes in the Indian census surveys of 2011, or the urgency to declare some spaces post-caste, post-feminist, and post-racist while casteism, patriarchy and racism continue unabated.)
February 27, 2011 § 4 Comments
By Huma Dar
Rakhshanda Jalil writes in The Hindu, 27 February 2011, about “that elusive connect with India when she was least expecting it” on a visit to Karachi, Pakistan. The title of her piece is “A city not unlike home.”
I am always amused when Indians are surprised and taken aback by Pakistanis (whether in Karachi or Lahore or elsewhere) who “speak Urdu and English with almost equal aplomb” or by their “silk sarees and natty blazers” or by their possible cosmopolitanism!!! (Class is class, unfortunately, and the élite exhibit their privileges in similar ways all over the region!) Does it not, if just remotely, smack of the loaded “praise”: “Gee! Obama is so articulate!” — also known as “the racism of lowered expectation”? Why would Indians expect otherwise from their class-affiliates on the other side of the border? Or is it that Bollywood’s Pakistan-bashing fantasies are actually swallowed uncritically — hook, line, and sinker – even (or perhaps especially) by the educated Indians, eliciting “fears about Kalashnikov-toting Taliban and marauding Muhajirs.”
And by the way, Pakistanis are not all “tall, well-built, good-looking people,” especially under the normative definition of “good-looking” in South Asia (fair-skinned or with a “wheatish complexion”) — thank god for the latter! Sadly, the former two ascriptions, of course, too easily go awry given malnutrition due to poverty. « Read the rest of this entry »
November 27, 2010 § 1 Comment
With more than one billion people around the world considered overweight, why are so many others still starving and struggling to fill their plates? And what can be done to make the global food system more equitable?