I recently attended a panel discussion called by Bernie Sanders—and moderated by Stephanie Kelton—to discuss the crisis in Greece. The panelists were Joseph Stiglitz, Jacob Kirkegaard (of the Peterson Institute) and James Galbraith (who, it had been disclosed just a few days earlier, was part of a secret committee in Greece which evaluated how, and at what cost, an actual Greek exit from the Euro could be managed.)
Jacob Kirkegaard was game in acknowledging that he’d been invited to lend “diversity” to the discussion—and then proceeded, without even wearing a uniform, to give a highly credible impersonation of a six foot nine inch SS storm-trooper. Joseph Stiglitz was a charming rambler who punctuated each point he made with a bright smile—the more painful the point, the brighter the smile. James Galbraith punctuated his points with the very first word of each sentence, which came out as a kind of uncontrolled squawk quickly followed by an incisive and original intelligence that I found truly mesmerizing. (I’d never before seen or heard any of these people.)
By William K. Black
Bloomington, MN: July 31, 2015
The Ohio State University (OSU) marching band is back in the news, which is a very bad thing. Sometimes a story that has no obvious connection to economics provides an understandable example of why economic analysis is often so poor. The OSU band story is featured in the Wall Street Journal in an article entitled “Holocaust Victims Mocked in Ohio State Band Parody Songbook.” The WSJ has a copy of the “OSU songbook” and the title is not an overstatement. The lyrics mock the Jewish victims in graphic terms. The lyrics are also juvenile and lame. The author(s) of the songbook have no future in any creative activity. The lyrics to other songs are homophobic and equally lame. I won’t quote the lyrics and spread the hate.
By Felipe Rezende
Hobart and William Smith Colleges
S&P has issued a negative outlook regarding Brazilian sovereign debt. The S&P’s announcement stated that “Over the coming year, failure to advance with (on- and off-budget) fiscal and other policy adjustments could result in a greater-than-expected erosion of Brazil’s financial profile and further erosion of confidence and growth prospects, which could lead to a downgrade. The ratings could stabilize if Brazil’s political certainties and conditions for consistent policy execution–across branches of government to staunch fiscal deterioration–improved. It is our view that these improvements would support a quicker turnaround and could help Brazil exit from the current recession, facilitating improved fiscal out-turn and provide more room to maneuver in the face of economic shocks consistent with a low-investment-grade rating.”
The trade agreements currently being negotiated by the Obama Administration are potentially enormously important in their possible impact on the United States. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is being negotiated by 12 Asian-Pacific nations, and, if agreed to by Congress could be expanded in membership later on under the President’s sole authority. The Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will encompass 29 nations, including the United States. And the third agreement, the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), perhaps the most dangerous of the three, will likely encompass 52 nations, if agreed to by all.
Local Left-wing Climate Denial and Climate Defeatism
I live in the Bay Area and am active in some local groups nominally committed to fighting climate change. California’s state government has stated its commitment to climate action and has recently passed a raft of measures that certainly express good intentions with regard to reducing emissions, though lack specific and binding mechanisms to achieve those goals. Local activists seem to want to maintain a certain level of ignorance about state policy and politics, though some of them, I have heard, slip away to lobby state government. There is no direct “street” pressure on state government to do more on climate other than a general “anti-fossil fuel” message, which in Sacramento politics is at least the stated intention of many Democratic lawmakers. As I noted a recent piece of mine critical of the climate movement’s genteel approach to climate action, climate action is defined as saying “NO” to various fossil fuel industry practices (fracking, oil trains, and now coal trains) but leaving out mention of the fundamental switch, from fossil to non-fossil energy sources and government’s role therein. How to stop in the most realistic and shortest time-frame California’s fossil fuel addictions in the areas of transport, heating and electricity generation are left mostly on a different “track” than the anti-fossil fuel industry message and the local dangers of oil or coal trains that captivate local activists. There is no public dialogue about further-going policies between Sacramento and the climate movement that involve HOW to transition to a non-fossil fuel dependent society; this is seemingly left to insiders or self-selected or hired policy wonks with the time and means to lobby government.
Defeatism, Climate Denial, and Climate Insouciance
The sources of climate defeatist attitudes are and will be diverse though one vast supply of defeatist sentiment will originate from those in the climate denial camp who must now concede that the climate has been changed, probably for the worse, by human activity. For instance, Rex Tillerson, Exxon CEO has attempted to spread an attitude of climate defeatism in some of his public utterances, when he is not acting as if climate change doesn’t exist in his role as Exxon CEO. It is perhaps not completely accurate to apply the “defeatist” label to those who have always worked for the defeat of climate action for a variety of personal, economic, and political reasons. “Defeatism” suggests that the person has in some way struggled on the side of the good and righteous and then decided to give up; those in the climate denial camp have always been against climate action. Still there are many in this camp and they can insert themselves into the broader discussion as “honest brokers” who pedal a message of defeat that reinforces their pre-existing worldview.
In the next few years, human beings will have the choice whether, on the one hand, to preserve the better shreds of current civilizations or hold onto the possibility to found entirely new, hopefully better civilizations, or, on the other hand, to destroy the possibility for human civilization to continue and head towards human self-extinction. We possess then an awful and, for many, unwanted power at this time. We will be facing opportunities for growth and advancement while at the same time facing compromises that will leave a good number of people dissatisfied and unhappy, as happiness is now conceived. To opt for the first choice, humanity will need to set itself within a very few years upon a new evolutionary course that some may resist and that others may embrace.
Julie Verhage and Alex Balogh have published a piece over at Bloomberg about 9 people who saw the Greek Crisis many years before everyone else did. Several names you will recognize from NEP. Three are from UMKC plus Warren Mosler. They warned about the euro system and crises like Greece. You can read the article here.
Pavlina Tcherneva discusses Greece’s Bailout with Richard Aldous on American Interest. You can listen here. She describes a deal that seems to contain more austerity than was initially proposed, and calls some of its economic incentives perverse. She discusses why the economic situation in Greece today is in some ways worse than was America’s Great Depression, and compares the decision to bail out Greece to Ireland’s austerity experience.