Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Chris Christie: Giving the American People What They Don't Want

     I had planned to write this post already but I'm writing it now because I got very irritated watching MSNBC tonight where all they seem to want to do-whether Christ Matthews or even Chris Hayes-is lionize the guy for declaring 'When I speak you will often cringe, but you''ll have no doubt that I say what I mean and I mean what I say!'

     I see no reason to in any way 'ooh' and 'aah' over him unless you secretly have steam rape fantasies. I mean the whole premise seems to be that America secretly wants to be bullied that people who don't agree with him can be sneered at and told to shut up.

    The theory is that Americans love that shtick. Meanwhile, back on planet earth, he's extremely unpopular in his own home state of New Jersey. And watching his announcement today it's not hard to see why. Again, I will admit that on a purely visceral level this guy appalls me-he's just a very nasty piece of work.

     Here is someone who as NJ Governor would have goons with him to take pictures of him while he told someone who asked him a question he didn't like to 'Shut up and sit down!'

     Look a lot of people are saying that his 2 minute campaign spot today was good including Paul Waldman.

     However, I guess I can admit that his talk of his tough Sicilian mother is compelling.

     However, right after this feel good spot the much more famous video where he told a female teacher to shut up comes up.

    As a candidate he's got a big old glass jaw. There's Bridgegate which is nowhere near done. There are other stories of corruption. Then there is just the fact that people don't like him.

   Today he was praising himself for not looking at polls. This is Right wing boilerplate-not to care what the polls say. W never cared what the polls said because they said people disagreed with him. In a way I guess this is supposed to show that you're principled but it also shows: contempt for democracy. This places him in the right party anyway. That is what libertarianism is all about.

   So when Christie boasts of not looking at polls and delights in making people cringe he's also saying 'Fuck what you think. What matters is what I think'-hardly the attitude of a democratic politician.

   But then, if he truly heeded public opinion he wouldn't run at all as people do not like this man. Even his own party doesn't.

  He has a really uphill ride because he's well known and unpopular-he's disliked by a 2-1 margin.

  He thinks being himself is going to cut into that 25 point gap? But isn't that his problem? He's perceived as a bully who abuses his power?

  On the other hand it may be that in the short term at least maybe he will get a boost-he has a lot of run to soar as his current numbers are 2% in the GOP primary field. While most people cringe at him bullying teachers and crushing unions that plays very well with the base. The reason he started taping these bits is because the National Review was literally orgasmic at this shtick of his.

  I don't see it playing in a general election. However, with a GOP base that has suffered as many defeats as it has recently at the SJC along with the President's latest bold executive forays-on overtime pay and now the talk of the US opening an embassy in Cuba as early as tomorrow-they may well eat up Christie's red meat.

  He might well represent the impotent anger of the GOP. They hate what Obama keeps doing but have no power to stop him.


Democrats vs. Republicans on Job Creation

     I wrote earlier about the Presidents excellent new planned executive action to raise wages for millions of Americans by raising the ceiling on the exemption for overtime pay.

    As Greg Sargent discusses, obviously the GOP is going to hate this but happily there isn't much they can do about it. Sargent analyzes the difference between Republicans and Democrats on jobs. 

    "The more immediate political impact of this rule change lies in its place among a constellation of proposals Democrats will be offering on things such as the minimum wage and paid sick leave, proposals that are aimed at arresting the growing cruelty of the American workplace. As I’ve argued before, one way to think about the contrast between what Republicans and Democrats offer on the economy is that Republicans say they’ll get you as far as your employer’s door, while Democrats want to walk inside with you. Republicans argue that their preferred policies, mostly tax cuts and light regulation on businesses, will accelerate growth so that new jobs will be created. But once you’ve got the job, you’re on your own. The Democratic argument is that government has to come inside the workplace, to make sure people are being treated fairly. So they want to increase pay, provide family and sick leave, allow workers to bargain collectively, make sure no one is discriminated against and generally establish a structure that guarantees that people are treated well and can maintain some measure of dignity."

    I agree with everything he says here but to further really quantify this yu could say that what the GOP says is:

   We can get you lots of jobs by taking away cumbersome regulation and taxes so that the job creators can invest and create lots of jobs for you. 

   However, what they don't have any answer for is the question of whether these jobs pay anywhere near a living wage. Sumner's answer to this is probably as good as conservatives can do: he argues to get rid of the MW but to raise the EIC. 

   Democrats say: It's not enough to create a bunch of $8 an hour jobs people need jobs they can actually live on.'

   The GOP answer here would be mostly there's nothing the government can or should do about a lot of low wage jobs other than perhaps further cutting regulations that they will argue is causing the low wages. So the GOP essentially says the choice is between low paying jobs and no jobs at all. 

    So the GOP says Our policies will create lots of jobs but we can't promise they will pay that much while the Dem argument is Our policies will create lots of high paying jobs


Sumner Agrees With the Troika on Greece

      He explains what Greece needs today-in his mind-but the short version is he agrees with the ECB, the IMF and the European Commission on what Greece needs:

     "Yes, Greece should never have joined the euro.  But what about today?  What is their best option?  A letter written by 13 distinguished (Greek?) economists (including one Nobel Prize winner) is highly critical of the Syriza approach, and instead calls for neoliberal policy reforms.  Here’s an excerpt:

A Grexit and move to a new drachma would be a complete disaster for Greece. The banks would collapse as depositors would withdraw their euros not knowing whether they would be able to withdraw them later and at what exchange rate.
.  .  .
What would be crucial elements of a good agreement? Besides the fiscal issues of balancing the budget and making pensions proportional to contributions, a good agreement should emphasize microeconomic reforms. It should greatly simplify the procedures for running a business in Greece and reduce business taxes, in order to attract investment and create a productive, export-oriented sector, new jobs, and debt-repayment potential. It should reduce the huge and inefficient state sector that weighs down on the private sector and the taxpayers. The procurement mechanisms of the state should become competitive. Greece should proceed with privatization of trains, airports, ports, and the energy sector. The “closed sectors” of the economy (such as pharmacies and transportation) should be opened to competition. The labor market should be liberalized and the state should crack down on the underground economy that pays no taxes and no pension contributions.
Finally, an agreement must restructure the Greek sovereign debt to European countries and the European Stability Mechanism. Keeping the nominal value constant, the best way to restructure the debt is to elongate its maturities. If maturities are moved to 75 years and the presently variable interest rates are converted to fixed ones and slightly reduced, the net present value of the debt will be reduced by 50 percent. A 10-year grace period (during which interest is not paid but recapitalized) with the money saved invested would promote growth.
Growth is, in fact, the only guarantee that Greece will pay its debts.
Written by:Marios Angeletos, MITGeorge Constantinides, University of ChicagoHaris Dellas, Universitat BernNicholas Economides, New York UniversityMichael Haliassos, Goethe University FrankfurtYannis Ioannides, Tufts UniversityCostas Meghir, Yale UniversityStylianos Perrakis, Concordia UniversityManolis Petrakis, University of CreteChris Pissarides, Nobel Laureate, London School of Economics and University of CyprusThanasis Stengos, University of GuelphDimitris Vayanos, London School of EconomicsNikos Vettas, Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research; Athens University for Economics and Business

    "My own view is that Greeks should vote yes on Sunday to get rid of Syriza.  The new government should implement aggressive neoliberal reforms.  If that’s not possible, then perhaps they should leave the euro.  But only after attempting a supply-side solution first."

    Sumner is not a fan of Syrzia and Tsipras-though in my conversations with him he seems not to want to explain why. He says that it's not 'serious' because some in the party call themselves 'Maoists' and likens Greece to the killers that escaped from prison here in NY recently. Well that makes it all as clear as mud. 

    For some reason-that he also doesn't explain here, he thinks it was a mistake for the Greeks to join the euro but now it would be a mistake to leave it. What's more important is austerity and structural reforms. So he  got 13 economists to agree with this-how many go the other way? 

   Whether or not the market needs structural reforms is a question for the Greek people not the Troika or Sumner who agrees with them up and down the line here. Structural reforms are not the immediate problem but rather the relentless austerity the Greeks are being weighed down. 

    The Greeks should vote no and then if down the road the agree structural reforms they can do them. What is objectionable is for these to be imposed by these bloodless technocrats in the EU.

   It's not surprising that as a libertarian Sumner is so up in arms about giving the Greeks a choice.


The Real Threat of a Grexit

     We get lots of pundits declaring that it's Greece's loss if they leave the euro but that the euro will be fine. No doubt in a monetary sense this is true-a Grexit probably leads the euro to rise precipitously,

     The point is well taken that Greece is a small country with a small economy that contributes very slightly to EZ GDP. 

     Of, course this goes the other way as well. It's debts while a large amount for the Greek economy to weather would be a drop in the bucket to forgive or at least cut significantly. Yet the EU simply won't hear of this. Why?

     They claim this will lead to a precedent in other similarly stressed euro countries like Spain and Portugal. So the concern is the political impact. But the political impact is why despite the truth that Greece is a tiny economy whose leaving on a simply economic basis shouldn't be expected to do too much harm is actually something that the EU no matter its brave comments to the contrary and no matter even the fact that the ECB is said to have 'walled off' any negative effects is worried about Greece leaving. 

     The case could be made that if Greece leaves everything changes-not for economic and monetary reasons but political reasons:

     "Populist parties in Spain, Ireland and other austerity-stricken European countries are flocking to support the Greek government’s defiance of its creditors, and to encourage Greek citizens to vote against the creditors’ bailout proposal in a July 5 referendum."

     "Spain’s ascendant left-populist party Podemos called for a solidarity rally with Greece’s Syriza-led government, drawing hundreds of attendees in Madrid on Saturday, the Wall Street Journal reported."
      "Francisco Ramon, an unemployed technology worker, told the Wall Street Journal the outcome of Greece’s struggle with its creditors could affect Spain’s ability to advance its own economic prospects."
    "What’s happening in Athens now is decisive not only for Greece, but also for Spain and for all of Europe,”Ramon said.
     "Syriza’s decision to call a referendum vote on the creditors’ proposal alsoelicited the endorsements of Gerry Adams, the leader of Ireland’s left-wing opposition party Sinn Fein; Italy’s contrarian comedian-turned-politician Beppe Grillo; and other critics of eurozone austerity policies."
    This is the classic case of a 'bad example.' We have the prospects of a country doing the unthinkable and defying the Troika-today it's already defaulted on an IMF payment. 
    If Greece lives to tell about defying austerity and maybe even leaving the euro then other countries like Spain, Portugal-or even a good austerity foot soldier like Ireland-begins to think maybe there's hope after all. 
   Syrzia was not wrong: what the EU is trying to do is not kick out Greece but destroy his government. This whole thing is not about economics but politics.


Rush Limbaugh: Segregation Today, Segregation Tomorrow, Segregation Forever

      Ok he doesn't say that exactly but it's really in the same vein. He doesn't feel like conservatives should throw in the towel on social issues-they got to keep on fighting.

      "Some Republicans are saying this as well. "Do you realize the golden opportunity this Supreme Court ruling gave you?  Now you've got this off the table! It's a done deal. So just get off of this social issues stuff.  You just got to drop the social issues."  That pressure point has been ratcheted up again, and there is something concomitant with it.  You may have had heard two or three Republican presidential candidates say, "Hey, you know, I fought the good fight like everybody else did.
"But the court has spoken, and gay marriage is now the law of the land, and we must move on. We must drop it."  That is an out, I think.  I think that's an excuse.  That's an excuse for somebody who's really telling you they don't want the fight.  And that's not what we need, folks. I'm telling you, going into 2016 and beyond, we don't want and don't need people who are not willing to fight and stand up for what we believe in, stand up for the founding of this country.: 
     "It's now the law of the land" is an out." 
     "Well, 20 minutes ago and 6,000 years ago, the opposite was the law of the land.  Did the Democrats accept it?  Did the gay activists accept it?  No.  They didn't accept "the law of the land."  They're not accepting anything that is the law of the land.  They're not accepting very much that is traditional.  They're not accepting very much that's institutional.  There's an all-out assault and attack on everything, and specifically now religious liberty. Make no mistake about this."
     Right. I do kind of take his point. I mean until 20 minutes ago gay marriage wasn't the law of the land. Throughout history it wasn't. Actually history goes back much longer than 6,000 years-I guess he thinks Adam and Eve did their thing then-but I'm quibbling. After all, human society itself may not be much older than 6,000 years old. 
    So if there was no gay marriage for 6,000 years and there has been gay marriage for 20 minutes it should be easy to go back right? That's his implication. The reason why it won't be is the asymmetry between social progress and social counterrevolution. 
    I've mentioned this a few times over the last couple of days. Conservatives usually win, they do. Arguably we're a conservative species which is usually to our benefit. 
   Rush likes to say that he's right something like 98.6% of the time and I'd say that conservatives truly do win about that much. Here's the trouble though. Conservatives almost always win but they are also always on defense. All they can do is react-which is clear from the Obama years; try as they might the only thing that really motivates them is opposition to Obama's agenda. 
   So conservatives usually win but the flip side is they're always in sudden death. They can beat back slavery, segregation, women's rights, gay rights, as 50 times, 100 times, 1,000 times. They did this with healthcare going back to Wilson they probably defeated it in one form or another 1,000 times."
  FDR failed, LBJ was only successful in getting it for old folks, Carter said he's go for it but even with supermajorities in Congress did no such thing; Clinton and his wife failed. But Obama succeeded and now conservatives find they can't go back again despite those previous 1,000 victories. 
  Rush argues that conservatives can't win without social issues. The GOP voters are about social issues. 
  "This is not good.  This is not healthy.  It's a way out. And this whole "social issue" thing, here's the bottom line.  Look, at the risk of incurring the wrath of people on the own side of the aisle here, the simple fact of the matter is the Republican Party is not going to win another presidential election if it has as part of its official platform and behavioral characteristic the open disavowing of its voters who care about quote/unquote "social issues."  There's simply too many of them. "
  I think this is true but he simply skates over the fact that even if the GOP is dominated by voters who care about social issues, as a percentage of the general electorate, these voters are shrinking. 
  So he's right but it also opens up a can of worms. The Republicans who think the party can just forget social issues and focus on economics forget that this is how the GOP came back into power with Nixon in the late 60s and early 70s-by focusing on social issues rather than the GOP economic agenda which had been rejected by most Americans. 
   Their success in building the Silent Majority had been predicated in pushing social issues-anti-busing, law and order, the death penalty, anti-Communism, etc.  You know hippie-punching. 
    However, in the 10 years since George W Bush used  gay marriage as a successful wedge issues that some notable African American leaders say even got a few more black folks to vote for him-social issues have totally broken the other way. 
    So yes, you could de-emphasize social issues and focus on economics but that's forgetting that economics is what had been de-emphasized in the Southern strategy to start with. 
   When the GOP starts talking about economics they realize there isn't much appetite to privatize Social Security and block grant Medicare out to the states, end Obamacare, cut environmental and financial laws, and end the corporate tax rate-maybe making up for that by raising the consumption tax as Brownback is now doing in Kansas. 

Donald Trump the Greatest Jobs President Loses his Own Job

     Because of his vile comments about Mexicans. First he got kicked off the Miss American Beauty pageant, and now his show the Apprentice has been cancelled that goes back to 2004. So he's already reduced the economy. 

     He's doubling down:

     "Whatever they want to do is okay with me," Trump said during remarks in Chicago, according to Fox News. "I’ve had a lot of great relationships with NBC, I think as far as ending the relationship, I have to do that, because my view on immigration is much different than the people at NBC."
In a statement released Monday, Trump stood by his controversial remarks and criticized NBC for how it handled his situation versus that of anchor Brian Williams, who was suspended for six months after admitting to making false statements on air and has since been moved to MSNBC as a breaking news and special reports anchor."
     “If NBC is so weak and so foolish to not understand the serious illegal immigration problem in the United States, coupled with the horrendous and unfair trade deals we are making with Mexico, then their contract violating closure of Miss Universe/Miss USA will be determined in court," Trump said. "Furthermore, they will stand behind lying Brian Williams, but won’t stand behind people that tell it like it is, as unpleasant as that may be.”
     It's kind of rich him calling anyone else foolish. Who else throws a show that was something of an institution for 11 years over the bus-I'll cop to liking the show myself though the move to having only celebrity apprentices was probably a jumping the shark moment-for another doomed to fail run in the GOP primary?
    I don't think this is who anyone wants with his hand on the button. And what exactly did he say that was an unpleasant truth? It was just unpleasant. 
   He claimed without any proof that Mexican immigrants are involved with Jihad terrorism-ie, he told a scurrilous lie. Watching him you know you felt like surely he knew better. Then you remember this was the guy beating the drum on Obama's birth certificate for years. 
    While announcing his candidacy in the 2016 GOP presidential primary race, Trump bashed Mexican immigrants, calling some "rapists."
  "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you," Trump said. "They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."
     Think about that: he's assuming there are some who are good people but he's not sure. Wow. This is a guy with a deep seated hatred of Mexicans. So basically he's destroyed his career-well his tv career anyway-and destroyed his public standing to please the wild and woollies in the Tea Party base. 
   Seems like a high price to earn words of praise from Rush Limbaugh but I guess The Donald moves in mysterious ways. 

President Obama's Plan to Give 5 Million More Americans Overtime Pay

      As the President noted in his speech, it's been a good last few days for America. 

     "It's been a good few days for America. On Thursday, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the Affordable Care Act. It is here to stay."

     "And, Democrats and Republicans in Congress paved the way for the United States to rewrite the rules of global trade to benefit American workers and American businesses."
     "On Friday, the Court recognized the Constitutional guarantee of marriage equality. With that ruling, our union became a little more perfect -- a place where more people are treated equally, no matter who they are or who they love."
     "These steps build upon America's steady progress in recent years. Out of the depths of recession, we've emerged ready to write our own future. Our businesses have created 12.6 million new jobs over the past 63 months -- the longest streak on record. More than 16 million Americans have gained health insurance. More kids are graduating from high school and college than ever before."
      "But more work lies ahead, if we are to succeed in making sure this recovery reaches all hardworking Americans and their families."
    Well said Mr. President. He's right that more work needs to be done. What liberals have to get their arms around is how to make sure the Uber economy which is here to stay like it or not-and I like it a lot myself-is working for workers as well as employers.
    An important aspect is to keep wages up in a future labor force where maybe Americans will have more and more employers where they do piece work for them at home. See the above links for some ideas on that. I particularly appreciate the idea of indexing the MW to the local cost of living. 
   The President's new plan for executive action is important in the battle to raise wages as well. In recent years overtime pay has simply disappeared. 
   "We've got to keep making sure hard work is rewarded. Right now, too many Americans are working long days for less pay than they deserve. That's partly because we've failed to update overtime regulations for years -- and an exemption meant for highly paid, white collar employees now leaves out workers making as little as $23,660 a year -- no matter how many hours they work."
    "This week, I'll head to Wisconsin to discuss my plan to extend overtime protections to nearly 5 million workers in 2016, covering all salaried workers making up to about $50,400 next year. That's good for workers who want fair pay, and it's good for business owners who are already paying their employees what they deserve -- since those who are doing right by their employees are undercut by competitors who aren't."
    "That's how America should do business. In this country, a hard day's work deserves a fair day's pay. That's at the heart of what it means to be middle class in America."
      Good job Mr. President. Another fine day in a very consequential presidency.

OK Now I am Loving the Supremes: SJC Blocks Restrictions on Texas Abortion Clinics

     I've said this before and it remains true that the Roberts Court if you are to take a preponderance of everything it's done the last 10 years is a very conservative court. Anthony Weiner was right when he commented that those who just woke up don't realize it's been a disaster for liberals.

     Still there's no denying the recent string of victories-Obamacare, gay marriage, housing discrimination-and now abortion rights. And this is big. I mean gay marriage has been trending for awhile but a woman's right to choose has been under relentless attack. True the conservatives haven't been able to quite overturn Roe v. Wade-not for lack of trying-but they have managed to nibble around the edges thanks both to conservative federal courts-something that Obama has managed to stem as he's confirmed a lot of federal judges though the big one of the SJC still requires Hillary-as well as pretty much for all intents and purposes shut it down at the state level through very restrictive laws. 

   So yesterday's ruling was very big. Texas had passed on of the most restrictive laws in the country that would have shutdown most clinics in the state:

    "The U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 on Monday to stay a recent lower court ruling that would have shuttered all but nine abortion clinics in Texas."

    "The high court will allow the clinics to remain open while it decides whether to hear an appeal over a Texas law that requires all abortions to take place in ambulatory surgical centers -- essentially, mini-hospitals. Justice Anthony Kennedy joined with his four liberal colleagues -- Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan -- to keep the clinics afloat. Chief Justice John Roberts and fellow conservatives Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito opposed the stay."
     "A wave of new abortion restrictions in Texas has already forced roughly half of the state's 41 clinics to shut down over the past four years. If the new law regulating clinics is allowed to go into effect, the number of abortion providers will dwindle to just nine, concentrated in four urban, higher-income areas of the state. The Huffington Post reported in 2014 that low-income women in Texas who cannot access abortion providers are already resorting to illegal, medically unsafe methods to end their pregnancies."
     True it's just a temporary victory but it's still worth celebrating and it kind of adds to the cacophany of SJC decisions liberals are celebrating over the last 5 days. 
     The Center for Reproductive Rights, which is challenging the latest restriction on behalf of Texas abortion providers, celebrated the temporary victory on Monday.
    “Our Constitution rightly protects women from laws that would create barriers to safe and legal abortion care, but Texas politicians have tried to sneak around the Constitution with sham regulations designed to close clinics’ doors," said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights. "The Supreme Court has affirmed time and again that a woman has a constitutionally protected right to decide whether to continue or end a pregnancy, and we are confident the justices will make clear once again that the constitutional protections for safe and legal abortion are real.”
     If the country isn't getting away from conservatives why can't they even win these cases in the SJC where they have the majority?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Joseph Stiglitz Shows that the EU is a Libertarian Paradise

     He, Krugman, and many others have pointed out that the EU is surely not using any recognizable economic model in what it's prescribed for Greece. 

     "Of course, the economics behind the programme that the “troika” (the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund) foisted on Greece five years ago has been abysmal, resulting in a 25% decline in the country’s GDP. I can think of no depression, ever, that has been so deliberate and had such catastrophic consequences: Greece’s rate of youth unemployment, for example, now exceeds 60%."
    "It is startling that the troika has refused to accept responsibility for any of this or admit how bad its forecasts and models have been. But what is even more surprising is that Europe’s leaders have not even learned. The troika is still demanding that Greece achieve a primary budget surplus (excluding interest payments) of 3.5% of GDP by 2018."
    "Economists around the world have condemned that target as punitive, because aiming for it will inevitably result in a deeper downturn. Indeed, even if Greece’s debt is restructured beyond anything imaginable, the country will remain in depression if voters there commit to the troika’s target in the snap referendum to be held this weekend."
    "In terms of transforming a large primary deficit into a surplus, few countries have accomplished anything like what the Greeks have achieved in the last five years. And, though the cost in terms of human suffering has been extremely high, the Greek government’s recent proposals went a long way toward meeting its creditors’ demands."
     "We should be clear: almost none of the huge amount of money loaned to Greece has actually gone there. It has gone to pay out private-sector creditors – including German and French banks. Greece has gotten but a pittance, but it has paid a high price to preserve these countries’ banking systems. The IMF and the other “official” creditors do not need the money that is being demanded. Under a business-as-usual scenario, the money received would most likely just be lent out again to Greece."
    But here is the rub. It's not about money and economics. It's about power and opposition to democracy. Why do I refer to it as a libertarian paradise? Because of it's violently anti-democratic character. 
   Hatred of democracy is a core for libertarian thought. We see it in America where the GOP fights for the rights of the minority at the expense of the majority. It is present in the fundamentally undemocratic project that is the EU. 
   To get an idea of how intense something that calls itself libertarianism is to democracy see Herman Hoppe who goes as far as declaring that monarchy is superior to democracy in terms of protecting what he calls liberty. Which tells us everything we need to know about his conception of liberty.
    Bryan Caplan who's a little more acceptable to the mainstream also takes aim at democracy.
    There you go-rational markets, irrational voters. Stiglitz:
     "But, again, it’s not about the money. It’s about using “deadlines” to force Greece to knuckle under, and to accept the unacceptable – not only austerity measures, but other regressive and punitive policies."
    "But why would Europe do this? Why are European Union leaders resisting the referendum and refusing even to extend by a few days the June 30 deadline for Greece’s next payment to the IMF? Isn’t Europe all about democracy?"
     "In January, Greece’s citizens voted for a government committed to ending austerity. If the government were simply fulfilling its campaign promises, it would already have rejected the proposal. But it wanted to give Greeks a chance to weigh in on this issue, so critical for their country’s future wellbeing."
    "That concern for popular legitimacy is incompatible with the politics of the eurozone, which was never a very democratic project. Most of its members’ governments did not seek their people’s approval to turn over their monetary sovereignty to the ECB. When Sweden’s did, Swedes said no. They understood that unemployment would rise if the country’s monetary policy were set by a central bank that focused single-mindedly on inflation (and also that there would be insufficient attention to financial stability). The economy would suffer, because the economic model underlying the eurozone was predicated on power relationships that disadvantaged workers."
    "And, sure enough, what we are seeing now, 16 years after the eurozone institutionalised those relationships, is the antithesis of democracy: many European leaders want to see the end of prime minister Alexis Tsipras’ leftist government. After all, it is extremely inconvenient to have in Greece a government that is so opposed to the types of policies that have done so much to increase inequality in so many advanced countries, and that is so committed to curbing the unbridled power of wealth. They seem to believe that they can eventually bring down the Greek government by bullying it into accepting an agreement that contravenes its mandate."
    Tsipras argued earlier that even if Greeks vote no it won't be the end of the euro for Greece as that's not the goal but to convince the Greek people that there is no end to austerity basically in perpetuity with lower and lower standards of living. 
    No doubt, the EU honchos are determined to crush Tsipras and democracy in Greece. His Original Sin for them is that he is considering the voters. For him to show that he's 'serious'-Scott Sumner doesn't feel he's serious but as usual gets peevish when he's asked why
   which must break Tsipras' heart-he has to do what the PASOK government did before him: break his campaign promises, force austerity down the people's throats and when finished making the Greeks 'take their medicine' taking his own medicine in the form of being voted out just like PASOK was. It's amazing no politician before him figured out what a losing game this is. 

Does Europe Need the US to Bail Them Out Again

     Well, look take all the potshots at the US you want but their leadership is not more hopeless than what you've seen in Europe for 5 years. Who knows maybe we can help? We can't do worse.

      US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew does have a point of view and he's been voicing it over the weekend. Can't be a bad thing.

     "Senior Treasury officials say that Secretary Lew has been in constant touch with major players and has been urging Greece to agree to critical reforms. He has also been urging creditors to agree to provide Greece with sustainable debt relief, the sources said.

     "They say that, while an agreement should come sooner than later, the potential default on Greece's IMF payment is not a meaningful deadline."

     "These sources say that the mechanisms put in place in Europe against contagion are broad and potent."

     Ok so both sides should give a little. Here's the difference though: the Greeks have already given a lot and Tsipras has allowed for some more austerity. The recalcitrant one is the EU who refuses to bend. "

     As I noted in an earlier post part of what the EU hotshots are objecting to is Tsipras urging his countryman to vote no. He also made an interesting claim that many are trying to deny-that a no vote doesn't mean they nevertheless leave the euro. 

    He argues that the EU doesn't want them to leave the euro just crush their hope of a better deal. As a matter of fact, if they vote no next Sunday that doesn't leave them out of the euro though exactly where it does is  an interesting question. 

   Sumner isn't happy that Americans seem to be siding with Greece. 

  " In this recent article, Anne Roiphe indicated that at an emotional level she found herself sympathizing with the escaped convicts in New York, even though the logical side of her mind knew they were not deserving of sympathy.

Don’t say it. I know that is a daydream without a shred of reality. This is not the way a grown up woman should think. And yet this Jewish woman, if honest, admits that the hunted and the chased evoke her worry, and the power of the state is not always benign, and that the day I loose my faint wish that these convicts or the next ones escape captivity is the day I loose my Jewish memory. So then I have to tolerate both the twinge of fear I feel for the escapees and the hatred I have for them as killers and thugs.

    "Perhaps something like that is going on here.  Over at Econlog I have a post on themezzogiorno, a failed region of 20 million people in southern Italy.  I’d guess that in Europe there’s not a lot of sympathy for this region, perhaps because outsiders feel that Sicilians and Neapolitans have only themselves to blame.  In America, progressives employ a sort of “victims and villains” framing, where poor minorities are seen as being poor precisely because they are oppressed by the dominant class.  Americans may see the Greeks as a “victimized” group, whereas the Europeans may see them simply as a country governed by irresponsible white males."

     So he puts the Greeks on the moral level of cold blooded murderers. 

     Anyway, is the EU would listen to Lew-not that i'm saying this is likely; I don't know-this could be a way out. Both sides should compromise. As the Greeks already are compromising the EU just has to join them. 

     I will say this. Tsipras may be right that the EU won't throw out the Greeks. I think if they did so they'd be extremely shortsighted. I have no problem with him testing this theory of his as long as he's ready if thye do call his bluff. 

     He should be ready if necessary to leave the euro. Remaining in the euro at any price is the worst possible position-it's what the EU wants it to be. 

SJC Decision for Gay Marriage Leads ACLU to Reconsider the Religious Freeoom Law

       The law has been used to good purpose in the past the ACLU concedes. 

       "Iknoor Singh, a student at Hofstra University, thought he had found his calling when he attended a campus meeting of the U.S. Army’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. But when he tried to sign up, he was told that he would have to shave his beard, cut his hair and remove his turban. When he asked for a religious accommodation as a Sikh, the Army refused, saying that these articles of faith would undermine unit cohesion and morale, readiness, health and safety, and discipline."

     "But the Army regularly allows beards because of skin sensitivity to shaving, lets Jewish men wear yarmulkes and lets women wear their hair long — all without damaging the Army’s asserted interests. So we at the American Civil Liberties Union, along with the nonprofit group United Sikhs, filed suit, charging the Army with violating Singh’s religious freedom. We filed our claim under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a federal law initially passed to protect the exercise of religious belief, including by vulnerable religious minorities."
     "This month, a federal court ruled that Singh must be allowed the opportunity to serve with his hair, beard and turban intact because they pose no harm to the Army’s mission and no danger to others. This was a victory for religious freedom."
    So RFRA can be a force for good.
    Here's the etymology of the law:
    "The RFRA was passed in 1993 after two Native Americans were fired from their jobs and denied unemployment benefits because they used peyote, an illegal drug, in their religious ceremonies. The Supreme Court rejected a claim they had brought under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, but Congress disagreed with the justices and enacted the RFRA with near-unanimous support."
   Despite this, it's now had a change of mind in its support. There's little doubt why: 'Religious freedom' is going to be the banner under which teh fight against gay marriage in Red states is going to proceed-and the Right has also used it to take away the ACA from workers. 
   "The ACLU supported the RFRA’s passage at the time because it didn’t believe the Constitution, as newly interpreted by the Supreme Court, would protect people such as Iknoor Singh, whose religious expression does not harm anyone else. But we can no longer support the law in its current form. For more than 15 years, we have been concerned about how the RFRA could be used to discriminate against others. As the events of the past couple of years amply illustrate, our fears were well-founded. While the RFRA may serve as a shield to protect Singh, it is now often used as a sword to discriminate against women, gay and transgender people and others. Efforts of this nature will likely only increase should the Supreme Court rule — as is expected — that same-sex couples have the freedom to marry."
     "In the Hobby Lobby case last year, a Supreme Court majority blessed the use of the RFRA by businesses to deny employees insurance coverage for contraception, a benefit guaranteed by law, if those businesses object on religious grounds and there is some other means of furthering the government’s interests. Religiously affiliated nonprofit organizations such as universities are taking the argument further. They invoke the RFRA to argue not only that they should not have to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives, but also that they should not even have to notify the government that they refuse to do so because, they maintain, notification would trigger the government to intervene to ensure coverage."
     "In the states, legislators, governors and businesses are citing state religious freedom restoration acts to justify all manner of discrimination against gay men and lesbians, including at commercial establishments. At the federal level, the Justice Department — under both the Bush and Obama administrations — has said that the government would violate the RFRA if it were to require that organizations not discriminate in hiring on religious grounds in order to receive government funding."
     These cases differ the ACLU argues:
    "These cases differ fundamentally from Singh’s. Accommodating his faith doesn’t hurt anyone else; it just requires making an exception to a rule of uniformity that was never truly uniform. Not so in these other cases. Hobby Lobby employees are harmed because they now lack a benefit guaranteed by law. People turned away by an inn or bakery suffer the harm of being told that their kind isn’t welcome. And a teenage immigrant is harmed by not being provided care or even told about other health-care options."
     "Yes, religious freedom needs protection. But religious liberty doesn’t mean the right to discriminate or to impose one’s views on others. The RFRA wasn’t meant to force employees to pay a price for their employer’s faith, or to allow businesses to refuse to serve gay and transgender people, or to sanction government-funded discrimination. In the civil rights era, we rejected the claims of those who said it would violate their religion to integrate. We can’t let the RFRA be used as a tool for a different result now."
     They are dead right and its a very good thing that they are able to perceive this problem because this law is going to be used a lot in the next few years. 
    However, here's the catch. 
    It’s time for Congress to amend the RFRA so that it cannot be used as a defense for discrimination. Religious freedom will be undermined only if we continue to tolerate and enable abuses in its name."
   Sure, the GOP Congress will get right on that as soon as the fix the Voting Rights Act and pass immigration Reform. How many years till hell freezes over?
  Still, the opponents of gay marriage are fighting uphill now rather than being on higher ground now that gay marriage is the law of the land rather than an upstart demanding to be so.