Posts Tagged ‘Economist Intelligence Unit’

Norman Mailer Predicts American Fascism

February 8, 2017

Blum’s book, America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy – The Truth About US Foreign Policy and Everything Else, has a number of very telling quotations from all kinds of people – diplomats, politicos, writers, journalists and others, revealing just how nasty and vicious American foreign policy – and the lies told to support it – actually are.

One of these is by the great American writer, Norman Mailer. Mailer not only accurately predicted that America would invade Iraq, he also warned against the rise of Fascism in America itself. He said

My guess is that, like it or not, or want it or not, we are going to go to war because that is the only solution Bush and his people can see. The dire prospect that opens, therefore, is that America is going to become a mega-banana republic where the army will have more and more importance in our lives…And before it is all over, democracy, noble and delicate as it is, may give way… Indeed, democracy is the special condition… we will be called upon to defend in the coming years. That will be enormously difficult because the combination of the corporation, the military and complete investiture of the flag with mass spectator sports has set up a pre-fascistic atmosphere in America already.
(p. 313).

He wrote that in 2003, three weeks before Dubya ordered the troops into Iraq. And he isn’t wrong on any of it. A Harvard study found that America isn’t a democracy, but a functioning oligarchy because of the massive influence of corporate power to the exclusion of the interests of ordinary, working Americans. The Economist Intelligence Unit has catalogued America as a ‘flawed democracy’, because of the deterioration in its political culture.

And we now have real Nazis and anti-Semites in Trump’s cabinet in the presence of White supremacists like Steve Bannon.

Mailer was a bitter critic of American foreign policy, and absolutely despised the Neocons. I don’t think he was a man of the Left, however. I think he himself once said that he was a Conservative, but of the old school. America didn’t have any right to invade or push around other countries, just as they didn’t have the right to do the same to America.

Trump to Criminalise and Take Benefits from Legal Immigrants

February 5, 2017

This is yet more anti-immigrant legislation from the orange Nazi. And this time, it’s not just about criminalising and deporting illegal immigrants, it’s about taking benefits and criminalising those, who have come to America perfectly legally and built lives and businesses there.

In this video from TYT Nation, Jeff Waldorf discusses Trump’s travel ban on immigrants from seven, Muslim majority countries. But he points out that one of the Muslim countries not on the list is Saudi Arabia, which is a major exporter of Islamist terrorism. 14 of the 19 hijackers in 9/11 were Saudis. But Saudis aren’t banned, because America has extensive trade links with that country. He’s also horrified that 49 per cent of Americans actually agree with the ban on Muslim immigration.

Trump is also amending current covering the various state benefits, which may be taken into account in determining whether an immigrant should be allowed to stay in the country. At the moment, the Department of Homeland Security may have an immigrant deported if they are considered to be likely to rely on welfare for their main subsistence. At the moment, the only benefits that can be taken into account are those involving money payments. They do not include food stamps or medicare. But Trump wants to change the law so that those are taken into account too.

Trump also wants to have legal immigrants holding valid visas deported if they use benefits beyond a certain level. And as well as the immigrant being deported, the person responsible for sponsoring them would be required to pay back the benefits paid to the deported immigrant. Legal immigrants would also be prevented from claiming child tax credit, even if the child was an American citizens. Waldorf calls this exactly what it is: birthright citizenship.

He also wants to begin compiling and publishing statistics on how much is spent on welfare benefits to immigrants, and compare this with what could be spent on America’s poor in the inner cities. As Waldorf makes very clear, this is disgusting. It’s pitting one group of poor against another in the oldest trick in the book, divide and conquer.

Trump is also planning an executive order designed to curb the ‘jobs magnet’ to America. This piece of legislation will allow the deportation of any foreign-born visa holder and cancel the workplace provisions if they are found to be against the national interest. Trump is also considering compiling statistics of naturalised Americans, who are doing jobs that could otherwise be done by ‘native’ American citizens. Waldorf states that this means that even if you have immigrated to America perfectly legally, you are still counted as someone, who has taken the job of a ‘real’ American.

He is particularly angry as this affects his family. His wife’s grandfather is a naturalised American. He’s actually Dutch. The man is very Conservative, and watched Fox News. Yet nevertheless, according to this new piece of legislation, he is not a real American. Waldorf also reminds his viewers how many immigrants have actually built and created jobs in the Middle East, like Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, whose father was Syrian.

Waldorf states that this is how Fascism starts. It has, in his view, the fingerprints of Steve Bannon, the White supremacist CEO of Breitbart and one of the Trump’s closest advisors, all over it. This Trump’s racist attitude to immigration. Only those ‘real’ Americans born in the country and White should have jobs, benefits and citizenship. No-one else. And Waldorf also states that the people causing poverty and sucking up the wealth are the top 1 per cent, the super-rich. However, they want to distract Americans from this by hating the people just below them.

I realise that many of you will probably be getting heartily sick of all this coverage of Trump and his vile maladministration. But this stuff doesn’t just affect Americans. Mike’s carried stories about how the Tories and the Kippers over here want to pass legislation preventing immigrants from claiming benefits or using the NHS. If Trump passes this in the US, it will encourage them to do so the same over here. Quite apart from rags like the Daily Heil regularly running headlines about immigrants overrunning the welfare state, when in fact the benefits system and NHS is in crisis because of deliberate Tory funding cuts and privatisation.

A few days ago I put up a piece about the Economist Intelligence Unit reporting that Trump combined with far right European politicians could be a real menace to democracy. This is absolutely right. It’s shown by the strong parallels between this proposed legislation, and that of the Tories and Kippers. If Trump succeeds, he will empower racists and racist movements throughout the West. He must be stopped.

Economist Declares America ‘Not Full Democracy’

February 3, 2017

In this video, TYT Politic’s Jeff Waldorf discusses a recent report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, which states that America is no longer a ‘full democracy’. The magazine annual scores countries around the world according to a system of five categories. These are electoral pluralism and democracy, civil liberties, the functioning of government, political participation and political culture. Nations are ranked according to a descending scale from full democracy, flawed democracy, hybrid democracy and authoritarian. To be considered a full democracy, a country must have a score of 8.00 and over. America has slipped from 8.05 to 7.98, making it a ‘flawed democracy’ along with France, Italy and Japan for the first time in its history.

Waldorf argues that although it’s tempting to blame this on Donald Trump, he’s only been present for about a week, and the decline in American democracy has been going on for much longer. Trump is a symptom, not a cause. He argues that the real cause is the influence of the rich and powerful in politics. He notes that other studies have concluded, in his words, that America ‘is an oligarchy with elections’. He makes the point that not all rich people are necessarily bad, and that many support the same policies he supports, such as LGBT equality. However, the system works so that the rich are able to buy adverts promoting their policies at the expense of those that favour working and middle class people. A study has found that legislation benefiting these groups, rather than the corporate donor elite, is only passed 18 per cent of the time. Pro-LGBT legislation was passed members of the elite as well as the majority of ordinary Americans supported it. However, when the corporate rich are hostile to particular legislation, like the minimum wage, there is far more difficulty getting it passed. Most Americans, including half of the Republican party, believe the minimum wage should be higher. However, the corporate rich are largely opposed to this, as it will damage profits. And so in certain areas, it is actually illegal for the state authorities to pass legislation raising the minimum wage.

Waldorf also mentions the various countries that the report states comprise each particular category of its democratic index. North Korea, unsurprisingly, is an authoritarian regime, along with Syria. Morocco is one of the ‘hybrid’ regimes. The most democratic country, however, is Norway, followed by the other Scandinavian countries and Ireland. Britain is ranked the 16th most democratic country.

Waldorf notes that America is not alone in its slide towards authoritarianism. The report states that half of the 167 countries surveyed have seen a decline in the quality of their democracy. Waldorf states that this is due to neoliberalism. As more services are privatised, it sets up a vicious cycle which sees more right-wing politicians elected, who privatise more services in order to stop government from working.

Waldorf also suggests a number of ways in which American political culture and democracy could be restored. These include getting the money out of politics, more political parties, restoring section 5 of the voting rights act, making registration to vote compulsory and making voting easier. He also recommends ending the corporate nature of the media, where anchors sitting in a studio earn $20 million a year for reading the news, but have absolutely nothing in common with their lower or middle class viewers, and do not represent their interests.

This study and its analysis by the TYT’s man exactly describes the crisis in American democracy and its causes. A study a few years ago by, I think, Harvard political scientists concluded that America was an elected oligarchy, in which both parties served the corporate elite rather than the common man and woman. He’s also right about the way many ordinary people are alienated from political life, because the policies embraced by their elected representatives actively hurt them in favour of the corporate elite. The Harvard study noted that approval ratings of Congress really only polled a maximum of 25 per cent, and very often much less, down to the low teens, because Americans justifiably felt their politicians were ignoring them.

I am, however, surprised at Britain having a relatively high rating, even if we are only the 16th most democratic country according to the survey. Successive governments since Thatcher have followed America in legislating for the benefit of rich corporations. John Major’s administration was notorious for its corporate sleaze, while Blair did everything he could to increase the dominance of leaders of industry over the machinery of government, appointing managing directors like David Sainsbury to important government posts.

I also take issue with Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn being described as ‘populists’. Populism usually denotes right-wing demagogues, who offer their followers a false democracy, pretending to represent working class interests while at the same time standing for a range of policies, including racism, which harm their working class followers. The examples are Trump and the Republicans in the US, and the Tories and UKIP over here. Corbyn and Sanders aren’t populists, because they genuinely represent the working and lower middle classes hurt by neoliberalism. They also aren’t at all racist. In fact, both are quite definitely anti-racism and discrimination, despite the smears of the Israel lobby. What they do represent is a threat to the corporate domination of the established left-wing parties, such as the Clintonite Democrats in America and the Blairites in the Labour party over here. And thus Sanders and Corbyn are smeared as ‘populists’ by the neoliberal elite determined to misrepresent itself as occupying the moderate centre ground, when they are as responsible as the right-wing parties for establishing the power of the major corporations at the expense of the electorate.

On both sides of the Atlantic, people need to wake up to the decline in the quality of democracy caused by neoliberalism and corporate power, and fight back. We need to curb corporate donations and the appointment of managing directors to political office, so that our governments represent us, not big business.

Unemployment and Health in the 1980s

March 15, 2016

Earlier this morning I put up a piece urging people to look at an article on Mike’s blog, over at Vox Political, in which he discusses composing and sending in a form letter from claimants with depression. This, he argues, would make the connection between benefit sanctions and increased rates of depression and anxiety irrefutable. Despite numerous protests and warning from disability and mental health groups, and the medical profession, Ian Duncan Smith still refuses to accept that his wretched welfare reforms are pushing people into suicide and depression. As I said, he has no arguments against this. When pressed, he simply blusters about his beliefs, or goes into a huge rant about how no-one else is doing anything to solve the problem of long-term unemployment. He did this when he appeared on an edition of Question Time with Owen Jones, when the author of the classic book on the demonization of the working class took the bald brute to task for his callous and destructive policies. A foam-flecked angry rant followed.

Psychologists have presented statistics showing that over a quarter of a million benefit claimants have been pushed into depression and anxiety because of the DWP’s sanctions regime. 590 have died in poverty, of neglect, starvation and horrifically by their own hand. This on its own should be sufficient proof that IDS’ policies aren’t working. But it isn’t. Hence the need, so Mike argues, for the form letter.

In support of Mike’s argument, I quoted a piece from Eric Hopkins’ social history, The Rise and Decline of the English Working Classes 1918-1990. He notes that in the depression of the 1930s, two unemployed men committed suicide every day. Later in the book he discusses the depression of the 1980s. He states that ‘How far real depression was suffered is impossible to quantify, and would depend on individual circumstances’. He also states that

(U)nemployment in itself does not appear to have contributed much to sickness rates. The Economist Intelligence Unit 1972 survey found that the unemployed were no more likely than the employed to visit the doctor, though slightly more on average were liable to have a long-standing illness; and there were higher rates of chronic sickness among manual workers who (as we have seen) were more subject to unemployment than skilled workers. (P. 20).

However, the Economist Intelligence Unit published some statistics in 1982 that shows that people’s self-respect and mental health were being damaged by unemployment.

About a fifth of those interviewed (19 per cent) confessed to being miserable or unhappy since losing their jobs; 17 per cent to being restless and bad-tempered, 15 per cent to being less patient and tolerant, and 13 per cent to being easily upset or snappy. Interviewees often mentioned becoming more aggressive, emotional and ashamed. As for material disadvantage, 13 per cent said they had been affected very badly, and 24 per cent that they were affected ‘fairly badly’; 32 per cent said they had not been affected at all (presumably they had been on low wages). Answers on this topic varies according to length of unemployment; of the long-term unemployed, 20 per cent said they had been badly affected, and 30 per cent affected ‘fairly badly’. (P. 218).

My guess is that if IDS is basing his denials on anything other than simple belief, it’s the statistics from the 1980s, as these would seem to confirm his own prejudices that no-one was being harmed by unemployment. Like most of the Tories, he believes that the unemployed are simply idle and workshy, and need to have a good dose of poverty in order to force them to get a job or work harder.

The problem for using the stats from the 1980s in this way is that conditions are now rather different. Those statistics come from a time when there were either no, or a much less rigorous system of benefit sanctions. The conditions unemployment benefit could be received was being cut. For example, I can remember that one of the conditions Maggie scrapped was unemployment provision for those going on holiday. However, it wasn’t quite like the absolute denial of income there is now, although there were certainly justifiable fears at the time that this would be the final result. And undoubtedly, many people were suffering genuine poverty.

The Gentleman Ranker is also basing his claim on discredited arguments about the existence of a dependency culture, largely coming from the American Republicans. When I found a booklet published by his moronic Social Justice Centre a few months in a second hand book shop, many of the arguments seemed to be based on experience in America. The blurb on the back declared that when benefits had been cut in America, welfare dependence had fallen in some cases by 40 per cent. That’s entirely possible, of course. It doesn’t, however, tell you whether those people then got a job, or if they just starved to death or subsisted on scraps from friends and relatives. And IDS can’t tell you either. All he does is rant about how it’s ‘what he believes’. Well, Smith can also believe that the Earth is flat, and Maggie was a titan of political insight and acumen, but that doesn’t make them true either.

The overwhelming evidence is that benefit sanctions are pushing the unemployed and disabled into anxiety and the ‘malignant sadness’, as the scientist Lewis Wolpert described depression in the title of his book on it. And it shouldn’t surprise anyone, given the statistics from the Economist Intelligence Unit on the way unemployment was affecting people’s minds and moods. But the evidence of statistics and medical professionals is, apparently, not enough to sway the mind of Ian Duncan Smith. This says all you need to know about the rationality of this government, and Smith’s own glaring unfitness for office.