lunes, 16 de julio de 2018

Xi Jinping’s Vision for Global Governance

Lintao Zhang

Last month, the Communist Party of China concluded its Central Conference on Work Relating to Foreign Affairs, the second since Xi Jinping became China’s undisputed ruler in 2012. These meetings express how the leadership sees China’s place in the world, but they tell the world much about China as well.

The contrast between the disarray in the West, on open display at the NATO summit and at last month’s G7 meeting in Canada, and China’s mounting international self-confidence is growing clearer by the day. Last month, the Communist Party of China (CPC) concluded its Central Conference on Work Relating to Foreign Affairs, the second since Xi Jinping became China’s undisputed ruler in 2012. These meetings are not everyday affairs. They are the clearest expression of how the leadership sees China’s place in the world, but they tell the world much about China as well.


The last such conference, in 2014, marked the funeral of Deng Xiaoping’s dictum of “hide your strength, bide your time, never take the lead,” and heralded a new era of international activism. In part, this change reflected Xi’s centralization of control, Chinese leaders’ conclusion that American power is in relative decline, and their view that China had become an indispensable global economic player.

Since 2014, China has expanded and consolidated its military position in the South China Sea. It took the idea of the New Silk Road and turned it into a multi-trillion-dollar trade, investment, infrastructure, and wider geopolitical/geo-economic initiative, engaging 73 different countries across much of Eurasia, Africa and beyond. And China signed up most of the developed world to the first large-scale non-Bretton Woods multilateral development bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

China has also launched diplomatic initiatives beyond its immediate sphere of strategic interest in East Asia, as well as actively participating in initiatives such as the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. It has developed naval bases in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Djibouti, and participates in naval exercises with Russia as far away as the Mediterranean and the Baltic. In March, China established its own international development agency.

The emergence of a coherent grand strategy (regardless of whether the West chooses to recognize it as such) is not all that has changed since 2014. For starters, the emphasis on the CPC’s role is much stronger than before. Xi, concerned that the party had become marginal to the country’s major policy debates, has reasserted party control over state institutions and given precedence to political ideology over technocratic policymaking. Xi is determined to defy the trend-line of Western history, to see off Francis Fukuyama’s “end of history” culminating in the general triumph of liberal democratic capitalism, and preserve a Leninist state for the long term.

This approach – known as “Xi Jinping Thought” – now suffuses China’s foreign policy framework. In particular, Xi’s view that that there are identifiable immutable “laws” of historical development, both prescriptive and predictive, was particularly prominent at last month’s foreign policy conference. If this sounds like old-fashioned dialectical materialism, that’s because it is. Xi embraces the Marxist-Leninist tradition as his preferred intellectual framework.


Given its emphasis on iron laws of political and economic development, a dialectical-materialist worldview means that there is nothing random about world events. So, Xi argues, if Marx’s analytical framework is applied to the current period, it is clear that the global order is at a turning point, with the West’s relative decline coinciding with the fortuitous national and international circumstances enabling China’s rise. In Xi’s words, “China has been in the best period of development since modern times, while the world is undergoing the most profound and unprecedented changes in a century.” Of course, formidable obstacles lie ahead for China. But Xi has concluded that the obstacles facing the US and the West are greater.

How such thinking will now drive China’s concrete foreign policy is anyone’s guess. But how one-party states, particularly Marxist states, choose to “ideate” reality matters a great deal: it is how the system speaks to itself. And Xi’s message to China’s foreign policy elite is one of great confidence.

Specifically, the Central Conference called for the country’s international policy institutions and personnel to embrace Xi’s agenda. Here Xi seems to have the foreign ministry in his sights. There is a strong ideological flavor to Xi’s apparent frustration with the ministry’s glacial approach to policy innovation. China’s diplomats were urged to bear in mind that they are first and foremost “party cadres,” suggesting that Xi is likely to push the foreign policy apparatus toward greater activism, to give full effect to his emerging global vision.

The biggest change to emerge from last month’s conference concerns global governance. In 2014, Xi referred to an impending struggle for the future structure of the international order. While he did not elaborate, much work has since been devoted to three inter-related concepts: guoji zhixu (the international order); guoji xitong (the international system), and quanqiu zhili (global governance).

Of course, these terms have different and overlapping meanings in English, too. But, broadly speaking, in Chinese, the term “international order” refers to a combination of the United Nations, the Bretton Woods Institutions, the G20, and other multilateral institutions (which China accepts), as well as the US system of global alliances (which China does not). The term “international system” tends to refer to the first half of this international order: the complex web of multilateral institutions that operate under international treaty law and seek to govern the global commons on the basis of the principle of shared sovereignty. And “global governance” denotes the actual performance of the “international system” so defined.

What is startlingly new about Xi’s remarks at the Central Conference was his call for China now to “lead the reform of the global governance system with the concepts of fairness and justice.” This is by far the most direct statement of China’s intentions on this important question offered so far. The world should buckle up and get ready for a new wave of Chinese international policy activism.

Like much of the rest of the international community, China is acutely conscious of the dysfunctionality of much of the current multilateral system. So Xi’s wish to lead “reform of the global governance system” is no accident. It reflects growing diplomatic activism in multilateral institutions, in order to reorient them in a direction more compatible with what China regards as its “core national interests.”

Xi has reminded China’s international policy elite that the totality of China’s future foreign policy direction, including the reform of global governance, must be driven by these core national interests. In this context, China also wants a more “multipolar” international system. This is code for a world in which the role of the United States and the West is substantially reduced.1

The challenge for the rest of the international community is to define what type of global order we now want. What do existing institutions like the European Union, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or the African Union want for the international rules-based system for the future? What exactly does the US want, with or without Trump? And how will we collectively preserve the global values embodied in the UN Charter, the Bretton Woods institutions, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

The future of the global order is in a state of flux. China has a clear script for the future. It’s time for the rest of the international community to develop one of its own.

Fossil-Fuel Doublespeak


Todd Korol/Toronto

 LILI FUHR , HANNAH MCKINNON


On paper, almost every government in the world is committed to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and keeping global temperatures limited to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. But too many governments, parroting the oil and gas industry's misleading claims, are actually supporting the expansion of fossil-fuel production.


BERLIN – Since the Paris climate agreement was signed in 2015, too many policymakers have fallen for the oil and gas industry’s rhetoric about how it can help to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Tall tales about “clean coal,” “oil pipelines to fund clean energy,” and “gas as a bridge fuel” have coaxed governments into rubber-stamping new fossil-fuel projects, even though current fossil-fuel production already threatens to push temperatures well beyond the Paris agreement’s limit of well below 2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels.


The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that in 2016, investment in the oil and gas sector totaled $649 billion, and that fossil-fuel subsidies within the G20 countries amounted to $72 billion. And by 2030, investments in new gas projects across G20 countries are expected to surpass $1.6 trillion.

Clearly, the industry has pulled out all the stops to expand production and profits before the world moves to a decarbonized economy. And so far, it is succeeding, because it has convinced governments of multiple falsehoods.

For starters, there is the claim that natural gas can be a “bridge fuel” to a stable climate even though its climate impact often equals that of coal – or worse. In reality, a “dash for gas” would consume almost two-thirds of G20 countries’ combined carbon budget by 2050. Worse, new gas production often displaces not coal, but wind- and solar-energy projects, both of which are now cheaper than coal and gas in many regions. The fact that most new investments in gas production assume at least a 30-year operational timeline should be evidence enough that they are not geared toward reducing emissions anytime soon.

One would expect the European Union to lead the way toward a decarbonized future. But, if anything, it seems to be doing the opposite. Since 2014, the EU has allocated €1 billion ($1.16 billion) to the natural-gas sector. And though the European Commission’s proposed 2020-2027 budget would reduce such funding, it would allow member states to continue spending taxpayers’ money on fossil-fuel production. Yet, according to a study by British climate scientists Kevin Anderson and John Broderick, in order to meet its climate commitments, the EU must phase out all fossil fuels by 2035.

Another industry canard is that income from oil and gas expansion is needed to fund the transition to a clean economy. This incoherent claim has underpinned policy in Canada, where the authorities continue to push for major new tar-sands pipelines. Most recently, the government stepped in and paid the Texas-based energy firm Kinder Morgan $3.4 billion for a 65-year-old pipeline in order to ensure its planned expansion, which the company had deemed too risky.

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This use of public funds is particularly objectionable because it threatens to lock in the very energy sources that are driving dangerous climate change. Implicit in any major new investment in energy infrastructure is that operations will continue for decades, as even if demand and prices fall dramatically, an owner or investor will prefer some income return on that capital rather than nothing. As a result, politically and legally, it is much harder to shut down a project than to stop it before it starts.

A third ingredient of fossil-fuel flimflam is so-called clean coal, often relying on carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies. Governments and the energy industry have long framed CCS as a silver bullet for climate change, and thus as a perfect excuse for postponing meaningful reductions in fossil-fuel use. And now, CCS is even being promoted as an enabling technology for magical schemes that can “suck” carbon out of the atmosphere.

CCS was originally developed for enhanced oil recovery (EOR), whereby pressurized CO2 is pumped into older oil reservoirs to extract otherwise inaccessible crude oil, significantly boosting production, and thus greenhouse-gas emissions. The technique has been used for more than 40 years, particularly in the United States. But it is costly in terms of both money and energy: a coal-fired power station that adopts CCS must burn even more coal in order to produce the same amount of energy.

The main reason that oil companies have become such strong proponents of CCS is that it offers them a source of subsidized CO2 for use in EOR. Companies such as Shell and Statoil have spent decades and billions of dollars on CCS research and development, and all they have to show for it is a few commercial-scale CCS operations. It is already clear that CCS is commercially viable only when used for EOR, which means that coal itself will never be a clean fuel, even if modern filters can be used to reduce particulate air pollution.

A final claim often made by oil and gas companies is that they can execute any given project more “cleanly” than anyone else. Energy companies have been racing to announce new technologies and measures that supposedly improve the efficiency of their current operations, as if that should give them the right to increase production unabated.

But, as with the rest of the industry’s doublespeak, this logic more often than not leads to further lock-in, as firms sink ever more funding into unproven negative-emissions technologies and other measures that will perpetuate dependence on fossil fuels. For example, the Canadian province of Alberta, home of the tar sands, is investing $304 million explicitly to “help [oil sands] companies increase production and reduce emissions.”

At a time when science and expertise are increasingly being dismissed as elitist conceits, governments that know better should not be helping fossil-fuel companies profit from the mounting climate crisis. The industry’s spin machine threatens to trap us all in a dangerous status quo.

The global climate movement is redefining leadership on this issue, but nongovernmental organizations and activists alone cannot usher in a decarbonized future. Governments that claim to be committed to the Paris accord must offer a robust plan for phasing out fossil fuels, rather than supporting that sector’s continued expansion.

domingo, 15 de julio de 2018

Capitalism needs a welfare state to survive


But welfare must be reformed to cope with ageing and immigration


IN THE mythologies of both left and right, the welfare state is a work of socialism. Yet the intellectual tradition it owes most to is liberalism. The architect of its British version, William Beveridge, did not want to use the power of the state for its own sake. The point was to give people the security to pursue the lives they chose. And liberal reformers believed that by insuring people against some risks of creative destruction, welfare states would bolster democratic support for free markets.

In the decades since Beveridge published his seminal report in 1942, welfare states have spread, grown larger, more complex and, often, less popular (see article). This shift has many causes. But one is that welfare states have often diverged from the liberal principles that underpinned them. It is these principles that must be reaffirmed.
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As countries become richer they tend to spend higher shares of national income on public services and benefits. Spending on “social protection”, such as pensions, unemployment insurance and assistance for the hard-up, has risen from an average of about 5% of GDP in rich countries in 1960 to 20% today. Include spending on health and education and those shares roughly double. For some, the sheer scale of these welfare states is reason enough for reform.

But what the welfare state does is perhaps more important than its size. It should seek to allow individuals to make their own choices, whether through support for parents to return to work as in Scandinavia, personal budgets for disabled people to select their own provision as in England, or Singapore-style learning accounts so that the jobless can acquire new skills.

Everyone needs enough to live on. Many of those who drop out of the job market, or who work in the gig economy, struggle to get by. And too often, help for the poor comes in ways that are cruel, inefficient, paternalistic or complex. In some rich countries, the unemployed face marginal tax rates of over 80% when they begin a job, because of the loss of benefits.

Any welfare reform entails trade-offs between the cost of a scheme and its effects on poverty and incentives to work. No scheme is perfect. But a good basis is the negative income tax, which subsidises workers below an earnings threshold, while taxing those above it. Negative income tax can be combined with a minimum income for everyone. It is a relatively simple, efficient way of targeting poverty while maintaining incentives to work, so long as the tax rate is not too high.

Reform, however, also requires taking on two challenges that did not cause Beveridge much concern. The first is ageing. The ratio of working-age people to the retired in rich countries is projected to fall from about four to one in 2015 to two to one by 2050. And as countries grey, welfare spending becomes more biased towards the elderly. To mitigate rising intergenerational inequality, it would make sense to cut the cushiest benefits for the elderly and steadily raise retirement ages.

Refusing the wretched

The second challenge is immigration. Across Europe, “welfare chauvinism” is on the rise. This supports a generous welfare state for poorer, native-born people—but not immigrants. Populists argue that, if migrants from poor countries immigrate freely to rich ones, they will bankrupt the welfare state. Others argue that liberal migration policies depend on curbing access to it: build a wall around the welfare state, not the country. Polls suggest that few native-born Europeans want to deprive new arrivals of instant access to health care and schools for their children. But some restrictions on cash benefits, like those already in place in America and Denmark, may be necessary.

As liberals such as Beveridge realised, the best way to secure support for free markets is to give more people a stake in them. The welfare state must be seen as more than providing shoes and soup for the poor, and security in old age. In a democratic society it is also crucial to the case for capitalism.

miércoles, 11 de julio de 2018

Why Trump has few friends in Europe


Hint: It’s not because of his Twitter manners.



U.S. President Donald Trump (R) waits with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (L) before they pose ahead of a working dinner at The Parc du Cinquantenaire, Jubelpark Park in Brussels

For Europe’s leaders, it’s personal.

Whatever the warm words and backslapping for the U.S. president at NATO Wednesday, for Europe’s chancellors, prime ministers and presidents Donald Trump poses a clear and present danger to their job security.


In the world of politics, this — above all — is the one unforgivable sin.

According to senior EU government officials and diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of Trump’s visit to the U.K. Thursday, the rot at the heart of the Western Alliance is not the lack of “spark” between Trump and Theresa May, nor even his apparently visceral loathing of Angela Merkel.

Boil it down and Trump represents everything his most important transatlantic allies have been forced to define themselves against, whether at home or in Europe at large.

“Fundamentally, what unites May, Macron, Merkel and Trump?” asked one senior U.K. aide, when asked what lies at the heart of the U.S. president’s up-and-down relationships with his allies. “In one way or another they are all defined by their relationship with populism.”


Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel (L), British Prime Minister Theresa May (2nd R) Belgium Prime Minister Charles Michel (2nd L) and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg (R) as they arrive for the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) summit, at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, on July 11, 2018 | Tatyana Zenkovich/AFP via Getty Images

For Emmanuel Macron, this can be a bonus. Like Trump, he is a political alpha male who rose to power on a wave of anti-establishment fury.

It was certainly all smiles in Brussels Wednesday. After the U.S. president praised his French counterpart for his leadership and their “tremendous” relationship, Macron began to speak in French to reporters. This prompted Trump to laugh and say that he didn’t understand what Macron said, but “it sounded beautiful.”

But for May and Merkel, this defining reality of their relationship only causes strife.

For both political leaders, their grip on power depends on their ability to hold the line against the very same forces Trump has corralled in the U.S. — and now aims to foment in Europe.

For the U.K. prime minister, the threat is immediate.

Trump’s brand of insurgent, conservative populism is threatening to drag her from office over Brexit — just as she welcomes him to the U.K for his first official visit to the country.


In contrast, many of Europe’s leaders — and Merkel and May in particular — embody all that Trump abhors in politics: the centrist, technocratic caution of the political elite he is trying to smash.

Whatever the niceties on display between the leaders this week — or the ongoing strategic ties that bind the U.S. to NATO, Western Europe and the U.K. — the bilateral relationship cannot bypass this fundamental issue, according to those close to Europe’s leaders.
‘I like him’

The problem was on display in Brussels as Trump made small talk with Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Hungary’s Viktor Orbán while going out of his way to attack Germany. After a brief chat with Turkey’s authoritarian president on the sidelines of the summit, Trump mouthed: “I like him, I like him.”

For Germany — in contrast — there was vitriol.

“I think it’s very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia, where you’re supposed to be guarding against Russia, and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia,” Trump said in his opening remarks at a NATO breakfast, which were broadcast live on television.

Trump softened his tone in the room and later in a bilateral meeting with Merkel, but the attack hit a nerve. The U.S. president also caused consternation after suggesting — in an apparent off-hand remark — that NATO should double its target for military spending to 4 percent of economic output, even when many countries, notably Germany, are failing to hit the 2 percent mark.

Trump’s remarks hit on a fundamental division in the EU, putting Merkel on the back foot from the start and giving succor to her critics in Eastern and Southern Europe, many of whom are supportive of Trump.

Paolo Alli, president of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, told POLITICO Trump’s populism “risks strengthening political adversaries in many countries” across Europe. “This is an element that worries some leaders.”


U.S. President Donald Trump (L) speaks with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ahead of the opening ceremony of the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) summit, at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, on July 11, 2018 | Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images

“The politics of announcements is what unifies Trump, [Vladimir] Putin and [Italy’s Matteo] Salvini, who love to look very strong on social media and more in general to answer to people’s guts,” said Alli.

Trump has more support and goodwill the further east he goes, especially in the Baltics and Poland, where the U.S. leads a battle group as part of NATO’s enhanced forward presence, and where fears of Russian military aggression run highest in Europe.

Asked if Lithuania is Trump’s last friend in Europe, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė said: “No, I think he has a lot more. He has a lot more.”
‘Very, very nice’ Boris

Trump appeared to deploy similar tactics on the U.K. as he did on Germany before departing for Europe Tuesday, going out of his way to praise former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who resigned on Monday while making a blistering attack on May’s leadership.

Johnson has called for a tougher line on Brussels and a closer working relationship with Trump.

Trump described Johnson as “a friend of mine” who had been “very, very nice to me” and suggested he could meet him in London. He also described the U.K. as being “in somewhat turmoil.”

Trump has also repeatedly hinted at his frustrations with May, insisting he would have been “much harder” on the EU in Brexit negotiations and even advising May directly, in a tweet, to concentrate on tackling Muslim extremism rather than criticizing him after he retweeted videos from a far-right British group.

Trump is also close to Nigel Farage, the former leader of the U.K. Independence Party which for so long acted as an existential threat to May’s Conservative Party by attacking it from the right in much the same way the Alternative for Germany (AfD) is now treating Merkel.


Heads of state and government, including (from L to R, first row) NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, U.S. President Donald Trump, British Prime Minister Theresa May and Estonia’s Prime Minister Juri Ratas attend the opening ceremony at the 2018 NATO Summit at NATO headquarters on July 11, 2018 in Brussels, Belgium | Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

A second senior Tory close to May said Trump’s relationship with the U.K. is afflicted by the “dark idea of Britain” he has adopted, fueled by conservative U.S. media reports depicting Britain as a left-wing, multicultural hellhole ridden with crime and Islamic extremism. A vision of Britain “being overrun by hordes of Muslims who want to kill everybody,” in the words of the close ally of the prime minister.
Non-diverse, non-urban

Andrew Cooper, a Conservative pollster who worked closely with David Cameron when he was U.K. prime minister, sees remarkable demographic similarities between Americans who voted for Trump, Britons who voted for Brexit and Germans who vote for the AfD.

“The same demographic factors that, in combination, correlate with strong support for Brexit in the U.K., also correlate with support for Trump in the U.S. — and for [Marine] Le Pen in France and the AfD in Germany: low level of educational attainment, low income, being white and living in a very non-diverse non-urban area,” Cooper told POLITICO.

“These voters share a common worldview — strongly nationalistic, opposed to immigration and multiculturalism and culturally conservative on a range of social issues.”

It is this group of U.K. voters — and the MPs who support them in the House of Commons — who now threaten May at home: Tories who voted overwhelmingly for Brexit, and who want tighter controls on immigration and more sovereign control over trade (much like Trump’s conservative base).


“As long as Russia persists in its efforts to undermine our interests and values, we must continue to deter and counter them” — British Prime Minister Theresa May

While the U.K. prime minister has avoided much of the vitriol Trump has aimed at Germany and Merkel, she nevertheless represents the same tradition of social Christian conservatism as the German chancellor. May’s worldview is also much closer to Merkel and Macron than Trump.

“Just look at the G7,” one aide close to May said. “Who was the strongest supporter for the German chancellor and French president? The British prime minister.”

While May will support the U.S. president’s call for greater “burden-sharing” at NATO, his threat to the organization risks ripping away the central pillar of Britain’s security since World War II.

At a NATO dinner Wednesday, May went out of her way to avoid confrontation with Trump, welcoming his coming Helsinki summit with Putin as “a means of reducing the risk of a confrontation” with Russia.

However, the U.K. leader warned Trump and the other NATO leaders that Russia is attempting to “undermine our democracies and damage our interests around the world.” She called on NATO to do more to punish rogue Russian actions, highlighting the Salisbury chemical attack, in order to “raise the cost of malign behaviour whenever it occurs.”

“As long as Russia persists in its efforts to undermine our interests and values, we must continue to deter and counter them,” she said.

Trump had warm words for the U.K. ahead of his visit, saying there is “no stronger alliance than that of our special relationship … and there will be no alliance more important in the years ahead.”

lunes, 9 de julio de 2018

Is Hillary Clinton secretly planning to run in 2020?


By Michael Goodwin

 

Getty Images for The Women's Forum of New York


The messages convey a sense of urgency, and are coming with increasing frequency. They are short, focused reactions to the latest “outrage” committed by President Trump.

Some end by asking for money, some urge participation in protests. All read as if they are sent from the official headquarters of the resistance.

Hillary Clinton is up to something.

Five times in the last month alone, she sent emails touting her super PAC’s role in combating President Trump. Most seized on headline events, such as the family separation issue at the southern border.

Under the message line, “horrific,” she wrote June 18: “This is a moral and humanitarian crisis. Everyone of us who has ever held a child in their arms, and every human being with a sense of compassion and decency should be outraged.” She said she warned about Trump’s immigration policies during the 2016 campaign.

Three days later, she was back again, saying that her group, Onward Together, raised $1 million and would split it among organizations working to change border policy, including the American Civil Liberties Union and a gaggle of immigrant, refugee, Latino and women’s groups.

And the day after Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, Clinton introduced a newly minted resistance partner. Called Demand Justice, it promises to protect “reproductive rights, voting rights and access to health care” by keeping Senate Democrats united in opposing any conservative Trump nominee.

The instant, in-house nature of Demand Justice was reflected by the name of its executive director: Brian Fallon, Clinton’s campaign press secretary.

In truth, Fallon’s role doesn’t tell us something we didn’t know. Onward Together, formed in May 2017, is a Clinton 2020 campaign vehicle in waiting.

Its homepage says the group “is dedicated to advancing the vision that earned nearly 66 million votes in the last election.”

Advancing the vision? More like advancing the candidate who collected those votes despite not having a vision.

With the Democratic Party locked in a battle between its far left wing and its far, far left wing, no single leader has emerged to unite it. Clinton is trying to play that role by being a mother hen to the fledgling activists drawn to politics by their hatred of Trump.

If they were active in 2016, they most probably supported Bernie Sanders in his primary challenge to Clinton. But by helping to fund them now, she is putting them in her debt for later.

Ah, but will she need their support later? Is she really going to make a third run for the White House?

Not long ago, I told a group of friends, all liberal Dems, that I believed she was keeping open the possibility of a rematch against Trump, and might already have decided to run.

It was unanimous — they were horrified. “I would not give her a single cent,” one man, formerly a big donor to Clinton, said emphatically.

Their reasons are no surprise: Her moment has passed, she was a terrible candidate and her endless claims of victimhood are tiring rather than inspiring. It’s time to find new blood.

Those assessments are unassailable, and certainly are shared by the 20 or so Dems lining up to take their shot at the nomination.

Moreover, there isn’t any clamoring for another Clinton run in Hollywood or other leftist hotbeds. They want a new blockbuster, not a sequel to failure.

So she’s toast, right? Maybe.

On the other hand, the odds are zero that she is playing community organizer just to be a kingmaker. When it comes to money and power, the Clintons assume charity begins at home.

Here’s how I believe she sees the playing field, and why she can’t be ignored.

First, because there’s no clear front-runner for the nomination 18 months into Trump’s presidency, Clinton remains the closest thing to an incumbent. She’s also got numerous advantages, from name recognition to campaign experience to an off-the-shelf cabinet, that could give her a head start.

Second, a crowded, diverse field diminishes the chances of anyone knocking her off. Recall how Trump outlasted 16 GOP rivals by having a committed core of supporters that grew as the field shrank. Clinton could be in a similar position — unpopular among many, but also unbeatable by a single opponent.

Third, looking ahead to the 2020 primaries, she sees no reason to fear the favorite daughters and sons in key blue states. She would almost certainly beat Sen. Kamala Harris in California, Sen. Cory Booker in New Jersey and Gov. Andrew Cuomo in New York.

And please — forget Sanders and Joe Biden. Sanders is already 76 and Biden, at 75, has never been a viable candidate for president and still isn’t.

Fourth, money is not an issue. Some donors will resist Clinton at first, but any Dem nominee can count on all the money in the world to run against Trump.

To be clear, there are scenarios where Clinton doesn’t run. Health reasons, for example, or a younger rival could rocket to the top of the pack and become the party’s next Barack Obama. Either way, recurring nightmares of two previous defeats would send her back to wandering through the Chappaqua woods.

For now, I am convinced Clinton wants to go for it. Doubters should recall the line about pols who get the presidential itch: There are only two cures — election or death.

Besides, the third time could be the charm.
The Empire State of anarchy

For their next trick, will New York Dems try to secede from the United States?

First, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed cockamamie schemes to avoid new federal limits on state and local tax deductions. Now Manhattan Assemblyman Richard Gottfried fantasizes about a “workaround” for the Supreme Court ruling that allows municipal workers to skip union fees.

Remember way back when Dems warned Donald Trump would not accept the election results if he lost? Well …
Doth protest too much

Most immigrants are grateful for the opportunity and freedom they find in America. Then there is Therese Patricia Okoumou.

An immigrant from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where civil war is endless and where protesters are shot, the 44-year-old Okoumou caused visitors to be evacuated from Liberty Island on July 4th when she climbed the base of Lady Liberty to protest American immigration policies.

She was also arrested in a demonstration last year. In 2011, she was hit with $4,500 in fines after illegally posting ads for services as a personal trainer, The Post reports.

Since America isn’t up to her standards, Okoumou should try another country. Perhaps a return to her homeland would make her happy.
Hot-dogged competitor

The stomach-turning quote of the week comes from Joey Chestnut, the Nathan’s July 4th hot-dog-eating champ. Judges initially ruled he ate 64 dogs in 10 minutes, but Chestnut knew he had eaten 10 more.

“At the end,” he said, “I knew I’m at 74 — 64 feels a lot different in the stomach than 74.”

domingo, 8 de julio de 2018

Americans Are Having Fewer Babies. They Told Us Why


Women have more options, for one. But a new poll also shows that financial insecurity is altering a generation’s choices.



By Claire Cain Miller


ImageJessica Boer, 26, kissing her cat Kip at her home in Portage, Mich. Like an increasing number of people in her generation, she does not plan to have children. “Now we know we have a choice,” she said.CreditBrittany Greeson for The New York Times


Americans are having fewer babies. At first, researchers thought the declining fertility rate was because of the recession, but it kept falling even as the economy recovered. Now it has reached a record low for the second consecutive year.

Because the fertility rate subtly shapes many major issues of the day — including immigration, education, housing, the labor supply, the social safety net and support for working families — there’s a lot of concern about why today’s young adults aren’t having as many children. So we asked them.

Wanting more leisure time and personal freedom; not having a partner yet; not being able to afford child-care costs — these were the top reasons young adults gave for not wanting or not being sure they wanted children, according to a new survey conducted by Morning Consult for The New York Times.


About a quarter of the respondents who had children or planned to said they had fewer or expected to have fewer than they wanted. The largest shares said they delayed or stopped having children because of concerns about having enough time or money.


The survey, one of the most comprehensive explorations of the reasons that adults are having fewer children, tells a story that is partly about greater gender equality. Women have more agency over their lives, and many feel that motherhood has become more of a choice.


But it’s also a story of economic insecurity. Young people have record student debt, many graduated in a recession and many can’t afford homes — all as parenthood has become more expensive. Women in particular pay an earnings penalty for having children.

“We want to invest more in each child to give them the best opportunities to compete in an increasingly unequal environment,” said Philip Cohen, a sociologist at the University of Maryland who studies families and has written about fertility.

At the same time, he said, “There is no getting around the fact that the relationship between gender equality and fertility is very strong: There are no high-fertility countries that are gender equal.”


The vast majority of women in the United States still have children. But the most commonly used measure of fertility, the number of births for every 1,000 women of childbearing age, was 60.2 last year, a record low. The total fertility rate — which estimates how many children women will have based on current patterns — is down to 1.8, below the replacement level in developed countries of 2.1.

The United States seems to have almost caught up with most of the rest of the industrialized world’s low fertility rates. It used to have higher fertility for reasons like more teenage pregnancies, more unintended pregnancies and high fertility among Hispanic immigrants. But those trends have recently reversed, in part because of increased use of long-acting birth control methods like IUDs.

In the Morning Consult and Times survey, more than half of the 1,858 respondents — a nationally representative sample of men and women ages 20 to 45 — said they planned to have fewer children than their parents. About half were already parents. Of those who weren’t, 42 percent said they wanted children, 24 percent said they did not and 34 percent said they weren’t sure.


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One of the biggest factors was personal: having no desire for children and wanting more leisure time, a pattern that has also shown up in social science research. A quarter of poll respondents who didn’t plan to have children said one reason was they didn’t think they’d be good parents.

Jessica Boer, 26, has a long list of things she’d rather spend time doing than raising children: being with her family and her fiancé; traveling; focusing on her job as a nurse; getting a master’s degree; playing with her cats.

“My parents got married right out of high school and had me and they were miserable,” said Ms. Boer, who lives in Portage, Mich. “But now we know we have a choice.”


She said she had such high expectations for parents that she wasn’t sure she could meet them: “I would have the responsibility to raise this person into a functional and productive citizen, and some days I’m not even responsible.”

This generation, unlike the ones that came before it, is as likely as not to earn less than their parents. Among people who did not plan to have children, 23 percent said it was because they were worried about the economy. A third said they couldn’t afford child care, 24 percent said they couldn’t afford a house and 13 percent cited student debt.

Financial concerns also led people to have fewer children than what they considered to be ideal: 64 percent said it was because child care was too expensive, 43 percent said they waited too long because of financial instability and about 40 percent said it was because of a lack of paid family leave.

Women face another economic obstacle: Their careers can stall when they become mothers.

This spring, Brittany Butler, 22, became the first person in her family to graduate from college, and she will start graduate school in social work in the fall. She said it would probably be at least 10 years before she considered having children, until she could raise them in very different circumstances than in her poor hometown neighborhood in Baton Rouge, La.

She admits being “a little nervous” that it may become harder to get pregnant, but she wants to pay off her student loans and, most of all, be able to live in a safe neighborhood.

“A lot of people, especially communities of color, can’t really afford that now,” she said. “I’m just apprehensive about going back to poverty. I know how it goes, I know the effects of it, and I’m thinking, ‘Can I ever break this curse?’ I would just like to change the narrative around.”

Starting a family used to be what people did to embark on adulthood; now many say they want to wait. Last year, the only age group in which the fertility rate increased was women ages 40 to 44. Delaying marriage and birth is a big reason people say they had fewer children than their ideal number: Female fertility begins significantly decreasing at age 32.


David Carlson, 29, graduated from college in 2010, when the job market was still rough. He and his wife had $100,000 in undergraduate debt between them. They both work full time — he in corporate finance and she in counseling — but they don’t yet feel they can take time away from their careers.

“Wages are not growing in proportion to the cost of living, and with student loans on top of that, it’s just really hard to get your financial footing — even if you’ve gone to college, work in a corporate job and have dual incomes,” said Mr. Carlson, who lives in Minneapolis and writes a personal finance blog for millennials.

He said they’d consider adoption if they decided to have children but had waited too long. Another option for having children later in life is egg freezing. Only 1 percent of female survey respondents said they had frozen their eggs — but almost half said they would if not for the cost.

Researchers say the United States could adopt policies that make it easier for people to both raise children and build careers. Government spending on child care for young children has the strongest effect. Policies that encourage parents to share child care help, too. Germany and Japan have used such ideas to reverse declining fertility.

High employment among women and high fertility don’t have to be in conflict, but they will be without such policies, said Olivier Thevenon, an economist studying child and family policies at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

“Whether the young generation will catch up later is not certain,” he said, “but will depend on their capacity to combine work and family.”

sábado, 7 de julio de 2018

TRUMP EFFECT July Job Numbers far exceeded expectations





The U.S. economy far exceeded expectations for July, and added a whopping 209,000 jobs.

On top of that, the unemployment rate dropped down to 4.3%.!


The U.S. economy continued a strong summer, adding 209,000 jobs in July while the unemployment rate fell to 4.3 percent, the lowest since March 2001, according to a government report Friday.

Economists surveyed by Reuters had expected the report to show growth of 183,000; the unemployment rate met expectations.

A more encompassing rate that includes discouraged workers and the underemployed was unchanged at 8.6 percent.

The number of employed Americans hit a new high of 153.5 million thanks to a surge of 345,000.

The employment-to-population ratio also moved up to 60.2 percent, its highest level since February 2009.
Stock market futures liked the news, rising to indicate a positive open, while government bond yields also moved considerably higher.

“Kind of an all-around strong headline number,” said Tony Bedikian, head of global markets for Citizens Bank.

“More people are coming into the labor force and finding jobs. It’s difficult to find anything really negative in the report.”

The closely watched wage number was unchanged from previous months, with average hourly earnings up 2.5 percent on an annualized basis.

The average work week also was unchanged at 34.5 hours.