Plutocrats Against Democracy (Paul Krugman)

cropped-escola-de-atenas1It’s always good when leaders tell the truth, especially if that wasn’t their intention. So we should be grateful to Leung Chun-ying, the Beijing-backed leader of Hong Kong, for blurting out the real reason pro-democracy demonstrators can’t get what they want: With open voting, “You would be talking to half of the people in Hong Kong who earn less than $1,800 a month. Then you would end up with that kind of politics and policies” — policies, presumably, that would make the rich less rich and provide more aid to those with lower incomes.

So Mr. Leung is worried about the 50 percent of Hong Kong’s population that, he believes, would vote for bad policies because they don’t make enough money. This may sound like the 47 percent of Americans who Mitt Romney said would vote against him because they don’t pay income taxes and, therefore, don’t take responsibility for themselves, or the 60 percent that Representative Paul Ryan argued pose a danger because they are “takers,” getting more from the government than they pay in. Indeed, these are all basically the same thing.

For the political right has always been uncomfortable with democracy. No matter how well conservatives do in elections, no matter how thoroughly free-market ideology dominates discourse, there is always an undercurrent of fear that the great unwashed will vote in left-wingers who will tax the rich, hand out largess to the poor, and destroy the economy.

In fact, the very success of the conservative agenda only intensifies this fear. Many on the right — and I’m not just talking about people listening to Rush Limbaugh; I’m talking about members of the political elite — live, at least part of the time, in an alternative universe in which America has spent the past few decades marching rapidly down the road to serfdom. Never mind the new Gilded Age that tax cuts and financial deregulation have created; they’re reading books with titles like “A Nation of Takers: America’s Entitlement Epidemic,” asserting that the big problem we have is runaway redistribution.

This is a fantasy. Still, is there anything to fears that economic populism will lead to economic disaster? Not really. Lower-income voters are much more supportive than the wealthy toward policies that benefit people like them, and they generally support higher taxes at the top. But if you worry that low-income voters will run wild, that they’ll greedily grab everything and tax job creators into oblivion, history says that you’re wrong. All advanced nations have had substantial welfare states since the 1940s — welfare states that, inevitably, have stronger support among their poorer citizens. But you don’t, in fact, see countries descending into tax-and-spend death spirals — and no, that’s not what ails Europe.

Still, while the “kind of politics and policies” that responds to the bottom half of the income distribution won’t destroy the economy, it does tend to crimp the incomes and wealth of the 1 percent, at least a bit; the top 0.1 percent is paying quite a lot more in taxes right now than it would have if Mr. Romney had won. So what’s a plutocrat to do?

One answer is propaganda: tell voters, often and loudly, that taxing the rich and helping the poor will cause economic disaster, while cutting taxes on “job creators” will create prosperity for all. There’s a reason conservative faith in the magic of tax cuts persists no matter how many times such prophecies fail (as is happening right now in Kansas): There’s a lavishly funded industry of think tanks and media organizations dedicated to promoting and preserving that faith.

Another answer, with a long tradition in the United States, is to make the most of racial and ethnic divisions — government aid just goes to Those People, don’t you know. And besides, liberals are snooty elitists who hate America.

A third answer is to make sure government programs fail, or never come into existence, so that voters never learn that things could be different.

But these strategies for protecting plutocrats from the mob are indirect and imperfect. The obvious answer is Mr. Leung’s: Don’t let the bottom half, or maybe even the bottom 90 percent, vote.

And now you understand why there’s so much furor on the right over the alleged but actually almost nonexistent problem of voter fraud, and so much support for voter ID laws that make it hard for the poor and even the working class to cast ballots. American politicians don’t dare say outright that only the wealthy should have political rights — at least not yet. But if you follow the currents of thought now prevalent on the political right to their logical conclusion, that’s where you end up.

The truth is that a lot of what’s going on in American politics is, at root, a fight between democracy and plutocracy. And it’s by no means clear which side will win.

The New York Times

‘ISIS is CIA false flag op, pretext for war inside Syria & Iraq’

Coletiva à imprensa do Ministro Figueiredo sobre Venezuela em 16 de abril de 2014

Vídeo

Publicado em 17/04/2014
Coletiva do Ministro Luis Alberto Figueiredo Machado à imprensa sobre o diálogo político na Venezuela, realizada em Brasília, em 16 de abril de 2014.

Oligarchical topography of Ukraine. Andrei Fursov

Vídeo

Publicado em 26/04/2014
Many domestic and foreign interests coincided to create the Banderite coup d’état in Ukraine. Andrei Fursov, historian and sociologist, explains who needed what out of Ukraine and how the events of 2014 had been in the making for years. Also how Russia has been the target of the Western elite for 200 years, the disastrous Gorbachev & Yeltsin period, when Russia’s assets were given away, and the Rubicon that has been crossed by Russia’s defense of Syria and Crimea, which begins a new era of adversarial relations between the West and Russia

RT: ‘Last thing US wants in the world is democracy. It wants control’

Vídeo

Publicado em 28/04/2014
The crisis in Ukraine and the steadily dropping temperature in relations between Moscow and Washington made many talk about a new Cold War; and many others are worried it may turn ‘hot’. But there’s another war going on right now: the information war. US Secretary of State Kerry has already attacked RT, calling it “Putin’s propaganda machine.” But Washington itself uses dubious evidence and fake facts. What is the information war? What methods is America using? Sophie talks to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and veteran correspondent Chris Hedges

Overthrowing Governments 101, CIA Coups

Vídeo

Publicado em 26/04/2012
The United States government has a long history of coup making around the world. With our guest, author and former New York Times Bureau Chief Stephen Kinzer, we take a detailed look at the American overthrow of governments in Iran 1953, Guatemala 1954 and Chile 1973. In examining these coups, we learn the tried and true techniques employed by governments to destabilize and bring down foreign governments. We, also, examine the corporate interests which typically provide the impetus for coups.

Mr. Kinzer is the author of “Overthrow”, a history of 14 American coups ranging from Hawaii in 1893 to Iraq in 2003. He is, also, the author of “All the Shah’s Men, An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror” and co-author of “Bitter Fruit: The Untold Story of the American Coup in Guatemala.”

Note: This YouTube production is based on an edition of the nationally broadcast radio series “History Counts”, now called “In Context”.

About “In Context”
In Context is broadcast on listener sponsored, non-commercial radio WPKN 89.5 FM, Bridgeport, Connecticut. The broadcast can be heard in most of Connecticut and parts of New York. Programs stream at http://www.wpkn.org and are archived after broadcast at http://www.incontextreport.com for free listening and download. Please visit our website for the current broadcast schedule, audio podcasts, videos and original articles.

History Counts and In Context are produced by MDR Productions, Inc. This YouTube edition of History Counts was created for MDR Productions by Ken MacDermotRoe.

Federalism holds the key to democracy in India

Federalism holds the key to democracy in India

What will save India from the toxic juggernaut of the BJP leader Narendra Modi is that it doesn’t have a presidential system
Supporters of Narendra Modi, the PM candidate for BJP, during a rally for the 2014 general elections

Narendra Modi supporters. ‘Indians continue to vote in high numbers because of pride in having secured the ballot through the freedom movement.’ Photograph: Ahmad Masood/Reuters

India’s elections are a statistician’s dream. Between 7 April and 12 May the Indian people will elect their 16th parliament (Lok Sabha). About 814 million of them are eligible to vote, 100 million more than for the previous parliamentary election in 2009. If about half of this population goes to the polls – the average turnout – then these 400 million voters will outnumber the total population of the US.

In 1952, when India elected its first parliament, the election commissioner Sukumar Sen called it “the biggest experiment in democracy in human history“. His judgment holds true today: the scale of the endeavour is remarkable and the enthusiasm of the population to elect their representatives is exemplary – particularly since the gains to the vast majority seem minimal. Indians continue to vote in high numbers because of pride in having secured the ballot through the freedom movement, the immense social pressure often exercised through caste and community channels, and the way in which resources are distributed by the electoral victor.

The incumbent for this election is the Congress Party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), which has been wracked by scandal and malaise. The UPA resembles an old shaggy dog that drifts in from the rain with its election manifesto dragged behind it like a wet blanket. Little about the UPA’s decade in office inspires confidence: the situation for the poor remains miserable, with a recent study showing that 680 million Indians experience deprivation; no number of malls and freeways will lift them out of poverty. Increasingly, the UPA appears as the alliance of the well-heeled elite – less Gandhiji and Nehruji, the wags say, and more 2G (the telecom scandal) and CWG (the Commonwealth Games scandal). Its standard bearer, Rahul Gandhi, is the scion of the Gandhi family but without the charisma and intelligence of his grandmother (Indira Gandhi) and grandfather (Jawaharlal Nehru). His is a pitiful task.

India’s main opposition over this decade has been the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), a right-leaning group with a muscular and controversial leader, Narendra Modi. On economic issues the BJP and the Congress are identical, although the former says it will provide governance without corruption. The achilles heel of the BJP is its toxic social agenda, which has been demonstrated in Modi’s home state of Gujarat, in its anti-Christian pogrom in Dangs in the 1990s and its anti-Muslim pogrom in 2002. The National Human Rights Commission of India found that the Gujarat state apparatus was complicit in the 2002 violence. Modi cleverly ignores this while putting himself forward as the champion of development. With the Congress unable to extricate itself from the quicksand of corruption, Modi’s feint impresses the middle class and the corporate elite.

What will save India from the Modi juggernaut is that it doesn’t have a presidential system. The people will elect 543 new members of parliament. The winning bloc will have to secure half the seats, not easy for the Congress (206 seats in the last parliament) or the BJP (117 seats). Since 1967, the Indian government has been formed out of alliances that include regional parties with deep roots in the Indian states. The old days of a single party ruling the roost are gone; regional parties are now able to dictate terms for the coalition. It is what moderates the extremism of the BJP – but only out of necessity. Modi’s toxicity has turned off core allies, leaving the BJP with the confidence of a lion but the alliances of a skunk. To complicate matters, a new anti-corruption party – the Aam Aadmi Party – promises to directly challenge the Congress and the BJP in their north Indian heartlands. If they are able to do so, it will strengthen the hand of the Third Front.

The Third Front, under various names, has made an appearance in each election since 1967. It brings together regional parties and the Left Front, which is often its backbone. They are united by their antipathy to both the Congress and the BJP, and their commitment to secularism and social justice. No easy common programme can be produced, largely because the parties in the Front differ hugely in their assessment of how the country should develop. Nevertheless, one of its contributions has been to move India in a federal direction to empower the states (Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, has a population of 200 million, larger than most countries in the world).

In a country of India’s scale, federalism is a pathway to democracy. In a fractured parliament the Third Front could broker a government committed to social justice and secularism – as it did in 2004 when the Congress was pushed to create social welfare schemes such as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. When the Left broke with the Congress in 2009, the alliance that remained – the UPA – departed from any commitment to relief. Only when the Left is a vital part of the Third Front has this alliance been able to push for reforms to rebuild the hopes and lives of hundreds of millions of Indians who live below any given standard of a poverty line. Only when the Left and its allies are stronger yet will they be able to chart an alternative direction for India.

Fonte: The Guardian