Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Bush-Obama Axis

The Obama Administration's claims that the Syrian government is using chemical weapons in that country's civil war, which were almost immediately amplified by British Prime Minister David Cameron, should be compared and contrasted with the Bush Administration's claims that Sadaam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, which were helpfully echoed by then British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Alex Wong photo-Getty images
President Obama this week heaped lavish, over-the-top praise on Bush at the opening of the Bush presidential library. Obama has refused to make the inquiries into crimes committed during the Bush Administration required of him by law and has continued, seamlessly, Bush's policies, including waging aggressive war, spying on US citizens, catering to Wall Street, banks and big business while going after working class programs like Social Security.

As the Obama Administration takes the initial steps to prepare US citizens for a war on Syria if not an expanded involvement there, it's no coincidence that Obama flew to Texas this week to praise Bush. Bush's popularity rating of 47 percent now equals Obama's, thanks in no small measure to Obama. One way of clearing away the public's resistance to war is to rehabilitate Bush, whose name is associated with the costs of war. Don't be surprised if Bush suddenly comes out of retirement to call for an attack on Syria.

Spain, contd.

Earlier this week I pointed out Spain's 27 percent unemployment rate and the fact that the Neoliberal "austerity" measures forced on Spain and other countries by the European Union and IMF, under the leadership of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have all been utter failures. They also have caused the EU to enter a new recession, the third in quick succession; some call it a triple dip recession.

Now the New York Times reports that Merkel and her Neoliberal allies may be reconsidering austerity measures, and at the least are "softening" their rhetoric about it. This is partly a rebranding in reaction to widespread anger over their policies, which has spread to Merkel's Germany where she faces an upcoming election, and partly an acknowledgment that austerity has failed.

The change in tone "comes after an influential academic paper embraced by austerity advocates as evidence that even recessionary economies should cut spending to avoid high debt levels, written by the Harvard scholars Carmen M. Reinhart and Kenneth S. Rogoff, has come under attack for errors that opponents of austerity say helped lead European policy makers astray. 

Of course European economists insist that they had decided to change plans before the Reinhart-Rogoff paper was found to be a fraud, the Times report says.

Note: The story of the debunking of the Reinhart-Rogoff paper is interesting. Major mistakes in the February, 2011 paper, which had become the austerity advocates' Bible, here and in Europe, were discovered this month by a University of Massachusetts graduate student, Thomas Herndon, who "proved the paper contained multiple errors, provoking widespread international interest and embarrassment for austerity policymakers."

Paul Krugman this week mused in his NYT column about why austerity theory continues to be government policy after it's been thoroughly debunked and proven to be a failure.


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