Goodbye Regulations, Hello Impending Global Financial Crisis

Prof.dr. Gerald Epstein

Ten years after the last financial crisis, Republicans — with backing from many Democrats — have made sure that Wall Street can return to its old ways of doing business by repealing the Dodd-Frank Act, which acted up to now as a very mild regulatory regime to rein in the predatory nature of financial capital. The decision to repeal Dodd-Frank was justified on the grounds that it put a break on economic growth. Gerald Epstein, professor of economics and co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, argues that this is not true at all. In this exclusive Truthout interview, Epstein notes that it is now very likely that the “toxic, speculative activities” of the Wall Street crowd will return with a menace, thereby preparing the groundwork for the next global financial crisis.

C.J. Polychroniou: Following the financial crisis of 2008, a bill was passed in 2010 under the Obama administration that sought to contain risks in the US financial system. The bill, which was sponsored by US Sen. Christopher Dodd and US Rep. Barney Frank, was rather weak as a regulatory regime. Nonetheless, it was severely criticized by conservatives. Donald Trump delivered a mixed message in running for president, railing against the big banks and Hillary Clinton’s connections to Wall Street, while at the same time promising more deregulation. Now, Congress has passed and President Trump has signed into law a comprehensive financial deregulation law, “The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act.” In addition, Trump-appointed financial regulatory agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have implemented policies to loosen regulations further on a variety of financial institutions and activities. The backers of rolling back Dodd-Frank have claimed that financial deregulation will increase economic growth and provide more credit to households and business. First, what were the weaknesses of the Dodd-Frank Act, and did it actually contribute to anemic economic growth, as its Republican critics like Paul Ryan and others are arguing?

Gerald Epstein: The main weakness of the Dodd-Frank Act is that it did not break up the “too big to fail” financial institutions. As a result, these large financial institutions retained the power to blackmail the public to bail them out the next time there is a financial meltdown and, as we have seen since Trump was elected, to buy off enough politicians to roll back the weak financial regulations that were passed. More generally, Dodd-Frank had way too many loopholes that resulted from financial sector lobbying so that it could never be implemented in its strongest form.

No, Dodd-Frank did not contribute to anemic growth. There is no evidence of this. Anemic growth was largely due to the legacy of the financial crisis itself, in which a great deal of household wealth was decimated, and to the continuing austerity policies that the Republicans were able to force on a weak-kneed and Wall Street-bedazzled Obama administration. On top of these factors are the long-term structural problems of the US economy related to the high level of inequality — itself largely due to the oversized power of Wall Street — and to the widespread disinvestment of US multinational corporations from the US economy, among other factors. If anything, Dodd-Frank worked against some of these tendencies, and thereby helped to sustain the long economic recovery that the Trump administration is now benefiting politically from. Read more

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Extended Statehood In The Caribbean ~ Paradoxes Of Quasi Colonialism, Local Autonomy And Extended Statehood In The USA, French, Dutch & British Caribbean

Extended2008 ~ Quite a number of islands in the Caribbean region have not yet gained independent status. They still have constitutional relationships with former colonial mother countries, be it Puerto Rico with the USA, the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba with the Netherlands, Martinique and Guadeloupe with the French Republic or the Caribbean Overseas Territories with Britain.
The status of the non-independent Caribbean remains ambiguous. None of the islands wish to stand on their own as sovereign states. A range of complexes is attributed to this (quasi) colonial status. They have sacrificed their cultural and political identities for a well-being that – by definition – cannot be fulfilled. The islands’ citizenry suffers from racial discrimination, not only at home, but also on the metropolitan mainland. And instead of exhausting every possibility to achieve sustainable development, a welfare mentality has overwhelmed the dynamics of the islands’ econonomies. Better off, yes, but at what price?
In this book, the islands’ connections with American and European metropolitan centers are considered lifelines which must be strengthened. The constitutional arrangement is defined as extended statehood, a form of government that is meant to supplement the island government. As de-colonization is not an option, it makes no sense to use alternative concepts such as dependency or re-colonization. These terms are biased and outdated. Circumstances have changed and require a format of analysis that goes beyond the old landscape of ‘colonies’ and ‘independent states’. The objective of this book is to promote a new look at extended statehood in the Caribbean while raising a number of questions relating to the operation of the different extended statehood systems across the region. What are their objectives? What is their mission? How are they organized? How do they operate? What are the advantages and what are the disadvantages? Are there any Gordian knots that cannot be solved?

The contributors to this book present a medley of interests in the Caribbean. Jorge Duany and Emilio Pantojas-Garica, University of Puerto Rico, describe the contradictions of Free Associated Statehood in Puerto Rico. Justin Daniel, University of the French Antilles and French Guiana (Martinique), contributed the part on the French Departement d’Outre mer (DOM)(Martinique and Guadeloupe). Peter Clegg, University of the West of England, Bristol, UK, delineates the United Kingdom’s relations with Caribbean Overseas Territories (COT). The chapter on the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the Caribbean is by Lammert de Jong, a former resident-representative of the Netherlands in the Netherlands Antilles. Francio Guadeloupe, University of Amsterdam, provided the introduction to anti-national pragmatism. Dirk Kruijt, Utrecht University, assisted in editing the volume.

Table of Contents
1. Lammert de Jong – Extended Statehood in the Caribbean: Definition and Focus.
2. Jorge Duany & Emilio Pantojas-Garcia – Fifty Years of Commonwealth. The Contradictions of Free Associated Statehood in Puerto Rico.
3. Justin Daniel – The French Departements d’outre mer. Guadeloupe and Martinique.
4. Lammert de Jong – The Kingdom of the Netherlands. A Not So Perfect Union with the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba.
5. Peter Clegg – The UK Caribbean Overseas Territories. Extended Statehood and the Process of Policy Convergence.
6. Francio Guadeloupe – Introducing an Anti-National Pragmatist on Saint Martin & Sint Maarten.
7. Lammert de Jong – Comparing Notes on Extended Statehood in the Caribbean.
About the authors

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Lof van de jenever. Een Nederlandse eigenaardigheid?

HenneboSterke drank, zoals brandewijn en jenever, zijn in de Nederlandse letterkunde slechts sporadisch het onderwerp geweest van lofzangen[i]. Dat is niet vreemd, want bij een lofzang past een prijzenswaardig onderwerp. Dat laatste is sterke drank niet, vooral niet een aantal effecten ervan. Toch worden vaker niet lofwaardige zaken op hooggestemde toon geprezen. Dit soort werk hoort dan tot een apart literair genre, het paradoxaal encomium of ironische lofrede genaamd. Daarin worden personen en zaken geroemd die op het eerste zicht een dergelijke lof helemaal niet verdienen. Het best bekende voorbeeld van een paradoxaal drank-encomium is De lof der jenever van Robert Hennebo. Deze lofzang op de Nederlandse nectar verscheen voor het eerst in 1718 en heeft sindsdien behoorlijk veel succes gekend. In de achttiende eeuw is het werkje zeven keer herdrukt en in 1987 kwam zelfs een vijftiende druk van de pers. Bovendien stond het in een geur van vaderlandsliefde, gezien de clandestiene uitgave uit 1945 die – om de bezetter te misleiden – met ‘1939’ op de titelpagina is verschenen. Kennelijk wilde de Bilthovense uitgever Ad Donker daarmee in deze barre tijden de liefhebbers van het vaderland een hart onder de riem steken. In de naoorlogse periode was de stemming alweer omgeslagen. Niet iedereen was even gelukkig met De lof der jenever. In 1950 kreeg de Haagse componist B. van Sligtenhorst Meyer van minister F.J.Th. Rutten (van Onderwijs, Wetenschappen en Kunsten in het kabinet Drees I) de vererende opdracht om een drietal koorwerken te componeren voor een a capella mannenkoor. De componist werd aanvankelijk geheel vrijgelaten bij zijn tekstkeuze, maar toen bleek dat hij onder meer De lof der jenever had getoonzet, was de beer los en weigerde de minister financiële ondersteuning voor het drukken en uitvoeren van dit werk. De recalcitrante componist liet het er niet bij zitten, maar droeg terstond zijn werk op aan de Erven Lucas Bols te Amsterdam. PvdA’er Vermeer voelde zich hierop gedrongen om in 1952 over ’s mans actie een kamervraag te stellen. Die werd beantwoord door staatssecretaris Cals van OKW, die zich uit deze penibele situatie wist te redden door te verklaren dat de opdracht door de componist weliswaar was uitgevoerd, maar dat dit was geschied onder het aanbrengen van een weinig elegante toevoeging in zijn geesteskind. Hoe het voor de Haagse componist uiteindelijk is afgelopen, blijft onduidelijk.

In onze tijd is Hennebo’s gedicht niet langer aanleiding tot kamervragen, maar tot een aantal heel gewone literatuurhistorische vragen, zoals: zijn er nog meer Nederlandse gedichten te vinden waarin sterke drank wordt geprezen? Is zo’n gedicht een typisch Nederlands verschijnsel of kennen ook andere Europese literaturen het? En tenslotte: sinds wanneer gaf dit gedicht aanleiding tot warme vaderlandslievende gevoelens? Read more

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Paolo Heywood & Maja Spanu ~ We Need To Talk About How We Talk About Fascism

The word “fascism” has recently reemerged as a key piece of political terminology. The headlines immediately after Donald Trump’s election as president of the US read like a disturbing question and answer session.

“Is Donald Trump a Fascist?” asked Newsweek. The Washington Post had the answer, declaring “Donald Trump is actually a Fascist”, but later sought to quantify things in a bit more detail with “How Fascist is Donald Trump?”. Meanwhile, Salon agreed that “Donald Trump is an actual Fascist”.

That all raises the question: what actually counts as fascism? It’s a question that has its own history, just as Nazism and fascism themselves do. And it’s similarly not without controversy.

Defining what counted as Nazism and fascism in the immediate aftermath of World War II was an urgent task faced by allied administrators and jurists in Germany and Italy. Examining these projects and their effects may help shed some light on how we talk, or perhaps on how we ought to think before talking, about fascism today.

Read morehttps://theconversation.com/we-need-to-talk-about-how-we-talk-about-fascism

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David Kenning ~ States Of Mind

States of Mind (SoM) (Beyond Appearances) is a forum for looking behind the world of appearances. Only by understanding hidden drivers, motives and desires – and seeing through the commonly accepted narratives – can we explain what is really happening in our world.

States of Mind takes a generally pessimistic view of the human condition. Modernity, social-media, celebrity-culture and dumbing-down are making shallow fools of the many and putting democracy itself in danger. At the same time, nation states are increasingly polarising and fragmenting into confrontational groups driven by the grievances of identity politics. We are living through a post-ideological age where conspiracy theories, hashtags, celebrity culture and fake news are replacing thought, conversation and analysis. The democratisation of unfiltered information is leading to the fracturing of social cohesion.

Good things often take time, thought, experience and care to create. Too often today, time-tried-and-tested institutions, humane values and policies are being attacked and destroyed by greedy, ignorant and aggressive individuals, groups and organizations. Most are bent on increasing inequality, exclusion and division. These people are at war with core democratic values and have found a way to use the processes of democracy to attack and diminish social cohesion and the democratic mindset. We have a paradoxical situation where the citizen’s vote has become the single greatest threat to democratic values. States of Mind aims to become a force to help cure democracy of this auto-immune disease. In this sense, democracy is at war with itself and warfare must be re-defined as the ability to know, understand and influence how people think and feel. Our values and analysis of the situation are valid. What we lack in today’s “reality is information” world, is influence.

States of Mind recognizes that we need to become players in this war if we are to defend what is right, what is good and protect the everyday values of fratérnité – pluralism, respect for the other, tolerance and compromise.  States of Mind intends to gather opinions and insights into ways to influence key decision-makers and put some backbone into politicians and policy-makers. In this regard we do not trust governments, elected leaders or politicians to get it right. We recognise that we ourselves must take the fight directly to those who would destroy democratic values. Think about it.

States of Mind will pick-up issues across the spectrum – and spare no individuals, groups, organizations or country practices from deeper scrutiny. But we also aim to entertain and have a good deal of fun. We may be pessimistic but we are bold and cheerful and always enjoy a good laugh.

Our content will be taken from open sources across the media and supported by bespoke think-pieces, weighty references and analysis from insightful contributors. There is a lot out there we need to expose and shame. And in the process, we take a sceptical position towards the prevailing so-called values of the so-called “superpowers” who are inflicting so much material damage and misery on the world. We don’t trust them, period. We aim to expose and share best practice in taking the fight to the darker forces dismantling the human values that make life worth living.

Perhaps it is already too late and the battle is lost, for now. Perhaps not.

Go to: https://www.statesofmind.eu/

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The Making Of The Statute Of The European System Of Central Banks

May, 2018: The complete book – updated version – will be online soon. 

Do you find it difficult to understand why the European Central Bank is restricted in its assistance to EU countries which have difficulty borrowing from financial markets? And do you find it interesting to learn what the tools are of the ECB, compared to the Federal Reserve System, and why the monetary part of the Economic and Monetary Union is so much more successful than its economic leg? These questions are answered in the book The Making of the Statute of the European System of Central Banks, which first appeared as a dissertation in 2004. It describes the economic, political and legal discussions behind every article of the statute of the ESCB, which rules its behaviour and which restrict the options for politicians to intervene in the policy of the ECB. After you have read this, you will find it much easier to understand and predict the behaviour of important actors, like the decision-making body of the ECB and politicians, and the tensions between them.

Checks and balances
The phrase ‘checks and balances’ is most known for its use as a description of the American system of government. The essential feature is that the departments (branches) of government are not just separate from each other (i.e. having their own functional jurisdiction and the absence of personal unions), but also exert limited control over each other, to the extent necessary for preventing departments (branches) from assuming authority in areas for which other branches are responsible. This philosophy was based on the experience that especially the legislature if left to itself could expand its powers in the field of the executive and in extreme cases even taking on judicial powers.

Read more

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Philip Roth ~ The Plot Against America

About The Plot Against America
Set in Newark, New Jersey, in the early 1940s, The Plot Against America tells the story of what it was like for the Roth family and Jews across the country when the isolationist aviation hero Charles Lindbergh was elected president of the United States. Roth’s richly imagined novel begins in 1940, with the landslide election of Lindbergh, who blamed the Jews for pushing America toward war with Nazi Germany. Lindbergh’s admiration of Hitler and his openly anti-Semitic speeches cause increasing turmoil in the Roth household, and in nine-year-old Philip, as political events at home and abroad overtake their daily lives. Alvin, the orphaned nephew the family has taken in, runs away to Canada to fight the Nazis. Sandy, Philip’s older brother, ascribes his parents’ fears to paranoia and embraces Lindbergh’s Just Folks program, which sends him and other Jewish children to live in the “heartland” for a summer. Philip’s mother, Bess, wants the family to flee to Canada before it is too late to escape. But his fiercely idealistic father, Herman, refuses to abandon the country where he was born and raised as an American. Overwhelmed by the tensions around him, Philip tries to run away. “I wanted nothing to do with history,” he says. “I wanted to be a boy on the smallest scale possible. I wanted to be an orphan.” But history will not let go, and as America is whipped into a deadly frenzy by demagogues, the Roths and Jews everywhere begin to expect the worst. In The Plot Against America Philip Roth writes with a historical sweep and lyrical intimacy that have rarely been so skillfully combined. As the novel explores the convulsive collision of history and family, readers take a chilling look at devastating events that could have occurred in America–and consider the many possible histories existing beneath the one that actually happened.

About Philip Roth
In 1997 Philip Roth won the Pulitzer Prize for American Pastoral. In 1998 he received the National Medal of Arts at the White House, and in 2002 received the highest award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Gold Medal in Fiction, previously awarded to John Dos Passos, William Faulkner, and Saul Bellow, among others. He has twice won the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 2005 Philip Roth has become the third living American writer to have his work published in a comprehensive, definitive edition by the Library of America.

Source: http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/

The Plot Against America – PDF-format: https://m.reddit.com/theplotagainstamericabyphiliproth/

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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ~ The Danger Of A Single Story


Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice — and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.

TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world’s leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes. Featured speakers have included Al Gore on climate change, Philippe Starck on design, Jill Bolte Taylor on observing her own stroke, Nicholas Negroponte on One Laptop per Child, Jane Goodall on chimpanzees, Bill Gates on malaria and mosquitoes, Pattie Maes on the “Sixth Sense” wearable tech, and “Lost” producer JJ Abrams on the allure of mystery. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, and TEDTalks cover these topics as well as science, business, development and the arts. Closed captions and translated subtitles in a variety of languages are now available on TED.com, at http://www.ted.com/translate. Watch a highlight reel of the Top 10 TEDTalks at http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/top10

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