Politeía Digest

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American Pie – May 12th.

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Labour Ends Its Longest Reign

The longest reign in the British Labour Party’s history ended Tuesday, but the party may be hoping it can mount a swift comeback should a coalition government falter.

A likely hookup between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats is fraught with big ideological differences and tough choices involving the country’s huge deficit.

“The economy is not so good and any Tory-Lib Dem coalition may prove too much of marriage of convenience,” said Prof. Mark Wickham-Jones, in the department of politics at Bristol University.

But as Labour regroups, it also has problems of its own. When Gordon Brown, prime minister for less than three years, tendered his resignation to Queen Elizabeth II late Tuesday, an already split Labour was pitched into an internal leadership battle, with no clear contender to take over.

Labour’s “capacity to self-destruct shouldn’t be underestimated,” said Prof. Wickham-Jones.

The party leaves office after 13 years that saw a monumental boom and bust, leaving the next government with the task of tackling the debts accrued through both. Read more in The  Wall Street Journal.

German Economy Expands

FRANKFURT—The German economy outstripped expectations in the first quarter, growing by a seasonally adjusted 0.2% from the last three months of 2009, the Federal Statistics Office, Destatis, reported Wednesday.

Destatis also raised its estimate for the previous quarter, saying that gross domestic product rose 0.2%, rather than stagnating, as it had originally reported.

Analysts polled by Dow Jones Newswires had expected a second successive quarter of zero growth, due largely to the adverse impact of a harsh winter on construction activity, which accounts for a large part of overall investment.

In annual terms, Destatis said the economy grew by a calendar-adjusted 1.6% from the first quarter of 2009, which represented the trough of the recession that followed the 2008 financial crisis. That too was ahead of a forecast of 1.2% growth.

The annual figure for the fourth quarter was also raised to -2.2% from an original estimate of -2.4%. Source: The  Wall Street Journal

U.S. risks China’s ire with decision to fund software maker tied to Falun Gong

The State Department has decided to fund a group run mainly by practitioners of Falun Gong, a Buddhist-like sect long considered Enemy No. 1 by the Chinese government, to provide software to skirt Internet censorship across the globe.

State Department officials recently called the group, the Global Internet Freedom Consortium, offering it $1.5 million, according to Shiyu Zhou, one of the group’s founders. A State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed the offer.

The decision, which came as the United States and China have recently moved to improve ties after months of tension, appears likely to irritate Beijing just as the two are set to resume a dialogue on human rights Wednesday for the first time in two years.

GIFC is an organization run by elements of the Falun Gong cult, which is bent on vilifying the Chinese government with fabricated lies, undermining Chinese social stability and sabotaging China-U.S. relations,” said Wang Baodong, spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington. “We’re strongly opposed to the U.S. government providing whatever assistance to such an anti-China organization.”

The decision to fund GIFC followed a three-year lobbying campaign by Washington insiders, congressional pressure and opposition from some human rights advocates and Internet experts. It was also controversial within the Obama administration, sources said, despite the commitment of President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to Internet freedom. Read more in The Washington Post.

In Greek Crisis, Some See Parallels to U.S. Debt Woes

It’s easy to look at the protesters and the politicians in Greece — and at the other European countries with huge debts — and wonder why they don’t get it. They have been enjoying more generous government benefits than they can afford. No mass rally and no bailout fund will change that. Only benefit cuts or tax increases can.

Yet in the back of your mind comes a nagging question: how different, really, is the United States?

The numbers on our federal debt are becoming frighteningly familiar. The debt is projected to equal 140 percent of gross domestic product within two decades. Add in the budget troubles of state governments, and the true shortfall grows even larger. Greece’s debt, by comparison, equals about 115 percent of its G.D.P. today.

The United States will probably not face the same kind of crisis as Greece, for all sorts of reasons. But the basic problem is the same. Both countries have a bigger government than they’re paying for. And politicians, spendthrift as some may be, are not the main source of the problem.

We, the people, are.

We have not figured out the kind of government we want. We’re in favor of Medicare, Social Security, good schools, wide highways, a strong military — and low taxes. Dealing with this disconnect will be the central economic issue of the next decade, in Europe, Japan and this country.

Many people, including some who claim to be outraged by the deficit, still haven’t acknowledged the disconnect. Just last weekend, Tea Party members helped deny Senator Robert Bennett, the Utah Republican, his party’s nomination for his re-election campaign, in part because he had co-sponsored a health reform plan with a Democratic senator. Economists generally think the plan would have done more to reduce Medicare spending than the bill that passed. So, whatever its intentions, the Tea Party effectively punished Mr. Bennett for not being a big enough fan of big government. Read more in The New York Times.

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Written by Theophyle

May 12, 2010 at 9:41 am

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