The most recent edition of openDemocracy’s 50/50 quarterly features an interview with Dr. Yakin Erturk, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, on how the global economic crisis is affecting women. Dr. Erturk also notes the import of ‘political economy’ in the pursuit of women’s rights, especially during a time of financial upheaval.
We refer to human rights as if they were confined to civil and political rights; this is also reflected in the twin covenants which have divided rights into civil and political on the one hand, and economic and social on the other. The latter is generally seen as inspirational and the first one as the real thing. But we know from women’s lives that unless we have a holistic approach to women’s rights, whereby women can achieve economic independence or are at least empowered socially and politically, the rights they may read about in books do not reach them. So my final report to the council this year is taking up this challenge: I have argued that underneath the surface of many of the things that we talk about as being cultural, there is a solid, material basis which feeds certain concrete interests and relationships; and that unless we dig down into that base we are talking at a very abstract level. Culture can take on a life of its own, so that we assume that that is the reality, when half the time nobody really understands its true impact.
We are all cultural beings: it is very hard to attack cultures. What I wanted to do in my culture report was to connect this to a more profound analysis of concrete interests, real power – hence political economy. Particularly in the neo-liberal era, it is political economy which is creating new challenges for women’s rights, while at the same time, of course, creating some new opportunities.
As they say, read the whole damn thing.
Uncle Steve is looking onward and upward:
Faced with complaints he wasn’t doing enough to soothe a nervous nation, Harper offered a detailed, if unemotional, dissertation on the economy.
“For Canada, this crisis does offer opportunity,” Harper told more than 400 people at a joint gathering of the Brampton and Mississauga boards of trade.
“Ultimately, it is an opportunity to position ourselves so that when the economic recovery comes, we’re among the first to catch the wave.”
The Prime Minister said that the government, though projecting a budget deficit for the next few years, is in the best financial shape of all G7 governments.
Harper noted that while Canada’s economy shrank at a 3.4 per cent annualized rate in the fourth quarter of 2008, it was half the decline experienced by the United States and Europe, and only a quarter of the devastating drop in Japan.
He said Canada’s stable banking system, low debt, low inflation rate and skilled workforce puts the country in a position of “significant comparative strength” to ride out the downturn.
“I say to you, as business people, as community builders, as citizens, if there ever was a time to put away that legendary Canadian modesty, it is now,” Harper said to applause.
Alas, the facts (yeah, those pesky things) belie Harper’s feigned deadpan optimism:
The parliamentary budget officer says the Canadian economy is doing even worse than published figures would suggest.
Kevin Page says in a new assessment of the economy that last quarter’s 3.4 per cent contraction in gross domestic product doesn’t begin to reflect how far Canada’s performance has fallen.
He says an even better indicator is gross domestic income, which measures Canadians’ purchasing power, and that shows a plunge of 15.3 per cent in the fourth quarter over the previous three months.
Oh, and about that 3.4 per cent figure so heartily humped by the PM?
The report says even the often-cited GDP figures which finds the U.S. economy shrinking by 6.2 per cent in the fourth quarter compared to Canada’s 3.4 per cent are misleading.
Those are annualized figures, Page notes, adding that compared to a year ago, Canada’s GDP is down 0.7 per cent and the U.S. by 0.8 per cent, almost identical records.
Don’t opportunistically and immodestly grab your surfboards just yet, kids — the wave of economic recovery is likely to crash long before it crests.
Related: Michael Ignatieff: The Harvey Dent of Canadian politics.
Greg Sargent notes that House Taliban lieutenant Rep. Patrick McHenry has finally given voice to the blatantly obvious motivation driving the GOP obstruction uber alles strategy:
McHenry’s description is buried in this new article from National Journal (sub. only):
“We will lose on legislation. But we will win the message war every day, and every week, until November 2010,” said Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., an outspoken conservative who has participated on the GOP message teams. “Our goal is to bring down approval numbers for [Speaker Nancy] Pelosi and for House Democrats. That will take repetition. This is a marathon, not a sprint.”
McHenry’s spokesperson, Brock McCleary, tells me his boss is standing by the quote.
Of course McHenry is standing by the quote. The leaderless GOP insurgency has nothing left in its depleted arsenal except recycled guerrilla tactics, the ideological equivalent of roadside IEDs. They are literally betting the House on the efficacy of this strategy.
And, as D-Day notes, the asymmetrical campaign goes beyond mere electoral gain:
Over the long term, all [Congressional Republicans] are doing is chipping away at the notion that government can perform its core function, demonizing the activities of the Congress, evoking mistrust in elected officials, and poisoning the whole notion of federal spending. That’s their REAL project.
So here’s the picture that scares me: It’s September 2009, the unemployment rate has passed 9 percent, and despite the early round of stimulus spending it’s still headed up. Mr. Obama finally concedes that a bigger stimulus is needed.
But he can’t get his new plan through Congress because approval for his economic policies has plummeted, partly because his policies are seen to have failed, partly because job-creation policies are conflated in the public mind with deeply unpopular bank bailouts. And as a result, the recession rages on, unchecked.
Bottom line is this: The GOP is perfectly willing to sacrifice the economic solvency of the United States–of the entire fucking world–simply to gain a few seats in 2010–and, in the process, will do whatever it takes to guarantee the fulfilment of its by-now tired contention that public investment never, ever works.
Frank Schaeffer is absolutely correct:
[T]he Republican Party has become the party of obstruction at just the time when all Americans should be pulling together for the good of our country. Instead, Republicans are today’s fifth column sabotaging American renewal.
Sharpen the pitchforks.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger advocates for a high-speed rail system to modernize US infrastructure, which he considers to be on par with that of a developing country. He says, “Our trains go the same speed today as they were 100 years ago,” Schwarzenegger says. “So where is the progress?”
Complete video here.
(Image: Kyle Cassidy, used under a GNU Free Documentation License)
Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., one of the three Republicans who voted for the [stimulus] legislation, said the GOP risks becoming “the party of Hoover,” echoing a warning that Vice President Richard B. Cheney delivered last year during negotiations over the Bush administration’s rescue of the auto industry.
After Hoover left office in 1933, amid the economic rubble of the Great Depression, Specter noted, “not until Eisenhower came up decades later did a Republican win the presidency, and he was a war hero.”
First he lobbies and votes for the recovery package; now he’s standing up against continued GOP douchebaggery in the legislative branch. Arlen must have finally found–and cracked–the safe where the Senate Republican leadership was keeping his testicles locked up all these years.
I stand by my previously expressed policy objections to the compromised Senate version of the recovery plan. I also still think the ‘moderate’ Kabuki performance that apparently trumped the real-world consequences of cutting funds to the states was despicable (but, hey, as long as the ‘workhorses’ keep garnering kudos from the Village). Hopefully a lot of what was stripped from the bill is put back in when it goes to conference committee.
With that said, the following graphic illustrates why, considering how urgent it is to pass a recovery plan as soon as possible, something is better than nothing (literally):
Related: Americans United for Change launch radio ads praising Susan Collins, Arlen Specter, Ben Nelson and Olympia Snowe for “providing the leadership we need to get the job done” and helping the Senate “reach agreement on a plan that has support from a broad range of groups — including the US Chamber of Commerce and organized labor.”
So, after having “cut some stuff just to say that they had cut some stuff” from President Obama’s recovery plan, as publius aptly summed up last night’s contentious-yet-self-congratulatory bipartisan circle jerk, what exactly are we (the people) left with?
[T]he centrists have shaved off $86 billion in spending — much of it among the most effective and most needed parts of the plan. In particular, aid to state governments, which are in desperate straits, is both fast — because it prevents spending cuts rather than having to start up new projects — and effective, because it would in fact be spent; plus state and local governments are cutting back on essentials, so the social value of this spending would be high. But in the name of mighty centrism, $40 billion of that aid has been cut out.
My first cut says that the changes to the Senate bill will ensure that we have at least 600,000 fewer Americans employed over the next two years.
Heck of a motherfucking job, kiddies.
h/t Joe Trippi via Twitter
Oh, joy — ‘moderation’ once again rules the day in Washington:
U.S. senators began debate on a massive economic-recovery package Friday evening, after a working coalition of Democrats and some Republicans reached a compromise that trimmed billions in spending from an earlier version.
The movement came after days of private meetings between centrist Democrats and Republicans who felt the price tag on the Senate’s nearly $900 billion version of the package was too much.
“There is a winner tonight,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut and one of the moderates whose support was crucial in building support for the plan. “It’s the American people and they deserve it.”
Sen. Ben Nelson, a Democrat from Nebraska and one of the chief negotiators of the plan, said senators had trimmed the plan to $827 billion in tax cuts and spending on infrastructure, housing and other programs that would create or save jobs.
“We trimmed the fat, fried the bacon and milked the sacred cows,” Nelson said as debate began.
But, as John Nichols points out:
[I]n order to get two Republican votes (those of Susan Collins of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania) that were needed to break a threatened GOP filibuster, [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid surrendered an estimated $110 billion is proposed stimulus spending. In doing so, they cut not just fat but bone.
Fat, bone and taxes–Nichols reports that tax cuts now account for “40 percent of the overall cost of the package,” a counterproductive conciliatory gesture that Nichols warns “will do little or nothing to stimulate job creation for a country than lost almost 600,000 positions in January alone.”
Just how much bone was shaved off to prevent a (potential!) GOP filibuster?
The bottom line is that, under the Senate plan:
* States will get less aid.
* Schools will get less help.
* Job creation programs will be less well funded.
* Preparations to combat potential public health disasters — which could put the final nail in the economy’s coffin — will not be made.
In every sense, the Senate plan moves in the wrong direction.
At a time when smart economists are saying that a bigger, bolder stimulus plan is needed, Senate Democrats and a few moderate Republicans have agreed to a smaller, weaker initiative.
Something may indeed be better than nothing, and politics is nothing if not the art of the compromise, but, like Nichols, I’m finding it difficult to join in on the bipartisan fetish party. As President Obama aptly put it this past Thursday while rhetorically addressing “critics who complain ” “this is not a stimulus bill, this is a spending bill,’ What do you think a stimulus is [emph. mine]? That’s the whole point. No, seriously, that’s the point.”"
Well, apparently the President’s point was a bit too fine for the “moderates” in the Senate to fully appreciate. Perhaps Steven Pearlstein’s modest proposal to provide lawmakers with “economic personal trainers” should be seriously considered when the freshly-’moderated’ recovery plan finally makes it to conference committee.
Related: Congressional Quarterly runs down the various amendments that were voted on throughout Friday evening. My personal favourite: David Vitter’s ultimately unsuccessful attempt to keep funds away from those evil Marxists in ACORN (SHRIEK!)
Nearly 600, 000 American jobs were lost in the month of December, the largest single month loss since 1974. These latest figures bring the total number of jobs shed in the last 3 months to 1.8 million. As a result, the US unemployment rate is now pushing 8%.
Chris Isidore of CNNMoney.com puts those numbers into proper context:
As bad as the unemployment rate was, it only tells part of the story for people struggling to find jobs. Friday’s report also showed that 2.6 million people have now been out of work for more than six months, the most long-term unemployed since 1983.
And that number only counts those still looking for work. The so-called underemployment rate, which includes those who have stopped looking for work and people working only part-time that want full-time positions, climbed to 13.9% from 13.5% in December. That is the highest rate for this measure since the Labor Department first started tracking it in 1994.
Absolutely “devastating”, as President Obama just observed during a news conference introducing his new emergency economic advisory board.
Yet, as Ali Frick at Think Progress acidly points out, “Republicans are stonewalling action to help the economy recover. Even as millions of Americans are losing their jobs, conservative Senators insist that there’s no rush to help them.”
LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): We do not need any more news conferences. What we need is getting more than 16 people in a room. We need to slow down, take a timeout, and get it right.
ROGER WICKER (R-MS): As Thomas Jefferson reminded Americans in his day — and I quote — “Delay is preferable to error.” Let’s not rush into doing this the wrong way.
JOHN ENSIGN (R-NV): So we need to act much more responsibly than this bill acts. It’s still time. There is no hurry.
TOM COBURN (R-OK): There’s no reason for us to hurry up, number one. There’s no reason for us not to look at every area of this bill and make sure the [American] people know about it.
Paul Krugman doesn’t mince words in his column today:
Over the last two weeks, what should have been a deadly serious debate about how to save an economy in desperate straits turned, instead, into hackneyed political theater, with Republicans spouting all the old clichés about wasteful government spending and the wonders of tax cuts.
It’s as if the dismal economic failure of the last eight years never happened — yet Democrats have, incredibly, been on the defensive. Even if a major stimulus bill does pass the Senate, there’s a real risk that important parts of the original plan, especially aid to state and local governments, will have been emasculated.
Somehow, Washington has lost any sense of what’s at stake — of the reality that we may well be falling into an economic abyss, and that if we do, it will be very hard to get out again.
Would the Obama economic plan, if enacted, ensure that America won’t have its own lost decade? Not necessarily: a number of economists, myself included, think the plan falls short and should be substantially bigger. But the Obama plan would certainly improve our odds. And that’s why the efforts of Republicans to make the plan smaller and less effective — to turn it into little more than another round of Bush-style tax cuts — are so destructive.
As Obama put it in a speech to Democratic lawmakers last night (h/t Steve Benen), “[Y]ou get the argument, ‘Well, this is not a stimulus bill, this is a spending bill.’ What do you think a stimulus is? That’s the whole point. No, seriously. That’s the point.”
Benen further notes that “The Politico‘s Jonathan Martin said that the president’s urgent tone was “reminiscent of the final days of the campaign.” It was actually more than just reminiscent — at one point, Obama literally asked lawmakers, “Fired up?” They shouted back, “Ready to go!“”
So, let’s go. Now.
Take action: Contact your senator and demand they cease with the tiresome, frivolous political theatrics and pass this recovery package intact (not a watered-down goddamn bullshit “moderate” compromise version) ASAP.
The recession hit home where Canadians live last month as a massive 129,000 workers joined the ranks of the unemployed and the country’s jobless rate surged to 7.2 per cent.
It was the worst monthly employment drop in at least three decades, topping figures seen in either of the two previous recessions in the 1980s and 1990s.
Almost all the jobs were full-time and were mostly in a battered manufacturing sector that has been most affected by the severe downturn in the United States.
The carnage was everywhere. Ontario shed 71,000 jobs, half in the manufacturing sector. British Columbia and Quebec workers were also hit hard with losses of 35,000 and 26,000 respectively.
Since October, when most economists say the global recession hit Canada’s shores, the country has lost a whopping 213,000 jobs, wiping out a year’s gains.
Somebody get Guinness on the horn — Statistics Canada calls this “the largest employment decrease since the agency began keeping what it described as comparable figures in 1976.” Highly “regrettable” hemorrhaging, as hapless Finance Minister Jim Flaherty blandly put it last night. Understatement as performance art — I love our (probationary!) Conservative government.
And let’s not be Negative Nancys. Displaying that keen sense of priorities that sets apart the Queensway elite from the scrum, Chantal Hebert proudly reports that civility has finally returned to the House of Commons, welcome news that should help salve the pain of economic woes. Try not to rejoice too boisterously (not that y’all can, um, afford to celebrate with anything more extravegant than a bottle of Baby Duck and a box of Kraft Dinner).
Anyway, here’s hoping those 129,000 newly unemployed individuals are all eligible for EI.