Cheaper, Quicker, Safer: Green Transportation for All

Liz Stanton

Getting ourselves, our kids, and all of the material goods of our economy from point A to point B resulted in 1.9 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere in 2015. That’s 35 percent of all U.S. carbon pollution and 6 percent of global carbon emissions—just from U.S. transportation. Worldwide, transportation is responsible for one-seventh of all greenhouse gas emissions. To keep global temperature rise below 2°C (or even below 3 or 4°C) we’ll need a vast, all-encompassing transformation. Incremental changes—a little bit better gas mileage, a few more people taking public transit—aren’t going to cut it. Staying below 2°C, and thereby avoided a climate catastrophe, will require us to completely reimagine our way of getting around.

A new report from the Frontier Group does a good job laying out a detailed agenda for decarbonizing the U.S. transportation sector. The report discusses not just the policy reforms needed to achieve the basics—electrification of all vehicles paired with decarbonization of the electric grid—but also the more transformative, and therefore more difficult and more amorphous, changes that will be needed.

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TRIPS: The Story of How Intellectual Property Became Linked to Trade

This is the first part of a seven-part series with Peter Drahos, a Professor in the RegNet School of Regulation and Global Governance at the Australian National University. He holds a Chair in Intellectual Property at Queen Mary, University of London and is a member of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia. In 2004 he and his co-author Professor John Braithwaite won the Grawemeyer Award in Ideas Improving World Order for their book Global Business Regulation. Prof. Drahos is interviewed by Lynn Fries, producer at The Real News Network. Find the whole series here.

Full text below the break.

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Prospects for the Spanish Left

William Saas, Jorge Amar, David Glotzer, and Scott Ferguson

This is the first part of a three-part series on Spain’s economic crisis, the program of the new leftist political party Podemos, and both the limitations and potential of the Spanish left today. The authors point to the importance of employment policy (and especially a job guarantee) for pulling Spain out of the crisis, the necessity of a “left exit” (lexit) from the euro, and the relevance of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) in transcending conventional balanced-budget thinking.

William O. Saas is an assistant professor of rhetoric at Louisiana State University. His work has appeared in symplokē and Rhetoric & Public Affairs.

Jorge Amar is a Spanish economist, president of Asociación por el Pleno Empleo y la Estabilidad de Precios, or Full Employment and Price Stability Association), and a doctoral candidate in applied economics at the Universidad Valencia. Recently, Amar served as economic advisor for Spain’s Unidad Popular party.

David Glotzer is a valuation analyst at Solidifi, and freelance writer whose background is in Economics and Mathematics. His writings have appeared in CounterPunch, Investig’Action, Strategic Culture Foundation, and Young Progressive Voices.

Scott Ferguson is an assistant professor of humanities and cultural studies at the University of South Florida. He is also a Research Scholar at the Binzagr Institute for Sustainable Prosperity. His essays have appeared in CounterPunch, Naked Capitalism, and Flassbeck Economics International.

They are beautiful sights, the public squares of Madrid—open spaces, lush gardens, and sparkling fountains, all surrounded by striking architecture dating from the city’s days as seat of a colonial empire. These ornate public spaces now serve as makeshift residences for a growing number of Spanish dispossessed. After nearly a decade of austerity, depression, chronic unemployment, and perpetual political submission to the dictates of the Troika (the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank, and European Commission), thousands displaced from work and home are left with little choice but to seek refuge in the few parcels of public infrastructure that remain available to them.

Improvisation is the name of the game for members of the new Spanish precariat. At Madrid’s main square, the Plaza Mayor, newly homeless citizens (some highly educated) rise early for work busking or selling scrap metal. Throughout the country, members of the growing reserve army of ninis—or “neither nors,” the quarter of the young Spanish who are neither in school, nor employed, nor in training programs—forage for food to take home to their squatted apartments. Los irrecuperables (“unrecoverables”), the more than half of long-term unemployed Spanish over age 50, are meanwhile forced to figure out how to subsist on severely reduced pensions and the charity of their fellows.

The homeless, ninis, and irrecuperables are not alone in their plight. Indeed, stability and security elude even the employed afortunados in austerian Spain. Recent labor law reforms, first passed by the center-left (and resolutely neoliberal) Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) and then expanded by the conservative People’s Party (PP), have eroded workers’ rights and enabled employers to seize an even larger share of national income. Wages and benefits are taking a beating, too. Total worker compensation fell from about €523 million in 2007 to less than €510 million in 2015. Even as unemployment has risen, total spending on unemployment benefits has fallen more than 25%. Temporary work is replacing traditional employment, with the average length of contract falling from 77 days in 2008 to 57 by 2014. (Formal contracts between employer and employee are legally required in Spain.) Part-time work constitutes one third of all labor contracts. Finally, the percentage of unpaid overtime rose from less than 40% in 2008  to over 55% in 2015—a sum equal to the lost income of approximately 87,000 full-time jobs.

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Act on Air Pollution, the Silent Killer

Martin Khor

What causes as many or more deaths in Malaysia as road accidents but has not been known to be such a dangerous killer?

Air pollution.

This “killer” is not as dramatic or visible as car crashes, but is even more dangerous as it penetrates and contaminates our vital organs, leading to serious diseases and thousands of death.

Outdoor air pollution caused 6,251 deaths in Malaysia in 2012, according to a recent report by the World Health Organisation.

The deaths were due to heart disease (3,630), stroke (1773), lung cancer (670), pulmonary disease (148) and lower respiratory disease (29).

In 2013, road accidents killed 7,129 people in Malaysia, slightly more than the outdoor air pollution figure for 2012.

But the WHO study does not include indoor or household air pollution, which may have harmed many more people. If the deaths from this were known and added, the total deaths caused by air pollution overall would almost certainly be higher than those caused by road accidents.

It is timely to get these new details on the serious health effects of air pollution.

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Too Many Years of Living Dangerously: The UNCTAD Trade and Development Report 2016

Jayati Ghosh

For many years now, the Trade and Development Reports produced by UNCTAD have been providing a voice of sanity in a global discourse on the world economy that has often appeared to be dominated by denial and irrelevance. The Report has also often proved to be remarkably prescient, for example by anticipating as early as 2006 the likely collapse of financial markets that occurred in 2008, or by pointing in the past few years to the futility of excessive reliance on monetary policies alone to lift economic growth, which policy makers are only beginning to come to grips with at present.

This year’s Report provides a similarly insightful assessment of current economic trends, which captures the dilemmas facing policy makers across the world. It summarises the poor state of the global economy, with slow growth in advanced economies (expected to be less than 2 per cent this year) and developing countries (at around 4 per cent, that is 2.5 percentage points below the pre-crisis figure). Global trade has meanwhile decelerated even more, and the commodity cycle is now in its second year of sharp downturn, even as many commodity prices have been falling since 2012. Capital flows have become more volatile again and debt crises are looming in several countries.

This reflects the unbalanced and unsustainable nature of the supposed recovery from the crisis.

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Trump, Clinton, Obama and the TPP

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement between the US and eleven other Pacific Rim countries was under negotiation for the first seven years of the Obama presidency. For the first four years, Hilary Clinton was the Secretary of State, directly supervising the negotiations. Even after she quit her cabinet position to launch for her second presidential bid, she continued to tout it in superlative terms.

Yet, by early 2016, most presidential aspirants, including Mrs. Clinton, had disowned the TPP. No new information about the TPP had come to light to prompt this volte face. Nor had the then new Secretary of State John Kerry added anything radically new to the proposals she was associated with during her tenure.

While largely in the interests of corporate America, the TPP is not in the interests of the US economy or the public at large. While it is in the interest of US transnational corporations (TNCs) to source manufactures and services from low-wage Asian economies for the US market, by doing so, they are likely to displace those previously producing those goods, increasing US unemployment. This, in turn, reduces aggregate demand and increases the current account deficit in the US balance of payments.

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The CETA Trade Pact Will Add to the Groundswell of Discontent

Why We Need More Informed Decision-Making

Servaas Storm and Pierre Kohler

Guest bloggers Servaas Storm and Pierre Kohler wrote the following analysis of the Canada-EU trade agreement for Naked Capitalism, based on their modeling study, ” CETA Without Blinders: How Cutting ‘Trade Costs and More’ Will Cause Unemployment, Inequality and Welfare Losses, ” which was published by the Global Development and Environment Institute (GDAE) as part of its ongoing work modeling trade policy. The study follows earlier modeling on the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Things have changed. Until just a few weeks ago it was easy for economists and trade policymakers to discard the massive waves of protest across European countries against two controversial transatlantic free trade agreements as mere “irrational”, “protectionist” or “dangerously populist” impulses. But not so anymore. About the same time when hundreds of thousands of concerned German citizens took to the streets to protest against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), a growing chorus of senior policymakers started urging governments to heed the rising discontent, anxiety and economic insecurity among the vast majority of the populations in the advanced world.

Most prominently, in a speech[1] titled “Making Globalisation Work For All” given in Canada on September 13th, I.M.F. managing director Ms. Christine Lagarde stated that many people felt they “lack control” in a “system [that] is somehow against them” and that growing inequalities have “added to a groundswell of discontent, especially in the industrialized world.” Lagarde’s plea for boosting support for low-income workers and reducing inequality came on exactly the same day Mr. Mario Draghi, the president of the E.C.B. stated —in his Premio De Gasperi lecture in Trento, Italy[2]—that the E.U. should pay greater attention to “the demands of those left behind by a society built on the pursuit of wealth and power”, and do more to help globalization’s losers by moderating its outcomes. Globalization has certainly caused dislocation and hardship, as the recent McKinsey report titled “Poorer than Their Parents? Flat or Falling Incomes in Advanced Economies” found: 65 to 70% of households in 25 advanced economies had experienced no real income growth between 2005 and 2014, up from just 2 percent of households with stagnant incomes during 1993-2005. This was known, of course, but McKinsey’s report helped publicize the facts.

The bottom line should be clear: citizens are rightly concerned about the distributional consequences of TTIP and CETA — a concern which policymakers and politicians can ignore only at their own peril.

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Social Democracy, the “Third Way,” and the Crisis of Europe, Part 3

Alejandro Reuss

Historian and economist Alejandro Reuss is co-editor of Triple Crisis blog and Dollars & Sense magazine. This is the final part of a three-part series on the historical trajectory of European social democracy towards the so-called “Third Way”—a turn away from class-struggle politics and a compromise with neoliberal capitalism—and its role in the shaping of the Economic and Monetary Union of the EU. (See Part 1 and Part 2.) It is a continuation of his earlier series “The Eurozone Crisis: Monetary Union and Fiscal Disunion” (Part 1 and Part 2). His related article “An Historical Perspective on Brexit: Capitalist Internationalism, Reactionary Nationalism, and Socialist Internationalism” is available here.

Social Democratic Revivalism?

A deep crisis of global capitalism, its seeds sown in part by a dramatic deregulation of finance, Wolfgang Münchau of the Financial Times notes, would seem tailor-made for a revival of the “centre-left.” Why has this not happened? “The deep reason,” Münchau argues, “lies in its absorption of the policies of the centre-right, going back almost three decades: the acceptance of free trade agreements, the deregulation of everything, and (in the eurozone) of binding fiscal rules and the most extreme version of central bank independence on earth. They are all but indistinguishable from their opponents.” For the most part, however, this has led neither to a general collapse of these parties, nor to a rejection of “Third Way” politics and sharp turn back toward a full-throated social democratic reformism.

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Social Democracy, the “Third Way,” and the Crisis of Europe, Part 2

Alejandro Reuss

Historian and economist Alejandro Reuss is co-editor of Triple Crisis blog and Dollars & Sense magazine. This is the second part of a three-part series on the historical trajectory of European social democracy towards the so-called “Third Way”—a turn away from class-struggle politics and a compromise with neoliberal capitalism—and its role in the shaping of the Economic and Monetary Union of the EU. (See Part 1.) It is a continuation of his earlier series “The Eurozone Crisis: Monetary Union and Fiscal Disunion” (Part 1 and Part 2). His related article “An Historical Perspective on Brexit: Capitalist Internationalism, Reactionary Nationalism, and Socialist Internationalism” is available here.

What Went Wrong?

The rise of Third Way-style leaders to dominance in the social democratic parties of the largest European countries does not mean the parties were transformed root-and-branch to these politics, nor even that all the important politicians in these parties went over to Third Way politics. There were important intra-party struggles in all these parties. In the British Labour Party, for example, there is famously a divide between traditionally social democratic “Old Labour” and Blairite “New Labour.” In the German Social Democratic Party, a similar divide ultimately led to the left split off and the founding of Die (“The Left”). In none of these parties were old-style social democratic politics extinguished.

That said, it’s neither a correct nor a satisfying explanation to say that the parties were simply steered toward the right by misleaders. Rather, we have to trace the ebb of class-struggle politics in the social democratic parties of Europe—from radical origins, to the robust reformism of the social democratic heyday, to the quasi-neoliberalism of the present—to a combination of causes, some intrinsic to social democratic politics and some rooted more particularly in European and world events of the late 20th century.

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