Prospects for the Spanish Left, Part 3

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

This is the final 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. This installment focuses on a possible recomposition of Podemos that could lead to the “left turn” in economic policy—including exit from the euro and the jobs guarantee—that the authors advocate. Parts 1 and 2 are available here and here.

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.

The Way Forward

In order to escape its cycle of debt deflation, Spain must ultimately do what its counterparts on the European “periphery” have so far failed to do: exit the eurozone. To proceed otherwise—to continue to acquiesce to the destructive rules of the institutions—is to guarantee the continued immiseration of the Spanish working class.
It is time for leaders within Unidos Podemos to pledge, in no uncertain terms, to take the steps that are necessary to restore Spain to prosperity. The most controversial of these steps will be the Spanish Left-exit, or “lexit.” Path-breakers in a lexit-oriented Unidos Podemos must anticipate and account for popular reluctance to depart the euro. With the example of UKIP’s noxious campaign for Brexit fresh in their minds, some Spaniards will doubtless view Spanish lexit as an inherently reactionary proposal. In stark contrast with UKIP, however, a lexit-oriented Unidos Podemos will be able to supplement its proposal with a roadmap for a prosperous post-euro Spanish economy, as well as a leadership that is prepared to execute the requisite sharp left-turn.

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$200 a Month for Everyone?

Universal Income from Universal Assets

James K. Boyce and Peter Barnes

James K. Boyce teaches economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Peter Barnes is a co-founder of Credo Mobile and the author of With Liberty and Dividends for All.

Lately there’s been renewed discussion of universal income: regular cash payments to everyone, regardless of race, gender or need. Past proponents of the idea include the revolutionary Tom Paine, civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., free-market econ­omist Milton Friedman and President Richard Nixon. Today’s interest has been sparked by the income stagnation experienced by America’s middle class and working poor, and by the persistent slow growth experienced by our economy.

The idea finds support across America’s ideological spectrum in an era when hardly anything else does. Liberals, or at least some of them, like it as a way to preserve our middle class when jobs no longer pay enough. Conservatives, or at least some of them, like it as a way to reduce dependence on our byzantine maze of welfare programs.

But universal income is expensive and quickly runs into the stumbling block of how to pay for it. Its wide appeal is checked by equally widespread aversion to taxes, especially for the purpose of redistributing income. Fortunately, though, there’s another way to pay for it: universal income can come from universal assets, a.k.a. our common wealth.

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TRIPS: The Story of How Intellectual Property Became Linked to Trade, Part 2

This is the second 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, Part 2

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

This is the second 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. This installment focuses on the relevance of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) in transcending conventional balanced-budget thinking. Part 1 is available here.

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.

When one shifts focus from the public spectacle of political discord to the more vital behind-the-scenes debate over political economy, the prospects for the Spanish left look a lot more promising. Several major figures in Unidos Podemos, besides Garzón, do understand that the fiscal strictures forced upon Spain by the Troika institutions foreclose any hope for true economic recovery. Informed by the insights of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), a select and well-placed few clearly see that monetary union without fiscal union is a tried-and-true recipe for endless austerity (see Alejandro Reuss, “Eurpoean Social Democracy and the Roots of the Eurozone Crisis: Part 1—Monetary Union and Fiscal Disunion,” D&S, July/August 2016). They recognize that jobs and demand, not equilibrium and “confidence,” are the key ingredients of economic well-being. Most importantly, they understand that the last best hope for Spain is to again become sovereign in its own currency.

The impending collapse of PSOE will leave masses of Spanish voters alienated and in search of alternatives to the newly formed PP-led government. While some voters might prefer the familiar feel of PP’s austere embrace, it is a safe bet that many more will defect to the parties that make up the Unidos Podemos coalition. This is, we feel, a very promising development. But in order for a reinvigorated Unidos Podemos to follow through on its promise to deliver the Spanish working class from austerity, the coalition must finally disavow, without apology or regret, the utopian dream of a single-currency Europe.

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Land Grab Update: Mozambique, Africa Still in the Crosshairs

Timothy A. Wise

On October 12, the government of Mozambique quietly announced that it would close its Agriculture Promotion Centre (CEPAGRI), the agency created in 2006 to promote large-scale foreign investment in the country’s agricultural sector. In a terse statement, government spokesman Mouzinho Saide gave no reason for the closure, saying only that its functions would be subsumed under a different agency in the Ministry of Agriculture.

Longtime Mozambique analyst Joseph Hanlon was not so shy, reporting in his October 18 Mozambique News Report that CEPAGRI was finished because those large-scale projects it was supposed to broker: “none of them have succeeded.”

Hyperbole aside, Mozambique’s grand visions of foreign capital modernizing its agricultural sector have indeed proven grandiose. Nowhere is this clearer than in the rich Nacala Corridor in northern Mozambique, where the ProSAVANA project promoted by Brazil, Japan, and Mozambique was going to transform 35 million hectares—nearly 100 million acres—into soybean plantations modeled on Brazil’s cerrado region.

Brazilian agribusinessmen walked away, seeing land that was hardly “unoccupied,” resistance from the communities occupying that land, and poor infrastructure to get any product to its intended markets in China and Japan. ProSAVANA lives on in name at least—and as an ongoing threat to farmers in the region—but so far, the project’s largest product is hubris. (See my previous articles here and here.)

But is land-grabbing over, in Mozambique and across Africa and the rest of the developing world? Now that crop and food prices have returned to their usual punishingly low levels, is the pressure off from foreign buyers looking to acquire large tracts of agricultural lands?

Not according to new data from the Land Matrix Initiative, which has been tracking such deals since the land rush took off in 2007. A large number of formerly announced deals have failed to materialize, as with ProSAVANA, but many that remain are now under contract and coming into production.

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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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