Is Brexit the beginning of the end for international cooperation?

We may be witnessing the twilight of the multilateral era

Is Brexit the beginning of the end for international cooperation?
(Credit: AP Photo/Michael Probst)

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

 

It’s official: Britain is done with Europe. The Conversation

Prime Minister Theresa May has formally triggered the process for withdrawing from the European Union, ensuring that the United Kingdom, one of the largest and most prosperous countries in the EU, will soon leave the 28-member bloc.

While the process could drag on for two years or more, the Brexit decision serves as a historic and stinging rebuke to proponents of a unified Europe. Perhaps more importantly, it calls into question the very future of the EU.

Pro-Europe commentators, on both sides of the Atlantic, have argued that Brexit is a historical blip, a rash decision made by an uninformed electorate after a vicious and one-sided campaign. But to dismiss Britain’s decision as an anomaly is to ignore the facts. We may be witnessing the twilight of the multilateral era.

A not-so-perpetual peace

The history of civilization has been one of peoples coming together in larger and larger collectives — from villages to city-states, from city-states to nations and from nations to international organizations. Today, we live in an era typified by the proliferation of global bodies like the United Nations, the World Trade Organization and the European Union.

People have created these greater communities for a number of reasons, but the overriding one has always been the most basic: security. As German philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote in 1795 in his essay “Perpetual Peace,” the only means for nations to emerge from a state of constant war was to “give up their savage, lawless freedom… and, by accommodating themselves to the constraints of common law, establish a nation of peoples that (continually growing) will finally include all the people of the earth.”

The European Union is arguably the greatest example of this ideal. An organization forged from the desolation of two world wars, the EU brought the states of Europe together in a continent-wide commitment to cooperation and integration. Its ultimate aim was to draw nations together so closely that war would become unimaginable.

An impeccable aspiration, to be sure. But Britain’s vote last year to leave the EU illustrates the costs associated with that aspiration, and with multilateralism more generally. Governments have become increasingly detached from the people they govern. Local communities have surrendered control over an ever-growing array of matters to distant bureaucrats. And people increasingly perceive that their own groups and beliefs are under siege by outsiders.

This sentiment is not isolated to the United Kingdom. Disillusionment with multilateral agreements is widespread today. Just look at President Donald Trump.

During and after the presidential campaign, Trump has repeatedly denounced America’s international agreements. The targets of his ire have ranged from free trade deals (think NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership) to defense pacts (e.g., NATO) to environmental accords (see the Paris climate deal). In January, The New York Times even reported that the Trump administration was preparing an executive order entitled “Auditing and Reducing U.S. Funding of International Organizations.” This rhetoric has struck a chord with many Americans who fear that international agreements have destroyed American industry and cost Americans jobs.

But to say that we are disillusioned with multilateralism does not provide an answer to the more difficult question: If not multilateralism, then what?

Going it alone

The answer, it appears, is aggressive unilateralism. Instead of working through multilateral institutions to solve their problems, countries are increasingly going it alone.

The United States, for example, has responded to the failure of international negotiations on a range of topics by imposing its domestic laws abroad. The U.S. forces foreign banks to abide by its financial regulations, foreign businesses to comply with its corruption laws and foreign producers to adopt its climate change-related emissions standards. All of these laws were made and enforced without international agreement.

In many ways, the rise of unilateralism may be a great boon for societies. The outpouring of activism and political engagement in the U.K. both before and after the Brexit vote signals a certain optimism about the ability of Britons to govern themselves. With any luck, this optimism will lead to a rejuvenation of democracy in the country, a welcome contrast to the deep cynicism more typical of politics today. Similarly, U.S. action to regulate foreign companies may help provide solutions to problems that have been stubbornly resistant to global agreement and treaty-making.

But the disillusionment with multilateralism also comes with a dark side. It is one thing when countries like the U.S. and Britain decide to start taking action in the face of stalled negotiations over climate change and corruption. It is another when countries with very different concepts of the rule of law and democratic processes start imposing their own rules, unilaterally, on American companies.

Just look at Russia’s recent prosecution of Google for anti-trust violations or China’s injunction against the sale of iPhones as examples.

Multilateralism has been a great engine of peace over the course of human civilization, and we should tread carefully in rejecting it. As Kant warned, the alternative is for us to “find perpetual peace in the vast grave that swallows both atrocities and their perpetrators.”

William Magnuson, Associate Professor of Law, Texas A&M University

http://www.salon.com/2017/03/31/is-brexit-the-beginning-of-the-end-for-international-cooperation_partner/?source=newsletter

One in eight community college students in the United States are homeless

By Bryan Dyne
31 March 2017

A new study by the Wisconsin HOPE Lab has revealed that about half of community college students in the United States, which make up 46 percent college students in the country, do not have consistent housing and that 13 percent are homeless. In absolute terms, this means at least one million people trying to receive postsecondary education do not have a roof over their heads.

These results confirm and expand upon previous studies that have looked at college student homelessness, including earlier work by the HOPE Lab and studies done by the College and University Food Bank Alliance.

This estimate is an order of magnitude higher than the official homeless statistic of the US, which is 0.5 percent of the population, and more than twice the rate of youth aged 10-19 which face homelessness at least once during a year, which is just under five percent. It is also more than 29 times the official student homelessness rate recorded by the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA), which is the only federal body that collects data on homeless students.

In order to clarify the disparity between the official statistics and the HOPE Lab survey, the World Socialist Web Site spoke to the Wisconsin HOPE Lab founder, Sara Goldrick-Rab. She noted that “The FAFSA is notorious for undercounting homeless students. First, students have to fill out the FAFSA, which many do not. Furthermore, since a homeless student counts as being financially independent, and thus is eligible for more money, FAFSA requires that they fill out a large amount of paperwork, essentially to prove that they are homeless. Since we just asked the students themselves, we captured a much better picture of the problem.

“Even our results, however, are undercounting the problem. Since it’s a voluntary survey, we are going to miss some people. We also do not count things like couch surfing as being homeless because that’s often considered something which college students just ‘do’. As a result, we include that in our housing insecurity statistics, which includes about half of all community college students.”

The latest HOPE Lab survey is the most widespread study of homelessness amongst college students and, according to the research done by the authors, is likely the only study that looks specifically at the plight of community college students.

One of the few comparable studies was done by the California State University (CSU) system, which included more students but only looked at California schools and achieved its estimates based on interviews with CSU staff, faculty and administrators rather than asking the students directly.

In contrast, the Wisconsin HOPE Lab sent a survey to more than 750,000 students across the country with a monetary incentive to garner participation. The final survey response was 33,934 students, making it the largest national study which focuses on food and housing insecurity among college students to date. While the nature of the study does not immediately lend itself to broad generalizations, the agreement between this study and all other studies looking at hunger and homelessness on US campuses suggests that the data collected do represent trends throughout all 50 states.

One thread which supports this hypothesis is that housing insecurity, which includes the inability to regularly pay utilities or rent or the need to move frequently as well as those without a permanent place to live, is not a problem isolated to urban or high-poverty community colleges but a largely uniform problem across the areas studied. Rural and urban community college students are equally likely to be housing insecure, but homelessness is actually higher for those students living in cities (15 percent) than those living in suburbs (14 percent), rural areas (11 percent) and small towns (9 percent).

Moreover, the data collected show that housing insecurity is unrelated to things like eligibility for Pell Grants or immigration status.

Of students ineligible for Pell Grants, 12 percent were homeless, compared to 16 percent for those who did receive a Pell Grant. The difference in homeless rates between US citizens and permanent residents was less than one percent. And while students who are African American or Hispanic both were overrepresented among homeless undergraduates in the study, the largest single racial category among homeless community college students in the study is non-Hispanic white.

Even the cost of attendance, which includes tuition as well as food, room and board, books, supplies and transportation, does not greatly affect the rates of housing insecurity. The community colleges studied with the lowest cost of attendance ($11,934 per year) had a housing insecurity rate of 50 percent while the most expensive colleges ($26,563 per year) had a housing insecurity rate of 46 percent.

The one factor that the study did find that impacts the homelessness rate is whether or not a given student was a former foster youth. Almost 30 percent of community college students among this demographic who were surveyed are homeless.

Similar to the previous studies, which looked primarily at the levels of hunger amongst college students, the current research shows that working or receiving financial aid does not alleviate the stress of finding adequate housing.

More than 40 percent of homeless students have a job, and more than half of those work between 20 and 40 hours per week. One-third of homeless students are receiving student loans. And, in another indicator of the financial distress among these students, one-sixth of homeless students are getting through college through credit card loans.

There is also little federal assistance for homeless students. To quote the report, “among students experiencing housing insecurity or even homelessness, less than 13 percent received any form of assistance with housing costs, and only about six percent got assistance with utilities. Even though 28 percent of students in this study have children, and of those 63 percent were food insecure and almost 13 percent were homeless, barely five percent received any child care assistance. Instead, the most common forms of support these students received were tax refunds (likely from the Earned Income Tax Credit) and Medicaid or public health insurance (e.g., via the Affordable Care Act).”

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/03/31/home-m31.html

Gutting Climate Protections Won’t Bring Back Coal Jobs

When Barack Obama announced the Clean Power Plan, Scientific American used his own words to criticize it for not going far enough.

“There is such a thing as being too late when it comes to climate change,” Obama said. “The science tells us we have to do more.”

Scientific American analyzed the Clean Power Plan and agreed, concluding that Obama’s plan didn’t go far enough, and would fail to prevent catastrophic climate change.

Now, Trump is dismantling even that. Obama’s insufficient effort to address climate change is gone with a stroke of Trump’s pen.

The plan was to go into effect in 2022, reducing pollution in three ways. First, by improving the efficiency of coal-fired power plants. Second, by swapping coal for cleaner natural gas. And third, by replacing fossil fuel energy with clean, renewable energy sources like solar and wind.

Trump claims the plan puts coal miners out of work. But it hadn’t even been implemented yet. In reality, cheap natural gas and the use of machines instead of people to mine coal are responsible for putting far more miners out of work.

In other words, Trump is using sympathetic out-of-work miners as a cover for what is really just a handout to dirty industry.

Meanwhile, Trump is cutting job training programs for coal country. Given that, it’s hard to believe he cares at all about jobs for coal miners.

And, with a surge in cases of fatal black lung disease among miners in Appalachia, anyone who truly cared about miners would preserve the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), which helps coal miners get black lung benefits.

In short, Trump’s killing of the Clean Power Plan is a handout to dirty industry with no regard for the well-being of coal miners. And it’s putting us even further behind in our efforts to leave the next generation a habitable planet.

A better leader would find a way to promote clean forms of energy while simultaneously creating good jobs for Americans. Of course, that’s exactly what Obama’s one-time “green jobs” czar Van Jones called for, and the Republicans hated him.

But the fact of the matter is that climate-smart policies create jobs. They create jobs retrofitting buildings, manufacturing solar panels and wind turbines, innovating to create more efficient batteries, and discovering the best way to upgrade our power grid.

It seems that, if we installed a wind turbine near the White House, Trump could single handedly provide the nation with clean energy from all of the bluster coming out of his mouth.

In the meantime, catastrophic climate change is as much of a crisis as ever, and the clock is ticking.

Distributed by OtherWords.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/03/30/gutting-climate-protections-wont-bring-back-coal-jobs/

The ‘Trump Slump’ in Travel Is Costing America Billions

People Don’t Want to Come to Trump’s America:

This is where all that nationalist nuttery gets you.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons

Well, that didn’t take long. People around the world have taken a look at Donald Trump and decided his America is not a place they want to visit. The result has been labeled the “Trump Slump,” a drop in international tourism that’s predicted to cost the United States more than $7 billion. Experts across the travel industry have sounded the alarm that the Trump presidency, already destructive on so many fronts, may also do serious financial damage to the country’s $250 billion tourism sector.

Frommer’s, a prominent travel guide, notes that “the prestigious Travel Weekly magazine (as close to an ‘official’ travel publication as they come) has set the decline in foreign tourism at 6.8 percent” for this year. ForwardKeys, which crunches travel numbers, points to a 6.5 percent downturn in international travel to the U.S. in the week after Trump attempted to issue the Muslim travel ban in January. During the same period, the company found reservations for U.S.-bound flights from Western Europe fell 14 percent and plunged 38 percent from across the Middle East. And a survey released this month by the Global Business Travel Association concluded “45 percent of European business travel professionals say they are less likely to schedule meetings or events in the U.S.,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

The numbers offer evidence that Trump has turned off potential visitors from around the world. The resounding message of Trump’s “America First” stance, his obsession with the Mexico border wall, his anti-immigrant and anti-refugee policies, his Muslim ban, and his rudeness to longstanding allies is that America is inhospitable to foreigners. Predictably, international travelers are opting to stay away—and that includes the European ones that Trump and his supporters are totally cool with.

“Even white, Anglo-Saxon people, who are most of our customers, they are afraid of crossing the border,” Al Qanun, who runs a Toronto travel agency, told the Times. “They don’t want to end up in some prison.”

Among the innumerable costs of Trump’s and his follower’s nationalism are a few you can actually put a price tag on. Tourism Economics, which uses data to forecast travel trends, expects the international tourism drop-off to result in a revenue loss of $7.4 billion, according to Bloomberg News. That figure doesn’t include contributions from those who come to the U.S. for medical treatments or educational reasons, and who tend to spend even more money, enriching American coffers, while they’re here. The loss of all those visitors could mean future problems for a sector on which more than 15 million people rely for employment. Oxford Economics suggests the toll may ultimately ripple beyond the travel industry, even reducing the U.S. gross domestic product by a few percentage points, per Market Watch.

“I’ll tell you quite honestly, when I saw these reports my reaction was, Oh, my god,” Douglas Quinby, of travel-market firm PhocusWright, told the Boston Globe. “To see a decline in search and booking volume in the 6- to 8-percent range is a profound shift.”

Travel industry insiders aren’t just freaking out, they’re trying to stop the trend in its tracks. Roger Dow, CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, penned an open letter to Trump, as if he could be reasoned with.

“Mr. President, please tell the world that while we’re closed to terror, we’re open for business,” the brief letter nearly pleads. “Imbalanced communication is especially susceptible to being ‘lost in translation’—so let’s work together to inform our friends and neighbors, who could benefit from reassurance, not just who is no longer welcome here, but who remains invited.”

The coastal cities where Trump fared the worst in the election are likely to be hardest hit by travel downswings triggered by his administration. Bloomberg cites New York, Los Angeles and Miami as cities that could suffer heavy economic losses. One estimate suggests Miami could lose as much as $736 million over the next three years. Thirty percent of all foreign tourists arriving in the U.S. have New York City as their destination, and if just 300,00 fewer of them visited the city in a year, its economy would be shorted roughly $900 million. To stave off those kinds of losses, NYC & Co., the city’s official tourism agency, has adopted “All Are Welcome” as its new slogan and made it clear it opposes the Trump travel ban.

The rise of Trump and his xenophobic messaging has motivated a number of countries to warn their citizens against non-essential trips to the U.S. The Nigerian government, citing “a few cases of Nigerians with valid multiple-entry U.S. visas being denied entry and sent back,” suggested its residents skip the jaunt to America if they have a choice. In January, the Toronto Star published an editorial suggesting Canadian citizens boycott the U.S. in response to the Trump Muslim ban.

Other negative reactions to America’s longstanding social issues and rising right-wing policies began to take hold even before Trump office. Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Bahamas, the U.K., Germany and New Zealand all issued 2016 U.S. travel warnings to citizens due to the U.S.’ issues with mass shootings, general gun violence, police murders of black citizens, anti-LGBT bathroom laws, and ongoing social upheaval.

With Trump and his white nationalist brigade in charge, the tourism lag could dip to levels not seen since after the World Trade Center attacks.

“The U.S. is in danger of taking the same path it took after September 11, which led to a decade of economic stagnation in the travel and tourism sector,” David Scowsill, CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council, told the Globe. “Strict visa policies and inward-looking sentiment led to a $600 billion loss in tourism revenues in the decade post-9/11.”

Trump and his followers will definitely find a way to blame President Obama if the tourism decline persists, but in reality, under the previous administration foreign visits went way up. Bloomberg cites data from U.S. Travel indicating that from 2006 to 2015, “America saw international visitors rise, with arrivals increasing from 51 million in 2006 to nearly 78 million in 2015.”

Perhaps under Trump, Russia can fill the growing gap and make up the difference. Flight app Hopper found Russia is an exception to the rule, with U.S. flight search queries recently increasing 88 percent, per the Guardian.