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

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Noam Chomsky: If Trump Falters with Supporters, Don’t Put ‘Aside the Possibility’ of a ‘Staged or Alleged Terrorist Attack’

Chomsky warns of scapegoating vulnerable people: “That can turn out to be very ugly.”

Photo Credit: AFP

It’s March 2017, and the political process and the media in the U.S. are a depressing mess, on top of an ever-growing pile of issues that are not remotely being addressed, much less resolved by society: inequality, climate change, a global refugee crisis, you name it.

Donald Trump presents a new problem on top of the old familiar ones; a toxic multifront political disaster whose presence in the White House is doing damage to the national psyche on a daily basis. But in the first few months of his presidency it appears he is unwilling or unable to carry out almost any of the campaign promises he made to his base. Repealing Obamacare was supposed to be a cinch — well, that was a total disaster for Trump and the Republican party; the first big legislative rollout of his presidency, and it didn’t even make it to a vote. What about canceling TPP? Trump did do that, right?

In a recent interview with the renowned intellectual and public commentator Noam Chomsky, he told me TPP was dead on arrival regardless of who was elected. What about scrapping NAFTA? Chomsky said he was doubtful Trump would be able to do much there either. What Trump appears to be doing, Chomsky observed, is ramming through the standard GOP wish list: tax cuts, corporate welfare, climate change denial. How would Trump’s voters react to that? What we need to worry about, Chomsky says, is the potential for the Trump administration to capitalize on a “staged or alleged” terrorist attack. The text of our interview follows.

Jan Frel: Do you observe any meaningful signs of the key power factions in Washington aligning against Trump?

Noam Chomsky: Well, the so-called Freedom Caucus, which is a Tea Party outgrowth, has been refusing, so far, to go along with the health plan that he has advocated. There are other indications of the Tea Party-style far-right, separating themselves from Trump’s proposals.

On the other hand, if you take a look at what is actually happening in Washington, apart from the rhetoric and what appears in Sean Spicer’s press conferences and so on, the old Republican establishment is pretty much pushing through the kinds of programs that they have always wanted. And now they have a kind of open door that is Trump’s cabinet, which draws from the most reactionary parts of the establishment. It doesn’t have much to do with Trump’s rhetoric. His rhetoric is about helping the working man and so on, but the proposals are savage and damaging to the constituency that thinks that Trump is their spokesperson.

JF: Do you think there will ever be a moment of awakening, or a disconnect for Trump’s supporters of his rhetoric and what he’s been doing in Washington, or can this just keep going? 

NC: I think that sooner or later the white working-class constituency will recognize, and in fact, much of the rural population will come to recognize, that the promises are built on sand. There is nothing there.

And then what happens becomes significant. In order to maintain his popularity, the Trump administration will have to try to find some means of rallying the support and changing the discourse from the policies that they are carrying out, which are basically a wrecking ball to something else. Maybe scapegoating, saying, “Well, I’m sorry, I can’t bring your jobs back because these bad people are preventing it.” And the typical scapegoating goes to vulnerable people: immigrants, terrorists, Muslims and elitists, whoever it may be. And that can turn out to be very ugly.

I think that we shouldn’t put aside the possibility that there would be some kind of staged or alleged terrorist act, which can change the country instantly.

JF: Have you observed any rethinking in elite circles about how to protect and expand multilateral trade and investor agreements since the Brexit referendum, the election of Trump and his scrapping of TPP, and his threat to ‘terminate NAFTA’?

NC: Well, first of all, TPP was kind of dead on arrival. Almost everybody was opposed to it. With regard to NAFTA, I rather doubt that Trump will actually move to abrogate NAFTA; there is too much involved in the integration with Mexico and Canada. There might be some changes, but in general the support for the forms of international trade agreements that have developed over recent years are a strong priority for elites. There’s a lot wrong with them, and they ought to be changed. But for all of Trump’s talk about what’s wrong with them, I have yet to see a proposal as to what he thinks we ought to be doing.

JF: Do you observe any substantial divergence, on Trump’s part, from the longer-term plans and project of the State Department and the Defense Department in the Middle East or in Southeast Asia?

NC: Well, his main policies that have been implemented and not just talked about are in the Middle East, where he has transferred authority more to the Pentagon. Relaxed conditions on drone strikes. Sent more troops. There have been more atrocities in Yemen and in Syria. There is more giving the Pentagon leadership more of a free hand. Which is not a huge change from Obama’s policies, but a more violent and aggressive version of them.

JF: Do you see Russia as anything like a real threat to the integrated and allied industrialized countries in Europe and North America? Lost in the hysteria over Russia’s potential interference in U.S. domestic affairs is that by virtually every measure of modern state power, Russia doesn’t come close, whether it’s finance, science and tech research, advanced manufacturing, agricultural and cultural exports.

NC: Yeah, it’s all just a joke, as it was incidentally through the Cold War almost entirely. Right now the matter of Russian interference in U.S. elections has half the world cracking up in laughter.

I mean whatever the Russians may have been doing, let’s take the most extreme charges, that barely registers in the balance against what the U.S. does constantly. Even in Russia. So for example, the U.S. intervened radically to support [Boris Yeltsin in 1993] when he was engaged in a power play trying to take power from the Parliament, Clinton strongly supported him. In 1996, when Yeltsin was running, the Clinton administration openly and strongly supported them, and not only verbally, but with tactics and loans and so on.

All of that goes way beyond what the Russians are charged with, and of course that is a minor aspect of U.S. interference in elections abroad: “If we don’t like the election, you can just overthrow the country.”

JF: MIT has released a massive archive of your work over the previous decades. Have you had the time to search through it, and did you learn anything about yourself?

NC: That is the kind of thing one doesn’t want to learn. You know, there is a very rich collection there of some stuff that has been published, a lot of things like notes for classes over 60 years, and notes for talks over 60 years, and scraps of paper on which ideas are written. Looking through it all, I am sure that I will rediscover a lot of things that I have forgotten, but maybe rightly.

Trump’s “America First” policies and the global eruption of economic nationalism

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By Nick Beams
21 February 2017

While the battle in Washington between the intelligence agencies, the media and the Trump administration over the question of Russia and Trump’s supposed ties to Putin is attracting most of the headlines, a conflict on the economic front is of no less significance.

Earlier this month, in response to Trump’s “America First” agenda and what it called his “divisive delusions on trade,” the Financial Times, the voice of British and to some extent European finance capital, warned that if the Trump administration continued on its present course, it would represent a “clear and present danger to the global trading and monetary system.”

The immediate cause of this unusually strong language was the claim by the Trump administration that the euro was significantly undervalued, operating to the benefit of Germany, which enjoys a trade surplus with the US.

The editorial called for other countries to “stand ready to resist bullying and not to let the US drive wedges between them.”

The Financial Times did not go any further, but the logic of this position is clear. If countries are to stand together to combat what are seen as American attacks, then the next step is the development of trade and economic agreements directed against the US—in short, a major step down the road to the kind of economic and currency blocs that exacerbated the 1930s Depression and played a major role in the drive to a second world war in the space of two decades.

No one has yet put forward the formation of such alliances, but the issue is assuming a larger presence in public pronouncements and no doubt in discussions behind closed doors.

Last month, speaking to the New York Times on the sidelines of the Davos summit of the World Economic Forum, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the president of the euro group of finance ministers, pointed to possible major shifts in orientation. “We’ve always said that America is our best friend,” he said. “If that’s no longer the case, if that’s what we need to understand from Donald Trump, then, of course, Europe will be looking for new friends.

“China is a very strong candidate for that. The Chinese involvement in Europe in terms of investment is already very high and expanding. If you push away your friends, you mustn’t be surprised if the friends start looking for new friends.”

So far as the Trump administration is concerned, China, and to some extent Germany, is the main economic opponent and threat to the economic pre-eminence of the United States. This orientation is one of the reasons for its conflict with the sections of the military and intelligence establishment that are pressing for a more open confrontation with Russia.

Trump has variously threatened to brand China a currency manipulator and impose tariffs as high as 45 percent on its exports to the US. While he has yet to announce any concrete policies and his positions so far have been set out only in tweets and similar remarks, the underlying position of the administration and the economic processes that are driving it were set out last September in a paper on the Trump economic plan authored by the then-business professor at the University of California-Irvine, Peter Navarro, and equity investor Wilbur Ross.

Since the election Navarro has become the head of Trump’s National Trade Council and Wilbur Ross has become commerce secretary.

The paper began by noting that in the period from 1947 to 2001, US gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 3.5 percent a year, but from 2002, that average had fallen to 1.9 percent, representing a 45 percent reduction in the US growth rate from its historical pre-2002 norm.

The authors dismissed the claims of the Obama administration that lower growth was a “new normal,” labelling that position “defeatist” and claiming that low growth was the result of higher taxes, increased regulation and the “self-inflicted negative impacts from poorly negotiated trade deals,” including NAFTA and China’s entry into the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The latter, they wrote, negotiated under Bill Clinton, “opened America’s markets to a flood of illegally subsidized Chinese imports, thereby creating massive and chronic trade deficits.”

China’s accession to the WTO, they argued, “also rapidly accelerated the offshoring of America’s factories and a concomitant decline in US domestic business investment as a percentage of our economy.” They noted that from 1999 to 2003, US investment flows to China were stable at around $1.6 billion per year, but jumped in the period 2004–2008 to an annual average of $6.4 billion a year.

In other words, according to their argument, the flow of investment funds to China, made possible by its accession to the WTO, is one of the chief causes of the long-term slowdown in US economic growth.

The authors also hit out at WTO rules, saying that the exemption of exports to the US from value added taxes (VAT) imposed by European governments and the fact that US exports to Europe are subject to these taxes was a form of discrimination against US firms. These conclusions form the basis for the discussion within the Trump administration on the possible imposition of taxes on imports.

They wrote that unequal treatment of US exports was an example of “VAT gaming,” and that the US should have demanded equal tax treatment for US exports.

“Since the WTO would be meaningless without the presence of the world’s largest importer and third largest exporter, we had the leverage then—and we have the leverage now—to fix this anomaly and loophole,” they asserted, adding the implied threat that “without the US as a member, there would not be much purpose to the WTO.”

The Trump administration’s denunciations of China as a currency manipulator have attracted most of the media attention. But Navarro and Ross were no less strident when it came to the European Monetary Union.

“While the euro freely floats in international currency markets, this system deflates the German currency from where it would be if the German Deutschmark were still in existence,” they wrote. This was the reason, they claimed, that the US had a large trade in goods deficit with Germany, some $75 billion in 2015, even though German wages were relatively high.

The paper gave a clear summing up of where the Trump administration sees the position of the US in regard to the struggle for global markets. Answering critics of the “America First” agenda, they wrote: “Those who suggest that Trump trade policies will ignite a trade war ignore the fact that we are already engaged in a trade war. It is a war in which the American government has surrendered before engaging.”

They held out the prospect that in pursuing a policy of what they termed “more balanced trade,” the US would be able to secure cooperation because US trade partners were more dependent on American markets than America is on their markets.

As with so many of Trump’s policies, the trade war agenda outlined by Navarro and Ross represents not so much a break from the policies of the Obama administration as a continuation of their basic thrust and, at the same time, a qualitative escalation.

The underlying strategy of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and its counterpart for Europe, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, promoted by the Obama administration, was that privileged access to the vast American market for those countries that signed up would enable the US to force concessions upon them.

Both proposed trade investment deals specifically scrapped the system that had governed trade relations since World War II under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and then the WTO, which maintained that concessions offered to one country should be offered to all. This policy was in recognition of the damage done to the world economy and trade system through the formation of exclusivist blocs in the period of the 1930s.

Outlining the rationale for the proposed agreements in 2014, Obama’s trade representative Michael Froman wrote in a major Foreign Affairs article that “trade policy is national security policy,” and that the aim of the agreements was to “place the US at the center of agreements that will provide unfettered access to two-thirds of the global economy.”

He went on to explain that the post-war system was no longer adequate and that the US no longer held “as dominant a position as it did at the end of World War II” and had to build new “trade coalitions working toward consensus positions.” In other words, the development of new mechanisms whereby the US could counter its economic decline vis-à-vis its rivals.

The Trump policy is being driven by this same agenda, albeit in a different form. The underlying driving forces can be clearly seen.

First, there is the contraction in economic growth not only in the US but internationally. It has been estimated that the economic slowdown since the financial crisis of 2008 means that developed economies are one sixth smaller than they would have been had pre-crisis growth trends been maintained.

The contraction is even more pronounced in world trade. Since 2012, world trade has advanced by little more than 3 percent per year, less than half the average expansion of the preceding decades. As the International Monetary Fund has noted, between 1985 and 2007 real world trade grew on average twice as fast as global gross domestic product (GDP), whereas over the past four years it has barely kept pace. “Such prolonged sluggish growth in trade volumes,” it concluded, “relative to economic activity has few precedents during the past five decades.”

Even before the accession of Trump, the WTO noted the rise of protectionist measures. It pointed out that members of the G20 group—all of which pledged to eschew 1930s style measures—had, in the five months leading up to last October, been implementing an average of 17 trade constraints a month, a situation it described as a “real and persistent concern.”

In other words, the accession of Trump and his “America First” agenda of economic nationalism and a war of each against all is not some aberration, but the qualitative development of a trend that has been building up within the world capitalist economy over the past decade, but which is now coming to the surface with explosive force.

WSWS

 

 

 

 

 

Note to America: Don’t Be So Sure You’ve Put Trump Behind You

Take it from a Brit, right-wing populism will thrive until you deal with it genuinely.

I’ve been living in Britain for the last year and have returned to the United States to cover the election from a small town in Indiana—with the experience of Brexit on my mind.

On June 24, a significant proportion of the British electorate woke up and thought they were living in a different country. Britain narrowly voted to leave the European Union. It felt like the politics of fear, isolation, and xenophobia had delivered an utterly devastating and enduring blow to the body politic. There are many lessons from that night, and indeed we in Britain are only just beginning to learn them. But as it relates to the American elections, I want to dwell on just three.

First, don’t let the polls guide your strategic decisions about voting. If you want Hillary Clinton to win, vote for her. If you favor Jill Stein, vote for her. Don’t cast your vote thinking you’re compensating for a result that has not been declared but that you think you’ve factored in. You don’t know.

The Brexit result caught the currency traders, pollsters, betting agencies, and commentators off guard. One of the leading voices of the Leave campaign, Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party, conceded defeat at 10 pm the night of the election; less than six hours later he claimed victory.

As I write, polls suggest a runaway victory for Clinton. They could be right. But politics is in a very volatile state—they could also be wrong. And the only way you’ll know for sure will be when it’s too late to do anything about it.

Second, the fact that the messenger is deranged doesn’t mean the message itself contains no significant truths. Before the Brexit referendum, liberals broadly dismissed Leave voters as ignorant, angry, and bigoted. Some of them were undoubtedly all three. But that’s not primarily what was driving many of them. It took the Brexit result for the nation to pay attention to communities devastated by neoliberal globalization. Had Remain won, those who were forgotten would have remained forgotten.

True, politicians have drawn mostly the wrong conclusions: condemning the free movement of people rather than the free movement of capital. Nonetheless, regions long ignored, accents rarely heard, and issues seldom raised are traveling from the margins to the mainstream of British politics.

Similarly, if Hillary Clinton wins, that should not blind us to some of the themes that have made Trump’s candidacy viable. In Muncie, Indiana, where I have spent most of this election season, huge manufacturing plants have closed since the passage of NAFTA, leaving one-third of the town in poverty. And while Trump’s base is not particularly poor, a significant portion of the nation is desperate. It’s not difficult to see why. The price of everything apart from labor has shot up in the past 40 years, while inequality has grown and social mobility has slumped. Trump’s original Brexit strategy of targeting Rust Belt towns in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin may not have worked electorally, but what he identified remains a politically salient fault line that doesn’t just go away if Clinton wins. If these problems are not tended to, a less erratic and more focused right-wing populist than Trump could easily exploit them.

Which brings us to the third lesson. Trump is deluded about many things, but he’s right to insist that the media and political classes are out of touch with the population. They exist in a fetid ideological comfort zone where radical change is considered apostasy at precisely the moment when radical change is both necessary and popular.

Leading up to the Brexit vote, leaders of the Remain campaign preferred to caricature those in the opposing camp rather than engage them. They de­rided not only the leaders of the Leave campaign but its followers. You cannot convince people they are doing well when they are not. Yet throughout the Brexit campaign, Remain advocates lectured voters on all the advantages they derived from the European Union and how much worse things would be if they left. From Tony Blair to David Cameron, people who had stiffed working people in a range of ways now insisted they alone could save them from themselves. People just weren’t buying it.

Similarly, people in Muncie and elsewhere are aware that some of the worst things to come out of Washington—­including NAFTA, financial deregulation, and the Iraq War—were bipartisan efforts in which the mainstream media acted as cheerleaders. That is why, I assume, Delaware County, where Muncie resides, voted for both Trump and Bernie Sanders in the primaries. When Democrats wheel out high-ranking Republicans who now disown Trump, they don’t realize they are making Trump’s point for him: The establishment that has done nothing for you hates me—I must be doing something right.

Brexit and the US elections are not synonymous. But there is plenty of overlap in the nationalist nostalgia, xenophobia, political dislocation, and class grievance that they draw upon.

Time and again in Muncie, Trump supporters, some of whom voted for Obama, say they really just want to “shake things up.” They are not alone. “The Democratic establishment is very, very happy with incremental change,” says Dave Ring, who backed Bernie and runs an organic farm and food store in Muncie called the Downtown Farm Stand. “And the rest of the public is out here like, ‘We don’t have time for incremental change. We don’t have time for that. Why would we want to wait?’”

This sense of urgency will not go away if Hillary wins, any more than a Remain vote would have signaled that all was well with British society. We didn’t wake up in a different country on June 24; it was simply a country we had ceased to recognize. A defeat for Trump, regardless of its magnitude, should not be misunderstood as an endorsement of the status quo. Just because you haven’t descended into the abyss, as Britain did, doesn’t mean you’re not standing dangerously close to its edge.

https://www.thenation.com/article/note-to-america-dont-be-so-sure-youve-put-trump-behind-you/

Clinton’s Paid Speeches Leaked

In lucrative paid speeches that Hillary Clinton delivered to elite financial firms but refused to disclose to the public, she displayed an easy comfort with titans of business, embraced unfettered international trade and praised a budget-balancing plan that would have required cuts to Social Security, according to documents posted online Friday by WikiLeaks.

The tone and language of the excerpts clash with the fiery liberal approach she used later in her bitter primary battle with Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and could have undermined her candidacy had they become public.

Mrs. Clinton comes across less as a firebrand than as a technocrat at home with her powerful audience, willing to be critical of large financial institutions but more inclined to view them as partners in restoring the country’s economic health.

In the excerpts from her paid speeches to financial institutions and corporate audiences, Mrs. Clinton said she dreamed of “open trade and open borders” throughout the Western Hemisphere. Citing the back-room deal-making and arm-twisting used by Abraham Lincoln, she mused on the necessity of having “both a public and a private position” on politically contentious issues. Reflecting in 2014 on the rage against political and economic elites that swept the country after the 2008 financial crash, Mrs. Clinton acknowledged that her family’s rising wealth had made her “kind of far removed” from the struggles of the middle class.

The passages were contained in an internal review of Mrs. Clinton’s paid speeches undertaken by her campaign, which was identifying potential land mines should the speeches become public. They offer a glimpse at one of the most sought-after troves of information in the 2016 presidential race — and an explanation, perhaps, for why Mrs. Clinton has steadfastly refused demands by Mr. Sanders and Donald J. Trump, her Republican rival, to release them.

Mrs. Clinton’s campaign would not confirm the authenticity of the documents. They were released on Friday night by WikiLeaks, the hacker collective founded by the activist Julian Assange, saying that they had come from the email account of John D. Podesta, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman.

In a statement, a Clinton spokesman, Glen Caplin, pointed to the United States government’s findings that Russian officials had used WikiLeaks to hack documents in order to sway the outcome of the presidential election, suggesting that the leak of Mr. Podesta’s emails was also engineered by Russian officials determined to help Mr. Trump. Mr. Caplin noted that a Twitter message from WikiLeaks promoting the documents had incorrectly identified Mr. Podesta as a co-owner of his brother’s lobbying firm.

But Clinton officials did not deny that the email containing the excerpts was real.

The leaked email, dated Jan. 25, does not contain Mrs. Clinton’s full speeches to the financial firms, leaving it unclear what her overall message was to these audiences.

But in the excerpts, Ms. Clinton demonstrates her long and warm ties to some of Wall Street’s most powerful figures. In a discussion in the fall of 2013 with Lloyd Blankfein, a friend who is the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, Mrs. Clinton said that the political climate had made it overly difficult for wealthy people to serve in government.

“There is such a bias against people who have led successful and/or complicated lives,” Mrs. Clinton said. The pressure on officials to sell or divest assets in order to serve, she added, had become “very onerous and unnecessary.”

In a separate speech to Goldman Sachs employees the same month, Mrs. Clinton said it was an “oversimplification” to blame the global financial crisis of 2008 on the U.S. banking system.

“It was conventional wisdom,” Mrs. Clinton said of the tendency to blame the banking system. “And I think that there’s a lot that could have been avoided in terms of both misunderstanding and really politicizing what happened.”

Photo

John Podesta, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman, on the campaign plane last month.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

And she praised a deficit-reduction proposal from President Obama’s fiscal commission that called for raising the Social Security retirement age, saying that the commission’s leaders “had put forth the right framework.”

Such comments could have proven devastating to Mrs. Clinton during the Democratic primary fight, when Mr. Sanders promoted himself as the enemy of Wall Street and of a rigged economic system.

Several of the most eye-popping passages ultimately express more nuanced explanations of her views. When Mrs. Clinton describes herself as “far removed” from average Americans and their finances, she had just finished describing her growing appreciation for how “anxiety and even anger in the country over the feeling that the game is rigged.” And she reminds the audience that her father “loved to complain about big business and big government.”

The Clintons have made more than $120 million in speeches to Wall Street and special interests since Bill Clinton left the White House in 2001. Mrs. Clinton typically earned $225,000 for speeches, though she sometimes donated her fees to her family foundation.

“I kind of think if you’re going to be paid $225,000 for a speech, it must be a fantastic speech,” Mr. Sanders said during the primary, “a brilliant speech which you would want to share with the American people.”

As her race against Mr. Sanders — who now campaigns for Mrs. Clinton — grew unexpectedly contentious and close, Mrs. Clinton sought to portray herself as deeply skeptical of Wall Street and eager to punish its wayward leaders.

“I believe strongly that we need to make sure that Wall Street never wrecks Main Street again,” Mrs. Clinton said in January. “No bank is too big to fail, and no executive is too powerful to jail.”

As she sought to burnish her image as an advocate of working America, Mrs. Clinton declared her opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Mr. Obama’s 12-nation trade pact, and distanced herself from Nafta, which her husband signed into law.

But in a 2013 speech to a Brazilian bank, Mrs. Clinton took a far different approach. “My dream,” she said, “is a hemispheric common market, with open borders, sometime in the future.”

Some of her paid remarks embrace the view that the public can benefit when Wall Street partners with government. When it comes to writing effective financial regulations, Mrs. Clinton said, “The people that know the industry better than anybody are the people who work in the industry.”

Foreign hackers — authorized by Russian security agencies, according to national security officials — have successfully penetrated the operations of the Democratic Party and its candidates over the past year. They broke into the email servers of the Democratic National Committee, revealing embarrassing internal messages in which party leaders who were supposed to be neutral expressed their preference for Mrs. Clinton even as she was campaigning against Mr. Sanders. And Mr. Assange is an avowed critic of Mrs. Clinton who has made clear that he wishes to hurt her chances of winning the presidency.

Half of all registered voters said it bothered them “a lot” that Mrs. Clinton had given numerous paid speeches to Wall Street banks, according to a Bloomberg Politics poll in June.

Asked in an interview that month if the practice was self-defeating, given the anger over income inequality, Mrs. Clinton responded that her predecessors as secretary of state had given paid speeches, too.

“I actually think it makes sense,” she said. “Because a lot of people know you have a front-row seat in watching what’s going on in the world.”

Trump is the Symptom, Clinton is the Disease

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I asked you who is the lesser evil when even the Washington Post posits Hillary Clinton to the “political right” of Trump on international issues?

And you responded: “So I guess I should vote for Trump?”

Gimme Shelter: Fleeing Trump to the Democrat’s Big Tent

You are right that there are differences between the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. No one recognizes that better than the ruling elites who are tripping over each other to join the Clinton bandwagon.

Mainstream Republicans, such as Romney and the Bush bunch, are gravitating in droves to the better Republican who happens to be a nominal Democrat. To the right of them, practically the entirety of the neo-conservative establishment is converting to born-again Hillaryistas.

Charles and David, the ultra-libertarian Koch brothers and Republican Party kingpins, have rejected Trump, cutting him off from a major source of funding. Another billionaire politico and sometimes Republican, Michael Bloomberg gave Clinton his endorsement at the Democratic National Convention.

Refugees fleeing the land of the GOP are finding succor in Clinton’s big tent. Clinton’s New Democrats are actively courting the conservatives being pushed out of the GOP by the embarrassing Mr. Trump.

The ruling elites are practically unanimously opposed to Trump for two reasons: he’s unreliable and he is not a good snake oil salesman for their cause. Those of us to the left of Attila the Hun also oppose Trump, but not for the same reasons. See, for instance, Peace and Freedom Party presidential candidate Gloria La Riva’s description of Trump as a “disgusting bigot, the embodiment of the worst excesses of the capitalist system.”

First, the ruling elites find Trump untrustworthy to carry their water. Maybe Trump will come around on “free trade” issues or maybe he won’t. But with Clinton they have a proven faithful servant.

Back in 2008, when Wall Street demanded a bailout with no strings attached, mainstream Republican President Bush devotedly accommodated the banksters as did Democratic presidential candidate Obama. But Republican presidential candidate McCain thought that some conditions should be put on this gift of free money from the American tax payers.

That is when former CEO of Goldman Sachs and architect of the bailout, Hank Paulson – incidentally serving as Bush’s treasure secretary – blackmailed McCain to either genuflect to Wall Street, or Paulson would come out publically for Obama. Wall Street got the bailout and later trillions of dollars more under Obama’s “quantitative easing.” The financial elite migrated en masse to the new Democrats.

That migration continues with Hillary Clinton, Wall Street’s anointed retainer. Unlike in the past when the big financial interests hedged their bets by contributing to both Democrats and Republicans, the smart money is going to the donkey party in 2016.

Second, Wall Street understands that not only will Clinton be more compliant, but she will also be better at legitimizing their class rule. Trump with his open chauvinism and nativism would be too obvious and could provoke a greater resistance to the neoliberal project. It’s not that the ruling elites are squeamish about racism and imperialism, but they are adverse about making it so plainly obvious.

Sympathy for the Devil: Voting for Clinton

Absent the few Bernie-or-busters, the net result of the Sanders candidacy has been to deliver a new generation of voters into the Democratic Party. A Pew poll predicts 90 percent of unwavering Sanders supporters plan to vote for Clinton in November. There they join the great majority of African American voters as a captured constituency to be flagrantly ignored by Clinton.

Given the logic of the lesser-of-two-evils voting, these citizens have no recourse but to suck it up as Clinton rushes to the right to woo the remnants of the Republican Party. Gallup polls reports Republicans want leaders who stick to their beliefs, while Democrats more readily accept compromise.

December’s Children: Opposing Neoliberalism by Voting for It

The lesser-of-two-evils defense dictates that we vote for Clinton – despite all her admittedly bad stuff – for fear that a Trump presidency would dismantle public health care, attack the unions, and stack the Supreme Court to the right. This argument fails on two counts: it perpetuates a drift to the right with no prospect of reversal and it creates the conditions for an even more noxious phenomenon than Trump come 2020.

On the first count, you say that you’ll hold your nose and vote for Clinton in November and then in December you’ll lobby against her. But Clinton isn’t stupid. As long as she knows that lesser-of-two-evils adherents will still vote for her, she’ll continue feinting to the left and moving to the right. Unions will still be targeted, because Clinton knows Wall Street will abandon her if she doesn’t deliver low wages and high profits.

Bill Clinton was able to end welfare as we know it, pass the NAFTA “free trade” scam, enable the incarceration of multitudes of poor people of color, conduct “humanitarian” bombing of Yugoslavia to achieve regime change, etc. This was a rightist Republican agenda, which the Republicans could not enact. Yet a slick Democrat could deliver precisely because the lesser-of-two-evils adherents voted Bill Clinton into a second term.

Privatizing Social Security was next on the Bill Clinton’s chopping block. But Monica Lewinsky, my favorite Democrat, thwarted that plan. Now it is Hillary Clinton’s “turn” to continue that legacy.

I Can’t Get No Satisfaction: A Clinton Presidency

On the second count, there is a curious relationship between the Clinton and Trump candidacies. In short, Trump is the symptom; Clinton is the disease. In other words, the conditions that have allowed for a candidacy such as the likes of Trump were the product of neoliberal policies personified by the likes of Clinton.

Trump has been able to tap into a genuine sense of powerlessness and dispossession among the American people. These sentiments are materially based on rising income inequality. We are working longer hours – surpassing even the Japanese work week – and we are more efficient than ever, but our living conditions are stagnating or depressing.

This time around, we got a repugnant blowhard like Trump. But we don’t have to worry about him getting elected in 2016. The ruling elites will take care that he will be lucky to win Alaska. Trump’s already fatally shaky presidential prospects will be enormously even less impressive as the corporate media continues to whittle him and his big hands down.

But what will the prospects be after four years of Clinton’s police and security state, imperial wars without end, austerity for working people, and free money bonuses for Wall Street? Come 2020, the conditions – as the US heads into a deeper and more damagingrecession – for an even more ominous and threatening rightist reaction will be created by Clinton’s neoliberal agenda. The lesser-of-two-evils adherents will again admonish us to re-elect Clinton for fear that an even more dangerous demagogue is running against her.

Wild Horses: Breaking with the Two-Party Duopoly

Every four years the American people are treated to a beauty contest, euphemistically called elections, where only two billionaire-sponsored contestants are allowed to compete, thanks to the exclusively privateCommission on Presidential Debates. Little wonder that someone asunpopular as Hillary Clinton will win on the basis of (I’m not making this up) congeniality, because her recognized opponent in this dichotomized universe of two-party politics is Trump. Bottom line, Clinton’s biggest asset is Trump.

So the choice dictated by with the lesser-of-two-evils strategy is either Big Sister or Big Hands, because it’s two-horse race. But now is the time to vote for someone who reflects our politics and begin the protracted process of building an opposition movement outside the two corporate parties.

Jill Stein, the Green Party presidential candidate succinctly sums it up: “[voting for] the lesser evil paves the way for the greater evil.”

Roger D. Harris is on the State Central Committee of the Peace and Freedom Party, the only ballot-qualified socialist party in California.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/09/16/trump-is-the-symptom-clinton-is-the-disease/

Donald’s Trump Visit to Mexico Is Not the Real Irony: NAFTA Is

Posted on Aug 31, 2016

By Sam Husseini

  President Enrique Peña Nieto, left, and Donald Trump in Mexico on Wednesday. (Screen shot viaTwitter)

Many are shocked that Donald Trump announced he is going to Mexico today [Wednesday]. That misses the real ironies here: NAFTA—and how this should be a boon to the Green Party.

First the obvious stuff: Donald Trump is playing to xenophobic sentiments. His “solutions” are in large part twisted or beside the point, for example, U.S. government has largely already built the wall.

One real irony is that Trump is appealing for votes based on trade issues. His criticism of NAFTA rightly resonates with many in the U.S. Lots of workers have lost out because of NAFTA and other so-called “trade deals.” These deals are actually largely investment protection agreements that help the huge corporations and the wealthy in the U.S., Mexico and other countries. That’s people like Trump and people and corporations like those who fund Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, these secretive deals often rook regular folks wherever they live.

But Trump—and many other critics in the U.S.—only talk about how NAFTA has hurt U.S. workers. Largely unacknowledged in the U.S. is how it has devastated Mexican family farms and small industry—which leads to desperate migration from Mexico to the U.S. (along with the drug war).

So, redoing NAFTA would actually help stem desperate migration that is the source of much of Trump’s support.

Hillary Clinton is now claiming to be against the TPP, the successor to NAFTA in many respects. In fact, she has backed both. And she just named pro-TPP Ken Salazar to be her transition team head. Her VP pick, Tim Kaine recently backed the TPP before he pretended to flip-flop as well. Meanwhile, Trump contradicts himself on issues like mad. Who knows what he’ll do if he were actually in office.

But Clinton has largely succeeded in pretending she’s anti TPP. OnTheIssues just reports her stated positions on TPP, which you have to be an idiot to believe—or a hack. Over 40 million people have apparently taken an “issues” poll with iSideWith.com—but when I asked them if they label Clinton as opposed to the TPP the same way Jill Stein of the Green Party is, they refused to answer and deleted our exchange.

In fact, the U.S. public is strongly opposed to more of the same U.S. trade deals like NAFTA and the TPP. But the only reliable candidate on reforming trade issues is ticket of Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka of the Green Party, but they are excluded from most discussionby corporate media, which are overwhelmingly for corporate “trade” deals. Our politics is broken on so many levels.

So: The incredible irony of this is that the best choice for the xenophobes is Green (the Libertarian of Gary Johnson and Bill Weld is openly pro-TPP).

Certainly, Greens and other progressives usually talk against NAFTA and the TPP in terms of corporate control over health, labor, environmental, patent, copyright and other critical issue areas. But ending the NAFTA model may well end desperate migration, a leading concern of many on the right.

Let Mexicans prosper in Mexico. If the U.S. were to have reasonable agreements with Mexico, people there will work in farms and factories in Mexico without feeling desperate to come to the U.S. for any work they can possibly get here. They are free human beings, not charity cases.

We have a similar dynamic regarding xenophobia directed against Syria refugees now. Let Syrians be a peace in Syria without outside meddling—the root causes of the war in Syria and much of the Mideast is constant outside intervention, most clearly the U.S. invasion of neighboring Iraq.

Let each—Mexico, Syria and every other country—deal with the U.S. as equals. People should not be in need of coming and begging for refuge or to do work at poverty wages in the shadows in the U.S.

If we change the root causes of policies, things look very different and people who might be motivated, superficially at least, by different arguments end up having much more in common than meets the eye in terms of desperately needed policy changes.

Sam Husseini is the founder of VotePact.org.

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/trump_going_to_mexico_is_not_the_real_irony_–_nafta_is_20160831