Tag Archives: agricultural subsidies

Funding the Castros’ tyranny

The amateur ideologues of the Obama Administration have fallen into another snakepit with their tacit endorsement of the notorious Cuban dictatorship. That’s despite all the nonsense about a blossoming Cuban economy if Washington just relents.
In reality, Washington is buckling in its opposition to one of the world’s most hideous regimes. Now its death throes will be perpetuated for Cuba’s 12 million people with the help of such deep thinkers as Sen. Rand Paul who dreams despite all the evidence in China and Vietnam to the contrary that contagious capitalism will bring down a police state.
Even more shameful is the helping hand – which Pres. Barack Hussein Obama acknowledged – of Canada and the Vatican in this new Obama enterprise. For half a century Canadian nickel interests and the always anti-American wheat lobby have blackened Ottawa’s reputation with its support of the Castros. At the Vatican, whose help Obama also acknowledged, there are echoes of the Church’s tacit support of Franco and other cruel dictatorships, as well as Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s ambiguous relationship with Argentine totalitarians as Jesuit Father Provincial in his native country before mounting the papacy. [Nor is this gesture likely to help stave off the growing influence of Evangelical Christians on the old Roman Catholic monopoly of Christian believers throughout Latin America.]
Despite all the talk of the regime moderating , Raúl Castro holds more than 57,000 political prisoners. And his dungeons have sucked in more new victims in the past year than the five previous years. Conditions are as bad as in the worst days of the Soviet Union and the East Eruopean Communist Bloc, producing hunger strikes in a noble if feeble effort against solitary confinement, beatings, restricted family visits and denial of medical care. There is no redress except for American citizens like the naïve and very lucky Alan Philip Gross who had maximum U.S. support for his release on trumped up charges, but only after five years..
The fiction that Cuba has anything to sell or that investments there could pay off has been refuted by decades of failed efforts by the Europeans – especially Spain – to circumvent the now tattered American embargo. Little Cuba has no hope of repaying some $25 billion it already owes these ambitious “investors”. Prepare yourself for the coming suggestion that the International Monetary Fund and World Bank [with the U.S. carrying its quarter or more of support] to “amortize” these bills.
The destruction of a thriving if troubled Latin American society in the 1950s came with the help of the same cheering section of the current White House strategy [notably The New York Times]. When Cuba left the real world a half century ago, it ranked fifth in the Hemisphere in per capita income, third in life expectancy, second in ownership of cars and telephones with a 76% literary rate. [The fact that it was 11th in the world in the number of doctors per capita gives the lie to the Castros’ claims of creating a new medical miracle.] Cuba’s prosperity then was largely paid for by a guaranteed sugar import quota in the U.S., its principal industry and income producer, and tourism for a glamorous if corrupt nearby tourist capital in Habana..
Now Cuba comes back into the world not only with its sugar industry in ruins, but in a world with a half dozen “new” sweetener competitors [including highly subsidized U.S. domestic beets], no possibility of a guaranteed American market, and a world drowning in subsidized sugar programs. [This week the U.S. has hauled Mexico up on a charge of dumping its subsidized sugar in American markets in violation of the spirit if not the letter of the North American Free Trade Agreement.]
After decades of Communist repression and mismanagement, Cuba has reached a desperate crisis. Its Venezuelan ally which had provided subsidized energy in exchange for Castro assistance in setting up its own police state can nolonger foot the bill for Cuban energy.
That was the situation when Obama and his speechwriters rushed to fill the gap.
Now greedy American exporters – supercharged with their own program of an annual $14 billion in corruption-ridden agricultural and export subsidies – will be bidding with their Canadian taxpaying counterparts for supplying the starving country. Any extension of aid – private or government – will end up in the hands of the regime in its effort to survive by continuing to exploit an impoverished population.
Not only did Raúl Castro not make even the nominal concessions he has made in the past toward a liberalization of the regime, but so-called “reforms” permitting small scale private enterprise are a sham.
To the extent Obama can carry out his tactics despite formidable opposition in the Congress, his strategy will only intensify the implosion when it comes in Cuba. Rather, the American government should be preparing for that day, not the least for the tens if not hundreds of thousands of refugees who will flow toward Miami. Fifty years of dealing with the problems of another small Caribbean tropical island, Puerto Rica, a third Cuba’s size, have taught us just how difficult those problems will be.

Clouds of dust still to settle

Out of the Washington political chaos of the past few weeks, two overwhelmingly critical questions have yet to be decided.

  • Can a wily Pres. Barack Obama, despite his Administration’s repeatedly demonstrated incompetence in both domestic and foreign policy, rescue — by perhaps more constitutionally questionable executive orders – what he may eventually regard as the only monument to his presidency?
  • Has the fiery populist — if failed — campaign of the Tea Party mobilized an otherwise distracted electorate to the growing problem of debt and bankrupt federal government social welfare programs to an extent permitting tedious and torturous reform?

Answers are going to be long in coming.

That’s in no small part because a totally partisan media continues to worship at the altar of Obama’s sacred role as the first Afro-American president who communicates to them at new vulgar levels of the popular culture — late night shows, for example, for policy statements. Rationalization of Obamacare’s opening disaster is all too typical of a kept media now mightily contributing to the polarization of the American body politic. The inability to solve a highly complex but essentially well known technological problems – as it may turn out, because of corruption as well as incompetence – is explained as “glitches”. Tell that to Amazon or Apple – or even Drudge — who handle tens of millions of such IT issues on a daily basis!

Whatever the outcome of this horrendous start, the fate of the Affordable Medical Care Act eventually will be decided in part with the November 2014 mid-term Congressional elections. Most of the talking heads are confident that despite the ruckus, the Republicans will retain their House majority. That’s because the current 33-seat Republican tipped majority is to a considerable extent in “safe seats”, districts drawn to their advantage by Republican dominated state legislatures.

The 33 Senate races – 13 incumbent Republicans, 20 Democrats — are harder to call. Furthermore, there is ideological alignment which could and often does vitiate senatorial Party affiliation because more complex statewide electorates are involved. There’s the prime example of West Virginia’s novice Democratic Senator Joe Manchin who registers more and more like his Republican conservative colleagues. He is not up this year but his colleague, Jay Rockefeller, a 30-year-long Democrat incumbent, is retiring. With the Obama Administration’s continued war on fossil fuels [including coal], that bodes well for Republicans grabbing his vacated seat. Even the relics of another era of American politics, the Maine senators, for the most part distance themselves from their neighboring liberals in New England, as one Republican and one independent. The latter might join whichever [or dictate the] majority in a new Senate – one of those not so rare happenstance that permeate history.

Yet, whatever the Republicans’ chances to take over the Senate as well as keep the House and thereafter wage a full-court campaign to repeal Obamacare, the world moves on. The failure so far of any dramatic Republican conservatives’ effort to defund Obamacare already may well have left its mark on the gigantic American health industry. That’s because with something like a sixth of the U.S. economy directly involved, the law – now three years old – is beginning to take long term effect. Everything from speeding up disaffected physicians’ personal decisions to retire [despite a growing shortage of doctors, especially those in general practice] to mitigating such problems as “pre-existing conditions” and extended dependents’ coverage on family policies, have locked into place.

Never mind that these problems, like so many others, should have been solved best through a more detailed analysis and individual prescription for solution. They have now become a part of the intertwined medical scene’s debate. A thrashing around of the private insurance companies with their own special interests is quietly taking place. We got early warning of that when the pampered and elitist Washington bureaucracy of American Association of Retired Persons [AARP] climbed on their fellow capital bureaucrats’ Obamacare bandwagon even though the majority of its members probably opposed the intent of the legislation.

In fact, rather than the relatively simple procedure of dismantling cartels in some states by removing strictures on marketing medical insurance across stateliness, Obamacare is setting up new ground for manipulation to gouge the consumer. Administration propaganda with its Hollywood luminaries has gone a long way toward persuading the electorate that “a comprehensive solution” is required for this as for other complex problems of governance. That’s despite common sense dictates that such enormous and complex issues should better be approached through an analysis of individual problem and solutions found piecemeal. If for no other reason, they could then be reversed more easily if and when, as so often happens, inadequacies or unforeseen consequences arise.

It’s therefore by no means certain that given the incredible snowballing federal juggernaut the Washington bureaucracy has become, even Obamacare repeal – or various amendments – may not, in fact, further confuse and compound the problems of the already infinitely complex medical services landscape.

Even though this problem is already universal because it touches the lives of all Americans, government health issues fold into a much larger politico-economic agenda. Obamacare will not, as the President and its advocates argued, either reduce medical costs for most individuals, and certainly not for half the nation paying federal income taxes. It has added an enormous new tab to the bill for an already creaking social welfare safety net. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are all under siege from inherited liabilities, galloping technologies and the growing ageing of the American population badly needing overhaul.

Despite the incredible capacities of the U.S. economy and American society to innovate, producing new and beneficial technological and managerial techniques expanding the physical well-being of its citizens, the current economic stagnation is symptomatic of the system’s failings. It demonstrates, among other things, that the economy and the political system is overloaded with waste and abuse, that attempts at central planning in a world where the revolutionary internet developed by accident, is most often counterproductive. But that’s an argument to which most of the Democratic Party and the U.S.’ self-appointed elite turns a deaf ear.

One might have hoped that the stringencies forced on the society by the worst onset of the business cycle since The Great Depression would have, as it does so often in our private lives, forced a reconsideration of government spending. That may come, but the victory of the tax and spend forces in the current crisis is not encouraging. A relatively small proof is the alacrity with which – small in relative terms – additional ”pork barrel” was attached to the final excruciating difficult [“clean” Continuing Resolution] “settlement” that sailed through the House after being initiated in the more complicit Senate.

This, at least temporary, settlement of the crisis is being hailed in the Obama circles and the Main Stream Media — and in much of the always “idealistic” academy, of course — as a victory for compromise and accomodation necessary in a democratic system. But, in fact, it is a denial of the fundamental issues staring the country’s politico- economy in the face: out of control government expenditures. It is an issue acknowledged by most of those “experts” who spend their time looking at the economy although solutions are as diverse as the problems involved.

The question is whether the U.S. has reached that state forecast by some early 20th century observers who prophesied that a democratic electorate, having learned it could vote itself benefits at will from the commonwealth, might bankrupt The Founders’ political system. The symptoms are now clear and self-evident. A virtually unlimited expansion of food stamps, for example, is a product not only of an increased demand in a time of economic downturn and high unemployment, but also of a bounty bestowed by legislators on constituents including subsidized agriculture producers. The possibilities for corrupt practices are virtually unlimited in such alliances. Witness vast government expenditures dedicated to expenditures for recruiting new recipients to the benefice.

Correcting these miscalculations and abuses while maintaining an adequate social safety net at a time of revolutionary technological changes generating fundamental economic restructuring and high unemployment is fundamental and enormously demanding of any political system. It is one Congressional conservatives did a good deal of shouting about. But they lost this battle in their war, perhaps because of bad tactics and no adequate strategy. But whether their challenge can be met in the months ahead remains to be seen.

The dust settles, if ever so temporarily, on a very conflicted environment.