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For many months now President Mauricio Macri has been playing with fire – restricting the electoral alternatives to the populism incarnated by his predecessor Senator Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, in order to ensure that continuity is at the very least the lesser evil, while running the calculated risk of spooking the markets (supposedly covered by the insurance policy of the biggest International Monetary Fund loan in history). This strategy somehow managed to survive all last year’s crises, but in the anniversary week of that first run on the currency its basic premises now risk collapsing all along the line, thus making the current turbulence potentially more dangerous. Throwing money at the problem becomes akin to using water against an oil fire – it should not be forgotten that the 2018 crisis began exactly a year ago last Wednesday, when then-Central Bank governor Federico Sturzenegger deployed over US$1.4 billion to defend the 20-peso mark. The massive IMF package seemed to stop the rot (just like the blindaje mega-swap of some US$40 billion in early 2001) but this becomes relative when these huge sums only serve to magnify a relatively tiny market out of all proportion, feeding fuel to the flames. Ditto for absurdly high interest rates topping 70 percent to defend the currency – in the long term these serve to liberate an economy from dependence on the dollar (at least based on the precedent of Brazil) but in the short they swell both ends of stagflation by feeding obscene financial bicycles while strangling a credit already at rock-bottom levels (18 percent of the economy as against a regional average of 45 percent). Meanwhile, we have the supreme paradox of a market-friendly government being torpedoed by the markets with international financial dailies muttering about the “brink of default.” The official explanation of this paradox is fear of a populist comeback – a fear which is fast becoming both a vicious circle and a self-fulfilling prophesy because the more these market panics at the prospect of a Fernández de Kirchner victory derail the economy, the likelier that triumph becomes. Macri could thus be forgiven were he to conclude bitterly about the markets: With friends like that, who needs enemies? And yet the government badly needs to introduce some self-criticism into its approach alongside self-pity. The market reaction is not as counterproductively irrational as it might seem. There is not only a “Cristina factor” but also a “Macri factor” – whatever the dangers of populism, Macri’s economic record in three of his four years has not been so dazzling as to inspire much confidence.
The surge in global measles cases might be the first medical epidemic bolstered by a political movement. The anti-vaccination crowd — long relegated, quite properly, to the fringes of society — has moved perilously close to the mainstream, riding in on the same currents that brought us the Tea Party, Brexit and other populist movements. It’s the enthusiastic undermining of societal norms, however legitimate they might be. “Vaccine hesitancy and political populism are driven by similar dynamics: a profound distrust in elites and experts.” The correlation between populism and the anti-vaccination movement is so clear, the paper argues, that doctors should be tracking where populist sentiments are strongest and focus their vaccine-awareness efforts there: “Support for populist parties could be used as a proxy for vaccine hesitancy … with an increase in support being a signal for public health actors to be vigilant.” The Guardian, as part of a recent deep-dive series on the resurgence of populism, concluded the relationship with the anti-vaccination movement is a symbiotic one: Populism gets converts, and vaccination opponents get a political home after having been mostly rejected by established political parties. “The arguments align,” wrote the British daily. “Populists are often suspicious of the establishment and authority figures. Antivaxers are hostile to government, medical institutions, Big Pharma and science. More than 41,000 cases were reported in Europe in the first half of last year, almost double the year prior, with more than 30 deaths. England’s almost 1,000 cases in 2018 were fully triple the year before. In more than a half-dozen states, including Missouri, Republican lawmakers have responded to the epidemic by trying to pass legislation making it easier for people to avoid vaccinating their kids.
The alleged college-admissions bribery ring exposed earlier this week has something to enrage everyone. Or, if that wouldn’t do the trick, parents could pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to bribe coaches at elite schools to designate applicants as desired athletes, thus circumventing the minimum requirements for grades and test scores. This scandal is a staggering indictment of higher education, and American education policy generally. For both groups, and for everyone between the two extremes, the pressure to get kids into the best college possible — and then figure out how to pay for it — is a source of incredible anxiety. But the scandal goes beyond just these issues. George Mason economics professor Bryan Caplan, in his book The Case Against Education, makes a compelling case that most of the value in diplomas from elite colleges isn’t in the education they allegedly represent but in the cultural or social “signaling” they convey. Would you rather have the knowledge that comes with taking a survival-training course, or just the piece of paper that says you took the course? Now, ask yourself: Would you rather have the Yale education without the diploma, or the diploma without the education? The more complex we make a system, the more it rewards people with the resources — social, cognitive, political, or financial — to navigate it. You’re never going to create a system where some parents won’t do anything and everything to help their kids.
Hours after being sworn into the House, Rashida Tlaib was heard saying, "We're gonna impeach" President Trump. What can we do to build on these victories and produce more in this year's elections — and in 2020? We must assess this broad strategy ourselves, for most of today's mainline political analysts focus solely on "candidate politics." Obviously, we need information about the principals who are asking for our votes, but too much "focus on the candidate" pushes America's election story into the swirling shallows of gossip and puffery while ignoring the bigger, more significant story in 2018: movement politics. Thus, the media reduce our nation's vital democratic exercise to comic-book buzzwords like "blue wave" and "red wall," trivializing the extraordinary efforts of the multitudes who are striving to create a progressive future. New York Times commentator Frank Bruni, for example, even consulted a Harvard professor of evolutionary psychology to develop his novel grasp of last year's voter behavior ("Politics aren't pretty. But politicians are," Nov. 20). Normally a smart guy, he veered off into the psycho-pop ditch, writing after the election that the meteoric rise of such progressive candidates as Andrew Gillum in Florida, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York and Beto O'Rourke in Texas was attributable to a political quality they share: They're "hot," the scribe explained. Apparently, the lesson we should take from these candidates is to prioritize hunkiness and gorgeousness in recruiting future progressive candidates. Grassroots participants and some of us less prominent pundits would argue that in 2018, progressive forces prioritized a very different kind of political beauty: genuine democratic populism.
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It is famously said of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini that at least while he was dragging his country into a war in which over half a million of his citizens died, he was also making sure the trains ran on time. The murdering fascist wasn’t all bad: he did sort out Italy’s railways. Popular beliefs to the contrary are all just part of the fascist myth that he built up around himself to validate his governance. It’s fake news, but the widely believed claim strikes to the core of a bigger issue: politicians hijacking transport as an easy way to connect with voters. Like Mussolini before him, this is something Donald Trump has recognised. Trump was fed up that other countries “look at our infrastructure as being sad”. As someone who has tried to use Amtrak, the US domestic rail service, I’ve got to say I agree with him. On this side of the pond, we have a similar problem: Boris Johnson. Aborted suggestions include the Garden Bridge Project, which managed to waste another £46m in public money without even being built, and the Thames Estuary Airport. Unfortunately, they have nothing to do with infrastructure.
The Bavarian elections were not an “earthquake”, but they were certainly an “upheaval”. Few party systems still have one, let alone two, parties that gain more than a third of the vote Against these big losses stood major gains. While falling well below the poll scores that made international news a few months ago, the AfD was still the biggest winner in their first Bavarian elections. In terms of aggregate scores, the leftwing parties (the SPD and Greens) largely offset each other, as did the two rightwing parties (the CSU and AfD). Similarly, in many countries, including Belgium and the Netherlands, we see social democratic parties lose (big) and Green parties, and sometimes the radical left, win (big). In these cases, the bloc moves (somewhat) to the left. Second, the party system, including the left and right blocs, has become more fragmented. Few party systems still have one, let alone two, parties that gain more than a third of the vote. Most parties today are medium-sized, which means the blocs no longer consist of a big social democratic party and a small Green party, but two near equal-sized parties. This transformation of European politics deserves more attention from academics and journalists alike, who too often get distracted by a simplistic “populists versus establishment” frame, and reduce stability and volatility to gains and losses of individual parties.
The U.N. refugee agency warns populist politics and fear-mongering about immigration are eroding international protection for refugees fleeing conflict and persecution. Conflict, persecution and violence have displaced a record 68.5 million people around the world. But U.N. Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Volker Turk says this right is slipping away. He says being able to flee and be recognized as a refugee can be a matter of life and death. He says they often have rejected extremism and been targeted, forcing them to flee for their lives. He says it is unjust to deny security to people who need it most. “I think both in the global North and the global South, I have to say, it is our observation, that the dehumanization of refugees, of migrants, of IDP’s, of stateless individuals has become a worrying trend," said Turk. "It results from inappropriate language, misinformation, deterrence, detention, separation of families and children, and ‘warehousing." Turk says xenophobia, racism, and bigotry often are driven by fear, anger and anxiety within communities. He says they must be confronted and addressed.
The intervention of former Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon in European politics could help rightwing parties become the biggest bloc in the European parliament next year, according to Nigel Farage. Farage told the Observer that, Eurosceptics could become the largest political grouping on the continent and predicted that anti-EU MEPs could secure between 176 and 235 seats in the European parliament elections next May. With a bit of luck and a following wind it could even be the biggest,” Farage added. Bannon’s foundation, called The Movement, will be based in Brussels and dedicated to campaigning aggressively for a large, anti-EU faction in the European elections next spring. Bannon said last week he had already started raising funds amid speculation that former English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson, currently in jail, might be offered a leading role in its UK wing. Robinson, whose imprisonment has made him a cause célèbre among the international far-right, could be released this week following his appeal against a 13-month sentence for contempt of court in May. Farage also revealed that Bannon wanted to offer a rightwing antidote to the centre-right European People’s party (EPP), currently the largest party in the European parliament, and the European Socialists (PES), a social-democratic political grouping that includes the British Labour party, the Italian Democratic party and French Socialist party. Even though Britain is floundering with Brexit, across the rest of Europe, the Eurosceptics are on the march. All three are potential rivals to the prime minister and Bannon believes all of them could help deliver his ambition to undermine and eventually paralyse the EU. “I think shares in Bannon are overvalued.
Despite market fears, there appears to be little appetite among Italians to leave the euro, as differences centre on the constraints of EU budget levels. Two possibilities: elections in September or a new political government The political environment in Italy is fast-changing. The second possible scenario is the formation of a new political government, possibly with the Five Star Movement and the League party; or a centre-right government led by the League (albeit an unlikely outcome without a snap election). Economic and market outlook: headwinds persist Even before recent events in Italy, the global markets were facing a few headwinds: The first is that leading economic indicators may be “rolling over” as the global economy moves into a late-cycle stage of growth. Yet we believe this mood would change before elections are held: given the market pressure that is severely hurting Italian assets, we suspect that Italian voters would think twice before voting against the euro. Investment implications: a summer of uncertainty We were already cautious on Italian government debt, and recent events have not changed our stance. We expect continued volatility over the summer, particularly given that the European Central Bank is set to begin withdrawing quantitative easing. The ensuing rise in interest rates would be a key issue for the affordability of Italian debt, and it could have global implications given that Italy is the third-largest borrower in the world. Italian equities were generally doing well before recent events as the country’s economic cycle improved and earnings growth looked positive. Investors should brace for additional market volatility, particularly given the potential for cyclical economic data to weaken.
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