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It’s Politics, Stupid

by Amal Varghese

SYDNEY- Before David Axelrod- one of the finest political strategists in modern American history- there was James Carville; the man who played a big hand in Bill Clinton’s rise to the White House. His greatest achievement was touted as devising the catchphrase for the campaign ‘The Economy, stupid’, which was modified after it caught on fire to ‘It’s the Economy, Stupid’. That mantra highly resonated with American voters who were gradually convinced by the Clinton campaign that George H.W Bush, despite ending the Cold war and coming out a victor in the Gulf War, was not the man who could turn the downward-spiralling economy around. The year was 1992, and in the decade that followed America grew at an average of 3.8% GDP and managed to balance its budget for the bulk of that time under Clinton. The divides that are a caricature of Washington today were present back then (though perhaps the climate was not nearly as polarized) but political leaders found a way to come together and carve a future path for growth. In the decade and a half that followed Clinton’s exit from Pennsylvania Avenue, America’s deficits have ballooned to over US$16 trillion, its growth prospects remain bleak nearly five years after the financial crisis and political paralysis has become the hallmark of Washington. But in stark contrast to the 1990s, America’s deepest problems today are rooted in politics, not economics.

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The Fiscal Cliff – Where are we at?

No one ever said being President of the United States was an easy job, and that has certainly been the case for the newly re-elected, President Obama. After a bitterly fought re-election over Republican nominee, Fmr. Gov. Mitt Romney, he was literally back to work the next day, beginning the negotiating to avert the Fiscal Cliff.

 
As I wrote in my article for ESSA’s Equilibrium about this topic, the Fiscal Cliff will involve the expiration of numerous tax cuts, unemployment benefits and across-the-board discretionary spending cuts; a scenario many economists fear will significantly inhibit economic growth in 2013, the exact opposite of what the American economy needs as it slowly emerges out of a sluggish economy recovery and into a more sustained period of economic growth.

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My Perspective: Day 1 – Australian Conference of Economists 2012

 
This is the first of four blog posts I will be writing for ESSA from the 41st Australian Conference of Economists, co-hosted by Economics Society of Australia and Victoria University. This blog aims to give its readers an insight into the key discussion topics at the ACE conference which created hearty debate amongst some of Australia’s pre-eminent economists.

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What Governments Do, Don’t Do, and Can’t Do

Where the action takes place

When you consider what ‘government policy’ really means, most tend to think of actions made by government on production, distribution, consumption and identity issues, and rightly so. Public policy mainly concerns both the formulation of goals across these many areas of life and implementing ways of achieving these goals (Australian Public Policy, Fenna). 

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Wayne Swan’s Ironic Attack on Billionaire Miners for his Own Self-Interest

Source: Timeshift9

Wayne Swan’s essay in The Monthly titled ‘The 0.01 Per Cent: The Rising Influence of Vested Interests in Australia’ has caused quite a stir in the last few weeks. Swan laments the rising influence of wealthy vested interests in Australia’s public policy debate, and warns of it undermining our equality and democracy. These are strong, politically-potent words from Australia’s Treasurer, and have brought interesting reactions from the opposition, the media, the mining industry magnates he attacked, and the general public.

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Party Politics Trumps Policy Detail

George Megalogenis’ quarterly essay titled ‘Trivial Pursuit: Leadership and the end of the reform era’ highlights the worrying lack of political leadership on both sides of the parliament in the aftermath of the 2010 Australian federal election. It argues that political short-termism and party politics has become the order of the day, leaving proper policy debate and detailed analysis out of the picture. It means that governments are focussing on winning the next 24-hour news cycle, or the next opinion poll rather than focussing on creating an enduring economic reform agenda that builds on our prosperity in Australia. Many prominent Australian journalists, including Megalogenis and Annabel Crabb of the ABC, have vowed not to discuss opinion polls to reflect their distaste of the current political atmosphere.

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Will Market Confidence Fall Amid Labor Struggles?

The Labor governments leadership struggles over the past week has fixated the nation. On 22 February, following weeks of reports of tension, Kevin Rudd stepped down as Foreign Minister. The next day Julia Gillard called a leadership ballet and by 23 February Rudd confirmed he would contest the leadership. Opinions polls have shown Rudd to be preferred Prime Minister to Gillard however whom the caucus prefers is still mere speculation.

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Car Subsidies Delaying the Inevitable

The Federal government announced recently that they will continue to support the Australian car industry through ‘co-investment’ – i.e. through tax-payer funded direct subsidies to industry. This is funneling money to multinational co-operations so they can maintain production of Holdens and Fords in Australia. All this is for one reason – to protect Australian car manufacturing jobs.
The government argues that this investment is important to maintain a car manufacturing industry in Australia, and if there no support, they would cease producing locally-made cars. For example, the government granted $34 million in subsidies to the Ford Plant in Melbourne to keep it running until 2016. Decisions such as this have been branded as important to Australia’s ‘national interest’, a clever political line to justify protectionist policy initiatives.

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