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A balanced budget? Not in election year

“We don’t begrudge success in America,” Mr. Obama said. But, he added, “We do expect everybody to do their fair share, so that everybody has opportunity, not just some.”

Hardly controversial stuff; or so you’d think. On Monday President Obama announced his budget for the 2013 fiscal year and along with it large swathes of his manifesto for re-election. In a campaign that is likely to be defined by economic issues, this budget was always destined to be political in nature. Yet, opponents have still found it within them to express commendable faux-outrage.

The words of leading anti-tax campaigner Grover Norquist were indicative of the criticisms Obama faced. He claimed “this is not an economic document, it’s not a policy document, it’s a political document”.  Of course, it goes without saying that a budget is, at least in the most literal sense, an economic document. Yet the measures announced by Obama are in some parts so lacking in excitement and originality that they will do little to change the economic course already set, and in others so flagrantly partisan that they have no chance of being passed. So in truth, the budget will have a minimal economic impact at best. Read the rest of this entry

Ron Paul – The most dangerous man in America?

As the Republican primary season enters into its crucial stages, it is easy to forget the role of its more improbable candidates. The two-horse race that has emerged between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich has, in many ways, eclipsed the memory of Rick Santorum’s shock win in Iowa, as well as the sure and steady campaign of Texan Congressman Ron Paul. Paul’s role for much of the early stages of the race was, like his campaign in 2008, to keep the other candidates honest, dismissed as he was for his eccentric, libertarian standpoint. But with the progression of the primary, Paul’s support base has grown. Mainly made up of a young, increasingly revolutionary element within the Republican Party – a community of college-educated bloggers and social media users – they are determined that their voice will be heard, in this instance through the election of the 76-year old former obstetrician.

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A Week in Foreign Policy – Trends for 2012

It has been a busy week in the international arena; an assassination in Iran, Syria descending further into civil war, results of elections in Egypt, alleged US war crimes in Afghanistan and Burma(Myanmar) coming in from the cold. We are but fourteen days into the new year and we are already seeing the seeds of new crises, conflicts and political tensions – not to mention the continuation of old rivalries and problem cases. The last seven days could give an indication of future trends in international politics for 2012 and the complexities that western policy-makers will face.

More positively, we are seeing potential glimmers of hope; democratic movements are gaining a foothold across the world, especially in the Middle East and Asia. Policy-makers and global strategists will be keenly watching events as they unfold, trying to predict just what 2012 may have in store for us. Their lack of foresight in 2011 and their failure to predict events – especially the Arab Spring movement – will lead to a greater push to be proactive rather than reactive.

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Eeyore and the criminal justice system

Ordinarily I am wary of what might be called the ‘Eeyorish tendency’ within British society. By the Eeyorish tendency I mean the tendency to whine pessimistically, and to have the feeling that something, like our country, or possibly even the world, is inexorably going to hell in a handcart. The tendency is obviously named after the similarly cheerless donkey out of Winnie the Pooh. Examples of this would be when canvassing at election time, to be told repeatedly by members of the public that they are not going to make the short trip to their local polling station to exercise their democratic rights, because ‘they’re all the same.’ Even were one to go along with the proposition that a candidate from the British National Party or UKIP were ‘the same’ as a candidate from, say, the Green Party, or the Liberal Democrats- which I believe is both stupid and insulting- the thing that sticks in my claw about this tendency to default gloom is that it is often based on utter ignorance. I can’t help wondering how many such people can even name their local candidates. And then there is the fact that as a strategy of dealing a blow to a failing political system, the apathy policy is clearly a failure on its own terms, given that the less people vote the more it serves to narrow the political field, as candidates of the mainstream parties crowd the political centre. Looking across the Atlantic, it is surely highly likely that a third party could become viable in America, if the approx 50% of the population who cannot be bothered to vote did so. Instead we are left with a Republican and Democratic Party which people rightly complain hardly offers any choice at all on many issues. Further, this kind of Eeyorish apathy is often simply an excuse for people who cannot be bothered to do anything about a perceived problem, and wish to dress up their laziness and cynicism as some kind of protest against the perfidious machine. Read the rest of this entry

Politics and the WWF – The New Alliance?

Today the Guardian’s article on the Earth expiring by 2050 has shocked many including myself. Whilst I cannot be said to be an ostrich Tory, burying my head in the sand about global warming and the Earth’s potential dilemmas, I certainly would not have guessed the Earth could possibly become uninhabitable within this time-frame. The Tories used to have the motto “vote blue, go green” and when the WWF’s study is officially released on Tuesday this will be more necessary than ever. UK elections have never really been won or lost on the environment, on pollution, global warming, save the rhino or any other liberal-sounding ideologies but it seems the time has come when this is indeed necessary.

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