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China has hugely outgrown the U.S. under Trump

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 30/11/2019 - 12:00am in

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from Dean Baker This is one in the “whose is bigger?” category; which country has added the most to their GDP over the last three years. There is not any particular reason anyone should care about this, except that Donald Trump has made a big point of touting something about how no one says China […]

Universal Credit – Moralistic social policy that destroys lives

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/11/2019 - 11:00pm in

Universal Credit is the flagship social policy of the
Conservatives launched with the Liberal Democrats in 2010, which after nine
years of spending and chaotic waste of resources, with numerous glitches, is
still in the process of being ‘rolled out’. The Conservatives’ manifesto for
the General Election pledges to “continue the roll out of Universal Credit”,
without a hint about why it has taken nine years to implement so far.

Labour is committed to abolishing Universal Credit initially
by simplifying its complex behavioural and other tests for obtaining state
benefits. Labour is also committed to piloting basic income, i.e., a flat-rate
benefit paid to all legal resident citizens, coupled with needs-based payments
for those with disabilities and with other special needs, such as maternity,
accidents, frailty or old-age. The Green Party is also committed to abolishing
Universal Credit and to replacing the core with a basic income, with housing
and disability benefits retained.

Voters and commentators should realise what Universal Credit
purports to do and what it does. It is the most strategic policy of modern
neo-liberalism, more important in its ambition than most people realise. By the
early 2020s, according to the Child Poverty Action Group, half of all children
in Britain will be enmeshed in it. Every candidate and every voter should
regard it as a central issue in the election……and yet the Conservatives and its
media supporters want to keep it away from public debate.

Basically, Universal Credit combines six means-tested
benefits into one. A means-tested system is one that aims to give benefits only
to the deserving poor. That requires administratively complicated tests to
prove somebody is poor and administratively complex tests to determine that
their poverty is not their own fault.

Universal Credit (UC) subjects vulnerable desperate people to
such invidious tests, which are stigmatising, arbitrary and often hard to
understand. Observers should realise that in every country where means-tested
benefits have been applied low take-up rates have resulted, i.e., many of those
who should receive benefits do not receive them. In Britain today, according to
the government itself, about two in every five people who should receive
benefits do not obtain them. The Treasury even budgets on the basis that many
who should be receiving benefits will not do so. This is unfair, and is
deliberate.

Then there is the Catch-22 trick played on claimants. They
are required to apply for benefits online. But many do not have computers or
access to one or even know how to use them. They are told that they should use
public libraries to apply online. But the Conservatives’ austerity policy (long
backed by the Liberal Democrats) has resulted in the closure of over 750 public
libraries. Even the designers of UC can work out what happens.  

To compound the failings of means-testing, if benefits are granted
only to those who are poor, then somebody who makes an effort to obtain a
low-paying job faces loss of benefits – known as a poverty trap – that makes
any gain from taking it small. The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) admit
that such a person faces a marginal tax rate of about 80%. That is ridiculous.
Yet the Conservatives are committed to continuing this policy.

The situation is worse, because of what I call the precarity
trap
. The problem starts with the government’s mean-spirited rule that someone
who becomes entitled to a benefit must wait for five weeks before claiming it (it
was six weeks until evidence of hardship became overwhelming). Actually, according
to the National Audit Office, a quarter of all claimants do not receive their
benefits for over nine weeks. Could someone explain to the designers and
supporters of this policy how impoverishing this practice must be. It can only
be deliberate.  

Now we come to the precarity trap. If someone loses a job,
she must wait for at least five weeks without money. Suppose that after
eventually obtaining benefits she is offered a short-term job. She would face
not only the 80% poverty trap but also the prospect of being out of a job again
shortly, having to wait for another five weeks or more before receiving
benefits again. It would be irrational to take that job. Yet if she refused to
take it, she would be ‘sanctioned’ and lose all her income.

This is where we come to the worst feature. Under Universal
Credit a claimant must be ready to be interviewed and assessed regularly, at
short notice, and must prove they are ‘working’ indefatigably looking for a job.
If a local bureaucrat says they have not been looking hard enough or are late
for an interview, the bureaucrat – usually poorly trained, inexperienced and
working for a private company paid by how much they can save the system – can just
sanction the claimant, by suspending payment.

This contravenes a basic principle of common law – due
process.
In effect, they are deemed guilty until they prove themselves
innocent. They can appeal, but that takes about nine months, during which they receive
no money. Extraordinarily, most people who do appeal win. This is not justice,
since they have suffered the penalty for months. Many drift into homelessness
and ill-health, many commit suicide or attempt to do so.

The Conservatives claim the threat of sanctions improves work
motivation and social integration. There is not a shred of evidence to support
that. On the contrary, research has shown it has the opposite effect. But even
if there were evidence an instrumental justification for an immoral illegal act
is itself abhorrent.

Another amoral feature of UC is that benefits are only paid
for the first two children, which obviously penalises any third or fourth child
in a family. What has the child done to face such discrimination? Again, the
policy is moralistic, rationalised as deterring childbearing by “the poor”
(unless the mother can ‘prove’ she was raped). This is toxic utilitarianism.

Then there is the rule that anybody dismissed from a job for
alleged misconduct is denied benefits for at least 13 weeks. This rule fails to
respect due process. The DWP should not presume one party or the other is
telling the truth. A woman may have been dismissed for some petty action but in
reality have earlier refused a sexual advance. Or a worker could have objected
to having to do menial tasks that were not in his job description. The point is
that it is unfair to presume guilt and subject the person to a very
harsh punishment – loss of an only source of subsistence.

One of the most telling statistics is that so far the number
of claimants who have been sanctioned and lost vital income exceeds the number
of people properly convicted of crimes or misdemeanours in magistrates and
sheriffs’ courts and the penalties have been more severe. Every legally trained
person should be protesting at this legal inequity.             

Universal Credit is morally repugnant. Any Party advocating it deserves contempt. It is that wrong.  Every leader should use the last few days of the campaign to expose what Universal Credit will do to poverty, insecurity and inequality in Britain over the next five years. Where it has been rolled out so far use of food banks by the precariat and social underclass has risen fourfold. The dystopia is here and will grow much, much worse.  

Photo credit: Flickr/HelenCobain.

The post Universal Credit – Moralistic social policy that destroys lives appeared first on The Progressive Economy Forum.

Who’s Credible on Tax?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/11/2019 - 8:00pm in

We now have the manifestos for the election. We know what
the parties now say about tax, even if we cannot know what they will actually
do.

The differences in opinion are stark. Addressing, due to
space, those parties standing in most seats, it is clear that none of the
parties come close to understanding the true role of tax in the economy as yet.
All are fixated on the idea that current spending must be covered by tax and
only investment may be financed by borrowing. The household analogy within
macroeconomics is alive and well and living in the UK, and it’s wrong. The role
of tax in delivering social and economic policy in its own right is still being
ignored by all the parties, excepting the Greens, with their proposal for a
Universal Basic Income, and that will not be happening any time soon. This
misunderstanding is a massive contributor to economic mismanagement.

Within that framework there is enormous difference in tax
policy on display. In particular, Labour’s recognises a threefold need. One is
to address poverty. The second is to end austerity. The two are, of course,
related. And third, it wants to promote a Green New Deal. And it will spend to
achieve all three.

The IFS have said this plan from Labour is not credible.
I disagree. The plan for investment is largely in small projects that can be
ratcheted up quickly as skills become available. And the social plans will
achieve their goal, including of increasing incomes. This is a plan for the
moment.

The tax dimension of it (and it’s always an aspect) also
makes sense. To the extend that tax is needed the aim is threefold. Wealth is
taxed more, as it is dramatically undertaxed now. Labour is right to tax it
more. The same is true of corporation tax, where Labour’s proposed unitary tax
base for international taxation will lead the world, whilst the increase in
rates will simply bring the UK back into line with the world. No one is actually
going to change their behaviour as a result of either reform. And nor, when it
comes down to it, will almost any one those who are well off enough to earn
more than £80,000 a year flee the country, or even work less, as a result.
First, most of those people are on contracts that do not vary pay with tax
rates. Second, most people have no clue how much tax they pay. And third, most
people work harder when they earn less if (as is true of many of those on high
pay) they have fixed and very expensive commitments. The plan does, then, make
sense. Inelastic behaviour will result in the higher taxes being settled with
little issue arising.

The Tories on the other hand are locked into the belief
that tax sells election victory, and so are committed to maintaining the status
quo. But in so doing, a very small change to national insurance apart, they
also lock in the existing social infrastructure and with it the income and
wealth inequality that even organisations like the OECD and IMF say is harmful.
Not only are the Tories not using spending to break austerity and defeat
inequality, they’re refusing to do anything at the top end either, meaning that
all the divisions in society that have been so destructive of our well-being
will be maintained. In this sense the Tories are really being true to form
conservatives.

And in the meantime the LibDems are so far out in the tax
cold that they think hypothecated taxes for the NHS might work with the
electorate and in practice. But that is not how tax works, and even given the
terribly low level of understanding of tax that pervades the UK I suspect
enough of the electorate realise that is the case to be indifferent to the
promise. The LibDems do really need to try harder.

As for the Greens, carbon tax dominates their agenda. It worries me. They are almost always regressive. The Greens proposal would be, I fear. And I am not wholly convinced a universal basic income makes up for that. The Green manifesto is only of interest on tax because it is a place where ideas can be explored. I suggest that this one still needs a lot more exploration.

Overall? Labour has a good offering that makes economic
and social sense. It has, thankfully, abandoned its fiscal rule. But like the
other parties it still shackles itself unnecessarily on tax by adopting an
inappropriate and discredited macroeconomic view of tax. The Tories do the same
to reinforce division in society that will cost millions a great deal
financially and even more in their wellbeing. And the rest took part, but without
serious intent.

All of which leaves only one rational choice when it comes to tax, and that is Labour.

The views in this piece do not necessarily represent the collective views of PEF, but those of the author.

Photo credit: Flickr/_SiD_.

The post Who’s Credible on Tax? appeared first on The Progressive Economy Forum.

Virtue signalling

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/11/2019 - 6:20pm in

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One of the stranger terms of political abuse to enter the lexicon in recent years is “virtue signalling”. It’s used almost exclusively by the political right and covers many different kinds of statements, actions and policies, mostly associated with the culture wars.

A particularly striking feature of this is that, until recently, “virtue” was a term primarily associated with the right. Bill Bennett (Education Secretary under GW Bush) had a big hit with The Book of Virtues back in the 1990s. He’s now an apologist for Trumpism.

It’s too complicated to cover all aspects of this in one post, but it may be useful to compare two symbolic actions

  • displaying a rainbow flag; and
  • wearing a MAGA hat.

Clearly the term “virtue signalling” would be applied only to the first of these. And this is just a not a matter of semantics, as it would be if the left had a corresponding term.

People who display the rainbow flag are virtue signalling in the obvious sense of the word: the flag says something like “equal marriage is a good cause. I support it, and so should you”.

Normally, the opposing response would be to say “No, it’s not a good cause, and those who support it are wrong’

The problem for the right is that they don’t have any moral standing for a claim like this, and they know it. While many rightwingers undoubtedly believe homosexuality to be sinful, they know that this belief violates norms of equal treatment and personal freedom they claim to accept, and they therefore can’t put it forward without inviting condemnation, or at least rejection, including from their own side. So, they have to resort to terms like “virtue signalling”, in this case implying an ostentatious moral superiority, combined with hypocrisy.

And the same is true across the whole range of issues summed up in the cognate term “Social Justice Warrior”.

The MAGA hat is the mirror image of this. For leftists, the MAGA hat is not treated as a claim, legitimate or otherwise, to be a patriotic American. Rather, it’s regarded an offensive statement of support for Trump’s racism, misogyny and corruption.

The whole point is to be offensive, to “trigger the libs” as Trump Jr’s recent book puts it. No claim to virtue is being put forward. It’s a pure piece of identity politics, making the assertion that the wearers should be treated as superior without having any actual claim to being superior, morally or otherwise. Again, this can’t be spelt out; being an explicit white nationalist remains beyond the pale, and the conduct of the Trumpists defies any credible defense.

So, the intellectual apologists of the right can only resort to <i>tu quoque</i>, making the claim, in various forms, that the left is just as bad as their own side. This started with the Republican War on Science, but is now virtually universal.

The point of “virtue signalling” is to make this claim, without having to say what is wrong with the virtue being signalled.

O inquérito contra os ambientalistas do Pará é um lixo. Separamos os piores trechos.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/11/2019 - 10:43am in

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O inquérito da polícia do Pará que levou quatro ambientalistas à prisão – por considerá-los responsáveis por incêndios florestais na região de Alter do Chão – é recheado de conclusões estapafúrdias sem embasamento em provas e, em vários pontos, traz correlações que a própria investigação desmente. A peça parece apenas um ato de ficção com destino certo: movimentar as turbas pró-Bolsonaro nas redes, incendiadas por personagens irresponsáveis como a deputada Carla Zambelli e o próprio presidente da República.

O inquérito parece destinado à lata do lixo: não há nele qualquer prova material que comprove a autoria dos incêndios. Mas causou estragos na vida dos ambientalistas e na imagem das ONGs que combatem incêndios na Amazônia. Por sorte, a farsa durou pouco mais de 48 horas: os acusados foram soltos e os delegados responsáveis pela investigação e pelas prisões estão afastados. Os cães do bolsonarismo que estavam comemorando a “prova” de sua tese estapafúrdia – “as ONGs atearam fogo na Amazônia” – seguirão latindo? É provável. Mas nós recebemos o inquérito e vamos mostrar suas inconsistências.

São 111 páginas. Num dos trechos que mais chamam a atenção, a polícia se baseia num grampo telefônico para afirmar que dois dos presos, João Victor Pereira Romano e Gustavo de Almeida Fernandes, “se declararam, peremptoriamente, os responsáveis pela vasta queimada ocorrida em Alter do Chão, não restando dúvidas serem os prováveis autores do fato criminoso”.

É uma conclusão altamente criativa, uma vez que a única menção a fogo é a seguinte – o grifo é dos próprios policiais:


Para a polícia paraense, no entanto, indícios como esse são suficientes para afirmar que “fica plenamente comprovado (sic) os indícios veementes de autoria dos crimes ora em tela pelos membros da Brigada Alter do Chão (…) como seus prováveis mentores e executores com o fito de promoverem-se (sic) e em razão disto angariar recursos financeiros de grande monta, caracterizando-se numa grande e rentável associação criminosa”.

Após tomar depoimentos, a polícia paraense achou que havia “imperiosa necessidade de prosseguimento das investigações”. O motivo? Fatos como “os integrantes da Brigada [Alter do Chão] serem os primeiros a chegar ao local das queimadas” e “toda a divulgação exagerada feita por estes em relação ao evento, ficando presumida a intenção de promoção” do grupo.

Parece inacreditável, mas isso foi suficiente para a justiça autorizar grampos em telefones dos brigadistas e ambientalistas. Entre 26 de setembro e 20 de novembro, as escutas produziram cerca de seis horas de gravações. A conclusão delas, segundo a polícia: os ambientalistas estavam “agindo dolosamente no intuito de auferir vantagens financeiras por meio de doações e contrato firmado com a gigantesca ONG WWF”. Ou seja: eles incendiavam a mata para ganhar dinheiro. Provas? Nenhuma. Caso existam, precisam vir à tona antes que pessoas sejam presas com base em achismos e torcida.

Nos trechos incluídos no inquérito, em nenhum momento há diálogos que mostrem intenção clara de atear fogo à mata. Em vez disso, leem-se coisas como isso:

Para a polícia do Pará, não foi a imensa repercussão mundial dos incêndios na Amazônia que levou ongs como a WWF a mandar dinheiro a grupos dispostos a combatê-los – neste caso, formado por pessoas que já moravam no local e já trabalhavam com apagamentos de focos de incêndio há anos. Pelo contrário: nas conclusões do responsável pela delegacia de Conflitos Agrários, que comandou o inquérito e agora está afastado, Fábio Amaral Barbosa, foram uns jovens de Alter do Chão que bolaram um plano para queimar a floresta e com isso encher os bolsos de dinheiro.

O nonsense continua:

Na Amazônia, agosto e setembro são historicamente marcados pela queima do que foi desmatado nos meses anteriores. A ong Saúde e Alegria atua há 30 anos na região. A Brigada de Alter do Chão foi formada em 2018 e conta com apoio e orientação de bombeiros profissionais. Ou seja – ambas têm experiência no assunto.

Mais: não há muitos caminhos que levem a Alter do Chão. O principal acesso é pela rodovia PA-457, que liga o município a Santarém, ou pelos rios Tapajós ou Amazonas. Da rodovia, se viam as matas queimando e havia farto material na imprensa atestado isso – o que torna a conversa absolutamente banal. Não para a polícia civil do Pará. Se trabalhassem no Rio, os delegados Barbosa, Sílvio Birro Duarty Neto e José Humberto Melo Júnior – que comandou a operação que resultou nas prisões e também foi afastado – poderiam prender quem avisa parentes que a cidade alaga com as chuvas de verão – seriam acusados de encomendar as chuvas.

Adiante, os policiais afirmam o seguinte:

Culpar os autores das imagens dos incêndios pela existência dos mesmos incêndios. É mais ou menos como culpar emissoras de televisão ou jornais que noticiam um desastre aéreo por derrubar o avião. Mas foi o que fizeram os policiais.

Repare que, na parte a seguir, os próprios policiais grifam um trecho em que os brigadistas lembram que a WWF gostaria de ter imagens deles combatendo incêndios na Amazônia com o material comprado com dinheiro da ONG. Mas a própria WWF diz que não seria necessário fazer propaganda da ONG e que as fotos poderiam ser feitas em eventuais incêndios “no ano que vem”:

Ao longo de várias páginas, o inquérito se atém a minúcias de conversas entre os membros da Brigada a respeito do contrato com a WWF – em que não há qualquer indício de crime.

Provavelmente percebendo que não têm elementos para falar em crimes ambientais, os policiais se aproveitam que, num dos grampos, um deles fala sobre fumar um baseado:

A droga – cujo porte para consumo não é crime, e que já é legalizada em rincões mais civilizados do planeta – não é objeto da investigação e nem mesmo do pedido de prisão. Mas é tema de páginas e páginas do inquérito, em que os policiais – sem prova alguma – acusam os ambientalistas de serem traficantes de drogas organizados em uma quadrilha. Não há notícia de que um grama sequer de maconha tenha sido apreendido com os brigadistas.

O primeiro ponto que chama atenção para uma possível irregularidade cometida pelos brigadistas só aparece na página 42 do inquérito. Ali, aparece uma discussão sobre uma prestação de contas exigida pelo corpo de bombeiros de Alter do Chão.

Em seguida, a polícia diz o seguinte:

O curioso, aqui, é que o tema não é explorado pela polícia no dia em que a operação foi deflagrada e anunciada com fanfarra. Se os policiais tinha dúvidas sobre a gestão do dinheiro recebido pela ONG, por que não deram luz a isso? O advogado Wlandre Gomes Leal, que defende Marcelo Aron e o João Victor, disse ao Intercept que não há qualquer previsão legal para essa investigação, já que o dinheiro não é público, e que os brigadistas entregaram discos rígidos aos delegados que incluem todas as contas da organização.

É só na página 44 do inquérito que a polícia finalmente chega ao que deveria ser o objeto da investigação:

Os “indícios sobejos” – fartos, imensos, extraordinários –, se existem, não aparecem no inquérito. A “prova”, para os policiais, é que o grupo filmava suas ações. Logo a seguir, retorna a obsessão com o dinheiro que a WWF entregou aos brigadistas:

A seguir, vem o momento mais constrangedor do inquérito: os policiais tomam uma referência a “queimar o mato” – gíria corrente entre quem fuma maconha – por colocar fogo na floresta:

Como se pode ver, a investigação é de uma inépcia espantosa, um retrato triste dos nossos dias. Nesse meio tempo, no entanto, quatro pessoas ficaram presas e as hordas bolsonaristas espalharam por suas redes a tese de que as ONGs são responsáveis pelos incêndios criminosos na Amazônia. Como já provamos, não são – a própria Polícia Federal desmente Bolsonaro e sua turma. Mas eles não se importam. O circo midiático foi montado e parte grande da imprensa noticiou sem questionar. O incêndio no debate público, mesmo depois de controlado, deixou suas cinzas para trás mais uma vez.

 

Correção: 29 de novembro de 2019, 17h25.

Uma versão anterior deste texto mencionava que o delegado José Humberto Melo Júnior havia comandado o inquérito. Na verdade, ele comandou a operação policial que prendeu os ambientalistas. O inquérito foi comandado pelo delegado Fábio Amaral Barbosa, chefe da delegacia de Conflitos Agrários. Os dois policiais foram afastados pelo governo do Pará. A legenda da foto que abre a reportagem também foi corrigida.

The post O inquérito contra os ambientalistas do Pará é um lixo. Separamos os piores trechos. appeared first on The Intercept.

A British National Investment Bank for the Climate Emergency

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/11/2019 - 6:30am in

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The
UK private financial system has not performed well to support the real economy.
It has been pro-cyclical, over-lending in boom times but rationing credit
during and after crises. It has not sufficiently funded long-term investment in
key areas like green energy, needed to avert climate catastrophe, and create
green jobs. Private and public investment has been historically low in the UK
economy, and fell sharply since the 2007/8 crisis, to an important extent due
to Tory austerity. The UK remains in last place amongst both G7 and OECD
countries, with the lowest share of investment in GDP. 

Because
they benefit from government ownership, which allows them to borrow long-term
at fairly low cost, NIBs are ideally placed to fund projects that are
environmentally or socially valuable but are too risky to be attractive to
purely private finance, such as funding a Green New Deal. 

Irrespective
of governmental policy orientation, rather large NIBs, have been an important
feature of the financial sectors of most developed and emerging economies,
especially the most successful and dynamic ones, like Germany, France, China,
India, South Korea, India and Japan. The UK has been an exception in not having
such a public investment bank, despite its evident need. 

How do party positions measure up on
NIBs? 

Although
the Conservative party established the British Business Bank in 2014, it has
remained far too small to have any meaningful impact. In their 2019 manifesto,
the Conservatives indicate that the BBB will grow but it is not clear by how
much, nor is the indicated expansion costed. More worryingly, the UK Green
Investment Bank, established in 2012 was privatised and sold off to the
Australian Macquarie Group.

The
Liberal Democrats have also pledged to scale up the BBB and have pledged to
inject £5 billion of capital for a new Green Investment Bank, but without
specifying target loan volume or balance sheet size. These initiatives are far
from sufficient in the face of the magnitude of impending climate disaster.
Furthermore, with the Lib Dem’s recent commitment to permanent austerity, it is
unclear how credible these pledges are. 

In sharp contrast, the Labour party has pledged to create a UK National Investment Bank (NIB) with a strong focus on green infrastructure, and SME lending to boost much needed investment for a structural transformation to a low- carbon and inclusive economy. The total capital of the NIB would after several years reach £25 billion, which thanks to the leverage achieved by the NIB co-financing with private banks, and raising funds on private capital markets, as well as re-investing all its own profits, could lead to a total stock of lending and investment by the NIB of £250bn after 10 years. Labour would also provide the Scottish National Investment Bank an additional £20bn of lending power. This amount would be complemented by public resources provided by a £250bn “green transformation fund” projected to spend £25 billion a year, as well as a £150bn “social transformation fund”, that would spend on average of £30 billion a year.

Such
significant resources, as pledged by Labour, would help increase investment for
a far greener, dynamic and more inclusive UK economy.

The post A British National Investment Bank for the Climate Emergency appeared first on The Progressive Economy Forum.

Fiscal Policy, Debt and Deficits

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/11/2019 - 4:04am in

Labour and Conservative Parties, plus the Liberal Democrats, commit themselves to increased public expenditure, apparently ending almost a decade of debilitating fiscal austerity. PEF welcomes this change in policy by the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. No voter should conclude that the fiscal frameworks of these parties are essentially the same.

First, while the Labour Party commits to the most substantial budgetary expansion, it is a mistake to focus on the overall size of the expenditure increases each party promises. This quickly leads in bickers over what is actually new and whether commitments are sufficient for the goal sought. Second and equally unenlightening, focus on amounts invariably degenerates into assertions about “affordability”. The commitments of all parties are “affordable” in the basic sense that they are easily financed by an appropriate combination of growth-generated revenue flow, new and higher taxes, and borrowing.

These two considerations
identify the central difference that divides the party approaches. Of all
parties, large and small, only Labour places its expenditure programmes into a
clear fiscal framework, part of an overall plan for reversing austerity,
environmental protection, inequality reduction and economic modernisation.
Without an expenditure framework, commitments may be laudable, but their impact
is piecemeal. It is for that reason, their structured nature linked to
outcomes, that PEF assesses the Labour Party’s fiscal plans as the most
credible and effective.

Most assessments of the party
fiscal commitments by think-tanks will focus on their impact on the fiscal
balance (“deficit”) and the public debt. This approach is both misleading and
banal. It is misleading because few if any of the assessing organizations
employ a systemic framework and covers the entire economy. As a result, many
direct and indirect effects of expenditure and tax are ignored. For example,
spending tends to expand the economy, which generates more revenue. Tax
increases slow expansion, thus reducing revenue growth. Only a systemic
framework allows evaluation of the net effect of spending and taxation on
deficit and debt outcomes.

The narrow focus on deficit and debt is banal because it judges a broader public purpose, rejuvenation and transformation of UK society, on the basis of cost accounting. In the autumn of 1939 with Britain facing an existential threat, no major politician made the decision of war and peace based on affordability. Nor should we now, as we face existential threats of climate change and social cohesion.

Photo credit: Flickr/Rain Rabbit.

The post Fiscal Policy, Debt and Deficits appeared first on The Progressive Economy Forum.

A reading list for economic heretics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/11/2019 - 3:54am in

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from Blair Fix Do you think that the discipline of economics is a sham — an ideology masquerading as science? If so, here is a reading list for you. These 10 books have influenced my thinking over the years. Read them and join me in the journey of the economic heretic. 1. Capital as Power. […]

Nos bastidores, PF descarta envolvimento de ONG em incêndios na Amazônia

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/11/2019 - 2:55am in

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A investigação em que a Polícia Federal trabalha desde o final de agosto para descobrir os responsáveis pelo “Dia do Fogo” na Amazônia não tem nenhuma organização não-governamental entre os suspeitos. Nem a Brigada de Incêndio de Alter do Chão nem a ONG Saúde e Alegria são investigadas ou consideradas suspeitas pela PF.

Nos bastidores, fontes ouvidas pelo Intercept descartam a participação desse tipo de entidade e seguem investigando fazendeiros locais como principais responsáveis pelos incêndios que impressionaram o mundo.

Há dois inquéritos abertos pela PF, tocados nas delegacias de Altamira e Santarém. Esse segundo deu origem à operação Pacto de Fogo, realizada em Novo Progresso em outubro.

Os alvos dos mandados de busca foram empresários, produtores rurais e fazendeiros, que tiveram notebooks, HDs e celulares apreendidos. A PF aguarda o resultado da perícia nesse material, mas não há suspeitas que recaiam sobre ONGs.

Quer dizer – a investigação federal vai no caminho oposto ao da espalhafatosa e esquisita operação da polícia civil do Pará, que prendeu voluntários e colocou a Brigada e a ONG Saúde e Alegria como suspeitas de provocarem incêndios na região de Altamira.

O que levou a polícia paraense a prender ambientalistas, a bem da verdade, é um mistério para fontes com quem conversamos – porque, apesar de insistentes pedidos, inclusive formais, as autoridades do Pará se recusaram a compartilhar sua investigação com os policiais federais.

A PF também foi atacada na região. Um carro descaracterizado no qual policiais federais viajavam pela rodovia transamazônica foi alvejado por um tiro disparado de uma viatura da polícia militar local. O caso foi relatado à cúpula da corporação, segundo apuramos.

Ontem, o Ministério Público Federal pediu acesso ao inquérito da polícia civil do Pará. Procuradores estranharam as prisões de ongueiros dessa semana e disseram que, desde 2015, investigações federais “apontam para o assédio de grileiros, ocupação desordenada e para a especulação imobiliária como causas da degradação ambiental em Alter do Chão”.

Suspeitos, os de sempre: ruralistas

A Polícia Federal participou da operação de Garantia da Lei e da Ordem que atuou nas queimadas na Amazônia, no final de agosto. Desde então, abriu dois inquéritos, em suas delegacias em Altamira – para tentar encontrar os responsáveis por incêndios na Floresta Nacional de Altamira – e Santarém – para averiguar as causas das queimadas na Floresta Nacional do Jamanxim e ao longo da BR-163. Em nenhum deles, há indícios de que ONGs tenham cometido crimes.

O foco principal da investigação da PF é Novo Progresso, perto da fronteira com o Mato Grosso, onde começou o “Dia do Fogo” – dois dias de incêndios criminosos na região, em 10 e 11 de agosto. Santarém, município onde está a localidade de Alter do Chão, fica 712 quilômetros ao norte de Novo Progresso. São quase 13 horas de viagem de carro por uma estrada em boa parte coalhada de buracos.

Os suspeitos da PF são óbvios – madeireiros e, principalmente, fazendeiros locais. A investigação parte de conversas trocadas num grupo de WhatsApp em que eles combinaram as queimadas. Dele, fazia parte o delegado Vicente Gomes, superintendência da polícia civil do Pará na região do Tapajós, em que fica Novo Progresso. É a provável razão para a falta de empenho das autoridades locais em compartilhar informações com as federais.

É, ainda, um motivo possível para o empenho da polícia do Pará em atrair as atenções noutra direção, longe de Novo Progresso, verdadeiro foco dos crimes. Se as investigações concluírem que as queimadas de fato foram executadas a partir de um grupo incluindo o delegado Gomes, ele terá cometido pelo menos crime de prevaricação – quando um servidor público deixa de cumprir seu dever em troca de vantagem pessoal.

Moradores de Novo Progresso ouvidos pela PF apontaram Gomes como homem ligado a madeireiros da região. Já integrantes do grupo de WhatsApp, os principais suspeitos dos incêndios criminosos, ouvidos na investigação, apontaram o dedo para – quem diria – organizações ambientalistas, seguindo as acusações do presidente Jair Bolsonaro, que jamais apresentou provas.

Culpar ONGs por crimes ambientais é um álibi que pareceu surpreendente até a investigadores experientes na área.

Gomes, flagrado no grupo de zap onde as queimadas foram combinadas, não goza de prestígio junto ao secretário de Segurança Pública do Pará, Ualame Machado, um delegado federal licenciado. Mas, nós apuramos, Machado não recebeu autonomia do governador Helder Barbalho, filho do velho cacique local Jáder Barbalho, atualmente senador, para montar sua equipe (ambos são do MDB). Há, na polícia civil paraense, um conflito entre policiais mais jovens – alinhados ao secretário – e a “velha guarda”, de que Gomes faz parte.

Culpar ONGs por crimes ambientais é um álibi que pareceu surpreendente até a investigadores experientes na área. Usualmente, ruralistas e madeireiros tinham nos assentados sem-terra seu bode expiatório preferido. Quando acusados de crimes, costumavam culpar os assentados. Mas as falas do presidente de extrema direita Jair Bolsonaro parecem ter criado uma nova tendência. Na dúvida, a culpa agora é das ONGs.

“Numa coisa o presidente está certo: a mata é úmida, não queima. Quando está de pé. Derrubada, é outra história. O Dia do Fogo é tradicional na região. Este ano o incêndio foi maior porque tinha muito mais árvore no chão”, ouvi de uma fonte familiarizada com a investigação da PF.

A culpa, aí, parece recair em Bolsonaro – que, naturalmente, fez uso político das suspeitas contra ambientalistas. Em recente visita à Arábia Saudita, Bolsonaro disse inclusive que “potencializou” o movimento de destruição da mata. Ele não esconde. As palavras de incentivo do político alimentaram a sanha dos desmatadores da região de Novo Progresso, localizado na nova fronteira agrícola da Amazônia.

Um episódio espantou os policiais federais: em certo momento, logo no início do ano, faltou combustível na cidade, tal o ritmo de trabalho das motosserras movidas a gasolina.

 

Atualização: 28 de novembro de 2019, 16h20

Uma versão anterior deste texto não explicava claramente que Alter do Chão se localiza no município de Santarém, nem era clara sobre o foco dos inquéritos da Polícia Federal. O texto foi atualizado para tornar a compreensão mais clara.

The post Nos bastidores, PF descarta envolvimento de ONG em incêndios na Amazônia appeared first on The Intercept.

1855 — the birth of causal inference

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 28/11/2019 - 11:24pm in

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from Lars Syll If anything, Snow’s path-breaking research underlines how important it is not to equate science with statistical calculation. All science entail human judgement, and using statistical models doesn’t relieve us of that necessity. Working with misspecified models, the scientific value of statistics is actually zero — even though you’re making valid statistical inferences! […]

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