80 Percent Of U.S. Adults Face Near-Poverty, Unemployment: Survey

By HOPE YEN

WASHINGTON — Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.

Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press points to an increasingly globalized U.S. economy, the widening gap between rich and poor, and the loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend.

Read more » Huffington Post
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/28/poverty-unemployment-rates_n_3666594.html

The Twilight of American Empire?

By John Feffer, co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus

As people near retirement age, they enter the twilight years. Sometimes, they rebel against retirement. They want to keep working. They‘re not interested in shuffling out of their office never to return. And if they’re in fact the owner of the workplace, conflicts often ensue. Those who have power rarely want to give up that power.

The United States is relatively young as a country. It is even younger as the “leader of the free world.” But for at least three decades, reports have circulated that the American empire has entered its twilight years, perhaps even its dotage.

The U.S. government itself cautioned us to scale back our expectations in the late 1970s when President Jimmy Carter called on Americans to cut back on consumerism and adjust to an age of diminishing expectations. Then, after the Reagan rebound, we were warned by Yale professor Paul Kennedy of imperial overstretch in the late 1980s. The Clinton years saved us from bankruptcy and the George W. Bush administration again reasserted American power in the world.

But now, the United States has again sunk into economic malaise and the wars of the last decade have left the country badly bruised. Historian Alfred McCoy believes the U.S. empire won‘t make it until 2025. Norwegian sociologist Johan Galtung pulls the horizon a little closer to 2025. It’s also possible that the empire already ended and somebody forgot to make the announcement. In 2011, Standard and Poor‘s removed the United States from its list of risk-free borrowers, putting us below Canada and Australia. That could very well have been the death knell.

Predicting the end of American empire is complicated by the fact that the United States is not a traditional empire. It does not try to maintain territorial control over distant lands (though many residents of Hawai’i and Guam might disagree). It doesn‘t practice a straightforward policy of pillaging overseas possessions for their material wealth. It practices a form of consensual give-and-take with its allies in Europe and Asia.

But the American Goliath does straddle the globe militarily, with hundreds and hundreds of military bases and Special Forces operating in 71 countries. The United States remains number one in the dubious categories of overall military spending and overall military exports.

Economically, the United States attempts to use the size of its economy to negotiate favorable deals with smaller countries (think: NAFTA) and often defines its national security priorities by their proximity to valuable natural resources (think: oil). It wields disproportionate influence in international economic organizations like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Culturally, Hollywood and the music industry and the television studios all set the standard for cool around the world. English is the world language, and the dollar (for now) is the world currency.

This is, in other words, an empire of consent. Other governments ask for our military bases (though often over the objections of their citizens). Other governments want to trade with the United States. No one makes people watch Avatar or Titanic, the top-grossing movies worldwide. No one forces consumers at gunpoint to eat at McDonald’s or drink Coca-Cola. It‘s true that Washington does what it can to tilt the playing field – through export subsidies, diplomatic arm-twisting, and the occasional show of force. And it can be a very lonely world for those countries, like North Korea, that consistently defy the United States. But this still remains a much more complex set of relationships than Pax Romana or Pax Brittanica.

However one defines U.S. power, though, a fundamental shift is clearly taking place in the world. China is slated to surpass the United States as the world’s largest economy as early as 2016. According to a recent Pew Research Center poll, many people already believe that China has done so. Indeed, if measured by purchasing power, China nosed past the United States a couple years ago.

It‘s not just China. The other celebrated members of the BRICS – Brazil, India, Russia, South Africa – are more quietly building up their economic and geopolitical power. Then there’s MIST – Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, and Turkey – another group of rising powers. The proliferation of other groupings – the Next 11, CIVETS – all testifies to the transformation of world power.

Meanwhile, the United States is behaving like a country desperately trying to maintain its edge. It has proclaimed a “Pacific pivot” even though it doesn‘t have the resources to execute any significant shift from the Middle East to Asia. It has attempted to maintain unsustainable levels of military spending at a time of serious budget constraints. It has tried to maintain a surveillance state in the face of considerable challenges from both individuals and organizations. Detroit has gone bankrupt; bridges have collapsed in Washington state and Arizona; thousands in New York and New Jersey are still homeless after last year’s Hurricane Sandy; gun violence annually claims tens of thousands of lives.

And on the issues where the world truly needs leadership – global warming, global poverty, global militarism – the United States is either out to lunch or very much part of the problem.

An aging chief executive who resists calls for retirement will often whip out their trump card: apr?s moi, le deluge! In other words, if the top person goes, whatever their vices might be, the organization will collapse because no one else can provide effective leadership.

John Feffer is co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus (www.fpif.org) at the Institute for Policy Studies. His articles and books can be found at http://www.johnfeffer.com. His latest book is Crusade 2.0 (City Lights, 2012).

The views presented in this column are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Hankyoreh.

Please direct questions or comments to [englishhani@hani.co.kr]

Courtesy: the hankyoreh
http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_editorial/597923.html

Deadly debt trap

The only way to come out of prevalent economic mess is to accelerate growth and enhance tax revenues

By Huzaima Bukhari & Dr. Ikramul Haq

Pakistan trapped in deadly ‘debt prison’ needs concentrated short and long term efforts to come out of it. Unfortunately, till today no workable plan and viable strategy is devised by the government or any political party in opposition to tackle the issue. The debt burden — Rs14.5 billion internal and $60 billion external — is becoming unmanageable as major resources are consumed by debt servicing. The budget allocation of Rs1.52 trillion for retiring public debt and payment of interest during fiscal year 2013-14 would prove short as there was surge of Rs180 billion in external debts alone during July 2013.

On July 29, 2013, the rupee recorded its lowest value against the dollar: Rs102.4 in the interbank market, Rs104.7 in open market, but actual rate was Rs105.5. Continuous slide of the rupee is not merely due to widening demand-supply gap or maneuverings by unscrupulous elements. Other factors are external debt repayments of around $1billion and speculations about official devaluation in the wake of IMF bailout.

Devaluation will have devastating effects e.g. tremendous surge in public debt (one rupee loss in the exchange rate adds Rs60 billion to public debt), enhancement in debt servicing, further widening of fiscal deficit and more expensive imports, especially of crude oil raising cost of all goods and services.

Already huge debt servicing is taking a heavy toll on economy — fiscal deficit for financial year 2012-13 jumped to 8.8 per cent of GDP as shortfall on the part of Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) alone was Rs442 billion. The fast depletion of foreign exchange reserves — from $14.776 billion in July 2011 to $5.153 billion by July 2013 — aggravated the situation. Heavy repayments to the IMF and others plus financing of current account deficit amounting to $2.3 billion in 2012-13 forced the new government to approach the IMF for a bailout package.

The situation on internal debt is equally disturbing. The government, for the first time in the history, borrowed from local banks Rs one trillion during the fiscal year 2012-13. The net government borrowing from domestic banks increased to Rs1.012 trillion between July 1, 2012 and June 28, 2013 against Rs629.9 billion over the same period last fiscal year. The federal government borrowed Rs1.005 trillion for budgetary support as compared to Rs696.5 billion during the corresponding period fiscal year.

The reckless and unabated borrowing from commercial banks is not only retarding growth but also depriving private sector of the much-needed funds for investments. It is but also forcing State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to inject heavy amounts of liquidity in the banking system through frequent open market operations as high borrowings wipe out liquidity from the money market.

The only way to come out of prevalent mess is to accelerate growth, generate employment, enhance tax revenues, and stop financing luxuries of elites and losses of public sector enterprises (PSEs). But the present government, like the PPP-coalition government, is not serious about it. During its election campaign, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) made tall claims that on assuming power it will get rid of the “cancer of external debts”.

Continue reading Deadly debt trap

UK most unequal country in the West

Huge gap between rich and poor in Britain is the same as Nigeria and worse than Ethiopia, UN report reveals

By Geoffrey Lean and Graham Ball

Britain is now the most unequal country in the Western world, an authoritative new United Nations report reveals. The gap between rich and poor is as great as in Nigeria.

Detailed statistics in the Human Development Report published last week also demonstrate that inequality has grown sharply during Conservative rule and that the poor in Britain now have to live on much the same incomes as their equivalents in Hungary and Korea.

Read more > The Independent.co.uk
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk-most-unequal-country-in-the-west-1329614.html

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Via Facebook

UK – Homeless: More Young People Sleeping Rough

Statistics show more young people are being forced onto the streets as a new theatre play shines the spotlight on the crisis.

As statistics show more young people are becoming homeless in the UK, a new play questions why more is not being done to help those forced onto the streets.

Government figures show the number of people sleeping rough in England has increased by a third since 2010.

In London alone, 6,437 people slept rough during 2012-13, a 62% rise in two years.

Campaigners say there is a risk this trend could continue, given youth unemployment, the economic downturn and the pressures on low income families, combined with changes within welfare reform, reduction of public services and the general squeezing of housing supply and affordability of accommodation.

The official figures do not account for the hidden homeless.

Three months after his 18th birthday, Leo was forced to sofa surf for nine months until he received help from Centre Point.

He told Sky News: “I feel lonely and like I don’t really have a voice. I’m not really accountable for anything despite going to college. I don’t feel like a real person.”

Read more » Sky News
http://news.sky.com/story/1124291/homeless-more-young-people-sleeping-rough

I am Babar Sattar

By: Saad Rasool

His loyalty swears allegiance to the empire of law, not to the seat of any judge

I have been raised on the idea that a man keeps his distance from friends when they are in high places, and never leaves the side of a friend who has been knocked to his knees by life. In fidelity to this ethos, the following is a howl from my wounded heart, in defence of my friend, Babar Sattar, whose intellect, audacity and honesty, has cost him the wrath of the mighty and the powerful!

Let me emphasize at the very outset that I agree with, and endorse, every word written by Babar in his op-ed piece, “Hubris as Justice?”. And, as we customarily state in legal pleadings, ‘let the contents of that piece be read as an integral part of this article’. By that virtue, the fundamental principles of consistency and equality (in law) mandate that whatever is done unto him, be also done unto me. Anything else, in constitutional jargon, will be a violation of Article 25 of the Constitution (discrimination).

Let me begin with a slight background for those who are unaware of all that has transpired: On Tuesday, Babar wrote an op-ed piece, which was critical of some of the jurisprudential trends emanating from the honorable Supreme Court. The article was published in Dawn, since The News International refused to publish this piece (as Babar’s weekly column), alleging that it was ‘unbalanced’. That same day, the contents of this article were highlighted (with praise!) in a programme on Geo TV. Thereafter, almost instantly, the content and context of this article became the topic of discussion across all tele- and social-media waves. As expected, soon enough, this piece caught the attention of the honorable judges of the apex court, who viewed it as a tremendous act of insubordination (by a former of the legal fraternity). Immediately, contempt notices were issued to the publisher as well as the media-giant that telecasted Babar’s opinion. The matter, soon enough, will be taken up for ‘dispassionate’ adjudication.

Continue reading I am Babar Sattar