Will Seizure Of Russian Assets Hasten Dollar Decline?

While much of the world focused last week on whether or not the Federal Reserve was going to raise interest rates, or whether the Greek debt crisis would bring Europe to a crisis, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague awarded a $50 billion judgment to shareholders of the former oil company Yukos in their case against the Russian government. The governments of Belgium and France moved immediately to freeze Russian state assets in their countries, naturally provoking the anger of the Russian government.

The timing of these actions is quite curious, coming as the Greek crisis in the EU seems to be reaching a tipping point and Greece, having perhaps abandoned the possibility of rapprochement with Europe, has been making overtures to Russia to help bail it out of its mess. And with the IMF’s recent statement pledging its full and unconditional support to Ukraine, it has become even more clear that the IMF and other major multilateral institutions are not blindly technical organizations, but rather are totally subservient lackeys to the foreign policy agenda emanating from Washington. Toe the D.C. party line and the internationalists will bail you out regardless of how badly you mess up, but if you even think about talking to Russia you will face serious consequences.

The United States government is desperately trying to cling to the notion of a unipolar world, with the United States at its center dictating foreign affairs and monetary policy while its client states dutifully carry out instructions. But the world order is not unipolar, and the existence of Russia and China is a stark reminder of that. For decades, the United States has benefited as the creator and defender of the world’s reserve currency, the dollar. This has enabled Americans to live beyond their means as foreign goods are imported to the U.S. while increasingly-worthless dollars are sent abroad. But is it any wonder after 70-plus years of a depreciating dollar that the rest of the world is rebelling against this massive transfer of wealth?

The Europeans tried to form their own competitor to the dollar, and the resulting euro is collapsing around them as you read this. But the European Union was never considered much of a threat by the United States, existing as it does within Washington’s orbit. Russia and China, on the other hand, pose a far more credible threat to the dollar, as they have both the means and the motivation to form a gold-backed alternative monetary system to compete against the dollar. That is what the U.S. government fears, and that is why President Obama and his Western allies are risking a cataclysmic war by goading Russia with these politically-motivated asset seizures. Having run out of carrots, the U.S. is resorting to the stick.

The U.S. government knows that Russia will not blithely accept Washington’s dictates, yet it still reacts like a petulant child flying into a tantrum whenever Russia dares to exert its sovereignty. The existence of a country that won’t kowtow to Washington’s demands is an unforgivable sin, to be punished with economic sanctions, attempting to freeze Russia out of world financial markets; veiled threats to strip Russia’s hosting of the 2018 World Cup; and now the seizure of Russian state assets.

Thus far the Russian response has been incredibly restrained, but that may not last forever. Continued economic pressure from the West may very well necessitate a Sino-Russian monetary arrangement that will eventually dethrone the dollar. The end result of this needless bullying by the United States will hasten the one thing Washington fears the most: a world monetary system in which the U.S. has no say and the dollar is relegated to playing second fiddle.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

Death Penalty Is Big Government At Its Worst

Nebraska’s legislature recently made headlines when it ended the state’s death penalty. Many found it odd that a conservative-dominated legislature would support ending capital punishment, since conservative politicians have traditionally supported the death penalty. However, an increasing number of conservatives are realizing that the death penalty is inconsistent with both fiscal and social conservatism. These conservatives are joining with libertarians and liberals in a growing anti-death penalty coalition.

It is hard to find a more wasteful and inefficient government program than the death penalty. New Hampshire recently spent over $4 million dollars prosecuting just two death penalty cases, while Jasper County in Texas raised property taxes by seven percent in order to pay for one death penalty case! A Duke University study found that replacing North Carolina’s death penalty would save taxpayers approximately $22 million dollars in just two years.

Death penalty cases are expensive because sentencing someone to death requires two trials. The first trial determines the accused person’s guilt, while the second trial determines if the convicted individual “deserves” the death penalty. A death sentence is typically followed by years of appeals, and sometimes the entire case is retried.

Despite all the time and money spent to ensure that no one is wrongly executed, the system is hardly foolproof. Since 1973, one out of every ten individuals sentenced to death has been released from death row because of evidence discovered after conviction.

The increased use of DNA evidence has made it easier to clear the innocent and identify the guilty. However, DNA evidence is not a 100 percent guarantee of an accurate verdict. DNA evidence is often mishandled or even falsified. Furthermore, DNA evidence is available in only five to 10 percent of criminal cases.

It is not surprising that the government wastes so much time and money on such a flawed system. After all, corruption, waste, and incompetence are common features of government programs ranging from Obamacare to the TSA to public schools to the post office. Given the long history of government failures, why should anyone, especially conservatives who claim to be the biggest skeptics of government, think it is a good idea to entrust government with the power over life and death?

Death penalty supporters try to claim the moral high ground by claiming that the death penalty deters crime. But, if the death penalty is an effective deterrent, why do jurisdictions without the death penalty have a lower crime rate than jurisdictions with the death penalty? And why did a 2009 survey find that the majority of American police chiefs consider the death penalty the least effective way to reduce violent crime?

As strong as the practical arguments against the death penalty are, the moral case is much stronger. Since it is impossible to develop an error-free death penalty system, those who support the death penalty are embracing the idea that the government should be able to execute innocent people for the “greater good.” The idea that the government should be able to force individuals to sacrifice their right to life for imaginary gains in personal safety is even more dangerous to liberty than the idea that the government should be able to force individuals to sacrifice their property rights for imaginary gains in economic security.

Opposition to allowing the government to take life is also part of a consistent pro-life position. Thus, those of any ideology who oppose abortion or preemptive war should also oppose the death penalty. Until the death penalty is abolished, we will have neither a free nor a moral society.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

Soros Pushes U.S. Bailouts, Weapons For Ukraine

If you look at the track record of the interventionists, you might think they would pause before taking on more projects. Each of their past projects has ended in disaster; yet still they press on. Last week, the website Zero Hedge posted a report about hacked emails between billionaire George Soros and Ukrainian President Poroshenko.

Soros is very close to the Ukrainian president, who was put in power after a U.S.-backed coup deposed the elected leader of Ukraine last year. In the email correspondence, Soros tells the Ukrainian leadership that the U.S. should provide Ukraine “with same level of sophistication in defense weapons to match the level of opposing force.” In other words, despite the February ceasefire, Soros is pushing behind the scenes to make sure Ukraine receives top-of-the-line lethal weapons from the United States. Of course, it will be up to us to pay the bill because Ukraine is broke.

But Soros seems to have the money part covered as well. In an email to Ukrainian leaders, he wrote that Ukraine’s “first priority must be to regain control of financial markets.” Soros told Poroshenko that the IMF would need to come through with a $15 billion package, which he was confident would lead the Fed to also come through with more money. He wrote: “the Federal Reserve could be asked to extend a $15 billion three months swap arrangement with the National Bank of Ukraine. That would reassure the markets and avoid a panic.”

How would the Fed be convinced to do that? Soros assured Poroshenko: “I am ready to call Jack Lew of the U.S. Treasury to sound him out about the swap agreement.”

So George Soros will use his influence in the U.S. government to put the American people on the hook for a bankrupt Ukraine — forcing us to pay for weapons, more military training, and Ukraine’s crippling debt.

Who is thrilled with Soros’ drawing the U.S. government into more intervention in the region? The military-industrial complex for one is happy at the prospect of big weapons “sales” to Ukraine. The bankers are thrilled. Washington power-brokers are thrilled. There is something in this for everyone who is politically well-connected. The only losers are the people who will be forced to pay for it: the American taxpayers.

No one seems to ask why we are involved in Ukraine at all. Is it really any of our business if the east wants to break away from the west? Is it a vital U.S. interest which flag the people wish to hang in Donetsk?

One thing we should be sure of is that Ukraine’s debt will not be paid. As in other bailouts, much of it will be transferred to the U.S. taxpayer through the IMF and the Federal Reserve. All of this is only possible because of the perception that the dollar is still the world’s reserve currency. But this too is coming to an end. U.S. military and financial interventionism worldwide are only speeding up the process.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

Did You Know That The ‘One Percent’ Are On Welfare Too?

This month, Congress will consider whether to renew the charter of the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank). Ex-Im Bank is a New Deal-era federal program that uses taxpayer funds to subsidize the exports of American businesses. Foreign businesses, including state-owned corporations, also benefit from Ex-Im Bank. One country that has benefited from $1.5 billion of Ex-Im Bank loans is Russia. Venezuela, Pakistan, and China have also benefited from Ex-Im Bank loans.

With Ex-Im Bank’s track record of supporting countries that supposedly represent a threat to the US, one might expect neoconservatives, hawkish liberals, and other supporters of foreign intervention to be leading the effort to kill Ex-Im Bank. Yet, in an act of hypocrisy remarkable even by DC standards, many hawkish politicians, journalists, and foreign policy experts oppose ending Ex-Im Bank.

This seeming contradiction may be explained by the fact that Ex-Im Bank’s primary beneficiaries include some of America’s biggest and most politically powerful corporations. Many of Ex-Im Bank’s beneficiaries are also part of the industrial half of the military-industrial complex. These corporations are also major funders of think tanks and publications promoting an interventionist foreign policy.

Ex-Im Bank apologists claim that the bank primarily benefits small business. A look at the facts tells a different story. For example, in fiscal year 2014, 70 percent of the loans guaranteed by Ex-Im Bank’s largest program went to Caterpillar, which is hardly a small business.

Boeing, which is also no one’s idea of a small business, is the leading recipient of Ex-Im Bank aid. In fiscal year 2014 alone, Ex-Im Bank devoted 40 percent of its budget — $8.1 billion — to projects aiding Boeing. No wonder Ex-Im Bank is often called “Boeing’s bank.”

Taking money from working Americans, small businesses, and entrepreneurs to subsidize the exports of large corporations is the most indefensible form of redistribution. Yet many who criticize welfare for the poor on moral and constitutional grounds do not raise any objections to welfare for the rich.

Ex-Im Bank’s supporters claim that ending Ex-Im Bank would deprive Americans of all the jobs and economic growth created by the recipients of Ex-Im Bank aid. This claim is a version of the economic fallacy of that which is not seen. The products exported and the people employed by businesses benefiting from Ex-Im Bank are visible to all. But what is not seen are the products that would have been manufactured, the businesses that would have been started, and the jobs that would have been created had the funds given to Ex-Im Bank been left in the hands of consumers.

Another flawed justification for Ex-Im Bank is that it funds projects that could not attract private sector funding. This is true, but it is actually an argument for shutting down Ex-Im Bank. By funding projects that cannot obtain funding from private investors, Ex-Im Bank causes an inefficient allocation of scarce resources. These inefficiencies distort the market and reduce the average American’s standard of living.

Some Ex-Im Bank supporters claim that Ex-Im Bank promotes free trade. Like all other defenses of Ex-Im Bank, this claim is rooted in economic fallacy. True free trade involves the peaceful, voluntary exchange of goods across borders — not forcing taxpayers to subsidize the exports of politically powerful companies.

Ex-Im Bank distorts the market and reduces the average American’s standard of living in order to increase the power of government and enrich politically powerful corporations. Congress should resist pressure from the crony capitalist lobby and allow Ex-Im Bank’s charter to expire at the end of the month. Shutting down Ex-Im Bank would improve our economy and benefit most Americans. It is time to kick Boeing and all other corporate welfare queens off the dole.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

New Military Spending Bill Expands America’s Empire

On Friday, the House passed a massive National Defense Authorization for 2016 that will guarantee U.S. involvement in more wars and overseas interventions for years to come. The Republican majority resorted to trickery to evade the meager spending limitations imposed by the 2011 budget control act — limitations that did not, as often reported, cut military spending but only slowed its growth.

But not even slower growth is enough when you have an empire to maintain worldwide, so the House majority slipped into the military spending bill an extra $89 billion for an emergency war fund. Such “emergency” spending is not addressed in the growth caps placed on the military under the 2011 budget control act. It is a loophole filled by Congress with Fed-printed money.

Ironically, a good deal of this “emergency” money will go to President Obama’s war on ISIS, even though neither the House nor the Senate has debated — let alone authorized — that war! Although House leadership allowed 135 amendments to the defense bill — with many on minor issues like regulations on fire hoses — an effort by a small group of Representatives to introduce an amendment to debate the current U.S. war in Iraq and Syria was rejected.

While squashing debate on ongoing but unauthorized wars, the bill also pushed the administration toward new conflicts. Despite the president’s unwise decision to send hundreds of U.S. military trainers to Ukraine, a move that threatens the current shaky ceasefire, Congress wants even more U.S. involvement in Ukraine’s internal affairs. The military spending bill included $300 million to directly arm the Ukrainian government even as Ukrainian leaders threaten to again attack the breakaway regions in the east. Does Congress really think U.S.-supplied weapons killing ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine is a good idea?

The defense authorization bill also seeks to send yet more weapons into Iraq. This time, the House wants to send weapons directly to the Kurds in northern Iraq without the approval of the Iraqi government. Although these weapons are supposed to be used to fight ISIS, we know from too many prior examples that they often find their way into the hands of the very people we are fighting. Also, arming an ethnic group seeking to break away from Baghdad and form a new state is an unwise infringement of the sovereignty of Iraq. It is one thing to endorse the idea of secession as a way to reduce the possibility of violence, but it is quite something else to arm one side and implicitly back its demands.

While the neocons keep pushing the lie that the military budget is shrinking under the Obama Administration, the opposite is true. As the CATO Institute pointed out recently, President George W. Bush’s average defense budget was $601 billion, while during the Obama administration the average has been $687 billion. This bill is just another example of this unhealthy trend.

Next year’s military spending plan keeps the U.S. on track toward destruction of its economy at home while provoking new resentment over U.S. interventionism overseas. It is a recipe for disaster. Let’s hope for either a presidential veto, or that on final passage Congress rejects this bad bill.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth