Tag Archives: Spanish

OUT OF TOUCH

Jeb Bush

Following the Republican debate Thursday evening, one newspaper quoted on PBS’ McLaughlin Group observed that Jeb Bush spoke as if he thinks that America’s problems are all psychological and not real at all.   The Bushes have done well and live the dream and can’t understand why others have failed to achieve the same.

On Sunday, reports from Moscow showed a similar problem. President Vladimir Putin, by some accounts now the richest man in the world, thanks to the accumulation of ill-gotten gains, ordered the destruction of 350 tonnes of food from the EU in retaliation for western sanctions on Russia.   Mr. Putin’s decision shows that he is oblivious to the fact that millions of Russians are struggling to feed their families.  40% of Russia’s food was imported before the sanctions were announced.

Jeb Bush and Vladimir Putin aren’t the only two politicians who are out of touch with reality.   It’s difficult, for example, to imagine how Hillary Clinton, who, together with her husband, earned approximately $30 million last year, can possibly claim to represent the middle class.

It’s dangerous when politicians at the top are out of touch with people at the bottom.

In 1789, France’s Queen, Marie Antoinette supposedly said: “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche”—“Let them eat cake.”   That same year, the monarchy was overthrown and, three years later, the hated Marie lost her head to Madame Guillotine.   It wasn’t that simple.   The queen actually did a great deal for the poor through her charitable work and the words she supposedly uttered were recorded over a century earlier, attributed to the Spanish wife of King Louis XIV.

But hungry people don’t care about historical accuracy – they just want to eat.

A lack of food has been a regular cause of revolution throughout history.   In 1917, a bread riot in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) started the revolution that led to the downfall of the 300-year-old Romanov dynasty.   It’s not inconceivable that something similar could happen to Mr. Putin.   Of course, the revolution did not improve the situation – seven decades of communism included many years of famine and regular food shortages even at the best of times.

No nation is exempt.   If billboards in Michigan are to be believed, one in five Michigan children go to bed hungry.

Former presidential candidate Ross Perot warned a few years ago that food stamps are all that stand between us and anarchy – in other words, take away free food for the poor and you could see a revolution in the United States.

In June, 1932, veterans marched on Washington demanding that a bonus they were promised by Congress should be brought forward as, in the midst of the Depression, they could not afford to feed their families.   They built shanty-towns outside of Washington and were determined to stay until Congress met their demands.   President Herbert Hoover sent in troops under the command of General Douglas MacArthur to tear down the camps and send them home.   Reports at the time tell of great hunger amongst the vets and their families, including young children.   President Hoover was seen to be out of touch and uncaring (the shantytowns were dubbed “Hoovervilles”) and lost the election a few months later to Franklin Roosevelt.

Mr. Bush should remember the fate of the last Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, who lost the 2012 election to Mr. Obama.   Mr. Romney was recorded dismissing the “47%” of the electorate who depend on government and who, therefore, were not going to vote for him anyway.

Mr. Romney and Mr. Bush, both claiming to be conservative, should have read a biography of Benjamin Disraeli, the nineteenth century Conservative British prime minister who warned of Britain becoming “two nations,” one rich and the other poor.   He reshaped the Conservative Party to be a party that reached out to the working-man.   If the Republicans are to succeed, they have to do the same, to show how their policies will help improve the life of Joe Citizen.   To do this, they need to distance themselves from Big Business.

They can do it.   The 1896 election was held in the midst of a Great Depression that saw 50% of the people unemployed, at a time when there were no unemployment benefits for those who were out of work.   Understandably, the election saw the highest turnout in American history.   80% of the electorate voted.   The presidential election that year was won by Republican William McKinley.   He promised the people sound money and high tariffs to increase employment at home.   It’s interesting to note that the same issues still prevail.

Left-leaning parties, whether the Democrats in the US or the Labour Party in Britain, do not represent working people.  They are the parties of Big Government, which gives jobs to their supporters, but leads to a rise in taxes.   Those taxes are paid by ordinary people and small businesses, making life harder for the majority of people.

Leaders, and aspiring leaders like Jeb Bush, cannot afford to be out of touch with the common people.   This is especially true in democracies where every citizen has the vote.   Perhaps Mr. Bush and Mr. Putin should copy Britain’s Prince William, who spent the night sleeping on the streets of London to get the feel of homelessness.   At the very least, his gesture showed empathy with the poor, a realization on his part that tens of thousands of people are homeless and unable to take care of themselves.

Only a return to conservative values, including restoration of the traditional family, can help people get out of poverty.   Conservatives everywhere need to convince the voters that they represent them and not Big Business.

They could start by following the example of Menachem Begin, an Israeli conservative and former prime minister.   Mr. Begin spent many years in prison under the Bolsheviks.  Reading a biography of Benjamin Disraeli helped him maintain his sanity and inspired his future conservative course.   Focusing on struggling voters makes more sense than pursuing big business!  After decades of Big Government, people want change.

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SYRIZA WINS GREEK ELECTION

Alexis Tsipras

In the last few weeks we’ve developed a taste for Kerrygold butter, which comes from Ireland.   Diane did the research – Kerrygold and Anchor (from New Zealand) are the two healthiest butters you can buy.   The milk comes from “happy” cows!

Unfortunately, Kerrygold costs more than regular butter.

In theory, the price should have come down recently as the euro has fallen in value against the US dollar.   It now takes only $1.11 to buy a euro; it was twenty-five cents higher fairly recently.   Ireland uses the euro, so the price of everything they produce should have come down with the lower value of the euro.   But the price of Kerrygold has not fallen – in fact, it’s gone up by 50 cents for half a pound.   (We can’t buy Anchor in Lansing but it, too, should have fallen in price as the US dollar has risen.)   Not only has the euro decreased in value, transportation costs have also fallen with the drop in the price of oil.

My favorite beer also comes from Ireland.   I don’t buy it as often as butter (you will be pleased to know) but I’m hoping that the price has not similarly risen.

Sometimes, there’s no logic when it comes to money and exchange rates.   All money today is built simply on confidence.   The value of the dollar and the British pound usually rise when there is great turmoil in the world – people around the world have more confidence in the two older democracies, which have a longer record of stability.   When the euro was launched in January 1999, its’ value was $1.1743. It reached its highest rate against the dollar in July, 2008, when it took $1.6038 to buy a euro.   This was at a time when confidence in the US currency was low.   It’s now almost a third less against the greenback.

Monday will likely see a further fall in the value of the euro, so perhaps I should expect Kerrygold to go up in price again, when it should, in fact, come down.

The reason that the euro will likely drop further in value is the Greek election held today, Sunday.   The “very left-wing” party, Syriza, has been voted into power.   The party campaigned on a promise to end austerity, imposed on the country for its extreme profligacy.

The party leader, Alexis Tsipras, rather naively hopes that he can cut Greece’s debts by 50% in a new deal with the troika (the European Central Bank, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund).   If that fails, withdrawal from the eurozone is a definite possibility.   Other members may even encourage Greece to leave before they do greater harm to the single currency.   Withdrawal would enable Greece to have its own currency.   They could then print money and print more money and then even more money . . . you get the picture.   This would not, of course, solve their problems but it might give them a temporary high.

Spain is watching developments in Greece closely.   The Spanish economy is a lot bigger than Greece’s.   It has also been going through a long period of austerity for the same reasons as Greece.   The Podemos (“We can”) party is Spain’s equivalent of Syriza.   It, too, could win the next election, due later this year.

Germany is unlikely to approve any deal for Greece that absolves them of debts owed to German taxpayers lest Spain make the same demand.

The eurozone is not really in danger, though Greece and Spain could certainly withdraw from the currency union.   Other profligate countries could follow – Italy and Portugal, for example.   Corruption is a big problem in all four countries.   Mr. Tsipras has promised to do something about it, as have other earlier prime ministers.

Nineteen countries are now members of the eurozone.   Six other European countries also use the currency.   Outside of Europe, remaining overseas territories of European countries also use it. Additionally, 210 million people worldwide use currencies pegged to the euro, including 182 million Africans.   This makes the euro the most used hard (convertible) currency in the world.

Expect further turmoil in world financial markets as well as possible changes in the composition of the EU, though few on the continent of Europe seem to want that, at this point in time.   The EU and the euro have brought many advantages and have a great deal of support.   Even Mr. Tsipras is calling first for changes that will simply end the long period of austerity that has devastated his country.