Germany and the Rise of a ‘Fascist International’

Merakel-European-Council-Flickr

German Chancellor Angela Merkel. (Photo: European Council / Flickr Commons)

Germany got its very own electoral shock this week when the far right won 13 percent of the vote in country’s parliamentary elections.

For the first time in more than half a century, the far right will be represented in the German parliament, with more than 90 seats. Although it’s now Germany’s third most popular party — behind the Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Social Democrats (SDP) — the Alternative for Germany (AfD) is still too toxic to become part of a ruling coalition.

But the AfD will have influence well beyond its numbers. “In a nutshell,” Deutsche Wellereports, “things are about to get a lot nastier.”

The AfD’s electoral victory has destroyed the taboo in Germany that has kept the far right on the fringes. It will inevitably pull the ruling Christian Democrats further to the right, particularly on social issues like immigration. It may even have an impact on the ongoing discussions about the fate of the European Union.

Beyond Germany, the AfD’s success will give a shot in the arm to other far-right formations, particularly after the National Front’s losses in the last French elections. Looking a little further down the road, if it manages to return to parliament in the next election, the AfD will qualify for government money to create its own party foundation, which will enable Germany’s far right to spread its message all over the world.

Europe’s rebellion against liberalism — in both its economic and social versions — is continuing to shake up politics as usual. An equally unsettling question, though, is how much it will shake up geopolitics as usual.

What the AfD Wants

The far right in Germany has followed much the same script as the Tea Party and the Trump movement in the United States.

It began in 2013 with several academics angry about the Eurozone (and, by extension, the European Union). But just like economist Dave Brat was an obscure political hopeful until he started talking about the so-called “threat” of immigrants in Virginia — and ended up taking House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s seat in 2014 — the AfD only became truly popular by stoking anti-immigrant sentiment.

As Chancellor Angela Merkel of the Christian Democrats welcomed refugees into Germany in 2015 — an influx, to date, of around 1.3 million people — the AfD began to peel away support from the center-right CDU. Even the purportedly moderate faces of the AfD, like Jorg Muethen, have made statements like, “in some German cities, I struggle to find Germans on the streets,” thus equating German citizenship with skin color or other external markers.

The party has advocated border controls — effectively abrogating the Schengen system of free movement within many EU member states — as well as new border patrols. Frauke Petry, a party leader who is also considered a moderate, has said that these new border police units should shoot at migrants if necessary as they try to make it into the country.

Central to the anti-immigrant message has been Islamophobia. The party plastered the streets of Germany with posters like one that showed two young, bikini-clad women from behind that read, “Burkas? We like bikinis.” On Facebook, it distributed an ad showing bloody tire tracks with the caption, “The tracks left by the world chancellor in Europe,” linking Merkel’s refugee policy to terrorist attacks around the continent.

The party has other deeply disturbing positions, like its denial of climate change. But what has caused some division within the party is its attitude toward German history. One party leader, Bjorn Hocke, has called for a “180-degree turnaround” in German attitudes about the Nazi era. Since current German policy is firmly in the camp of condemnation of Nazis, it’s quite sobering to imagine the kind of policy that Hocke prefers.

This German corollary to Trump’s appeal to white supremacists and neo-Nazis has divided the party. Frauke Petry abruptly walked out of an AfD press conference this week after announcing that she wouldn’t sit in parliament with the party faction. Reportedly, Petry has wanted to purge the party of its extremist elements — at least those who take an extremist position on the history question — just as Marine Le Pen attempted to clean up the National Front by kicking her anti-Semitic father out of the French far-right party.

According to Spiegel’s analysis of AfD’s likely MPs, 35 of 94 are “right wing extremists.” So, it’s not just about a purge of one or two bad apples. Expect the AfD to split along the same realoand fundi — realist vs. fundamentalist — fault line of the Greens.

A key connection between AfD and Trump, the UK Independence Party, and right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is their ad man, Vincent Harris. He’s responsible for the bikini and tire tracks ad campaigns. He’s adept at fusing anti-immigrant, Islamophobic, and race-baiting messages. But with one of his suggestions for the AfD, Harris went too far. The party rejected his suggestion of “Germany for Germans” as a campaign slogan. Perhaps it will resurface in the next election, if the so-called moderates abandon the party.

Finally, what would a modern election be without Russian interference?

In the lead-up to the election, several major newspapers noted that Russian involvement in the German vote was scant. Perhaps they spoke too soon. First to consider are the Russian speakers, those with German heritage who’ve relocated to Germany since the 1980s — the right kind of immigrants from AfD’s point of view. The AfD estimates that fully one-third of its support comes from this constituency, and it has helped the party become the second most popular one in former East Germany.

Then there was the obligatory visit to Moscow, as Petry made her pilgrimage last February and met with, among others, the truly beyond-the-pale politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky. As the election entered its last phase, the usual trolls and Twitter bots came out to play, at least some of them Russians supporting AfD.

Again, as with Trump, the Kremlin isn’t interested in promoting a particular party in the hopes that it will win or reorient the country’s foreign policy. It simply wants to shake up a status quo that it perceives as tilted against Russia.

Has the Right Already Won?

Even though the radical right has lost some recent elections — notably in France and in the Netherlands — it has nevertheless transformed the debate in Europe.

Consider the immigration situation. This month, the two-year program to relocate 160,000 migrants from Greece and Italy to other EU member states came to an end. It managed to relocate only 28,000 people, and only with great effort. Some countries — notably Poland and Hungary — refused to locate a single migrant. More than 20 member states failed to meet their obligatory target by 50 percent.

Far right populists poisoned the discourse on immigration, denouncing millions of people as well as linking this “scourge” to the EU, multiculturalism, and liberal politics more generally. Throughout the continent, EU member states are tightening their immigration laws, increasing the number of deportations, and sweeping away informal settlements like the “Jungle” in the northern French town of Calais.

“The right-wing populists have already won the upcoming elections in Europe, no matter what the outcome is,” writes Krsto Lazarevic in Deutsche Welle. “The EU has done away with human rights and Western standards of civilization by cooperating with the Libyan coastguard, African dictators, and deporting people back to war zones.”

Then there’s the issue of helping countries like Greece exit their perpetual financial crisis. Discussions this week between Athens and Eurozone officials seem to point the way toward fresh loans and the prospect of Greece becoming fiscally independent by next August. But if Merkel has to bring the Free Democrats into a coalition government, she’ll have to reckon with that party’s “red line” on reforming the Eurozone to facilitate “fiscal transfers” to countries like Greece. The Euroskeptic AfD will rejoice.

Elsewhere in Europe

The French turned back the tide of hatred in the last presidential and parliamentary elections. The National Front, once seemingly on an unstoppable roll, now has only eight seats in parliament, and its leader Marine Le Pen presides over a fractious party.

In the wake of Le Pen’s losses, pundits wondered if Trump has had a bracing effect on Europe. Europeans see how Trump has transformed the United States into a three-ring circus, and they want none of it.

But that’s France. Elsewhere, the far right continues its march.

In Norway, for instance, the right-wing Progress Party pulled in a respectable 15 percent in September elections, good enough for it to continue as a coalition partner with the Conservative Party. But perhaps that’s because the Progress Party, despite its anti-immigrant and pro-nationalist approach, isn’t quite as crazy as the National Front.

A more authentically radical right is poised to take over in Austria in elections next month. There, the far-right Freedom Party (FPO) is polling even better than the AfD — in the low 20s. It would be doing even better if the center-right People’s Party hadn’t started to take up its anti-immigration, Islamophobic message. The bullet dodged at the end of last year when independent Alexander Van der Bellen defeated Freedom Party leader Norbert Hofer seems to have taken a boomerang trajectory.

Worse, the center right in Austria, unlike its counterpart in Germany, has no problems with forming a government with the far right. Given that one-third of Austrians don’t want to live next to Muslims — more than in Germany or France or Switzerland — it can count on considerable popular support for such a coalition.

In the Czech Republic, meanwhile, a certifiably Trump-like figure is likely to win next month’s presidential election. Andrej Babis, currently the finance minister, is a billionaire who’s skeptical of the European Union and wants to close the EU’s borders to keep out immigrants. His involvement in a corruption scandal involving one of his enterprises illegally receiving EU subsidies — oh, the hypocrisy! — doesn’t seem to have harmed his popular standing.

The AfD’s win may well encourage this political trajectory in Europe and beyond. It’s still hard to imagine the party successfully pushing through legislation or having much impact on governance. But if the party gets above 5 percent of the vote in the next parliamentary elections, it will win the right to form its own international foundation. Of course, the Bundestag might deploy various stalling tactics to prevent such an official funding stream — as it did when the left-wing Die Linke qualified — but there’s a strong bias in German political culture to observe the rules.

I’ve worked with German foundations all over the world: Friedrich Ebert (Social Democrats), Friedrich Naumann (Free Democrats), Heinrich Boll (the Green Party), and Rosa Luxemburg (Die Linke). Funded by German taxpayers, they’ve all provided valuable support for civil society and in promoting useful exchange of ideas.

The prospect of German government money helping to spread far right-wing politics globally is a nightmare scenario. Germany just took one step closer to helping globalize the alt-right and recycle from history’s dustbin something that ought never again see the light of day: a Fascist International.

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Making Utility Bills Rise Again

Lightbulb

(Photo: Thomas Hawk/Flickr)

It’s summer and the mercury is soaring.

Temperatures are higher than ever, it turns out. Last year was the hottest year since humanity started recording temperatures, and it’s going to get much worse in the years to come, as a recent University of Hawaii study shows.

The relentlessly hot conditions in many parts of the country this summer mean that our air conditioners and refrigerators are working harder — and burning through more energy — to maintain a comfortable temperature for our families and a safe temperature for our food. And we pay for this increased energy use in our utility bills every month.

For me, it’s comforting to know that both my air conditioner and my refrigerator come with a little blue Energy Star label. Those labels indicate that they use less energy than comparable models without it.

If you’re like me, you like to save money on your bills, and you probably look for that blue label when you buy household appliances.

Energy Star is a government program that costs about $ 50 million a year to operate. It saves consumers about $ 34 billion (with a “b”) in energy costs annually.

Put another way, every dollar in government spending on Energy Star produces $ 680 in broadly shared public benefits. That’s quite a return on investment!

Why, then, is the Trump administration proposing the complete elimination of the Energy Star program? That’s right: The proposed White House budget allocates precisely $ 0 for the popular label.

From the standpoint of serving people’s actual needs, this should be a non-starter. It would almost literally take $ 34 billion every year out of the pockets of regular people and businesses — and hand that windfall revenue to the utility companies who sell them electricity.

It also means those utilities will burn more coal and natural gas, propping up the dirty energy industries this administration apparently loves.

We’ll all be the ones paying for this love-fest between the administration and coal, oil, gas, and utility companies — in the form of higher energy bills, higher medical bills for asthma and other illnesses, and damages from heat waves, flooding, droughts, wildfires, and other impacts of releasing more climate-altering greenhouse gases.

The administration routinely cites “jobs” as the justification for its attack on sensible energy and environmental policy. But energy efficiency employment totaled 2.2 million jobs last year, compared to 522,000 for coal and natural gas combined. That’s a difference of more than 4 to 1.

So the administration wants to undermine energy efficiency, a proven job creator that saves consumers money, to prop up polluting industries with far weaker job creation potential. The excuse of “jobs” is just that — a flimsy excuse.

The excuse of saving public money isn’t tenable either. The $ 50 million cost of the program is chump change for the federal government, given that overall federal discretionary spending is more than $ 1 trillion, and pays for itself 680 times over.

Apparently, the Trump administration’s real intent behind eliminating Energy Star is to Make Utility Bills Rise Again, without regard to the very real harm it does to your household budget and to the environment.

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? Inequality Gave Rise to Donald Trump’s Presidency

inequality-trump-election

(Photo: jorome / Shutterstock.com)

Inequality created the presidency of Donald Trump. Will that presidency now create more inequality? That remains to be seen. Precious few of the 60 million Americans who cast their votes for Trump want to see a more top-heavy America. Most Trump voters—and most Clinton voters, too—see an American economy rigged to advantage the nation’s wealthiest.

Voters want that rigging ended. On Election Day, a resounding 75 percent of Americans told Reuters that “America needs a strong leader to take the country back from the rich and powerful.”

Donald Trump has no plan for shrinking the wealth and power that rests so heavily upon the rest of us. But his voters, the balloting Tuesday shows, do stand ready to support concrete initiatives that directly challenge privilege.

In red-state South Dakota, where Donald Trump won 62 percent of the vote, a bipartisan coalition to rein in predatory lending crushed industry opposition to ending business as usual, despite being outspent by a ratio of 16-to-1. Short-term payday-loan interest rates in South Dakota currently average 574 percent. The measure that passed on Tuesday—with astounding 76 percent support—sets a 36 percent cap.

The key to building that support? Reynold Nesiba, an economist at Augustana University in Sioux Falls and an activist with the state’s Cap the Rates Coalition, told us that patiently working across party lines made all the difference.

Read the full article on the Nation’s website.

The post ? Inequality Gave Rise to Donald Trump’s Presidency appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Sarah Anderson is the director of the Global Economy project at the Institute for Policy Studies.
Chuck Collins is the director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies.
Josh Hoxie is the director of the Project on Opportunity and Taxation at the Institute for Policy Studies.
Sam Pizzigati is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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Explaining the Rise in Median Wages

wages-fight-15

(Photo; Marie Kanger Born / Shutterstock.com)

Good news can be elusive when reporting on the steady rise of inequality. So its heartening to see that median household incomes in the past year jumped more than 5 percent in the past year, now up to $ 56,500 according to a just released Census report.

The income boosts were felt across economic spectrum, a sharing of gains rarely seen since the shared prosperity decades between 1947 and 1977.

There was a sharp decline in the poverty rate and an expansion of the number of households with health insurance coverage, an undeniably positive development.

In the aftermath of the 2008 economic meltdown, wages for most workers have been stagnant leaving most families out of the promised benefits of continued economic growth. Even as unemployment rates fell, wages have been slow to recover.

Meanwhile the share of income and wealth flowing to the top 1 percent of households has accelerated. In fact, the top 1 percent took more than 90 percent of all new income in the five years following the 2008 financial crisis.

Before we break out the champagne, its worth noting that we have a long way to go to get onto a sustainable path to shared prosperity. Real incomes for most Americans are still smaller than the late 1990s. The median income has still not returned to its 2007 pre-recession level and is still 2.4 percent lower than 1999. And whole regions of the U.S. are not sharing in the advances, including rural America.

The stars have aligned for rising wages — with extremely low energy costs and low unemployment. But a huge amount of these wage gains are going to pay for increased health insurance and college costs, keeping most earners in a budgetary vice.

It was amusing to see The Wall Street Journal trumpet on page one, “Family Incomes Rise After Lull.” For decades, the Journal’s editorial page denied the data, and later when it was undeniable, dismissed the relevance of inequality.

The reality is, however, income and wealth inequality is more extreme in the U.S. than in almost any other advanced industrial economy. And these inequalities are now deeply entrenched and not easily reversed. Since 2008, the homeownership rate –one real indicator of economic security and well-being–has been on a downward trend.

To shift our national trajectory from its current direction — leading to an economic apartheid society governed by a hereditary aristocracy of wealth — we need a solid decade of rising incomes and declining concentrations of wealth.

The work to raise wages must continue. Over 40 percent of the country earns less than $ 15 per hour despite the Fight for 15 movement’s efforts at the municipal level to raise wages. Voters in Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington will vote on whether to increase their living wages this November. But we need a national increase in the minimum wage to reach into communities and states that have not shared equally in the most recent income boost.

And we must make deep investments in expanding opportunity and wealth for those excluded. Restoring progressive income tax rates and closing estate tax loopholes would generate revenue that could be invested in public infrastructure and accessible higher education. These are the kinds of investments the U.S. made after World War Two that set us a path of prolonged shared prosperity.

The post Explaining the Rise in Median Wages appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Chuck Collins is the director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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Tensions Mount Between Austria and Italy as Migrant Numbers Rise – Wall Street Journal


Wall Street Journal
Tensions Mount Between Austria and Italy as Migrant Numbers Rise
Wall Street Journal
A surge in migrants arriving in Italy via Libya, just weeks after the European Union sealed a deal with Turkey aimed at halting the influx landing in Greece, is raising concerns that a previous front in Europe's migration crisis is reopening. Austria
The Latest: Renzi: There is no migrant 'invasion' of ItalyU.S. News & World Report
Italy Insists 'No Invasion' After Spike in Migrant ArrivalsThe New Indian Express
Migrant influx into Italy from Libya resurging: IOMReuters
BBC News -RTE.ie
all 67 news articles »

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How LatAm Failed to Halt Rise of Illegal Gold Mining – Insightcrime.org


Insightcrime.org
How LatAm Failed to Halt Rise of Illegal Gold Mining
Insightcrime.org
In addition, the report describes both the environmental and the human toll exacted by this criminalization of informal mining, which has led to widespread deforestation and mercury poisoning and been linked to displacement, forced labor and sex

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Food Culture Gives Rise To New ‘Eatymology’ – NPR


NPR
Food Culture Gives Rise To New 'Eatymology'
NPR
So it turns out that in Vietnam, people who are convicted [of] drug offenses are sent to drug treatment centers where they are basically forced labor for producing cashews, for processing them and getting them ready for export. And, you know, it

and more »

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Food Culture Gives Rise To New ‘Eatymology’ – NPR


NPR
Food Culture Gives Rise To New 'Eatymology'
NPR
So it turns out that in Vietnam, people who are convicted [of] drug offenses are sent to drug treatment centers where they are basically forced labor for producing cashews, for processing them and getting them ready for export. And, you know, it

and more »

|||||||http://news.google.com/news/url?sa=t&fd=R&ct2=us&usg=AFQjCNHHYAEyvYTajbLFwD_uP8Vjr7AjQw&clid=c3a7d30bb8a4878e06b80cf16b898331&cid=52779023475904&ei=0aqaVpj6KIj7wQGFyIWoBw&url=http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/01/04/461952980/food-culture-gives-rise-to-new-eatymology

Food Culture Gives Rise To New ‘Eatymology’ – NPR


NPR
Food Culture Gives Rise To New 'Eatymology'
NPR
So it turns out that in Vietnam, people who are convicted [of] drug offenses are sent to drug treatment centers where they are basically forced labor for producing cashews, for processing them and getting them ready for export. And, you know, it

and more »

|||||||http://news.google.com/news/url?sa=t&fd=R&ct2=us&usg=AFQjCNHHYAEyvYTajbLFwD_uP8Vjr7AjQw&clid=c3a7d30bb8a4878e06b80cf16b898331&cid=52779023475904&ei=Z3KRVsCfNMGewgGVgoSYCw&url=http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/01/04/461952980/food-culture-gives-rise-to-new-eatymology

Internet Food Culture Gives Rise To New ‘Eatymology’ – KCUR

Internet Food Culture Gives Rise To New 'Eatymology'
KCUR
So it turns out that in Vietnam, people who are convicted for drug offenses are sent to drug treatment centers where they are basically forced labor for producing cashews, for processing them and getting them ready for export. And, you know, it borrows

and more »

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