"The lunatics are now in charge of the asylum." So wrote the normally staid Financial Times, traditionally the voice of solid British business opinion, when surveying last week's tax bill. Indeed, the legislation is doubly absurd: the gimmicks used to make an $800-billion-plus tax cut carry an official price tag of only $320 billion are a joke, yet the cost without the gimmicks is so large that the nation can't possibly afford it while keeping its other promises.
But then maybe that's the point. The Financial Times suggests that "more extreme Republicans" actually want a fiscal train wreck: "Proposing to slash federal spending, particularly on social programs, is a tricky electoral proposition, but a fiscal crisis offers the tantalizing prospect of forcing such cuts through the back door."
It's no secret that right-wing ideologues want to abolish programs Americans take for granted. But not long ago, to suggest that the Bush administration's policies might actually be driven by those ideologues - that the administration was deliberately setting the country up for a fiscal crisis in which popular social programs could be sharply cut - was to be accused of spouting conspiracy theories.
Yet by pushing through another huge tax cut in the face of record deficits, the administration clearly demonstrates either that it is completely feckless, or that it actually wants a fiscal crisis. (Or maybe both.)
Here's one way to look at the situation: Although you wouldn't know it from the rhetoric, federal taxes are already historically low as a share of G.D.P. Once the new round of cuts takes effect, federal taxes will be lower than their average during the Eisenhower administration. How, then, can the government pay for Medicare and Medicaid - which didn't exist in the 1950's - and Social Security, which will become far more expensive as the population ages? (Defense spending has fallen compared with the economy, but not that much, and it's on the rise again.)
The answer is that it can't. The government can borrow to make up the difference as long as investors remain in denial, unable to believe that the world's only superpower is turning into a banana republic. But at some point bond markets will balk - they won't lend money to a government, even that of the United States, if that government's debt is growing faster than its revenues and there is no plausible story about how the budget will eventually come under control.
At that point, either taxes will go up again, or programs that have become fundamental to the American way of life will be gutted. We can be sure that the right will do whatever it takes to preserve the Bush tax cuts - right now the administration is even skimping on homeland security to save a few dollars here and there. But balancing the books without tax increases will require deep cuts where the money is: that is, in Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.
The pain of these benefit cuts will fall on the middle class and the poor, while the tax cuts overwhelmingly favor the rich. For example, the tax cut passed last week will raise the after-tax income of most people by less than 1 percent - not nearly enough to compensate them for the loss of benefits. But people with incomes over $1 million per year will, on average, see their after-tax income rise 4.4 percent. The Financial Times suggests this is deliberate (and I agree): "For them," it says of those extreme Republicans, "undermining the multilateral international order is not enough; long-held views on income distribution also require radical revision."
How can this be happening? Most people, even most liberals, are complacent. They don't realize how dire the fiscal outlook really is, and they don't read what the ideologues write. They imagine that the Bush administration, like the Reagan administration, will modify our system only at the edges, that it won't destroy the social safety net built up over the past 70 years.
But the people now running America aren't conservatives: they're radicals who want to do away with the social and economic system we have, and the fiscal crisis they are concocting may give them the excuse they need. The Financial Times, it seems, now understands what's going on, but when will the public wake up?
No Man's Land: Sweden Unveils Girls-Only Festival to Avoid Rape CC0 Europe
12:31 03.08.2017(updated 12:34 03.08.2017) Get short URL
The sexual assaults and rapes that have plagued Swedish summer festivals for several years have spurred the authorities into action. A Swedish municipality is poised to arrange a "man-free" festival to avoid any harassment whatsoever, which goes against the grain of Sweden's egalitarian, inclusive and gender-neutral ways, many argued.
Earlier this summer, comedian and program leader Emma Knyckare proposed arranging a festival without men amid a seemingly incessant wave of sexual assaults, which earned Sweden, which sees itself as having "the world's first feminist government," the unflattering moniker of "the rape capital of Europe."
"What do you think of holding a super-cool festival where only non-men are welcome and keeping it up until ALL men have learned how to behave?" Emma Knyckare tweeted.
Shortly afterwards, Falkenberg Municipality in Halland County supported the radical feminist idea.
"I've always thought it's an exciting idea," Kristian Fannar of Falkenberg Municipality told the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet.
By his own admission, Fannar contacted Knyckare and received an answer within only half an hour. According to him, it may be either an open-air or an urban-based festival.
Emma Knycker's initiative spurred mixed reactions. While many celebrated the initiative as progressive and women-friendly, others gave it a hostile reception.
"So all men have suddenly become rapists? All of you women who subscribe to this, do you also think your boyfriends, brothers, dads and grandpas are also rapists? Maybe I shall add 'rapist' to my CV then," a user wrote.
However, artist Linnea Henriksson, who keenly supports the idea, suggested than "man-free" festivals were imperative.
"It's really sad that it's needed," Henriksson said, arguing that a girls-only event is a must for female visitors who want to be treated with respect.
Fittingly, 19-year-old Zara Larsson, Sweden's arguably biggest pop idol of today, who is known for her overtly feminist stance, sparked a controversy earlier this year by openly admitting she was a "man hater."
According to Eva-Maria Svensson, a professor of law at the University of Gothenburg, it is unacceptable of a municipality to arrange — or even support — a festival that specifically excludes half the population.
"A municipality shall treat all citizens equally. A municipality may not discriminate against a particular group," Eva-Maria Svensson told the newspaper Göteborgs-Posten, citing the principle of equality that is universally applicable.
Furthermore, a festival where men are not welcome may face legal problems, as discrimination based on sex is illegal in Sweden.
"According to the Discrimination Act, it's not allowed to treat women and men differently with regards to access to public places," lawyer Eberhard Stüber told Swedish national broadcaster SVT. According to him, women's prisons are an example of substantial reasons for special treatment, whereas organizing a festival does not constitute such.
Previously, Bråvalla festival, which markets itself as "Sweden's biggest music festival" was canceled for 2018 following numerous reports of rapes and sexual assaults. This year alone, four rapes were recorded during the Bråvalla festival, together with 23 cases of sexual molestation, one case of sexual coercion, 13 assaults, 116 cases of minor narcotics offences and 97 thefts, police reported. The 2016 Bråvalla event witnessed the same problems. The organizers lamented their decision to cancel next year's festival, blaming "certain men," who "apparently cannot behave."
All in all, about 20 rapes and 90 sexual assaults have been reported at Swedish summer festivals so far this year, with a unpredictably high number of unreported cases.
Ha! So happy. Got rejections for a group of poems I thought sure
would be accepted— at least one . . . Three month wait. Then this, six
hours later, made my day.
Dear Bruce: Congratulations! Your work, Seeking America, will appear in the
2017 issue of So It Goes: The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut
Museum and Library. You will have the opportunity to read/display/discuss your work
at our journal release event on Saturday, November 11, 2017, at noon at
the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library, 340 N. Senate Avenue,
Indianapolis. This event is part of our annual VonnegutFest, so
you may want to check our website at vonnegutlibrary.org (updates
coming soon) to determine other interests you may have during those
days. We know you are living in Sweden, so it may not be
possible to travel. While we cannot pay for anyone’s travel or a
speaking fee, we will provide you with a free copy of the 2017 issue,
whether you are able to attend or not. This will be shipped in late
Let us know if you plan to attend in November.
Thank you, again, for submitting your work to us. It was a pleasure to review such diverse and interesting material.
All the best,
This taken from Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (1835). He spent nine months touring towns and cities. During his tour, the aristocratic Tocqueville was impressed by the fact that American Democracy actually worked. He wrote:
"There is one thing which America demonstrates invincibly, and of which I had been in doubt up till now: it is that the middle classes can govern a state. I do not know if they would come out with credit from thoroughly difficult political situations. But they are adequate for the ordinary run of society. In spite of their petty passions, their incomplete education and their vulgar manners, they clearly can provide practical intelligence, and that is found to be enough."