‘Investigate or Legislate’: What Will the Democrats in Control of the House of Representatives Do?

With control of the House of Representatives, the Democrats have the opportunity to provide leadership for the United States. They will have to decide. Do they want to make their primary focus attacking President Donald Tramp, by continuing their impotent investigation of his alleged collusion with Russia in the 2016 election? Or will they actually provide a vision for the future of the USA, by enacting bold new legislation.  Any attempt to impeach President Trump would be a farce that would virtually ensure the Democrats would be defeated in the 2020 presidential election.

President Trump has demonstrated that he lacks a comprehensive understanding of the scientific principles that created the USA. He has also displayed an unAmerican phobia to non-white foreigners from a multitude of countries arriving in the USA.  However, President Trump has distinguished himself in forming a close relationship with the President of China, Xi Xinping. He has also attempted to establish a working relationship with the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin. To the detriment of the USA (and the world) many Democrats, along with some members of his own administration, have adamantly opposed these positive initiatives by President Trump. President Trump has many shortcomings, but to his credit, he is not an ideologue, and he is not a devout follower of the geo-political doctrine on foreign policy. If President Trump took the audacious step to partner with China’s Belt and Road Initiative, the world could be transformed.

Important polices must be implemented now to provide for the welfare of our citizens, which will require bipartisan action in the Congress. For example. Both the Republican and Democratic parties have made verbal commitments to support a Glass Steagall banking reorganization, yet no action has been taken by the Congress or this administration. Another opportunity for bipartisanship would be the passage of legislation for a transformative infrastructure plan to rebuild the USA.

Below is a useful article discussing how President Trump working with the Congress could fund large-scale infrastructure projects. 

A New Opportunity for a National Infrastructure Agenda?

Nov. 7, 2018—One thing is definitive about the results of the U.S. mid-term elections: Neither political party put a solution to the country’s economic and financial disaster on the national agenda.  That doesn’t mean that many of the new Democratic members of Congress don’t have a strong commitment to address the economic crisis, however. They can potentially galvanize the veteran Congressmen into action. The question is, will competent, workable proposals be put on the table in the 116th Congress?

Statements from President Trump and the putative incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the immediate aftermath of the election were notable for addressing the possibility of bipartisan progress on infrastructure. Both statements were quite vague, however—and, as some will recall, Trump has offered cooperation on infrastructure before. One need only look at his current blackballing of the New York City Gateway project to see how hollow that promise was.

Rep. DeFazio in his campaign photo.

More substantive have been remarks from the incoming chairmen of two House committees. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) is expected to take over the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. According to a Nov. 7 Reutersarticle, DeFazio is prepared to put forward his previous proposal for a $500 billion plan, which would involve issuing 30-year bonds, using funds from  raising gas taxes. He believes Trump would accept an increase in the gas tax.

“There has to be real money, real investment,” DeFazio said today. “We’re not going to do pretend stuff like asset recycling. We’re not going to do massive privatization.”

Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY), who is slated to take over the House Budget Committee, addressed the infrastructure question a few days before the election, according to an Oct. 30 Politico Pro article. He said he would be making a proposal which “involves some very long-term bonding authority that would help finance an infrastructure bank.”

The Issue of Funding

The inevitable sticking point in Congressional discussions of an adequate infrastructure bill—which should ultimately amount to spending trillions of dollars to meet the infrastructure deficit—will be funding. President Trump has already indicated his preference for off-loading the cost to local and state governments, and proposes to even cut the Federal contribution from today’s 80% to 20%. That’s a formula for non-action. The Democratic plans have not been specific.

The danger lies in a potential “compromise” that pushes Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) as the solution to the funding dilemma. PPPs are presented as a means of reducing, or eliminating, public costs, by contracting with private companies to either build, manage, or both the needed element of infrastructure. The claim is that the private company can do the job cheaper and more efficiently, and the public will benefit.

Moving ahead on Gateway would be a good place to start.

Not so fast. First, some of the cheapness comes at the cost of labor—by violation of Davis-Bacon standards–and quality. Secondly, private contractors only enter PPP agreements on the guarantee that they will receive a revenue stream to cover their costs, and provide a profit. This can amount to tolls on a road, water bills for a water company, and the like. And if the stream doesn’t provide what the company considers adequate profit, what will it do?  Cut maintenance? Cut off people’s water supply? Both results have occurred! And they are unacceptable.

So, forget PPPs. The solution lies in taking the lead from Franklin Roosevelt and Alexander Hamilton. The Federal government has a unique capability (and responsibility) to create credit to modernize and rebuild our infrastructure. That credit can in fact be issued by turning current (virtually non-performing) government debt into bonds supporting an infrastructure bank, against which it would then issue new loans to help finance the long overdue infrastructure projects.  These would not only be short-term, but also long-term projects, such as the Gateway Project, California High Speed Rail, and the desperately needed water projects in the nation’s interior, for starters.  If the right projects are selected, the infrastructure constructed will pay back more to the economy in increased productivity than is expended–as well as creating millions of new, high-paying jobs.

For a modern proposal for such an infrastructure bank, click here

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Don’t Listen to Propaganda & Gossip. Follow the Facts: China is not Creating a ‘debt-trap’ for Africa

A useful report, “Africa’s growing debt crisis: Who is the debt owed to?” by the British based Jubilee Debt Campaign, again belies the propaganda and gossip that China is manipulating African nations into a ‘debt-trap.’  This report excerpted below, using figures from the World Bank, and the China Africa Research Institute-(CARI) at Johns Hopkins SAIS in Washington DC, shows the percentage of debt owed to China by African nations is not the cause of a debt crisis. In fact, in many cases the debt owed to China is less than the total owed to Western nations and financial institutions.

It is clear that for strictly geo-political reasons many Western think tanks and various media have gone into overdrive demonizing China with false claims of a new ‘debt-trap.’ This has also led to increased attacks on African leaders, portraying them as weak and not acting in the interest of their citizens. They have been accused of succumbing to China, which has been dubbed, the new imperial power. Sadly, many Africans have been duped, or simply out of frustration and anger, joined this western orchestrated chorus.

Of course, the truth of the matter is quite different. From the early 1980s on Western financial intuitions such as the IMF, World Bank, and Paris Club, loaded up African nations with so much debt that they were unable to service the debt, forcing them into unpayable arrears.  The vicious irony, is that several hundred billion dollars of debt lent by the West was never meant to actual develop African economies. It was in fact, intended to create a real ‘debt-trap’ for Africa. It has only been in the last ten years that Africa’s huge deficit in infrastructure is being addressed in collaboration with China’s non-western model of development. As I have written over many years, debt is not the problem when it is used as credit to improve the productive powers of a society to increase its physical wealth. Technologically advanced infrastructure is an excellent, if not the premiere method to drive an economy forward. This is exactly what China is accomplishing through its Belt and Road Initiative, and is at the heart of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation-(FOCAC).

Unfortunately, the dominance of the “geo-political” ideology since the death of Franklin Roosevelt has thoroughly contaminated the thinking of Westerners and Africans alike. Creating a culture (with few exceptions) of people unable to think strategically, and who cynically reject the idea that a powerful nation would extend itself to actually assist other nations. China, according to all accounts, has lifted 700 million of its people out of poverty. President Xi Xinping has pledged to help eliminate poverty in Africa, the continent with highest rate of poverty in the world. Yet, many Africans reject this offer as insincere, suggesting a sinister motive lurking behind China’s offer. This attitude, is in part, the result of today’s political culture, which has failed to understand one of the most profound universal principles: all mankind shares a common interest in the development of the creative potential of each and every human being.  

Let us all agree, now, that we will all act on the this principle of the common good, and affirm as did the Treaty of Westphalia, that the interest of the other is also the interest of thy self.

 

Forum On China-Africa Cooperation, Beijing, September 3-4, 2018

“Africa’s growing debt crisis: Who is the debt owed to?”

October 2018

(excerpts follow)

Summary
• African government external debt payments have doubled in two years, from an average of
5.9% of government revenue in 2015 to 11.8% in 2017
• 20% of African government external debt is owed to China
• 17% of African government external interest payments are made to China
• In contrast, 32% of African government external debt is owed to private lenders, and 35% to
multilateral institutions such as the World Bank
• 55% of external interest payments are to private creditors

Minimum amount of African government external debt owed to China as percentage of total debt is 18%

Creditor grouping, total debt owed, percentage of external debt owed, are as follows:
China $72 billion 18%
Paris Club $40 billion 10%
Other governments $18 billion 4%
World Bank $66 billion 16%
IMF $18 billion 4%
Other multilateral institutions $61 billion 15%
Private sector $132 billion 32%
Total $407 billion 

Maximum amount of African government external debt owed to China as percentage of total debt is 24%

Creditor grouping’Total debt owed, percentage of external debt owed, are as follows:
China $100 billion 24%
Paris Club $40 billion 10%
World Bank $66 billion 16%
IMF $18 billion 4%
Other multilateral institutions $61 billion 15%
Private sector (excl. Chinese
private sector)
$132 billion 32%
Total $417 billion

Checking these figures through country cases

Another way of identifying how much African government debt is owed to China is to look bottom-up at the individual data available by each government.

Of these 16 countries, 14 have figures on how much debt is owed to China (for the full analysis see Appendix 1.). Of these 14:

• 11 owe less than 18% of their debt to China (Burundi, Cabo Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Gambia, Ghana, Mauritania, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, South Sudan, Sudan and Zimbabwe).
• Three owe more than 24% -Djibouti (68%), Zambia (30%) and Cameroon (29%).
• The mean average amount owed to China is 15% of a government’s external debt, and the median average is 8%

Read Complete Report: Who Is Africa Debt’s Owed To?

The Debate On China’s Role In Africa; A Different Point Of View

The Council of African Security and Development-CASADE has published my article regarding the debate over whether China is forcing African nations into a new ‘debt trap.’ Despite the propaganda from some Africans and Westerners, China is not the new imperialist in Africa. You can read my analysis below.

CASADE: COUNCIL ON AFRICAN SECURITY AND DEVELOPMENT