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What We Read Today 01 April 2017

Econintersect: Every day our editors collect the most interesting things they find from around the internet and present a summary "reading list" which will include very brief summaries (and sometimes longer ones) of why each item has gotten our attention. Suggestions from readers for "reading list" items are gratefully reviewed, although sometimes space limits the number included.

This feature is published every day late afternoon New York time. For early morning review of headlines see "The Early Bird" published every day in the early am at GEI News (membership not required for access to "The Early Bird".).


Every day most of this column ("What We Read Today") is available only to GEI members.

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The rest of this post is available only the GEI Members.  Membership is FREE -  click here

Topics today include:

  • More Than 50% of Visa Applications to the U.S. are Denied

  • What's the Difference Between Helicopter Money and Basic Income?

  • Credit Issuance is Decelerating - That's Very Bad News

  • Discussing a Case Against Basic Universal Income

  • How the Opioid Epidemic Became America's Worse Frig Crisis Ever

  • Majority of Americans Favor Russia Probe

  • Three Things You Should Know about Trump and Russia

  • Healthcare:  The Republican Waterloo

  • Majority of Americans Say Government Should Ensure Health Coverage for All

  • How Trump Can Regain the Initiative  

  • Staying Rich Without Manufacturing Will Be Hard

  • European Parliament Rejects Proposal Encouraging Basic Income

  • NHS recruits must be given special status after Brexit, MPs urge

  • South Australia to get $1 billion solar farm and world's biggest battery

  • South Australia to build battery storage and gas-fired power plant in $550m energy plan

  • Colombia landslide leaves over 150 dead in Putumayo province

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • AP-NORC Poll: Majority of Americans favor Russia probe (Associated Press)  A slim majority of Americans favor an independent investigation into the Trump campaign's ties with the Russian government, according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research that showed public views about the controversy driving congressional investigations are sharply divided along party lines.  See also next article.

Amid questions swirling in Washington that have forced the resignation of one top Trump official and the scrutiny of several others, most Americans say they're at least somewhat concerned about the possibility that the Republican businessman's campaign had inappropriate contacts with the Russian government, but less than half say they're very concerned.

  • The Republican Waterloo (The Atlantic)  Conservatives once warned that Obamacare would produce the Democratic Waterloo. Their inability to accept the principle of universal coverage has, instead, led to their own defeat.  See next article.

  • More Americans say government should ensure health care coverage (Pew Research Center)  Currently, 60% of Americans say the government should be responsible for ensuring health care coverage for all Americans, compared with 38% who say this should not be the government’s responsibility. The share saying it is the government’s responsibility has increased from 51% last year and now stands at its highest point in nearly a decade.

Just as there are wide differences between Republicans and Democrats about the 2010 health care law, the survey also finds partisan differences in views on whether it’s the government’s responsibility to make sure all Americans have health care coverage. More than eight-in-ten Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (85%) say the federal government should be responsible for health care coverage, compared with just 32% of Republicans and Republican leaners.

  • How Trump Can Regain the Initiative (The Atlantic)  Republican strategist and long-time Trump critic David Frum draes on the experience of another socially and morally challenged president, Bill Clinton, to discuss how Donald trump can regain control of his presidency.  Here is an excerpt about the challenges Trump has:

Trump faces one hard practical test: Can he sustain sufficient enthusiasm within the Republican base to motivate turnout to keep Congress in Republican hands after 2018? If he fails, he will then face lethal dangers: meaningful investigation, backed by subpoenas. If he succeeds, he sustains the culture of impunity on which his administration is built. Until then, his net worth is surely rising faster than his polls are dropping. The traditional media may dismiss the administration’s fantastic and false claims of victimization by Obama administration holdovers—but Trump’s voters will believe, and believe more passionately perhaps because of the traditional media’s dismissal.

  • Staying Rich Without Manufacturing Will Be Hard (Bloomberg)  Hat tip to Steve Randy Waldman.  Discussions about manufacturing tend to get very contentious.   Many economists and commentators  believe that there’s nothing inherently special about making things and that efforts to restore U.S. manufacturing to its former glory reek of industrial policy, protectionism, mercantilism and antiquated thinking.  But in their eagerness to guard against the return of these ideas, manufacturing’s detractors often overstate their case. Manufacturing is in bigger trouble than the conventional wisdom would have you believe.

One common assertion is that while manufacturing jobs have declined, output has actually risen. But this piece of conventional wisdom is now outdated. U.S. manufacturing output is almost exactly the same as it was just before the financial crisis of 2008:


Among numerous other recommendations to the European Commission, the draft stated that “in the light of the possible effects on the labour market of robotics and AI a general basic income should be seriously considered” and that it invited all Member States of the European Union to do so. Maddy Delvaux, the Socialist Member of the European Parliament (MEP) from Luxembourg who authored the report, has stated that she personally supports a universal basic income. The report, however, merely proposed to raise the idea for consideration without endorsing it.

The European Parliament voted on the Committee on Legal Affairs’ report on February 16, 2017. This vote determined the recommendations that would be delivered to the European Commission with respect to technology policy.

The recommendation to “seriously consider” basic income was rejected for inclusion in the final report, with 328 MEPs voting against the recommendation, 286 MEPs voting in favor, and eight abstaining from the vote.





  • QUEBEC, CANADA: Government “hints at” Guaranteed Minimum Income in new budget (BIEN)  The Quebec Liberal government has hinted strongly in its recent budget that some form of basic income guarantee is imminent – but likely only for a portion of the province, at least to begin with.  Of note in the announcement is that Quebec will bypass any testing of the program, unlike Ontario with its commitment to a pilot project, and instead will begin a restrained roll-out of a minimum income program aimed at lifting the most vulnerable out of poverty.

After Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard put Francois Blais in charge of the Ministry of Employment and Social Solidarity in January of 2016, it was clear there was interest in the Quebec government for some kind of basic income guarantee program. Blais wrote a book about the topic in 2002, called Ending Poverty: A Basic Income for All Canadians.

A committee was also established in 2016 by the government to examine ways to improve the current income support system.

In the recent budget, more about the plan “to fight poverty and social exclusion” will be unveiled in a few months by Blais.

Other Scientific, Health, Political, Economics, and Business Items of Note - plus Miscellanea

  • The art of the denial (Vox)   The US visa process is already maddeningly subjective. Trump could make it even tougher.  One astonishing fact is that Canada is one of the harder countries to get a U.S. tourist visa, with more than 50% rejected.

Click for larger image.

  • Helicopter money and basic income: friends or foes? (BIEN)   SAee also second article below.  Spurred by Milton Friedman, the concept of “helicopter money” – under which central banks would distribute money to citizens – is making headway in economic debate, but is often confused with the idea of basic income. This article intends to clarify the distinctions and overlaps between these two concepts.

Helicopter money can .... be defined as the creation of money, without corresponding assets, and its distribution into citizens’ bank accounts.

It is therefore an alternative form of money creation, which is strictly different from the most common way in which money is created today: through the banking sector’s credit issuance functions. It is worth clarifying this point here: as the Bank of England has clearly demonstrated, today’s monetary supply is almost entirely controlled by private banks issuing credit into the economy. This is sometimes referred to (somewhat misleadingly) as the “fractional reserve banking system”. Although the benefits and pitfalls of such an arrangement are subject to never-ending controversy between academics, the way in which this system functions is nowadays largely undisputed.

  • Credit Check (Warren Mosler)  WM has contributed to GEI.  Credit growth in the U.S. is rapidly deceleration.  Debt acceleration is strongly correlated with economic growth.  See this page from Steve Keen's book, Debunking Economics.  WM has some great graphs summarizing the current ominous situation - here are three of them (go to article for the rest):

  • Europe’s New Social Reality: the Case Against Universal Basic Income (BIEN)  See also second article above.  This article argues that the Basic Universal Income (BUI) discussion in a book (see more, including a link to book in excerpt from the article introduction below) is a misguided attempt to solve economic inequality by diminishing monetary inequality.  The thesis of the book is summarized by what reads to Econintersect as ideological chauvanism without seriously addressing real concerns about viability of UBI.  First below is from the conclusion of the article, followed by an excerpt from the beginning.

Sage and Diamond offer yet another paternalistic response.  A response that is akin to wearing a different suit of solutions while hanging onto the same faded, tattered and smelly underwear of paternalistic policies. 

The 2017 publication Europe’s New Social Reality: the Case Against Universal Basic Income by Sage and Diamond – which can be downloaded from Policy Network online – cites an earlier 2015 Policy Network report which was most concerned about a “growing social, economic and political divergence” developing between the EU nations.  In particular, the 2015 report suggested that slow economic growth and the increasing inequality of wealth were causing significant strain on EU governments and even the fabric of democracy itself.  Sadly, their latest 2017 report indicates that little has changed.

The 2017 book focuses on the left, right and especially center posturing of the EU’s various political parties regarding economic inequality, but offers nothing tangible to reduce the tensions and differences between these competing interests.  Instead the book seems to want to emphasis political divisions by singling out the ‘center left’ of the EU’s political spectrum as the principle promoter of a Universal Basic Income (UBI).

However, the reality is that a UBI is not the property of any one political group.  In fact, the idea of subsidizing the needs of the citizenry appears to have developed during the Renaissance era as a more effective means of dealing with poverty than executing the poor who were often simply attempting to gain enough sustenance to survive.  Over the succeeding 600 years the idea has come and gone in various nations and under a variety of political ideologies.


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