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What I screwed up means

It’s good to be able to admit you can screw up. Let’s hope Obama’s public honesty sets a trend. The context for this CBS interview was the news that senior appointments in the new US administration have not been entirely honest in their tax dealings with the national revenue. (In the UK, The Guardian is running an interesting piece of journalism about the international tax-avoiding activities of major corporations).

In the enormous picture, Obama’s national economic stimulus bill is now nearly law and you can help a communal effort to read it here if you are a glutton for well-intentioned economic blah.

Pork-barrel politics is an old phrase in US politics and reflects the need to pass benefit down to voters, constituents and supporters. The behaviour is common to all political cultures – and one of the biggest problems in the US (and perhaps here) in the past decade or more, is that the benefits of increasing wealth (as granted by government) have really been disproportionately awarded to the richer sections of society. Much of the ‘pork’ in Obama’s bill is being directed much lower down the economic food chain where there is a lot of economic distress and pent-up need for help.

Politically, Obama might be hoping this near trillion-dollar gift will help stop the return of public support to protectionist ideas – American steel for American construction. This sort of behaviour would disrupt current economic global trade and almost certainly provoke retaliation from other economic blocs like the EU and China. Most historians believe ‘protectionist’ sentiment and policy was one of the things which confirmed the length of the great economic depression of the 1930s.

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