Economic Series Part 3: What is Gross Domestic Product?

Welcome to the third part of my economic series. This final part will explain what GDP is and why it is so often used as politicians go to economic figure of success or failure. Gross Domestic Product or GDP as I will call it by the acronym, is an economic indicator. It measures a very specific part of the economy in any given country. If you have not read parts ONE and TWO of this economic series I strongly suggest that you do. My first two parts of the series describe the arguments for and against minimum wage in part one. In part two, I  go over the basics of government budget and taxation. It’s important to recognize that economics is a very complex subject and many topics involved having an understanding of other topics. In this case, I think that GDP is definitely the most advanced of all the topics that I have covered thus far. In order to properly discuss GDP and the politics that usually surround it, I feel its necessary to explain how it come to be and what it involves.

The book that has inspired me to write on this topic and my primary source of information is called GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History by Diane Coyle. Coyle’s book gives a full rundown of everything GDP. I would strongly recommend it because this post won’t even cover 1/4 of what she does in this book. Coyle gives a simple word breakdown of GDP. Gross meaning not deducted as opposed to net (Her example was like net weight of a cereal box, it’s only the weight of the cereal without the packaging) Product meaning stuff made, and Domestic is simply at home.(Page 7) GDP is much more complex than the three simple words that make up its name. The history and founding of GDP begins at the start of World War II. However, the idea goes back throughout the ages.

One of the many controversies over GDP that still exist today was first explored by one of the greatest economic scholars to ever write. Adam Smith wrote the Wealth of Nations. In his book, he went over some relevent facts of GDP. His point to paraphrase is this: The manufacturer that produces something with their labor creates value and adds it to the economy. The person who employs many menial servants grows poor while the person who employs many manufacturers grows rich. The point here being that Smith sees the production of goods as adding value to an economy. He sees the services of a servant or a service in general adds nothing. GDP has often not included services because it’s too hard to measure the true output of a teacher. Also the word “Product” in GDP lends itself to the production of goods not services. (Page 10)

GDP’s history comes out of collection of statistical data and economists. Colin Clark calculated the expenditures and national income of the United Kingdom. Clark based his work on a publication by Alfred Marshall who wrote Principals of Economics before the Great Depression. Franklin Roosevelt encourage more research and work on the national income and expenditures during the Great Depression. This led to Simon Kuznets to work with the National Bureau of Economic Research, which earned him a nobel prize. One of things that Kuznets brought up is an important facet of GDP. Kuznets thought that he was working to measure welfare rather than just output. GDP is often used to measure the welfare of any given country. However, because like I said previously, GDP is typically measured by the output of an economic. The problem of welfare and GDP is one of modern criticisms of GDP. Coyle dedicates two chapters to the subject of GDP and welfare. (Page 12-14)

I want to focus more on the particulars of GDP and how it’s calculated. Coyle covers this topic quite well. I want to save welfare and GDP for another post because it’s too much for this post. Coyle goes over the three different ways to measure and calculate GDP. She gives a two charts. One chart shows how these calculations are done. Since I don’t have the chart, I will just describe each way. The first way is a Value Added production. Value Added production adds up the Gross Output. The gross output is the all the sales made in an economy. The gross output excludes the inventory because it’s counted by the next category of intermediate inputs. Which stuff like staffing, inventory, and other things that businesses pay money for to make their business work. Finally you get to a number that tells you how much value added each industry in an economy.

The second way to calculate GDP is through Income (by type) approach. This approach uses a set of different incomes and expenditures to make final figure of Total Domestic Incomes earned. There are rental income, profits and proprietors’ income, Taxes on production and imports, Less: Subsidies, Interest and miscellaneous payments, and depreciation. These are the categories of the Income (by type) approach. The third way to calculate GDP is through Final Demand (or Expenditures) approach. This approach uses the sum of these categories to make up the final sales of domestic product to purchasers. The categories are the consumption of final goods and services by households; Investment in plant, equipment, and software; Government expenditures on good and services; and net exports of goods and services (export-import). No matter how you calculate GDP, the measurement always is trying measure how much an economy produces and what kind of income the country who benefits from it makes. (Page 25-26)

The most popular and most used method in modern times is the Expenditures approach. Coyle also goes over the equation along with an awesome chart. The equation simply is GDP= C+I+G+(X-M). The letters stand for Consumer Spending plus Investment plus government spending plus exports less imports. (Trade deficit/surplus). Coyle also tries to show some problems with the GDP equation which is mostly that GDP is not so simple. The categories have multiple sub-categories. There is a lot of gray area. The numbers can be shaky. However, in the end GDP is the most reliable measurement of economy. Coyle mentions other indicators which can help round out the welfare aspect and government impact. The awesome chart I was referring is a two circles. On the left side there is the word “Individuals” and on the right side there is “Business”. The top of the circles, have two words. On the bottom circle it says Expenditures, and on the top circle it says Goods and Services. In the lower two circles, the top one says Income and the bottom says Labor. (page 26-27)

The story is that Individuals and Businesses interact in two different ways. The circles represent the different ways. The bigger circle with Labor and Goods and Services basically shows that Individuals supply the labor for business. The Business supplies the good and services. This is basic economics, it shows a supply/demand for labor and good and services.  The smaller circle with Expenditures and Income show that Businesses supply the Individual with income and the Individual supplies the business with Expenditures. The vice-versa is also true. Businesses make income on the Individual’s expenditures. This is a simple economics lesson that can help you understand GDP. (Page 27)

GDP is an important facet of economic measurement of any given country. As Coyle notes in later chapters which this post won’t cover, that GDP is not accurate in second and third world countries because of faulty accounting and statistics. She also covers a great deal of debate over whether welfare should be measured by GDP or not. These are more complex questions than I really want to go. I think the point of this post is to say that GDP is important to understand. GDP is not a true measure of welfare. It’s the statistical measure of economic input and output. As an example, GDP measures the number of phones that Apple sells after the release of the Iphone 7. It doesn’t take into account the welfare of the people who buy those phones. GDP is also a political tool especially when it comes to arguing over the economy.

Moving away from Coyle’s book in some ways, I want to briefly discuss why politicians like to use GDP. I think that much of the political controversy surrounding the use of GDP comes from the myths of GDP. Many people don’t realize the history of GDP. The misunderstanding of what GDP represents. Many politicans including present candidates for President seem to think that GDP shows how well the economy doing or more often how bad it’s doing. However, the reality is that GDP can fluctuate just based on how you calculate it. One increase or decrease in any given category there could be a 1-2 percent fluctuation. Another important myth to dispel is that government spending actually helps GDP. The debate that surrounds government spending and its effect on the economy is prevalent.

This is where I want to end this post and this series for now. My last words is that government spending doesn’t necessary make for the best economic move. The problem with government spending is that the government is NOT a business. Government makes their money from taxpayers. Its mandatory, you can’t just not pay taxes. It also makes a problem with counting the statistics for GDP. The government doesn’t have a real income with the exception taxes. This means that when the government tries to invest in anything it only represents an expenditure. If you recall the chart, the point of an economy is a cycle of labor into good and services that make income provided by expenditures. One example, that I know the best is that of the spending on the military. Military spending has often been one of the biggest items on US government budget. The national debt is nearly 20 trillion dollars. Some scholars have estimated that 16 trillion of that was spent during the cold war on military research and wars. The way that the DOD (Department of Defense) and the government have gone about spending this money is the problem. The military contracts assigned to military contractors during these years were given without little scrutiny. Many of the biggest contractors were able to contracts with no competition. The contracts included very little accountability or responsiblity especially in regards to money spent.

The point being is that GDP has actually suffered since the Cold War. This mainly due to stagnant economy. I mentioned that GDP doesn’t measure services which now is the most prominent feature of our economy. The reckless spending and bad fiscal policy by the government has given us some unfortunate consequences. GDP will always be controversial because of its complexity. I believe that its important to understand how GDP works. If you understand economics and GDP then you can understand that fallacy that politicians try to push on us. For me, this topic is fairly new but I wanted to try to introduce a little bit of the controversy and facts of economics and GDP.

Thanks you for reading! Have a great day!

 

Citation:

Coyle, Diane. GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History. Prinction University Press, 2014. 

 

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Meddling in the Middle East: Aid Trouble

Before I go into my headline topic on the middle east, I want to just take moment to say that I called the stock market crash and rebound after the Brexit vote last week. After nearly three days of down stocks, the market has returned almost all the losses. Once again I want to reiterate that the long-term economic and political results won’t be seen for at least 3 to 5 years. Now let me switch gears into a very controversial topic that relates to terrorism and the middle east. Today I want to discuss the absurdly of the US foreign policy toward Israel. I also want touch on tragic airport bombing in Istanbul, Turkey that was supposedly planned by ISIS. My main focus of this post is to make the point that Israel should be able to accept being an US ally without needing over 50 billion dollars for military aid.

First up, I want to mourn for the victims of the airport bombing in Istanbul, Turkey. It was a horrible and savage attack. The death toll has reach nearly 50 people with over 200 people injured. I think that its very necessary to use caution especially when traveling abroad. You never know when ISIS will strike. The US response was about as usual as it could be. There isn’t much choice but to strengthen the airport security. It’s very unfortunate for the Turkish people for whom terrorist attacks have been increasing in the past year. You can find part of the reason in the civil war in Syria which continues to raise havoc in the region. Turkey also has some domestic terrorist which are just as bad. Turkey actually relies on tourism for a good part of their economy. Hopefully the Turkish government can take the necessary steps to deter and stop more attacks. They can also thank Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy. Unfortunately President Obama and Hillary Clinton conceived a foreign policy that led to the creation of ISIS because of power void. This absence of power is thanks to George W. Bush, however, without a stable government in the area it was pretty much impossible to stop the formation of a terror group.

On the topic of stable governments in the middle east, there is at least one US ally that is not named Saudi Arabia or Jordan. That US ally is also one of the world’s nuclear powers. The small nation of Israel, location centrally in the middle east. A key ally in helping maintain a balance of power in the thick of US hatred. Recently, there was news about the agreements that happen each year between the US and Israel. This time around it seems that President Obama is standing up against Israel. The article highlights the main facts surrounding the Israeli-American defense agreement that sends 50 billion dollars a year of taxpayer to help fund the Israeli military. It also says that Obama wants to cut out his part of the agreement. The agreement also deals with civilian aid and economic aide. For once, I think President Obama is making the right move with Israel and here’s why.

First, no other country gets such special treatment like the Israeli’s do. Not the UK, not France, not anybody. Israel is the only country in the world that gets to spend its US aid on military weapons. Now granted, this policy was formed after World War 2 because of the holocaust and the need to protect the Jewish population. However, its has been a signficant amount of time since then, about 70 years. President Obama correct asserts that Israel should start paying for their own military. Second, it is not fair to the American taxpayers (that’s me and you) to have pay for defense that typically never benefits them. The reason why it never benefits US citizens is because just look at the middle east! It’s a fucking mess. I don’t think Israel has done much to help the situation.

The third problem is that America can no longer afford to keep shoveling 50 billion a year to Israel. We have enough debt as it is. We have a huge military and trust me its enough to defend Israel if its necessary. You might say “Oh but what about Iran, don’t they want to wipe Israel off the map?” Yes, that’s true. However, I think Israel will be fine since they have nuclear weapons and Iran just signed an agreement to not have them. The deterrence factor should come into play here. My problem with this is just about the money. I think the Israeli’s have always been a great ally and never tried to play us or trick us. However, many nations are America’s ally for benefits and many of them do it without 3 billion a year in military.

I am so proud of President Obama. His foreign policy has been characterized as soft and lacking. I think this is a bold move that Israel definitely won’t like but what are they going to do? Obama is so right to play hardball. Obama should absolutely stick up for American taxpayers. I honestly just don’t give shit about how good of ally and let me explain it in simpler terms. For example, let’s say you have two different friends. Both friends you’ve known for 15 years. Both friends provide you the same support and kinship that you love about them. The difference is that one friend only hits you up when they need money. The other friend is always down to pay for their own shit. Israel is like the friend that only hits you up for money. It’s not a very good way to be a friend. If you are only in it for the money!

I don’t want to sound anti-Semitic or anything, but I really think it’s an unnecessary amount of money. America is going through its own economic crisis. This crisis has been brought on in part by the spending of the military industrial complex. Trust me, 16 trillion dollars of our national debt is not just from bailouts and social programs. 16 trillion dollars is the estimation by a great scholar by the name of Paul A.C Koistnen. He is a tremendous scholar whom I gotten advice from. He is an expert on the military industrial complex with about 10 books in publication. I recommend that you read up on him. His estimate of 16 trillion dollars is the amount that the military industrial complex has cost the US since the end of World War 2. That is nearly 76 percent of the national debt. So I just want to end by congratulating President Obama on his good move and I hope that he continues to push to get rid of the 3 billion subsidization.

Thank you for reading!

 

Safety over Rights or Rights over Safety?

I often think about the great debate that plagues Americans everywhere. It seems that all the struggles in America come down to the choice of safety and security or group and individual rights. This debate has brought out in detail by the recent mass shooting in Orlando over guns and radical muslim terrorists. This debate is nothing new. One of the problems of governemnt especially with a democratic government is that it allows free choice. Free choice in itself can be good and bad. You can choose to make good choices that help you or others. You can also choose to kill people. Of course, for every bad choice or legally wrong choice there is consequences. Our democratic government has fallen into the trap of limiting bad choices of its citizens. This is a natural process throughout our history as we advance through time. The problem with choosing security over rights is quite simply that it takes away the rights of the people. The people as the constitution states, run the government. It can be noted that dictatorships actually demonstrate a full view of an security state. The power of the government is vested in one person. That one person is the government and makes all the decisions. That dictator controls all the rights of the people. Therefore in theory, the safety of the people is guranteed because adjustments by the dictator can be made. However, many dictators are corrupted and use their power to undermine the safety of the people. Ultimately it undermines their rights. In a democratic government the debate over safety or rights is an issue because we follow a constutition which lays out the specific power limitations of government.

The constitution is a very important document that is not fully understood by many Americans. I want to point that the constitution doesn’t grant the government power to do whatever it wants. The constitution is not supposed to be taken advantage of or used to increase personal power or wealth. The constitution is supposed to make sure that our government does its job. The job description of the government is written in the constitution.  Checks and balances and Judical Review both are instruments to help keep and uphold the constitution. If people reconigze the constitution as a statue of limitations then it totally changes how you see our government. Remember the people run the government. Not government run people.

The constitution also lays out our rights as people that are basic to everybody who is an American citizen. The bill of rights is the most important addition to the constitution because it gives us those freedoms that we enjoy. Many people, politicans and groups argue over the 2nd Amendment. This is the right to bear arms. If you don’t know there are two ways to interpret the constitution, they are strict and loose interpretations. In each interpretation, the right to bear arms means the right to own a gun regardless of the purpose. The amendment actually stipulates two different laws. The first is that of a well regulated militia for the security of a free state. In a strict intepretation this would be out of date since we no longer have militias. In a loose intepretation this would mean that if necessary then a militia could be formed. The second part of the law applies to current events.

The second part states that its “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall be not infringed”. This statement in both interpretations means the right to own a gun is not to be taken away under any circumstances. The narrative after the most recent shooting is that assault weapons should be banned. Let’s set aside the fact that bans have never worked. (Tell me about bans: Drugs, Alcohol, Cigarettes under 18….how are those working out? If you ever drank under 21 or smoked a cig under 18 or smoke pot in a state wheres it illegal then you probably know that bans don’t work right?)  The problem with banning assault weapons under the second amendment is that there is no legal grounds to do so. A better solution that has no legal ramifications constitutionally is more extensive background checks and psychological evalutions at 1 year interevals. In this case, there is actually a way to choose safety AND rights. Unfortunately, the government would prefer safety because it increases their power. If they can take away your assault rifle then that’s techincally voiding the second amendment and legalizing all guns for bans. The logical solution is that getting a gun should be very hard through extensive background and psychological evalutions. I would propose a similar regulation to that of motor vechicles. You need to register your car every two years, get an inspectation (In NY STATE) every year, and update your plates. Its not that cheap to own a car with all the expenses like insurance and all that I just mentioned. So why can’t we do this with guns?

I think that its clear that our rights our being traded for security. I want to give one more example. The best example of government picking security over rights is after 9/11. Its obvious why the US government took the steps that it did to protect us. What isn’t so obvious is that they violated our rights while doing so. The main culprit is the Patriot Act. The Act gave legal power to government agencies such as the FBI, CIA, NRA and others to spy and keep track of all citizens. The means by which this was carried out violated many of the constitutional bill of rights. It far exceeded the power that the government should have had. The 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 9th amendments have been violated by the Patriot Act. This was done all in the name of security. You may ask then, how do we let this slip by us? The answer lies in who we voted in office. The congress has become very stagnant with the same people in office for many years. This allows for complacency and inactitivity.  One of the problems that occur in the safety vs. rights debate is that politicans are often on both sides. Politicans tend to claim that will defend our rights. In practice, they usually end up either creating new rights for their own advantage or taking away rights for some to help others. Politicans are plagued with self interest and greed. This is human nature. It seems that being a poltiican only makes these two vices worse.

Since 9/11, we have certainly traded a lot of rights for what seems like the same standard of security. I feel like trading rights for security has never worked. Many political observers have often noted this fact. I look around the world with new terrorist attacks every week, I can’t see how we are any safer. I also want to add another facet to the gun debate that also involves rights. The right to keep arms is usually in your house. However, the right to bear arms would suggest that an open carry policy is the constitutional standard. One of the common dominators of terrorist and mass shooting attacks is gun free zones. These safe zones are not so safe and are usually: schools, colleges, clubs, shopping malls, government buildings, convention centers, stadiums. Many people are against an open carry policy, usually offering the argument that America into Somali, a war zone. However, let me submit to you an example of open carry policy in a US state, a state that has had no mass shootings in recent memory since 1983. That is 33 years with no mass shootings. This state if you don’t know already was admitted to the union as the 49th state. It was purchased in Sewards Folly which should be a dead giveway!  Its in the arctic circle. Its Alaska! Yes, Alaska has an semi-restricted open or conceal handgun policy with similar restrictions on other guns. So basically, you don’t need a permit to carry or conceal a handgun. For other guns and assault weapons you may need a permit or not depends on where. So how can this be?

Well, my friends this is how gun control works. I want to use analogy to wrap up my post. Let’s say that Country A and Country B are neighbors. Country A has a nuclear weapon. Country B does not have a nuclear weapon. If Country A decides to nuke Country B there isn’t much that B can do about it. If both Country A and B have nuclear weapons (Same amount) then if Country A threatens to nuke B. The result will be one of two: Country B threatens to nuke or Country B is nuked and retalites. In a situation where both parties have equal strength of force it will become a zero sum game.  If country B does get nuked then retalites against A then they both loose. However, if they both decide against launching their nukes then they both win. This same logic can be applied to guns. This is usually called deterence. It can be more powerful than any passable law.

I know that personallly I would rather have my rights over safety because rights give you safety. The government can’t protect each individual its just not practical or possible. Allow me to suggest that we start advocating for rights over safety so we can guard the constitution, the law of the land.

Thanks for reading!

Memorial Day–An excuse to BBQ?

I find this holiday of Memorial Day to be quite interesting from historical to modern context. Usually, since I was a kid in cub scouts, I walked in our small town’s memorial day parade. I participated in the wreath ceremony at our big cemetery. Then my family would go home and have a classic American BBQ. I only know of one veteran in my family, my mother’s father. Unfortunately, he never met me because of his refusal to go to the doctor with skin cancer. His name was Paul Chase. He married my grandma who is still alive, in the late 1940s after the war. They ended up having three children, their first and only daughter was my mother. My grandfather was in military during World War 2, I don’t know much about his actual combat experience if he had any. But I know he was a military police or MP. He was also an avid baseball player, a catcher. From what I’ve been told, I have his some of his personality. My grandfather died of skin cancer in 1985 and is buried in a cemetery only a mile from my house.

This accounts for the most of the significance that I put on memorial day. However, being a history buff and knowing how many wars the US has fought. Its strange to think to that we would celebrate such a sad and sometimes tragic event like war deaths. On the other hand, its not strange in history to see civilizations honor their fallen heroes of war. War is a spectacle like none other. It has evolved over hundreds of years. It has killed unknown billions. Yet here in America we celebrate the soldiers that are dead and alive, that have fought our wars. America’s intentions have not always been pure or even moral. We have waged wars to pursue world power. We have waged them to pursue economic dominance. Presidents have tricked the American people into sending their boys into war on multiple occasions. So what is the point of celebrating this off-color history of war? More importantly why do we BBQ and say “Happy” memorial day?

Memorial Day like other holidays are federally mandated by the government. Usually when the government approves a holiday it means all federal offices are closed. It also means that kids have the day from school, businesses sometimes close too. My point that I’m trying to make is are we celebrating the individuals give some or gave everything for their country? Or are we celebrating the fact that war has made our soldiers heroic despite the reason for sending them there? Regardless of the answer to a question that can’t be answered, I believe Memorial Day has turned into kind of sham. I never understood the whole BBQ thing because that’s irrelevant to war and soldiers alike! Along with that, I don’t the find the holiday to be particularly happy? Many people say “Happy Memorial Day” like Merry Christmas. Memorial Day is more of a solemn reflection on the soldiers who maintain our way of life or our freedoms. (If freedoms still exist?) I am for one not very happy that over 5000 soldiers have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.  What did they die for, besides some stupid extreme religious nuts and some oil? The war has been more dangerous than ever and they had to give up their lives. That’s not fair to them.

Although I find nothing wrong with BBQ or the patriotism that comes out of Memorial Day. I just think that people should take it a little more seriously. In addition to that, we should be thanking our soldiers everyday for their service because they protect us even if its for the wrong reasons. Every day should be Memorial Day. I know that its a cliched argument. However, its clear that war heroes are very important, given that we have yet another under appreciated holiday called Veterans Day. Even worse than memorial day it represents a day off for 80 percent of people. I am under the belief that memorial day also encompasses those soldiers who are still living. The lucky ones who live through war, tend to have a lot of health problems. Its clear that the Veteran Affairs sections of the government is ill-equipped to give veterans what they need. The lack of fast service healthcare is even more a slap face to living veterans. Its just underlines the fact that a government run healthcare system would absolutely suck.

Without mentioning specific politicians, I just want to say that the mishandling of the VA hospitals and operations is appalling. Instead of Memorial Day being happy or about BBQs maybe we should be focusing on the real issues that face our veterans. I know that culture is a hard thing to change. My rantings probably won’t change anything. But I think on an individual level if we start respecting Memorial Day as a day of solemn reflection then it would be an more effective holiday. In addition, we need to recognize and fix problems that Veterans may face in healthcare and other things. I think one solution would be to get government out of the VA. Make it a privately run, charity donation based service. Have actual Veterans run and operate it so no scumbag outsider can steal money or fuck them over. There are enough veteran charities to help fund such an operation. If not, then the government can donate some money too, no strings attached.

Next Memorial Day, before we BBQ and get drunk and talk politics, lets try to remember the sacrifice that our soldiers have given to maintain America’s unique freedoms held in our constitution. Let’s also remember that war is not something happy, its pure hell. War is unnecessary till all other action is useless. If you are a veteran or current soldier reading this then hopefully you will be treated better than soldier’s past. There really is not words to say how much I have personally gained  from and appreciated your efforts. Thank you.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

US Foreign Policy: Candidates’ Terrorism Platforms

If you are just reading my blog for the first time, then you may want to go back to the very first post. If not, then you may want to read or re-read the first and second post of this US Foreign Policy series. In this series, I have offered some insight into our national security policies against Terrorism. I have also revealed our relationship with China and its vulnerability to change with a new president. In this third post of the series, I will try to wrap up the terrorism topic. Then I may write about other things for awhile until I can think of some foreign policy related posts to write. In other news, unrelated to this post, Donald Trump has indeed clinch the nomination and will go to the convention as the candidate. This is obviously not shocking given all his opponents have dropped out. I said in my last post that I would preview each candidates foreign policy platform and try to glean how that would play against ISIS. Unfortunately, Mr. Trump does not talk about ISIS specifically, so instead I will use his trade policy with China as a sample of his handling in international affairs.

Let’s being with Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state. She outlines a fairly specific national security plan. Instead trying to paraphrase it and make this post longer than necessary, I will instead just quote a part of it. The rest of it you read for yourself on her website, linked here. So here’s that quoted part:

 

  • Defeating ISIS. ISIS and the foreign terrorist fighters it recruits pose a serious threat to America and our allies. We will confront and defeat them in a way that builds greater stability across the region, without miring our troops in another misguided ground war. Hillary will empower our partners to defeat terrorism and the ideologies that drive it, including through our ongoing partnership to build Iraqi military and governing capacity, our commitment to Afghanistan’s democracy and security, and by supporting efforts to restore stability to Libya and Yemen.
  • Holding China accountable. As secretary of state, Hillary reasserted America’s role as a Pacific power and called out China’s aggressive actions in the region.  As president, she’ll work with friends and allies to promote strong rules of the road and institutions in Asia, and encourage China to be a responsible stakeholder—including on cyberspace, human rights, trade, territorial disputes, and climate change—and hold it accountable if it does not.

    ***

  • Strengthen alliances. From the Middle East and Asia to Europe and our own hemisphere, Hillary will strengthen the essential partnerships that are a unique source of America’s strength. That’s particularly true of Israel, which is why Hillary will continue to support Israel’s ability to defend itself, including with Iron Dome and other defense systems. If anyone challenges Israel’s security, they challenge America’s security.
  • Create partnerships for tomorrow. Hillary believes in free peoples and free markets. As president, she’ll invest in partnerships in Latin America, Africa, and Asia with people and nations who share our values and vision for the future. – Hillary Clinton

I quote two different sets of points. The two on the top are very controversial to me, because they are easier said than done and I will explain.  The bottom two essentially state the same goal but its actually a very encouraging sentiment to hear. Starting with defeating ISIS, it sounds like Hillary wants to use our allies in the middle east to help defeat them. (See the Italicized sentence) Although I find this to be a more tolerable policy then unilateral action, I still see problems. Naturally when trying to form a coalition to fight there will be disagreements. I think the real problems stem from who will pay for this fight and who actually can fight.

Let’s take Afghanistan for example, since the US handed over the reins of their newly installed democratic government, the Afghans still haven’t been able to re-gain full control. The insurgency is prevalent in interrupting day to day life. It also still requires a close relationship with US troops. If Hillary is counting on Afghanistan or even worse the center of ISIS in Syria to fight, then I think she is crazy. Now if we depend on other allies like Israel, Jordan, or Saudi Arabia; We might end up footing the bill. The sad reality is that typically the US does foot the bill for uni and bilateral action since we are the most powerful nation in the world. This is still leaves the question of would actually defeat ISIS?

In my humble opinion, I don’t think it would be enough. Nor would I say that invading would be effective either. I think Hillary should broaden the whole policy and include everyone across the world. Her stated policies of creating and maintaining allies and partnerships is the exact solution to defeating ISIS. The reason is that ISIS like other terrorism groups are fueled by fear and coercion. These two elements help a terrorism group achieve its goals. They are feared by the people, and they coerce governments into giving them what they want. So Hillary needs to make sure every ally that we can possibly have on board is ready to stand up against ISIS, not by fighting them but by not fearing or giving into their demands.

Before I talk about her policy with China, I want to highlight something I just said because its pretty much the point I wanted to make about the last two policies in the quote. The sentence in bold is why I like those policy points. Terrorism can only be fought with kindness not with violence. It seems to psychologically weird, however, the terrorism feed off of expensive wars and fear. Just look at Afghanistan. Now moving away from terrorism, I just want to make some quick points about her policy with China.

I have stated before that Hillary would follow in President Obama’s footsteps and continue the Asian pivot. If I am not mistaken it sounds like that is exactly what she wants to do. I believe that its a solid step in the right direction. However, I would add to her policy that we should become more economically independent by reducing our federal deficit. If you read my first two posts then you know that our relationship with China is securely hinged on interdependent economies. Speaking of China and moving into Mr. Trump’s policy, once again I will quote a part of it and link the rest of it, here on Trump’s website. Here is that quote:

Bring China to the bargaining table by immediately declaring it a currency manipulator.

Strengthen our negotiating position by lowering our corporate tax rate to keep American companies and jobs here at home, attacking our debt and deficit so China cannot use financial blackmail against us, and bolstering the U.S. military presence in the East and South China Seas to discourage Chinese adventurism. – Donald Trump

Mr. Trump lacks any sort of real national security issue on his website. However, this tidbit gives at least some clue as to how Trump would deal with foreign policy affairs. I find it interesting that his first statement is calling China a currency manipulator. Now its true, however, if anyone knows how to manipulate currency its Trump, see this heated post. I am not completely sure how he plans to get them to even talk about stopping much less punishing them. The reason why I feel such a slight chance of punishment is because the UN would be handing the sanctions. The problem is that the permanent security council that votes on sanctions in the UN, includes members like China. So obviously China would block anything  like that.

Fortunately, Mr. Trump’s second point makes a lot more sense if he can do right. One way to stop China from cheating to rely less on their economy. Trump is headed in the right direction with both the corporate tax rate and attacking the debt and deficit. However, let me hope that he doesn’t try to use his boneheaded and stupid plan that I blew up in a post recently. Of course, the right way to decrease our debt is to stop SPENDING. Just to set the record straight. The last part of Trump’s statement is a little controversial. Here it is again: bolstering the U.S. military presence in the East and South China Seas to discourage Chinese adventurism.

I’m not personally crazy on this type of policy because it could give way to a war that we don’t want. I wrote before when writing about China that the Chinese are preparing to try to enlarge their sphere of influence. The Chinese aren’t ruling out a war as the building of their navy would indicate. Once again, I think military build ups just lead to war. There is no way for diplomatic negotiations with increased military force in close proximity. I think that Trump and the US would be better off using economic measures to help combat the Chinese reach for world power.

I hope that this was informative and gave some insight on how these policies may affect us if they are put into use. The goal of this US foreign policy series to help educate people on the aspects of foreign policy. It should also make clear who you may want to vote for. A candidate’s knowledge of foreign policy is a highly regarded asset in political circles. I think that besides the economy, foreign policy is one of the hardest areas in politics. The complexity and multitude of variable factors is absolutely overwhelming. I will say that even I struggle to comprehend foreign policy at times.Fortunately, my background in History has prepared me well to understand it. I also feel that foreign policy can make or break a presidency. I’ll be honest with President Obama, he had almost no foreign policy experience. Yet he has done just alright, with a quite a few mistakes. The two bright spots are his Asian Pivot and his dealing with Syria and ISIS. Anyway, I hope that you enjoyed all the posts in this series, there will definitely be more in the future!

Thank you for reading!

US Foreign Policy: Terrorism is the New War

Welcome back to the second installment of US Foreign Policy  as it relates to the presidential candidates and their future presidencies. Today, I will continue a little bit on my China and US narrative. Then I will start on a new issue which can be considered the most alarming threat to US national security. If you read or watch the news you know all about ISIS. I am more interested in how the candidates intend to fight back against ISIS. I will also preview a short history of terrorism, very similar to this post I wrote awhile back. I would encourage you to read both that article and read my last post: US Foreign Policy: Commander and Peace. I hope your ready for some complex international relations because these two situations typify two classic international relations circumstances. Just a warning, this post may be very long.

In my last post, I started out talking about the Chinese rise to a world power via economic dominance in manufacturing. I also covered the economic interdependence that tie the US and China closely. In my concluding statements, I talked about Hillary Clinton and her corporate connections that might draw us into war because of corporate and self interests. Now I want to try to explain as simply as I can, the order of preferences for both China and the US. Trying to pick out preferences or national interests in this case, can show us where the relationship between China and US is heading. Its nearly impossible to predict because sometimes actors make irrational decisions. However, most of the time, it is assumed that actors are rational. A rational decision maker follows standard logic of any given circumstance making it easier to predict. Also my perceived preferences could be totally wrong because I’m merely an observer, not an actor inside China or the US. Observations can be inaccurate due to a lack of information. For the sake of education and knowledge though, I will try to be as accurate as possible.

Let’s start with China’s preferences or national interests. Its clear from Chinese actions that they want to build up their power. I would say that power is China’s first preference. They already have economic power but they want to be considered among the great world powers. The Chinese have perceived by history, that they have been sort of second class in terms of world power. This perceived lack of power leads into their two second preference or national interests. Chinese are looking to become influential within their sphere of influence. I can tell this because the US influence in Asian is quite large. The US holds some type of alliance or mutual defense agreement with Japan, Philippines, and Vietnam. Japan is a powerful economic engine itself. Also they happen to be a Chinese sworn rival. The last Chinese preference from what I can tell, is the continuation of their economic dominance. This is both a power AND influence preference because the economy can allow a country the resources and wherewithal to pursue their national interests.

Of course with any preference order there is a preferred set of outcomes. Based on the China’s building up a navy and their defiance of international law, one outcome is war. I would assume that in a rational decision making process they would try diplomatic  or non-violent ways to get power and influence. However, I sense that now after nearly 20 years of economic dominance they still don’t feel respected. The outcome of war is very likely something that the Chinese would embrace given their large navy and abundant population. The only downside is that their opponent is already who or what their aiming to be.

The US preference is very similar to the Chinese but for different reasons. The US prefers to maintain their power because unlike China, the US already has the world power and elite status. The US also prefers to increase their influence in Asian to push back China via the Asian pivot. America also prefers to increase their economic production to catch up with China. As you can see, the US preferences are similar to China’s because the US wants to keep China from gaining too much power and influence. The most important difference is the outcome of war. US does not want to go war with China, hence the Asian pivot. Another factor that helps US national interests is economic interdependence with China. It also hurts the US because China has the same ability to effect a war.

Now in the perspective of a presidential candidate like Trump or Clinton, they will have access to much more classified information and intelligence. The most important foreign policy decision in regards to China is how to handle their bullying of other Asian countries. We can’t get caught up in their games. Its very similar to a game of poker, if a player bluffs a good or bad hand, then its up to you to figure out which their trying to hide. Sometimes you guess wrong. I believe that as long as Clinton or Trump protect US interests only and don’t try to overreach, they can keep China at bay. At the very least avoid a war that might cost over a billion people due to nuclear weapons.

If you haven’t done so already, please read The Post 9/11 Narrative vs. The Past 50 years of American Foreign Policy. This is will give you some background about terrorism, also you could read my post on 9/11’s 14th anniversary. In order to save my word count and your time, I will get right into ISIS and how the candidates might deal with it. I think the best place to start is with former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Secretary of State is an appointed position within the President’s cabinet. The Secretary of State is responsible for diplomatic relations with other countries. Under Clinton’s tenure, the rise of ISIS happened among the civil war in Syria and chaos in the Afghanistan and Iraq. Many news pundits like to blame Bush for creating a power void that let ISIS come to power. I don’t want to get into how it was formed or why because it would take a rather complex, scholarly effort to conclude such a hypothesis. However, if we look back on how Clinton handle foreign policy situations we can see how her policies might unfold as president.

One of Clinton’s most controversial moves as Secretary of State was a decision to leave ambassadors in Libya despite the dangerous conditions in the north African country. The political scandal that has followed Clinton because of the deaths of these four ambassadors under her watch. It has become known as the Benghazi Scandal. I feel like Clinton’s handling of the situation was poor, however the surprise attack cannot be faulted on her. At the same time, she should have known that surprise attacks are common and had prepare an appropriate security force to protect those ambassadors. I think from this situation, I gather the Clinton will follow a policy of national interests over human interests. During her tenure, she choose to remain out of the Syrian Civil War, which has just begun a year or two earlier. This was despite the reports of Syrian president Assad killing his own people. Once again, Clinton doesn’t deserve all the blame because I feel she made the right choice.

The Syria Civil war is a very complex conflict within the country of Syria. There are multiple warring factions. It would be stupid to get involved in such a conflict. Even to this day, President Obama and new Secretary of State John Kerry, have decided to stay away with the exception of training some rebels and bombing campaigns. An all out war on Syria would be more costly than Iraq and Afghanistan combined. Unfortunately one consequences of not intervening has been the formation of ISIS. We have seen how Clinton handled some situations as Secretary of State, but how will she handle ISIS as president?

In the next series of this US Foreign policy, I will take the each of the Candidates platform on Terrorism and see how that will work against ISIS. To concluded this post, I will talk a little bit about why Trump worries me in foreign policy. Then I will do quick explanation of my title. Donald Trump is by profession, a business man. He brags about his book, Art of the Deal. Despite Trump being a savvy businessman, I have some anxiety about his foreign policy. Business deals tend not to have as high stakes as diplomatic talks can. Trump has to remember that in foreign policy, he represents the world’s most powerful nation. There are other countries and terrorist who want to see America go down in flames. Trump negotiating skills will definitely come in handy. However, his knowledge of foreign policy is probably not on par with many other past presidents.If there is one thing he could do to sooth my fears, it would be to get a very experienced Secretary of State that has been in foreign policy.

Obviously I can find positives and scary negatives about both candidates in foreign policy.  To conclude this post, let me explain why “Terrorism is the New War”. If you remember in your American and Global history classes,  in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries it was common for States or Nations to fight against each other. There is a multitude of wars that pit two or more countries against each other. The wars usually start over economic, religious, or land issues. Now, in the 21st century, we have seen a dramatic change in the face of war. Since the 9/11 terrorist attack, we have seen wars not to conquer other countries for land. The wars fought especially by the US have been over religious extremists and some economic interests like Oil.  War has changed and so has how we conduct foreign policy. Whoever becomes President in January 2017 will be dealing primarily with a terrorism threat. It was much easier when Nations fought each other because you know who your negotiating with. Also it was easy to impose international sanctions. Now, terrorists are just groups of people with a common cause. They don’t care about being diplomatic, they want to use force and coercion.

In order to defeat these terrorist who feed off fear and overreactions, we need to unite as country. We need to unite as allies with Europe and Asian. These groups of terrorist are not new or invisible. They are human beings. Whoever is President will need to bring peace of mind and stability. Their leadership will be instrumental in fighting back the terrorists. I personally feel that their intentions are to incite war. The best defense against another costly war is to be determined to keep peace through increased homeland security of our borders. We must keep out those terrorists and allow those who deserve to be here, to come freely. The future of our nation rests upon the foreign policy decisions made in these critical years.

Part 3 of this series in a few days! Thanks for reading!

 

9//11 Never Forget- 14th anniversary

Everybody who was older than 4 or 5 years old probably remembers where they were when America was attacked on September 11th, 2001. I was in gym class, before I knew what happened a military helicopter flew overhead. After gym we went to science class where the information about what happened was relied to us. I just turned 11 about 4 days ago.  My mother was in Chicago, Illinois on a business trip visiting the Sears Tower. Luckily she was safe. The tragic event that occurred affected everyone in America. Those who remember it, know that it was an unprecedented day that happen without any warning to the public. The most similar event in history is Pearl Harbor. In both cases, the attack on our soil has cost us thousands of lives mostly innocent. The events that occurred after, first brought us together as a nation then pushed us back apart. Unfortunately, security has taken a front seat in government. The national budget is mostly spend on defense and security measures against another attack.

The Afghanistan and Iraq wars also resulted from this attack. No matter what party or person was in office this day change the course of American history. The President that had the unfortunate experience of dealing with it was George W. Bush. Bush did the best he could it seemed. There are reports and suspicions of the government knowing about it and letting it happen. But I don’t believe them.

I think that we should remember the heroes that saved lives and cleaned up the mess. They fought through the emotional and physical damage to help people. The police officers, firefighters and emergency responders. They had the courage to deal with this horrible situation. I don’t understand what the hatred is toward police. Putting aside the racism that always has occurred.  The police have done more good than bad.  I have to give so much respect to the people who respond to situations like 9/11. My words really cannot describe the gratitude that I would put before them.

9/11 is to be remembered as a celebration of the lives that were lost. The Bin Laden goons who attacked us mean nothing. They did it in vain. America should not let terrorists make our decisions. We need to stand up and make sure that our government does what is right for America and for all the citizens of world. I really believe that 9/11 should give every citizen a reason to vote in elections. Politics are a lot of bulls**t but it does matter.

In remembrance of those who lost their lives at 9/11, please go out and participate in our democracy. Freedom Rings.

Thank you for reading!