Author Archives: Editor

Free Trade Agreements: Selective Protectionism and Class


By Jeffrey Pavlak, Staff Editor

Last Wednesday, in the spirit of bipartisan comity, the House and Senate passed bilateral trade agreements with Colombia, Korea, and Panama. Bolstered by Republican votes, President Obama heralded passage as part of an effort to restore employment through export-based growth.  Yet each deal is built on the erroneous conceit that these are actually free trade deals. As Dean Baker notes in his new book, The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive, these compacts not only further protections for intellectual property but also insulate lawyers, doctors, and other professional service employees from direct foreign competition. In contrast, non-college educated workers will be placed into direct competition with workers in lower wage nations by the agreements. According to the Economic Policy Institute and the Joint Economic Committee, the Korea deal may cost 159,000 jobs (pdf) with the brunt borne by those without a college education.


Op-Ed: Libya’s Interim Government Faces Great Political Challenges, but Has Concrete Plan to Build a Democracy

This Op-Ed is an excerpt from “Economic future for Libya brighter than in Tunisia, Egypt,” Christian Science Monitor, August 29, 2011 by Katherine F. White, SJPP Staff Editor and co-author Jason Pack.

To best secure the future of the Libyan state, it is imperative that the Transitional National Council uphold the transparent and comprehensive institutional framework recently outlined by the council’s interim prime minister, Mahmoud Jibril. This concrete and methodical “road map” for the formation of a post-Qaddafi government rightly delineates the procedure for elections based on the convocation of a National Congress composed of members of all regions of Libya. The congress would draft a constitution for a nationwide referendum under the supervision of the United Nations.

Such a step is not unprecedented: from 1949 to 1951 the UN supervised a Libyan national convention that drafted a constitution and selected Idriss al-Senussi as its king in accordance with that constitution. (Mr. Idriss remained on the throne until Qaddafi’s coup in 1969.)

In short, the oversight of the international community in the formation of a Libyan national transitional body remains the only method with a clear historical precedent for the formation of a legitimate Libyan government at the time of a change of regime.

Given that the transitional council is an unelected body, laying out a rigid time line for this procedure – and strictly adhering to it – will be essential for the council to remain legitimate in the eyes of Libyans and the world. That said, outside actors – such as the UN, Arab League, and others – may have to use carrots and sticks to encourage developments to remain on the right path. If the international community speaks with one voice – as it did with Resolution 1973 and the no-fly zone – such actions will not be viewed as neocolonialism inside Libya.

Currently, the primary criticism of the Transitional National Council inside Libya is that it represents only a spectrum of Eastern Libyan interests aligned with the NATO countries. There are good indications that the transitional council leaders genuinely wish to embody a true cross-section of Libyans; structural reasons have made that difficult until now.

As indicated by the road map, the transitional council is committed to a “Truth and Reconciliation”-style commission based on the South African model and has promised to include in the new government former Qaddafi officials not involved in perpetration of crimes against humanity. This commitment to no “de-baathification” is essential to getting Libya’s economy running in the medium term and quickly restoring basic services to Libyan citizens in the short term.

Failure to utilize the institutions, technocrats, and policemen who served in the previous regime would impede the council’s efforts to keep the inhabitants of western Libya fed while preventing a prolonged political vacuum which leads to looting and chaos.

Dr. Jibril’s optimistic and promising outlook of “one country, one people, one history and one future with one capital (Tripoli)” is shared by many, if not most, Libyans. The prospects for a transition to a democratic and prosperous Libya are better than most commentators acknowledge.

However, implementing the transitional council’s road map and transitioning power to an elected government will require that the mutual suspicions between Libyans and with the international community – sown by decades of Qaddafi’s misrule – be rapidly replaced by networks of trust and collaboration.


The Sound and the Fury: Does Occupy Wall Street Have a Policy Agenda?

Graph courtesy of Mother Jones

By Rachel Leven, Staff Editor

Last week, Occupy Wall Street, a protest movement against “corporate greed,” spread overseas. The protests, which began in New York City last September, have since moved to other cities and college campuses throughout the United States, including Durham and Duke University. Inspired by the Arab Spring–and using tactics reminiscent of the Tea Party–the movement consists of independent assemblies networking under the umbrella of  It remains to be seen if this collective scream of frustration can be channeled into concrete changes like campaign finance reforms and progressive tax policies. However, the protests have certainly provided a heavy jolt of electricity to a liberal movement that has become increasingly dispirited over the Obama administration’s response to the faltering economy at a time of skyrocketing income inequality. I think we are headed for an exciting end to 2011.


It’s the Economy, Stupid. Again.

Image courtesy of Gallup

By Luke Roniger, Staff Editor

Unemployment. Taxes. Economic uncertainty.

How about all of the above? From Republican primary debates to Obama’s efforts to refocus on job creation, it is obvious that the 2012 election will hinge on all things economic. Last month saw Gallup’s Retirement Optimism Index fall to its lowest level since the 2008 crash, and few, if any, talking heads would argue against the importance of candidates’ ability to portray themselves as the most convincing economic savior. Observers can expect the rhetoric to focus on job creation, taxes, and each candidate’s plan to cure American economic malaise. If nothing else, as tax issues reveal the ideological core of Republican and Democratic parties alike, we can expect another extremely polarized election. Hold onto your hats.


Baseball Scandal Highlights Ethnic Haitian Difficulties

By Mariel Beasley, Staff Editor

Reports of Marlins’ closing pitcher, Leo Nunez, using fake documents to sign a professional contract adds an additional element to the debate surrounding birth certificates in the Dominican Republic, which has received international criticism for its policies surrounding citizenship for ethnic Haitians. The ease with which Dominican baseball players can get false documents contrasts starkly with the on-going difficulties that Dominicans of Haitian descent have in retaining their valid documents. It will be interesting to see if the Dominican Republic will be able to effectively combat document falsification amidst allegations of human rights violations.

It’s Complicated: Injectable Contraceptives and HIV Transmission in Africa

By Sharita Thomas, Staff Editor

For policymakers involved in developing regions, no issues are more urgent and confounding than those concerning improving the health outcomes of women and children and those concerning the elimination of pandemic diseases. It appears policy formation for these regions has the potential to become even more complex. The results of a recent University of Washington study, highlighted by the New York Times, proposes a link between injectable hormonal contraceptive use and higher H.I.V. transmission rates. The medical and international development communities are anxiously awaiting the results of a proposed January 2012 WHO review of the research in question and the prospective changes, if any, to current contraceptive recommendations. Media reporting on this issue should avoid simply encouraging the cessation of a proven method of birth control, and should instead focus on involving communities in the discussion of family planning and sexually transmitted infections.