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Volume VI, Issue III

February 21, 2011

JHU POLITIK PROTESTS SPREAD TO

BAHRAIN

ISSUE III, 2/21/11 Also in this Week’s Edition:

INTERNATIONAL TUNISIAN IMMIGRANTS FLEE

By Megan Augustine, ‘13 -Page 2

NATIONAL THE UNCERTAIN FUTURE OF HIGH-SPEED RAIL

By Alex Clearfield, ‘14 -Page 3

OPINION REAL BUDGET REFORM

By Matt Varvaro, ‘13 -Page 5

BIG NUMBER 2: STILL A DEVLEOPING COUNTRY

(Linsey Addario/ NY Times)

By Ari Schaffer, ‘14

by Matt Garland, ‘11 Contributing Writer

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his week, pro-democracy protests spread to the tiny island kingdom of Bahrain, sparking a harsh response from military and police forces. Protestors who have gathered in Pearl Square, the main square in the capital, Manama, were assaulted in the early hours of Thursday morning with tanks, tear gas, and police batons. The government’s iron-fisted response follows in the wake of weeks of regional unrest that has already led to the ousting of autocratic leaders in Tunisia and Egypt, as well as the sacking of the prime minister’s cabinet in Jordan. Home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, Bahrain is seen as a critical partner in a region that has served

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as the focal point of America’s foreign policy for much of the last decade. During a visit in December, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Bahrain and its monarch-led government a “model partner” for America’s Middle East strategy, much of which has been focused on counterbalancing the influence of nearby Iran and battling the rise of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. In recent months, Washington has been at pains to strike a balanced response to the wave of pro-democracy demonstrations that has swept the Arab world from the Maghreb to the Persian Gulf. Faced with supporting traditional government allies, many of whom are autocratic and deeply unpopular, or encourag-

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JOHNS HOPKINS’s Only WeeklyPublished Political Magazine

ing the demands of aggrieved Arab citizens, the Obama administration has struggled to settle on a response that both satisfies both its official diplomatic loyalties and the flared populist yearnings of the Arab street. To side too much with the former begs criticism of hypocrisy, while showing solidarity with the latter greatly threatens the existing Middle East policy framework. President Obama appeared to be on the defensive last Tuesday, during his first news conference of the year after receiving criticism over his administration’s cautious approach in offering support to the (Continued on Page 2) www.JHUPOLITIK.com


Volume VI, Issue III

February 21, 2011

The POLITIK EDITOR-In-Chief

Editor-in-Chief

Editor-in-Chief

Joshua Ayal

Harry Black

Sam Lichtenstein

Staff Writers

Executive Editors

Randy Bell Alex Clearfield Rachel Cohen Rohit Dasgupta Eric Feinberg Becca Fishbein Conor Foley Cary Glynn Benjamin Goldberg Paul Grossinger Dan Hochman Jordan Kalms Anna Kochut Briana Last Hilary Matfess Daniel Roettger Ari Schaffer

Managing Editor

Will Denton Morgan Hitzig Hannah Holliday

Matt Varvaro PRODUCTION MANAGERS

Casey Navin Neil O’Donnell Faculty Advisor

Steven R. David JHU POLITIK is a student-run political publication. Please note that the opinions expressed within JHU POLITIK are those solely of the author. Please sign up for our e-mail list on our website, www.JHUPOLITIK.com

INTERNATIONAL REPORT

(Continued from Page 1) Egyptian protestors. “History will end up recording that at every juncture in the situation in Egypt, that we were on the right side of history....What we didn’t do is pretend that we could dictate the outcome in Egypt, because we can’t,” says Obama. Though seen as a domestic victory by many Egyptians citizens, the resignation of long-time Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak on February 11th was judged by many in Washington to be a monumental challenge to the Middle East strategy that has dominated American foreign policy for decades. Mubarak’s government upheld one of only two official Arab peace treaties with Israel, America’s chief ally in the region. The other is maintained by Jordan, which is also governed by an unpopular authoritarian regime. Jordan, like Egypt, has been a traditional ally of the United States and saw similar demonstrations in January, which resulted in the sacking of Prime Minister Samir Rifai’s cabinet by King Abdullah II. In what appears to be a watershed moment in Arab history, Washington is being challenged to move beyond its habitual posturing in support of undemocratic, repressive governments. Indeed, to navigate this change without compromising its existing security strategy presents a formidable challenge to the Obama administration and its foreign policy. On Tuesday, the president said that regional governments “can’t maintain power through coercion,” arguing that Arab leaders must intro-

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duce freedom and reform before their citizens obtain it by force. Eager to avoid criticism of giving democracy a double standard, the president said, “You have a young, vibrant generation within the Middle East that is looking for greater opportunity.... You can’t be behind the curve.” Given the continued surge of protests in the region, which has now reached the shores of the Gulf States (including the counterterrorism hot-point, Yemen), the U.S. is being faced with a rapidly shifting Middle Eastern paradigm. Indeed, whether its foreign policy succeeds in weathering this transition may now rest on how well it balances the interests of its traditional allies in government and those of an embittered and newly assertive Arab populace. s

Tunisian Immigrants Flee by Megan Augustine, ‘13 and Talene Bilazarian, ‘13 Staff Writer and Contributing Writer In the past two weeks, thousands of Tunisian immigrants have flooded the island of Lampedusa off the coast of Italy, creating what the Italian government has called a “humanitarian crisis.” As of last Wednesday, (Continued on Page 3) www.JHUPOLITIK.com


Volume VI, Issue III

February 21, 2011

INTERNATIONAL REPORT / NATIONAL REPORT (Continued from Page 2)

Tunisian immigrants under guard by policemen on the Italian island of Lampedusa. (AFP)

February 16th, the BBC reported 5,000 immigrants had arrived at the island, which is located only 70 miles north of Tunisia. Due to its central location between Africa and Italy, Lampedusa is a natural entry point into the European Union for those seeking asylum in Europe. The island has seen waves of immigrants before from Libya and Egypt, among other African nations, but Italian Interior Minister Robert Maroni has called this an “unprecedented Biblical exodus.” Lampedusa formerly operated an immigrant holding center and has now reopened it to deal with the influx. This sudden upsurge is a result of the recent revolution and continuing political turmoil in Tunisia. However, massive immigration numbers following revolutions is not an unseen historical trend. In fact, domestic conflict, and especially entire revolutions, have a historical precedent for increasing concern over immigration and border control policies. In this way, the revolution of one nation affects the political realities of nearly every surrounding country. While the French-Algerian relationship revolves around far more complicated and deeply-rooted matters than simply the transfer of people from one nation to the other, it also exemplifies this immigration pattern. As referenced in the “International Journal of Peace Studies” in 1980 one-quarter of the total population of inner Paris, and 14% of the metropolitan area, were foreigners, the majority of whom came from Algeria. Despite a revolution to overthrow French authority ending in 1962, Algerian immigrants headed to France to seek employment opportunities and higher standards of living. The Iranian Revolution of 1979 caused similar problems with a mass exodus of the country’s elite fleeing to other Middle Eastern countries, Europe, and the United

States. According to an article published by FarsiNet, “In the United States alone the Iranian population grew from about 15,000 in 1965 to about 121,000 in 1980.” But the emigration that results from revolution is not a challenge for the receiving country alone. Emigration following a revolution can drain a country of its most educated and wealthiest citizens, thereby leaving it without much needed resources at a critical time of rebuilding. For instance, as a result of a corrupt government comprised of the military elite who led Algeria’s revolution, the younger, educated generations seek ways to use their skills. Emigration to Europe is often the most realistic possibility for such achievements. Similarly, in the wake of the revolution in Iran, the majority of Iranian students studying abroad found ways to remain there and bring their families out of Iran, as well. The fear and uncertainty accompanying a radical political overthrow, coupled with a history of untrustworthy governance, acts as a trigger, setting off waves of emigration. Boats carrying Egyptians are also now beginning to arrive on the shores of Lampedusa. NATO authorities have cautioned European governments to be prepared for continuing emigration waves as revolution continues to spread. While this sort of emigration may only be a symptom of a much larger problem, European countries bordering the Mediterranean have historically taken a hard line against illegal immigration through their nations. As a result, those same countries will now have to choose between strictly enforcing the law and bowing to humanitarian pressure to allow these migrants to safely flee turmoil in their homelands. s

The Uncertain Future of High-Speed Rail by Alex Clearfield, ‘14 Staff Writer President Barack Obama’s 2012 budget proposal, introduced last Monday, includes $8 billion for a national high-speed rail project, which would extend service to nearly 80% of Americans over the next 25 years. Currently, there is only one true high-speed rail service in the country: Amtrak’s Acela route, which serves the Northeast from Boston to Washington, D.C. Overall, President Obama’s proposal pledges a total of $53 billion (Continued on Page 4)

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Volume VI, Issue III

February 21, 2011

NATIONAL REPORT / OPINION (Continued from Page 3) for high-speed rail over the next six years. The proposal differentiates between three types of rail service. Core Express Corridors would serve as the main arteries of the high-speed rail service, operating electrified trains that would service major cities. Next, Regional Corridors would serve mid-sized cities and share track with other rail lines. Finally, Emerging Routes would serve smaller, less populated areas. Trains on the Core Express Corridors are projected to travel up to 250 miles per hour, twice Acela’s current speed. There are currently two high-speed rail projects in planning stages. Construction on a Florida route will begin later this year; it would connect Tampa, Orlando, and Miami, and operate at speeds faster than Acela does. The other project, arguably the most important, would connect California. The current plan is for one line to start in Sacramento and another to start in San Francisco, with both terminating in San Diego by way of Los Angeles. It is hoped that this rail line would help wean California from its notorious car dependence. The California project is expected to start construction in September 2012. Both projects were awarded federal grants in 2010. There are many obstacles to a national high-speed rail program: new track, right-of-way issues with freight trains, and, perhaps most importantly, Republican opposition. Republicans oppose the current Amtrak system, which has been subsidized for nearly 40 years. The Republican argument is that the private sector can operate rail lines more efficiently than the government can and that the high-speed rail service would not be popular enough to make its high investment costs effective. To be sure, rail ridership in the U.S. is astoundingly low compared to that of other developed countries. The Midwest and West are mostly dependent on the Interstate Highway System, as it can link major cities surrounded by sparsely populated areas fairly quickly. Rail ridership is highest in the Northeast, which is served by Acela and the slower Northeast Regional train. The Northeast also enjoys a large number of daily departures; there are significantly less in other areas of the country. In 2010, Amtrak carried 29.1 million passengers for a total of just 0.1% of passenger-miles traveled in the country. Republicans are opposed to the project, which represents the second major attempt by the federal government to revitalize public rail. Republicans cite the low ridership of Amtrak as a main factor, reasoning that people will not be willing to use high-speed rail if they do

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not already use existing rail services. Vice President Joe Biden, a supporter of Amtrak who has, by his own estimate, ridden it nearly 8,000 times, has said that high-speed rail would represent a “down payment” on an important infrastructure improvement, much in the way that the Interstate Highway System changed intercity travel in the 1950s. However, even in the 1950s cars were an integral part of daily life; passenger trains were not then, and are still not today for most Americans. Last Wednesday, Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, announced that he was going to reject $2.4 billion in federal funding for the Florida high-speed rail line. Many have attacked the move, especially Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), who said that nearly 24,000 jobs would be created by undertaking the project. If Florida decides not to accept the money, the Department of Transportation will disburse it to other states for their high-speed rail projects. The Republican governors of both Ohio and Wisconsin had previously rejected smaller sums of money for high-speed rail projects. The Democrats have a quandary on their hands. While in theory an efficient high-speed rail system would pay huge dividends in the future, it would cost an enormous sum now. It is politically convenient that the two projects closest to starting are in two areas in dire need of improved rail systems, as opposed to one in a less populated area or a revamping of the already well-served Northeast Corridor. The Obama administration and the Department of Transportation have a lot of work to do to convince the public that high-speed rail can be a viable competitor to automobiles. The question remains: if it is there, will it be used? s

Real Budget Reform by Matt Varvaro, ‘13 Managing Editor As the power of the purse shifts hands to a new House Republican majority, President Obama stands with veto pen firmly in hand in what is shaping up to be a bitterly partisan battle over the federal budget. As this debate unfolds, however, the American people should be aware of one very important reality: namely, that the budget cuts (Continued on Page 5)

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Volume VI, Issue III

February 21, 2011

OPINION (Continued from Page 4) that each side is proposing are not nearly enough to address the looming fiscal crisis in a meaningful way. Consider the supposedly bold budget initiative that the president released last week, which reduces projected deficits over the next decade by about $1.1 trillion. To put this in perspective, now consider that this $1.1 trillion in ten-year deficit reduction is virtually equivalent to next year’s projected deficit alone. Even the $100 billion cuts that House Republicans promised to enact in their first year in the majority do not amount to very much in the context of annual deficits of over $1 trillion. In order to truly tackle the deficit problem, it is important to keep in mind a couple of key points: first, the sheer magnitude of the deficit is quite dramatic and its explosion is a relatively recent phenomenon. Remember that, as recently as 2006, the federal deficit was about $250 billion, or slightly less than 2% of GDP. In 2007, the deficit’s share of the economy shrunk to just over(AP) 1%, which, although still unacceptable from the point of view of a budget hawk, was manageable. Compare that to the past two years’ federal deficits, which have hovered around an astonishing 10% of GDP, or about $1.5 trillion annually. Deficits this high are simply unacceptable and unsustainable, and could pose a serious threat to long-term economic growth. Second, it is important to identify the source of this deficit problem. Contrary to popular claims made on the editorial page of the New York Times, this very recent deficit explosion cannot be attributed to “tax cuts for the rich” or spending on wars in the Middle East, both of which have been in place throughout the past decade. Rather, the obvious source of the ballooning deficit is the dramatic increase in discretionary domestic spending, which has risen by over 27% in just the past two years – and that figure has been widely disputed as many argue that the real increase, including stimulus spending, has been even greater. The federal government today spends twice as much money in nominal terms as it did just a decade ago and total federal spending has reached onequarter of GDP. This represents an astounding 25% increase in the size of government relative to the economy from 2007, when federal spending totaled less than onefifth of GDP, just about the post-World War II average. Entitlement programs pose the greatest threat to fiscal stability going forward and each of the so-called “big three” – Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid – should undergo dramatic reform. The precise nature of these reforms is a discussion for another article, but some possibilities include means testing and raising the

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retirement age of Social Security while expanding personal retirement accounts, converting Medicare to a voucher program, and block granting Medicaid funds to the states. It is also true that defense spending can be reduced, although given that it happens to be one of the federal government’s only explicitly constitutionally-authorized and legitimate responsibilities, it should generally be the last area to see major cuts. Recognizing the need to address these programs should not, however, preclude reforms to the spending that got us into this fiscal mess in the first place and now is a better time than ever to reevaluate the federal role in many domestic programs. For instance, perhaps the time has come to end the federal government’s involvement in agriculture and discontinue the price supports and subsidies that raise food prices for every single American consumer to the benefit of a few large agribusinesses. Likewise, perhaps the federal government should return education policy and funding back to the states, rather than continue the current practice of having taxpayers send money to Washington, lose a significant portion to the federal bureaucracy, and then have the remainder sent back to school districts. Federal education policy should particularly be called into question considering the utter failure of skyrocketing federal education spending to bring any improvements to education whatsoever, by any measurable criteria, such as test scores. Similar questions can be asked about a score of other wasteful and ineffective – and, in many cases, counterproductive – federal programs like housing and urban development policy and the War on Drugs. Individuals of the Keynesian persuasion argue that such cuts would be irresponsible, particularly in the midst of a weak economy. Instead, they call on the federal government to run huge deficits now, spur aggregate demand and job growth, and then use the growth-induced funds to pay down the deficit. This policy is akin to taking water out of one side of a lake, dumping it into the other side, and claiming that the overall water level has risen. A more effective solution would be to reduce spending by reforming entitlements and trimming down the federal welfare bureaucracy, while enacting common sense tax reform that ideally eliminates unfair means of double-taxation like the capital gains, dividends, and estate taxes, dramatically reduces the corporate tax rate (now the single highest in the world), and enacts a low, broadbased flat tax. This pro-growth agenda would spur (Continued on Page 6)

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OPINION (Continued from Page 5) booming business investment and activity in the American economy, and would more than make up for any lost government jobs, all while flooding the government with new tax revenue that could be used to balance the budget. Enacting this agenda would take bold new leadership in Washington, certainly far more than either party has exhibited thus far. Ultimately, in order to both avoid a European-style debt crisis and to remain competitive in the global economy, it may simply be done out of necessity. s

Big Number 2: Still a Developing Country by Ari Schaffer, ‘14 Staff Writer

Fireworks display to celebrate the Chinese New Year in Dalian, China. (Feng Li/Getty Images)

Oftentimes the news media and its avid readers and watchers alike take small problems and blow them out of proportion. China recently became the second largest economy by GDP in the world, surpassing long lagging Japan, but despite a few newspaper articles here and there, there has not been that much buzz about this development. Despite the general concern over an increasingly wealthy, powerful and aggressive China, Americans just do not seem worried. Even the Chinese, who are the first to show national pride, are not celebrating in the streets. It seems as if no one is really interested. The news that China had surpassed Japan came on Valentine’s Day, but economists had been expecting it for a long time. The Japanese economy has been in a

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malaise for almost twenty years. Ever since the economic miracle came to a halt with the Tokyo Stock Exchange crash in the early 1990s, Japan has experienced very low, or even negative, economic growth. China on the other hand, has continued to flourish, reaching remarkable levels of annual growth, as high as 10%. This year, China finally outstripped Japan by reaching $5.88 trillion in GDP. Economists had been predicting this swap for months and when the news finally came, no one was surprised. Regardless, should this news have caused more uproar and concern? By becoming the second largest economy in the world, China has seemingly made an important step forward and has solidified its position as a world power. The fact is, however, that the change is not as momentous as it might sound. With a population of 1.33 billion people, it was only a matter of time before China overtook its more lightly populated economic rivals. Having a large workforce and low labor costs has boosted China’s economic viability, allowing it to supply the world with the cheap production that it is famous for doing. How many American goods, clothing, food and toys, are made in China? The Chinese contribution to world trade is unparalleled by any other country. However, cheap labor is the sign of a weak economy, not a strong one. Chinese citizens and journalists alike, from the Wall Street Journal Chinese edition to the Chinese newspaper The People’s Daily, recognize that China has a long way to go. Still trailing the United Stated by almost double its current GDP, the prospect that China will surpass the U.S. and become the world’s number one economy seem at most a far off dream. Although China ranks second in GDP, its income per capita lags much farther behind in the rankings at number 95 in the world with just $4,283 per person. By contrast, America’s GDP per capita is $46,500 per person, over ten times higher. Clearly, despite their incredible economic gains, the Chinese have a long way to go to reach the level of economic development of countries such as Britain and Germany, whose gross domestic products they surpassed years ago. Even if China were to surpass the United States, the per capita income would still lag far behind that of any of the other major industrialized nations. The standard of living in China is much lower than the other industrialized countries. Due to corruption and a very hierarchal societal structure, the Chinese at the bottom of the ladder do not share in the success of their country. (Continued on Page 7) www.JHUPOLITIK.com


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OPINION (Continued from Page 6) Seen in this light, the news of China’s recent success isn’t all that special. A recent Wall Street Journal poll of its Chinese reader’s revealed that 67% of its readers are not proud of the change. Chinese, Americans, and people around the world realize that although China’s economy is growing, the numbers belie the true state of the Chinese people. Although China’s footprint on the world economy is continuously expanding, the chances that it will overtake the United States where it truly matters, in the standard of living, are very dim. While some may grumble about the ever growing power of the East or point to the most recent economic numbers as a sign of the future Chinese dominance over the world economy, the majority has it right. There really is nothing to be worried about. s

Hopkins This Week

presents

FRANKLIN RAINES

Former Chairman and CEO of Frannie Mae Thursday, February 24th 7 PM in Hodson 110 www.jhu.edu/fas

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Volume VI, Issue III  

Volume VI, Issue III

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