Hillary Clinton – A Force for Change or More of the Same?

Hillary Clinton announced on Sunday what everybody knew had been coming for months: she would be standing as a presidential candidate for the democrats. As many political commentators are crowing, this was more of a coronation than anything else, for there is simply nobody else with the clout within the party that would appear to be running. Neither does there appear to be any dangerous outsiders joining the race; there will be no Obama-esque figure to thwart Clinton this time. Considering that Clinton will almost certainly be the democrat candidate that ends up driving their push for another stint in the white house, it’s worth exploring the highs and lows of the career of a woman who may end up as the head of state of our most prominent ally.

The Good

  • Following the US’ first black president with its first female president would be a clear sign of progress in contrast to much of the socially regressive rhetoric of the Republicans. Moreover, her policies do show a focus on gender-related issues, and she has been an active campaigner for women’s rights since the 90s
  • Clinton previously campaigned for health reform when her husband was in office, so it is hoped would continue to tackle the shambolic US health system
  • Has promised action to redress unfair elements of US society, such as increasing the minimum wage (the federal minimum is just $7.25/£4.93 an hour, although many states pay higher)
  • Favours achievable targets relating to gun control, such as outlawing assault weapons
  • Back in 2001, she called for the abolition of the electoral collage frequently criticized for being undemocratic, with Clinton instead favouring a president elected entirely based on the popular vote
  • Is committed to combating climate change, unlike many of her Republican opponents – Clinton is committed to ratifying the Kyoto Protocol committing nations to reduce their emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases
  • Has urged more financial and military aid be sent to Ukraine

The Bad

  • Hillary Clinton is far closer to Israel than her predecessor, who has become increasingly infuriated with Israel’s diplomatic blunders and recent denouncement of the Iranian nuclear deal. Clinton would represent a move towards closer ties to Israel, and thus provide further protection for continued Israeli injustices – she herself supported the creation of the Western Bank Barrier
  • Voted in favour of the 2001 USA patriot act, and has also remarked that human rights are secondary to national security
  • Previously showed a lukewarm approach towards gay marriage, only conclusively “coming out” (hurhurhur) in support of gay marriage in 2013 (sadly coming out in support of gay marriage is the closest you’ll get to a presidential candidate coming out in this generation of US politics)
  • Criticized Obama in 2008 for supporting Iranian negotiations, only to later voice support for the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal
  • Voted in favour of the Iraq war only to later criticize US involvement
  • Formerly supported the Cuban embargo
  • Weak track record as secretary of state, particularly in her “new slate” approach to Russia that the Republicans have gleefully jumped upon in light of events in Eastern Europe
  • Criticized Edward Snowden as a traitor and terrorist, but nevertheless sees no hypocrisy in winning cheap points by making vague statements about how NSA surveillance made people feel “betrayed”

The Ugly

  • Famously refused to concede defeat to Obama when this was obvious to all by invoking memories of Robert Kennedy’s assassination
  • Signed an act making flag burning illegal
  • Blasted Grand Theft Auto and other violent video games as “a major threat to morality,” despite all research into this area showing no link between violence and playing violent video games
  • Was embroiled in a scandal earlier in the year due to her usage of a private email account whilst Secretary of State to withhold documents from the State Department

Conclusion

Hillary Clinton would definitely be preferable to some of the frankly dangerous candidates the Republicans are fielding, however she herself is much more of a moderate than she is a reformer.

That’s not to say that she is not genuinely committed to some level of reform. Conversely, she appears ready to tackle some of the most pressing issues that the US people are facing – a low minimum wage, stalling progress in the fight for women’s right, a health system that doesn’t work for the people, and an inability amongst the political elite to take responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions.

However, how radical are many of her “reformist” notions?  Her policies on gun control, whilst having the advantage of being realistic, don’t actually propose anything as radical as real, effective management of the distribution of firearms. A federal minimum wage of $7.25 demands reform. Whilst many of her other past attitudes, such as in ratifying the Kyoto protocol and reforming the US health system, are admirable, they are also hardly a radical departure from fairly standard democratic principles and policies, nor a departure from those of the current president.

Moreover, Clinton has shown a lack of integrity on important issues that simply cannot be ignored: She has contradicted herself on the Iranian nuclear deal, on same-sex marriage, on the Iraq War. Her attitude towards creating a fairer American society is at odds with her defence of one of the world’s greatest injustices in the annexation and segregation of the Palestinian people.

Outside of these inconsistencies in policy and outside of her sometimes borderline-Machiavellian pragmatism, Clinton has spoken consistently in favour of measures that range from regressive to just downright bizarre. Be it her unclear position on the surveillance of the NSA, her unfounded scaremongering on the societal effect of violent video games, or her chest-thumping jingoism on flag burning, all of these oddities reveal a figure who still overall speaks in the language of the current US political class.

Despite this, she would still be my preferred choice for US president when the competition features the likes of Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. Based on the current crop of hopefuls, she undeniably is the best hope of any kind of real progress – but that is faint praise indeed.

Conor Dunwoody


Sources (I’ve only linked to the more obscure points I’ve raised)

On potential for Obama to be assassinated – http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/tobyharnden/3659451/Hillary_Clinton_Maybe_Barack_Obama_will_be_assassinated/

Support for Western Bank barrier – http://www.haaretz.com/news/sen-clinton-i-support-w-bank-fence-pa-must-fight-terrorism-1.173922

On the abolition of the electoral collage – http://www.cbsnews.com/news/hillary-calls-for-end-to-electoral-college/

On Ukranian aid – http://www.politico.com/story/2015/01/hillary-clinton-ukraine-aid-military-financial-114462.html

On Violent Video Games – http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/news290305clinton

On Edward Snowden and the NSA – http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/feb/25/hillary-clinton-people-betrayed-nsa-surveillance-edward-snowden

On Flag Burning – http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/28/washington/28hillary.html

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Foreign Aid, International Markets and UKIP

Nigel Farage recently promised UKIP would slash our annual £11billion budget for foreign aid by £9billion. On the face of it, this may seem tough but fair – why help those outside the UK when we have a rising level of children living in poverty, a strained NHS and a struggling middle class?

It is briefly worth noting that foreign aid is unrelated to the EU, which UKIP of course see as the source of all our ills. Rather, the tyrannical oppressor here is the evil empire of the UN, which has set targets of 0.7% of GDP to be spent on foreign aid. Currently, our spending on foreign aid is just shy of this target, and has increased by over 0.1% in the past two years. Interestingly enough, every other major party leader in the UK is committed to reaching this goal of 0.7% spending on foreign aid. Why, then, do we see such a commitment to foreign aid, even from the conservatives so well-known for their attitude of self-financing? Moreover, why would the cut-happy coalition not just continue spending in this area, but actually increase it whilst preaching austerity?

There are all sorts of arguments for foreign aiding rooted in a moral perspective, and ones that I’d agree with. These range from our culpability as a former colonial power to our responsibility as a strong nation to help those less fortunate. Also of importance here are the potential diplomatic ramifications that would resulting from severing aid with the third world.

However even from a perspective solely of self-interest, Farage’s ideas are illogical, dangerous and wilfully misleading. A breakdown of how we spend our foreign aid budget is telling here. 22% of our 2011-12 bilateral aid budget (bilateral aid being aid sent directly to foreign governments) was devoted to health, which includes spending in aid of stopping the spread of HIV, malaria and more recently Ebola. An example of how the DFID (Department for International Development, who spend 88% of our budget for foreign aid) use their funding is the £7.5million Emergency Ebola Response Fund. Stopping the spread of diseases such as Ebola and HIV can be important for a number of reasons:

  1. Stopping the spread of particularly virulent diseases such as Ebola reduces the potential for this disease to spread to the developed world
  2. Diseases such as malaria, HIV and Ebola can wipe out huge chunks of developing populations, which has a negative effect on these economies and thus limits potential growth for the international economy
  3. One thing Farage recently complained about was foreign nationals coming to the UK for free treatment of HIV – many of these are asylum seekers, and if a more concerted effort was taken to eliminate diseases such as HIV in the developing world, this would not be a problem in the first place

Also included under health is “reproductive, maternal and newborn health,” which accounted for 6% of our bilateral aid spending in 2011-12. This kind of spending reduces family size in developing countries, and can be seen to great effect in Bangladesh, which has seen the crude birth rate fall from 47 (per 1,000) in 1970, to 35.1 in 1990, to 20.3 in 2012. Smaller family sizes and stabilising populations are key to the development of such economies, which is one reason why we invested £18.6million into improving Bangladesh’s “reproductive, maternal and newborn health” in the period 2011-2.

In fairness, UKIP have committed to token investment in health-based aid on their ever-changing list of policies. One focus of foreign aid that is key and not referenced as sacred enough to avoid cuts on UKIP’s online list of policies, however, is education. The importance of investing in education is reflected in our spending on foreign aid; of the £4.2billion the DFID spent on bilateral aid in 2012, 11.3% went into education. Last year, this figure had risen to 13.4%. Education is important to help developing countries produce skilled workers that can drive forward their economies, thus resulting in more developed trade partners for our country. £44million was invested in Bangladesh’s education system in the period 2011-12, with the DFID concluding that this had led to more girls enrolling in school, as well as improving net enrolment in primary education.

The third and final area of foreign spending I would highlight is wealth creation, which accounted for 13.2% of our bilateral aid budget in 2011-12. Put simply, wealth creation is the idea of accumulating assets that will generate income and thus stimulate economic growth, and much of our spending on foreign aid has gone into creating the infrastructure to allow wealth creation in developing nations. Our investment in this area in 2011-2 was matched by spending 9.6% of our bilateral aid budget in creating “global partnerships.” This is vital to producing more developed trade partners, and an example of wealth creation out of self-interest can be seen through the billions the US poured into the European economies after the second world war via the Marshall plan. Frankly, to not invest in these countries in the short term will be detrimental to the long-term health of the international market, with these nations representing untapped potential for growth. The justification for spending £57million on wealth creation in Bangladesh from 2011-12 was “supporting private sector development, jobs and skills, as the foundation for more sustainable, equitable and higher growth and development over the long term.” Perfectly reasonable justifications, but who needs those when you can just use scaremongering tactics to appeal to base populism?

UKIP are nothing if not short-sighted, however, and this is epitomised through the fact that £240million of the DFID’s bilateral aid budget for 2011-12 went towards prevention of climate change, which obviously benefits the UK as much as anybody else. I won’t bother exploring this point in detail as UKIP don’t subscribe to the idea climate change to begin with, promising amongst other things to end subsidies for green energy and close down the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Parallels can nevertheless be seen in UKIP’s attitudes to climate change and their attitude towards the developing world, though, with both short-sighted in the extreme. After all, why create a better future for the next generation when you can just line the pockets of this one?

It is thus abundantly clear that UKIP’s rhetoric on foreign policy is not just divisive, but also misleading and dangerous. Their approach to foreign aid would represent not just a rejection of moral responsibility, nor just a diplomatic blunder. More than that, these proposed cuts are part of a tunnel-vision approach to the global economy that would stunt future economic growth, and in doing so hurt us along with the nations denied aid; any short-term savings we might gain, already negligible in the grand scheme of government spending, would be inconsequential considering the damaging long-term repercussions of failing to invest in the developing world.

Conor Dunwoody


Sources

UK party leaders consensus on meeting foreign aid targets – http://www.bond.org.uk/blog/23/turnupsavelives-cross-party-consensus-continues

DFID mandate – https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-international-development/about#what-we-do

DFID Ebola spending – https://www.goalglobal.org/DEERF_Sierra_Leone_applications

2011-12 and 2011-12 foreign aid spending –

(1) Broad overview: http://www.ukan.org.uk/aid-quantity/uk-aid-breakdown/

(2) Detailed analysis, including individual aid to countries such as Bangladesh:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/67353/Annual-report-accounts-2011-12.pdf

2014 DFID spending – https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/403381/SID-2014-revised-UNDP-figure-feb15.pdf

Bangladeshi Birth Rates – http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/bangladesh_bangladesh_statistics.html

UKIP policies on foreign aid and climate change – http://www.ukip.org/policies_for_people

HIV, Immigration and the Real Cost of Health Tourism

In the recent leader debates, UKIP leader Nigel Farage highlighted that over 60% of the 7,000 HIV sufferers in this country are foreign nationals, using this as an example of how the open-door immigration has led to a strained NHS. Condemnation amongst the other party leaders was universal, however polls have since revealed over half of the public agreed with Farage’s comments. So, is there any weight to his claims?

It’s first worth noting that the actual cost of health tourism is estimated at £70-100million per year, with the £2billion figure thrown around on the debates a misrepresentation. The £2billion figure accounts largely for groups such as asylum seekers, migrant workers and international students – it should be noted that the last two groups positively contribute to our economy.

The cost of treating the 4,000+ HIV positive foreign nationals (note: not health tourists) Farage took a shot at would be £10.5million per annum on his (exaggerated) estimate of treatment at £25,000 a year. Most estimates for the cost of treatment per year fall within £15,000-20,000, which puts the figure at more like £7.5million per annum treating these patients. In the grand scheme of the £110billion budget the NHS has, nothing more than a drop in an ocean.

Most importantly of all, treating HIV reduces its transmission, thus saving spending more money treating more sufferers. Or that’s what a little organisation known as the Department of Health would argue, anyway – I’m sure Farage would accuse them of failing to share his bigotry on the grounds of “political correctness.”

So, on moral and practical grounds, treating these people is certainly not a case of “wasted” money. Health tourism accounts for (at most) 0.1% of total NHS spending, and spending on foreign nationals afflicted with HIV accounts for a minuscule 0.01% of total NHS spending. Choosing a disease that is still stigmatised, especially amongst the homophobic elements amongst UKIP’s core audience, should also be condemned – this is not the first time Farage has picked on HIV sufferers to illustrate a point, and it begs the question of why he doesn’t pick on a group such as cancer victims. Regardless, Farage’s comments are nothing more than UKIP shoehorning immigration and the EU into yet another debate when there are much more important issues to be tackled.

Conor Dunwoody

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