A new book titled Africa’s Odious Debts: How Foreign Loans and Capital Flight Bled a Continent begins its conclusion with the following. During the past four decades, sub-Saharan Africa has experienced a financial hemorrhage. We estimate that from the thirty-three countries for which we have data, capital flight between 1970 and 2008 amounted to $735 billion in 2008 currency. Including imputed interest earnings, the drain of resources amounted to $944 billion. These sums far surpass the same countries’ combined external debts, which stood at $177 billion in 2008. This means that sub-Saharan Africa is a net creditor to the rest of the world. If this is true, why are so many of Africa’s people so poor? The answer, of course, is that the subcontinent’s external assets are private and in the hands of a narrow and wealthy stratum of its population, whereas its external debts are public and therefore borne by the people as a whole through their governments. Our statistical estimates indicate that half or more of the money flowing into Africa as foreign loans exited in the same year as capital flight. Now joining us are the authors of the book: Professor Leonce Ndikumana, who teaches economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and is a research associate at the PERI institute, and Professor James K. Boyce, director of the Program on Development, Peace Building and Environment at PERI institute. Thank you both for joining us.
from the transcript:
PAUL JAY: So this is the beginning of what’s going to be a three-part series. In part one, we’re going to talk about the roots of this debt crisis in Africa. In the second part, we’re going to talk about the human costs of the crisis. And in the third part, we’re going to talk about solutions and just what the word “odious debt” refers to. So, Leonce, can you give us some background on what you mean by this odious debt, some of the historical roots of this debt? …
In Part 2, Léonce Ndikumana and James K. Boyce explain how the cost of servicing external odious debt leads to tragic underspending on health care and education (11:50):
from the transcript:
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington. This is the second part of our series of interviews based on the book Africa’s Odious Debts: How Foreign Loans and Capital Flight Bled a Continent. One of the things the book points out is that Africa spends more on servicing its external debt than it does on health care. …
And in Part 3, Léonce Ndikumana and James K. Boyce detail how international law supports Africa rejecting debts that did not benefit the people (18:04):
from the transcript:
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington. This is the third and final part of our series of interviews based on the book Africa’s Odious Debts: How Foreign Loans and Capital Flight Bled a Continent. In the first two parts of our interviews, we talked about the extent to which Africa’s debt was accumulated because IMF and World Bank and private banks made loans to dictators, kleptocracies, in the name of the Cold War and for the sake of the scramble for the riches of Africa, gave these loans knowing they would be, essentially, misused, not used for the benefit of the people of the countries that did the borrowing. So the question in this segment we’re asking: then why the heck should the people of these countries keep servicing these debts? And it turns out there is some international law that says maybe they shouldn’t be. …
From Amy Gahran at Contentious, from a journalist’s point of view:
It sucks when you work really hard to do the fairest, most systematic investigation of a topic that deeply affects many people’s lives — but the very people who are suffering most from the topic of your research refuse to believe what you have to say, or accuse you of being part of some conspiracy to hoodwink them. And meanwhile, your less skilled or less ethical colleagues are producing their own research and reports designed to foster fear, uncertainty, and doubt.
That generates considerable friction, controversy, and conflict. And worse, it delays the discovery and implementation of real solutions.
Why does this happen — and what can journalists and scientists do about it?…
Panic Virus isn’t a great book (I found most of it tiresomely redundant, like a heavily padded feature article), but the 2nd half of ch. 16 on cognitive biases is relevant here.
There (starting at about location 3100 in the Kindle edition), Mnookin explains psychological phenomena such as pattern recognition, the clustering illusion, cognitive dissonance, and availability cascades. They’re just part of how our brains work, and the practices of science and journalism often act as counterbalances to these innate tendencies. That’s why science and journalism are fundamentally uncomfortable and controversial professions.
But these quirks of how brains work are why just presenting facts and information often has the opposite social effect that journalists hope for.
I think if our goal as journalists is to help people understand how things really are, how they got that way, what might happen next, and what people might do to steer the future or protect their interests, we need to think hard about how to accommodate — not deny — these psychological tendencies.
Aside from an excellent post, about an issue Paul Rosenberg explored for years at Open Left, the post has a great update. The question of how you deal with true believers, who believe despite their belief hurting their interests, how do you bring them to an awareness of reality, that’s a key question for progressives as well as journalists.
There is a core 15-25% in this country that consistently vote against their interests because they’re triggered by some larger group, usually by triggering racist fears (e.g. “Don’t give Medicare to people not like me”) but economic fears also can trigger a reaction (and a vote) against ones interests. This group, while small, is big enough to swing close elections and off elections. Which is one reason, of many, that we need to discuss and debate this issue of how people perceive reality and how to help people see reality more clearly.
After students representing each of Iowa’s state Universities testified before the Senate Education Appropriation Committee today to oppose severe budget cuts for higher education, Senator Shawn Hamerlinck of Dixon, ranking Republican on the committee, responded to the students’ testimony by telling them to “go home.”
Hamerlinck stated, “I do not like it when students actually come here and lobby me for funds. That’s just my opinion. I want to wish you guys the best. I want you to go home and graduate. But this political theater, leave the circus to us OK? Go home and enjoy yourselves. I want to thank you for joining us and though I have to concede, your time speaking before us is kind of a tad intense. It’s probably a pretty new experience. You probably prepared for it for days and you sat there in front of us trying to make sure your remarks were just right, and that’s a good thing. But actually spending your time worrying about what we’re doing up here, I don’t want you to do that. Go back home. Thanks guys.”
The students were invited to the Capitol as part of “Open Budget Hearings.” The goal of the hearings was to hear feedback from Iowans impacted by the proposed budget cuts, including the effects of what some have described as the Republican’s “two-year starvation diet for Iowa schools.”
From Jeff Bryant:
As educators close out this school year and go into planning mode for the next, what many of them truly dread is the fiscal nightmare being handed to them by miserly state governments who’ve decided to balance their budgets on the backs of helpless school children.
According to a new survey conducted by the American Association of School Administrators, three-quarters of school districts will be eliminating jobs in 2011-12, sending nearly a quarter of a million of the nation’s public school educators and their support staff into the ranks of the unemployed.
And a somewhat related link from one of my sisters, More Black Men Now in Prison System than Enslaved in 1850.
Of course, all this is 100% preventable if the wealthiest paid 60-90% on their incomes above some amount ($100 million? Certainly $1 billion.) and corporations paid taxes. Sadly you don’t hear those facts in the media even though most Americans, judging by polls, get this truth.
So a long term research study finds that students who can’t read well by third-grade are four times less likely to graduate from high school than their proficient peers. If you’re a Republican in New Jersey pushing budget cuts what should you do? Cut funding for day care for poor kids, silly. It seems for Republicans the best way to spend education dollars is to decry our failing public education system while undercutting the programs that research shows has the greatest impact on long term student achievement as too costly and unfair.
Follow me after the jump, and we’ll look at how Republicans in New Jersey are throwing their children’s future under bus because “the constitution doesn’t require it” despite some new research that underscores just how costly these cuts will be in the long term.
If you want to get a full scope of the education cutbacks slamming the nation’s schools, just go to this report from the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities and keep your pinky on scroll. What you’ll see are page after page of cuts to education being enacted in over 40 states and the District of Columbia. In Minnesota 9,400 students are having their college tuition grants cut . . . in Arizona, preschool is being eliminated for 4,328 children, and parents who want more than a half-day of kindergarten are going to have to pay for it . . . Hawaii is shortening the school year by 17 days. The carnage goes on and on.
Public schools everywhere are being hit by a perfect storm of drop-offs in state revenues and shortages of municipal funds stemming from declining home values and widespread joblessness. Although the federal government helped partially stave off this calamity by funding 266,000 education jobs in the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund from in the Recovery Act of 2009, most of those funds are gone and any remaining can’t be “banked” for programs and teaching positions in the 2011-12 school year.
Faced with a national disaster of such proportion, the customary response from the populace is to turn to our national leadership in Washington, DC. But if recent events are accurate indicators, the thought leadership on education inside the Beltway is preoccupied with nonsense.
Gee, you’d almost think Democrats and Republicans want public education to fail. Then again, perhaps it is truly incompetence.
I’ve linked Our Future and Jeff’s author page on the right column for your convenience.
Wisconsin’s Democracy Explosion Partially Due to Sharply Split Views of School Success–Local vs. National [New]
Cross-posted from Dirty Hippies
One reason that Wisconsin erupted the way that it did is a long-standing disconnect between the power of the national discourse about failing schools–which people tend to buy into in the abstract–and the reality of the fact that most people feel that the schools their children go to are doing a pretty good job. So long as the education discourse remains national, abstract, and removed from most people’s experience, it has proven relatively easy to keep moving that discourse into a gloomier and gloomie direction, a process that has grown more intense than ever the past half decade or so. But when the battleground suddenly shifted to putting local teachers under the gun, Republicans gravely miscalculated where the public’s sentiments would lie. Several decades of data tell us that we shouldn’t have been surprised.
In a diary at DKos Sunday, Teachers: the new enemy of the states?, Steve Singiser wrote:
The boldness with which the foes of teachers unions are surging forward seems to hint at the fact that they feel at, in this moment, they have the upper hand with the electorate. And they may well be right.
Consider an odd disconnect in a Gallup survey on education conducted late last summer:
Percent declaring they are satisfied with the quality of K-12 education in the United States (2004 results in parentheses)
Satisfied: 43 (53)
Dissatisfied: 54 (45)
Percent declaring they are satisfied with the quality of their own child’s education (2004 results in parentheses)
Satisfied: 80 (79)
Dissatisfied: 19 (19)
What these results would seem to imply is that there has been some negative movement on the perceptions of K-12 education (admittedly, 2004 was a high-water mark, but it’s worth noting that 2010 marked the lowest support on this question since 2001).
But the data also implies that parental observations of their own child’s education have not diminished at all. Indeed, the 80% satisfaction level recorded in the 2010 survey was the strongest level of satisfaction since 1999.
In fact, the disconnect between views of education at the national level and those parents have of their own children’s schools have always been substantial, ever since Gallup began asking the questions in their joint polling series in association with Phi Delta Kappa. (PDK’s poll results announcement here, PDF here) There has been a noticeable spike in the negative nationwide perceptions over the past half decade, but it’s building on a long-standing historical foundation that is grounded more in propaganda than in reality.
(Charts on flip)
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The Obama administration has continued the fantasy of education as a solution to economic problems. Yet more evidence of this in a recent report refuting the idea that we need a whole slew of people trained in science and math and etc. Most of the actual jobs that are available are in the lowest paying and lowest skilled areas of the economy.
About 3.5 million of the jobs lost in the downturn were in high-wage industries, but fewer than 200,000 of the jobs created in the last year were in those same industries. Over half of the jobs created since the economy bottomed out were in the lowest-paying industries. . . .
“[T]he job opportunities currently available to workers have deteriorated compared to what was available before the recession.” The NELP data flatly contradict the idea that the economy is currently facing a structural “mismatch” where workers don’t have the skills that employers are demanding. The recession-related job losses were concentrated in high-wage industries and the new jobs have been in low-wage industries, leaving millions of workers from middle- and high-wage industries high and dry.
See also an earlier post of mine at Education Policy Blog about why education does not create jobs.