Notes from the front of 19-02-2018

Trump’s increased military spending will lead to war on US workers

The Trump Administration’s new budget sharply increases Federal government spending, mainly on the military. This follows the decision to make large cuts to taxes for big business and the rich, under the fake title of ‘tax reform’. The result will be a sharp rise in the Federal deficit and the increased risk of big new cuts to all types of welfare, social security and Medicare and Medicaid spending.

Government outlays in the budget amount to US$4.4 trillion, an increase of approximately $500 billion – most of which is allocated to significantly increased military spending. The spending increase follows a package of tax from, where the top 20 per cent of earners will reap 90 per cent of the benefit. Some of the lowest paid workers will be worse off.

Increased military spending should end the myth that Trump is an isolationist.

The combination of lower tax revenues and higher spending will of course lead to a substantially higher Federal deficit. There is nothing in the budget to raise the growth, with Trump’s much-touted focus on infrastructure leading to new spending of just $20 billion a year, equivalent to 0.1 per cent of GDP. The non-party Congressional Budget Office projects a surge in the deficit to 7.6 per cent of GDP by 2027.

The US may struggle to fund increased borrowing from overseas at current interest rates. Long-term interest rates on government bonds are already rising, adding to the turmoil in financial markets.

The entirely predictable rise in the deficit could place the US’s meagre spending on social security and other programmes in Trump’s firing line. The risk is that the scapegoats for the much wider deficit will once again be US low-paid workers and the poor. Trump might take little persuading to launch a new war on ‘welfare mothers’, ‘free-loading immigrants’ and other reactionary garbage.

DUP blocks moves to equality, emboldened by their Tory sponsors

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leadership last week reneged on a deal it had agreed to restore the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Stormont Executive. The Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the Prime Minister Theresa May were left humiliated as they travelled to Belfast to put their seals on a deal that the Unionist leadership were already preparing to renege on.

The DUP is a sectarian supremacist organisation, one of the most reactionary political currents in Western Europe. Its current swagger derives directly from the backroom deal it has struck to prop up the minority Tory Government. But the arrogance is misplaced.

The deal, which Sinn Féin has shown to the Irish and British governments as well as the parties in Assembly, would have allowed legislation for a separate Irish language Act, as well as another for Ulster Scots, and a ‘respecting language and diversity Act’. The DUP were still able to oppose a marriage equality Act, but no party could simply veto it in the Assembly. In addition, there was a commitment to pursue one of the outstanding issues of the Good Friday Agreement with a committee examining a Bill of Rights.

These issues will not disappear and there is little prospect of either the restoration of the Assembly or even Direct Rule from Westminster unless they are resolved. Instead, there is likely to be greater involvement of the Dublin Government, which is anathema to Unionists.

The DUP’s belligerence and betraying its own deal reveal a real fear. Under pressure of events, the leadership panders more and more to a Loyalist base which has never really accepted the Good Friday Agreement or even any idea of equality in the North. Most recently, DUP leader Arlene Foster’s links with the outlawed UDA have publicly been strengthened.

Their fear is well-founded. At the last elections, the avowedly Unionist parties no longer held a majority of the popular vote even though the Northern Ireland state was founded on a gerrymandered in-built majority. On the decisive issues of restoring the Assembly and on Brexit, the DUP finds itself in a clear minority.

Sinn Féin, which supports the restoration of the Assembly and opposes Brexit, leads the majority of the population on both these issues. It is calling for the two Government to hold an Inter-Governmental conference to implement the agreed positions, enact a budget and deal with other outstanding issues. Sinn Féin also said it will continue to oppose Tory/DUP intentions to impose Brexit on Ireland against the will of the Irish people, and to argue for special designated for the North to remain in the EU, Single Market and Customs Union.