January 29, 2019

Sanctions on Venezuela

“The Trump administration on Monday sanctioned Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, ratcheting up pressure on socialist President Nicolas Maduro to cede power to the U.S.-backed opposition in the oil-rich nation in South America.” AP News

“More than 700 opponents of President Nicolas Maduro have been arrested during the latest push by Venezuela’s opposition to oust the socialist leader.” AP News

Last week, the US recognized Juan Guaido, Venezuela’s opposition leader, as the country’s interim President. The Flip Side


Both sides oppose Maduro, with many calling on the US to provide further non-military assistance to Guaido.

Look at who supports whom. Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Canada, Peru, Colombia, Paraguay, Ecuador, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Honduras back Guaidó. Mexico, Bolivia, Cuba, China, Turkey, and Russia are for Maduro. Also Hezbollah. When Hezbollah is on your side, you’ve hit bottom.” National Review

“The choices in Venezuela shouldn’t be between inaction and intervention… Venezuela is a greater threat to the stability of Colombia and Brazil, two conservative governments allied with the United States, both with a stable economy and strong militaries. The United States should encourage them to balance Venezuela and depend on them to provide the ground troops, if ever there is an intervention, and provide its diplomatic muscle.” The Federalist

“Building an off-ramp for the Maduro regime will be difficult. But a combination of rising costs on Maduro’s inner circle through targeted sanctions and prosecutions, reassurance to the military’s rank and file that they will benefit from a transition to democracy and positive incentives of economic assistance by entities willing to negotiate with the new interim government (such as the International Monetary Fund and the Inter-American Development Bank) will make legitimate democratic change, in accordance with Venezuela’s constitution, more likely.” The Hill

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

The left is disappointed that Mueller did not bolster the case for impeachment and criticizes Republicans for downplaying the threat of election interference.

The decision to recognize Guaido “was a well-oiled diplomatic campaign, closely coordinated with allies and rigorously on message. It was, in a word, un-Trumpian… Here was a president who preaches America First, who rarely invokes democracy and human rights in his unscripted remarks… sticking his neck out to restore democracy in a country that doesn’t usually figure among the top challenges to U.S. interests.”
The Atlantic

Does hypocrisy disqualify Trump’s policy? Or is there a principled basis for selective concern about Venezuela?...

“Though perhaps no more repressive than numerous others, the Venezuelan dictatorship is differentiated from, say, Saudi Arabia’s, in that it sits atop the ruins of what was once a multiparty democracy, which a large portion of its domestic population remembers and wants to renew… [Moreover] Guaidó’s transition plan, based on amnesty for military leaders and free elections, offers genuine hope for a peaceful solution… In this one instance, the Trump administration has chosen a worthy foreign policy goal.”
Washington Post

Regarding the sanctions, some worry that they might backfire. “Maduro needs a good scapegoat… If the economy tanks even further than it already has, the Venezuelan leader can blame the US sanctions and perhaps regain some favor among elites — particularly the military leadership — whose support he needs in order to remain in power.”
Vox

Many argue that “despite relentless Republican attacks, the benefits provided [by the ACA] -- guaranteed insurance and coverage of pre-existing conditions -- are now seen by many as a benefit to which they're entitled. Moving to Medicare for those who want it is a logical next step toward a single-payer option, one that maintains choice for millions of Americans… 56% of Americans say they support full Medicare for All… [but] when voters are presented with the full details of the Sanders and Warren plans, support falls dramatically… I believe it's critical for Democrats to maintain their advantage on health care going into 2020, and the best way to do that is to reject Medicare for All and embrace Medicare for those who want it.”
Joe Lockhart, CNN

“Beijing is [also] looking to a seemingly unlikely place for support: Europe. In recent days, Chinese ambassadors across the continent have gone on the offensive to rally Europe behind Hong Kong’s government and against the protestors. As part of their campaign to promote Beijing’s line, China’s ambassadors are publishing op-eds in local papers and publicly criticizing European leaders for failing to denounce what they are trying to frame as violent protests…

“While Washington has been antagonistic, Beijing has been careful to strike all the right chords… [But] to uphold their shared values, both the United States and Europe need to collectively push back against China’s unfair trade and investment practices, its blatant human rights abuses, and the anti-democratic norms and practices it seeks to spread… Europe must realize where its long-term interests lie, and not let [the Trump] administration or the allure of economic gains prevent the right choice. The health of liberal democracy will depend on it.”
Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Rachel Rizzo, Politico

Regarding the Cadillac tax, “high-premium employer-based plans raise the cost of health care for everyone by encouraging the overconsumption of expensive services. This means that even Medicare and Medicaid face higher prices. Quite aside from its benefits for the health-care market, the Cadillac tax would also have the effect of expanding the tax base and making the tax code more efficient. It would raise revenues by about $15 billion a year… Rather than killing or delaying the Cadillac tax, Democrats should be trying to make it operational. The tax would raise revenue, lower costs, increase the efficiency of the tax code and give the Obamacare individual market its best chance at success.”
Karl W. Smith, Bloomberg

“The two issues with which he is most often associated, support for a balanced budget and opposition to free trade, put him at odds with both of our major political parties. An old-fashioned, soft-spoken Southerner, he nevertheless held views on so-called ‘social issues’ that would be to the left of the mainstream of the Republican Party, both then and now. He was a fervent supporter of the Vietnam POW/MIA movement in the late '80s and early '90s, but he was not in any sense a hawk. Never mind 2003. Perot opposed the first war in Iraq in 1990… Perot's death should be mourned by all Americans who regret the fact that it is no longer possible to make reasoned, non-ideological arguments about questions of public import, and by the devolution of our political life into mindless partisan squabbling.”
Matthew Walther, The Week

From the Right

The right criticizes Sanders and Warren for adopting far-left policies, and praises Marianne Williamson’s performance.

From the Right

“Few Americans will likely be interested in what’s going on in this small country the size of New York state, and yet it offers major political lessons for our country...

“First, it demonstrates that both of our major political parties need to beware of gridlock and failure to solve the people’s problems... Second, it shows how our policy toward Latin America needs fundamental rethinking... And third, it underscores that socialism is not the way forward for us or for Latin America, especially when accompanied by the politics of self-perpetuating strongmen."
Fox News

Many are criticizing the socialist left. “Americans deserve to know why four [Democratic Socialist] members of Congress have decided to stand with a cruel tyrant over U.S. interests. Not only are they undermining U.S. foreign policy and hurting the cause of Venezuelan democracy, their advocacy bolsters Putin’s regional objectives—all at the expense of a young, democratically-elected leader who, if he were an American, would be caucusing alongside them.”
The Federalist

Regarding the sanctions, it’s worth noting that “Maduro's power is almost entirely sustained by his oil sales. Without that revenue, Chavez's ludicrous successor will struggle to pay off senior military officers he relies upon for protection… This sanctions decision, then, represents a calibrated step towards increasing pressure on Maduro in a way that attempts to peacefully drive him out of power.”
Washington Examiner

“Astonishingly, during our trade war, President Trump has been silent about Chinese human rights and political abuses…  Our media have reported some of the broad strokes of the protests and Chinese response, but hardly anything in depth. Too busy telling us about the damage done to U.S. soybean interests by the trade war to notice the economic and political meltdown happening in Asia? I’m not convinced that China can impose itself on Hong Kong if somewhere between 1 to 2 million people concentrated there remain determined not to cowed by them. At least not without doing incalculable harm to their economy. But can we at least get better reporting on this incredible conflict?”
Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review

Regarding the decision to label China a currency manipulator, “traders may fear the tiny devaluation signals trade conflict spreading to currency. [But] this is highly unlikely, because a steep devaluation would be destabilizing for China… If an extended depreciation is encouraged or permitted, RMB holders can only guess what level the government truly wants. Last time around — four years ago — they chose large-scale capital flight rather than trusting the People’s Bank. China’s economy is slower, older, and more indebted than back then. Most importantly, it no longer has the foreign exchange to afford a repeat of 2015–6. That’s why the People’s Bank is likely to continue to defend the RMB near 7 to the dollar.”
Derek M. Scissors, The National Interest

“Trump should be overjoyed. Tariffs are taxes paid by Americans on the things Americans buy. The only way China can be paying any of them is if something else, something extra, then happens — like the yuan dropping. This makes all imports into China more expensive for Chinese citizens. That's China paying for Trump's tariffs when the yuan falls. Without this happening, only Americans pay. With the yuan dropping, China pays as well. This is the claim Trump has been making all along, that China's really paying those trade taxes — now they are… Imposing significant export tariffs on a country should mean the value of that currency falls. This is what is happening. Why is Trump complaining about it?
Tim Worstall, Washington Examiner

“NBC and MSNBC embraced Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts in the first debate of Democratic presidential candidates Wednesday night, treating her like the star of the show. The debate led off with Warren, who had a huge popularity advantage from the start… NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie started it off sounding more like Warren’s press secretary. ‘You have many plans – free college, free child care, government health care, cancelation of student debt, new taxes, new regulations, the breakup of major corporations,’ Guthrie said, before teeing up an economy question. Guthrie even used Warren’s plan to break up tech companies as the foundation for a question for Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey… the round-robin final comments also ended with Warren, as Maddow asked her for the ‘final, final statement.’ That let NBC bookend the entire debate with Warren and Warren.”
Dan Gainor, Fox News

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

Outside Hong Kong, the silence Is deafening… Some protesters in Hong Kong today are adopting the British Union Jack flag, the American flag and the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ as symbols, yet that doesn’t seem to have stirred our collective imaginations… Americans are preoccupied with fighting each other over political correctness, gun violence, Trump and the Democratic candidates for president. To be sure, those issues deserve plenty of attention. But they are soaking up far too much emotional energy, distracting attention from the all-important struggles for liberty around the world…

“It’s 2019, and the land of the American Revolution, a country whose presidents gave stirring speeches about liberty and freedom in Berlin during the Cold War, remains in a complacent slumber. It really is time to Make America Great Again — if only we could remember what that means.”
Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg

On the bright side...

Canadians play an impromptu hockey game in the middle of the highway while stuck in traffic.
Narcity

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