EU Budget Fight, California’s Housing Crisis and Trump’s Threats

Center-right leaders in wealthy member states can bolster their Euroskeptic credentials by fighting the EU’s budget proposal.

President Jean-Claude Juncker and other members of the European Commission listen to a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, September 14, 2016
President Jean-Claude Juncker and other members of the European Commission listen to a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, September 14, 2016 (European Parliament)

Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands are unhappy about the European Commission’s proposal to eliminate rebates in the EU’s next seven-year budget.

The commission has proposed to cut solidarity spending by 7 percent and agricultural subsidies by 5 percent to make up for the loss of Britain’s contribution.

It also wants to eliminate “correction” mechanisms that benefit the wealthier member states.

The stakes are low. The rebates add up to €6 billion. The proposed budget — €1.25 trillion — altogether represents about 8 percent of the EU economy.

Expect a big fight nevertheless. For center-right leaders in Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands, who face competition from the nativist right, this is a perfect opportunity to bolster their Euroskeptic credentials. In the end, the commission will give in a little and everybody walks away happy.

Housing crisis in California

The Financial Times has a big feature about the housing crisis in California’s Bay Area.

The highlights:

  • Regulations curtailing new housing in coastal cities, including New York, San Francisco and Boston, are damaging the broader American economy by limiting the number of workers who can access high-productivity areas.
  • Tech giants such as Google and Facebook have pushed plans to build big housing developments in Silicon Valley, but the companies cannot solve the problem alone.
  • California as a whole needs to build 180,000 homes per year to keep pace with population growth. It built less than half that number in the last ten years.

Resistance comes from wealthy homeowners, who fear high-rise, as well as poorer residents, who fear gentrification.

For more, read my post from last month.

This is a problem not just in California. David Downing reported for the Atlantic Sentinel in 2014 that Britain also struggles to meet housing demand.

Trump makes threats against Mueller

President Donald Trump is stepping up his campaign against Robert Mueller, the former FBI director who leads the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

In a tweet, the president warns:

At some point I will have no choice but to use the powers granted to the Presidency and get involved!

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Mueller probe, said earlier this week:

There are people who have been making threats, privately and publicly, against me for quite some time. I think they should understand by now the Department of Justice is not going to be extorted. We’re going to do what’s required by the rule of law.

I wrote here last year there are three ways in which Trump and his party can attempt to undermine the Russia investigation:

  1. Fire Jeff Sessions and put the new attorney general in charge of Mueller, thus bypassing Rosenstein. (Sessions has recused himself.)
  2. Fire Rosenstein and whoever else refuses to stop Mueller. This would be a repeat of Richard Nixon’s infamous — and failed — “Saturday Night Massacre” attempt to end the Watergate investigation.
  3. Pressure the Justice Department to investigate the investigators or divert the public’s attention away from Trump’s scandals by opening yet another phony investigation into Hillary Clinton.

At the moment, #2 looks like the most likely scenario.