Spain Lifts Catalan Spending Controls, Hints at Constitutional Reform

Pedro Sánchez addresses a conference of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party January 30, 2016
Pedro Sánchez addresses a conference of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party January 30, 2016 (PSOE)

Spain has lifted controls on Catalonia’s public finances and called for constitutional reforms to dissuade the region from breaking away.

The goodwill measures of the new Socialist government are an about-face from the clampdown under conservative prime minister Mariano Rajoy, who was ousted in a confidence vote last week.

Socialist Party leader Pedro Sánchez, the new prime minister, backed Rajoy when he suspended Catalonia’s autonomy in the wake of the October 1 independence referendum. But he also argued for talks to convince a majority of Catalans to stay in Spain. Rajoy refused to so much as sit down with the region’s separatists. Read more

Thoughts on Class, Meritocracy and Civic Consciousness

View of the Empire State Building in Manhattan from Queens, New York, September 1, 2010
View of the Empire State Building in Manhattan from Queens, New York, September 1, 2010 (Chris Goldberg)

This post is going to be a little less structured than usual. Please bear with me as I try to connect the dots between three recent stories. Read more

Transatlantic Relations Take Another Downturn

German chancellor Angela Merkel gestures at American president Donald Trump during the G20 summit in Hamburg, July 8, 2017
German chancellor Angela Merkel gestures at American president Donald Trump during the G20 summit in Hamburg, July 8, 2017 (Bundesregierung)

Europe is striking back against Donald Trump’s aluminum and steel tariffs, taxing €2.8 billion worth of American exports to the EU, including Kentucky bourbon and Harley Davidson motorcycles manufactured in Wisconsin, the home states of Republican leaders Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, respectively.

The response is relatively mild. Trump’s tariffs target €6.6 billion in European exports to America. But it marks a new low in transatlantic relations, which started to deteriorate almost on the day Trump took office.

Where do we go from here? Below the views of four experts. Read more

Seven Reasons to Worry About the American Middle Class

A suburban home in New Jersey, August 23, 2009
A suburban home in New Jersey, August 23, 2009 (Flickr/vonSchnauzer)

The Brookings Institutions’ Eleanor Krause and Isabel V. Sawhill give seven reason to worry about the American middle class: Read more

Establishment-Backed Candidates Prevail in Primaries

Gavin Newsom, the Democratic mayor of San Francisco at the time, gives a speech at the University of California, Berkeley, October 3, 2008
Gavin Newsom, the Democratic mayor of San Francisco at the time, gives a speech at the University of California, Berkeley, October 3, 2008 (Charlie Nguyen)

Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight reports that Democratic and Republican Party elites had a good night in America. In most of the primary elections held on Tuesday, establishment-backed candidates prevailed. Read more

Sánchez Seek Leading Role in EU, Conservatives Play Petty Politics

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy and Socialist Party leader Pedro Sánchez wave at photographers before a meeting in Madrid, December 23, 2015
Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy and Socialist Party leader Pedro Sánchez wave at photographers before a meeting in Madrid, December 23, 2015 (PSOE)

Pedro Sánchez is filling his cabinet with what the Financial Times describes as respected European figures:

  • Nadia Calviño, the European Commission’s director general for budget, becomes Spain’s economy minister. She is considered “one of the brightest talents in the EU institutions.”
  • Josep Borrell, a former president of the European Parliament, is to become foreign minister. A native of Catalonia, he opposes independence for the region.

The appointments suggest Sánchez intends to be “a driving force in Brussels” while he is around. He is keen on French president Emmanuel Macron’s proposals for EU reform — unlike his conservative predecessor, Mariano Rajoy, who allied with Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel. Read more

Rajoy Steps Down as Party Leader. Here Are His Possible Successors

Then-Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría of Spain gives a news conference in Madrid, October 13, 2017
Then-Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría of Spain gives a news conference in Madrid, October 13, 2017 (La Moncloa)

Mariano Rajoy has stepped down as leader of Spain’s center-right People’s Party.

Resignation was inevitable after Rajoy became the first prime minister in Spanish democratic history to be removed from office last week. The opposition Socialists cobbled together a majority consisting of left-wing and regionalist parties to end the conservative’s six-and-a-half year tenure. Read more