A Failure of Leadership in Spain

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy arrives at parliament in Madrid, October 29, 2016
Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy arrives at parliament in Madrid, October 29, 2016 (La Moncloa)

The unstoppable force of Catalan separatism is about to meet the unmovable object that is Mariano Rajoy.

The Spanish prime minister and conservative party leader has vowed to prevent an independence referendum in the northeastern region at all costs. The Catalans are determined to vote anyway.

Neither side will be able to claim victory on Monday.

Rajoy may succeed in blocking the vote, but his intransigence has already convinced moderate Catalans there isn’t a future for them in Spain. The separatists may manage to organize a referendum, but it will be so marred by illegality and irregularity that the outcome cannot possibly be considered a mandate to break away. Read more

Trump Would Let Democratic Voters Pay for His Tax Cuts

American president Donald Trump listens to a speech outside the Elysée Palace in Paris, France, July 12
American president Donald Trump listens to a speech outside the Elysée Palace in Paris, France, July 12 (DoD/Dominique A. Pineiro)

It’s not hard to characterize American president Donald Trump’s tax plan as taking from the poor and giving to the rich. That’s what it does.

But it’s more insidious than that: the reforms would specifically hurt Democratic voters.

Megan McArdle writes for Bloomberg View that the plan (such as it is; many details have yet to be filled in) would punish two groups:

  1. The lowest-income Americans, who see their marginal tax rate go up from 10 to 12 percent and only get a small increase in the standard deduction in return; and
  2. Upper-middle-class professionals in high-taxed blue states, who get creamed by the loss of their deduction for state and local taxes. Read more

Germany’s Social Democrats Should Have Picked Side

German Social Democratic Party leader Martin Schulz makes a speech in Bavaria, March 1
German Social Democratic Party leader Martin Schulz makes a speech in Bavaria, March 1 (Bayern SPD/Joerg Koch)

Germany’s Social Democrats are going the way of the Dutch Labor Party.

Both parties tried to appeal to their working- and middle-class constituents in elections this year and both lost precisely because of this indecision.

Campaigning on liberal immigration laws, social justice and international engagement alienates blue-collar voters.

Campaigning on border controls and deemphasizing identity politics turns away college graduates.

Do both at the same time and you end up with with no supporters at all. Read more

Putting Catalan Police Under Spanish Command Is a Bad Idea

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont inaugurates a memorial at the headquarters of the Mossos d'Esquadra, the regional police force, in Sabadell, Spain, October 14, 2016
Catalan president Carles Puigdemont inaugurates a memorial at the headquarters of the Mossos d’Esquadra, the regional police force, in Sabadell, Spain, October 14, 2016 (Generalitat de Catalunya/Jordi Bedmar)

Spain’s latest attempt to prevent the Catalans from voting on independence next week risks making the situation in the region more dangerous.

Prosecutors have ordered the 17,000-strong Mossos d’Esquadra, the Catalan police force, to report directly to the Interior Ministry in Madrid as opposed to Catalan authorities in Barcelona.

Spanish officials had accused the Mossos (troopers) of not doing enough to disrupt preparations for the October 1 vote.

Spain claims it is protecting public safety, but its power grab could have the opposite effect. Read more

Iraq’s Kurds Deserve the West’s Support for Their Own State

View of Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, May 10, 2011
View of Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, May 10, 2011 (James Gordon)

Western countries are falling into the familiar habit of discouraging Kurdish self-determination.

American and European officials have urged Iraq’s Kurds to delay their independence referendum, scheduled for next Monday.

The reasons are by now well-known: a Kurdish state would anger the Turks, destabilize Iraq and complicate the war against the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

All of which is true, but there will always be a reason to deny the Kurds self-rule. They have been stateless for generations. If it isn’t Turkish apprehensions today, it will be fears of an Iranian-Turkish condominium tomorrow.

The Kurds, one of the most progressive people in the Middle East, deserve better. Read more

Trump Treats Foreign Policy Like Reality TV

Businessman Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015
Businessman Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015 (Gage Skidmore)

American president Donald Trump has made a decision about the future of the Iran nuclear deal — but he isn’t sharing it with anyone yet.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson confirmed on Wednesday that the president has made up his mind. But he also revealed that Trump had refused to share his decision even with America’s closest allies.

“Prime Minister [Theresa] May asked him if he would share it with her. He said no,” Tillerson said.

What is this, a cliffhanger? Read more

Liberal Free Democrats Would Keep Merkel Sharp

Christian Lindner, leader of Germany's Free Democratic Party, gives an interview in Berlin, June 26
Christian Lindner, leader of Germany’s Free Democratic Party, gives an interview in Berlin, June 26 (INSM)

There is little doubt Angela Merkel will win reelection in Germany on Sunday. Her Christian Democrats are projected to win up to 40 percent support against 25 percent for the second party, the Social Democrats.

The two could continue to share power in a “grand coalition”, but we’re hoping the liberal Free Democrats will win enough seats to help form a center-right government instead.

Polls suggest that the two parties might just fall short of a majority. Conservative and liberal voters who want to keep the left out of power ought to give the Free Democrats their support. Read more