Day: October 22, 2008

Is Latin American Inflation Linked to Populist Regimes?

Latin American countries have had a history of recurring bouts of hyperinflation, which have been as severe as they have been frequent. It is widely believed that the overriding reason for this has been populist macroeconomic policies, especially ones by democratically elected regimes. Populism has been a prominent feature of Latin American politics and economics. It is traditionally understood as a form of “personalistic leadership” that mobilized diverse popular constituencies behind statist, nationalistic and redistributive development models. A closely related concept is that of economic populism, which entails economic policies aimed at redistributing income and typically marked by fiscal indiscipline. Despite being regarded as leftist in nature, economic populism has been practiced by both left- and right-wing regimes in Latin America. The former aims to redistribute wages more equitably whereas the latter is closely linked to developmentalism wherein the government gives massive subsidies to businesses to enable them to grow and expand output and employment. Policies usually involve increased wages for workers in both the public and private sectors, increased employment in the public sector, nationalization of industries, increased tax breaks and subsidies (to the private sector), and artificial valuation of the currency. Also, money creation in order to finance the increased government spending worsens inflation. Economic populism is seen as the main culprit behind hyperinflation in Latin American countries. Most political economists believe that the nature of populist...

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Are We Ready? The Switch to Digital Television

U.S. technology infrastructure will take a giant leap forward this February when the congressionally mandated conversion to all-digital television broadcasting takes effect. But there is disagreement over consumer and industry preparedness for the upcoming deadline. How many will be left with a blank TV screen come February? There are many key players investing time and money into this project, including local, state and federal government, consumers and the telecommunications industry. Congress, the FCC, and the Department of Commerce are spearheading the bulk of the financial costs and organizing industry stakeholders. In 1996, Congress offered televisions stations additional channels to begin digital broadcasting. Shortly thereafter, Congress mandated that all full-power televisions stations would be required to end broadcasting in analog and switch to digital by February 17, 2009. The FCC has already auctioned a portion of analog spectrum to companies interested providing advanced wireless services and is working to auction additional spectrum to a company interested in managing a public safety communications network. Efforts are bring made to help make the transition easier. Consumers without cable television or televisions equipped with digital tuners will be required to purchase a digital-to-analog converter box. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), a branch of the Department of Commerce, is administering a Digital-to-Analog Converter Box Coupon Program, allowing each U.S. household to receive two converter box coupons worth $40 each. Consumers can request...

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Cruel and Unusual? Young Teens Sentenced To Die in Prison

Thirteen and fourteen year olds are too young to rent movies without the consent of their parents. They are not allowed to operate motor vehicles. They certainly can’t register to vote, or enlist in the armed forces. Yet they are old enough to be prosecuted in our adult criminal justice system and sentenced to the harshest punishment allowed by law. According to a report published by the Equal Justice Initiative in November 2007, there are currently 73 people spending the rest of their lives in prison, without the possibility of parole, for crimes committed when they were still in middle school. A life sentence without the possibility of parole is the harshest penalty available to youth in our criminal justice system. This level of punishment results in thousands of kids dying in prison for crimes they committed before their sixteenth birthdays. Roper v. Simmons, the 2005 landmark Supreme Court decision, outlawed the death penalty for crimes committed by juveniles ages 16 and younger on the basis that it was cruel and unusual punishment to execute anyone for a crime committed as a juvenile. Is it not equally cruel to force someone to spend the rest of their days locked in a concrete cell for a crime they committed as a teenager? The rest of the world seems to think so. International law specifically prohibits sentencing of children to life...

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