The deficit? Clinton gets it but Obama doesn't, claims Mehdi Hasan

The Bubba comes out against austerity.

 

Here's Bill Clinton speaking at the Campus Progress conference in Washington, DC, yesterday:

In the current Budget debate, there is all this discussion about how much will come from spending cuts, how much will come from tax increases. Almost nobody's talking about one of the central points that everyone who's analysed this situation makes -- including the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles Commission -- which said you shouldn't do any of this until the economy is clearly recovering.

Because if you do things that dampen economic growth . . . And the UK's finding this out now. They adopted this big austerity budget. And there's a good chance that economic activity will go down so much that tax revenues will be reduced even more than spending is cut and their deficit will increase.

He gets it. He understands the point that John Maynard Keynes made eight decades ago:

The boom, not the slump, is the right time for austerity.

But here's Barack Obama -- who came to office with a pro-Keynes, pro-stimulus mindset and advisory team (Christina Romer, Larry Summers) -- speaking on Saturday 2 July, in his weekly radio address:

. . . We're working to reduce our nation's deficit. Government has to start living within its means, just like families do. We have to cut the spending we can't afford so we can put the economy on sounder footing and give our businesses the confidence they need to grow and create jobs.

I never thought I'd opt for Bill Clinton over Barack Obama (or "Barack Herbert Hoover Obama", as Paul Krugman puts it) but, on the deficit, the latter has become an austerian in recent months. Clinton, on the other hand, remains a Keynesian -- and it is Keynesian economics that can get us out of this mess.

[Hat-tip: Left Foot Forward and Andrew Sparrow]

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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As crime moves online, the police need the investment in technology to follow

Technology offers solutions, not just threats.

It’s perhaps inevitable that as the world becomes more digital, so does crime. This week Alison Saunders, director of public prosecutions, recognised that online crime is as serious as face-to-face crime. “Hate is hate,” Saunders wrote referring to internet abuse, and the police should protect people from it wherever they are. This will add demand to under-pressure police forces. And it is only the tip of the iceberg. 

Forty-seven per cent of crime involves an online element. Police recorded 30,000 instances of online stalking and harassment last year. People are 20 times more likely to be a victim of fraud than robbery, costing businesses an estimated £144bn a year. On a conservative estimate, 2,500 UK citizens use the anonymous dark web browser, Tor, for illegal purposes such as drug dealing, revenge porn and child sexual exploitation.

The police need new technology to meet demand, a Reform report published today finds. Some progress has been made in recent years. West Midlands Police uses an online portal for people to report incidents. Durham uses evidence-gathering software to collect social media information on suspects, and then instantly compile a report that can be shared with courts. Police have benefited from smartphones to share information, and body-worn cameras, which have reduced complaints against police by 93 per cent.

Yet, Theresa May’s 2016 remarks that police use “technology that lags woefully behind what they use as consumers” still stand. Officers interviewed for Reform’s research implored: “Give us the tools to do our job”.

Online evidence portals should be upgraded to accept CCTV footage. Apps should be developed to allow officers to learn about new digital threats, following the US army’s library of knowledge-sharing apps. Augmented-reality glasses are being used in the Netherlands to help officers identify evidence at digital crime scenes. Officers would save a trip back to the station if they could collect fingerprints on smartphones and statements on body-worn cameras.

New technology requires investment, but forces are reducing the resources put into IT as reserves have dried up. Durham plans to cut spend by 60 per cent between 2015-16 and 2019-20. The government should help fund equipment which can meet demand and return future productivity savings. If the Home Office invested the same as the Department of Health, another department pushing “transformative” technology, it would invest an extra £450m a year. This funding should come from administrative savings delivered through accelerating the Government’s automation agenda, which the think tank Reform has previously calculated would save Whitehall £2.6bn a year.

As crime moves online, police must follow. Saunders is right to point to the importance of meeting it. But technology offers solutions, not just threats. Installing the next generation of equipment will give police the tools to do their jobs, addressing online hate and more. 

Alexander Hitchcock is a senior researcher at reform