Smart Ideas: The Left's Responsibility to Venezuela

Plus: The structural barriers to ending the trade war.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro
AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos
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Jan. 29, 2019, 8 p.m.

Leftists must speak up on Venezuela

Greg Grandin, writing for The Nation

Left-wing Democrats need to put forth a coherent alternative to President Trump’s policy in Venezuela. So far, many Democrats have praised Trump’s support for the Venezuelan coup, even as the president may be using the crisis to start “a one-off war in Washington's backyard to reorder domestic and international politics.” The conflict is far from resolved; some countries, as well as the Venezuelan military, still back Nicolás Maduro as president. While social-democratic members of Congress have mostly been focusing on domestic issues like Medicare for All, foreign policy is “where normative ideas concerning how best to organize society get worked out; where contradictions—between ideas, interests, social groups—get reconciled. That reconciliation comes about not through a laundry list of pragmatic policies but by seizing the ideological high ground.” Some leftists have spoken out to say it is not America’s place to handpick foreign leaders, but others, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are missing a key opportunity to define their worldview.

Accrediting not making the grade

Michael Itzkowitz, writing for RealClearPolicy

Despite their best efforts, college-accrediting bodies are not “helping to ensure that students will graduate and find employment. According to the U.S. Department of Education Accreditor Database, there are currently 30 accredited institutions where fewer than 10 percent of students end up earning a certificate or degree, even eight years after they’ve entered. … And there are 680 accredited institutions that leave most of their students degreeless, earning less than the average high school graduate, and unable to pay anything towards their loan principal within a few years of leaving.” The results at the institutions the accreditors oversee are mixed at best, with over 40 percent of institutions showing a five-year decrease in graduation rates. Congress “should demand that they demonstrate progress in the institutions they oversee—and hold accrediting agencies accountable for those results.”

The endless trade war

Michael Schuman, writing for The Atlantic

A comprehensive U.S.-China trade deal will be hard to achieve given that the countries have “two very different national ideologies,” one free-market capitalist and the other more top-down. In particular, Trump’s demands that China give the U.S. a level playing field without China giving its government-run businesses tax credits and subsidies will be difficult to implement because “Chinese bureaucrats are simply not trained to treat all comers equally and fairly. Even the most prominent [private] Chinese companies suffer from arbitrary and erratic state intervention.”

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