The US Senate passed the much-ballyhooed financial reform bill this week to applause from an increasingly thin crowd of Obama administration supporters. Most focused on the “something is better than nothing” features of the bill. But this could barely disguise the fact that the new regulations will do little to curb the activities of the mega-financial institutions at the centre of the economic crisis that ensued in 2008.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez took a giant symbolic leap in the direction of Latin American independence on July 6 when Venezuela and Ecuador conducted the first bilateral trade deal between two countries using a new trading currency, the Sucre, instead of the US dollar. The Unitary System of Regional Compensation (Sucre) is the currency the adopted last year by the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (ALBA) regional bloc to allow member states to trade without using the US dollar.
In the wake of Britain’s inconclusive general election, there is much talk of the “national interest”. It’s said that politicians of all parties have to pull together to address the crisis caused by the country’s enlarged fiscal deficit. Specifically, they must agree to a package of deep public spending cuts. Nothing, it is said, is more urgent, more unavoidable. In contrast, it seems climate change can be left perpetually on the backburner — though there is a far greater expert consensus about its dangers than those of a large deficit.
With a mass general strike on May 20 in the private and public sectors and a large demonstration in Athens and other cities, the workers of Greece continued the struggle to overturn an austerity program imposed by the Greek government, European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Participation in the strike was as big in the private sector as in the public sector, which is the target of most of the austerity measures.
The conventional wisdom is that the world has largely survived the great financial crisis. Journalists and economists talk about recovery, while politicians claim to have averted catastrophe. However, the bailouts of banks and financial stimulus packages that governments used to “solve” the crisis merely turned banks’ debt into public debt. The problem has simply been shifted to the public sphere and potential catastrophe merely delayed.
Labor Treasurer Wayne Swan’s third budget, delivered on May 11, continued the neoliberal austerity agenda of the previous Howard government. Delivered in the shadow of the Henry tax review, released by the government on May 2, Labor’s budget continues to grind away at social and environmental spending in the name of fiscal conservatism.