When The Blame Game Goes Bad

When The Blame Game Goes Bad

Politicians in a growing number of countries have boosted their popularity by demonizing outsiders as “enemies.” Here are three stories that illustrate what can go wrong with this strategy.


In Norway, Fisheries Minister Per Sandberg, deputy head of the anti-immigrant Progress party, was forced to resign this week after visiting Iran with his girlfriend without notifying the prime minister’s office in advance.

This particular girlfriend is an Iranian immigrant (and beauty queen) who had seen three requests for asylum in Norway rejected before she was finally granted a residency permit. Sandberg’s party has called for those with rejected asylum applications to be swiftly expelled from the country. Fortunately for Sandberg, his girlfriend managed to avoid that fate.

Here are two (more serious) examples.

In Italy, a bridge collapsed in the northern city of Genoa on Tuesday, killing at least 39 people. For Italy’s interior minister, Matteo Salvini (pictured above), the enemy is the European Union and the spending caps the EU asks of member states. That spending could have helped repair shoddy infrastructure, he argued.

But journalist Albero Nardelli points out the EU has not only warned that Italy needs infrastructure spending, it “has given the green light to some €10 billion” for exactly that purpose, including in Genoa. But the M5S, the party with which Salvini’s Lega governs in coalition, has argued that Italy’s government shouldn’t spend big money on infrastructure because the need for repairs is a “fable.”

In addition, as Tuesday author Alex Kliment rightly notes, Salvini’s complaint that the EU doesn’t allow Italy enough for infrastructure spending would have more credibility if Italy weren’t dead last among Western European countries in corruption rankings. Too much money is stolen before it can be invested.

Salvini’s accusation won’t help the mood when Italy’s government submits a draft budget for EU review in October.

In Turkey, an economic crisis has taken hold. President Erdogan says the enemies are outsiders preying on the country’s economy. He calls tariffs imposed by the Trump administration “economic terrorism.”

But the true source of Turkey’s current turmoil is an economy built on heavy borrowing that’s denominated in foreign currency and a refusal to fight rising inflation by raising interest rates.

Erdogan presses Turkey’s central bank to keep rates low in hopes of keeping growth, and his own approval ratings, artificially high. The result is a sharp drop in the value of Turkey’s currency that began well before Trump imposed penalties in response to the standoff over a US citizen held in Turkey.

The bottom line: All three cases illustrate the reality that, though posing as defender of the people against foreign enemies can make for successful politics, it doesn’t help with governing.

In a new episode of That Made All the Difference, Savita Subramanian, head of ESG Research, BofA Global Research, explains why ESG factors are critical to why some companies succeed and some fail.

"I think 10 years from now, we won't even call it 'environmental, social and governance,' or ESG investing. We won't call it sustainable. It'll just be part of investing," she says.

Link to the episode here.

Right now, only one region of the world is reporting an increase in new daily COVID cases. Here's a hint: it's one of the places where vaccines are, for the most part, easiest to get.

It's Europe. According to the World Health Organization, the region last week notched a 7 percent uptick in new daily infections, the third week in a row that infections rose there.

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On 30-31 October, the world's top leaders will gather in Rome for this year's G-20 Summit. After the pandemic forced them to meet last year by videoconference, the heads of state will once again be attending in person, allowing for the type of parallel, one-on-one meetings that have proven more productive in the past. Still, many critics of the G-20 have come to see the forum as a talk shop, a place where a lot is said but nothing really happens. Will this year be any different, given the long list of challenges the world faces, from COVID to climate change? We talked with Eurasia Group expert Charles Dunst to set the stage and find out where things are going.

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From overall health and wellness to representation in the global workforce, women and girls have faced serious setbacks over the past 18+ months. They also hold the key to more robust and inclusive growth in the months and years ahead: McKinsey & Company estimates that centering recovery efforts on women could contribute $13 trillion to global GDP by 2030.

On October 28th at 12pm ET, as part of our "Measuring What Matters" series, GZERO Media and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will look beyond traditional indicators of economic recovery to examine COVID-19's impact on girls and women, specifically in the areas of health and employment.

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Will Biden finally be able to pass his spending package? For months, the White House and Democrats in Congress have been locked in a stalemate over the two infrastructure bills that form the bedrock of Biden's policy agenda. But is the wrangling drawing to a close? It certainly doesn't look like it. On Wednesday, the White House unveiled a billionaire tax, which would take effect for the 2022 tax year in order to help pay for the ambitious proposals currently making their way through Congress. If it passes, the bill will affect around 700 US taxpayers with more than $1 billion in assets, as well as those who make $100 million or more in income for three years in a row. To date, two moderate Democratic senators – Arizona's Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin of West Virginia – have opposed conventional tax hike increases, but will they support this more limited scheme that will help rescue Biden's policy agenda? Manchin appears to be skeptical of the proposal, and it's unclear what Sinema's game plan is. Still, chasms remain on parts of the spending package itself, including healthcare coverage, and how to pay for it all.

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5: The price of a fresh baguette in France could soon rise by as much as 5 centimes (about 6 cents), as a global wheat shortage makes the staple of French cuisine (and identity) more expensive. That might not sound like much, but considering that France's famed "Bread Observatory" estimates that the French eat 10 billion baguettes every year, it adds up. Revolutions have started over less!

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Six months ago, China's tech giants were champions of the state, working with the government to conquer US Big Tech. But then Xi Jinping started cracking down, and a trillion dollars in their market value is gone. Huh? For Nicholas Thompson, CEO of The Atlantic and former editor-in-chief of WIRED, it makes sense for Xi to go after cryptocurrencies to ensure they don't replace the yuan. But going after national tech champions, he says, could be fool's errand because it's inevitable they'll someday become more powerful than the state itself.

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Big Tech: Global sovereignty, unintended consequences

Australia's underwhelming climate pledge: After waffling on whether he'd attend COP26, Prime Minister Scott Morrison now says Australia will achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. But there's a catch: the scheme would not involve overhauling the country's lucrative fossil fuel sector. The PM also stopped short of making ambitious targets by 2030, one of the key objectives of COP26. Australia is one of the world's top coal-producing countries and has one of the biggest carbon footprints per capita, but its government has long dragged its feet on climate change — mainly because fossil fuel exports are a boon for the economy. "We won't be lectured by others who do not understand Australia," Morrison said in response to criticism about his government's weaker-than-hoped-for pledges. While the US has pledged to halve its carbon output by 2030, and the EU says it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions 55 percent from 1990 levels by 2030, Australia is aiming for a mere 26 percent cut on 2005 emissions in that period.

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Nicholas Thompson on China's tech U-turn

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