cuba embargo jack lang lugar

US bill aims to ease Cuba travel
henry george richard fisher

Lugar calls for rethinking US embargo against Cuba

Should the US allow trade with Cuba? With anybody? We trim, blend, and append three 2009 articles from: (1) the BBC, Feb 26, on the new bill; (2) USA Today, Feb 23, on Richard Lugar by Stanglin; and (3) by Richard Fisher, President, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas answers, citing Henry George on trade (thanks to reader Frank Walker for forwarding the citation.)

by BBC, by Doug Stanglin, and by Richard W. Fisher

A new US bill would allow Cuban-Americans to visit Cuba once a year instead of once every three years.

The bill represent a first move in broader efforts to ease the US trade embargo and end travel restrictions for all Americans.

President Obama has said that the trade embargo against Cuba should stay in place as it increases pressure for democratic reforms.

However, under the bill, Cuban Americans should be able to spend $170 a day on the island, more than three times the current daily limit of $50.

It also creates a general travel license for Americans who sell food and medical supplies to Cuba.

As well, it should allow the Cuban authorities to pay for US products once they arrive rather than pay up front before they are sent, a move which some analysts say could boost rice sales to Cuba.

Francisco Hernandez, president of the Cuban American National Foundation, said, "We have been asking for that since the restrictions were put in place," he said. "We believe there should be more opportunities for Cuban families to connect."

Florida Republican Senator Mel Martinez opposes the changes and may try to stop the bill.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has sent Jack Lang, who was culture minister in the 1980s, under President Francois Mitterrand , to Cuba in an effort to strengthen ties with President Raul Castro, brother of Fidel, who had ruled Cuba for nearly 50 years.

"We thought it was the right time to reinvigorate French-Cuban relations, at a time when the European Union has resumed dialogue with Cuba, when Cuba is evolving slowly, too slowly perhaps, when the United States themselves are thinking about their position on Cuba," an official in Sarkozy's office said of Mr Lang's trip.

The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a “hawk”, Richard Lugar of Indiana, says it’s time to change the 47-year-old US embargo against Cuba because it has proved ineffective in bringing democracy to the island.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has pledged a review of US policy toward Cuba with an eye toward easing some smaller restrictions and has "left the door open for bolder policy changes."

Lugar writes that by seizing the initiative at the beginning of a new US Administration and at an important moment in Cuban history, the USG would relinquish a conditional posture that has made any policy changes contingent on Havana, not Washington.

If reform in US-Cuba policy were to occur in the direction of sequenced engagement, the impact on the region would be swift and to the benefit of the security and prosperity of the United States. In due order, we must correct the failures of our current policy in a way that enhances US interests.

JJS: US interests are not always American interests; what the powerful want is not always what the people need. Are politicians now embracing free trade because their backers plan to profit when Castro passes? And if trade helps both trading partners prosper, should we ever oppose it? What is the principled position?

Americans are torn between enjoying the benefits of globalization, with its increased consumer choices and lower prices, and worrying about the costs to the nation that some claim come with global free trade. There is nothing new about this clash of ideas, as this latest Economic Insights points out; they have been vigorously debated before, most notably during the late 19th century.

In the center of that debate was one of this nation’s most famous economists, Henry George. Today, few Americans recognize his name, yet his Progress and Poverty is the best-selling economics book ever written and outsold all English-language books save the Bible in the late 1890s. He touched off a worldwide movement for major tax reform, and societies and institutions still bear his name and span the globe. Why was he so influential? And what did he have to say about protectionism that we might profit from today? We offer this short biographical piece to answer these questions.

click here

JJS: George noted most taxes are counterproductive, and not a necessary evil. We could dispense with taxes and subsidies were we to pay “land dues” and receive “rent dividends”, either cash or social services or a mix of the two. Then, as trade raises site values, especially in cities and commercial areas, we’d recover more “ground rents” and receive heftier dividends. Rather than oppose trade with neighbors, we’d welcome it. And trading partners tend not to be warring belligerents. The world could become a much more cooperative place.


Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.

Also see:

Seven advances on the long road to eco-librium

US Sugar buyout -- sweet deal for the Everglades?

Ethanol subsidies starve poor kids

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