Shee­han routs new ma­jor­ity party

House Demo­crat lead­ers run, hide

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By S.A. Miller

Cindy Shee­han, the “peace ac­tivist” who fa­mously be­sieged Pres­i­dent Bush at Prairie Chapel Ranch, on Jan. 3 routed the lead­ers of the new House Demo­cratic ma­jor­ity from their press con­fer­ence where they at­tempted to present their leg­isla­tive agenda.

Chants of “de-es­ca­late, in­ves­ti­gate, troops home now,” drowned out the new ma­jor­ity lead­ers, in­clud­ing Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illi­nois, the chair­man of the Demo­cratic House Cau­cus.

The flus­tered law­mak­ers re­treated to a room be­hind closed doors, and sur­ren­dered the field to Mrs. Shee­han, whose son, an Army sol­dier, was killed in Iraq in 2004.

With her quarry in full re­treat, she scolded Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi for aban­don­ing the war is­sue in the agenda for the first 100 hours of the 110th Congress, which con­vened on Jan. 4. The agenda fo­cuses on other prom­ises from last year’s cam­paigns, in­clud­ing rais­ing the min­i­mum wage, stricter ethics rules and cut­ting stu­dent loan in­ter­est rates.

The loan was paid off in 50 in­stall­ments, the last of which leaves Bri­tain free of that debt for the first time since a dev­as­tated Nazi Ger­many sur­ren­dered to Al­lied forces more than 61 years ago.

Bri­tish Eco­nomic Sec­re­tary Ed Balls hailed the dis­patch of that last pay­ment on Dec. 29, telling jour­nal­ists, “We fi­nally honor our com­mit­ments to the U.S. and Canada for the sup­port they gave us 60 years ago.”

“It was vi­tal sup­port which helped Bri­tain de­feat Nazi Ger­many and se­cure peace and pros­per­ity in the post­war pe­riod,” Mr. Balls said.

In fact, it was much more than that. World War II had left Bri­tain an eco­nomic mess — a “fi­nan­cial Dunkirk,” as Mr. Keynes put it — and with the abrupt ter­mi­na­tion in Septem­ber 1945 of the lend-lease ar­range­ment that had it afloat through the hos­til­i­ties, the coun­try was on the verge of col­lapse.

Un­der the Lend-Lease Act of 1941, signed by Pres­i­dent Franklin De­lano Roo­sevelt, Wash­ing­ton sent war sup­plies to al­lies. Bri­tain re­ceived most of that as­sis­tance — $31.4 bil­lion out of the to­tal $50.1 bil­lion. Other ma­jor coun­tries that ben­e­fited from the Lend-Lease Act were the Soviet Union ($11.3 bil­lion), France ($3.2 bil­lion) and China ($1.6 bil­lion).

No pay­ment was re­quired for sup­plies sent un­der the pro­gram. The al­lies’ com­pen­sa­tion came in the form of ser­vices, rent and use of air bases.

How­ever, Wash­ing­ton sud­denly ter­mi­nated the lend-lease ship­ments on Sept. 2, 1945, with goods still in tran­sit, forc­ing Bri­tain to ne­go­ti­ate new loans from the United States and Canada for re­con­struc­tion.

The large con­sign­ment of goods in tran­sit or al­ready in Bri­tain were sold to Bri­tain for about 10 cents on the dol­lar un­der the new 50-year loan agree­ment.

Mr. Keynes and his team won dur­ing their ne­go­ti­a­tions with the U.S. gov­ern­ment what amounted to an eco­nomic life­line that al­lowed Bri­tain to pay for food, fuel and other es­sen­tials, while cop­ing with mas­sive bills for arms and mu­ni­tions left over from the war as it be­gan re­build­ing its shat­tered econ­omy.

“The Amer­i­cans gave us an ex­cel­lent deal in two senses,” Tim Le­u­nig, an eco­nomics his­tory lec­turer at the Lon­don School of Eco­nomics, told the Scots­man news­pa­per — the 2 per­cent rate of in­ter­est on the loan, and the fact that the United States even agreed to such a loan.

“First of all,” Mr. Le­u­nig said, “2 per­cent has al­ways been a very low rate of in­ter­est. Sec­ond, to lend to some­one in wartime is very risky.”

For his part, Mr. Keynes at the time was less than pleased, par­tic­u­larly about the 2 per­cent in­ter­est on the debt. He ac­cused the United States of be­hav­ing badly, sug­gest­ing that Wash­ing­ton should write off the loan as a gift, or at least make it in­ter­est-free.

Still, it was viewed in eco­nomic cir­cles as a bar­gain, which meant that by the time the last in­stall­ment cleared the books, the orig­i­nal loan of $4.34 bil­lion had to­taled barely $7.1 bil­lion in­clud­ing in­ter­est — lit­tle more than small change to to­day’s global economies and the multi­bil­lion­aires they steadily churn out.

Even so, the re­pay­ment road has not al­ways been an easy one for Bri­tain. The in­stall­ment pay­ments that started in 1950 were de­ferred six times — in 1956, 1957, 1964, 1965, 1968 and 1976 — be­cause of var­i­ous eco­nomic crises, pres­sures on of­fi­cial re­serves and ad­verse in­ter­na­tional ex­change rates.

So that last pay­ment was, in fact, six years late. Never mind, said a Bri­tish Trea­sury spokesman, the im­por­tant point is, “Bri­tain al­ways re­pays her debts.”

Well, not quite. Bri­tain bor­rowed money from the United States dur­ing World War I, but has never re­paid the debt — al­though they blame the Amer­i­cans.

Pres­i­dent Hoover de­clared a mora­to­rium on World War I debts dur­ing the Great De­pres­sion and global fi­nan­cial cri­sis, and it was never re­scinded.

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