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Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – November 27, 2022

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Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – November 27, 2022

by Tony Wikrent


Strategic Political Economy

8 billion and counting

[ABC, via The Big Picture 11-22-2022]

This week, the world’s population ticks over a historic milestone. But in the next century, society will be reshaped dramatically — and soon we’ll hit a decline we’ll never reverse  


The incredible shrinking future of college

[Vox, via The Big Picture 11-23-2022]

The population of college-age Americans is about to crash. It will change higher education forever. 


Life Expectancy and Inequality 

[Medium, via Naked Capitalism 11-22-2022]

...as we look at data from the Global Health Data Exchange, certain counties in America are not growing at the same rate as other counties, largely for reasons that policymakers understand well.

Drug overdoses and heart disease have been some of the leading causes of these increases in deaths. Over the last 20 years, drug overdose deaths in midlife have increased nearly 400% while suicides have increased 71% from 28,000 per year to 48,000 per year… heart disease is now the leading cause of death in America, claiming 655,000 individuals per year. Healthier lifestyles and exercise can dramatically reduce a person’s risk, but healthier food options are more and more out of reach for millions of Americans….

Money has become an increasingly strong determinant of who will live longer. People in wealthy counties outlive their poorer counterparts by as much as 20 years now, the greatest gap that in ages that America has seen in 40 years. In South Dakota’s Oglala Lakota county, for example, the average life expectancy is 66.8, making it the worst county in America. The median income in Oglala Lakota is $30,347, which stands in stark contrast to Colorado’s Summit County where life expectancy is 86.9, making it the highest in the country. Median income in Summit is more than 2.5x higher than it is in Oglala Lakota.

When we dive deeper than the county level, we see this relationship between money and life expectancy come into even clearer focus. Raj Chetty at Harvard analyzed 1.4 billion individual tax records between 1999–2014 and matched those to death records. His findings were alarming:

“First… the gap in life expectancy between the richest 1% and poorest 1% of individuals was 14.6 years for men and 10.1 years for women. Second, inequality in life expectancy increased over time. Between 2001 and 2014, life expectancy increased by 2.34 years for men and 2.91 years for women in the top 5% of the income distribution, but by only 0.32 years for men and 0.04 years for women in the bottom 5%.”


Oligarchy versus republicanism

Elite Conservatives Have Taken an Awfully Weird Turn

Graham Gallagher, November 25, 2022 [The New Republic]

[TW: This is a lengthy article, but it highlights the accelerating shift of American society, and especially “the right” away from republicanism, to oligarchy. Gallagher even uses the word “republicanism” a couple times, though he does not mention the historical tension between republicanism and liberalism. More importantly, Gallagher does not place this accelerating shift in the crucial context of the triumph of neoliberalism and resulting extreme economic inequality of the past half century. They are linked, as I will explain after these excerpts.]

An inkling of the Republican Party’s shocking underperformance in the midterms could be seen in a literal, not figurative, crusade. Allen West, former congressman and Texas Republican Party chairman, decided in September that the time was ripe to join the Knights Templar, the infamous sect of medieval soldier-monks. Photographed standing in a white robe emblazoned with a red cross draped jauntily over his tuxedo, West—a close ally of Donald Trump—tweeted that he had taken “an oath to protect the Christians in the Holy Land.”

The real Knights Templar, of course, were dissolved in 1312. The organization West joined is an American-based “chivalric order” that grants its members “knighthood” and, aside from its name, shares nothing with the actual Knights Templar….

The ascendant weird right will likely struggle to sell its deeply anti-patriotic vision to many voters. In these segments of the mostly young, online-influenced American right, the optimistic vision espoused by Ronald Reagan’s “morning in America” has been discarded. The elite educated right has moved even beyond the overt pessimism of Donald Trump’s “American carnage”—now disgust with equitable citizenship, personal liberty, and democratic self-governance is commonplace. Fed by an endless outrage cycle and a motivated and well-resourced donor class willing to pour money into increasingly reactionary think tanks like the avowedly anti-democratic Claremont Institute, right-wing thinkers and activists have begun to identify the foundational pillars of the United States itself with immorality and adopted a new fascination with medieval Catholicism and imported European extremisms. Today, the right has shed its American and conservative roots and seeks a radical shift—a national “refounding.” Indeed, leading right-wing intellectuals like John Daniel Davidson have said that “the conservative project has failed” and that people like them constitute the educated vanguard of a “revolutionary moment.”

Nine in 10 Americans believe that being “truly American” involves respecting “American political institutions and laws,” the Public Religion Research Institute found last year. Americans consistently affirm that liberty, equality, and progress—the core values of republicanism and the Enlightenment—are ones they try to live by. While the content and meaning of those values have always been contested terrain, opposing them is a nonstarter….

[Peter Thiel’s venture capitalist protege Blake Masters, who lost the US Senate race for Nevada 46 to 52 percent has] openly said that democracy is a smokescreen for the masses “stealing certain kinds of goods and redistributing them as they see fit.”

….When right-wing writers like National Review’s Nate Hochman argue that no-fault divorce was “a tragic mistake” (a view shared by numerous other far-right figures), he is not only embracing a position outside the bounds of conventional American life but one that is deeply politically unpopular, opposed by at least four-fifths of Americans. The activist right’s legal alternative is “covenant marriage,” which allows divorce only under extreme circumstances like felony conviction or child abuse. Covenant marriage has recently made its way into the Texas Republican Party’s official platform as a replacement for existing marriage law….

The growing fascination with Catholicism—particularly sedevacantism, which denies the current pope’s legitimacy—is, according to one critic, indicative of the educated and activist right’s “admiration for the [European] aristocratic past” and a longing for a new elite to which it feels it belongs. This segment of the right has, both programmatically and aesthetically, lost interest in conserving that which is American and moved on to mine its influences from stranger sources. Constitutionalism, Enlightenment rationality, religious freedom, and republicanism are out. European aristocracy, crusading holy orders, and mysticism are in…. 


[In The Politics of Inequality: A Political History of the Idea of Economic Inequality in America (New York, NY, Columbia University Press, 2007), Michael J. Thompson argues that there are sharp distinctions between republicanism and liberalism, especially the fear of republicans that economic inequality “lead inexorably to political and social inequalities of power” which grievously weaken “the political community and any kind of democratic or republican political culture,” allowing, for example, the resurrection of feudal hierarchical social relations, and the rise of demagogues like Donald Trump.  Thompson explicitly writes that “the contemporary tolerance of economic inequality is actually the result of liberalism and liberal thought itself,” and “Any political community that suffers from severe imbalances between rich and poor is in danger of losing its democratic character...”

[But, how does a society “lose its democratic character”? Marxist theory posits that capitalism itself is the villain, but what about democratic societies before capitalism? Repeatedly, the writings of classical republicans point to the rich as the major source of problems. So, there is some process of human nature that is operative, regardless of how a society’s economy is organized. Marxist theory, in fact, is probably a hindrance in understanding this, as it misdirects attention away from this process to that of “capitalist exploitation.”

[In the Christian bible, we find: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:24) And, more pointedly, 

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. (James 5:1-6)

In The Spirit of Laws, Book 5. Chapter 5.--”In what Manner the Laws establish Equality in a Democracy,” Montesquieu notes that “to men of overgrown estates, everything which does not contribute to advance their power and honor is considered by them as an injury.”

[More recently, we have the example of the slave holding states in the American south, which beginning in the 1820s and 1830s, repudiated the “slaveholding abolitionism” of Washington, Jefferson, Mason, and others, and explicitly rejected the republican precept of equality. Forrest A. Nabors, in From Oligarchy to Republicanism: The Great Task of Reconstruction (Columbia, Mo., University of Missouri Press, 2017) mapped out in detail how slaveholding south lost its democratic character. Nabors makes great use of the Congressional debates and discussions of the Republicans in Congress after the Civil War, as they struggled with the issue of “reconstructing” the former slave states and bringing them back into the Union. 


[Nabors writes that

“In 1785 Jefferson considered the difference between northern and southern character. His list of specific contrasts… showed that the foundations of oligarchic and republican political societies were already entrenched in the North and South, respectively. He wrote that southerners were "zealous for their own liberties, but trampling on those of others," whereas northerners were "jealous of their own liberties, and just to those of others ." ...Northerners respected the dominion that nature's God had allotted in equal measure to each person and were protective of the dominion allotted to each one of themselves….

...In 1830 a North Carolina abolitionist echoed Jefferson, observing that southern society had become careless toward and covetous of the rights of others. He attributed the origin of that carelessness and covetousness to the effect of slaveholding on those with more "wealth and affluence." The result was that "the same contempt which they cherish for the negro they. . . cherish towards the white peasantry." Anyone "who will oppress and abuse his own slaves, will also . . . oppress his indigent neighbour, or any one else over whom he may have gained an advantage."

This effect of slavery was not restricted to the slaveholders. Everyone who had some advantage over another used it to oppress whom they could. He added that this tendency was "common among the wealthy, and by far too common with the middle classes of our citizens," striking "at the root of our republican institutions, and if suffered to become sufficiently strong, would overturn even our liberty itself"112  He recognized the development of a haughty ruling class, and much more. He saw that oppression of the stronger over the weaker was becoming general throughout slave society.

[Nabors explains how the Southern states began to codify this oligarchical mindset into law, so that “Eventually, the law formally established ranks of the stronger over the weaker, determined by wealth.” This followed logically from South Carolina Senator John Calhoun’s decades long campaign to repudiate the republican ideals of the Declaration of Independence, and to not just remove the stigma of slavery as evil, but get slavery accepted as positive good. Calhoun explicitly argued that the principle "all men are born free and equal" was "the most false and dangerous of all political errors.”

[The late 20th century campaign to enshrine Milton Friedman’s “shareholder value” as the penultimate capitalist principle, should be seen in the same light as Calhoun’s campaign to legitimize slavery. Ditto for the entire neoliberal project of enshrining Adam Smith’s invisible hand, and von Mises’ and von Hayek’s “free market,” as the best means of allocating  society's resources. 

[Nabors writes:

The new legal standing of wealth and the decline of natural equality correlated. By making relative wealth the basis of rights, the slave South made rights alienable and reintroduced domination as a lawful principle of civilized government. The law promised to reward the covetousness of the rich... Superior success and power conferred the right of one to dominate the other. The weak were contemptible objects of paternal care, not equals in liberty. (pp. 254-256.)

[Recall that Gallagher began his article with the spectacle of former congressman and Texas Republican Party chairman Allen West joining the Knights Templar. Note the end of this next paragraph from Nabors:

To put this in Jefferson's terms, their liberty was achieved by having successfully  trampled on the liberties of others. In conflicts with the planters over such things as common land use and slave discipline, the planters prevailed... The planters' greater liberty was achieved by trampling on and acquiring the liberties of the lower nobility. The relative amount of landed wealth owned determined the extent of the possessor's liberty—yeomen over poor whites and slaves, planters over them all. The hierarchical relationships between these ranks revived the medieval relationship between lords, vassals, and serfs, which goes far to explaining why, in the middle of America in :he nineteenth century, wealthy Southerners actually staged medieval fairs and jousting tournaments, emphasizing chivalry, courtliness, martial virtue, crownings, and maids of honor.120 Evidently, they felt an instinctive affinity or the dominating lords of the bygone era and sought to imitate them and re-create their way of life as they developed their revolutionary regime.

Liberty was dependent upon acquiring wealth and could be won only by devouring the liberty of others. In contrast, a model republican society protects the liberty of all against all oppression, despite inequality of wealth. Economic competition is mild, defused of the fear of oppression and the appetite for domination. Prosperity and poverty can neither elevate nor depress the individual's equal standing as a citizen. The most that greed can acquire is wealth, simply, and so the appetites are restrained. (pp257-258)


“Where democracy goes to the highest bidder” 

[Financial Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-22-2022]

“Corporations spend billions buying influence, and there are any number of academic studies to show that this pays off (one from 2021 found that a dollar spent on political influence is associated with $20.67 in higher future annual earnings; I could list a dozen others with similar findings). Foreign governments do the same. A few days ago, the National Intelligence Council released a report showing that the United Arab Emirates used corporate donations, political lobbying, grants to universities and other types of spending ($164mn since 2016) to influence US foreign policy over several years. This isn’t a nefarious attempt to leverage disinformation by illegal means. This is a friendly government buying power by legal means. And that is the problem. Corporate political action committees, Citizens United and all sorts of loopholes in our very porous political system have turned Washington into a kind of open-air bazaar for influence purchasing. It pays off, and people know it. I actually got a research report from an investment management firm the other day that put forward an extremely convincing portfolio strategy based on buying companies with underutilised lobbying power. Wow. Just wow. To me, this is a huge issue in a world in which the US is trying to present “values” as its competitive edge against China. Supporting liberal democracy is one thing. But what if democracy is for sale? This was the one terrible truth that Donald Trump embedded in his own welter of lies as president. In what must be the greatest irony of all time, a crooked real estate guy from Queens essentially said to the nation, ‘Hey, you see those politicians and CEOs in the back room? They’ve got the system rigged.’ He then went back and continued playing poker with them, and encouraged everyone else to do the same.”


Global power shift

What Pacific Century?

Harold Meyerson, November 22, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Last month, the axis of American commerce tilted from the West to the East. By “East,” I don’t mean China, Asia or, to resurrect a colonial exoticization, the Orient. I mean our East Coast instead of our West.

In August and September, The Wall Street Journal reports, the Port of New York/New Jersey was busier than the Port of Los Angeles for the first time since America’s corporate leaders discovered that employing cheap Chinese labor meant bigger American corporate profits.


Winning the Majority: A New U.S. Bargain with the Global South 

[Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, via Naked Capitalism 11-20-2022]


They’re not capitalists — they’re predatory criminals

Crypto: Everyone Was Just That Stupid 

[Heisenberger Report, via Naked Capitalism 11-23-2022]

The cryptocurrency craze taught us that if enough people believe, the myth can become strong enough to supplant common sense, and the resultant mania can perpetuate the delirium such that skeptics begin to question themselves, on the way to becoming converts. On that level, crypto is really no different than the dollar or any other fiat money. It’s all just a myth, and once there are enough converts, holding out becomes asinine. But no crypto has come anywhere near that tipping point. And thanks to recent events, none ever will.

I don’t expect anyone to like this article, and I fully expect most readers to find it “flawed” on many levels. But it’s not. Flawed, I mean. Instead (and this brings us full circle), the reality is that everyone is just this damn stupid. The entire financial universe, inclusive of VCs, hedge funds, institutional investors, veterans from Wall Street’s largest banks, journalists with otherwise good reputations, former securities lawyers, congresspeople, retail investors and everyday folks from all walks of life, were duped into believing that the private money business can work at scale. That somehow, thanks to blockchain, anyone, anywhere can just print money. And that throwing real money at fake money was a good investment.

In July of 2015, a 45-year-old woman was arrested in Kingsport, Tennessee, for attempting to use counterfeit dollar bills “printed in black and white on regular copy paper” at a local grocery store. When she was detained, police recovered two of the bills, along with a receipt for a new printer and “said copy paper,” as TIME dryly put it.

While explaining herself to police, she reportedly said, “I don’t give a f–k, all these other bitches get to print money so I can too.”

Little did she know, that straightforward pitch would’ve made her a VC darling, a financial media celebrity and a real-life billionaire in 2022.


Defund the SEC 

Eschaton, November 17, 2022

A big chunk of the "popularism" and "anti-criminal justice reform" rhetoric/agenda has been pushed by people directly funded by and who otherwise promoted the crypto scammer of the day, with some of those people quite clearly being conduits from the crypto scammer lobby to Dems in Congress. Crypto scammer boy was a high profile Dem funder this cycle, nuking progressives in primaries to the cheers of these people. 

A big crypto-bro candidate was Carrick Flynn, who was pushed by Pelosi's PAC, for mysterious reasons. Fortunately he lost to Andrea Salinas, who just won her seat in Oregon. SBF also gave a bunch of money to Vox, which promoted Carrick. 

There's a very long piece to be written about all the ways SBF's money corrupted this election cycle,  all the corrupt people who joined in, and the influence they had, hiding behind "Effective Altruism", which was just a front for this scam. Some of your faves are involved! 
Of course the problem with corrupt systems is that everyone involved is tainted, or their friends are, so best not to mention it.


US Is Focused on Regulating Private Equity Like Never Before

[Businessweek, via The Big Picture 11-25-2022]

An industry that has long escaped scrutiny in Washington has found agencies slow-walking deals and enforcing long-dormant competition laws.


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

America’s Food-Security Crisis Is a Water-Security Crisis, Too 

[Mother Jones, via Naked Capitalism 11-26-2022]

...But there are some critical questions they don’t ask: Do you drink your tap water? Is it potable and ample? Can you cook food with it, and use it to mix infant formula and cereal? Such questions could uncover some of the millions of Americans who are water insecure—a circumstance directly connected to food insecurity.

There’s no healthcare screener for water insecurity. The issue is not even on most public health professionals’ radar, although recent water disasters in Flint, Michigan, and Jackson, Mississippi, are starting to change that. Clinicians who are aware of water insecurity “are thinking, ‘If I screen for this, what am I going to do about it?’” says Palakshappa, noting the dearth of resources available to mitigate it….

Most estimates put US water insecurity at 2.2 million residents. Asher Rosinger, director of the Water, Health, and Nutrition Laboratory at Pennsylvania State University, says this is probably a “huge” undercount, and the actual number might be closer to 60 million. There are no official estimates of combined food and water insecurity, which makes it tough to understand the scope of the problem, let alone to propose solutions.

“We’re measuring water by how many cubic meters there are and dividing it across the land,” says Northwestern’s Young. “Or we’re measuring infrastructure, which is like, ‘Where do you get your drinking water from? Is it from a tap? Is it from a well? Is it from a borehole?’ But you can imagine 99 scenarios where you have a tap but you can’t pay for water to flow through it, or you don’t trust the water that comes out of it, or the infrastructure upstream of the tap has gone to shit. There are lots of reasons why measuring physical availability or infrastructure only gives you a pinhole peek of what the real problem is.”


Italy’s new firebrand PM launches blistering diatribe saying immigration from Africa would STOP if countries like France halted exploitation of continent’s valuable resources 

[Daily Mail, via Naked Capitalism 11-20-2022]


The rentier economy

Mercedes locks faster acceleration behind a $1,200 annual paywall 

[The Verge, via Naked Capitalism 11-24-2022]


Disrupting mainstream economics - Modern Monetary Theory

MMT: historical and logical foundations 

Robert Cauneau [MMT France, via Mike Norman Economics 11-22-2022]

A good understanding of the potential of MMT can only be obtained if we have a good knowledge of the origin of societies. A return to the past shows us that they never appeared spontaneously, but always under the pressure of an authority exercising a strong coercion. It also shows how the need for money came about....

According to Henry (2004), money was of no use to them before societies could produce a surplus. Indeed, a substantial transformation of social relations from an egalitarian tribal society to a stratified and hierarchical society was necessary before money emerged. Once agricultural developments generated economic surpluses, taxation was used by the authorities as a method of transferring some of these surpluses (real resources) from the population to the palaces. The central authority (the king) levied taxes on the population and determined how to settle them by establishing the unit of account used to designate all debts to the State (Henry 2004). Henry (2004: 90) adds that money cannot exist without power and authority. Human populations organized around hospitality and exchange simply did not need it5, whereas in a stratified society, the ruling class is obliged to devise standard units of account that measure not only the economic surplus collected in the form of taxes, but also the royal gifts and religious duties that were imposed on the population concerned.

In ancient Greece, as in ancient Egypt, the emergence of money was closely linked to the need for religious authorities to control the flow of surplus. In other words, money becomes a public mechanism for the distribution of economic surplus and justice….

Thus, if we base ourselves on logical reasoning, we realize that there can be no market without a currency, that there is no currency without a State, and therefore that the market is an epiphenomenon of the State. This process is based on the taxation by the State of agents who are thus obliged to demand this currency, by all possible means, and thus to offer goods and services in exchange for currency, in order to pay the taxes….

We can thus see that MMT analyzes the currency as a public monopoly. The State is the precondition of the currency. But it can also be said that it is the precondition of capitalism, which is, in fact, only a particular case of monetized society. Capitalism can thus be considered as an epiphenomenon of the State.

Thus, contrary to many other heterodox approaches, which consider that money can be explained on the basis of the market or of capitalism8 , and therefore that it represents something completely different under other political regimes, MMT considers that money has common bases shared by all categories of monetized societies. For it, the State intervenes a priori, and not a posteriori, to stabilize the situation, to fix the problems of a supposedly spontaneous market.

Restoring balance to the economy

Joe Biden Is Finally Moving Toward Allowing Bankruptcy to Eliminate Student Debt 

[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 11-23-2022]


Rail union votes could force Congress to head off a strike 

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism 11-21-2022]


Rail union rejects Biden deal, sets stage for December strike 

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism 11-22-2022]


Will Congress Shut Down Rail Worker Collective Bargaining?

Jarod Facundo, November 23, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Thanks to the Railway Labor Act, a Congressional resolution could force workers back to the railroads under the terms of a contract many of them just rejected.


Judge orders Amazon to stop retaliating against union organizers 

[MarketWatch, via Naked Capitalism 11-23-2022]


How Unions Work for the Economy 

Steven Greenhouse [The Century Foundation, via Naked Capitalism 11-20-2022]


How one man quietly stitched the American safety net over four decades

[Vox, via The Big Picture 11-24-2022]

Robert Greenstein is not a household name. But for 40 years, he was one of the most powerful people in Washington, DC, with one of the most surprising jobs. He was the capitol’s de facto lobbyist for the poor, and he won countless fights that cumulatively directed hundreds of billions, if not trillions, of dollars to programs for low-income people. The odds are that you or someone you know got more services from the government — health insurance, more money, food assistance — because of his actions.

In 1981, Greenstein founded the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a think tank to provide rapid-fire analysis of tax and spending proposals, with a focus on how they affected low-income people. Over four decades, he built the Center up into one of Washington’s most influential institutions, insinuating it into the heart of the $6 trillion-plus annual federal budget process. 


Oregon Enshrines The Right To Health Care

[The Lever, 11-19-22]

On Monday, Oregon voters passed Measure 111, making affordable health care a fundamental human right. It is the first state in the country to change its constitution in order to enshrine the right to health care. The measure states: “It is the obligation of the state to ensure that every resident of Oregon has access to cost-effective, clinically appropriate and affordable health care as a fundamental right.”

By including the right to affordable health care in its constitution, Oregon would be given more authority to address rising health care costs and prevent the legislature from cutting current recipients from Medicaid, including undocumented immigrants.

Passing Measure 111 and securing the constitutional right to health care was a lifelong goal of Portland Democrat Mitch Greenlick, who served in the state’s legislature and attempted at least eight times in 16 years to bring such a proposal before voters. Greenlick passed away in 2020, after advocating the proposal in that year’s legislative session.


Toledo Torpedoes Medical Debt

[The Lever, 11-19-22]

In a creative use of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, Toledo’s city council approved legislation to use some of the city’s COVID-related stimulus funds to relieve residents of millions of dollars worth of medical debt. By partnering with the non-profit organization RIP Medical Debt, which buys debt bundles from hospitals at a discount, Toledo and Lucas County Residents will use $1.6 million to eliminate as much as $200 million in medical debt.

“Because of our model, and the way medical debt is bought and sold in the U.S., we’re positioned to stretch government funds even farther,” RIP Medical Debt president and CEO Allison Sesso said in a statement. “One dollar into the program abolishes on average $100 of medical debt.”

Councilwoman Michele Grim spearheaded the measure and said it would use less than 1 percent of the city’s ARPA funds to wipe out decades of debt.


How To Be Good

[The Ruffian, via The Big Picture 11-24-2022]

Three models of global social impact. (The Ruffian)


Cutting-edge tech made this tiny country a major exporter of food

[Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism 11-24-2022]

The Netherlands has used advances in vertical farming, seed technology and robotics to become a global model


The renewable energy transition is failing 

[Asia Times, via Naked Capitalism 11-25-2022]

Despite all the renewable-energy investments and installations, actual global greenhouse gas emissions keep increasing. That’s largely due to economic growth: While renewable energy supplies have expanded in recent years, world energy usage has ballooned even more – with the difference being supplied by fossil fuels….

Also posing an enormous difficulty for a societal switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources is the increasing need for minerals and metals. The World Bank, the International Energy Agency, the International Monetary Fund, and McKinsey and Company have all issued reports in the last couple of years warning of this growing problem. Vast quantities of minerals and metals will be required not just for making solar panels and wind turbines, but also for batteries, electric vehicles, and new industrial equipment that runs on electricity rather than carbon-based fuels….

America's Electric Grid Can't Support The EV Revolution

Irina Slav [Oilprice, via Mike Norman Economics 11-21-2022]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 11-23-2022]

x

.


Creating new economic potential - science and technology

“But Seriously, How Do We Make an Entrepreneurial State?”

[American Affairs, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-22-2022]

“The book is at its strongest when describing the evolution and transformation of various “innovation bureaucracies” across time and around the world. While digging into historical examples like the original Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry, and the Swedish innovation agency Vinnova, the authors surface certain themes that repeat across case studies: the need for flexible hiring rules, the importance of attracting a nation’s best and brightest into public service, and the significance of overarching ‘missions’ to focus the public sector. A unifying theme discussed throughout the book is the idea of ‘agile stability’ for state bureaucracies: the tension between ensuring stability in the core functions that they provide to the public while also maintaining the flexibility to evolve and add new capabilities over time. Nevertheless, the book is frustrating in its lack of practical detail as to how agencies can embed agility into their functions or how to structurally enable bureaucratic actors to take risks. But the fundamental question is an essential one for our current moment, and the book can help point us in the right direction. So, how does one actually make an entrepreneurial state? There is no single correct model, and in fact, an essential element of entrepreneurship is the ability to correct course and revise plans in real time to accomplish overarching goals. With that in mind, some recent attempts at rebuilding state capacity and fostering agile stability within the U.S. federal government can shed some light on the “how” of making an entrepreneurial state.”


Disrupting mainstream politics

John Fetterman and Social Media: How His Campaign Built a Winning Strategy 

[Teen Vogue, via Naked Capitalism 11-20-2022]


Collapse of independent news media

No, New York Times, You Don’t “Deserve Better” Than Donald Trump 

Matt Taibbi [TK News, via Naked Capitalism 11-20-2022]

Lambert Strether: “A magisterial takedown in response to this Times example of something everybody has. From below the fold:”

By “a tiny bit flat-footed” [Times editor Dean] Baquet meant his paper was unprepared for Mueller to come up empty because it had ceased to be a news organization willing to embrace guilt, innocence, or whatever the hell the truth was, and instead became a political operation agitating on behalf of “our readers who want Donald Trump to go away.” It openly rooted for one particular outcome and ignored the other possibility, causing the paper to publish one mistaken or clearly biased story after the other.

These ranged from the infamous “Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence” story to the transparent government PR headline, “F.B.I. Used Informant to Investigate Russia Ties to Campaign, Not to Spy, as Trump Claims” to stories proclaiming the “Nunes memo” about FBI malfeasance to be a mere partisan effort at “defending President Trump from Mr. Mueller’s investigation.” As later revealed in the report of Inspector General Michael Horowitz, the Nunes memo was correct in virtually all its parts. Yet the Times didn’t investigate that story or dozens of others properly, because it was and is now a political organ, not a newspaper.

They also played dirty. They accused people of serious offenses without calling for comment, dragged people under public suspicion based on un-checkable assertions of anonymous officials, and fixed errors late if at all. If new events punched holes in earlier reports, they rarely copped to it. This was all part of a new unwritten rule, that coloring outside the lines was permitted, because Trump.


Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

How the right’s radical thinkers are coping with the midterms

[Vox, via The Big Picture 11-20-2022]


Rightwing group pushing US states for law blocking ‘political boycott’ of firms

[The Guardian, via The Big Picture 11-20-2022]

Lobbying group Alec wrote model legislation to protect oil companies, big ag and gunmakers from economic backlash. 


Big Brother is Watching You: ALEC’s Doublethink Attack On America’s Free Markets

[Forbes, via The Big Picture 11-20-2022]

When it comes to doublethink, Big Brother ain’t got nothin’ compared to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-23-2022]

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The (Anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts

What in the World Happened to the Supreme Court? 

Linda Greenhouse [The Atlantic, via The Big Picture 11-21-2022]

[The June 2022 Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade] caught many Americans by surprise, but it shouldn’t have. The majority votes that erased the right to abortion, that put a constitutional stranglehold on states’ and cities’ efforts to keep guns off the streets, that further tightened religion’s grip on civil society, and that cast an ominous shadow over the policy-making apparatus of the modern federal government were the products of a project that goes back decades, one that unfolded in the full view of anyone who bothered to watch….

How did the Supreme Court itself acquire so much power over the lives of Americans? The answer is, to a surprising degree, a 20th-century story. It wasn’t until 1925 that Congress gave the Court the power to select the cases it wanted to decide instead of simply resolving disputes as they happened to come along. Before then, as remains true today in the federal circuit courts of appeals, the justices didn’t control their own docket. The power to choose—a power that Congress expanded further, to near total, in the mid-1980s—transformed the Court from a solver of disputes between parties to a shaper not only of its own agenda but in many ways of the country’s as well. It became a law-giver rather than a dispute-solver….

Roberts was also wrong in a more fundamental sense. It’s not simply that the public is unhappy with the Court’s decisions. That’s what the polls show, but something deeper is going on that eludes even a well-crafted survey, something that may be the most important of all. It is a growing sense that in its actions in the past term, the current majority is abusing its power. It has broken the Court’s connection with the American public, reneging on the tacit deal the Court made decades earlier….

...In a notable series of pointed remarks since mid-summer, Justice Elena Kagan has sounded an alarm. “If over time the Court loses all connection with the public and the public sentiment, that is a dangerous thing for democracy,” she said at a conference of federal judges in Montana. Kagan, a dissenter in Dobbs, did not explicitly mention the decision, but the reference was unmistakable. Scholars agree, warning that the gulf Dobbs opened between the public and the Court, and the majority’s blatant disregard of public sentiment, presents a serious threat to the Court’s legitimacy. “Indeed, the Dobbs decision may be the most legitimacy-threatening decision since the 1930s,” James L. Gibson, a political scientist at Washington University in St. Louis and a prominent scholar of the Court’s relationship to the public, wrote in an unpublished paper he posted on an academic website….

For more than half a century, a key text for scholars on the relationship between the Supreme Court and the public has been an article by the Yale political scientist Robert Dahl titled “Decision-Making in a Democracy: The Supreme Court as a National Policy-Maker (pdf).” In this short article (only 17 pages) published in 1957 at the height of concern over the Warren Court’s activism on civil rights and criminal justice, Dahl pointed out that the Court tended over time to align itself with the national consensus on major issues. The Court “operates to confer legitimacy,” he argued, “not simply on the particular and parochial policies of the dominant political alliance, but upon the basic patterns of behavior required for the operation of a democracy.”

...A political scientist would have been farsighted indeed to anticipate what happened to the Court from 2017 to 2020: that a president who lost the popular vote would manage to lock in a conservative supermajority with three appointments, all of them confirmed by the narrowest of margins—following the Republicans’ abolition of the filibuster for Supreme Court confirmations—by senators from states that collectively contain less than half the country’s population. No wonder, then, that theory no longer fits reality. Robert Dahl’s reliance on “the basic patterns of behavior required for the operation of a democracy” is of little use when the patterns have been shattered and democracy itself seems so fragile.

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Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – November 20, 2022

Uncategorized

 Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – November 20, 2022

by Tony Wikrent


Here's WHY your inbox is a dumpster fire of fundraising spam, and what we can do about it.

Will Easton, November 18, 2022 [DailyKos]

Over the past couple cycles here, certain Democratic consulting firms, candidates & organizations have simply decided that it’s in their best interests to sell, rent, swap & trade your email address around the ecosystem, without bothering to ask you first.  So if you’ve contributed to one campaign … you’re going to be emailed by dozens, perhaps hundreds.

The DCCC condones and encourages this practice; it’s my understanding they REQUIRE their endorsed candidates to share email addresses into the pool.  OTOH, a lot of progressive candidates do NOT engage in these practices -- most notably Senator Sanders, whose refusal to just hand his entire email list over to the party in 2016 was the cause of much handwringing ...but he made the right call.


Global power shift

Ukraine is a ‘Warm Up’ for Fighting China: Why the Head of America’s Nuclear Forces Just Warned of an Imminent ‘Very Long’ War  

[Military Watch Magazine, via Naked Capitalism 11-13-2022]


John Mearsheimer on Putin’s Ambitions After Nine Months of War 

Isaac Chotine [The New Yorker, via Naked Capitalism 11-18-2022]


What Nigeria Can Teach Us About China’s Belt and Road 

[The Diplomat, via Naked Capitalism 11-15-2022]

...Beijing and Abuja have been strategic partners since 2006, and their economic relationship has blossomed in what both sides would generally consider a “win-win.” In trade and investment, China has become a significant player in Nigeria, and in the case of development assistance, it has grown to be Nigeria’s preferred partner.

In particular, China has been Nigeria’s go-to source of funding to restore its dilapidated infrastructure, with Abuja formally joining the BRI in 2018 during the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Summit in Beijing. China and its economic actors, especially the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), have become the heart and soul of Abuja’s infrastructure reconstruction ambitions. Beijing has played a leading role in the construction of the Kaduna-Kano railway line (at a cost of $1.7 billion), Lagos-Kano railway line ($6.7 billion) and Lagos-Ibadan railway line ($1.5 billion). China’s role is not just limited to railway lines; even in the construction of airports and ICT infrastructure, Chinese companies have assumed a leading position….

Even Nigeria’s national legislature laments the lack of transparency concerning loan agreements signed between the executive and Chinese state banks. This follows a trend outlined by AidData: Chinese loan agreements tend to have “far-reaching confidentiality clauses.” Nigeria’s weak institutional capacity has resulted in BRI projects being mired in secrecy, corruption, and blatant disregard for domestic laws.

As a result, for all the mega-projects China has undertaken in Nigeria, there is a lack of comprehensive links back to the domestic economy. In general, Chinese development assistance is tied to Chinese companies, technology, and capital, which threatens to crowd out indigenous economic actors. Already we see Nigerian construction companies venting that they are ostracized from BRI projects….


London loses position as most valuable European stock market 

[BBC, via Naked Capitalism 11-16-2022]


America’s leaders are a danger to the world

[Chris Hedges Report, via TheRealNews.com, November 11, 2022]

[Hedges interviews Andrew Bacevich about Bacevich’s new book, After the Apocalypse]

Andrew Bacevich:  ...What’s the essence of the view? The essence of the view is that we define the future, that we are called upon to shape the future. And of course, inevitably, to shape it in our own image.

When I state it so baldly, it sounds preposterous. When I state it that way, no significant figure, I think, in our public life is going to say, yeah, that’s what I believe. But regardless of their denials, that is what our elites believe, and their particular reading of history affirms their view that we are the indispensable nation. And that when we use force, it is necessarily pursuant to a righteous cause. And therefore they remain blind to the faults that lead to so much suffering, catastrophe, missed opportunities, that, in my reading, have come to be particularly common over the last 20 or 25 years….

Now, I guess my critique, if we want to call it that, is informed by my own contemporary concerns. I have come to believe, particularly, I think, since the end of the Cold War, that there is no operative definition of the common good to which we as Americans subscribe. And I think that absence is, in many respects, at the root of why our democracy has deteriorated so badly. Again, roughly since the end of the Cold War. And I fear that the interpretation of the 1619 Project of our past simply will reinforce that. I mean, my bottom line is, unless we can recover some shared understanding of the common good, then American democracy may well be doomed. I’m not predicting that. I just fear that….

Chris Hedges:  ... you made some really great points in this book, but one of them for me that was particularly interesting was how you write the Trump presidency signified the final demise of what you call “the New Order”. And you talked about the crazy conspiratorial right wing as embracing a heresy that terrified the established elites, the Bidens, the Clintons, the Bushes, and everyone else. Can you explain that?

Andrew Bacevich:  Well, I think in simplest terms, it’s the heresy of America first. This goes back again to World War II, more specifically to the origins of US involvement in World War II, the great debate that occurred over a period of a couple years prior to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. That debate centered on whether or not the United States should intervene in the European war, specifically on behalf of Great Britain, which, after the fall of France that we alluded to early on, stood alone against Hitler’s Third Reich.

That debate occurred at a pivotal moment of US history and resonated for decades after that. And the prevailing interpretation among historians, within most of the political establishment – There were some individuals on the right and on the left that dissented, but certainly the consensus was that the interventionist camp was correct and the anti-interventionist camp, the America firsters, were profoundly wrong.

And that contention was the basis of post-war American internationalism, formed the cornerstone of the rationale for US policy during the Cold War, and by extension provided the rationale for the creation of the national security state, for the pattern of interventionism that became such an important part of US foreign policy in the 1950s, ’60s, and so on.

And Donald Trump runs for the presidency and he says, that’s all a lie. That’s all wrong. That what ought to be the basis of US policy is America first. This is, in the eyes of the establishment, a profound heresy, denying the truth of US intervention in World War II and of the pattern of so-called global leadership that continued beyond that. So to identify with the anti-interventionists of the pre-World War II period was simply an unforgivable mortal sin. And I think that accounts, at least in part, for the savage response of the establishment to the Trump candidacy. Let me concede, quickly, that he was a liar, a fraud, a scoundrel, corrupt, and should never have been elected president….

Chris Hedges:  ... I do have to just touch on Huntington, because I had to live through that as a foreign correspondent, and you nailed him. You said, this is the clash of civilizations, “Professor Huntington published an essay that future scholars are likely to classify among the urtexts signaling the coming demise of American primacy.” You said, “It cast a pernicious spell and underwrote the abandonment of reason.” And as somebody who spent seven years in the Middle East, that is so completely correct, but it did essentially give an ideological veneer to this. It was bought. I can remember diplomats being almost giddy about this….

Andrew Bacevich:  [The Russian invasion of Ukraine] created this rallying cry in the West. The Germans agreeing that they need to spend more on their military. Nations like Sweden and Finland petitioning to join NATO. And so I think we have the appearance of a rejuvenation of the West triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Well, my bet is that when this war ends, and it will end, that that rejuvenation will quickly disappear. And when it does, then I think we can begin, we the United States, can begin to return to the question of what does define the world order in which we must play a part, in which we must be participants?

And I think that the answer is going to be this notion of a West, a Western civilization, of Western values, providing the basis for uniting Western countries into some sort of a bloc that represents liberalism, exalted values. I think we’re going to find that that was already eroding and it’s never going to come back. So what I argue in the book is it’s preposterous to say that we’re part of the West. If you acknowledge the extent to which the United States of America has become a multicultural nation where our people come from Latin America and from Asia and from Africa, the notion that we are somehow still tied to the so-called Mother Country, England, Great Britain, is really preposterous. But it’s just going to take us a while to outgrow that, I think.

Chris Hedges:  Well, people have to read the book. You’re a great historian and a great writer, and you do a pretty good job of taking down our fascination with the royals and illusions about Great Britain.


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-14-2022]

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Strategic Political Economy

Policies for Adapting to the ‘New Normal’ of the Anthropocene

[Behavioral Scientist, via The Big Picture 11-17-2022]

Two sets of value systems that underlie Western society trigger environmental problems. The first is a faith in market capitalism. This faith embraces a free market, property ownership, shareholder rights, limited regulation, and unlimited economic growth to produce socially optimal outcomes such as economic prosperity or a clean environment. This value set leads us to believe in the “win-win” solution to all our problems; that we can, for example, correct climate change by pursuing solutions that also make us money.


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-17-2022]

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Democracy Takes Another Hit

James Kwak, November 9, 2022 [Medium, via Avedon's Sideshow]

Sure, last night was not as bad as some other first-midterm elections (see 1994 and 2010). But think about it. The Republicans have openly revealed themselves to be a systematically dishonest, anti-democratic, misogynist, extreme-fundamentalist party, whose members delight in promoting baseless conspiracy theories, forcing women to give birth no matter the costs, humiliating children because of their sexual identity, and stoking race hatred. In overturning Roe v. Wade — thereby showing themselves to be bald-faced liars as well — the Supreme Court’s theocratic majority gave Democrats what should have been the greatest political gift of the past half century. On hot-button issue after hot-button issue — the 2020 election, abortion, guns — the Republicans are on the wrong side of the American electorate. With every year that passes, our demographic advantage (young people) should be increasing. There is even a fatal disease that disproportionately targets people who hold conservative beliefs about science and the government.

Any visitor from Mars would say that we should have crushed the Republicans. Voters should have decisively rejected a party that inhabits an alternative universe and has no respect for half of the human species. Yet we just lost the House and at best will count ourselves lucky to squeak by in the Senate on a fortunate map (only 14 of the 35 seats up for election were ours). We can’t blame gerrymandering: the aggregate Republican advantage in House races is at its lowest point in decades. How can this be?

The truth is that the Democratic Party has failed — failed to stand for anything that ordinary people care about and failed to deliver basic economic security. We are pretty good at arming Ukraine to fight against a brutal Russian invasion, pretty bad at helping the working- and middle-class people who were once the bedrock of our party.


Nouriel Roubini Says More… 

[Project Syndicate, via Naked Capitalism 11-17-2022]

[TW: Roubini basically says the same thing as Michael Hudson, without Hudson’s concise conclusion that “debts that can’t be paid, won’t be paid.”]

Very high debt ratios (both private and public) complicate the dilemma further. Raising interest rates enough to crush inflation causes not only an economic crash, but also a financial crash, with highly leveraged private and public debtors facing severe distress. The resulting financial turmoil that intensifies the recession, creating a vicious cycle of deepening recession and escalating financial pain and debt distress.


Liberalism, conservatism and the lack of discussion of civic republicanism

[Avedon's Sideshow,  November 20, 2022]

I don't hold out much hope for a third party's success, especially in the current system, but is it possible to take over the Democratic Party? I don't feel optimistic about that, either. Here's one position on that:

"The Politicians Who Destroyed Our Democracy Want Us to Vote for Them to Save It [TW-I linked to this last week]: We should have walked out on the Democratic Party and mounted a serious opposition movement while we still had a chance. The bipartisan project of dismantling our democracy, which took place over the last few decades on behalf of corporations and the rich, has left only the outward shell of democracy. The courts, legislative bodies, the executive branch and the media, including public broadcasting, are captive to corporate power. There is no institution left that can be considered authentically democratic. The corporate coup d'état is over. They won. We lost."

[Avedon continues:] It's hard to argue with any of that, but if we ever had a chance to simply walk away, that hasn't been helped by changes in law that make third parties even more difficult to field. And unlike most Americans, I've had the experience of living in a country with multiple parties and I can't honestly say they fare any better. The UK has multiple parties, and yet, Margaret Thatcher's Conservatives went on and on and on with only 40% of the vote. We even ended up with Boris Johnson, and then the bizarre autumn antics that led to today. European countries are all watching inroads, if not outright successes, by the right wing breaking through whatever sort of liberalism (social democracy or democratic socialism, however you like to define it) used to create stable governments. Neoliberalism opened the door wide, and the far right has been wriggling through or even marching right in. Today's so-called "centrist" governments seem more willing to sympathize with avowed fascists than with any kind of social democracy, let alone "the left".


Firming Up Hierarchy

Blair Fix [Economics from the Top Down, via Mike Norman Economics 11-19-2022]

 I think that the recent rise in US income inequality is being driven by a redistribution of income within firms. In short, I believe that corporate hierarchies have become more despotic. Corporate elites have taken income that once went to the bottom of the hierarchy and redirected it to the top.

To test this idea, we’ll take a meandering route. First, I’ll tell you about my model of corporate hierarchy and how it explains income as a function of ‘hierarchical power’. Then I’ll give you a tour of US income inequality, and show you why it’s plausible that the recent rise in top incomes is being driven by growing ‘hierarchical despotism’. Next, I’ll break out the math and build a model of the US corporate landscape. I’ll use this model to predict the redistribution of income within US firms. Finally, I’ll compare the model’s predictions to the real-world trends reported by Song and colleagues. If all goes well, we’ll get some insight into the machinations of US corporate hierarchy.

My results? I find that to a surprising extent, the redistribution of income within US firms can be explained by a single parameter — a change in the rate that income scales with hierarchical power.…

Mike Norman comments:

Democracy was introduced to recapture some of the consensual organization that had been lost along way when the priestly class became entitled and was characterized by an ecclesiastical hierarchy. Similarly, the warrior class developed into a supreme leader whose reign was passed hereditarily and who had the power to created title subordinates that developed into hereditary aristocracies.

The Age of Enlightenment in 18th century Europe subsequent to the Protestant Revolution give birth to modern liberalism, which was had begun to be instantiated in England with the Magna Carta (sort of). The United States of America was the first modern liberal constitutional democracy modeled on 18th classical liberalism. The US Constitution sought to combine consensual and hierarchical organization practically for governing a populous and diverse nation that was a federation of sovereign states. It was based on a model reflecting the Roman Republic (SPQR and all that).

Conversely, the firm model developed along hierarchical lines as the most practical to the task. The corporate system is quite ancient as a legally based institutional structure.  Like militaries, firms and chartered firms ("corporations") were organized on hierarchical models. However, the joint-stock company introduced a modicum of consensual organization through the influence of the stockholders on management.

[TW: Norman commits the unfortunate but common error of referencing only liberalism, and ignoring civic republicanism. The major political theory that is developed during the Enlightenment is not liberalism, which focuses almost exclusively on individual liberty, but civic republicanism, which focuses on finding a balance between individual liberty and the needs of the community. Indeed, as Bernard Bailyn details in his 1967 book The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (Cambridge, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press)—which as awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the Bancroft Prize in 1968—the republicanism developed by John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon in their 1720-23 Cato’s Letters: Essays on Liberty, Civil and Religious was entirely a response to the ministerial corruption that enabled the South Sea Bubble. As noted in the  Wikipedia entry, 

Renowned historian Clinton Rossiter stated "no one can spend any time on the newspapers, library inventories, and pamphlets of colonial America without realizing that Cato's Letters rather than John Locke's Civil Government was the most popular, quotable, esteemed source for political ideas in the colonial period."

One of the few scholars who understands that there has been a struggle between the ideas of republicanism and liberalism is Michael J. Thompson, Professor of Political Theory at William Paterson University and author of The Politics of Inequality: A Political History of the Idea of Economic Inequality in America (New York, NY, Columbia University Press, 2007). I highly recommend this book. Some excerpts:

"the economic egalitarian tradition that I will present here is so crucial because it is at the heart of the American republican project itself. The American idea of a democratic republic had always been premised on an antipathy toward unequal divisions of property because early American thinkers saw in those unequal shares of economic power echoes of what had been historically overturned: a sociopolitical order of rank and privilege; a static society that sought to crystallize power relationships and hierarchical economic and social relations characterized by corruption and patronage; in short, a feudal order where the exercise of power was arbitrary and the prospect of domination pervaded everyday life. The reason I trace the historical development and inevitable dissolution of the discourse on economic inequality in American political thought is to show that the American republican project was, in fact, deeply tied to the issues of economic inequality as a reaction to feudal social relations. Any political community that suffers from severe imbalances between rich and poor is in danger of losing its democratic character..." p.4.

"As the liberal doctrine of competitive individualism became more dominant, calls for equality of condition were replaced with calls for equality of opportunity. As inequality began to worsen during the later decades of the twentieth century, it was these same liberal ideas that were in effect co-opted by a renewed economic libertarianism, which gave justification to inequality not only on the basis of "fairness" but on the basis of the neoliberal argument that inequalities were the product of an efficiently operating economy that would also produce an enhancement in economic incentives, prodding the economy to continuous growth and prosperity...." p.16.

“When followed historically, this tradition shows a coherent path from classical thought through the modern, even though not all of the various thinkers were of one mind on the problem. The coherence of this tradition lies not in the prescriptions that these various thinkers articulated to diminish economic inequalities but in the way that they all conceptualized inequalities of wealth and property as diminishing the strength of the political community and any kind of democratic or republican political culture. All believed that political life would be threatened by the unequal power relations that the concentration of economic power—wealth and property—created. The discourse also shows a growing response to the emergence and dominance of a market economy, and it shows a consistent concern with the welfare of the public, of society as a whole over its minority interests. Even those thinkers—such as Aristotle, Smith, and Hegel—who argue that there is a "natural inequality" between human beings do not argue that inequalities within society should persist if they lead to the dominance of one class. Indeed, what is consistently argued by both radical and moderate alike is that markets create inequalities that ought not to be tolerated and that require the intervention of society or the state.” p. 55.

"Early American thinkers inherited both liberal and republican ideas, but both traditions were tied to the idea of property. Liberal thought emphasized the nature of work and the idea that the natural right to property was inherent in the capacity to labor. The very notion of property, in Locke's famous words, was anything with which one mixed one's labor. Republican ideas were also premised on property, but on the notion that an equal dispersion of property needed to be maintained by some political means to ensure that political power was also evenly dispersed. The republican impulse saw that the institutions of the state had to protect against the formation of blocs of power derived from property in order to prevent the reemergence of feudal relations of mastery and subservience. Republicanism, in this sense, was not simply an "ideology": it was a political theory which sought to prevent the growth of actual inequalities of power within society, and many radical republican thinkers saw inequalities of property as the source of inequalities of power...." p.58.

...liberalism did become an overriding dimension of American political and economic life, but it is important to see how this was separated over time from a broader concern with a civic republican concern for the public good and the search for the proper balance between individual self-interest and liberty; on the one hand, and the duties individuals must have toward the community and the maintenance of the public good, on the other. p. 208

...end TW]


This is plutocracy, not capitalism

Why Didn’t the Government Stop the Crypto Scam? 

Matt Stoller  [BIG, via Naked Capitalism 11-18-2022]

[TW: As usual, it was conservative and libertarian ideologues who screwed the pooch.]

...Today, a lot of people are mad at SBF for stealing. But one of the more bizarre aspects of the crypto meltdown is the deep anger not just at those who perpetrated it, but at those who were trying to stop the scam from going on. For instance, here’s crypto exchange Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong, who just a year ago was fighting regulators vehemently, blaming the cops for allowing gambling in the casino he helps run….

And here’s soon-to-be-retiring Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who not only seeks to protect the crypto industry from intrusive rules but owns crypto personally, blaming regulators for the fiasco that he himself had helped foster….

Almost as soon as he took office, [SEC head] Gensler sought to fix this situation, and treat them as securities. He began investigating important players in crypto, like Do Kwon, later revealed as a Ponzi schemer behind the $45 billion Terra/Luna scheme. But the legal wrangling to just get the courts to treat crypto as a set of speculative instruments regulated under securities law made the law moot. First Gensler asked for Kwon’s voluntary cooperation in an investigation. Kwon said no. So the SEC served Kwon with a subpoena, which Kwon refused to honor. Then the Ponzi schemer actually turned around and his powerful legal team at Dentsons sued the SEC for attempting to investigate him.

In May of 2022, a year after Gensler began trying to do something about Terra/Luna, Kwon’s scheme blew up. In a comically-too-late-to-matter gesture, an appeals court then said that the SEC had the right to compel information from Kwon’s now-bankrupt scheme. It is absolute lunacy that well-settled law, like the ability for the SEC to investigate those in the securities business, is now being re-litigated.

And the people who are now saying ‘where were the regulators?!?’ Well they were absolutely cheering for Kwon; organizers at one crypto conference showed Gary Gensler’s face and played Darth Vader’s theme song. At one event, the New York Times noted that many crypto ‘enthusiasts’ watching Gensler discuss regulation with his predecessor “called for their incarceration or worse.”


The Latest Digital Token Scheme from Hell: New York Fed Teams Up with Citigroup and Sullivan & Cromwell

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, November 17, 2022 [Wall Street on Parade]

Just two business days after the crypto exchange FTX filed for bankruptcy and headlines swirled around the world suggesting it had used its crypto token to perpetuate a massive fraud reminiscent of Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, the New York Fed thought this would be an ideal time to announce it was launching a digital token pilot with the serial fraudster, Citigroup….


Big Law Firm, Sullivan & Cromwell, Did Significant Legal Work for Bankrupt Crypto Exchange, FTX

Pam Martens and Russ Martens: November 13, 2022 [Wall Street on Parade]

According to Reuters, Sullivan & Cromwell has been named as one of the advising law firms to the disgraced crypto exchange, FTX, in its bankruptcy proceedings. Sam Bankman-Fried, the co-founder and CEO of FTX, vaporized the high-profile crypto firm from a $32 billion valuation to smoldering ashes last week….


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

Wall Street Readies An Avalanche Of Lies 

Matthew Cunningham-Cook, November 17, 2022 [The Lever]

Public pensions with investments in private equity are about to face a reckoning — but they have no way of knowing how bad it might get….

Private equity and other alternative investments were originally peddled as vehicles that could deliver higher returns to investors, no matter the market environment, by taking over and transforming companies — often by loading them up with debt and laying off workers.

Such promises helped inspire public pensions to enter the space. Forty years ago, most public pension funds didn’t invest in private equity or hedge funds at all, instead pursuing far more orthodox investments in stocks and bonds. Now, public pensions have more than a trillion dollars invested in alternatives.

In total, public pensions supply more than a third of the capital to private equity, and they likely provide a similar share of the capital going to hedge funds and private real estate. And they are shoveling ever more money at the alternative investment industry, despite sky-high fees and returns that either meet or trail the broader markets.


Farm Bureau Survey Shows Thanksgiving Dinner Cost Up 20%

[American Farm Bureau Federation, November 22, 2022]


60% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck heading into 2022 holiday 

[CNBC, via Naked Capitalism 11-19-2022]


Poverty’s toll on mental health 

[Urban Institute, via Naked Capitalism 11-14-2022]


Health care crisis

Universal Benefits Cost Less Than Means-Tested Benefits 

Matt Bruenig [People’s Policy Project, via Naked Capitalism 11-13-2022]


The Real Insulin Stock Collapse

Jordan Uhl, November 14, 2022 [The Lever]

While all eyes were on Eli Lilly’s stock price last week, the struggles of an insulin pump manufacturer will have far more troubling implications for diabetics….

However, there’s one important, struggling insulin-related company that didn’t get as much attention last week — but whose troubles might have much wider implications for diabetes patients living in the U.S. Insulin pump manufacturer Tandem Diabetes Care saw its stock plummet more than 20 percent this month — five times the drop suffered by Eli Lilly — after a dismal quarterly earnings report. Overall, the company’s stock is down 66 percent this year.

What makes this development so interesting is the company’s executives are expressly blaming its poor sales on the lack of universal health care in this country.

In August, Tandem CEO John Sheridan said the “evolving economic environment, including inflation and the threat of recession,” is specifically hurting its business in the U.S. “This is primarily a factor in the U.S. as outside the United States, it’s mitigated by predominance of government health care plans,” he said.

Sheridan made similar comments earlier this month, explaining “the impact of the economic environment on customer purchasing behavior is primarily a U.S. phenomenon.”


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 11-13-2022]

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“An unexpected winner in the midterms: public health”

Michelle A. Williams [The Hill, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-16-2022]

Williams is dean of the faculty of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Public health was on the ballot last week — and it won. I’m not talking about specific candidates, as important as those races are. I’m talking about the ethos of public health — the principle that health is a fundamental human right and the understanding that we must look out for one another, to think not just about our own well-being, but about the public good…. The most high-profile examples of public health wins are the abortion referendums…. In another major victory for public health, South Dakota voters decisively chose to expand eligibility for Medicaid, using a ballot measure to extend access to health care to the working poor when their legislators refused to do so…. In Oregon, meanwhile, voters approved a ballot measure that makes the state the first in the U.S. to guarantee residents access to “cost-effective, clinically appropriate and affordable” health care. This measure effectively establishes health care as a human right…. Arizona voters overwhelmingly supported a ballot measure to restructure collection and limit interest rates on medical debt, which has become an enormous burden for far too many families. Alabama, Oregon, Tennessee and Vermont outlawed forced labor for prison inmates, restoring some measure of their dignity and autonomy. And in California, voters overwhelmingly endorsed a ban on all flavored tobacco products in the state — a move designed to protect young people, who gravitate toward flavored vape products…. The outcomes of these ballot measures suggest that a majority of voters, in both red states and blue, believe the government has an obligation to protect the health and well-being of the most vulnerable among us. That is the essence of public health. It also happens to be the only way to build a resilient economy and a successful civil society.”


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 11-13-2022]

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The End of Vaccines at ‘Warp Speed’ 

[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-18-2022]

“But as a third pandemic winter begins in the United States, its vaccine-making effort has lost steam. Efforts to test and produce next-generation Covid vaccines are bogged down by bureaucratic problems and funding shortfalls. Foreign rivals have raced ahead in approving long-awaited nasal-spray vaccines, including one invented in St. Louis, creating a scenario in which Americans would have to travel abroad for the latest in American vaccine technology. The Biden administration has launched a last-ditch effort to restore the country’s edge. In a bid to resurrect Operation Warp Speed, President Biden asked the lame-duck session of Congress this week for $5 billion for next-generation vaccines and therapeutics, as part of a broader $9.25 billion pandemic spending request. But Republicans, having blocked requests for next-generation vaccine funding since the spring amid complaints about how the White House spent earlier pandemic aid allocations, have shown no signs of dropping their resistance. As a result, even with the pandemic still taking a heavy toll, prospects have dimmed for the two most coveted kinds of next-generation vaccines: nasal sprays that can block more infections, and universal coronavirus shots that can defend against a wider array of ever-evolving variants…. China, India, Russia and Iran have all approved vaccines delivered through the nose or the mouth, even though they have not released much data about how the products work. In the United States, nasal sprays have been held back by the same funding constraints and logistical hassles that, before the pandemic, often made developing vaccines a decade-long ordeal. The delay could not only weaken the country’s defenses against a more lethal coronavirus variant but also hurt preparations for a future pandemic, depriving the world of an oven-ready nasal vaccine platform that could be adapted to a new pathogen.”


They’re not capitalists — they’re predatory criminals

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 11-13-2022]

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The Private Equity Guys Trying to Shoplift a Supermarket Chain Before They Sell It

[Slate, via The Big Picture 11-13-2022]

The Albertsons/Kroger merger tells you a lot about our cash-extractive economy.


How corporate chiefs dodge lawsuits over sexual abuse and deadly products

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism 11-13-2022]

Scandals brought down Harvey Weinstein’s movie studio and major opioid supplier Mallinckrodt. But their wealthy owners, directors and executives were granted lifetime immunity from related lawsuits in bankruptcy court — an overwhelmingly common tactic in major U.S. Chapter 11 cases, a Reuters review found.  


Apple’s business model made Chinese oppression inevitable 

[Pluralistic, via Naked Capitalism 11-13-2022]


When destitute small towns mean dangerous tap water

[Associate Press, via The Big Picture 11-13-2022]

While failures of big city water systems attract the attention, it’s small communities like Keystone, West Virginia, that more often are left unprotected by destitute and unmaintained water providers. Small water providers rack up roughly twice as many health violations as big cities on average, an analysis of thousands of records over the last three years by The Associated Press shows. In that time, small water providers violated the Safe Drinking Water Act’s health standards nearly 9,000 times. They were also frequently the very worst performers. Federal law allows authorities to force changes on water utilities, but they rarely do, even for the worst offenders. (AP)


Raw deal: discontent is rising as water companies pump sewage into UK waters

[The Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 11-14-2022]

Climate and environmental crises

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 11-14-2022]

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The return of the American bison is an environmental boon — and a logistical mess 

[Grist, via Naked Capitalism 11-13-2022]


Uzbekistan: Where the Amu Darya goes to die 

[Eurasianet, via Naked Capitalism 11-13-2022]

A journey down the terminal stretch of a once-mighty river [that used to feed the now dry Aral Sea] highlights how hard it will be to fend off environmental catastrophe.


Surveillance capitalism police state

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 11-13-2022]

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The Quiet Merger Between Online Platforms and the National Security State Continues 

[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 11-15-2022]


They Want to Kill Libraries: The Last Place in America Where You Are a Person, Not a Customer 

Cory Doctorow [Medium, via Naked Capitalism 11-14-2022]


Democrats' political suicide

“The New York establishment is beating up on AOC. It should be looking in the mirror” 

[NBC, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-18-2022]

“Democratic losses in the Empire State appear to be pivotal in the narrow majority in the House of Representatives that Republicans are likely to have starting next year. The icing on this rotten cake is that New York Democrats have no one to blame but themselves.” More: “On a night of many disappointments, the party’s most egregious own goal was the one scored for Republicans by no one less than the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman himself, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney. Maloney, whose DCCC role is to elect as many Democrats to the House as possible, not only presided over the loss of four previously Democratic New York districts, but failed to win his own race after putting his ego above the warnings of party officials and activists. Maloney isn’t the only one to blame for Democrats’ Big Apple bludgeoning, however. The Democratic legislators who control the statehouse fumbled the ball when they were given the task of drawing up new congressional districts to reflect the results of the 2020 census. Their new congressional maps failed to satisfy the courts that they didn’t violate the state constitution’s bar on partisan gerrymandering, leading to the appointment of a nonpartisan election expert as a special master to draw new maps that cut deeply into Democrats’ previously safe districts. But even facing those tough maps, Democrats could have prevailed had their state party — which was busy deflecting progressive criticism of their conduct — marshaled better infrastructure and financial support for swing-district candidates. The maps were a problem; the party’s malpractice was fatal.”


AOC: The New York State Democratic Party’s Corruption May Have Cost Democrats the House

[The Intercept, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-14-2022]

I think the choice among certain Democrats to validate Republican narratives and amplify Republican narratives on crime and policing, running ads on it — validating these narratives actually ended up hurting them much more than a different approach….  If we’re going to talk about public safety, you don’t talk about it in the frame of invoking defund or anti-defund, you really talk about it in the frame of what we’ve done on gun violence, what we’ve done to pass the first gun reform bill in 30 years. Our alternatives are actually effective, electorally, without having to lean into Republican narratives. So I think that was one prime mistake.

And I think another prime mistake is that in New York State, I think that — Cuomo may be gone, but his entire infrastructure, much of his infrastructure and much of the political machinery that he put in place is still there. And this is a machinery that is disorganized, it is sycophantic. It relies on lobbyists and big money. And it really undercuts the ability for there to be affirming grassroots and state-level organizing across the state. And so when that languishes and there’s very little organizing happening, yeah, I mean, basically, you’re leaving a void for Republicans to walk into….

Republicans put millions of dollars into defeating the redistricting ballot measure last year that would have protected the map, that would have put us ahead. And so I really believe that we would have won Democratic seats, potentially gained Democratic seats in New York State, but Republicans put millions of dollars against this ballot measure, they organized against it, and the New York State Democratic Party didn’t drop $1 in making sure that we got this thing passed….

But it’s very clear that the New York State Democratic Party was designed under Cuomo to be very reliant on the governor’s seat; the governor very much determines who the state party chair is, etc. And I think that, given how progressives really organized and helped deliver that margin, I think that there very much is room for a conversation to be held here about how we can restructure how the party is selected and established in perhaps a more decentralized way, or perhaps in a more democratic way, that is more representative of communities and more encouraging of engagement across the state — and less meddling, to be frank. Because these little cuts really do build up, whether it was the failure on the ballot initiative, whether it was the refusal to recognize and respect when progressive candidates do win democratic nominations outright that the party doesn’t work against its own nominees, which is what happened at Buffalo.

You know, I can say: I’ve been in Congress for four years, I have never had a conversation with the New York State Democratic Party chair ever. In fact, he’s done nothing but attack progressive Democrats all across the state. What he has done is created an environment where the only, quote unquote, or the main, quote unquote, legitimate Democratic candidates worthy of support are those who fight both progressives and Republicans, which is clearly not a winning strategy… And so when he has invested so much energy into demoralizing the grassroots and making sure that a lot of this grassroots energy gets busted up all across the state, of course we’re going to see these margins swing towards Republicans….

If you look at the difference between Tim Ryan and John Fetterman, as races, some of the preliminary data is suggesting that they had the same turnout in almost every demographic except young people. And as we know, young people skew way progressive within the party. And so when you outwardly antagonize, and outwardly seek to belittle and distance oneself from progressive values, you demoralize your base….

And I think we learned an economic lesson, which is that full employment is politically stronger than inflation, as opposed to when we were in the situation under Obama, where they tried the other tack and unemployment was punished much more severely…. 


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-18-2022]

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“The 2022 Midterms Were One of the Best Elections the Left Has Had in Memory”

[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-15-2022]

“The major top-line success for the Left this election is the addition of several new insurgent candidates who, like “the Squad” of 2018, were backed by progressive outside groups — notably the Working Families Party (WFP) and Justice Democrats — with little or no support from established party networks. The total of such members now rises to twelve, after four such insurgent candidates sailed to victory in safe blue seats for which they won primaries earlier this year. This year’s crop is Summer Lee (PA-12), Greg Casar (TX-35), Delia Ramirez (IL-03), and Maxwell Frost (FL-10). This group is notable, among other things, for its seriousness commitments to left-wing policy.”


“How Democrats Can Build a John Fetterman 2.0”

Michael Sokolove [New York Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-15-2022]

“I talked to Mr. Fetterman’s campaign manager, Brendan McPhillips, about what lessons can be drawn from the campaign. ‘It’s about embracing candidates for who they are and not trying to nominate the same cookie-cutter people or mold them into something they’re not,’ he said. ‘And you can’t try to slice off entire demographic categories and ignore them. It’s a recipe for failure.’ Ms. [Anat Shenker-Osorio, a Bay Area-based strategist for progressive candidates and organizations] told me that the Democratic establishment in Pennsylvania lined up in the spring primary behind Mr. Fetterman’s opponent, Conor Lamb, a moderate congressman from a family with a deep history in Democratic politics. Mr. Fetterman ‘was deemed too lefty,’ she said. ‘They desperately wanted Lamb. So, as step one, how about we put an ax through ‘electability’ and recall that the middle of the road is where you get run over.'”


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-14-2022]

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[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-14-2022]

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NEW YORK DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIR TAKES NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR ELECTIONS. SO WHAT DOES HE DO? 

[The Intercept, via Naked Capitalism 11-13-2022]


“The real story of the making of Nancy Pelosi”

Ryan Grim [via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-18-2022]

Well worth a read on Democrats going back to 1980. For those who don’t know this: ” If your knowledge of her comes from Republican attack ads, you know her as a “San Francisco liberal” or even “radical,” but she was raised in Maryland by her father Thomas D’Alesandro Jr., the boss of the Baltimore political machine, who was by turns a congressman and mayor of Charm City. D’Alesandro’s operation, like most big-city machines of the era, was linked in public to local Mafia figures, according to his FBI file.”


The Burning of Witches Will Continue 

Matt Taibbi, November 15, 2022 [TKNews]

Americans who once venerated self-reliance are building a church of conformity, whose chief means of worship is destroying heretics….  

Musk is the new bête noire of the American consensus. He is the Negative Current Thing, a role mostly played by Donald Trump since summer 2015, with occasional fill-ins (in no particular order, Vladimir Putin, Tucker Carlson, Novak Djokovic, J.K. Rowling, Jeremy Corbyn, Joe Rogan, Dave Chappelle, whatever they call Kanye West these days, and others have manned the slot). The coverage playbook for these heel-of-the-hour stories is rigid. Certain elements are always present.

Criminal investigations are instigated. Advocacy organizations issue denunciations (some combination of the Anti-Defamation League and the ACLU’s Chase Strangio is found in nearly all cases). News organizations demand the person’s muffling. Unions, guilds, and associations threaten walkouts. Even if the villain leans left, he or she begins to be described as “right wing,” a term with little political meaning left, that’s just code for heresy now.

It’s different from cancel culture. Cancelations start with a transgression, or at least an accusation of one. The other story type starts with a broader offense called thinking for yourself, which triggers denouncers to work backward in search of wrongdoing. Musk is the paradigmatic example. He’s achieved round-the-clock denunciation despite total confusion as to his core offense.



The Dark Side

Republicans Have a Symbiotic Relationship With Crime

Ryan Cooper, October 31, 2022 [The American Prospect, via Avedon's Sideshow]

The striking thing about this messaging strategy is not just the undeniable opportunism—like the supposedly fearsome migrant caravan back in October 2018, it's a safe bet that Fox's crime focus will evaporate once the election is over—but also the perverse incentive thus created. Republicans have an objective political interest in increased crime because it allows them to incite a febrile backlash, and many of them are not at all subtle about it. By the same token, their favored policies of total legal impunity for police and making it ever-easier to buy guns will undoubtedly make crime worse, all else equal. In short, if you want more crime, vote Republican." In fact, conservative policies have always increased crime, which may be why the states where crime is worst are Republican-run states.


Rupert Murdoch Knees Trump in the Balls While He’s Doubled Over Coughing Up Blood.

[Vanity Fair, via The Big Picture 11-15-2022]

The message from the Murdoch-owned New York Post, Wall Street Journal, and Fox News is clear: Pack your bags, bitch. You’re done…

Take The Wall Street Journal. On Wednesday, there were no fewer than six anti-Trump op-eds, with one of them literally headlined “Trump Is the Republican Party’s Biggest Loser.” That piece, written by the Journal’s notoriously conservative editorial board, noted that Trump “has now flopped in 2018, 2020, 2021 and 2022,” and has “led Republicans into one political fiasco after another.” It suggests this week’s shellacking should be a wake-up call to the GOP “before 2024” (i.e., the party should oppose his much-teased third run for office).


“In Secretary of State Races, Election Deniers (Mostly) Lose”

[Bolts, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-15-2022]

“All election deniers who ran for secretary of state in battleground states—buoyed by endorsements from Trump—lost on Tuesday, blocking major avenues for the former president to manipulate the next election. Jim Marchant, the Republican nominee in Nevada, came closest, losing to Democrat Francisco Aguilar by two percentage points. In Michigan, Minnesota, and New Mexico, incumbent Democratic secretaries of state crushed their far-right challengers Kristina Karamo, Kim Crockett, and Audrey Trujillo by margins ranging from 9 to 14 percentage points—all far more than Joe Biden’s margins of victory two years ago. Mark Finchem, an Arizona lawmaker who has since 2020 championed proposals to decertify his own state’s presidential results, repeated just this fall that the votes of Arizona’s two most populous counties should be “tossed out.” He lost his bid on Tuesday, trailing in both of these counties decisively. Election deniers also failed to take over secretary of state offices in blue states like Massachusetts and Vermont, lost elections for governor in places where the winner can appoint a secretary of state, and fell short for other offices from which they may have exerted significant if indirect influence on elections, such as Michigan’s attorney general or New Mexico’s supreme court.”


“Why the midterms make me optimistic for America”

Noah Smith [Noahpinion, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-15-2022]

“Only recently, Florida was considered a highly competitive purple state. Obama won it in 2012, and gubernatorial races there have usually been very close. But in the 2022 midterms, Ron DeSantis won a crushing 20-point victory, and Republicans won solidly pretty much everywhere on the ballot. Turning Florida into a deep red state is a major coup for Republicans, and they owe a lot of it to DeSantis. And DeSantis did it in part because he won over the state’s Hispanic voters. The much-talked-about Hispanic shift toward the GOP is proceeding only slowly at the national level, but in Florida it has been a major shift (and not just among Cubans either). DeSantis seems to have an almost Reaganesque ability to stake out culture-war positions that drive elite liberals up the wall while failing to scare away the ethnic working class.”


“Walker’s campaign tells Republicans to stop ‘deceptive fundraising’ in Georgia runoff”

[NBC, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-16-2022]

“Republican politicians and associated committees are sending out desperate fundraising emails begging the GOP faithful to help save America by getting behind Herschel Walker in his Dec. 6 runoff against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in Georgia. But what’s not immediately clear to recipients is how little of that money is going to Walker’s campaign: just a dime for every dollar given by small donors. Walker’s campaign, which has trailed Warnock’s in fundraising throughout the election, is asking fellow Republicans to stop their fundraising practices — or at least to start sharing more with the candidate. ‘We need everyone focused on winning the Georgia Senate race, and deceptive fundraising tactics by teams that just won their races are siphoning money away from Georgia,’ Walker campaign manager Scott Paradise said Monday.” 


Exclusive: Oath Keepers Leader Stewart Rhodes' Children Speak

[Southern Poverty Law Center, May 12, 2022]

Elmer Stewart Rhodes, the founder and leader of the antigovernment Oath Keepers organization, was, at the time of publication, in federal custody awaiting trial for his alleged role in orchestrating events at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021.


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – November 13, 2022

Uncategorized

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – November 13, 2022

by Tony Wikrent


One point of view, does not show the whole picture!

AQEL Tech [YouTube, 2019]

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The Pandemic

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-9-2022]

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How to Hide a Plague: How Elite Capture and Individualism Made Covid Normal

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[YouTube, via Naked Capitalism 11-11-2022]

The US has experienced among the highest cumulative mortality rates from Covid-19 in the Global North. This lecture will argue that the failures of the US pandemic response were mainly driven by economic elites who used their influence to undermine public health protections. The initial phase of the Covid response was collective, including a massive temporary expansion of the welfare state, but this approach threatened the power of the capitalist class. In response, there was an abandonment of economic interventions followed by a wholesale reframing of the virus as an issue of personal responsibility and individual choice. This lecture will explore how the exertion of elite influence went far beyond lobbying politicians, extending to government bureaucracies and civil society institutions such as news media and schools of public health. This process of constructing a new, deadlier normal holds lessons that can be transferred to climate change and other collective crises of the 21st century.


Strategic Political Economy

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 11-9-2022]

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Ray Dalio: The Changing World Order Is Approaching Stage 6 (The War Stage)

[LinkedIn, via The Big Picture 11-8-2022]

History shows that the movements to civil and/or international wars that change the domestic and world orders take place via a progression of stages that transpire in big cycles that have occurred for logical reasons throughout history. 


Israel’s Far Right in New Government Eyes Security Ministries; Who will Stop them from Just Shooting Down Palestinians? 

Juan Cole [via Naked Capitalism 11-12-2022]


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

What’s Driving Inflation: Labor or Capital?

Barry Ritholtz, November 7, 2022 [The Big Picture]

Graph


An Economist’s Chart Goes Viral: Shows Main Source of Inflation

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, November 4, 2022 [Wall Street on Parade]

Graph (same as above)


The bankers have launched a class war 

Thomas Fazi [Unherd, via Naked Capitalism 11-9-2022]

...So if the current inflationary bout has nothing to do either with excess demand nor excessive wage increases, but is in fact driven by factors entirely beyond the control of the Bank of England, and in any case is expected to resolve itself by the beginning of next year, why is the Bank going out of its way to pursue a strategy that would lead to a recession and raise unemployment, and make the cost-of-living crisis even more acute?

One possible answer was alluded to by Andrew Bailey, Governor of the Bank of England, last week: “We have inflation coming back down to target; and going below target actually,” he said. “But we have one of the largest upside risks to inflation in our forecast that we’ve had in the 25-year history of the Monetary Policy Committee. A lot of that has to do with the tightness of the UK labour market.”

Such “tightness” …  is likely to become a permanent feature of Western economies in the coming years — a result of the de-globalisation and reshoring that will inevitably see countries bring home production lines and supply chains that over the past decades have been outsourced to far-flung countries. For Western workers, this is a welcome development, as it will clearly increase their bargaining power.

But for Bailey and the technocratic elites he represents, this is a terrifying prospect: even though workers aren’t yet strong enough or sufficiently well-organised to fight for better wages, a structurally tighter labour market is liable to make such struggles much more likely in the future, especially in a context of permanently higher prices. They fear this not because it might lead to a wage-price spiral, which is unlikely, but because it would signal a shift in the labour-capital balance for the first time in half a century.

[TW: “A shift in the labour-capital balance” would mean that the event described immediately below will become more likely and “making money” through financial manipulation less likely.]

Wow. Judge Stops the Looting of Albertsons (For Now) 

Matt Stoller [BIG, via Naked Capitalism 11-7-2022]

One of the weird parts of the American economic order over the last few decades is how looting has become a normalized business habit, such that people have a hard time even imagining what the rule of law might look like. Well yesterday we got a reminder when a Washington state judge temporarily blocked the attempt of a few private equity barons to extract $4 billion from a large and important supermarket chain. The astonishment of the fanciest corporate lawyers in Seattle was apparently palpable….

Albertsons is a public company, but it is primarily owned by two private equity firms, Cerberus Capital and Apollo, and these funds have been trying to sell the company for awhile. But they know that the merger is going to take years to play out, and may be blocked, so as part of the merger deal they decided to grab all the cash that Albertsons has, and even put it into debt, in order to cash out with a special $4 billion payout.

Normally, such ‘dividend recapitalizations,’ which is a fancy term for looting a company you own by having the company borrow money and paying it out to you in a lump sum payment, goes on without a hitch. Such transactions, even though they are obviously destructive because they put pressure on firms to raise prices, reduce quality, and often go bankrupt, are not considered illegal….

After I published that BIG issue, other analysts of private equity, such as Eileen Appelbaum and Andrew Park, fleshed out the problem in impressive detail. Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Ron Wyden, as well as Congressional members Katie Porter, Chuy Garcia, and Jan Schakowksy, weighed in. So did Washington state Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, and multiple United Food and Commercial Workers local unions.

Like a lot of you, I do not have enormous faith in the political process, so I did not expect much. But something important happened. Seven state attorneys general sent a note to the Kroger and Albertsons CEOs asking them to cancel the special dividend. They said no. So Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a complaint in state court asking for an emergency injunction to block the dividend. Three other state attorneys general followed in Federal court.

Ferguson’s complaint is very good. He notes that the last time a private equity owned supermarket chain engaged in a dividend recapitalization during a merger transaction - the Haggen chain in 2014 during the Albertsons-Safeway deal - it almost immediately went bankrupt and lessened competition. This saga still stings in Washington state, where Haggen was based. Ferguson also pointed out that the special dividend will hurt the company, and that Moody’s immediately downgraded the firm’s borrowing rating because of it.

Apparently, these arguments were persuasive enough for action. Last night, King County Superior Court Commissioner Henry Judson granted a temporary restraining order, writing, according to Bloomberg, that “there’s ‘a well-grounded fear of immediate invasion of’ Washington’s right to protect its consumers and prevent anti-competitive behavior.”

 

Employed and Experiencing Homelessness: What the Numbers Show 

[National Alliance to End Homelessness, via Naked Capitalism 11-12-2022]


Economics as cultural warfare

The remarkable influence of Friedrich Hayek

Ben Jackson [Prospect (UK), via The Big Picture 11-11-2022]

[TW: There’s not much here except for some information on Hayek’s abysmal first marriage. There is no consideration of how the oligarchical culture of Vienna shaped the ideas of von Hayek, and his mentor von Mises, or how von Hayek mourned the loss of that culture after the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian empire (which has been described by Corey Robin). It is telling that von Hayek never became a US citizen despite spending the last 30 years of his life there. Even more telling is that von Hayek's books ignore the work of Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and Henry Carey, while brimming with excerpts and ideas from prominent British aristocrats and empire apologists such as John Locke, John Stuart Mill, Lord Acton, Baron Macauley, and Walter Bagehot.]


The Cruelties of Empire

Adam Hochschild, November 24, 2022 issue [The New York Review]

Reviewed:

Legacy of Violence: A History of the British Empire

by Caroline Elkins

Knopf, 875 pp., $37.50

In the Forest of No Joy: The Congo-Océan Railroad and the Tragedy of French Colonialism

by J.P. Daughton

Norton, 368 pp., $30.00

...Legacy of Violence, Caroline Elkins’s enormous history of the British Empire, is partly grounded in personal contact with some of its victims: elderly African veterans of prison, torture, rape, and castration at the hands of British forces fighting one of the country’s last colonial wars. She interviewed many for her prize-winning book Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya (2005) and later testified in a lawsuit that won damages for more than five thousand of them. This experience—and a huge stash of British government documents uncovered by her sleuthing and the legal case—has given her an awareness of the empire’s cruelty shared by too few European and American historians. (Those from the Global South often know better.)….

Whatever they were labeled, colonial wars were brutal. A young officer serving under the aptly named Major General Sir Bindon Blood described an attack on rebellious Pathans in British India’s North-West Frontier Province in 1897:

We proceeded systematically, village by village, and we destroyed the houses, filled up the wells, blew down the towers, cut down the great shady trees, burned the crops and broke the reservoirs…. At the end of a fortnight the valley was a desert, and honour was satisfied.

The writer of those lines was Winston Churchill, who, nearly half a century later, refused to allow food imports to ease the 1943 Bengal famine that killed some three million people. Again and again, Elkins shows us heroes of World War II—a conflict enshrined as the ultimate battle against tyranny—who carried out tasks no less tyrannical in maintaining British colonialism. Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, the celebrated victor of El Alamein in 1942, only a few years previously had used Palestinian prisoners as human minesweepers and imposed a complete blackout on press coverage of such actions. Air Chief Marshal Arthur Harris, who won medals from his American and Soviet allies for orchestrating the British bombing of Germany, learned to fight from the air by subduing Arab and Kurdish rebels against British rule in Iraq in the 1920s. “Within forty-five minutes,” he proudly declared, “a full-sized village…can be practically wiped out and a third of its inhabitants killed or injured by four or five machines.”

...What made the British Empire unique, however, was its global span, which meant that methods of repression, and the officials who wielded them, could be easily moved from one restive territory or counterinsurgency to another. This is where Elkins really shines, especially since she largely focuses on less familiar twentieth-century wars. The average reader of history is much more likely to be aware of the Indian Mutiny or the Boer War than the later ruthless British wars in Palestine, Cyprus, Malaya, and Kenya. When we picture British imperialism, we usually imagine a sun-helmeted man on horseback or in a palanquin carried by dark-skinned servants, rather than someone in a helicopter calling in air strikes. 

Again and again, people and techniques from one British imperial war were moved across the world to fight another. When Britain finally pulled out of Palestine, Elkins writes, “nearly fourteen hundred disbanded Palestine policemen soon fanned out across the empire.” Some arrived in Singapore still wearing their Palestine Police uniforms. Innumerable commanders served in multiple campaigns. General Sir Gerald Templer, who became known as the “Tiger of Malaya,” was a veteran of both Palestine and the British bombing of Iraq. And the 30,000 troops he deployed included the King’s African Rifles from Kenya and Tanganyika, Gurkhas from Nepal, and white volunteers from Southern Rhodesia. Officers who had battled uprisings in Kenya, Malaya, Cyprus, Aden, and elsewhere were among those rushed to Northern Ireland when its Troubles began in the 1960s.

[TW: Too seldom discussed are the tensions and argument between Franklin Roosevelt and Churchill during World War 2, with repeated confrontations over the destiny of the British empire, which Roosevelt intended to bury once and for all. The arguments between the two were revealed by Roosevelt’s son, Elliot, who accompanied his father to the conferences at Casablanca, Cairo, and Teheran. It is also telling that American conservatives idolize Churchill but demonize Roosevelt. ] 


They’re not capitalists — they’re predatory criminals

The $24 Trillion Market That Predicts and Influences Interest Rates

[New York Times, via The Big Picture 11-7-2022]

The market for U.S. government bonds, called the Treasury market, offers predictions on the path for interest rates and the economy. 


Does Bankman-Fried Deserve A Bail Out?

[Heisnberg Report, via Naked Capitalism 11-12-2022]

All I’m suggesting is that if, instead of possibly mishandling enormous sums at a crypto exchange and trading house, Bankman-Fried allegedly ran a drug exchange and trading house, and if, instead of being Sam Bankman-Fried, born on Stanford’s campus (literally) to a pair of highly accomplished law school professors, he were a hypothetical Terrell “Big Dolla” Williams, born in a Chicago housing project to a poor single mother, or Williams’s hypothetical boss, Diego “El Jefe” González, born to nobody knows who in Sinaloa, and currently living in the Chicago suburbs in a $4 million home purchased by his wife, would he still have an active Twitter account? (Maybe, under Elon Musk, but that’s a separate discussion.) Would his organizations still be functioning at all? Would he be in discussions with an investor group to inject $9 billion into his crumbling empire? Would Bloomberg and Reuters still be reaching out for quotes? If not, why not? After all, the scenario I’ve just posited assumes that no guilt has been established for Bankman-Fried, Big Dolla or El Jefe. They’re all innocent until proven otherwise. Or at least that’s the way the legal system is supposed to work….

Finally, let me pose an even more uncomfortable question to readers: Who’s smarter, more capable and deserving our collective adoration: The Stanford-born, all-lanes-open whiz kid who made $16 billion by way of legal goods and services which some believe should be illegal, or the child born to nothing, with nothing and with no lanes open, who made $16 million trading illicit goods and services which many people believe should be legal?


Restoring balance to the economy

How mixed-race neighborhoods quietly became the norm in the U.S.  

[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 11-9-2022]

Deep in the bowels of the nation’s 2020 Census lurks a quiet milestone: For the first time in modern American history, most White people live in mixed-race neighborhoods. This marks a tectonic shift from just a generation ago. Back in 1990, 78% of White people lived in predominantly White neighborhoods, where at least 4 of every 5 people were also White. In the 2020 Census, that’s plunged to 44%.  


Why Are U.S. Transit Projects So Costly? This Group Is on the Case

[Governing, via The Big Picture 11-6-2022]

The U.S. is one of the most expensive countries in the world for building transit, according to the Transit Costs Project. A research group at the NYU Marron Institute of Urban Management is working to understand why. 


Creating new economic potential - science and technology

They made a material that doesn’t exist on Earth. That’s only the start of the story.

[NPR, via The Big Picture 11-9-2022]

Material found in meteorites is a combination of two base metals, nickel and iron, which were cooled over millions of years as meteors tumbled through space. That process created a unique compound with a particular set of characteristics that make it ideal for use in the high-end permanent magnets that are an essential component of a vast range of advanced machines. 


Information age dystopia

The FBI’s Transformation, from National Police to Domestic Spy Agency. Part One: “Disruption” 

Matt Taibbi, November 10, 2022 [TK News]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 11-12-2022]

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Climate and environmental crises

Global Biodiversity: A Stable Ecosystem Yields Stable Economics

[Chief Investment Officer, via The Big Picture 11-7-2022]

The U.N. General Assembly unveiled a 10-point plan on financing biodiversity, showing how reversing biodiversity loss helps stop the spread of poverty.


One Billionaire emits a Million times more CO2 than an Average Person, as Protesters block Private Planes at Amsterdam 

Juan Cole [via Naked Capitalism 11-9-2022]


Collapse of independent news media

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 11-8-2022]

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Disrupting mainstream politics

Toward a more perfect Constitution: Let the House grow! 

Danielle Allen [Harvard Gazette, via Naked Capitalism 11-9-2022]

I think we should expand the frame of the question to include laws that have changed the operation of the Constitution. Sometimes the best way to fix the Constitution is to fix those laws.

One significant problem was the 1929 Permanent Apportionment Act, which capped the size of Congress at its current number of 435. The body had previously grown with every decennial census. It was supposed to grow. Its relative proportions and geographic weightings were supposed to adjust with the population as the population shifted. But for the last 100 years, that principle of flexibility and elasticity has been abandoned. I believe it’s time to let Congress grow again so that it can meaningfully shift in shape with the population….

A larger House would put representatives back in closer proximity to those whom they represent. It would increase the number of office holders and therefore the likelihood that we could meaningfully diversify who serves. Perhaps most importantly, it would also restore a principle of elasticity and flexibility to the Electoral College. The number of electors flows from the combination of the number of Congresspeople (the popular sovereignty principle) and from the number of Senators (the union-of-states principle). If Congress could grow, the current overweighting of the Electoral College to less-populous places would be rebalanced. California, Florida, Texas, and New York could get their fair share. This would rectify the legitimacy problem currently developing around the Electoral College and give us more responsive representation.


Here are the 10 biggest donors in the midterm elections 

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism 11-6-2022]


The Politicians Who Destroyed Our Democracy Want Us to Vote for Them To Save It 

Chris Hedges [ScheerPost, via Naked Capitalism 11-7-2022]

The bipartisan project of dismantling our democracy, which took place over the last few decades on behalf of corporations and the rich, has left only the outward shell of democracy. The courts, legislative bodies, the executive branch and the media, including public broadcasting, are captive to corporate power. There is no institution left that can be considered authentically democratic. The corporate coup d’état is over. They won. We lost.

The wreckage of this neoliberal project is appalling: endless and futile wars to enrich a military-industrial-complex that bleeds the U.S. Treasury of half of all discretionary spending; deindustrialization that has turned U.S. cities into decayed ruins; the slashing and privatization of social programs, including education, utility services and health care – which saw over one million Americans account for one-fifth of global deaths from Covid, although we are 4 percent of the world’s population; draconian forms of social control embodied in militarized police, functioning as lethal armies of occupation in poor urban areas; the largest prison system in the world; a virtual tax boycott by the richest individuals and corporations; money-saturated elections that perpetuate our system of legalized bribery; and the most intrusive state surveillance of the citizenry in our history….

These establishment politicians and their appointed  judges promulgated laws that permitted the top 1 percent to loot $54 trillion from the bottom 90 percent, from 1975 to 2022, at a rate of $2.5 trillion a year, according to a study by the RAND corporation. The fertile ground of our political, economic, cultural and social wreckage spawned an array of neo-fascists, con artists, racists, criminals, charlatans, conspiracy theorists, right-wing militias and demagogues that will soon take power.

Decayed societies, such as Weimar Germany or the former Yugoslavia, which I covered for The New York Times, always vomit up political deformities who express the hatred a betrayed public feel for a corrupt ruling class and bankrupt liberalism. The twilight of the Greek, Roman, Ottoman, Habsburg and Russian empires were no different.


Reconciliation Is Available to End Debt Limit Hostage-Taking

David Dayen, November 10, 2022 [The American Prospect]

With the GOP likely to take over the House, Democrats can use the lame duck to effectively eliminate the debt limit and the leverage Republicans would wield.


“Can DSA Go the Distance?”

Sam Adler-Bell [Dissent, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-8-2022]

“DSA National Director Maria Svart has called DSA “a socialist organization for people who want to win things.” And that’s not a bad pitch, especially for those of us who spent our formative years on the left losing, if virtuously, over and over again. DSA, in fits and starts, has been winning and building power across the country. Though New York remains its stronghold, DSA has elected more than 120 candidates to local office nationwide—including six socialists to the Chicago City Council, four to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, and two to State Senate in Minnesota. Meanwhile, DSA members have mobilized to support striking teachers in West Virginia, Denver, Los Angeles, and Oakland, while encouraging activists to join unions in strategic sectors across the country. And although housing organizing remains a somewhat neglected part of its national program, DSA members have helped build tenant unions in Oakland, Houston, Boston, and Lexington, Kentucky. In a matter of years, DSA has turned from a musty debate club for retired social democrats into an electoral powerhouse of young, ecumenical radicals; it remains the most effective socialist organization the country has seen in a century. And yet it’s impossible to ignore a certain malaise that has settled over the organization, along with the broader left: a sense that an era of ceaseless momentum has passed, and existing modes of organizing have begun to exhaust themselves. In the past year, membership dipped from a peak of 94,000 and plateaued around 91,000 activists—only a small fraction of whom are regularly involved in organizing work. Those who remain largely agree about the obstacles they face: a difficulty in winning elections beyond a base of downwardly mobile professionals, a failure to translate those victories into legislative change, and—at times—an insular culture of debate, primarily online, in which disagreement can take on toxic, personal dimensions. DSA cadre disagree, however, about how best to resolve these issues: whether to double down on the existing electoral strategy, how to incorporate labor and tenant organizing more fully into their vision, and how best to mediate and overcome internal strife. In a 2021 year-end reflection, Svart encouraged DSA members to think of themselves as “strategic, long distance runners for socialism.” The question remains whether the organization can keep pace.”


The red trickle

2022 Election Night Live Blog/Open Thread

[Naked Capitalism 11-8-2022]

Lambert Strether comment

(Note also that Democrat facehuggers strategists and consultants get commissions from media buys. Both Fetterman’s use of social media and the “every county” strategy take money out of their pockets. It will be interesting to see which media figures operate on their behalf in the coverage.)

In addition, Fetterman’s victory comes as the expense of the Pennsylvania Democrat establishment and the ghouls in the national press, an outcome that makes me very happy,.

If Fetterman’s “every county” strategy is adopted by more Democrats — heck, more Republicans — I think that would greatly improve politics in this country. Do as Chris Arnade would do; walk around. Get out of the bubble.


fjallstrom, November 9, 2022 [Naked Capitalism]

Regarding the red ripple. I think US politics is in a new phase. Until 2016 it was common wisdom that the most liked candidate would win US presidential elections. In 2016, with two candidates more disliked than liked, the more disliked candidate won the electoral vote, though the less disliked won the popular vote.

I thought two disliked candidates would mean lower participation, but it meant higher. Dislike for the two parties has continued to increase, but it doesn’t appear to lower participation.

So I would say today dislike drives participation. Rather then who would you like to have a beer with, it is who would you like to see kicked in the face. And new patterns emerge.

The question is how long the trend can last before the current two party system starts coming apart. As two punch-drunk boxers leaning on each other, neither can be dislodged by supporting the other, as hate and fear of the otehr party drives participation.


Corporate Power Had a Bad Election Night

David Dayen, November 9, 2022 [The American Prospect]

...But it would be wrong to say that Democrats won despite a lack of an economic message. The message was always lurking in the background in campaigns. And that message correlated with a populist frame of fighting corporate power….

House Democrats have been aligned with this perspective for a while. An Oversight Committee report released last week testifies to this, attributing the corporate profit story to rising concentration throughout the economy. And they didn’t just put it in dry reports that nobody reads, they ran on it.

John Fetterman, who rallied to flip a Senate seat in Pennsylvania, used this framing in his closing argument, questioning why inflation should “lead to record profits for corporate America.” I saw Fetterman two days before the election in Bucks County, and there he focused more on raising the minimum wage (which the standard economist take would say is decidedly inflationary, though there is no sign of wage-push inflation currently), protecting Social Security and Medicare, and fighting for more union representation. But he ran a number of op-eds in newspapers throughout the state on this issue near the end of the race.

In Pittsburgh, the seat currently held by Conor Lamb will be filled by Chris Deluzio, a populist whose closing ad hit his opponent for being a “corporate jagoff” and attacked “rising prices, lousy trade deals, and corporate price-gouging.”….

In Minnesota, Attorney General Keith Ellison survived re-election by drawing a sharp contrast on white-collar crime. He touted his fights against the largest corporations in America and attacked his opponent for wanting to shut down corporate enforcement. Similarly, Josh Shapiro, who won resoundingly in Pennsylvania’s governor’s race, weaved into his messaging a number of fights against student loan companies, opioid manufacturers, and crooked contractors.

Across the country, in fact, Democrats ran against corporate power. They brought up Republican defenses of Big Oil, Big Pharma, and the gun lobby. They highlighted specific votes that exemplified this. It was not the sole contributing factor to electoral success, because nothing ever is. But it was a factor, and one overlooked by the punditocracy, among many of their mistakes.

Democrats certainly could have done more to highlight corporate power issues. At a national level, they came to it a little late, and in the Senate there could have been more votes to put Republicans on the record. But it was part of the firmament of this election, without question. And it turns out that aligning with voter beliefs—aligning with voters, in fact, over corporate villainy—is a good strategy.


Eight Key Midterm Election Takeaways: The Progressive Electorate Has Spoken

Julia Rock, Rebecca Burns, Andrew Perez, Matthew Cunningham-Cook & David Sirota, November 9, 2022 [The Lever]

1. The economic populism formula works in swing states….

In the Keystone State, both Shapiro and Senate candidate John Fetterman ran successful populist campaigns and significantly outperformed President Joe Biden’s 2020 results in the most traditionally Republican parts of the state. The same goes for Ohio: Though Democrat Tim Ryan lost the race, he campaigned on a pro-worker agenda, and Democratic performance similarly increased in the state’s GOP strongholds. And in Colorado, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet campaigned on populist economic measures like the expanded child tax credit and likewise benefited from higher Democratic performance in the state’s GOP regions.

By contrast, more conservative Democratic statewide campaigns in North Carolina and Iowa coincided with the opposite trend: higher GOP margins than 2020 in Republican-leaning parts of the state. In Virginia, Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria also lost a close race after calling a ban on congressional stock trades “bullshit” — and being attacked for those comments on the campaign trail….

2. Many voters didn’t buy the inflation lie….

3. The electorate holds surprisingly progressive views….

The Fox News poll, however, found that 65 percent of the electorate think it should be the federal government’s responsibility to make sure that all Americans have health care coverage. Fox’s 2020 pre-election survey found similarly high support — 70 percent — for the idea of allowing people to buy into a government health care plan, commonly known as a public option….

7. Democratic voters remain dissatisfied.

A major factor in Democrats’ stronger-than-expected showing nationally appears to be the rock-bottom expectations of their voters. An NBC exit poll captured a deep sigh of resignation at the ballot box, with Democrats winning among voters who “somewhat disapprove” of Joe Biden’s job performance. Overall, more than 7 in 10 voters said they are “dissatisfied” or “angry,” according to exit polls conducted by Edison Research.

Such results suggest that Democratic voters weren’t inspired to vote for their candidates; they just couldn’t tolerate the alternatives.


[Twitter, via The Lever 11-10-2022]

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This Election Was an Unmitigated Disaster, and It's Time to Air Some Grievances

Bonchie, November 12, 2022 [Redstate]

Right now, Joe Kent … is on pace to lose in WA-03, which is a district that the GOP won by 13 points last time… Lauren Boebert turned a heavily Republican district into a recount. 


Dems Snatch Up Colorado’s Toughest Race

Jarod Facundo, November 9, 2022 [The American Prospect]

A Latina pediatrician running on protecting abortion rights, creating renewable-energy jobs, and expanding health care access beats a former state secessionist….

Earlier this year, I visited the district, which has a Latino population of 40 percent. Aside from the competitive nature of this race, Republicans saw this seat as a crucial pickup that could have solidified their narrative about a changing Latino electorate. The day after I arrived, the Colorado GOP had opened a Hispanic Outreach Center geared toward turning out voters in Adams County. Both Republican and Democratic operatives in Colorado said that the majority of voters in the district considered themselves unaffiliated with either party, thus heightening the stakes for persuading potential voters….

Caraveo, a pediatrician and the daughter of Mexican immigrants, painted her opponent as an extremist for her views on abortion (which Kirkmeyer stepped back from) and previous comments about Medicaid cuts. In a debate earlier this year, Caraveo said, “I should point out that thousands of my kids rely on [Medicaid].”….

On the state’s Western Slope, in the Third Congressional District, centrist Democrat Adam Frisch surprisingly leads far-right Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) by less than 100 votes. Chances are likely that the race will finish within half a percentage point, making the race eligible for a recount.

In Pueblo, a small city located in the otherwise rural Third District with a near 50 percent Latino population, most voters expressed apathy to me over voting for Democrats. But local Latino-led groups in the county set up voter registration drives geared toward ousting Boebert. The more despondent sentiment seems to partially track. Even as the county flipped blue in 2020, and expanded its margins for these midterms, voter turnout countywide is down, about 4,000 votes fewer from the 2018 results, with more than 95 percent of results counted, at time of press.


A Good Election for Anti-Monopolists 

Matt Stoller [BIG, via Naked Capitalism 11-10-2022]


Youth Voter Turnout in the 2022 Midterms Delivered Key Wins for Democrats 

[Teen Vogue, via Naked Capitalism 11-10-2022]


Democrats' political suicide

“The Democracy”

Dave Denison [The Baffler, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-8-2022]

“The Democrats had eight years of a Clinton administration and eight years of Obama. It seemed never to occur to them that the wheels really could fall off the democratic jalopy, that a “win at all costs” Republican Party would manipulate the undemocratic features of our creaky constitutional machinery. The Democrats spent crucial years misunderstanding actually existing capitalism, underestimating their opponents’ ruthless tactics and rancid populism, and neglecting to build new coalitions across race and class boundaries in the places where it mattered most. They became the party that asked not what it could do for you, but what you could do for it—by way of a donation. They never got close to a serious effort against inequality and the concentration of wealth; they failed to protect reproductive rights, labor rights, and voting rights. The era of big government was over, said Bill Clinton. It was time to think small.” 


“Why Democrats Don’t Win The Way They Should”

[Black Agenda Report, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-10-2022]

It isn’t incompetence that keeps the democrats from fully realizing their political power. The terrible truth is that they prefer horse trading over the issues of importance to their donor class than they do meeting the needs of the people. Why does House Speaker Nancy Pelosi constantly speak of the need for a “strong republican party?” She needs a strong republican party, that is to say one which doesn’t resemble the January 6th rabble that frightened most of the nation. A more respectable and traditional republican party is one she can compromise with, and both sides of the aisle can represent the interests of the U.S. oligarchy while pretending otherwise.”



The Democrats Lost Some Working-Class Support in the Midterms

Timothy Noah, November 10, 2022 [The New Republic]

The standard demographic shorthand for working-class voters is “non-college voter.” Nationally, exit polls show the Democrats lost a significant five percentage points among this group. In 2018 and 2020, Democrats captured 49 and 48 percent of non-college voters, a significant improvement on the 43 percent they won in the annus horribilis of 2016. In all three of these previous elections, Republicans won 49 or 50 percent of the non-college vote. But in 2022 the Democrats were back to 43 percent of the non-college vote, and Republicans won 55 percent, which is actually more than they won in  2016.

The shift was not among non-college white voters. These white working-class voters have been identified as a core MAGA constituency, most especially the men. White working-class voters went 66 percent for Donald Trump in 2016 and 67 percent for Trump in 2020.  The same percentage of white working-class voters, 66 percent, voted Republican in 2022. (White working-class Trump support dipped to 61 percent in the 2018 midterms, but we can set that aside as the usual midterm disaffection with the presidential party.) This consistency in white working-class voting patterns means the Democrats’ slippage from 48 or 49 percent to 43 percent of the working-class vote, and the GOP’s corresponding gain from 49 or 50 percent to 55 percent, represents a shift among nonwhite working-class voters. That probably reflects mainly a shift among working-class Latinos. After swinging toward Republicans by eight percentage points in 2020, all Latinos (not just working-class Latinos) swung a couple more percentage points toward the GOP in 2022.



If the GOP Retakes the House, Blame New York’s Bumbling, Selfish Democrats

Alex Thomas, November 9, 2022 [The New Republic]

...the Empire State’s Republicans outperformed expectations up and down the ballot. In a state where there are twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans, that shouldn’t happen….

The most notable loss for Democrats came in the suburbs north of New York City, where DCCC Chairman Sean Patrick Maloney lost by a few thousand votes…. he only aided in the calamity by jumping into a new district, pushing out Mondaire Jones—a popular Democratic incumbent—and then failing to win….

For many Democratic operatives, that vacuum of leadership goes all the way to the governor’s mansion, where Kathy Hochul is on pace to carry the state by only five points. By comparison, Joe Biden won New York by 23 points in 2020.

 


(anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts

Originalism’s Charade 

David Cole, November 24, 2022 issue [The New York Review]

Two new books make a devastating case against claims that the Constitution should be interpreted on the basis of its purported “original meaning.”

Reviewed:

Worse Than Nothing: The Dangerous Fallacy of Originalism

by Erwin Chemerinsky

Yale University Press, 248 pp., $28.00

Constructing Basic Liberties: A Defense of Substantive Due Process

by James E. Fleming

University of Chicago Press, 274 pp., $95.00; $30.00 (paper)

...The problems begin with originalism’s principal claim, namely that it constrains judges more meaningfully than other modes of interpretation. Chemerinsky convincingly shows that for multiple reasons, originalism leaves as much room for judgment as other theories of constitutional interpretation.

Originalists must first decide which historical evidence counts, and as every historian knows, that requires a great deal of judgment….

Furthermore, even if we could know precisely what went on behind the closed doors of the Constitutional Convention, the framers did not have authority to bind the nation themselves. The Constitution took effect only upon the votes of the state ratifying conventions, so if any intentions are relevant, it would be theirs. But there is even less evidence available regarding the ratifying conventions. And even if we had verbatim transcripts of each state’s ratifying convention, how does one determine the intent of a collective body—or in this case, of multiple collective bodies? Original intent is a theoretical construct, not a fact in the world….

Perhaps most fatally, originalism fails its own test. There simply is no evidence that the Constitution’s original meaning was that it should be interpreted according to its original meaning. There is substantial reason to believe the contrary. The fact that the framers used general terms, such as “liberty,” “due process,” “equal protection,” and “cruel and unusual punishment,” strongly suggests that they understood they were drafting a charter meant to long outlive them, one that could guide unforeseeable resolutions to unforeseen problems. If you want to bind people to your specific intentions, you write with specificity. The framers chose not a stringent straitjacket but a set of enduring core principles whose meaning and applicability would unfold over time to meet the evolving needs of a growing nation. [TW: Powerfully expressed by Justice Joseph Story in his 1833 Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States.]



In back-to-back cases, justices will scrutinize traditional limits on challenges to agency proceedings 

[SCOTUSblog, via Naked Capitalism 11-7-2022]


Texas Judge Strikes Down Biden’s Student Debt Cancellation 

[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism 11-11-2022] Here is the opinion (PDF).



Biden Can Still Counter the Bogus Right-Wing Student Loan Lawsuits

Astra Taylor, November 7, 2022 [The New Republic]

The suits brought by the Cato Institute and other more mysterious plaintiffs are totally meritless. The president has the power to make them null and void—if he’ll use it….

As of last week, the White House reported that 16 million applications have been approved for cancellation. But the White House cannot hit the button and deliver the relief these people are entitled to because six Republican states decided to sue. Though their case was initially dismissed, the states appealed the decision. A higher court immediately issued a stay while it considers the appeal, which means the Education Department must refrain from canceling any debt until the court says it can (the Department of Education can still accept and review applications in the interim).

But as of last Thursday, the case has a gaping hole in it. Central to the states’ complaint was the contention that student debt cancellation negatively impacts the profitability of a company called MOHELA, a student loan servicer based in Missouri. But after prodding from Missouri Congresswoman Cori Bush, MOHELA publicly distanced itself from the case and challenged the states’ assertion….

The second case of concern is the legal brainchild of the Job Creator’s Network, a right-wing front group funded by the billionaire co-founder of Home Depot Bernie Marcus and the notorious Mercer Family Foundation, which purports to speak for small-business owners (Rebekah Mercer is Steve Bannon’s buddy). They lined their case up with a Trump-appointed judge named Mark Pittman, who sits in (where else?) Texas and who looks poised to toe the party line, no matter that the case is laughably weak.

The Job Creators case involves two Texas-based plaintiffs, Myra Brown and Alexander Taylor, who claim to be harmed by Biden’s cancellation plan. Little is known about them, and they have not spoken to the media; both filed a few sparse sentences about their lives and motivations. Brown, who appears to own a sign-making business, is ineligible for relief because of the specific kinds of loans she holds (she has FFELP loans, which are backed by the federal government but were originally funded by private companies). Alexander Taylor, who appears to be a graduate student at the Catholic University of Dallas, is ostensibly upset because he will only get $10,000 of cancellation and not the $20,000 that former Pell Grant recipients can receive.…

Those activists and experts the Biden administration ignored? We’ve been saying all along that Biden has the legal authority to cancel debt thanks to the Higher Education Act of 1965, an authority he chose not to lean on. Instead, he relied on the 2003 Heroes Act, which is more limited in scope.

This is a critical moment. Democrats desperately need to boost public morale and send a clear message to potential voters that they have their backs, particularly on economic matters.

 

Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

Two January 6th Participants Elected to Congress 

The Bulwark, via Naked Capitalism 11-10-2022]


Why is the Major Israel Lobby supporting over 100 Antisemitic Racists, Climate Deniers and election Denialists for Congress? 

Juan Cole [via Naked Capitalism 11-8-2022]


The Real Republican Dilemma 

Harold Meyerson, November 11, 2022 [The American Prospect]

The party’s defining positions don’t command popular support….

As the Associated Press’s VoteCast exit poll makes clear, the midterm electorate was, like most midterm electorates, older, whiter, and more Republican than the electorates that turned out for recent presidential contests. Republicans and Republican leaners outnumbered Democrats and Democratic leaners by a 48 percent to 44 percent margin. Despite that, as has been widely reported, this week’s winnowed electorate favored abortion rights by roughly a 60-40 margin, and on a host of other social issues, such as the serious threat posed by climate change (which 60 percent affirmed), clearly parted company from Republican orthodoxy. (For that matter, despite the widespread concerns about crime, 71 percent of respondents said that racism is a serious problem in policing.)

As has not been widely reported, however, the electorate’s economics also parted company from Republican orthodoxy. Asked if they preferred a government that did more to solve social problems, or one that did less by deferring more to businesses and individuals, 53 percent said more, leaving 47 percent to say less. Keeping in mind that only 44 percent of respondents were Democrats or Democratic leaners, that means that independents and even a few Republicans were no fans of bedrock Republican economics, either….

In fact, one question in the poll did go to the operational side of government’s role. Asked if it should be the responsibility of the federal government to ensure that all Americans have adequate health care coverage, 64 percent answered yes.

The affirmations of the state’s responsibility to do what the market won’t were also apparent in the results of several states’ midterm ballot measures. In Republican South Dakota, voters passed an initiative expanding Medicaid coverage. In Republican Nebraska, they passed an initiative raising the minimum wage to $15 and indexing it thenceforth to the cost of living. 


“When Trump Announces Candidacy, Watchdog Will File Insurrection Disqualification Challenge”  

[HuffingtonPost, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-9-2022]

“‘The evidence that Trump engaged in insurrection is overwhelming,’ Noah Bookbinder, president of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said in a statement last week. ‘We are ready, willing and able to take action to make sure the Constitution is upheld and Trump is prevented from holding office.’ Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, passed after the Civil War, bars any officials who have taken an oath of office to defend the government from reelection if they “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the government — or have ‘given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.’ CREW sent a letter to Trump on Thursday alerting him to the planned challenge if he announces his candidacy for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination. ‘CREW believes you are barred from holding office Under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment because you engaged in insurrection against the government you swore to defend,’ states the letter. ‘By summoning a violent mob to disrupt the transition of presidential power mandated by the Constitution after having sworn to defend the same, you made yourself ineligible to hold public office again.'”


Democrats Have Two Months to Trump-Proof the Presidency

Alex Thomas, November 10, 2022 [The New Republic]

Toward the end of his first term, the Insurrection Act became one of Trump’s fascinations. He publicly considered invoking the law several times but never followed through—when asked what he might do if he won the election and riots broke out, Trump said, “We’ll put them down very quickly. We have the right to do that, we have the power to do that if we want. Look, it’s called insurrection. We just send in [the military], and we do it very easy. I mean, it’s very easy.”

The former president discovered “insurrection” during the summer of 2020, when he threatened to send American troops into the streets of cities that were then crowded with protesters outraged by the murder of George Floyd. Immediately after Trump’s threats, a group of Democratic senators led by Richard Blumenthal introduced the CIVIL Act, which would have required approval from Congress, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Justice to use the armed forces or a militia to put down an insurrection. The CIVIL Act also would have “terminated the [president’s] authority to use military force to suppress an insurrection after 14 days unless Congress enacts a joint resolution extending such authority.” But the bill never went anywhere.


What It Means to Be a Republican Today

[The Bulwark, via The Big Picture 11-7-2022]

The most interesting political race of 2022 isn’t between a Democrat and a Republican. It’s in Utah, where incumbent Republican Sen. Mike Lee faces independent challenger Evan McMullin. McMullin, a nearly lifelong Republican, is conservative on most issues, so Lee can’t beat him with the usual playbook—calling him woke or a tax-and-spender or a socialist. By neutralizing the GOP’s favorite lines of attack, McMullin has reduced the race to one crucial difference between the candidates: Lee’s complicity in Donald Trump’s schemes to undo the 2020 election.

The Lee-McMullin race poses a difficult question: What exactly does the GOP stand for? Why should voters support a Republican senator against an opponent who agrees with him on policy but not on subverting democracy? If economic, moral, and foreign-policy conservatism no longer define the party, what does? What does it mean to be a Republican in 2022, beyond conspiring—or defending others who have conspired—to overturn elections when your party doesn’t win?

McMullin is discovering that there are answers to that question. And they’re ugly.


In the hunt for voter fraud, Republican door knockers are intimidating residents

[Reuters, via The Big Picture 11-8-2022]

The canvassers in California’s Shasta County in September wore reflective orange vests and official-looking badges that read “Voter Taskforce.” Four residents said they mistook them for government officials. The door knockers grilled residents on their voting history and who lived in their homes, probing questions that violated state laws on intimidation and harassment, according to the county’s chief election official.


How America turned against the First Amendment

[The Verge, via The Big Picture 11-6-2022]

Moderation laws. Book bans. Courts that keep getting played. America’s politicians are tired of the First Amendment getting in their way, and no one seems to care.…

The concerns and concern-trolling around “cancel culture” and “illiberalism” have never been louder. Yet, at the same time, the freedom of speech — the actual civil liberty protected by the First Amendment, not just a theoretical Enlightenment value — is being gutted by legislatures and judges.

Rather than seriously grappling with technology’s effects on democracy, many lawmakers and courts have channeled a cultural backlash against “Big Tech” into a series of glib sound bites and political warfare. Scratch the surface of supposedly “bipartisan” internet regulation, and you’ll find a mess of mutually exclusive demands fueled by reflexive outrage. Some of the people most vocally defending the First Amendment are the ones most open to dismantling it — without even admitting that they’re doing so.


The attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband is the culmination of longtime GOP hate-mongering

[Vox, via The Big Picture 11-6-2022]

For years, Republicans made Nancy Pelosi out to be a public enemy. The attack on her home is the result. (Vox


Eye-popping’ new survey on Americans’ acceptance of political violence should be a wake-up call to leaders.

[Los Angeles Times, via The Big Picture 11-6-2022]


Peter Thiel Has No Clue What Makes America Great

Firmin DeBrabander, November 7, 2022 [The New Republic]

...These figures of the New Right, James Pogue explains in Vanity Fair, share dreams of a simpler time when we were not corrupted by the consumerism of the digital economy, and thrived in communities and family units that provided organic moral guidance. They reserve special scorn for the bureaucracy that upholds and entrenches this supposed cultural nightmare. Curtis Yarvin, who some consider the guru of the New Right, has issued a nifty—and angry—acronym to sum up his agenda: “Retire All Government Employees,” or RAGE. Our system is so corrupt and stagnant it must be replaced with a “monarchical regime run like a startup,” according to Yarvin. The bureaucracy must give way to a “national CEO,” he explains, “what’s called a dictator.”

The Claremont Institute, an increasingly influential think tank that has been called the “nerve center” of the New Right, shares this dire view of America. Its mission is “to restore the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life,” which sounds innocuous enough—until you realize what such restoration would require. Some Claremonters believe the administrative state is so deeply and expansively entrenched, and we are so reliant on it, that only a cataclysm can save the country. The most explicit articulation of this vision appeared in Claremont fellow Michael Anton’s popular 2016 essay “The Flight 93 Election” in 2016, which argued for electing Donald Trump—even though he was a brute who cared little for our freedoms and founding principles—because he would shatter the system. Like Flight 93, where passengers on 9/11 rushed the cockpit and crashed the plane, denying terrorists their ultimate target, so the Claremonters would destroy the government—to save us all. Naturally, Trump’s reign was a boon to the organization. Anton became a deputy national security adviser in the White House, and legal scholar John Eastman played an instrumental role on January 6, 2021, urging Trump to halt congressional certification of the election….

Figures among the New Right and the Claremont Institute complain that our government is bloated. It has quashed our freedoms and hardly operates at all. It’s a grotesque monstrosity that should be put out of its misery. Anyone who has traveled the world knows that’s ludicrous. We should be in awe of our bureaucracy, all things considered. It makes our lives better in countless—and basic—ways that we hardly notice, and is a model of efficiency.

My wife tells an illuminating story about her uncle from Syria who came to the U.S. for a short time to take care of some bureaucratic business. Being a dual citizen, he had to get a driver’s license and apply for social security benefits, both of which are reputed nightmares on these shores. My wife’s uncle, however, was amazed that he could take care of both chores in a single day—within a few hours, no less. In Syria, this would have taken days if not weeks, and would have required considerable baksheesh (bribes), which necessarily accompanies every government task big and small. 

A Rich Man Walks Into a Bar BP 11-10-22

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – November 6, 2022

Uncategorized

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – November 6, 2022

by Tony Wikrent


The Pandemic

The Worst Pediatric-Care Crisis in Decades 

[The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 11-2-2022]

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 11-2-2022]

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[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 11-1-2022]

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[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 11-1-2022]

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How Republicans Claimed COVID as a Winning Campaign Issue 

[New Yorker, via Naked Capitalism 11-1-2022]

The backlash against pandemic restrictions has become a more potent talking point than the public-health crisis itself.

[TW: For me — because I believe we need to revive civic republicanism and especially its principle of civic virtue — the public hostility to adopting individual measures to protect the public health, is very demoralizing. ]


Strategic Political Economy

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 11-3-2022]


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Beyond financialisation: the longue durée of finance and production in the Global South 

[Cambridge Journal of Economics, via Naked Capitalism 11-3-2022]

From the Abstract:

“Seen from the South, we argue that although there has been expansion of financial motives and practices the ‘divorce’ between the financial and the productive economy cannot be considered a new empirical phenomenon having occurred during the last decades and even less an epochal shift of the capitalist system. The tendency for finance to neglect the needs of the domestic productive sector has been the structural operation of finance in many parts of the Global South over the last 150 years.”


No Consequences: Elite impunity has created a crisis of democratic legitimacy

Trevor Jackson,[The Baffler, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-3-2022]

“My own research on impunity and financial crises finds that impunity tends to be the result of three problems: culpability, in that elites or heads of state are seldom personally responsible for any crimes; precedent, in that the human imagination for wrongdoing consistently outstrips laws and regulations; and scale, in that most legal systems are better equipped to handle individual crimes instead of social ones. Together, these problems create extralegal or a-legal spaces where social harms are perpetrated on a very large scale, benefiting a very small group of people, but nobody is legally at fault. From the eighteenth century onward, the increasing complexity of economic and political institutions and the increasing abstraction of governance has tended to diffuse impunity from individuals to impersonal forces like “markets.” Moreover, in economic or political contexts, harms are more difficult to assess than in contexts of actual violence, and for that reason, popular perceptions of impunity can be at least as destabilizing as actual instances of lawbreaking without consequences. Since impunity and democracy tend to be incompatible, repeated episodes of elite impunity can sediment over time, eventually producing crises of political legitimacy. Hence the world around us.” 


TW: Actually, it’s worse than there being no consequences:

”Ionizer Company Sues Indoor Air Quality Expert”

[Energy Vanguard, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-3-2022]

“One of the great things about the pandemic is that so many indoor air quality experts were very public in sharing their knowledge. Dr. Marwa Zaatari is one of those experts. I interviewed her for my article on electronic air cleaners, and she really knows her stuff. She’s publicized a lot of the research on electronic air cleaners that are in the iffy category. Unfortunately, doing so has gotten her in legal trouble with a large company that sells ionizers, one of those electronic air cleaners that I’ve said is best to avoid. Global Plasma Solutions (GPS) is suing her for $180 million. Why? Because she’s been pointing out that independent researchers have found results that don’t support GPS’s claims. This is intimidation, pure and simple. It seems the company would rather keep the results of independent research out of the public eye as much as possible. In addition to suing Dr. Zaatari for $180 million, GPS is also suing Elsevier, one of the largest publishers of peer-reviewed scientific research. Two years ago, Dr. Zaatari was doing her thing and helping a lot of people understand indoor air quality and the effectiveness of different methods to achieve it. Over the last year, she’s gotten very quiet after GPS filed the lawsuit against her.” 

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-3-2022]

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The Week Corporate Power Started to Dissipate

David Dayen, November 7, 2022 [The American Prospect]

...For nearly two years, the Biden administration worked to assemble the exact team you would want for an aggressive push against runaway monopolization. They said the right things and made the right decisions. The president signed an executive order outlining a whole-of-government approach to promoting competition across the economy. The agencies sued Facebook and Google, and started a phalanx of investigations.

But things didn’t get immediately better, because antitrust cases take a long time, and the courts have been generally hostile to them for 40 years, and the Federal Trade Commission spent several months with a 2-2 Democratic-Republican split, and probably 19 other factors I don’t know about. Thus you got sharp observers like Scott Galloway and Kara Swisher grumbling back in September that “You can list [FTC chair Lina Khan’s] accomplishments on zero hands right now.”

That wasn’t actually true then. But what our instant-gratification society isn’t equipped to handle is the idea that this sort of persistent effort and preparation, even if it looks like nothing is happening, is what leads to the breakthrough. And this week feels like that breakthrough, ironically coming in the middle of a midterm election climax that will drown it out.

On Monday, U.S. district court judge Florence Pan blocked the merger between Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster, which would have narrowed the major book publishers from five to four. Significantly, the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, led by Jonathan Kanter, based its argument on the fact that the consolidation would have reduced advances for authors because they would have fewer companies bidding on their services. That’s an argument about the impact of a merger on workers, not consumers, which Robert Bork famously argued was the only thing antitrust enforcement should concern itself with. The Justice Department also claimed that cultural output would be reduced as a result of the merger, another novel (and correct) application of antitrust law.

If that were the only news of the week, it would signal a sea change: the first successful merger challenge that went through a full trial in half a decade. But also on Monday, Kanter announced a guilty plea in a criminal monopolization case under Section 2 of the Sherman Act, the first case of its kind in 45 years. Nathan Zito admitted to monopolizing the niche market of highway crack-sealing services by offering his chief rival $100,000 to split up the country, with Zito’s company taking Montana and Wyoming and his competitor taking South Dakota and Nebraska. Zito faces up to ten years in prison.


“Book Publishing Mega-Merger BLOCKED”

Matt Stoller [BIG, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-2-2022] 

”As I noted back in June, Kanter and Khan have put a bunch of torpedos in the water, and there’s a lag time after the launch of a torpedo and before it rams the hull. It’s easy to think nothing’s happening on the placid surface even as something is churning underneath. Well, one of those torpedos just exploded, in the form of Judge Florence Pan ruling against the merger of two large publishing houses, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster, in a case that will reverberate in important ways across the economy. This ruling was front page news in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Financial Times, as well as publishing trade publications. Even seemingly unconnected groups, like the Writer’s Guild West of TV and movie writers, chimed in approvingly.”

The Penguin Random House–Simon & Schuster Merger Has Been Blocked. What Now?

Alex Shephard, November 3, 2022 [The New Republic]


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

The inflation narrative is fabricated, as is the response 

[Tax Research UK, via Naked Capitalism 11-3-2022]


The Hidden Cause of Economy-Wide Inflation? 

Marshall Steinbaum [The Sling, via Naked Capitalism 11-3-2022]

But the idea that dominant firms generally — and platforms in particular — had market power they weren’t using used to be commonplace. And it’s entirely sensible that if they weren’t using their market power then (so as to accumulate more of it), they would use it now. The strategy of predatory pricing is to set a low price to lock in customers and drive out the competition, then charge high prices later to “recoup” losses. For many decades, the prevailing view has been that predatory pricing is unlikely because charging monopoly prices in the recoupment phase will just attract entry, which will make the initial predatory phase irrational to attempt. As Justice Powell wrote in the 1986 case of Matsushita v. Zenith Radio Corp., “predatory pricing schemes are rarely tried and even more rarely successful.” In the 1993 case Brooke Group v. Brown & Williamson, the court held that there must be a “dangerous probability” of recoupment for a predatory pricing claim to succeed. The DOJ last tried a predation theory against American Airlines in 1999 for its conduct defending its monopoly hub at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. That claim ultimately failed, an underappreciated inflection point in the oligopolization of the airline industry that’s responsible for today’s high prices.


“Fed should make clear that rising profit margins are spurring inflation”

[Financial Times], via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-3-2022]

“Broad-based inflation is normally a labour-cost problem. The rule of thumb is that labour costs are around 70 per cent of the price of a developed economy’s consumer prices. If wage increases are not offset by greater efficiency or reductions in other costs, the consumer will pay a higher price for the labour they are consuming. With normal inflation, central banks would need to create spare capacity in labour markets to push wages lower. Wages have been rising but prices have been rising faster, so real wage growth is catastrophically negative. This is far removed from the 1970s-style wage price spiral; apart from the wage and price control debacle of Richard Nixon’s presidency, US real average earnings rose for much of the decade. The US restaurant and hotel sector helps explain why wage costs have played a limited role in today’s inflation. Since the end of 2019, the average earnings of a worker in this sector have risen just under 20 per cent. But the number of employees has fallen over 5 per cent. Paying fewer people more money means that the sector’s wage bill has risen roughly 13 per cent. The real output of the sector has risen 7 per cent. So US restaurants and hotels are paying fewer people more money to work harder. The rise in wage costs adjusted for productivity since the end of 2019 is somewhere between 5 and 6 per cent. Restaurant and hotel prices have risen 16 per cent. This is the current inflation story. Companies have passed higher costs on to customers. But they have also taken advantage of circumstances to expand profit margins. The broadening of inflation beyond commodity prices is more profit margin expansion than wage cost pressures.”

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 11-2-2022]

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Nearly 40% of small businesses in the US failed to pay rent in October – with more than HALF saying their prices have been hiked at least 10% over the past six months 

[Daily Mail, via Naked Capitalism 11-1-2022]


US Workers Have Gotten Way Less Productive 

[Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism 11-1-2022]

Yves Smith’s one sentence of snark is worth more than the article: “Right. The productivity decline is due 100% to faffing off workers, as opposed to supply chain issues meaning they can’t complete work on a timely basis, plus co-workers being sick also messing up task/project completion.”


They’re not capitalists — they’re predatory criminals

Glencore fined $314 million for ‘endemic’ bribery of African oil officials 

[CNN, via Naked Capitalism 11-4-2022]


White-Collar War Crimes and For-Profit Famines

[Current Affairs, via The Big Picture 10-31-2022]

What should be called ‘white-collar crimes’ could kill more people than combat itself in the Russia-Ukraine war. 


Wall Street Strikes Back

Rebecca Burns, November 2, 2022 [The Lever]

This election season, the financial industry is proudly funneling cash and running misleading ads to boost its favorite political lackeys…. 
“Congress isn’t afraid of bankers,” Roger Beverage, president and CEO of the Oklahoma Bankers Association, told American Banker in 2012. “They don’t think we’ll do anything to kick them out of office. We are trying to change that perception.”….

This election season, the group is also trumpeting its role in funneling cash into what it refers to on its website as the midterm’s “three most important races for bankers.” Those races are:



Billionaires Have Spent $881 Million This Election (Mostly on Republicans)

Tori Otten, November 4, 2022 [The New Republic]


In Climate Change-Ravaged Florida, Ron DeSantis’ Insurance Giveaway 

Rebecca Burns, November 4, 2022 [The Lever]

The governor and his GOP colleagues quietly shielded their insurance donors from bad faith lawsuits — at the cost of homeowners facing record levels of property damage.


Corporate Power Is On The Ballot In Minnesota

Julia Rock, November 5, 2022 [The Lever]

One of the staunchest consumer protection advocates in America will face off against a corporate lawyer in an election on Nov. 8 that could shape litigation against corporations nationwide.

Incumbent Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison (D) has sued a major private equity landlord for failing to maintain rental units, aggressively prosecuted wage theft, led multi-state actions to lower prescription drug prices, and moved to block a major acquisition by health insurance giant UnitedHealth Group under antitrust law.

His Republican opponent Jim Schultz, meanwhile, has said that if he wins office he will cut resources to the attorney general office’s corporate prosecution division. The 36-year-old hedge fund lawyer has also called Ellison’s lawsuit against oil companies for deceiving the public on climate change “frivolous.”


Restoring balance to the economy

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 10-30-2022]

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Here’s How the US Can Stop Wasting Billions of Dollars on Each Transit Project 

[Vice, via Naked Capitalism 11-4-2022]

They recalled finding that in Tokyo, around the same time, the government had implemented a moratorium on subway building because costs had risen too much, to approximately $500 million per kilometer. At the time, New York was building the Second Avenue subway for an estimated $2.5 billion per mile, or well over a billion dollars per kilometer. Paris was building subways for $250 million per kilometer, some 10 times less. The more Levy looked, the more they found New York wasn’t just paying more for subways than every other city, but many times more….

Levy has these answers because after writing about the problem for the better part of a decade on their blog Pedestrian Observations, Levy has, alongside a team of researchers at NYU’s Marron Institute of Urban Management—including Elif Ensari and Marco Chitti—spent the past three years crunching massive amounts of data, interviewing hundreds of experts all over the world, and conducting in-depth case studies on transit projects in Sweden, Istanbul, Italy, Boston, and New York. The group plans to release its final report this month on what the U.S. and New York in particular can do to start building transit at least on par with the rest of the world. It is part of a growing body of literature—the Eno Center for Transportation launched a similar project around the same time—examining the question of how the U.S. can be more productive with its transportation infrastructure dollars….

The good news is “lower costs can be achieved” without requiring “large-scale legal changes.” the research group concluded. The bad news is it requires “reassessing decision-making processes, institutions, the nuts and bolts of project agreements, and getting key decision makers to support projects rather than delay difficult decisions.” Or, to put it another way, it requires our politicians and their appointees to unite around a common good rather than bicker and intervene to promote their own particular brand of provincialism, itself a reflection of the fact that most voters do not have this issue on their political radar.


Degrowth, deep adaptation, and skills shortages – Part 5 

Bill Mitchell [billy blog, via Mike Norman Economics 11-5-2022]

This is Part 5 of an on-going series I am writing about the issues facing societies dealing with climate change and other elements which come together as a poly crisis. The series will unfold as I research and think about the topic more through my Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) lens. Today, I am concluding the analysis of the questions relating to the ageing society and the resulting skill shortages, that the mainstream narrative identifies as key ‘problems’ facing governments across the Western world. Like any issue, the way the ‘problem’ is constructed or framed influences the conclusions we come up with. Further, the tools use to operationalise that construction also influence the scope and quality of the analysis and the resulting conclusions. As I explained in Monday’s blog post – Degrowth, deep adaptation, and skills shortages – Part 4 (October 31, 2022) – the use of mainstream macroeconomics fails to deliver appropriate policy advice on these questions. But further, when we introduce multi-dimensional complexity – such as degrowth to the ageing society issue – the mainstream approach becomes catastrophic. MMT is a much better analytical framework for drilling down to see what the essential problem is and what are non-problems and thus creating the questions and answers that lead to sound policy. Today, I show why the existence of skills shortages really provides us with the space to pursue a degrowth strategy while not causing material standards of living to collapse. They are better seen as indicator of what is possible rather than a macro problem....


Some notes on the political economy of central banking 

Nick Johnson, The Political Economy of Development, via Mike Norman Economics 11-2-2022]

I have just finished a very useful collection of some of the papers of economist Gerald Epstein, entitled The Political Economy of Central Banking. Epstein is Professor of Economics and Co-Director in the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in the US, which is known for the progressive research agendas of its members.
Rather than write a lengthy review, this post sets out some of the key points made in the book and which stood out for me as being original and important. Epstein’s focus on central banks (CBs) remains especially relevant in today’s world of increased inflation and CB efforts to return it to target rates.…


Professional Management Class war on workers

“Starbucks Union Group Ordered to Turn Over Messages With Reporters”

[Daily Beast, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-31-2022]

“Starbucks Workers United, the organization behind unionizing Starbucks stores in western New York, has been ordered to hand over their messages with journalists to the company. The federal ruling is highly unusual and will give the coffee company access to private conversations as they battle with unionizing groups. Several Starbucks workers have accused the company of union-busting. Starbucks said this ruling will help them uncover ‘misinformation’ the union organizers have dispelled.” ”


Information age dystopia

“Hackers could re-create Ever Given grounding in Suez Canal”

News].

[Container News, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-3-2022]

“The Great Disconnect, a report produced by maritime research firm Thetius, maritime cyber risk management specialist CyberOwl and law firm Holman Fenwick Willan, said that it is possible for hackers to penetrate a ship’s navigation system and create havoc as the vessel passes major chokepoints, such as the Straits of Hormuz and the Straits of Malacca. The report stated, ‘Whether through spoofing GPS, or hijacking a ship’s control system, the ability of a nation state to manipulate the movement of maritime vessels can cause billions of dollars of disruption, shock the global supply chain, increase the cost of goods, and even instigate international conflict.’ The grounding of the 20,124 TEU Ever Given in the Suez Canal was not caused by a cyber attack but it stands as an example of the fallout of such an event. For six days, the ship remained wedged into the sides of the Suez Canal. It is estimated to have cost the global economy between US$6 billion and US$10 billion per day in lost trade. The report’s authors pointed to the detention of the UK-flagged products tanker Stena Impero as the result of a suspected case of hacking. On 19 July 2019, Stena Impero transited the Straits of Hormuz to pick up cargo in the Persian Gulf. The ship’s regular course keeps it well within the Oman waters, away from the border with Iran. But on this occasion, the ship’s crew experienced unusual deviations from their voyage plan and had to continuously adjust the vessel’s course to stay on their intended path. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard boarded Stena Impero, accusing it of colliding with a fishing boat and failing to respond to calls. Although Stena Impero’s Swedish owner Stena Bulk said there was no evidence of the accusation, the tanker was detained for two months as part of a diplomatic crisis between Iran and western governments. The detention of the Stena Impero was widely seen as Tehran’s retaliation for the UK detaining an Iranian tanker, Adrian Darya-1, two weeks before the Stena Impero was seized.”


Big Brother is Watching if You Vote 

Matt Taibbi, via Naked Capitalism 11-2-2022]


REVEALED: THE FORMER ISRAELI SPIES WORKING IN TOP JOBS AT GOOGLE, FACEBOOK AND MICROSOFT 

[Mint Press, via Naked Capitalism 11-2-2022]


Banks detected a record $886 million in ransomware payments in 2021 

[American Banker, via Naked Capitalism 11-2-2022]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 11-1-2022]

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Truth Cops: Leaked Documents Outline DHS’s Plans to Police Disinformation 

[Intercept, via Naked Capitalism 11-1-2022]


How Google’s Ad Business Funds Disinformation Around the World 

[Propublica, via Naked Capitalism 11-1-2022]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-3-2022]

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Creating new economic potential - science and technology

How a sand battery could transform clean energy 

[BBC, via Naked Capitalism 11-5-2022]


Disrupting mainstream politics

Don’t Look Now But Progressives Are About to Expand Their Ranks in Congress

Branko Marcetic, October 31, 2022 [In These Times, via comment by dcblogger, Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-31-2022]

“I think it’s been mis-portrayed as a bad year for progressives by the media,” says Greg Casar, a democratic socialist candidate who won his primary for an open House seat in Texas, and who (like other winning candidates) had the crucial backing of groups like WFP and Justice Democrats. ​“We’ll have a historic number of progressives, true progressives, in Congress.”

According to the Brookings Institution, 50% of all candidates endorsed by Justice for All, Our Revolution, Indivisible, or by Sanders or members of the Squad, won their primaries. Justice Democrats saw three of its five carefully chosen challengers win their primaries, its highest success rate ever. The WFP, meanwhile, saw what it calls its best-ever winning streak, with victories in eight of the 14 non-incumbent House bids it prioritized, a number that doesn’t include incumbent Reps. Omar, Bush and Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), who won despite stiff challenges.

And while the WFP’s overall win rate in House primaries might be lower this year (57% for non-incumbents vs. 77% in 2020), the group is on track for its best year ever in terms of a more important metric: winning seats in Congress. Rob Duffey says the group invested more heavily in federal primaries in blue districts, rather than winning primaries in red seats that are long shots in the general elections.

In a blow to centrist Democrats, WFP endorsee Jamie McLeod-Skinner ousted Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), the Blue Dog who led the corporate-backed effort in the House to derail the Build Back Better Act, the omnibus climate and social policy bill that was a priority for progressives. Another WFP candidate, Sanders-endorsed Vermont state Sen. Becca Balint, won her primary against Vermont’s lieutenant governor for Vermont’s only House seat, making her a shoo-in for the seat that, 30 years ago, catapulted Sanders to national prominence.


From Countervailing to Prevailing Power

Scott Nakagawa, Dania Rajendra, November 7, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Progressives should plan our fights against anti-democratic oligarchies with the explicit aim of becoming the dominant political force.

This article is part of Countervailing Power, a joint series by The American Prospect and The Forge: Organizing Strategy and Practice that explores the ways organizers can use public policy to build mass membership organizations to countervail oligarchic power. The series was developed in collaboration with the Working Families Party, the Action Lab, and Social and Economic Justice Leaders.

...It’s no secret that 20th-century-style liberal democracy is in real trouble. A preprint of a national survey conducted in 2022 reveals that two-thirds of respondents believe our democracy is seriously threatened, and 50.1 percent believe that “in the next few years, there will be civil war in the United States.” In the midst of this anxiety, 40 percent agreed that “having a strong leader for America is more important than having a democracy,” pointing to a clear opening for authoritarians that is widening as the violence and unrest promulgated by white nationalist formations and paramilitaries increases the appeal of strongman-style leadership.


Obama’s Attack Works Because He Hits Republicans Where They Think They’re Strong 

Abdul El-Sayed,November 3, 2022  [The New Republic]


The clip has earned more than 14 million views. The words were important—but it was the delivery that sent it to the moon. This was not an observation delivered in the halting professorial cadence that came to characterize the Obama we knew as president. It was more “truth from the pulpit” than “talking points from the lectern.” 

Obama is bringing two qualities to the table that most Democrats aren’t this campaign season. First, he offers Democrats a sort of catharsis for the pent-up frustration that I hear often out on the trail—that Democrats don’t hit back enough. But second, and perhaps more importantly, he demonstrated how Democrats can send a withering message about the economy without apology.



Justice

Jurors Can Protect Abortion Access 

Sonali Chakravarti, October 25, 2022 [Boston Review]

Just as abolitionists fought the Fugitive Slave Act, those resisting the criminalization of reproductive health can employ jury nullification….

Jury nullification, also called “conscientious acquittal,” describes the power of jurors to declare a defendant “Not Guilty” for reasons apart from the evidence. In a recent article for the magazine Inquest, legal scholars Peter N. Salib and Guha Krishnamurthi argued for the use of jury nullification as a way for citizens to combat the post-Dobbs legal landscape. They see it as having significant upstream consequences: prosecutors will fear charging people with the most unpopular aspects of the anti-abortion statutes if juries are repeatedly unwilling to convict. I share their interest in this strategy, but believe that as a tool with complex legal and moral ramifications, nullification should be approached with an awareness of its history and purpose. In what follows, I draw on my knowledge as a scholar of juries to explore why jury nullification might be considered a much-needed political and legal tool for the current moment and offer strategies for potential jurors who are contemplating it.

By design, juries are afforded a unique role in the courtroom. The jury is meant to be the “voice of the people.” Juries navigate conflicting accounts of the law and balance the need for uniformity in punishment against the mandate to consider whether the particularities of each case might warrant exceptions. The power of the jury to nullify is the foundation of all jury responsibilities because it most directly captures how the function of jurors differs from that of judges. While judges often seek fidelity to the law, regardless of the potentially perverse outcomes, jurors can and must look beyond the letter of the law to deeper questions regarding the fairness of the outcome. They must consider the ways an enforced law fits with the aspirations of a democratic community to provide liberty and freedom for all while maintaining order….


The first lesson is about the importance of circulating information, not only about the issue at hand, but also specifically about the responsibility of jurors should they be called to serve. The abolitionist movement harnessed the power of mass meetings, print publications, and volunteer organizations to show how the legal apparatus of slavery should be challenged in multiple ways—including through the ballot box, taxation, and in the jury room. These were all aspects of a political (in contrast to a revolutionary) movement for abolition and the campaign gave potential jurors the legal concepts they needed for principled action in the courtroom. Today’s abortion rights activists are using a variety of channels, including protests and social media, to spread awareness about restrictive legislation and opportunities for direct involvement in the cause, including financial and medical assistance, but they might expand their focus to the civic education of jurors. The time has come for widespread public discussion about the considerations jurors should take into account if they are asked to adjudicate an abortion case; including the role of jurors to consider the justness of the law itself, not just the evidence presented in the case.

Such expansive education is necessary for jurors to navigate the process of jury selection. Due to the secrecy and lack of knowledge that currently surrounds the legitimate use of nullification, jurors who are overly enthusiastic about nullification are quickly dismissed by judges and attorneys because they are perceived as unwilling to follow the law. If we instead educate jurors about the history of jury nullification and the dangers of misuse, they would be able to convey an accurate and thoughtful understanding of the concept to the court. 


Supreme Court [of Japan] Orders Reparations for Sex Workers Serving US Military 

[The Blue Roof, via Naked Capitalism 11-3-2022]


Guilty Before Innocent 

Jed Rakoff [The Nation, via Naked Capitalism 11-4-2022]

Review of Daniel Medwed’s Barred: Why the Innocent Can’t Get Out of Prison.

Rakoff is Senior United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York


Democrats' political suicide

Sen. Manchin asks CEOs: Why don't you plainly bribe us? Why don't you spell out the quid pro quo?

RETIII, November 03, 2022 [DailyKos]

….“Quit writing checks to everybody,” he said.  

He argued that successful CEOs build good companies because they expect return on their investment, yet too often, they write checks to lawmakers in Washington without expecting anything of real substance in return.  

The investments you’ve made in politics from the Democrat side and the Republican side by asking nothing in return is a foolish investment,” he said.  “Why don’t you do this? Tell a politician when they come to you, say, ‘Listen, I’m sorry I don’t give checks, I don’t give a donation or contribution to any politician, but I’m willing to make an investment. What should I expect from you? What are you going to do?’” Manchin advised.  



How Governing Can Motivate Politics

Dorothy Slater,Ton Aguilar Rosenthal, October 31, 2022 [The American Prospect]

...If Democrats in Congress had chosen instead to extend the legislative session, or even just to reconvene briefly before Election Day, they could have forced big, headline-making votes on salient issues. Imagine the news cycle before this election being focused on Democrats voting for marriage equality and abortion rights, cracking down on price-gouging, implementing anti-profiteering taxes and raising the minimum wage as methods to protect against inflation, as well as protecting and expanding Social Security and Medicare. These votes either would have resulted in exciting, positive policy developments that Democrats could have campaigned on, or would have forced Republicans to vote against extremely popular bills, lending Democrats galvanizing platforms on which to launch opposition campaigns.

Unfortunately, Dems didn’t do that....

It’s very easy to message all of these proposals in a way that will excite voters: Just tell them Democrats are cracking down on price-gouging, empowering unions, making workplaces safe, and giving regulators real teeth to fight Big Oil’s pollution. You don’t need to get into all of the jargon and legalisms. You just need to communicate to voters that Democrats want to make America a better place to live, and Republicans don’t.

Democrats could even use a united party front to expand Social Security benefits, supporting struggling seniors who face the challenges of inflation and the ongoing pandemic.

The total failure of laissez-faire capitalism in the 1930s cannot be overstated in creating the context for the rise of the New Deal. As the economist Marshall Steinbaum has argued, “Social democracy grew out of mass enfranchisement, but it did not win until capitalist claims about the origin and just distribution of wealth in an industrial economy were finally put to rest thanks to the discredit of the elite.”

“Democratic Consultants Cash in on AIPAC Spending — Even as It Tries to Hand the House to Republicans”

[The Intercept, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-4-2022]

“Four major Democratic firms worked with a Super PAC that is now spending $1 million to defeat one of their party’s congressional candidates. The Super PAC for the country’s largest pro-Israel group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, put close to $3 million into the Democratic primary in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District — spending that turned into contracts for two of the Democratic consultants to go after a progressive in their own party, state Rep. Summer Lee. Lee, however, prevailed and now the PAC, United Democracy Project, is spending more than $1 million against her in the general election, backing her Republican opponent Mike Doyle.”


Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

Only the GOP Celebrates Political Violence

[The Atlantic, via The Big Picture 11-1-2022]


Why Republicans now believe they can get away with gutting Social Security and Medicare

Dartagnan, November 04, 2022 [DailyKos]


“Judge restricts how right-wing group can patrol Arizona drop boxes”

[CNN, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-2-2022]

“A federal judge in Arizona imposed new restrictions against a right-wing group after voters complained about aggressive patrols of ballot drop boxes in the state. The judge blocked members of the group, Clean Elections USA, from openly carrying guns or wearing body armor within 250 feet of drop boxes. The judge also banned members from speaking to or yelling at voters who are dropping off their ballots. The group is additionally banned under the order from photographing or filming any voters at the drop boxes or from posting similar images online – which they’ve done in recent weeks.”


The Trump Tapes: 20 interviews that show why he is an unparalleled danger

[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 10-31-2022]

In more than 50 years of reporting, I have never disclosed the raw interviews or full transcripts of my work. But after listening again to the 20 interviews I conducted with President Donald Trump during his last year as chief executive, I have decided to take the unusual step of releasing them. I was struck by how Trump pounded in my ears in a way the printed page cannot capture. In their totality, these interviews offer an unvarnished portrait of Trump. You hear Trump in his own words, in his own voice, during one of the most consequential years in American history: amid Trump’s first impeachment, the coronavirus pandemic and large racial justice protests. (Washington Post)


Election deniers should be disqualified from holding public office 

[Nevada Independent, via Naked Capitalism 10-31-2022]


“What happens when you put ideologues in charge of a university” 

[Popular Information, via The Big Picture 10-31-2022]

In the United States, tenure has long served as a safeguard for academic freedom. Tenure prevents professors from being fired for discussing controversial ideas. And it’s the tenure system that insulates faculty from undue influence by university donors, administrators, and politicians. That’s exactly why tenure has become a frequent target of right-wing lawmakers and pundits.


The Most Lawless County in Texas

[D Magazine, via The Big Picture 10-31-2022]

Suzanne Wooten did the impossible and became the first candidate to defeat a sitting judge in Collin County. What followed is the unbelievable, epic tale of the craziest case in the history of jurisprudence.


How the right wing’s delusions went from ‘not normal’ to ‘dangerous’

Review by Amanda Uhle, October 18, 2022

[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 10-31-2022]

Weapons of Mass Delusion: When the Republican Party Lost Its Mind

By Robert Draper

Penguin. 400 pp. $29


Draper posits that the 18-month period covered in his book represents the pivot point between “this is not normal” and “this is dangerous and not going away.” The Republican Party “plunged deeper into a Trumpian cult of compulsive dissembling and conspiracy mongering,” he writes. “It fell hostage to the party’s most fevered extremists,” and “the usual partisan differences gave way to an existential call to arms.”

Those of us who assumed that Trump’s return to private citizenry would reestablish normalcy didn’t anticipate the scope of the misinformation and its capacity to delude so many. As Draper shows, figures such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) have carried forward the bombastic, untruthful messages Trump propagated during his term. But the author doesn’t treat Trump as a puppet master. Instead, he carefully reveals the incentives that might inspire each of these public figures. The obvious answers — money, or a desire to be reelected or ascend to a higher position — are only part of the nuanced portraits he paints….

The “big lie” — that the 2020 presidential election was illegitimate — is the central delusion in the book. But it’s part of a tapestry of deceit, from coronavirus misinformation to smaller things, like McCarthy stretching the truth about starting a sandwich shop when he was in his teens. Draper adds color and detail to the myriad ways in which these lies are told… The abundance of deceptions is compelling and adds heft to the author’s ultimate point: that Americans’ combative relationship with the truth has made us vulnerable to any outrageous lie....

Draper’s diligent reporting occasionally takes us outside the halls of Congress, introducing us to people who say the Capitol riot was carried out by antifa leftists donning MAGA gear, or who conveniently believe that electoral malfeasance was present in 2020 but not in 2016. Most fascinating is his reporting on individuals like Guy Reffitt, the first Jan. 6 insurrectionist convicted at trial. Reffitt was a member of the This Is Texas Freedom Force who wore tactical gear and brought firearms and plastic wrist restraints to Washington. Draper writes that five days after Jan. 6, Reffitt “told his eighteen-year-old son and sixteen-year-old daughter that he needed to delete the contents of his helmet camera. Warning them not to tell anyone, the two children would recall to the FBI that their father said to them, to ‘Choose a side, or die,’ and ‘Traitors get shot.’ ” 

….No one, including Draper, has a solution for the funhouse of warped truths we’re all navigating now. Absent a resolution to this calamitous state of affairs, we have an urgent mandate to shine a light on these horrifying lies, to document them with fairness and authenticity, to elbow our way into the morass, demand to know how we arrived at this dark place and, crucially, listen deeply to what we hear. Fighting falsehood is all that matters if democracy is to survive, and Draper comes with the fiercest weapon yet: the truth.


How the Republican Fringe Became the Mainstream

Jacob Heilbrunn, October 30, 2022 [washingtonmonthly]

Conspiracy theorists and far-right fanatics have long been present in the GOP. Now, they’re running it.

At most, he intimates in his introduction that in writing about the Republican Party over the past two decades, he may have been overly influenced by the example of his late father—a former Marine, capitalist, family man, and lifelong Republican—to view the party with a degree of respect it has not merited. Such an upbringing has only augmented Draper’s current consternation at the GOP’s conversion from a party into a Trumpian cult….

Why hy did the GOP sink to these depths? Draper offers some useful reminders of the lengths to which party elders went to connive at Trump’s criminal actions during his presidency, granting enough legitimacy to some of the earlier grifts and effectively ensuring that they were powerless to stop later ones. Consider Liz Cheney. It was none other than Cheney who spearheaded the defense of Trump as the Republican Conference chair during his first impeachment trial over Ukraine. She might have disapproved privately of Trump’s attempt to suborn Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as part of his scheme to win reelection, but she focused her fire on the Democrats, who Cheney stated “will be held accountable by history for what they are doing.” According to Draper, Cheney’s “condemnation of the Democrats was thoroughly consonant with Trump’s insistence that he was the victim of ‘the greatest witch-hunt in American history.’ ” It was Trump’s cavalier handling of the coronavirus pandemic, followed by his refusal to accept the results of the 2020 election, that prompted her to break with him. But the damage was already done….

Draper recounts that the morning after Michigan Representative Fred Upton voted to impeach Trump over January 6, he had breakfast with Arthur C. Brooks, the former president of the American Enterprise Institute. “You know, Fred,” the perennially optimistic Brooks said, “former presidents tend to fade away. It’s going to happen with Trump too.” Upton responded, “No, it’s not. Not with this guy. I still think he’s going to be our next nominee.”   


The (Anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts

“Originalism Is Intellectually Indefensible”: Eric Foner on the Enduring Myth of the Colorblind Constitution 

[Balls and Strikes, via Naked Capitalism 11-3-2022]


Heather Cox Richardson, November 1, 2022 [Letters from an American]

Republican leaders have also called for policies that threaten Social Security and Medicare. Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which funds senatorial campaigns, issued an eleven-point plan to “Rescue America” that called for—among other things—sunsetting all laws five years after passage and reauthorizing the ones that lawmakers wanted to keep. (Scott later added a twelfth point to the plan: cutting taxes.)

When challenged that his plan would threaten Medicare, Scott has repeated a talking point that Politifact, the Washington Post Fact Checker, CNN, and FactCheck.org have all called false: that Democrats are threatening Medicare because they “cut $280 billion out of Medicare.” In fact, the Inflation Reduction Act saves the government—and therefore taxpayers—somewhere between $237 billion and $288 billion by permitting it to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies; it does not cut services. In other words, Scott is lying that reduced government spending on Medicare thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act—savings the Republicans want to end—is the same thing as calling to sunset the program in five years.


Heather Cox Richardson, November 3, 2022 [Letters from an American]

Penalties appear to be mounting for those breaking the law for Republican election victories. Republican operatives Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl pleaded guilty in October to a felony charge of telecommunications fraud for robocalls to depress the Black vote in Cleveland in 2020 and are facing fines and up to a year in prison. And earlier this week, a judge ordered two leaders of True the Vote, a right-wing organization pushing the voter fraud conspiracy theories at the heart of the debunked film 2000 Mules, to jail for contempt of court. An election logistics software company they have publicly accused of stealing the election for Biden has sued them for defamation; they claim to have evidence of election fraud but have refused to produce it.

Heather Cox Richardson, November 3, 2022 [Letters from an American]

House Republicans today released a 1050-page “report” laying out their priorities for what they expect will be their takeover of the House….

Only the first 50 pages of the report are new prose. Kate Riga of Talking Points Memo read the rest and noted that about 1000 of the pages simply reprint letters Republican representatives have sent to members of the Biden administration, including 93 copies of a 5-page letter they sent to U.S. attorneys.
The House Republicans’ plan was apparently to grab headlines with an apparently big “report” and make people uneasy about the Biden administration. The document makes it clear that their priorities if they take the House will be to investigate Hunter Biden, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the evacuation of Afghanistan, immigration policies, and, perhaps above all, Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice (DOJ). But the report is a self-own in that it makes clear that the Republicans have no intention of actually trying to deal with inflation and are instead going to push the investigations that keep their grievances before the media and feed their base.

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Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – October 30, 2022

Uncategorized

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – October 30, 2022

by Tony Wikrent


Mike Davis, California’s ‘prophet of doom’, on activism in a dying world: ‘Despair is useless’ 

[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 10-27-2022]

You’ve been organizing for social change your whole life. How do you deal with a future that feels so bleak?

For someone my age who was in the civil rights movement, and in other struggles of the 1960s, I’ve seen miracles happen. I’ve seen ordinary people do the most heroic things. When you’ve had the privilege of knowing so many great fighters and resisters, you can’t lay down the sword, even if things seem objectively hopeless.

I’ve always been influenced by the poems Brecht wrote in the late 30s, during the second world war, after everything had been incinerated, all the dreams and values of an entire generation destroyed, and Brecht said, well, it’s a new dark ages … how do people resist in the dark ages?

What keeps us going, ultimately, is our love for each other, and our refusal to bow our heads, to accept the verdict, however all-powerful it seems. It’s what ordinary people have to do. You have to love each other. You have to defend each other. You have to fight.

Global power shift


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 10-24-2022]

George Yeo, Singapore Cabinet member for 21 years (!):


x

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Slouching Towards Reverse Colonialism

Yves Smith, , October 27, 2022 [Naked Capitalism]

...it’s not so hard to see how we got here: our feckless leaders, after decades of believing their own PR about Russia, had convinced themselves that the shock and awe sanctions of late February would prostrate Russia, leading to the rapid ouster of Putin and Zelensky and Victoria Nuland toasting each other in Moscow….

The US and EU, having only mediocre hacks in charge, could not admit error and try to find a sanctions Plan B, which could have attempted face saving by being more surgical (“Oh, we really want to pound those evil Rooskies, but these vulnerable populations are suffering too much, so here’s how we are refining the program.”) No, the answer to failed and self-harming sanctions has been even more failed and self-harming sanctions. And the media has evidently done a great job of covering for the sanctions disaster. Even with the start of some public pushback in America, the noise has been about shoveling ever-more taxpayer dollars into the Ukraine money pit and the risk of nuclear war, and not the sanctions debacle….


How the U.K. Became One of the Poorest Countries in Western Europe 

Derek Thompson [The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 10-26-2022]

Britain chose finance over industry, austerity over investment, and a closed economy over openness to the world.


UK’s first Anglo-Asian leader grips a poison chalice 

[Asia Times, via Naked Capitalism 10-26-2022]

But if Sunak, 42, is a poster boy for overcoming racial barriers, he is also representative of the UK’s other social bugbear: classism.

As one of the UK’s 250 wealthiest people, the Oxford graduate and ex-Goldman Sachs banker is certainly a member of the elite, raising allegations that he is out of touch with the lives of the average Nigel and Ella.


A Former Goldman Sachs/Hedge Fund Guy Is the New U.K. Prime Minister

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, October 25, 2022 [Wall Street on Parade]


Sunak will be terrible, and unless Labour changes tack he could win despite that 

Richard Murphy [Tax Research UK, via Naked Capitalism 10-24-2022]

Economically, he will deliver austerity. I suspect he will keep Hunt in office. They agree on crushing public spending. Fear for the NHS, education, benefits, pensions, public sector employees and so much else. Destruction is their chosen path for public services.

Fear too for borrowers. These two will not challenge the Bank of England plan to increase interest rates with devastating consequences for millions of households, whether in mortgage or rent payments. Businesses will fail and unemployment will rise. This will be Sunak’s choice.


Russia / Ukraine

Washington's Plan to Break Up Russia

Mike Whitney, October 27, 2022 [Unz Review]

“Cheney ‘wanted to see the dismantlement not only of the Soviet Union and the Russian empire but of Russia itself, so it could never again be a threat to the rest of the world.’...The West must complete the project that began in 1991 …. Until Moscow’s empire is toppled, though, the region—and the world—will not be safe…” (“Decolonize Russia”, The Atlantic)

“Given (Russia’s) size and diversity, a decentralized political system and free-market economics would be most likely to unleash the creative potential of the Russian people and Russia’s vast natural resources. A loosely confederated Russia — composed of a European Russia, a Siberian Republic, and a Far Eastern Republic — would also find it easier to cultivate closer economic relations with its neighbors. Each of the confederated entitles would be able to tap its local creative potential, stifled for centuries by Moscow’s heavy bureaucratic hand. In turn, a decentralized Russia would be less susceptible to imperial mobilization.” (Zbigniew Brzezinski, “A Geostrategy for Eurasia”, Foreign Affairs, 1997)


Putin: ‘The Situation Is, to a Certain Extent, Revolutionary’

Pepe Escobar [Strategic Culture Foundation, via Mike Norman Economics 10-28-2022]


Lawmakers seek emergency powers for Pentagon’s Ukraine war contracting 

[Defense News, via Naked Capitalism 10-24-2022]

“If the language becomes law, the Department of Defense would be allowed to make non-competitive awards to arms manufacturers for Ukraine-related contracts, an idea spearheaded in legislation from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.” Stoller: “Solid work everyone.”


Who Blew Up the Nord Stream Pipelines? “Russia, Russia, Russia!” 

Matt Taibbi [TK News, via Naked Capitalism 10-24-2022] 

Trade routes, access to energy, and spheres of influence are the stuff that inspires world wars, and the fight over who would get to be the main supplier of European energy is a powerful casus belli. The United States has every right to lobby against the completion of a Russian-German pipeline. To an extent, it even makes some sense that our government would try to dissemble about who’d benefit from sabotage of the pipeline, after the fact.

However, national press going along with the transparent deception is a lot less forgivable. We’re headed toward a major war and not telling the population the reasons for it. New York Times writer David Sanger for instance knows better than to look into a CNN camera and say, hoping to be taken seriously, that it’s “hard to imagine others with a significant motive.” That such an experienced reporter would pretend he didn’t live through ten years of American politicians screeching demands to stop the pipeline tells you the extent to which government and media have merged. There’s no discernible difference now between the Sangers and Chuck Todds of the world and the craggy-faced retired CIA flacks the networks bring on as guests. The media performance on this one was and is as bad as it gets.


“Most fascinating thing about the Ukraine war is the sheer number of top strategic thinkers who warned for years that it was coming if we continued down the same path.” 

Arnaud Bertrand [ThreadReader, via Naked Capitalism 10-27-2022]


The epidemic

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 10-23-2022]

x

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[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-29-2022]

x

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Economics as cultural warfare

May God Save Us From Economists 

Timothy Noah, October 25, 2022 [The New Republic]

The Economicist ascendancy helped identify priorities and impose order on the expanding postwar federal government, injecting a welcome dose of rigor. But it also encouraged a retreat from activist government, one that started to firm up under President Jimmy Carter and then snowballed under President Ronald Reagan. The Economism of Republican administrations, influenced by “freshwater” economists like the University of Chicago’s Milton Friedman, was much more conservative than the Economism of Democratic administrations, influenced by “saltwater” economists like the Brookings Institution’s Charles Schultze. But both schools were conservative in their preference for market solutions, their bias against “command and control” regulation, and their distrust of the sort of bold government experimentation that characterized the New Deal….

By 1967, the Economicist army had established a beachhead at the newly created Department of Transportation, where the FHWA and, later, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, or NHTSA, resided. As these agencies developed various iterations of a regulation mandating strengthened underride guards (informally dubbed “Mansfield bars” in honor of Jayne), a succession of presidential administrations subjected them to analyses that weighed the cost to the trucking industry against the benefit in human lives saved. How much was each human life worth? When the Nixon administration addressed this question in 1971, human life was assigned no value at all—wasn’t that what “priceless” meant?—so of course the Mansfield bar flunked. It was, according to one of the principals, the first decision NHTSA ever made using cost-benefit analysis. Today, all major regulations in all departments of government must pass a cost-benefit test.

The Ford administration considered Mansfield bars again in 1974. This time, a human life was valued at $200,000, based mostly on the lost-income model favored by life insurers, and the rule flunked again. The Clinton administration weighed Mans­field bars a final time in 1996. By now, a human life was valued at around $3 million, based mostly on pay differentials between risky and non-risky manual labor and on surveys asking how much people would pay to avoid risk of death. This technique, still in use, was derived from an influential 1968 essay (“The Life You Save May Be Your Own”) by the Harvard game theorist Thomas Schelling. Three million bucks did the trick, and the regulation was finally promulgated. Today, the federal government values a human life at about $10 million....

But Economism isn’t merely a governing tool; it’s become just about the only governing tool. For half a century, economists have had their finger in every conceivable pie. It was economists, led by Friedman and by Walter Oi of the University of Washington, who showed President Richard Nixon how he could fulfill his 1968 campaign promise to end the Vietnam draft, quieting student protests but a generation later rendering feasible a 20-year military stalemate in Afghanistan. It was economists, led by Alfred E. Kahn of Cornell, who persuaded President Jimmy Carter to deregulate the airline industry, reducing prices but also turning legroom into a commodity for which wealthier passengers pay extra. It was economists, like George Stigler of the University of Chicago, whose work led jurists Richard Posner of the 7th Circuit, Robert Bork of the D.C. Circuit, and Lewis Powell of the Supreme Court to eviscerate antitrust enforcement, enthroning the consumer at great cost to the laborer. “I really don’t know one plane from the other,” Kahn cheerfully confessed. “To me they are all marginal costs with wings.” He was chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Board at the time. 


Bernie is right: Extreme wealth concentration has turned America into an oligarchy. 

[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 10-26-2022]



Capitalism Speculation, usury, rent-seeking

Denis Beau: Between mounting risks and financial innovation – the fintech ecosystem at a crossroads 

[Bank of International Settlements, via Naked Capitalism 10-24-2022]


FX swaps, shadow banks and the global dollar footprint 

[Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, via Naked Capitalism 10-23-2022]

“Despite its partial success in reducing instability due to cross-border financial imbalances, the Fed’s uneven and hierarchical lender of last resort approach cannot sufficiently stabilise global finance to underpin a new era of macrofinancial stability.” 


How Binance CEO and aides plotted to dodge regulators in U.S. and UK 

[Reuters, via The Big Picture 10-23-2022]

A plan to “insulate” itself from the SEC. A backdated document. An exodus of compliance staff. The world’s biggest crypto exchange and its billionaire founder swerved scrutiny by regulators, Reuters found. Now there are signs the strategy is fraying.


The Smash and Grab of Kroger-Albertsons

Matt Stoller [Big, via The Big Picture 10-25-2022]

The Kroger-Albertsons supermarket deal is uglier than you might expect. The “special cash division” of $4 billion may be intended to get around antitrust enforcers.


The Grain Giants Have Made a Bonanza from Hunger. Time to Take Them Apart

Pat Mooney [openDemocracy, via Naked Capitalism 10-28-2022]

For decades, four companies dominated the global grain trade and at least 70% of the market. They are collectively known as ABCD (Archer-Daniels-Midland Company, Bunge, Cargill and Louis Dreyfus). China’s state-owned COFCO and a couple of other contenders in Asia are now joining the ABCD to share in booming profits. Cargill reported a 23% increase in revenues to a record $165bn by mid-2022. And during the second quarter of the year, Archer-Daniels-Midland had its highest profits ever.

As food prices skyrocket and hunger rises, and with the prospect of still more supply shortages, such profiteering is clearly unjust and a sign of abject market failure. The price spikes have happened despite abundant public and private reserves of grain. There is no correlation between the grain traders’ outsize profits and what they are delivering in terms of food security or sustainability. The ABCD have failed to meet their basic functions of ensuring food gets to the people who need it, and does so at a stable price.


Big Oil’s Banner Quarter

Jordan Uhl, October 28, 2022 [The Lever]

ExxonMobil posted its biggest quarter ever on Friday, with nearly $20 billion in earnings during the third quarter of this year. This was a 191 percent increase from the $6.75 billion it raked in during Q3 2021.

Chevron reported similarly robust results on Friday. The California-based oil giant’s third-quarter earnings of $11.2 billion were its second-highest quarterly returns ever, nearly double its earnings during Q3 2021.

On Thursday, Shell reported $9.5 billion in earnings over the last three months, more than double the $4.1 billion it earned during the same period last year. In its report to investors, the oil and gas giant announced a $4-billion round of stock buybacks, creating yet another windfall for investors and bringing its total buybacks this year to $18.5 billion.


Disrupting mainstream economics

Universalise Public Services, Fund Job Guarantee, Provide Generous Income Support’ Sowmya Sivakumar interviews — Fadhel Kaboub 

[www.newsclick.in, via Mike Norman Economics 10-23-2022]

In the second and last part of the interview, MMT economist Fadhel Kaboub explains why and how India should urgently work on an alternative framework of development that leaves no one behind….

India has the advantage of having a large internal market, so manufacturing can be scaled up to the point that per unit cost actually reduces. Industries can serve the internal market primarily, without having to rely on finding export markets and competing with other manufacturers globally.

Which means, the role of the government here is to balance the possibility for manufacturers to reach economies of scale and other efficiencies, without creating monopolies or duopolies. And then, of course, you aim for international competitiveness.

Typically, you see any attempt by the government to create new industries is immediately hijacked by pre-existing business elites that are already established in some other sector, and want to take advantage of this new industry, and reinforce their power and influence in politics and in the economy. That is not what we want to see as progress.

So, it is really a question of democracy and democratic processes.... 

The private sector has certain standards for employment. It will only hire people if it sees profit-making opportunities that require labour to be hired, and at the lowest cost possible. So it's our responsibility as a society to set the minimum standard in terms of wages, benefits and workplace conditions that we would accept for dignified work in the private sector. If you cannot compete with other firms at that level, then you should be out of business....

The rest of the Indian economy requires food to be priced at a low level. So, you squeeze the farmers and farm workers in order to provide food for the manufacturing sector and people in urban areas, at prices that are acceptable.

This raises another question. Why is it that we require food prices to be so low? It's because manufacturing workers are underpaid, because they're competing in the global economy and racing to the bottom. That's one of the competitive edges for countries in the Global South — to keep their manufacturing and labour costs low. And you cannot underpay workers in the manufacturing sector unless you feed them cheap food….



Class Warfare

“The MTA Says Immigrant Subway Cleaners are Not Entitled to Prevailing Wages”

[Documented, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-26-2022]

“When Jose Luis Dominguez describes his time working as a subway cleaner for NV Maintenance Services, it’s difficult for him not to get angry. One incident sticks out in his mind in particular; his supervisors found out he was driving his co-workers to work every morning. After warning him not to do that, the company arbitrarily ruled that co-workers were not allowed to arrive to work together. ‘We weren’t allowed to talk to each other. We weren’t allowed to be friends. We weren’t allowed to use our phones,’ he said. ‘At the end, things started to get even worse when we weren’t allowed to ride together to work.’ To make matters worse, workers were required to arrive a half hour early before their shift and would be sent home if they weren’t early, Dominguez and his co-worker Hemer Perez said. They were not paid for that time. They also claim that paychecks often had hours missing and overtime pay was not calculated. Workers were also not paid the prevailing wage of at least $28 an hour plus benefits, instead only being paid $20. Under New York State Labor Law, all contractors and subcontractors must pay their employees the prevailing rate of wage and benefits to all workers under a public works contract. When Dominguez and Perez began speaking up about their conditions they were fired. NV Maintenance Services is one of nearly two dozen cleaning companies that were contracted by the MTA to disinfect subway cars during the height of the pandemic.”


A woman was arrested for feeding homeless people in Arizona. Now she’s suing the city. 

[USA Today, via Naked Capitalism 10-27-2022]


Exxon’s Exodus: Employees Have Finally Had Enough of Its Toxic Culture

[Businessweek, via The Big Picture 10-23-2022]

The 140-year-old oil company is making more money than ever. Yet the pandemic exposed deep cultural problems—and talent is fleeing.


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

This chart shows just how out-of-control rent has gotten: The typical person has to work 64.2 hours just to pay rent — up from 56 hours just two years ago 

[Business Insider, via Naked Capitalism 10-26-2022]


Renters Hit Breaking Point in a Sudden Reversal for Landlords

[Bloomberg, via The Big Picture 10-25-2022]

Affordability pressures and inflation are holding back tenants,


Fed’s Powell Calls U.S. Economy “Robust” as Personal Savings Rate Collapses to Same Level as in Financial Crisis of 2008

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, October 27, 2022 [Wall Street on Parade]


They’re not capitalists — they’re predatory criminals

JPMorgan Chase Quietly Settles Whistleblower Case Involving Charges of Keeping Two Sets of Books and Improper Payments to Tony Blair

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, October 26, 2022 [Wall Street on Parade]


Real Estate Industry Spends Big To Crush LA “Mansion Tax”

Aditi Ramaswami, October 28, 2022 [The Lever]


Loss of legitimacy

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-25-2022]

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A political backlash against monetary policy is looming 

[Financial Times, via Naked Capitalism 10-24-2022]

“Defenders of independent central banks must think about their democratic legitimacy.”


Europe: Great Public Systems and Eroding Public Confidence

Robert Kuttner, October 26, 2022 [The American Prospect]

...European public systems of all kinds are living off the legacy of the postwar social democratic era, which was one of massive social investment as well as broadly rising living standards for ordinary people. As a result, they have a longer political half-life than ours.

However, the second half of that social bargain has been rescinded. France has been losing jobs at an accelerating rate. Its income inequality is on a trajectory to reach that of the United States.

It doesn’t take long for ordinary people to realize that they are getting screwed. In the next French presidential election, in 2027, Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate, is expected to place first in the preliminary round. And with the left and the center-right both fragmented, it’s not at all clear who else will make it into the final. Le Pen could be the next president of France.

The patterns of citizen disaffection are similar throughout the West. Their common source should be no mystery—hyper-capitalism supercharged by globalism displacing everything that makes for a decent society.


Climate and environmental crises

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 10-24-2022]

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Ignore the real economy at your peril

America’s electric utilities facing transformer shortage crisis 

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism 10-25-2022]


New York and New England start RATIONING heating oil before winter as stockpiles slump by 70% and fears rise that families will be left in the cold 

[Daily Mail, via Naked Capitalism 10-26-2022]


Information age dystopia

Epic’s overhaul of a flawed algorithm shows why AI oversight is a life-or-death issue 

[STAT, via Naked Capitalism 10-25-2022]


PayPal reinstates $2,500 misinformation penalty 

[Agence France Presse, via Naked Capitalism 10-28-2022]


Japan to citizens: Get a digital ID or health insurance gets harder 

[The Register, via Naked Capitalism 10-28-2022]


“Scientists rename human genes to stop Microsoft Excel from misreading them as dates”

[The Verge, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-26-2022]

“Excel is a behemoth in the spreadsheet world and is regularly used by scientists to track their work and even conduct clinical trials. But its default settings were designed with more mundane applications in mind, so when a user inputs a gene’s alphanumeric symbol into a spreadsheet, like MARCH1 — short for ‘Membrane Associated Ring-CH-Type Finger 1’ — Excel converts that into a date: 1-Mar. This is extremely frustrating, even dangerous, corrupting data that scientists have to sort through by hand to restore. It’s also surprisingly widespread and affects even peer-reviewed scientific work. One study from 2016 examined genetic data shared alongside 3,597 published papers and found that roughly one-fifth had been affected by Excel errors.” • Thanks, Bill.


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-26-2022]

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[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-26-2022]

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Democrats' political suicide

The Brutal Comedy of the Withdrawn Peace Letter 

Matt Taibb, October 27, 2022  [TK News]

In this context, could anything look worse than this week’s scurrying-roach routine? If you were actively trying to convince the public you didn’t stand for anything, you couldn’t dream up something more devastating than what the CPC members just did to themselves, and their institution.


How The Left Became Cheerleaders for US Imperialism 

[Mint Press, via Naked Capitalism 10-27-2022]


Civic republicanism

Forrest Nabors: "Reconstructing America: Republicanism, Oligarchy, and the Constitutional Order"

[University of Notre Dame, Constitutional Studies and the Tocqueville Program, YouTube, October 17, 2019

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[TW: By insisting on a manichean view of US history which ignores the history of protracted political and actual military combat between republicans and oligarchs for control of the USA polity and economy, the “left” is shooting itself in the head.]


Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

The Historian's Case Against the Independent State Legislature Theory (pdf)

Rosemarie Zagarri, October 12, 2022 [Boston College Law Review, March 2023 (forthcoming), via electionlawblog.org]

This Essay explores historical evidence from the Founding Era underlying Art. 1, Sec. 4 of the US Constitution (and related clauses) that delegate certain powers to state legislatures in making federal election laws. The article shows that far from empowering the state legislatures, the US Constitution was meant to curb state legislative supremacy and confirm the subordination of state legislatures to the checks and balances embedded in the individual state constitutions. It shows that the Independent State Legislature Theory is contrary to both the theory of constitutional government and the practices of state legislatures in making federal election laws….

The Essay proceeds in three parts. Part I shows how early states considered but ultimately rejected legislative supremacy, subordinating their legislatures to the state constitutions. Part II unearths evidence from the framing and ratification of the U.S.
Constitution that is inconsistent with the ISLT. Part III turns to the practice of legislatures during the first federal elections, which confirms that no state interpreted the term “Legislature” in the federal election clauses to empower the legislatures to act as
independent bodies, free from the constraints of their individual state constitutions, when passing the first federal election laws.


Ballot box vigilantes and the “redemption” of Arizona

Heather Cox Richardson, October 23, 2022 [Letters from an American]

[Last] weekend, the Maricopa County Elections Department announced that two people, both armed and dressed in tactical gear, stationed themselves near a ballot drop box in Mesa, Arizona…. The presence of armed vigilantes outside of voting places is a scene directly out of the 1876 “redemption” of the South. 

White southerners who hated the idea that Black men could use the vote to protect themselves terrorized their Black neighbors to keep them from voting. Pretending to be the ghosts of dead Confederate soldiers and calling themselves the Ku Klux Klan, they dressed in white robes with hoods to cover their faces and warned formerly enslaved people not to show up at the polls.

Members of the Ku Klux Klan tried to stop southern Republicans—both Black and white—from voting in favor of the new state constitutions. They killed nearly a thousand Unionists before the 1868 elections, terrorizing their neighbors and undercutting democracy in the South. 

Even more effective than Ku Klux Klan ropes and clubs and bullets in the long run, though, were the new tactics to which white Democrats turned when they realized that the violence of the Ku Klux Klan simply hardened Republican resolve. They insisted that government policies promoting black equality were simply a redistribution of wealth as poor men—especially poor Black men—voted for lawmakers who would agree to fund roads and schools and hospitals with tax money. In the postwar South, the people most likely to own taxable property were white men. 

Black voting, they insisted, was “Socialism in South Carolina.” 

In 1876, “Redeemers” set out to put an end to the southern governments that were elected in systems that allowed Black men to vote. “Rifle clubs” held contests outside Republican political rallies, “Red Shirts” marched with their guns in parades. 

Their intimidation worked. Democrats took over the South and created a one-party system that lasted virtually unbroken until 1965.


Inside Steve Bannon’s ‘disturbing’ quest to radically rewrite the US constitution

[The Guardian, via The Big Picture 10-23-2022]

By taking over state legislatures, Republicans hope to pass conservative amendments that cannot be electorally challenged….

Backed by billionaire donors and corporate interests, it aims to persuade state legislatures to call a constitutional convention in the hope of baking far-right conservative values into the supreme law of the land.

The goal is, in essence, to turn the country into a permanent conservative nation irrespective of the will of the American people. The convention would promote policies that would limit the size and scope of the federal government, set ceilings on or even abolish taxes, free corporations from regulations, and impose restrictions on government action in areas such as abortion, guns and immigration.

“This is another line of attack strategically,” Bannon told his viewers last month. “You now have a political movement that understands we need to go after the administrative state.”

How the GOP Could Win Its Long War Against Social Security

Richard (R.J.) Eskow, October 25, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Social Security is “the third rail Republicans can’t stop touching,” in the words of a Politico headline. “Social Security and Medicare are wildly popular,” Politico notes. “So why do GOP Senate candidates keep talking about privatizing them?” But the Republican Party has been waging war on Social Security since its inception. This war, sometimes open and sometimes covert, may soon end in victory.

It began as Congress was debating the Social Security Act of 1935. Republicans attacked the program with rhetoric as extreme as that of today’s right. Rep. James W. Wadsworth (R-NY), for example, said the bill would create “a power so vast, so powerful as to threaten the integrity of our institutions and to pull the pillars of the temple down upon the heads of our descendants.” Republican Daniel Reed of New York said, “The lash of the dictator will be felt.”

…. Goldwater’s 1960 book, The Conscience of a Conservative, said these programs would give “unlimited political and economic power … as absolute … as any oriental despot” while turning each recipient “into a dependent animal creature.” Goldwater said programs like Social Security would erode personal freedom “later on—after its beneficiaries have become its victims, after dependence on government has turned into bondage and it is too late to unlock the jail.”

….As for Politico’s question: Why? Why would Republicans pursue such a major and unpopular change in the social contract? Why would they want to cut or privatize Social Security? Because they’ve wanted to do it for 87 years. Because, despite its unpopularity, their ideology and self-interest demand it.

[ TW: “Their ideology demands it.” Again, the importance of a philosophy of government. In his great 1866 speech defining republicanism—as the Congress was wrestling with the question of how to “reconstruct” the former slave states.--Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner declared that the two great principles of a republic are justice, and a commitment to the General Welfare. Take note that conservatives, libertarians, and (anti)Republican Party members today believe that the General Welfare clause ought to be deleted from the Constitution. This is why the effort to call a Constitutional Convention — lavishly funded, be it noted, by rich reactionaries — is so dangerous.]


Stochastic terrorism

Heather Cox Richardson, October 28, 2022 [Letters from an American]

The attack on Mr. Pelosi comes after right-wing figures have so often advocated violence against the House speaker that the rioters on January 6 roamed the U.S. Capitol calling for her in the singsong cadences of a horror movie. Before she ran for Congress, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) said Pelosi was a “traitor” and told her listeners that treason is “a crime punishable by death,” and House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) once “joked” about hitting Speaker Pelosi with the speaker’s gavel if he becomes speaker himself, prompting laughter from his audience.

Whipping up supporters against a perceived enemy to create a statistical probability of an attack without advocating a specific event is known as “stochastic terrorism.”….

Late yesterday, Twitter’s board completed the $44 billion sale of the company to billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk…. Patel notes that to attract advertising revenue, Musk will have to protect advertisers’ brands, which means banning “racism, sexism, transphobia, and all kinds of other speech that is totally legal in the United States but reveals people to be total a**holes.” And that content moderation, of course, will infuriate the right-wing cheerleaders who “are going to viciously turn on you, just like they turn on every other social network that realizes the same essential truth.” 

….Today, racist and antisemitic content rose sharply as users appeared to be testing the limits of the platform under Musk…. In the first 12 hours after Musk acquired the site, the use of the n-word increased nearly 500%.

 

Christian conservative conference attended by Eric Trump and Mike Flynn gets really, really weird

Aldous J Pennyfarthing, October 22, 2022 [Twitter, via DailyKos]

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Neo-Nazi ‘Building White Ethnostate’ in Maine Now Working With Local Extremist Group 

[Vice, via Naked Capitalism 10-27-2022]

A neo-Nazi and ex-Marine coordinating an online movement to turn Maine into an all-white ethnostate, is building a property there—while also working with a violent extremist group in the region, VICE News has learned.

Christopher Pohlhaus, 35, who goes by his online alias “The Hammer” and is a significant player in the broad universe of neo-Nazi Telegram, once commanded thousands of followers and a chat group that he called “The Camps.” Besides the Maine migration plan, he coordinated a nationwide racist counterprotest on the anniversary of George Floyd’s murder, explained to followers how to hypothetically dismantle the food-supply chain through sniper attacks on truckers, and was linked to the Jan. 6 attacker who allegedly stole a Nancy Pelosi staffer’s laptop.


How to prevent an anti-government revolution 

[High Country News, via Naked Capitalism 10-27-2022]

On Jan. 2, 2016, armed anti-government extremists led by Ammon and Ryan Bundy occupied the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon’s Harney County. They’d hoped to ignite a national uprising against federal land management, but after 41 days, they accomplished little beyond creating a $2 million mess of trash and trenches. After the Bundys were acquitted of conspiracy and weapons charges, Ammon led an attack on the Idaho Statehouse in 2020 and urged his followers to travel to Washington, D.C., for the rally that preceded the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol. Now he’s running for governor of Idaho. 

Meanwhile, in Harney County, the work of conserving the refuge and its surrounding rangelands has continued almost uninterrupted. Here, locals consider the occupation a mere bump in the road — though its failure was no accident, according to political ecologist Peter Walker, whose book, Sagebrush Collaboration, tracks the refuge takeover from start to fizzle. Thanks in large part to a land-management strategy that local ranchers, conservationists and federal employees developed 15 years before the Bundys arrived, the community was largely inoculated against their simplistic solutions and fiery but empty rhetoric. Through years of homegrown collaboration led in part by the nonprofit High Desert Partnership, the community was already tackling many of the issues that inspired the Bundys to take up arms: fences, water access, poverty. To many locals, these were not ideological struggles, but tangible problems they were solving together.


“In Nevada, election deniers prepare to sabotage the midterms” 

Dana Milbank, October 22, 2022 [Wall Street Journal, via The Big Picture 10-23-2022]

The election supervisors in 10 of the state’s 17 counties have already quit, been forced out or announced their departures. Lower-level election workers have quit in the face of consistent abuse. The state’s elections staff has lost eight of its 12 employees.

The (Republican) secretary of state, who vigorously defends the integrity of the 2020 election, is term-limited, and the GOP nominee to replace her, Jim Marchant, leads a national group of election deniers running for office. Marchant is on record saying that if he and his fellow candidates are elected, “we’re going to fix the whole country, and President Trump is going to be president again.”


“Pro-Trump conspiracy theorists hound election officials out of office”

[Reuters, via The Big Picture 10-25-2022]

“Businessman Robert Beadles claimed he had found evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election. Then he went on the attack, targeting a 48-year-old woman who runs elections in Nevada’s Washoe County. ‘Now, let’s talk about treason. That’s right, treason,’ Beadles told a Feb. 22 county commissioners’ meeting in Washoe, the second-largest county in this election battleground state. The Republican activist falsely accused the registrar of voters, Deanna Spikula, of counting fraudulent votes and told commissioners to ‘either fire her or lock her up.’ After the meeting, Spikula’s office was flooded with hostile and harassing calls from people convinced she was part of a conspiracy to rig the election against former U.S. President Donald Trump. On March 2, a caller threatened to bring 100 people to the county building to ‘put this to bed today.’ Spikula, under severe stress, stopped coming into the office. A post on Beadles’ website said she was ‘rumored to be in rehab.\ That was false, she said; she was at home, working on a state elections manual. By late June, fearing for her family’s safety, she’d had enough and submitted her resignation. Beadles’ campaign in Washoe is part of a wave of efforts by pro-Trump activists to gain control of voting administration by replacing county government leaders with election conspiracy theorists. Some are spending big money. In Nevada, Beadles has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into campaigns targeting opponents of Trump’s false rigged-election claims and backing Republicans who believe them. The goal: to profoundly change how U.S. elections are run. Right-wing activists want to eliminate voting machines and return to hand-counting of paper ballots, which experts say would make elections more prone to fraud, not less. Trump allies have also targeted the ballot drop boxes and mail-in voting that Democrats embraced in the 2020 election.” 


“Trump Plans to Challenge the 2022 Elections — Starting in Philly”

[Rolling Stone, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-25-2022]

“Trump has been briefed on plans in multiple states and critical races — including in Georgia. But Pennsylvania has grabbed his interest most keenly, including in the Senate contest between Democrat John Fetterman and the Trump-endorsed GOP contender Mehmet Oz. If the Republican does not win by a wide enough margin to trigger a speedy concession from Fetterman — or if the vote tally is close on or after Election Night in November — Trump and other Republicans are already preparing to wage a legal and activist crusade against the “election integrity” of Democratic strongholds such as the Philly area. Trump’s focus on Pennsylvania, however, seems to be more about his own political future than about party allegiance or fealty to his celebrity endorsee. As he hosts meetings on possible 2022 election challenges, he’s also been laying the groundwork for a run in 2024 — where Pennsylvania again promises to be critical and competitive. As one source who has spoken to Trump several times about a potential post-election-day legal battle over the Oz-Fetterman race puts it, Trump views a potential midterm challenge as a ‘dress rehearsal for Trump 2024.’ Trump won Pennsylvania in 2016 and then lost it to Biden in 2020 by more than 80,000, and if the two candidates rematch in 2024, it could well be the state that picks the next president.” 


Five investigations House Republicans are plotting if they win majority 

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism 10-23-2022]


Republicans’ Secret Swing-Seat Weapon? Dozens of Rich Nominees.

Austin Ahlman, October 28, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Over half of the Republican nominees in competitive House races have dipped into personal fortunes to fund their campaigns.


A short history of how the Democratic and (anti)Republican parties switched sides

Heather Cox Richardson, October 29, 2022 [Letters from an American]

Rather than focusing on party names, it makes more sense to follow two opposed strands of thought, equality and hierarchy, as the constants.


The (Anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts

RNC Sues Google Over Spam Email Filters 

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism 10-25-2022]


Garvey v. City of New York

[via Naked Capitalism 10-26-2022]

Order by New York Supreme Court, which confusingly is its lowest trial court. City ordered to reinstate employees fired over vax mandate with back pay.


America’s Trumpiest court just declared an entire federal agency unconstitutional

[Vox, via The Big Picture 10-25-2022]

The Fifth Circuit’s opinion in Community Financial v. CFPB is completely incoherent. 

[TW: what’s at stake here? Heather Cox Richardson answers [October 26, 2022 , Letters from an American]

Last month, President Joe Biden asked all agencies to find ways to cut “junk fees,” the hidden fees, charges, and add-ons that hit consumers on everything from airline and concert tickets, to hotels, to banking services and cable bills. These include the “service fees” on concert tickets, “family seating fees” on airlines, “termination fees,” and so on, and they account for tens of billions of dollars a year of revenue for corporations. 

Today the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) warned banks that surprise overdraft fees and depositor fees for customers who deposit a check that bounces are “likely unfair and unlawful under existing law.” The CFPB is also looking into credit card fees. The Federal Trade Commission has started a rule-making process that addresses surprise fees for event ticketing, hotels, funeral homes, and so on; earlier this year, it brought actions against junk fees in the auto industry that are awaiting finalization.


The GOP Fights To Preserve Predatory "Junk Fees".

Jordan Uhl, October 26, 2022 [The Lever]

But Republicans on the Senate Banking Committee — four of whom are up for re-election — are fighting to preserve such overdraft charges and other “junk fees” that are generating tens of billions each year for their big bank donors at the expense of the country’s most desperate.

All Republican members of the Senate Banking Committee signed on to a letter sent to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) last month that strongly objected to the agency’s stance that it should more tightly regulate overdraft fees….

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