All posts by Tony Wikrent

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 25, 2021

Uncategorized

 Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 25, 2021

by Tony Wikrent


The Pandemic

US sees COVID-19 cases surge by 224% in last three weeks as CDC director says the Indian ‘Delta’ variant now makes up 83% of all new infections 

[Daily Mail, via Naked Capitalism 7-21-2021]


‘I’m sorry, but it’s too late’: Alabama doctor on treating unvaccinated, dying COVID patients 

[AL.com, via Naked Capitalism 7-22-2021]

In the United States, COVID is now a pandemic of the unvaccinated, according to the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Alabama, state officials report 94% of COVID hospital patients and 96% of Alabamians who have died of COVID since April were not fully vaccinated….

“I try to be very non-judgmental when I’m getting a new COVID patient that’s unvaccinated, but I really just started asking them, ‘Why haven’t you gotten the vaccine?’ And I’ll just ask it point blank, in the least judgmental way possible,” she said. “And most of them, they’re very honest, they give me answers. ‘I talked to this person, I saw this thing on Facebook, I got this email, I saw this on the news,’ you know, these are all the reasons that I didn’t get vaccinated.

“And the one question that I always ask them is, did you make an appointment with your primary care doctor and ask them for their opinion on whether or not you should receive the vaccine? And so far, nobody has answered yes to that question.”


Republicans freak out because the delta variant they fostered is killing ... Republicans

Dartagnan, July 21, 2021 [DailyKos]

Let’s be clear on something: Variants to the COVID-19 virus are caused by allowing the virus to continue spreading among the unvaccinated, giving it more time and opportunity to mutate. The more unvaccinated people there are, the better the chance of a variant developing and spreading. That’s what led to this delta variant that’s now ravaging the vaccine-refusing Republican population in this country. In simpler terms, Republican intransigence and political pandering created and abetted the conditions that led to the spread of the delta variant and encouraged an environment that allowed it to flourish. And now that it’s disproportionately killing “their” people, in red-leaning states, Republican elected officials are desperately seeking—once again—to avoid the blame.


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-23-21]

You have to click through to see the math and the assumptions behind 80,000 Republican voters dying of COVID in Florida over the coming year.

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“In-person voting really did accelerate covid-19’s spread in America”

[Economist, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-20-21]

GRAPH


How the Delta variant achieves its ultrafast spread 

[Nature, via Naked Capitalism 7-23-2021]

“[T]he researchers report that virus was first detectable in people with the Delta variant four days after exposure,compared with an average of six days among people with the original strain, suggesting that Delta replicates much faster. Individuals infected with Delta also had viral loads up to 1,260 times higher than those in people infected with the original strain.” The short incubation period makes contact tracing harder, in countries that do that, and the high viral load increases the likelihood of superspreading events.


“The Delta Variant Will Drive A Steep Rise In U.S. COVID Deaths, A New Model Shows”

[National Public Radio, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-23-21]

“The current COVID-19 surge in the U.S. — fueled by the highly contagious delta variant — will steadily accelerate through the summer and fall, peaking in mid-October, with daily deaths more than triple what they are now. That’s according to new projections released Wednesday from the COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Hub, a consortium of researchers working in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help the agency track the course of the pandemic…. ‘What’s going on in the country with the virus is matching our most pessimistic scenarios,’ says Justin Lessler, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina who helps run the modeling hub. “We might be seeing synergistic effects of people becoming less cautious in addition to the impacts of the delta variant. ‘I think it’s a big call for caution,’ he adds. The group’s latest projections combine ten different mathematical models from various academic teams to create an ‘ensemble’ projection. It offers four scenarios for its projections — varying based on what percent of the population gets vaccinated and how quickly the delta variant spreads. In the most likely scenario, Lessler says, the U.S. reaches only 70% vaccination among eligible Americans, and the delta variant is 60% more transmissible. In that scenario, at the peak in mid-October, there would be around 60,000 cases and around 850 deaths each day, Lessler says.”


America Is Getting Unvaccinated People All Wrong 

Ed Yong [The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 7-23-2021]

….we tend to hear similar questions among people who are unvaccinated. They may also have heard common threads of disinformation, but they’re still asking basic questions. The top one is around side effects, which are one of the main things we talk about when we give informed consent for any procedure. If people aren’t sure about that, it’s no wonder they’re still saying no.

A lot of vaccine information isn’t common knowledge. Not everyone has access to Google. This illustrates preexisting fault lines in our health-care system, where resources—including credible information—don’t get to everyone. The information gap is driving the vaccination gap. And language that blames “the unvaccinated” misses that critical point. Black folks are one of the least vaccinated groups, in part because they have the least access to preventive health-care services.


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 7-23-2021]


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Strategic Political Economy

The Decision to Let Covid Go Chronic

Ian Welsh, July 20, 2021

Our elites  have chosen not to control Covid. It’s tiresome to keep going through Pandemic 101, but they haven’t tracked and traced, haven’t quarantined, haven’t enforced vaccines, haven’t opened up vaccine patents and helped every country manufacture them, haven’t kept lockdowns going long enough, have opened schools, refused to acknowledge Covid was airborne for too long, and on, and on, and on.

There is a playbook for defeating pandemics, it is well understood, and only a few countries ran it.

Covid has made the rich much richer. It kills old and poor people primarily. Selling Covid boosters every year or even twice a year for $150/pop to everyone who can afford them is a lovely new sinecure for pharma.

Because Covid has proved to be a great boon to almost everyone important, i.e., everyone who actually makes decisions or influences them, there’s no reason to end it.

And so it appears it’s going to go chronic.

Even if there are some countries who keep it under control, there will be vast numbers who don’t, and they will serve as pools for Covid to continue to evolve. This is good, of course, if you are a pharma exec with stock options, because that means new booster shots! Vaccinated populations which do not reach crowd immunity are a thing of beauty, allowing Covid to evolve against the vaccines!


Dismal Economics 

James Galbraith [Project Syndicate, via Naked Capitalism 7-24-2021]

Although neoclassical economics relies on assumptions that should have been discarded long ago, it remains the mainstream orthodoxy. Three recent books, and one older one, help to show why its staying power should be regarded as a scandal.


Mississippi asks US Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade 

[CNN, via Naked Capitalism 7-23-2021]

Mississippi's attorney general told the Supreme Court on Thursday that Roe v. Wade was "egregiously wrong" and should be overturned as she urged the justices to allow a controversial law that bars most abortions after 15 weeks to go into effect.

"The conclusion that abortion is a constitutional right has no basis in text, structure, history, or tradition" state Attorney General Lynn Fitch told the justices in a new brief, launching the opening salvo in the most important abortion-related dispute the court has heard in decades.

Mississippi’s brief.


Net-Zero 2050 May Need Up To $173 Trillion Investments — Tsvetana Paraskova

[Oilprice, via Mike Norman Economics 7-22-2021]

Actually, the estimate is between 92 and 173 trillion in USD terms over the next 30 years. It is doable but will take concerted effort in a divided world, especially when the US is divided internally on the issues involved. The problem is more political than economic.


Lars P. Syll — It’s not the debt we need to fix, stupid! It’s our thinking.

[Lars P. Syll’s Blog, via Mike Norman Economics 7-22-2021]

The ad nauseam repeated claim that our public debt is excessive and that we have to balance the public budget is nothing but absolute nonsense.


“We’ve Got To Fight Disinformation,” Says Empire Made Entirely Of Disinformation 

[Caitlin Johnstone, via Naked Capitalism 7-20-2021]


Predatory Capitalism in the Time of COVID19

Medical debt overtakes nonmedical as largest source in collections. COVID-19 may be making it worse. 

[Health Care Dive, via Naked Capitalism 7-22-2021]


Economic disequilibrium

Ohio Pizzeria Workers Get $78 An Hour In Surprise Profit Sharing 

[Patch, via Naked Capitalism 7-18-2021]

Workers at the Heavenly Pizza in Findlay, Ohio, made nearly double what the owner had hoped for on the July 5 employee appreciation day.… As the day started, a typical Monday would include about 90 orders, Elchert said on Facebook — but that 200 "would be fantastic" to help the employees. By closing time, Heavenly Pizza totaled 220 orders, bringing in $6,300 in sales and $1,200 in tips.


Almost nobody is repaying their student loans 

[Yahoo News, via Naked Capitalism 7-19-2021]

As Tom Lee of the American Action Forum recently explained, the portion of borrowers repaying their student loans dropped from 46% at the beginning of 2020 to 1% today. The portion of borrowers in forbearance rose from 10% to 57%. The rest include borrowers who are still in school, who have gotten deferments or who have defaulted….

But the massive student-loan deferment may have set the stage for a chaotic resumption of payments this fall, or politically explosive intervention by the Biden administration that could impact upcoming elections.


“The Trillion-Dollar Lie” [or, “some student loans CAN be discharged in bankruptcy”]

Matt Taibbi, July 22, 2021

“What did [the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005] say, exactly? For years, it was believed that it absolutely closed the door on bankruptcy for whole classes of borrowers, and one in particular: students. Nearly fifteen years after the bill’s passage, journalists were still using language like, ‘The bill made it completely impossible to discharge student loan debt.’ Even I did this, writing multiple features about student loans stressing their absolute non-dischargeability. In 2017, I interviewed a 68 year-old named Veronica Martish who filed for personal bankruptcy — as I put it, ‘not to get free of student loans, of course, since bankruptcy protection isn’t available for students’ — and described her being chased by collectors to her deathbed. ‘By the time I die, I will probably pay over $200,000 toward an $8000 loan,’ she said. ‘They chase you until you’re old, like me. They never stop. Ever.’ I got it wrong. Beginning in the 2010s, judges all over the U.S. began handing down decisions in cases… that revealed lenders had essentially tricked the public into not asking basic questions, like: What is a ‘student loan’? Is it anything a lender calls a student loan? Is a school anything a lender calls a school? Is a student anyone who takes a class? Can lenders loan as much as they want, or can they only lend as much as school actually costs? And so on.”


Production didn’t stop when line worker died and more. Frito-Lay employee gives glimpse behind the scenes. 

[Topeka Capitol-Journal, via Naked Capitalism 7-19-2021]


The Big Law Cartel: How Antitrust Lawyers Help Their Clients Break the Law 

Matt Stoller [BIG, via Naked Capitalism 7-19-2021]


Purdue bankruptcy watchdog says protections benefiting Sacklers are ‘illegal’ 

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism 7-20-2021]


How Did the Sacklers Pull This Off? This Is What Billionaire Justice Looks Like

[New York Times, via The Big Picture 7-18-2021]

Though they are widely reviled for profiting from a public health crisis that has resulted in the death of half a million Americans, they have used their money and influence to play our system like a harp. It is hardly news that our society treats people like Mr. Washington with sledgehammer vengeance and people like the Sacklers with velvet gloves. 


I Was Taught From a Young Age to Protect My Dynastic Wealth

[The Atlantic), via The Daily Poster 7-19-2021]

“The more interesting question is not how the men in ProPublica’s report were able to avoid paying much or anything in federal income taxes, but why. What motivates people with so much money to try to withhold every last bit of it from the public’s reach?”


Predatory Finance

Robust and Resilient Finance 

John Kay [via Naked Capitalism 7-22-2021]


The Biden Transition and the Fight for Real Hope and Change This Time

Law Firm that Was Sued Last Year by NYS Attorney General for Refusing to Turn Over Trump Documents Lands a Partner to Head the Criminal Division in Biden’s Justice Department

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, July 22, 2021 [Wall Street on Parade]


“Biden to Tap Former Hill Aide for Top Treasury Post Overseeing Financial Rules” [Wall Street Journal, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-22-21]

“President Biden plans to nominate Graham Steele as assistant Treasury secretary for financial institutions, a move that would put a long-time congressional staffer with ties to progressives at the center of efforts to refocus financial rules on issues such as climate change and racial equity. Mr. Steele, a former Democratic chief counsel on the Senate Banking Committee and aide to Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), would oversee the Biden administration’s plans to tighten regulations on Wall Street firms. That could include heightened scrutiny of cryptocurrencies; open-end mutual funds and hedge funds and their roles in market turbulence last year; and the financial sector’s exposure to climate-change risks. Mr. Steele is the director of the Corporations and Society Initiative at Stanford Graduate School of Business, which seeks to “promote more accountable capitalism and governance,” according to its website. He previously served as a staffer at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, and also worked at Public Citizen, a progressive watchdog group, before joining Mr. Brown’s staff in 2010.”


Transcript: Brian Deese, NEC Director

Barry Ritholtz, July 25, 2021 [The Big Picture]

Very telling that Deese, Director of the National Economic Council, frames Biden’s executive order two weeks ago as attacking economic concentration because it has so far failed to deliver “follow-through benefit” to consumers. This is an ideological acceptance of the framing created by Robert Bork, and movement conservatives. Proof again that neoliberals are philosophically incapable of challenging conservatism. The proper way to challenge conservatism and its defense of hierarchy, privilege, and wealth is to insist on classic civic republicanism’s understanding that all concentrations of power, whether political or economic, are inherently dangerous.

DEESE: Well, I appreciate you counting words and actions because we are — we’re certainly focused on that as well. We’re really excited about this executive order, and it’s based on a kind of very simple but important intuition, which is that having fair and open competition is a fundable — fundamental ingredient of a healthy capitalist economy. It’s what actually drives better outcomes — lower prices, higher wages, more innovation, more economic growth.

And so the, quote, goal of this executive order is “to reset across the entire executive branch a focus on where and in what ways can we encourage healthy competition in service of achieving those outcomes,” lower prices, higher wages, more innovation.

And what we’ve seen across time is that our economy has gotten less competitive. We have a larger number of our industries that are now more concentrated than they were 20 or 30 years ago. We’ve seen the rate of new business formation, particularly small business formation fall by almost 50 percent since the 1970’s.

And if you look across industries, whether it’s, you know, in — in meat packing or in broadband Internet, consumers’ choices have been constrained. And we haven’t seen the kind of the — the follow-through benefit that at least has been argued by folks who say, you know, more consolidation will actually generate lower prices for consumers. We haven’t seen that either.

In fact, if you aggregate up the impact of consolidation to an American household in terms of prices and wages and other attendant costs, you know, the best estimate so that it’s costing about $5,000 a year for the typical household. So the goal of this executive order is to say how can we start to get at that. And fundamentally, this is — this is its — its — this is not about being sort of pro-business or anti-business, this is about being pro-competition.

A lot of the ideas in this executive order are actually deregulatory in nature, trying to remove some barriers to entry that actually keep workers from more effectively moving and competing for jobs or new businesses to enter into new markets, and grow and gain market share as a result. So that’s the — that’s — that’s the — at a high level, that’s our goal.


A Republican Form of Government

Robert Kuttner, July 21, 2021 [The American Prospect]

One of the sleeper clauses in the U.S. Constitution is Article IV, Section 4, known as the Guarantee Clause. It provides that “The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union a republican form of government.”

Note that this is republican with a lowercase r, as in government by and for the people, and not Republican as in the Republican Party….  Question: If a combination of extreme voter suppression and gimmicks that allow the incumbent ruling party to overturn elections leads to the permanent entrenchment of one party, at what point does this violate the Guarantee Clause? Can a one-party state based on rigged elections, by any stretch, be considered a “republican form of government”?

Kuttner links to a paper by leading constitutional scholar Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of UC Berkeley law school, laying out a more expansive interpretation of the Guarantee Clause. Other useful readings: 

Arthur E. Bonfield, “The Guarantee Clause of Article IV, Section 4: A Study in Constitutional Desuetude” 46 Minnesota Law Review 513 (May, 1961)

Cass R. Sunstein, “Beyond the Republican Revival” 97 Yale Law Journal (1988).



Information Age Dystopia

[Visual Capitalist, via Mike Norman Economics 7-19-2021]
  • Collectively, Amazon, Facebook, and Google make over $112 billion in advertising revenues
  • Two-thirds of ads in the U.S. are now digital


The Most Influential Spreader of Coronavirus Misinformation Online 

[New York Times 7-24-2021]

Joseph Mercola, an osteopathic physician, creates and profits from misleading claims about Covid-19, researchers and regulators say. An internet-savvy entrepreneur, he has published over 600 articles on Facebook that cast doubt on vaccines.  


“Apple AirPod batteries are almost impossible to replace, showing the need for right-to-repair reform”

[CNBC, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-20-21]

“Some owners have noticed that, after a few years, used AirPods eventually will last only an hour or so before needing to be recharged — a big decay from the four-to-five-hour battery life they have when new. Because each AirPod is so small and so tightly packed into its housing, it’s almost impossible to swap out the old battery for a new one. Most people give up and just buy a new pair.” • Planned obsolescence


Disrupting mainstream politics

An Empire State Uprising: Progressives win primaries in western New York, intensifying their challenge to the Democratic machine.

[Daily Poster 7-19-2021]

On June 22, Rochester, New York’s third-largest and poorest city, along with the surrounding Monroe County, experienced a political earthquake. At the top of the ticket, incumbent Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren suffered a landslide loss to challenger Malik Evans. While progressives were somewhat lukewarm on Evans, some saw Warren’s ouster as a vote of no confidence in her response to police misconduct that has plagued Rochester over the past year, including an alleged cover-up surrounding the death of Daniel Prude at the hands of the Rochester police department last March….

For progressives and even mainstream Democrats, last month’s county legislature elections were a watershed, due to the defeat of the majority of a bloc of conservative Democrats who called themselves the “Black and Asian Democratic Caucus.” Despite being registered Democrats, the four members of the caucus and one closely allied legislator have for the past year “aligned strategically with the Republican majority in the Legislature,” the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported in June. The group aided Republicans on recent key votes blocking ethics reform and censure of a legislator who sent unsolicited sexually explicit photos to a young woman.

Candidates backed by the Working Families Party, including a professional boxing promoter, defeated three legislators affiliated with the Black and Asian Democratic Caucus. With a fourth retiring, the bloc’s influence is effectively dead.


The COVID Delta Variant Is Creating Pandemonium in Washington 

[Vanity Fair, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-23-21]


Epistemology

History As End: 1619, 1776, and the politics of the past

Matthew Karp [Harpers, via Naked Capitalism 7-22-2021]

….Today it is not conservatives but liberals who are most sincerely committed to American history. Yet they too have evolved, perhaps even more dramatically, from their ideological forbearers. Great liberal historians from Thomas Babington Macaulay to James M. McPherson are famous for a kind of baseline optimism, expressed in complex accounts of contested and contingent events that ultimately lead to progress. In lesser hands, the liberal narrative can slide toward complacency—or worse, the construction of an American story in which each act of brutality (colonization, slavery, Jim Crow) somehow only sets the stage for the triumphant advance to come (nationhood, emancipation, civil rights). This has been the rhetorical terrain of Democratic presidents since John F. Kennedy, a happy realm where confessed historical crimes painlessly resolve into patriotic triumphs….

Today’s historicist critics operate within a different kind of cosmology. In her essay introducing the 1619 Project, the journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones notes that black Americans have fought for and achieved “astounding progress,” not only for themselves, but for all Americans. Yet the project does not really explore this compelling story: in fact, it largely skips over the antislavery movement, the Civil War, and the civil-rights era. Strikingly, Frederick Douglass appears more often in [Trump’s] 1776 Report than in the 1619 Project, where he originally received just two brief mentions, both in an essay by Wesley Morris on black music. Martin Luther King Jr., for his part, makes only one appearance in the 1619 Project, the same number as Martin Shkreli. In more than one hundred pages of print, we read about very few major advocates of abolition or labor and civil rights: Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Henry Highland Garnet, A. Philip Randolph, Ella Baker, Rosa Parks, and Bayard Rustin are just a few of those who go unmentioned….

The question, as The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer has written, is not only about the facts, but the politics of the metaphor: “a fundamental disagreement over the trajectory of American society.” In a country that is now wealthier than any society in human history but which still groans under the most grotesque inequalities in the developed world—in health care, housing, criminal justice, and every other dimension of social life—the optimistic liberal narrative put forward by Kennedy and Clinton has ceased to inspire….

Whatever birthday it chooses to commemorate, origins-obsessed history faces a debilitating intellectual problem: it cannot explain historical change. A triumphant celebration of 1776 as the basis of American freedom stumbles right out of the gate—it cannot describe how this splendid new republic quickly became the largest slave society in the Western Hemisphere. A history that draws a straight line forward from 1619, meanwhile, cannot explain how that same American slave society was shattered at the peak of its wealth and power—a process of emancipation whose rapidity, violence, and radicalism have been rivaled only by the Haitian Revolution. This approach to the past, as the scholar Steven Hahn has written, risks becoming a “history without history,” deaf to shifts in power both loud and quiet. Thus it offers no way to understand either the fall of Richmond in 1865 or its symbolic echo in 2020, when an antiracist coalition emerged whose cultural and institutional strength reflects undeniable changes in American society. The 1619 Project may help explain the “forces that led to the election of Donald Trump,” as the Times executive editor Dean Baquet described its mission, but it cannot fathom the forces that led to Trump’s defeat—let alone its own Pulitzer Prize.  


The Dark Side

“‘Buying Votes’ Is Good, Actually”

[Eric Levitz, New York Magazine, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-20-21]

“To be fair, [Fox Business host Stuart] Varney does seem to recognize that voters like social democratic policies. That is, more or less, his secondary objection to the CTC; that the Democrats’ embrace of the policy represents a craven act of pandering to the popular will. Varney’s argument seems to be that elected officials have a responsibility to avoid competing on the basis of how much aid they can deliver to the public, lest they end up in a race to the bottom. To violate this tacit gentleman’s agreement is to corrupt the political system through mass bribery. Democrats are, in his words, ‘buying votes.’ This sentiment has a long pedigree on the right. It is essentially an updated version of 19th-century conservatives’ arguments against mass democracy: That granting all men political equality would render government hostage to the imprudent, extortionate appetites of popular majorities. As the chancellor of New York, James Kent, argued at the Empire State’s Constitutional Convention in 1820, “the tendency of universal suffrage is to jeopardize the rights of property and the principles of liberty.”


“Does the Biden Administration Really Think It Can ‘Out-Organize’ Voter Suppression?”

[Vanity Fair, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-23-21]

“There is a certain amount of political realism to this tack: The John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the For the People Act can’t pass with the filibuster in place, and even if Biden were to come around on abolishing it, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema say there’s no circumstance in which they would. Returning to a talking filibuster or lowering the bar from 60 votes to 55 could be possible, but such changes may not be enough to stop Republicans, whose political prospects depend on the very voter suppression efforts the bills are meant to prevent. “I would talk till I fell over,” Lindsey Graham said in March, suggesting that even making the filibuster more difficult to deploy wouldn’t keep Republicans from doing so. To the White House, it might make more sense to direct their efforts where they have a better chance of succeeding. Democrats turned out a record number of voters for Biden in 2020, even with the obstacles to access that already existed and a raging pandemic. Surely they could do it again — right?”

Lambert Strether notes that “Butchering the pandemic over the summer won’t help.”



Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 18, 2021

Uncategorized

 Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 18, 2021

by Tony Wikrent


The Epidemic

NEW From CDC“Community Profile Report July 8 2021” (PDF), “Rapid Riser” counties

[CDC, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-16-21]


Five undervaccinated clusters put the entire United States at risk 

[CNN, via The Big Picture 7-12-2021]

Clusters of unvaccinated people, most of them in the southern United States, are vulnerable to surges in Covid-19 cases and could become breeding grounds for even more deadly Covid-19 variants: Starting in Georgia and stretching west to Texas and north to Missouri + include parts of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Tennessee. 


There’s A Stark Red-Blue Divide When It Comes To States’ Vaccination Rates 

[NPR, via The Big Picture 7-13-2021]

But surveys have shown Trump supporters are the least likely to say they have been vaccinated or plan to be. Remember, Trump got vaccinated before leaving the White House, but that was reported months later. Unlike other public officials who were trying to encourage people to get the shot, Trump did it in private. 


Least Vaccinated U.S. Counties Have Something in Common: Trump Voters 

[New York Times, via The Big Picture 7-13-2021]

The disparity in vaccination rates has so far mainly broken down along political lines. For nearly every U.S. county, both the willingness to receive a vaccine and actual vaccination rates to date were lower, on average, in counties where a majority of residents voted to re-elect former President Donald J. Trump in 2020. 


Strategic Political Economy

Newsmax anchor goes full death cult, suggests vaccines go against evolution and nature

[Twitter, via, Aldous J Pennyfarthing, July 12, 2021, Dailykos]

x


This is the oligarchs’ “final solution” to finally eliminating all those pesky plebes who are constantly consuming resources the oligarchs prefer to hoard for themselves. It is the triumph of the oligarchs’ Malthusian pessimism over the optimism and progress of the Enlightenment and the creation of the USA as a self-governing republic constitutionally dedicated to promoting the General Welfare. It is a rejection of the classic Christian conception of humanity made in the image of the Creator, investigating and learning the laws of nature so that humanity can partake in the Divine by co-participating in the act of Creation through new science and technology that relieves human suffering and betters the human condition. That USA christianists are not in an uproar about these statements, shows how deeply the oligarchs’ corporations have corrupted USA christianity


Buying Democracy in a Good Way

Dean Baker, CEPR, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-14-21]

“At the moment, at least two Democratic senators (Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona) seem unwilling to go along with voting to weaken the filibuster to allow voting rights measures to pass with a simple majority. As a result, it is hard to see how anything can pass. But, the Democrats can pass bills that involve appropriations with a simple majority through the reconciliation process. This is where the point that Brian made comes in, we can make voting rights about money. Suppose the next reconciliation bill included a provision that gave $1,000 per person to every adult living in a state where the districts are drawn by an independent commission, where basic provisions of access are guaranteed (e.g. two weeks of early voting, no excuse absentee voting), and where elections are run by career civil servants and cannot be overturned by elected officials. We should probably throw in some provisions about mandatory five-year prison terms for harassing or threatening election officials. This is a straight up appropriation bill, it’s not telling states what they have to do, so it should pass muster for reconciliation. It may be the case that Republican states will still insist on their voter suppression measures and rigged districts, and look to blow off the money, as they did with Medicaid expansion, but this would be a very different story.”

“Market dirigisme”

[Interfluidity, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-14-21]

Market dirigisme is the name I give to a style of public policy I think we ought to use more. The idea is pretty simple. Governments form preferences over how the polity ought to be but currently is not. Often, what governments should do is to explicitly purchase the changes in behavior they desire from the general public…. Often when a central government wishes to change the polity, it tries to induce changes at the level of subsidiary governments, rather than via citizens and households….. There are deep problems with this style of center-to-subsidiary governance. It’s intuitively attractive, I think, due to a mistaken analogy between government subsidiarity to bureaucratic hierarchy. It feels “rational” or “logical” to work through the “chain of command” rather than have the center try to mess directly with with hundreds of millions of citizens about whose particular circumstances it knows little….A better approach is for the central government to alter the circumstances, and so the preferences, of the broad public. If we’d like denser communities, the central government can simply pay a subsidy to residents of communities growing denser. Elected officials of subsidiary governments no longer face conflicting incentives. If the subsidy is large enough to shift the preferences of the voters to whom local politicians are accountable, politicians will enact real change. If their supporters’ dispreference for density overwhelms the money, they won’t. The size of the subsidy can be set large enough to meet the central government’s objectives while still permitting some communities to opt out.”

The Biden Transition and the Fight for Real Hope and Change This Time

“The Biden Antitrust Revolution”

[The New Yorker, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-15-21]

“Since joining the Administration, at the start of March, Wu has been working full time on the order, which is lengthy and detailed. ‘There is an intellectual revolution here, which the President has embraced,’ Wu told me. ‘Part of that effort is to bring back antitrust as a popular movement, rather than as an abstract academic thing. I think we went through a long period in which it became more remote and abstract. But, as the President said, ultimately this is about creating an economy that works for everyone…. The way that the executive order names specific problems also reflects an effort on the part of Wu and his colleagues to make the most of a limited tool. Barack Obama issued a pro-competition executive order in the final year of his second term, but he left office before it could have much impact. Donald Trump signed all manner of executive orders, most of which are no longer in effect—either the courts struck them down or Biden reversed them after taking office. Wu and his colleagues are all too aware that this order, too, is likely to be challenged in the courts, where many judges have taken a restrictive view of the government’s power to promote economic competition. So, in drawing it up, they tried to address specific problem areas that are highly visible and subject to existing laws. ‘The whole approach of this executive order is to focus on areas where there are strong congressional authorities, often given during the New Deal or the nineteen-fifties and sixties, but which are not being fully used,’ Wu explained.” 


The (Anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts
From Qualified Immunity to Voting Rights, the Supreme Court Guts Civil Rights Laws

David Gans, director of the Human Rights, Civil Rights, and Citizenship Program at the Constitutional Accountability Center, July 16, 2021 [The American Prospect]


Predatory Finance

“The Top 10 Largest Private Equity Firms in the World”

[US News, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-12-21]

“Private equity firms have come out of the pandemic red-hot, inking more than 2,300 deals in the first five months of 2021, an increase of 21.9% from the same period last year. 

  1. The Blackstone Group
  2. KKR
  3. The Carlyle Group
  4. Apollo Global Management
  5. CVC Partners
  6. Advent International
  7. Thoma Bravo
  8. TPG Capital
  9. Warburg Pincus
  10. Bain Capital


Frontline Investigates the Federal Reserve: Is It a Captured Regulator that’s Wrecking the U.S. Economy with Asset Bubbles?
Pam Martens and Russ Martens,  July 11, 2021 [Wall Street on Parade]

This Tuesday evening [July 13], the PBS investigative program, Frontline, will broadcast a documentary covering its year-long investigation of the Federal Reserve’s bailouts of Wall Street, from the financial crisis of 2008 to the present….

Andrew Huszar, a former insider at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, where the Federal Reserve has a serial habit of outsourcing its bailout programs for the mega banks on Wall Street (likely because it is literally owned by those same banks) will explain to viewers how he was “single-handedly responsible for directing the deployment of $1.25 trillion of Fed funds, and we did not see the knock-on benefits that we had hoped for the average American.”

Huszar is talking about the $1.25 trillion the Fed spent in buying up agency Mortgage-Backed Securities (MBS) following the 2008 financial crash on Wall Street. Despite the fact that the Fed saw no benefits accrue from that program to the average American, it doubled down on the same program during the pandemic, buying up $40 billion a month in agency MBS. The Fed’s current total of agency MBS on its balance sheet stands at $2.3 trillion as of last Wednesday. The custodian of the securities purchased in the Fed’s MBS program has been, from the outset, JPMorgan Chase, one of the largest owners of the New York Fed. The fact that the bank has received an unprecedented five felony counts from the Department of Justice since 2014 hasn’t changed the Fed’s mind about entrusting the bank with $2.3 trillion of its assets. (JPMorgan Chase admitted to all five felony counts.)


Someone Is Buying Up Power Plants and Critical Infrastructure in 22 Countries. The Trail Leads to JPMorgan – a Bank Repeatedly Charged with Rigging Markets

Pam Martens and Russ Martens,  July 15, 2021 [Wall Street on Parade]


Biden Stimulus Is Financing GOP’s Tax Cuts For The Rich

[Daily Poster, July 16, 2021]

Republicans are taking advantage of the White House’s refusal to invoke a law designed to make sure stimulus money isn’t used for tax breaks….

But rather than investing in underfunded schools and public services, some Republican-run states are instead funneling the cash to high-income households - and the Biden administration’s refusal to enforce the anti-tax-cut language in the federal legislation are providing a green light for Republicans to try to do even more.

The Arizona legislature recently passed a $1.9 billion income tax cut designed to benefit the wealthy, with 93 percent of the benefit going to the top 20 percent of earners, and over half going to the top 1 percent. Ohio passed $1.7 billion in tax cuts, over half of which will flow to the top five percent of earners and over a third of which will flow to the top one percent. And Wisconsin passed more than $2 billion in tax cuts, about three quarters of which will go to individuals who make $100,000 or more.


Fintech, NeoBanks and the Unbanked

[No Mercy No Malice, via The Big Picture 7-13-2021]

25% of U.S. households are either unbanked or underbanked. Half of the nation’s unbanked households say they don’t have enough money to meet the minimum balance requirements. 34% say fees are too high. And, if you’re trying to get a mortgage, you’d better hope the house isn’t cheap. 


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

U.S. Drug Overdose Deaths Spiked 30 Percent in 2020 

[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism 7-16-2021]


The Hidden Costs of Dollar General 

[Slate, via The Big Picture 7-12-2021]

When the dollar stores moved in, they started driving grocery stores out. Local grocers blamed it on what they called the Walmart effect. When Walmart Supercenters arrived in neighboring areas, offering huge selections of goods at low prices, people started driving to them rather than shopping locally. Smaller stores couldn’t compete. (Slate)


Pharma Companies Spend Billions More on Stock Buybacks Than Developing Drugs

[The Brick House Cooperative, via Daily Poster July 14, 2021]


BOEING HIJACKED BY SHAREHOLDERS AND EXECS 

[Dollars & Sense, via Naked Capitalism 7-12-2021]

The process of taking money out of the company is evident in Figure 2 and Figure 3. “Free cash” is the term for the resources a company has available to spend after it has covered operations costs and the costs of maintaining existing equipment. The green bars in Figure 2 show the percentage of “free cash” that Boeing obtained from operations (i.e., selling planes created by the workers in the production process), which typically provided 40% to 80% of the cash Boeing was free to spend annually. (Boeing obtained the remaining percentage of “free cash” largely from new loans—like a lot of American households, Boeing borrows every year, though at a lower rate of interest than the typical consumer.)

In many years up until 2018, the corporation obtained the bulk of its “free cash” flow from operations, yet the falling blue line in Figure 2 indicates that Boeing only puts between 10% and 20% of its cash back into new equipment for production operations—known as “capital expenditures.” With roughly 60% coming from operations, and only 15% going back into operations, Boeing’s cash flow statements reveal a slow erosion of manufacturing capacity, as the company spends less and less on capital equipment of any kind. If this is how the U.S. capitalist class accumulates capital, then it’s no wonder capitalism in the United States isn’t doing well.

Figure 3. Shareholders vs. Production: How Boeing Spends Free Cash Flow
So, how does Boeing actually spend its “free cash”? The yellow bars in Figure 3 show the combined spending on dividends to shareholders and stock buybacks.


Climate and environmental crises

“The U.S. Wheat Crop Is in Trouble”

[Gizmodo, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-14-21]

“Wheat farmers across the country are facing lower yields as 98% of the country’s wheat crop is in areas experiencing drought. In the Northern Plains, the Department of Agriculture said Monday that farmers were projected to harvest their smallest crop of spring wheat—crops planted in the spring and harvested in the autumn—in 33 years. … The region is hardly alone; the USDA also said this week that 68% of the Pacific Northwest’s spring wheat was in ‘poor or very poor’ conditions. At this time last, only 6% of the region’s wheat crop was in this state. All told, the USDA found that 98% of the U.S. wheat crop is growing in areas hit by drought.”


The U.S. Is Rapidly Running Low on Water There’s a gross way to fix this.

[Slate, via The Big Picture 7-15-2021]


Restoring balance to the economy

France fines Google $593 million for not negotiating ‘in good faith’ with news publishers.

[New York Times, July 13, 2021]


Google was fined 500 million euros, or $593 million, by French antitrust authorities on Tuesday for failing to negotiate a deal in “good faith” with publishers to carry news on its platform, a victory for media companies that have been fighting to make up for a drop in advertising revenue that they attribute to the Silicon Valley giant.

French officials said Google had ignored a 2020 order from French regulators to negotiate a licensing deal with publishers to use short blurbs from articles in search results. The case has been closely watched because it is one of the first attempts to apply a new copyright directive adopted by the European Union intended to force internet platforms like Google and Facebook to compensate news organizations for their content.

“When the authority imposes injunctions on companies, they are required to apply them scrupulously, respecting their letter and their spirit,” Isabelle de Silva, president of the French antitrust body, said in a statement.

Google has two months to come up with fresh ideas for compensating news publishers or risks further fines of up to €900,000, about $1.065 million, per day, the French authorities said.


Institutionalists = Obstructionists

“1 big thing: Dems’ House hopes hang on two states”

[Axios, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-14-21]

“The Democrats’ “only chance of keeping the House” next year is if they redraw congressional lines to their advantage in New York and Illinois, Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman tells Axios’ Stef Kight…. The GOP is already poised to take advantage of its control of map-drawing in more states than Democrats. But Democrats have a chance to eliminate as many as seven Republican House seats in just New York and Illinois through redistricting in states they control.”


Centrist Think Tanks Are Raking In Exxon Cash 

[The New Republic, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-15-21]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-13-21]

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Disrupting mainstream politics

“Sidewalk Socialists and the Path to Power”

[Current Affairs, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-15-21]

[Charlotte] Kelly is one of seven candidates running for Somerville City Council who has been endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). This slate of campaigns is bound not just by the idea of winning socialism in a general sense, but specific, concrete reforms to pave the way. To get there, the candidates demonstrate intricate knowledge of policy battles and embed themselves in community organizing, but it’s more than that, too: their proposals for the future drill down to the details. According to Spencer Brown, co-chair of Boston DSA, the election centers on three issues of daily life—affordable housing, climate change, and public safety—and in addressing those issues the DSA-endorsed candidates move seamlessly from broad-stroke abstractions to net zero stretch code and idling police cruisers. The slate in Somerville has the potential to translate the grand aim of socialism into the minutiae of city politics…. This upcoming election in Somerville also may have wider implications, both in the Boston area and nationally. All over the country, not just in big coastal cities but in places like Florida and Texas, socialists are running for municipal office. But even in the largest DSA chapter in the country—New York City—DSA put up six candidates in the June primary, contesting only 12 percent of the City Council (and only winning two races). Meanwhile in Chicago and Seattle, socialists make up about 10 percent of their respective city councils. But in Somerville, 64 percent of seats are being contested. The prospect of winning an outright majority represents, in the words of Seitchik, ‘a generational opportunity, the first time since World War II, the first time in 80 years, to be able to have a majority socialist City Council.’ In fact, as DSA’s national account recently corrected, the city of Richmond, California already has a majority-socialist City Council—an indication that what’s happening in Somerville is not as anomalous or isolated as it might at first seem.” 

Interview With Professor Adolph Reed

Matt Taibbi, July 15, 2021

Reed: No, it’s not new. Combating racism becomes a convenient alternative to attacking inequality and inequality, even those inequalities that appear or the manifest themselves as racial disparities. Because the struggle against racism is exactly parallel to the struggle against terrorism… It can go on forever, because the enemy is an abstraction that you can define however you want to define it, at the moment that you wanted to find it….

Black workers can’t just be workers. They got to have some special black thing about them. But I’m not denying that black workers are black, as much as workers. To keep with my prior illustration, black is the adjunctive, worker is the noun.

But the thing is always: how do we try to build the solidarities that we need to have, to change the society in the ways that make it better for everybody who lives in it, except Bezos, and those people? The practice of this performative race-first politics is completely disconnected from any sort of pragmatic questions like that.

It’s not only disconnected from such questions, it tends to be so essentially antagonistic to pursuit of such questions. 


The real separation of powers in modern America: The left has unfair privilege in culture, and the right in politics.

FT, via Naked Capitalism 7-15-2021]

Comment by Michael Pettis: “Call me old fashioned, but I liked it better when the left cared more about the working classes than about culture.”  To which Lambert Strether added: “To repeat, if you don’t put the working class first, you’re not on the left. You’re working on the rainbow of flavors to put in your freezer, just like Nancy Pelosi, ka-ching.”


The Dark Side

“Florida Democrats Ask for ‘Clarity’ on ‘Anti-Riot’ Law After Cuba Protesters Not Arrested”

[Newsweek, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-15-21]

“Florida Democrats are calling out Republican Governor Ron DeSantis while asking the state’s attorney general for “clarity” about a law that the governor signed earlier this year criminalizing protesters blocking road traffic. Prompted by Black Lives Matter protests that swept the nation following the death of George Floyd last year, DeSantis signed the so-called “anti-riot” bill HB 1 in April, imposing potential criminal penalties for protesters who block roads while holding demonstrations. However, when large groups of Cuban Americans—a key Republican voter block in Florida—took to the streets and sometimes blocked them while holding demonstrations in solidarity with pro-democracy protests in Cuba this week, law enforcement did not intervene. Democrats quickly noted that no arrests were made on Tuesday when protesters blocked Florida State Road 826, also known as the Palmetto Expressway.” 


“Citizens, Not the State, Will Enforce New Abortion Law in Texas”

[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-13-21]

“People across the country may soon be able to sue abortion clinics, doctors and anyone helping a woman get an abortion in Texas, under a new state law that contains a legal innovation with broad implications for the American court system. The provision passed the State Legislature this spring as part of a bill that bans abortion after a doctor detects a fetal heartbeat, usually at about six weeks of pregnancy. Many states have passed such bans, but the law in Texas is different. Ordinarily, enforcement would be up to government officials, and if clinics wanted to challenge the law’s constitutionality, they would sue those officials in making their case. But the law in Texas prohibits officials from enforcing it. Instead, it takes the opposite approach, effectively deputizing ordinary citizens — including from outside Texas — to sue clinics and others who violate the law. It awards them at least $10,000 per illegal abortion if they are successful. ‘It’s completely inverting the legal system,’ said Stephen Vladeck, a constitutional law professor at the University of Texas at Austin. ‘It says the state is not going to be the one to enforce this law. Your neighbors are.’ The result is a law that is extremely difficult to challenge before it takes effect on Sept. 1 because it is hard to know whom to sue to block it, and lawyers for clinics are now wrestling with what to do about it.” 


“The obscure foundation funding “Critical Race Theory” hysteria”

[Popular Info, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-13-21]

“A Popular Information investigation reveals that many of the entities behind the CRT panic share a common funding source: The Thomas W. Smith Foundation.”



Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 4, 2021

Uncategorized

 Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 4, 2021

by Tony Wikrent


Strategic Political Economy

Techno-Feudalism Is Taking Over 

Yanis Varoufakis [Project Syndicate, via Naked Capitalism 06-30-2021]

Then, after 2008, everything changed. Ever since the G7’s central banks coalesced in April 2009 to use their money printing capacity to re-float global finance, a deep discontinuity emerged. Today, the global economy is powered by the constant generation of central bank money, not by private profit. Meanwhile, value extraction has increasingly shifted away from markets and onto digital platforms, like Facebook and Amazon, which no longer operate like oligopolistic firms, but rather like private fiefdoms or estates.

That central banks’ balance sheets, not profits, power the economic system explains what happened on August 12, 2020. Upon hearing the grim news, financiers thought: “Great! The Bank of England, panicking, will print even more pounds and channel them to us. Time to buy shares!” All over the West, central banks print money that financiers lend to corporations, which then use it to buy back their shares (whose prices have decoupled from profits). Meanwhile, digital platforms have replaced markets as the locus of private wealth extraction. For the first time in history, almost everyone produces for free the capital stock of large corporations. That is what it means to upload stuff on Facebook or move around while linked to Google Maps.


“Democrats Raise Ethical Concerns Over GOP Donor’s $1 Million Funding of Border Deployment”

[Military.com, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-1-21]

“A billionaire’s $1 million donation to fund a South Dakota National Guard mission to the U.S.-Mexico border has raised questions of whether the military is effectively for hire, and Democrats in the state are investigating the legality of the issue, Military.com has learned. Willis and Reba Johnson’s Foundation, helmed by billionaire Willis Johnson, pledged $1 million to South Dakota to cover the estimated cost of deploying some 50 guardsmen to the border for up to two months, according to a state government email reviewed by Military.com.”

This is exactly why I advocate replacing liberalism with civic republicanism, which is compelling in its clarity and simplicity: the rich are as much a danger to a republic as a standing army.

As James Madison wrote in his notes preparing for the Constitutional Convention: “If the minority happen to include all such as possess the skill and habits of military life, & such as possess the great pecuniary resources, one third only may conquer the remaining two thirds.”

Under liberalism, any individual has the “right” to amass as much property as they can. The rights of the community are decidedly secondary. Under civic republicanism, a properly functioning government breaks up any and all concentrated wealth, precisely because wealth, like power, corrupts, and, as we know too damn well, wealth buys power. Benjamin Franklin observed, “”There is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of its filling a vacuum, it makes one. If it satisfies one want, it doubles and trebles that want another way.” In laying down “good whig principles,” Franklin recognized the insidious nature of concentrated wealth to corrupt politics, and wrote “the poor man has an equal right, but more need, to have representatives in the Legislature than the rich one.”

Remember the liberal reaction to AOC’s comment that all billionaires is a failure of policy? 

The true purpose of taxation in a republic, therefore, is not to fund the government, but to tax away excess wealth, and maintain a semblance of economic equality among the citizens. Under no circumstance is any citizen to be allowed to become so wealthy that he or she feels they can afford a “donation” that determines the deployment of either state or federal military forces. Or steers the destiny of legislation. Or determines the effect of regulation.

Clear and simple.

After all, isn’t that, when you boil it down, what the slavery oligarchy did to drag the country into Civil War? And it’s where the reactionary rich, and their conservative and libertarian movements, are dragging us again.


Can Biden Build Back Better? Yes, If He Abandons Fiscal “Pay Fors" — Yeva Nersisyan and L. Randall Wray

[Levy Institute of Economics, via Mike Norman Economics, July 1, 2021]

President Biden’s proposals for investing in social and physical infrastructure signal a return to a budget-neutral policymaking framework that has largely been set aside since the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis. According Yeva Nersisyan and L. Randall Wray, this focus on ensuring revenues keep pace with spending increases can undermine the goals internal to both the public investment and tax components of the administration’s plans: the “pay-for” approach limits our spending on progressive policy to what we can raise through taxes, and we will only tax the amount we need to spend.

Nersisyan and Wray propose an alternative approach to budgeting for large-scale public expenditure programs. In their view, policymakers should evaluate spending and tax proposals on their own terms, according to the goals each is intended to meet. If the purpose of taxing corporations and wealthy individuals is to reduce inequality, then the tax changes should be formulated to accomplish that—not to “raise funds” to finance proposed spending. And while it is possible that general tax hikes might be needed to prevent public investment programs from fueling inflation, they argue that the kinds of taxes proposed by the administration would do little to relieve inflationary pressures should they arise. Under current economic circumstances, however, the president’s proposed infrastructure spending should not require budgetary offsets or other measures to control inflation in their estimation.

Biden Classifies Opposition to ‘Capitalism and Corporate Globalization’ As Extremism 

[Naked Capitalism 06/29/2021]


India Walton Is Reviving the American Tradition of Municipal Socialism

[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 06-30-2021]


“The Public-Health Calculus Has Shifted”

[The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-1-21]

The civic republican idea of the rights of the community is an obvious answer to this issue of private liberty versus public health. 

“In April 2020, on assignment from the CDC, I became the senior adviser for public health in New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office. My job was to lead the strategy for fighting COVID-19. In that capacity, I spent as much time talking with lawyers and writing affidavits as I did analyzing the latest COVID-19 research. In those days, ‘following the science’ of public health was fairly straightforward: It meant mandating masks and physical distancing, promoting widespread testing and isolation when necessary, and, crucially, restricting the right of businesses and other entities to welcome people from different households indoors. When New York City and New York State ordered such measures, we were sued by restaurants, bars, and gyms. Our successful defense against these suits rested on several facts. First, everyone was at risk from COVID-19. Second, in the absence of a vaccine, the only effective way to reduce the risk of illness was to reduce the risk of exposure, and the only way to do that was for everyone to sacrifice for one another by wearing masks, maintaining distance, and exercising constant vigilance. Third, any indoor gathering of people from different households risked transmission to large numbers of people from different social networks. (Where such gatherings were unavoidable, such as in schools, strict precautions were required at all times.) Finally, and most important, widespread community infection could lead to two existential threats: the collapse of the health-care system, and an extended period of mass death on the scale of what New York experienced in the horrific early phase of the pandemic.” And: “n the United States, public-health agencies often state their overarching mission as maximizing the quality and length of life with a particular focus on reducing inequalities in outcomes. But their legal authority to regulate residents’ civil liberties derives from a narrow source: the responsibility to protect public safety, as delegated to states in the police-powers clause of the Tenth Amendment. Just as average citizens lack the ability to stop a terrorist or extinguish a wildfire, they also lack the expertise and technology to address major health threats. Individuals cannot, for example, identify a product that caused an E. coli O157 outbreak and take it off grocery-store shelves. And yet for public-health agencies to use their authority, expert opinion is not enough. They also need broad community consensus that the government is justified in invoking its police powers. ”


How Beijing humbled Britain’s mighty HSBC 

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism 06/29/2021]

No mention of HSBC’s historical background in the narcotics trade, nor its connections to Brutish intelligence.


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

“Young American Adults Are Dying — and Not Just From Covid”

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-1-21]

“In March, a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine committee summed up the current state of knowledge in a 475-page report on “High and Rising Mortality Rates Among Working-Age Adults.” Advances in overall life expectancy stalled in the U.S. after 2010 even while continuing in other wealthy countries, the committee summed up, attributing this mainly to (1) rising mortality due to external causes such as drugs, alcohol and suicide among those aged 25 through 64 and (2) a slowing in declines in deaths from internal causes, chiefly cardiovascular diseases. There are lots of different ways to analyze this disturbing turn of events, and the fact that much attention so far has gone to the plight of the middle-aged makes sense in that middle-aged people are a lot likelier to die than younger adults. The 3.7% increase in mortality from 2010 through 2019 for those aged 55 through 64, for example, amounted to almost four times as many deaths as the 25.2% increase among those aged 25 through 34. Still, a 25.2% mortality increase over nine years amounts to a staggering setback, far worse than any other age group experienced over that period. It was followed up in 2020 with an also staggering 24.5% one-year increase, which made for a 55.8% rise since 2010. ”


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-1-21]

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Neoliberalism’s Bailout Problem 

Robert Pollin and Gerald Epstein [Boston Review, via Naked Capitalism 6-27-2021]

A good summary of Hyman Minsky’s “Wall Street Paradigm” and why financial and economic crises are inevitable in the absence of firm regulation.  Unfortunately, Pollin and Epstein credit Keynes with the intellectual revolution for active counter-cyclical government intervention. True only in terms of academic history; in terms of political economy, active counter-cyclical government intervention was devised by Franklin Roosevelt’s Federal Reserve chairman Marriner Eccles long before Keynes was well known in USA. Also, most of the panoply of active New Deal programs were based on the ideas of the agrarian populists of the 1870s to 1890s, as described at the beginning of this retrospective by key New Deal adviser Rex Tugwell


The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Is a Gift to Wall Street, at the Planet’s Expense 

Kate Aronoff [The New Republic, via Naked Capitalism 06/29/2021]


The Dream of Florida Is Dead 

[Slate, via Naked Capitalism 7-1-2021]

….that is what’s causing a panic locally, because there is a shit ton of condo buildings here. And you can’t put off these repairs that need to happen. Part of the reason people buy condos is because they’re cheaper. And as soon as you start throwing in “Well, you need to pay $25,000 into this repair,” that scares the crap out of people. So people have been putting it off.

I can’t overstate how big this wrench that this is throwing into our local and regional and state economy, actually. Condos and the development of condos and the mortgage brokers that help get the financing, the insurers that insure, the realtors who sell, the investors who buy and flip—if Florida has one main driver of industry, this is it. That is what we do. That is the story of Florida. And I think we’re seeing a lot of anxiety about this. This is going to force a wholesale reevaluation of the very places where millions of Floridians live.

Disrupting mainstream economics

“A New Macroeconomics?” (PDF)

Jón Steinsson [via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-1-21]

“During the time theory was dominant in macro, much progress was made on the theoretical front. But being so dominated by theory, the field was very exposed to another problem: models in which markets work well are (usually) easier to solve than models in which market work poorly. This simple fact has huge consequences because it imparts a bias on economic theory towards models in which markets work well. Since models in which markets work well are easier to solve, researchers tend to work with such models. The default assumption about a market is typically that it is perfectly competitive. Researcher will often introduce a carefully constructed friction in a critical place in their model and focus their analysis on the implications of this friction. But all other markets in the model are typically modeled as being perfectly competitive for simplicity. The typical researcher is so used to assuming that virtually all markets are perfectly competitive that they are often completely blinded as to the consequences of these assumptions. They take as given certain implications of these perfect markets assumptions as though they were inevitable consequences of logic as opposed to the consequences of obviously false simplifying assumptions that they and everyone they know have made for years and years.” 


Disrupting mainstream politics

Washington Isn’t Used to the Left Setting the Agenda

David Dayen, June 28, 2021 [The American Prospect]

That’s why [Republicans] freaked out over Democrats linking two separate infrastructure bills. But to succeed, the left must also erase privatization from the agenda.

What got Republicans so angry is that Democrats figured out a way to make the two-stage process successful. And it’s so confounding to them because, for the first time in anyone’s memory, the political system in Washington felt more of a need to cater to its left to win votes than to cater to its right.

Biden was merely adopting the same position that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had stated just a few hours earlier. “We will not take up a bill in the house until the Senate passes the bipartisan bill and a reconciliation bill,” Pelosi declared. When Biden was asked specifically if he supported Pelosi’s position, he said, “Yes.” But Biden didn’t link the two bills, Pelosi did, and there’s nothing that anyone in the Senate can do about it.

Pelosi had to make this promise because it was the only way for anything on infrastructure to pass. Progressives, who have enough numbers within the party to block legislation in the House, made it very clear that they didn’t trust moderates enough to follow through on a second bill without a forcing mechanism. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) floated on June 15 that the House should hold the first bill until the second bill passes the Senate, precisely what Pelosi stated would happen days later. AOC’s was just the first public iteration of a position relayed privately to Pelosi previously. Left-leaning members of the Senate unified with that strategy as well and made their stance clear.

Pelosi is pretty cold-eyed when it comes to this stuff. She will engage in whatever strategy it takes to actually get something passed. She’s stating through her actions that the threat of progressives walking away from the first bill in the absence of the second is greater than any moderate revolt on social spending and tax increases.


“Pelosi stands by infrastructure strategy despite pushback”

[CNN, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-1-21]

“House Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated on Wednesday that she stands by her assertion that the House won’t take up a bipartisan infrastructure deal until the Senate passes a more sweeping package through budget reconciliation, a position that has drawn criticism from Republicans and caused some anxiety among moderate House Democrats…. The comments from the speaker come after she said last week, ‘Let me be really clear on this: We will not take up a bill in the House until the Senate passes the bipartisan bill and a reconciliation bill.’ Emphasizing the point, she said, ‘There ain’t gonna be no bipartisan bill, unless we have a reconciliation bill.’ Democratic leaders are pursuing a dual track approach to infrastructure, pushing for a bipartisan bill while also setting the stage for the Senate to pass a package that would only require Democratic votes and would include priorities left out of the deal.”


It’s the economic ideology, stupid

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-28-20]

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“Confronting a legacy of scarcity: a plan for reinvesting in U.S. public health”

[STAT, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-29-20]

“Decades of chronic underfunding and a failure to invest in the public health workforce, the physical infrastructure of state and local health departments, and critical data systems have left Americans vulnerable to calamities like Covid-19 and other pathogens that lie just around the corner. In the last two decades, funding for public health has been progressively chipped away.” A handy chart

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Restoring balance to the economy

Microcities

[interfluidity, via Naked Capitalism 6-29-2021]

Michael Eliason has a great piece (hosted at David Roberts’ substack) describing the kind of experiments with the urban built environment that are common in parts of Europe but unheard of the in United States. Eliason writes:

“It should be noted that these developments are largely the result of urban planning competitions. This is in stark contrast to the US, where we incorporate little to no urban planning and essentially let the market drive development, with no forethought to livability, open space, schools, walkability, and so forth.

Citizen participation is also a major component of these projects. Unlike in the US, this participation isn’t a wasteful exercise whereby local homeowners get to block new homes and preserve the status quo. Rather, these processes allow residents to have a say in what their new district can look like, where things should be located, and what kinds of open space or car-free areas it will have. It is true democratic planning, facilitated by spatial planning policies that are both top-down and bottom-up. We should probably take note.”

But in the United States, don’t new towns just become Levittown or Columbia, Maryland — car-centric, shopping-mall centered, suburban sprawl? By default, yes they do. If you let the market do its thing, the national homebuilders will build out tracts of cul-de-sacs and detached homes in their sleep, hardly even noticing what they’ve done. The “market” is a local optimizer, a risk-averse creature of habit. Even under the best of circumstances the market would build too little, given the asymmetry of social costs of housing scarcity versus overabundance. We want more experimentation than the market would provide, and as Eliason points out, we want planning during which future residents exercise a meaningful franchise. The United States used to be a site of utopian experiments. It ought to be again. We’ll need activist government, some form of social housing, in order to make that happen. 


Climate and environmental crises

The Complex 50-Year Collapse of U.S. Public Transit Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 6-29-2021]

Does not discuss lack of investment.


Climate Change is Purely a Political Problem, the Tech to Solve the Crisis is Readily Available

DanielEMichelsen [DailyKos June 29, 2021]

Building codes in the US are a joke. In 2009 while studying to be an energy consultant I learned that the best “Energy Star” rated standard in the US did not meet the minimum energy code in Europe. In fact some of our building codes prohibit the best practices available.  The technology exists to build homes that need no heating system anywhere in the continental US. Its called insulation.

While the details can get complicated, in concept it really is that simple. Since heating systems are expensive to install and maintain, much of the added cost of insulation is covered by the elimination of the boiler or furnace and heat distribution ducts or pipes. Once the building shell is efficient enough, the lights appliances and people keep the building warm. During the cold season, if it gets too warm, cooling is free, just bring in some outside air.

This is not to be confused with net zero homes. If you start with a horrible building that guzzles energy and put a big enough solar array on it to cover the use, it qualifies as net zero. Despite the obvious stupidity of this, it is done. The problems are many.

Heat waves cause us to run the AC. This uses power, which for most of us still means producing CO2. Which intensifies the heat wave. The technology to reduce this vicious cycle already exists. It’s called ……. insulation.

Insulation is a fairly new technology. 100 years ago homes were built with hollow cavities. It was not until the 1940’s that home insulation became common place.


How Last Century’s Oil Wells Are Messing With Texas Right Now 

[Bloomberg, via The Big Picture 7-1-2021]

Ranchers and regulators are contending with uncontrolled leaks from thousands of abandoned oil and gas sites that could render some land “functionally uninhabitable.”



“Grocery stores are pulling perishable food, covering aisles in plastic sheets, and running sprinklers on their roofs as they battle a record heat wave”

[Business Insider, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-2-21]

“Grocery stores in Washington have been forced to pull perishable goods from shelves and turn off entire refrigerated sections as the state experiences record-shattering temperatures…. The weather makes it difficult for refrigerators and freezers to maintain low temperatures. A reporter for a Fox affiliate in Seattle said the heat had caused refrigerators to malfunction at an Albertsons store in Mill Creek, Washington. The grocer was forced to pull several perishable goods from its shelves, including meats, lettuces, and dairy items, the reporter said, adding that the store posted signs telling customers it couldn’t provide several refrigerated foods and cordoned off the empty aisles. Other stores in the state have used similar tactics. Some Fred Meyer stores in Washington put plastic covers over refrigerated goods to keep in the cool air, dozens of posts on social media suggested. A Fred Meyer spokesperson was not immediately available to comment…. Two people said on social media that at least two Fred Meyer locations had turned on roof sprinklers to help maintain air-conditioning and freezer units. People in Washington posted pictures of grocery stores with empty freezer aisles and refrigerators wrapped in plastic. Some people said aisles of Gatorade and electrolyte drinks had been cleared out, while others said they’d seen crowds of shoppers trying to beat the heat.”

 

“Northwest heat wave demonstrates world’s growing cooling needs”

[Axios, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-2-21]

“What we’re watching: How much of the world’s growing global cooling needs will be met with highly efficient units and buildings, use of heat pumps, low-impact coolants and systems plugged into grids with high amounts of zero-carbon power remains to be seen. A separate IEA report last month, which models a global energy system that achieves “net-zero” emissions by 2050, finds it’s possible to massively expand cooling in an emissions-friendly way. In that scenario, the number of air conditioning units in emerging and developing economies specifically rises by 650 million by 2030 and another 2 billion by 2050. But under their hugely ambitious model — not a prediction! — a basket of clean technologies nonetheless helps to cut CO2 emissions from the world’s buildings by 95% by 2050.” And: “Cities that establish cooling centers, [Michael Oppenheimer, a climate scientist at Princeton University] said, may not be placing them in the most accessible areas. He noted that in Chicago, about one-third of cooling centers are located in police precincts. ‘Think about that in [the] context of the populations least likely to have air conditioning,’ he said.”


The climate crisis is a crime that should be prosecuted 

[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 6-30-2021]

I started saying this a couple years ago: climate denial should be made a crime, like hate speech. You don’t even need to lock up deniers — just make them felons and suspend their voting rights for ten or more years, until after we meet the collective action problem of stopping climate change.  


Even Emergency Measures Won’t Save the West From Megadrought 

[The New Republic, via Naked Capitalism 6-27-2021]


Information Age Dystopia

“Amazon Demands One More Thing From Some Vendors: a Piece of Their Company”

[Wall Street Journal, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-29-20]

“Suppliers that want to land Amazon.com Inc. as a client for their goods and services can find that its business comes with a catch: the right for Amazon to buy big stakes in their companies at potentially steep discounts to market value. The technology-and-retail giant has struck at least a dozen deals with publicly traded companies in which it gets rights, called warrants, to buy the vendors’ stock in the future at what could be below-market prices, according to corporate filings and interviews with people involved with the deals. Amazon over the past decade also has done more than 75 such deals with privately held companies, according to a person familiar with the matter. In all, the tech titan’s stakes and potential stakes amount to billions of dollars across companies that provide everything from call-center services to natural gas, and in some cases position Amazon among the top shareholders in those businesses. The unusual arrangements offer another window into how Amazon uses its market heft to increase its wealth and clout.”


“How Amazon Bullies, Manipulates, and Lies to Reporters”

[Mother Jones, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-29-20]

“Almost all of the journalists told me they found that Amazon press relations was either the most or among the most clawing and deceptive corporate communications team that they had dealt with in their work. ‘Amazon is the only company I’ve dealt with that has directly lied to me,” said one tech writer, recalling instances when Amazon boasted of warehouse safety guidelines in ways that journalists who had spoken with rank-and-file employees had found not to be true. ‘They’d often lie about things we had proof of,’ said another reporter, citing times they had visual evidence contradicting the communications teams’ claims. ‘There will be videos of these big walkouts and they’ll say only a few workers participated.'”

Lambert Strether adds: “Just the kind of corporate culture I want to get off-planet and colonize Mars.”


Millions Choose Simple Privacy Protection with DuckDuckGo 

[Spread Privacy, via The Big Picture 6-29-2021]

Growth over the last 12 months: 50M+ app downloads, 55% search traffic increase, #2 search engine on mobile in the U.S., Canada, Australia, the Netherlands & more.


Google’s Antitrust Cases: A Guide for the Perplexed 

[Wired, via The Big Picture 6-29-2021]

The company is facing multiple lawsuits from the Department of Justice and three dozen states. Here’s what you need to know. 


Artificial Intelligence Has Caused A 50% To 70% Decrease In Wages—Creating Income Inequality And Threatening Millions Of Jobs 

[Forbes, via Naked Capitalism 6-27-2021]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 6-27-2021]

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The Biden Transition and the Fight for Real Hope and Change This Time

Biden’s $118million cabinet: Net worth of secretaries revealed – with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and AG Merrick Garland at $20million down to Pete Buttigieg with $750,000

[Daily Mail, via Naked Capitalism 6-30-2021]


[Twitter,via Naked Capitalism 6-30-2021]

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Dems Launch Proxy War On Medicare For All

David Sirota and Julia Rock, June 29, 2021 [The Daily Poster]


The Handbook of Handbooks for Decentralised Organising

[via Naked Capitalism 6-29-2021]

A mega list of handbooks and toolkits for groups working without top-down management


The Dark Side

“Attorney General Ken Paxton rules ERCOT not subject to Texas Public Information Act”

[Dallas Morning News, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-29-20]

“Attorney General Ken Paxton finds in a ruling that the Public Information Act would not apply to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, meaning documents, text messages, e-mails, and recorded phone calls about February’s deadly storm will not be released. Following an onslaught of records requests related to the winter storm and the ensuing power grid crisis, ERCOT attempted to limit the amount of information it would have to release. In March, ERCOT claimed it was a public agency, and therefore immune from lawsuits. It also claimed the Public Information Act does not apply because it was not a public entity, which, under Texas law, is required to release records…. Texas’ grid operator is defined as an “independent organization,” certified by the Public Utility Commission of Texas.”


Court upholds Arizona voting restrictions, limits cases under Voting Rights Act 

[SCOTUSblog, via Naked Capitalism 7-2-2021]

Alito declined to provide an “exhaustive list” of what circumstances courts should consider to determine whether a law violates Section 2, but he outlined what he described as “several important circumstances” that, particularly when taken together, strongly suggest that it will be more difficult for plaintiffs to prevail in the future in cases arguing that a voting law violates Section 2. He noted first that the size of the burden imposed by a voting rule is “highly relevant.” “After all,” he wrote, “every voting rule imposes a burden of some sort.” “Mere inconvenience,” he added, “cannot be enough to demonstrate a violation of” Section 2….

If a voting rule affects some racial or ethnic groups more than others, Alito continued, courts should consider the size of that disparate impact. Just because there is some disparate impact does not, standing alone, mean that everyone does not have an equal opportunity to vote, Alito made clear. “The size of any disparity matters,” and any comparisons should be “meaningful”: “What are at bottom very small differences should not be artificially magnified.” ….

The court also reversed the 9th Circuit’s holding that the state had a discriminatory purpose when it enacted the ballot-collection restriction. Alito acknowledged that the catalyst “for the debate over mail-in voting” and the ballot-collection restriction “may well have been provided by one [state] Senator’s enflamed partisanship, but partisan motives are not the same as racial motives” – even when voting preferences of members of a particular racial group “may make the former look like the latter.” The district court in this case, Alito underscored, “found no evidence that the legislature as a whole was imbued with racial motives.”



GRAPH: Boring news cycle deals blow to partisan media

[via The Big Picture 6-30-2021]

Mainstream monthly traffic down 18.3 %. 

Far left monthly traffic down 27.3 %.

Far right monthly traffic down 43.8 %.


“The GOP’s Dark Money Court Machine”

Andrew Perez, June 29, 2021 [The Daily Poster]

The conservative dark money group that led the campaign to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court seat with Amy Coney Barrett received more than $14 million from a single mystery donor in the lead-up to the confirmation fight, according to documents obtained by The Daily Poster.

The Concord Fund is the new parent nonprofit of the Judicial Crisis Network, a secretive dark money group that has been bankrolling campaigns to install GOP judges and funding conservative advocacy campaigns around the country since 2004.

After Ginsburg’s death in September last year, the Judicial Crisis Network immediately started spending millions on ads calling on Senators to ‘ignore the extremists, stick to precedent, and confirm the nominee,’ who had not yet been named. The group then spent millions more to support Barrett’s confirmation after former President Donald Trump selected her to replace Ginsburg.

The Concord Fund’s latest IRS tax return shows the organization raised $20.4 million between July 2019 and June 2020. While the group is not required to publicly disclose its donors, the tax return shows it received $14.3 million — nearly 70 percent of its total revenue at the time — from a single anonymous source….

The Concord Fund is closely tied to top Trump judicial adviser Leonard Leo. In early 2020, Leo stepped away from his day-to-day role at the Federalist Society, the national conservative lawyers group, to help steer the Concord Fund. Between mid-2019 and mid-2020, the Concord Fund paid $1.6 million to a company affiliated with Leo called BH Group, LLC….

Leo and his allies rebranded the Judicial Crisis Network as the Concord Fund, turning it into a social welfare organization that fiscally sponsors other organizations. This arrangement creates additional layers of opacity, allowing a nonprofit to host or create new advocacy groups at relatively little cost that simply exist as a trade name. Judicial Crisis Network is now a fictitious name registered under the Concord Fund in Virginia.

Conservative operatives did the same thing with the Judicial Crisis Network’s charitable arm, the Judicial Education Project, renaming it the 85 Fund.

Last week, the 85 Fund and the Concord Fund registered new fictitious names, Free to Learn and Free to Learn Action. A few days later, the Free to Learn Coalition, which Fox News described as an “anti-critical race theory” organization, publicly announced that it had “launched with an initial seven-figure national ad campaign of well over $1 million advocating for classrooms independent from political influence.”


Inside the ‘shadow reality world’ promoting the lie that the presidential election was stolen 

[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 6-27-2021]

Wealthy allies of former president Donald Trump have spent millions on films, rallies and other efforts to tout falsehoods about the 2020 vote.


Inside the extraordinary effort to save Trump from covid-19

[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 6-27-2021]

Trump would have died in office, it seems.

His illness was more severe than the White House acknowledged at the time. Advisers thought it would alter his response to the pandemic. They were wrong….

Trump’s medical advisers hoped his bout with the coronavirus, which was far more serious than acknowledged at the time, would inspire him to take the virus seriously. Perhaps now, they thought, he would encourage Americans to wear masks and put his health and medical officials front and center in the response. Instead, Trump emerged from the experience triumphant and ever more defiant. He urged people not to be afraid of the virus or let it dominate their lives, disregarding that he had had access to health care and treatments unavailable to other Americans.


“SCOTUS to wrongfully accused terrorists: ‘drop dead'”

Cory Doctorow [Pluralistic, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-1-21]

“Transunion’s secret files on you include a tickbox for ‘suspected terrorist.’ Transunion wrongly accused 8,000 people of being terrorists. It discovered its error and violated its statutory duty to inform the people it had wronged. The Supremes just ruled that those wronged people aren’t allowed to sue Transunion for accusing them of being terrorists and making that judgment available to its customers, including government agencies, employers and landlords.”



Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 27, 2021

Uncategorized

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 27, 2021

by Tony Wikrent


Strategic Political Economy

THE 50-100 PAY GAP: These 20 Harsh Facts About Income and Wealth Inequality Will Shock You 

[Capital & Main, via Naked Capitalism 6-22-2021]

Fourteen shocking facts on inequality and working Americans
● Worker hourly compensation increased just 17% from 1979 to 2019, while worker productivity increased more than 72% over the same time period.

● Had the income of the bottom 90% of Americans kept up with GDP growth, they’d have collectively taken home $2.5 trillion more in 2018. Over the 43 years since 1975 combined, the figure is $47 trillion.

● The wealth of the bottom half of families — roughly 64 million families — adds up to only 1% of total U.S. household wealth.

● The median white family has 41 times more wealth than the median Black family and 22 times more wealth than the median Latino family.

● In 2016, 72% of white families owned their home, compared to just 44% of Black families and 45% of Latino families.

● For the average American consumer, the share of their expenditures spent on health doubled from 1980 to 2018.

● Half of U.S. adults with lower incomes skipped necessary medical care such as doctor visits, recommended tests, treatments, follow-up care or prescription medications in the past year because of the high cost.

● Between 2008 and 2018, the number of states in which health insurance premiums and deductibles consumed at least 10% of median income increased from seven to 42.

● The price of education increased 600% more than incomes from 1980 to 2018.

● One in four Americans have no retirement savings — and those who do aren’t saving enough. The median retirement savings account of $120,000 for those approaching retirement (ages 55 to 64) will likely provide less than $1,000 per month over a 15-year retirement span.

● Social Security benefits have lost 30% of their buying power since 2000.

● Nearly 83 million adults — 34 percent of all adults in the country — reported that their household found it somewhat or very difficult to cover usual expenses such as food, rent or mortgage, car payments, medical expenses or student loans in the last seven days, according to survey research in November 2020.

● Nearly half of Black adults reported it was somewhat or very difficult to pay usual household expenses, nearly twice the rate among white adults and Asian adults (28%). A similar share (47%) of Latino adults reported such difficulties.

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 6-23-2021]

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India Walton Poised To Become Buffalo’s First Socialist Mayor 

[HuffPo, via Naked Capitalism 6-23-2021]

In a stunning upset Tuesday night, political newcomer India Walton appeared set to knock off longtime incumbent Byron Brown in the Democratic primary for mayor of Buffalo. Backed by the Democratic Socialists of America and the Working Families Party, Walton is on the brink of defeating Buffalo’s four-term mayor and a close ally of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-24-21] 

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China Launches First Electric Train In Tibet Near India's Border

[Sputnik International, via Mike Norman Economics, June 25, 2021]

India and China are trying to outpace each other in infrastructure development along their disputed Himalayan border. Incidents of threats from villagers have been reported on the Indian side. Villagers have demanded that the Indian government provide them with road, rail and electricity infrastructure; otherwise they will seek Chinese help....


China Starts Production At Massive Deepwater Gas Field — Irina Slav

[Oilpricel, via Mike Norman Economics, June 25, 2021]

China’s CNOOC this week started production from the first deepwater gas field it operates fully, Reuters has reported, adding that the field is expected to yield some 4.39 billion cubic meters of natural gas, representing 2 percent of China’s total output.…


Predatory Finance

“Wall Street Sees Big Wish Granted in Biden’s Infrastructure Deal”

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-25-21]

It’s just two words of jargon near the bottom of the infrastructure plan the White House posted Thursday — ‘asset recycling’ — but for a slew of investing titans that longed to see that phrase, it’s reason to rejoice…. “The bipartisan group that put this bill together has been keenly focused on the importance of private investment, including the concept of asset recycling, which has been championed by infrastructure funds for a number of years,” said DJ Gribbin, the former special assistant to the president for infrastructure policy from 2017 to 2018 who is also a senior operating partner at Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners. President Joe Biden’s administration could kick off an asset-recycling initiative with federal government-owned power and generation companies such as the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Bonneville Power Administration, Gribbin said. He added that government-owned dams around the country that generate hydroelectric power and haven’t been well maintained could also be part of the program. Other federally-owned infrastructure that investors have long coveted include the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport. Asset recycling — a policy many credit as being coined in Australia — features the sale or leasing of infrastructure such as roads, airports and utilities to private operators.” 


Bipartisan Senate Infrastructure Plan Is a Stalking Horse for Privatization

David Dayen, June 21, 2021 [The American Prospect]

But the really scary piece is labeled “Public private partnerships, private activity bonds, and asset recycling.” In the name of building world-class infrastructure, these lawmakers would sell it off in fire sales to private financiers. We have lots of experience with infrastructure privatization that strongly suggests it should be avoided.

There was a time when Democrats did oppose such schemes; it was during the Trump administration. To the extent that Trump had an infrastructure vision, it was rooted in privatization. Wilbur Ross and Peter Navarro, who would each take high-level jobs in the Trump administration, wrote a paper before the 2016 election outlining their vision: $1 trillion in investment provided by private bond buyers, who would be guaranteed a tax credit to buy the bonds, interest on the debt, and an equity stake with dividends (with up to a 10 percent profit margin). It adds the usual song and dance about how private enterprise is so much more efficient than the public sector, therefore saving money overall….

But let’s call attention to the third item on that list, “asset recycling.” This is an idea imported from Australia, which is really just an enormous shell game. It involves selling off public infrastructure to acquire the resources to build new infrastructure. It’s literally robbing Peter to pay Paul. Naturally the Trump administration was enthusiastic about it, though they never passed legislation on it. That’s fallen to this bipartisan group….

Our experience with privatization has drawn similar criticism, as it’s a triumph of short-term thinking and long-term pain. The city of Chicago sold off 36,000 parking meters to a Wall Street-led investor group in 2009, taking back $1.15 billion to plug budget holes. Chicago drivers will pay $11.6 billion over the 75-year life of the deal to park, and fees are scheduled to rise as much as 800 percent. When the city shuts down a street for a festival or parade, it has to pay the private company for the parking revenue it loses. And the city cannot make improvements like bike lanes or sidewalk widening on metered streets, again because the privatizers might lose revenue. Indianapolis gave a similar 50-year lease on its downtown parking meters to a subsidiary of Xerox, using the money to build a giant downtown parking garage, a form of asset recycling. The garage on average is 5.5 percent full during the year.


Chicago Parking Meters Hit With Potential Class Action Suit 

[Chicago Sun Times, via The Daily Poster 6-26-2021]

“A potential class action lawsuit filed this week against the private company that operates Chicago’s sprawling parking meter system alleges its exclusive contract with the city amounts to an ‘unreasonable 75-year monopoly.’ The complaint, filed Wednesday in federal court in Chicago, holds that Chicago Parking Meters’ lengthy deal with the city has resulted in increased parking rates and restrictions on other forms of travel, like bicycles and ride-hailing.”


Here Come Wall Street Rental Communities: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, June 24, 2021 [Wall Street on Parade]


“Top U.S. Officials Consulted With BlackRock as Markets Melted Down”

[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-24-21]

“As Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin scrambled to save faltering markets at the start of the pandemic last year, America’s top economic officials were in near-constant contact with a Wall Street executive whose firm stood to benefit financially from the rescue. Laurence D. Fink, the chief executive of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, was in frequent touch with Mr. Mnuchin and Mr. Powell in the days before and after many of the Fed’s emergency rescue programs were announced in late March. Emails obtained by The New York Times through a records request, along with public releases, underscore the extent to which Mr. Fink planned alongside the government for parts of a financial rescue that his firm referred to in one message as ‘the project’ that he and the Fed were ‘working on together.'” 


Fed Chair Powell Misleads House Hearing on Wall Street’s Bailout Programs

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, June 23, 2021 [Wall Street on Parade]

It’s factually incorrect for the Fed Chairman to say that it can only make emergency loans with the approval of the Treasury. Months before there was any case of COVID-19 anywhere in the world the Fed was making hundreds of billions of dollars a week in emergency repo loans to Wall Street trading houses. The emergency loans started on September 17, 2019 – four months before the first reported case of COVID-19 in the United States. By January 27, 2020 the Fed’s ongoing cumulative loans to bail out Wall Street’s hubris tallied up to an astounding $6.6 trillion. (See Fed Repos Have Plowed $6.6 Trillion to Wall Street in Four Months; That’s 34% of Its Feeding Tube During Epic Financial Crash.)

The Fed made these loans without any Congressional approval or oversight. Despite Powell’s promises to the Senate Banking Committee that the Fed would provide a full report on what caused the need for these emergency bailouts to Wall Street banks, the public has yet to see any such report from the Fed.

In addition, Powell appeared to be giving the impression yesterday that the Fed’s pandemic bailout programs have ended. While the programs funded with CARES Act money have stopped making new loans, the Fed’s weekly H.4.1 balance sheet as of last week shows that it held the following balances in its various emergency bailout programs: Paycheck Protection Program Liquidity Facility, $87.32 billion; Commercial Paper Funding Facility, $8.55 billion; Corporate Credit Facilities, $25.85 billion; Main Street Facilities, $30.56 billion; Municipal Liquidity Facility, $10.73 billion; TALF, $4.76 billion; Central Bank Liquidity Swaps, $500 million.


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-25-21]

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Why Does Anyone Care What Lawrence Summers Thinks?
Barry Ritholtz, June 25, 2021 [The Big Picture]

...I see a public intellectual and policy wonk whose professional history is a continual series of disastrous decision-making across markets, academia, and public policy.

Yes, yes, we all know he is very smart. It helps to think of him as a PC with a super high-powered CPU processor but very crappy software. Worse decisions faster….

But Harvard is only one of the errors that Summers can take credit for: An even bigger problem was his tenure as Treasury Secretary in the late 1990s for the Clinton administration. Summers embraced much of the radical deregulation favored by senator Phil Gramm and then-Fed chair Alan Greenspan. He was at Treasury when the Travelers Citigroup merger was approved, despite a variety of concerns about antitrust issues. (Who thought forming this behemoth was a worthwhile idea?)

That merger effectively violated the Glass Steagall act; approving it ended its enforcement as a viable regulation….

But that wasn’t the only failure from the Summers era. His endorsement of the Commodities Futures Modernization Act of 2000 (CFMA) was where things really went off the rails….


Restoring balance to the economy 

“California to Pay off all Past Due Rent Accrued During COVID, Giving Renters Clean Slate”

[Newsweek, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-22-21]


“Tech crackdown survives House panel’s marathon slugfest”

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-24-21]

“The House Judiciary Committee voted in the wee hours Thursday to block the hugest tech companies from buying their competitors and disadvantaging their rivals — part of a series of bipartisan moves, stretching overnight toward dawn, aimed at hobbling Silicon Valley’s reigning powers. Still to come later Thursday is a vote on the panel’s starkest proposal: a bill that could make it easier to break up tech giants like Google and Facebook. Taken together, the package of bills would represent the most significant changes to U.S. antitrust law in decades. But reaction throughout the Capitol to the panel’s tech antitrust legislation showed that the effort faces serious friction from lawmakers of both parties, despite years of growing anger at the industry among Democrats and Republicans in Congress. The most notable pockets of resistance during Wednesday’s and Thursday’s 19-plus-hours-and-counting markup came from lawmakers from California, the home base of Google, Facebook and Apple. One lawmaker not on the committee, Silicon Valley-based Democrat Ro Khanna, separately told POLITICO that he will ask a fellow Californian, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to retool the legislation.” • Here is an enormous thread on the markup of the bills:


Why Did Congress Just Vote to Break Up Big Tech?

Matt Stoller, June 25, 2021

Stoller had been a leading proponent of reviving anti-trust enforcement and dismantling monopolies. 


Schumer Backs Sanders’ Proposal to Include Dental, Hearing, and Vision Care in Medicare 

[Common Dreams, via Naked Capitalism 6-22-2021]


The Pandemic

Covid is already deadlier this year than all of 2020. So why do many in U.S. think the problem’s over? 

[CNBC, via Naked Capitalism 6-24-2021]


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

How America quietly lost 2,700 ships 

[Business Insider, via Naked Capitalism 6-20-2021]

  • Since 1960, America's cargo fleet has fallen from 16% of the world's fleet to 0.2%.
  • It's thanks to the government slashing support of shipping, and the rise of overseas tax havens. 
  • Our domestic snubbing of shipping underlies why we're in a shipping crisis.


The (Anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts

Court vs. Farmworkers May Foreshadow Court vs. All Workers

Harold Meyerson, June 25, 2021 [The American Prospect]

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court reaffirmed one of its most venerable traditions: upholding the rights of property over the rights of humans, most particularly humans who happen to be employees….

And then as now, agribusiness’s anger at this affront led them to go after the upstarts who dared put workers on the same footing as owners. I know this because it’s part of a story to which I was particularly privy.

In my younger, pre-journalist days, when we still lit our rooms with kerosene lamps, I was a political consultant for a range of progressive causes and candidates in California. In 1986, I ended up running a statewide campaign on behalf of three California Supreme Court justices, all of whom had been appointed by then-former (and later future) Gov. Jerry Brown, and all of whom, under the state’s quirky election laws, had to stand for “retention” that year. Previously, to the best of my knowledge, no state justice had ever faced an electoral challenge to his or her retention, under which process voters simply voted “yes” or “no,” and if “no,” the governor got to choose a successor. But this time around, Republicans and business interests sensed that Brown’s justices were electorally vulnerable and decided to wage an all-out campaign against their retention.


Corporate Media Camouflages The Corporate Court

David Sirota, June 24, 2021 [The Daily Poster]

The Supreme Court’s transformation into a corporate star chamber is rarely mentioned by an elite media owned by corporations and billionaires — but it is a story The Daily Poster has been reporting on since we launched.

Business-related rulings typically are not framed on a liberal-conservative continuum, and in many cases the bloc of putatively liberal justices are siding with corporations against workers, shareholders, and anyone else in society who is not rich and powerful. Indeed, two of the three aforementioned cases this week were 8-to-1 rulings.

Even the Times admitted that “the court’s three Democratic appointees have voted with the majority 73 percent of the time in divided cases” — although the paper casts this as proof of jurisprudential moderation rather than a reflection of corporate capture or bipartisan conservatism….

Thirty years ago, casino magnate Donald Trump helped create a dangerous legal precedent that made it far harder for investors to sue Wall Street firms when those firms use fine print to mislead them with rosy financial projections and promises. In that case — which revolved around assurances that Trump’s company made to investors before they lost their money — Trump secured a landmark ruling from future Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

Two decades later, Goldman Sachs was telling clients in investment documents that it has “extensive procedures and controls that are designed to identify and address conflicts of interest.” But then the firm was exposed for betting against the mortgage investments it was selling its clients. During a congressional hearing on the topic, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) grilled a top Goldman executive about the fact that he had pushed investments on clients that he had referred to in an email to a colleague as a “shitty deal.”

Goldman investors led by Arkansas’ teachers pension fund sued  and this week, the Supreme Court effectively solidified the original Trump doctrine. In an opinion written by Justice Barrett, the high court tossed out the class action lawsuit that aimed to hold Goldman accountable.


The Supreme Court Is Closer to a 9-0 Corporatist Supermajority Than a 3-3-3 Split
Alexander Sammon, June 22, 2021 [American Prospect]

Of course, the notion that the Supreme Court has cleaved into a 3-3-3 split—with Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch making up a hard-right sect; Justices Barrett, Kavanaugh, and Roberts as the sober, center-right moderates; and Justices Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor the counterbalancing liberals—is nonsense, and anyone finding solace in these recent rulings is doing so at great risk. The Court, in its most recent decisions especially and in the entire body of work of the Roberts Court broadly, is much closer to a 9-0 corporatist supermajority than some evenhanded triad. Liberals may be desperately hoping for some conservative wedge that will solve their problems without having to do anything, but that won’t solve the many problems of our unbalanced judiciary.

Information Age Dystopia

Uber and Lyft Donated to Community Groups Who Then Pushed the Companies’Agenda

[The Markup, via Naked Capitalism 6-20-2021]

The ride-hail giants are orchestrating a complex PR scheme to sway public opinion to ensure drivers aren’t classified as employees


The Co-op Movement Is Taking On Big Tech

Amelia Pollard, June 24, 201 [The American Prospect]

Like many co-ops arriving on the market, the Drivers Cooperative is pitched as a more equitable antidote to the notoriously exploitative practices of its competitors, chiefly Uber and Lyft. The Drivers Cooperative’s members are paid a significantly larger commission on each ride, and any profits go straight to the drivers. With 2,500 drivers, the new co-op has already established itself as a force to be reckoned with.

The idea of a cooperative business, or co-op, sounds almost utopian: a shared-ownership model where profits are distributed to various stakeholders as opposed to shareholders only. Instead of an oligarchy—as is the case with Bezosworld, for instance—cooperatives are democratic. The collective group of owners—the workers, consumers, or small-business owners—share the profits and often have a say in the company’s governance.

“People know it’s better than the winner-take-all extractive economy that we’re in,” says Greg Brodsky.


McGill: The Disinformation Dozen
Barry Ritholtz, June 20, 2021 [The Big Picture]

If you prefer to listen rather than read, here are all of the related Masters in Business interviews with all of your favorite Psychologists & Behavioral Economists. It is a full semester’s worth of material, and you should earn about 12 college credits for listening to all of it….

Last, a short excerpt about Vaccine disinformation on social media from that McGill report I referenced is after the jump.

The Disinformation Dozen are responsible for up to 65% of anti-vaccine content.”

“At the outset of this research, we identified a dozen individuals who appeared to be extremely influential creators of digital anti-vaccine content. These individuals were selected either because they run anti-vaccine social media accounts with large numbers of followers, because they produce high volumes of anti-vaccine content or because their growth was accelerating rapidly at the outset of our research in February.

Full profiles of each are available at the end of this report:

1. Joseph Mercola
2. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
3. Ty and Charlene Bollinger
4. Sherri Tenpenny
5. Rizza Islam
6. Rashid Buttar
7. Erin Elizabeth
8. Sayer Ji
9. Kelly Brogan
10. Christiane Northrup
11. BenTapper
12. Kevin Jenkins


“On Booksellers And ‘Fair Trade’”

[The American Conservative, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-24-21]

“Recent issues of TAC have contained lamentations about the disappearance of independent booksellers and Amazon’s near-emerging monopoly on bookselling, with its cancellation of works praising Justice Clarence Thomas and questioning transgender orthodoxy. The usual remedy proposed is voluntary patronage of the few surviving independent booksellers. But it may surprise readers to know that there was once, and still is in many parts of the world, a legal regime, not dependent on government, that accords authors and publishers the means to assure a level playing field in bookselling. That regime is resale price maintenance, once called “fair trade,” that allows publishers to set and enforce firm resale prices for the works they publish. This right does not eliminate competition among booksellers. It curtails price competition to be sure, but diverts it to competition in inventory, pre-sale advice, delivery and other services, and in amenities including social events, book fairs, and book talks.”


With Bezos at the Helm, Democracy Dies at the Washington Post Editorial Board 

[Mint Press News, via Naked Capitalism 6-21-2021]


“Internal Amazon documents shed light on how company pressures out 6% of office workers”

[Seattle Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-22-21]

“Amazon systematically attempts to channel 6% of its office employees out of the company each year, using processes embedded in proprietary software to help meet a target for turnover among low-ranked office workers, a metric Amazon calls “unregretted attrition,” according to internal company documents seen by The Seattle Times. The documents underscore the extent to which Amazon’s processes closely resemble the controversial management practice of stack ranking —in which employees are graded by comparison with each other rather than against a job description or performance goals — despite Amazon’s insistence that it does not engage in stack ranking. The documents also highlight how much of Amazon’s human resources processes are reliant on apps and algorithms, even among the company’s office workforce. And they provide the most detailed picture yet of how Amazon uses performance improvement plans to funnel low-ranked employees out of the company. The company expects more than one-third of employees on performance improvement plans to fail, documents show. Amazon has previously said that its performance improvement plans aren’t meant to punish employees. The policies described in the documents reviewed by The Seattle Times apply to the company’s office workforce, who comprise a minority of Amazon’s roughly 950,000 U.S. employees. Amazon’s warehouses replace workers much more frequently, The New York Times has reported: Before the pandemic, annual turnover rates at Amazon warehouses reached 150%”


“Amazon’s Greatest Weapon Against Unions: Worker Turnover”

[HuffPo, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-22-21]

“[T]he National Employment Law Project… found that the turnover rate in the local warehouse industry increases significantly when Amazon comes to town. Warehouse churn more than doubled in several California counties after Amazon facilities opened, averaging more than 100%. The Seattle Times conducted its own analysis of Amazon’s workforce data last year, putting the company’s turnover at 111% during the pandemic. A New York Times investigation published this week put the figure even higher, at 150%, showing that Amazon was shedding 3% of its workers every week before the pandemic began…. Under a turnover rate of 100%, every theoretical position inside the warehouse would turn over once in a year, on average. That has huge implications for organizing. …. At an Amazon warehouse, high turnover means a union would be losing cards every day as workers leave and new employees unfamiliar with the campaign replace them. Even if the union manages to win an election, high turnover could hurt its position at the bargaining table if some of the most active organizers have quit or been fired. And churn could even help the employer purge the union from the facility by convincing newer workers to decertify it.”


How to poison the data that Big Tech uses to surveil you 

[MIT Technology Review, via The Big Picture 6-124-2021]

Researchers at Northwestern University are suggesting new ways to redress this power imbalance by treating our collective data as a bargaining chip. Tech giants may have fancy algorithms at their disposal, but they are meaningless without enough of the right data to train on. 


Creating new economic potential - science and technology

Finland Might Have Solved Nuclear Power’s Biggest Problem 

[The B1M, via Naked Capitalism 6-23-2021]

While burying nuclear waste might sound alarming and may cause concern to environmental groups, the process at Onkalo is so much more than simply burying the problem.

Based on a Swedish disposal method known as KBS-3, irradiated material is placed into boron steel canisters and enclosed within corrosion-resistant copper capsules before being buried in individual holes and backfilled with bentonite clay - entombing it forever.

Once buried, no further mechanical or human intervention is required to contain the radioactive payload, essentially eliminating one of the biggest barriers many countries have when it comes to adopting nuclear power.

With the capacity to accommodate the last 50 years’ worth of Finland’s accumulated spent fuel and the needs of its existing reactors until at least 2120 – at which time the facility will be permanently sealed - Onlako appears to provide a viable long-term solution to dealing with nuclear waste.


Institutionalists = Obstructionists

The Man Who Controls the Senate 

[New Yorker, via Naked Capitalism 6-22-2021]

Manchin, not Schumer

Manchin’s feud with progressive Democrats centers on a basic difference in their assessment of the Republican Party. To many of his colleagues, the G.O.P. has become an overt enemy of democracy, by perpetuating Trump’s lies about his loss in 2020 and rewriting state laws in ways that could allow them to overturn future elections. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has stated plainly, “One hundred percent of our focus is on stopping this new administration,” an echo of his comment, in 2010, that “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term President.” McConnell, in that view, will never coöperate, because doing so could allow Democrats to win the next elections by claiming policy achievements and a breakthrough in partisan gridlock. Harry Reid, a senator from Nevada for three decades and the Democratic Senate Majority Leader from 2007 to 2015, told me that Manchin underestimates the change in D.C. culture. “We’ve never had it like this before,” he said. “When Lyndon Johnson was Majority Leader for six years, he overcame two filibusters. In my first six years as Leader, I had to face and overcome more than a hundred filibusters. I think that you cannot expect the Senate to be a place where it’s kind of ‘Kumbaya,’ where you hold hands and sing.”

But, when Manchin looks at today’s Republican Party, he sees, almost literally, his neighbors and friends. Since 2000, the congressional delegation of West Virginia has gone from all Democrats to all Republicans—except for him. The state has voted for a Republican in each of the past six Presidential elections, and in 2014 the state legislature flipped to Republican control for the first time since 1931. On January 6th, when word circulated on the Senate floor that Trump supporters had stormed the Capitol, Manchin did not initially assume the worst. “I’ve always been for a good protest,” he recalled. “My instinct was, Let them in! They’re raising all kinds of hell and hollering. Let them in! Let’s talk!” Soon, he glimpsed the horror of it—“Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine our form of government being attacked,” he said—and, during the impeachment trial, he voted to convict. But Manchin never broke faith with the Republican Party, and he was determined to work with it again.


Corporate Lobbyists Declare War On Nina Turner

[The Daily Poster, June 21, 2021]

Corporate Dems and lobbyists for Big Oil, Big Pharma, Fox News and Wall Street are fundraising for Turner’s primary opponent Shontel Brown in the Ohio congressional race.

Progressives Alarmed by Privatization Dub Infrastructure Deal a ‘Disaster in the Making’ 

[Common Dreams, via Naked Capitalism 6-25-2021]


“What happened to Glenn Greenwald? Trump happened – and put the left’s priorities to the test”

[Jonathon Cook, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-22-21]

The problem with characterising Trump as a supremely evil figure is that all sorts of authoritarian political conclusions flow from that characterisation – precisely the political conclusions we have seen parts of the left adopting. Robinson may not expressly share these conclusions but, unlike Greenwald and Taibbi, he has largely ignored or downplayed the threat they present.

If Trump poses a unique danger to democracy, then to avoid any recurrence:

  • We are obligated to rally uncritically, or at least very much less critically, behind whoever was selected to be his opponent. Following Trump’s defeat, we are dutybound to restrain our criticisms of the winner, Joe Biden, however poor his performance, in case it opens the door to Trump, or someone like Trump, standing for the presidency in four years’ time.
  • We must curb free speech and limit the free-for-all of social media in case it contributed to the original surge of support for Trump, or created the more febrile political environment in which Trump flourished.
  • We must eradicate all signs of populism, whether on the right or the left, because we cannot be sure that in a battle of populisms the left will defeat the right, or that leftwing populism cannot be easily flipped into rightwing populism.
  • And most importantly, we must learn to distrust “the masses” – those who elected Trump – because they have demonstrated that they are too easily swayed by emotion, prejudice and charisma. Instead, we must think in more traditional liberal terms, of rule by technocrats and “experts” who can be trusted to run our societies largely in secret but provide a stability that should keep any Trumps out of power.



Yellen: US “out of money!” in August

[Mike Norman Economics, ​​​​​​​June 26, 2021]

Sigh…. they’re beginning to resort to deficit scare again. Yellen needs — desperately needs — to read Mark Blyth’s 2013 book Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea. Or at least watch the damn video…

x


I know a lot of people — including, ironically, Blyth — are suspicious of Modern Monetary Theory, but, seriously, is there a more effective riposte to deficit scare mongering than MMT? The only criticism I have of MMT so far is that it has yet to incorporate one of the central tenets of civic republicanism: one key duty of government is to actively promote the doing of good. The Constitutional mandate to Promote the General Welfare is what sets the USA as a republic apart from and above all the monarchies, aristocracies, oligarchies, and dictatorships that came before i, and are coming after it — including the corporatist oligarchy that has now replaced the USA republic. 


x

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[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-22-21]

x


Lambert Strether adds this insight: “I think the 1619 Project maps to reparations, and reparations is what the PMC believes will save capitalism. Reading between the lines:”

x


The Dark Side

Biden DOJ Is Suing Georgia Over Voter Suppression Law, UPDATES Included

poopdogcomedy, June 25, 2021 [DailyKos]

Good collection of Twitter threads, most of which were posted real-time.


Tip of the spear’: Texas governor leads revolt against Biden 

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism 6-22-2021]

“We are the tip of the spear, we are on the front of the battle lines, no question,” said James Dickey, the former chair of the Texas Republican Party. “With the federal government entirely abdicating their responsibility, that leaves us on the border needing to take up the fight, and Governor Abbott is clearly doing that.”

In part, raising the Texas flag is a return to form for Abbott, who made a political career out of suing the Obama administration. As state attorney general, his posture toward Washington was so hostile that he said of his job in 2013, “I go into the office in the morning. I sue Barack Obama, and then I go home.

But in restoring Texas to its place as Washington’s chief antagonist, Abbott is also doing something more revealing: Facing criticism from Republican activists for the mask mandate and business restrictions he imposed during the coronavirus pandemic, he is covering his right flank, while re-elevating immigration and border security — a major concern to Republican base voters — as a national issue. Just as important, he is carving out a distinct lane in the GOP’s presidential sweepstakes at a time when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is beginning to rise in stature among the party grassroots.


“They Seemed Like Democratic Activists. They Were Secretly Conservative Spies.” [New York Times]. 

Reactionary billionaires hired spies to infiltrate Democratic Party

What the effort accomplished — and how much information Mr. Seddon’s operatives gathered — is unclear. Sometimes, their tactics were bumbling and amateurish. But the operation’s use of spycraft to manipulate the politics of several states over years greatly exceeds the tactics of more traditional political dirty tricks operations.

It is also a sign of how ultraconservative Republicans see a deep need to install allies in various positions at the state level to gain an advantage on the electoral map. Secretaries of state, for example, play a crucial role in certifying election results every two years, and some became targets of Mr. Trump and his allies in their efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

This is a good example of what the true purpose of taxation in a republic should be: to tax large concentrations of wealth punitively enough that such anti-democratic operations cannot be easily funded. There are no circumstances in a republic in which a person with hundreds of millions or billions of dollars is not a potential threat to self-government by millions of other citizens not possessing similar wealth.

As James Madison wrote in April 1787, preparing for the Constitutional Convention in Vices of the Political System of the United States,

“If the minority happen to include all such as possess the skill and habits of military life, & such as possess the great pecuniary resources, one third only may conquer the remaining two thirds.”

This is the age-old problem of oligarchy, and it is exactly what we confront in the Republican Party and runaway economic inequality today. It is exactly why high taxes on the rich are required so that they simply cannot afford to undertake or even contemplate such anti-democratic covert actions, or even massive political organizing and lobbying.  

The real purpose of taxation in a republic is to prevent the emergence of oligarchy. Once you realize this, you can easily see why the conservative / libertarian / Republican dogma of low taxes is always inherently a threat to democratic government.


The Price of No Consequences for Trump 

[Slate, via The Big Picture 6-20-2021]

Joe Biden and Merrick Garland are acting like Donald Trump was a crazy dream. But the threat to American democracy will only get worse the longer we ignore it.


Trump-inspired death threats are terrorizing election workers 

[Reuters, via The Big Picture 6-20-2021]

Election officials and their families are living with threats of hanging, firing squads, torture and bomb blasts, interviews and documents reveal. The campaign of fear, sparked by Trump’s voter-fraud falsehoods, threatens the U.S. electoral system.


Former NRA President Tricked Into Speaking At Fake High School Graduation 

[Buzzfeed News, via The Daily Poster 6-26-2021]

“Without realizing it, Keene was actually addressing his comments to thousands of empty chairs set up to represent the estimated 3,044 kids who should have graduated high school this year and instead were killed by gun violence.”


Why The Two-Party System Is Effing Up U.S. Democracy

[FiveThirtyEight, via The Big Picture 6-20-2021]

There’s no shortage of plausible explanations for why U.S. politics has become so polarized, but many of these theories describe impossible-to-reverse trends that have played out across developed democracies, like the rise of social media and the increased political salience of globalizationimmigration and urban-rural cultural divides. All of these trends are important contributors, for sure. But if they alone are driving illiberalism and hyper-partisanship in the U.S., then the problem should be consistent across all western democracies. But it isn’t.…

What’s happening in the U.S. is distinct in four respects.

First, the animosity that people feel toward opposing parties relative to their own (what’s known as affective polarization in political science) has grown considerably over the last four decades. According to a June 2020 paper from economists Levi Boxell, Matthew Gentzkow and Jesse M. Shapiro, the increase in affective polarization in the U.S. is the greatest compared to that of eight other OECD countries over the same time period….

Third, more so than in other countries, Americans report feeling isolated from their own party….

Fourth, and perhaps most significant, in the U.S., one party has become a major illiberal outlier: The Republican Party. Scholars at the V-Dem Institute at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden have been monitoring and evaluating political parties around the world. And one big area of study for them is liberalism and illiberalism, or a party’s commitment (or lack thereof) to democratic norms prior to elections. And as the chart below shows, of conservative, right-leaning parties across the globe, the Republican Party has more in common with the dangerously authoritarian parties in Hungary and Turkey than it does with conservative parties in the U.K. or Germany. 

No mention of the crucial role of rich reactionaries in creating and funding the modern conservative movement, which is a repudiation of the Enlightenment, the concept of classic civic republicanism that citizens’ responsibility to community is as important as individual liberty, and the USA republic’s Constitutional mandate to promote the Geberal Welfare. 

.

“Turn Your Old, Cracked Android Phone Into a Backup Server! (UrBackup/Linux Deploy Tutorial Part I)” [Hannah Tech, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-21-21] “Today, I’m going to show you how to run a full-fledged backup server on a rooted Android phone with UrBackup and Linux Deploy! Plastic waste isn’t going away, but the next big pollution problem to compound our anxieties is e-waste. So why toss out a perfectly good, albeit cracked and worn, phone? Besides, that old phone of yours: 1. Probably isn’t even that old (do you get a new computer every 1-2 years????) 2. Probably has 4-8 processors and ~4 GB of RAM- and definitely has a built-in UPS. Slap an external hard drive on it, and it looks like the perfect candidate to back up your entire home network!” • I definitely won’t be doing this, but the idea is brilliant, and some readers might try it out.


harpers.org/…

The Man Who Loved Presidents
By Thomas Frank
On Jon Meacham


    Why You Hate Contemporary Architecture

    The Biggest Churches in the World: Anglo-Norman eleventh-century cathedrals





    Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 20, 2021

    Uncategorized

    Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 20, 2021

    by Tony Wikrent


    Strategic Political Economy

    The Lords Of Hell (And Their Slaves) 

    Ian Welsh


    Homelessness, despair and so on are required: without them people will not work at bad jobs. Indeed, without them many people would not work any more than required to feed and house themselves.

    Now, understand clearly, rip a hole in your skull, and put this in: there is more food than needed and way more homes than homeless people in all developed countries and more food than needed to feed everyone in the world. We could easily feed and house everyone in the world. It is almost a trivial problem. We simply have to do it.

    Industrialization plus modern agriculture produces more than we need, easily. Automation should mean that less and less hours needed working. We should be living in a paradise of free time and choice.

    We do not because a small minority has captured power and enslaved the rest of us.

    These people are monsters on every possible level, including their depraved indifference to what will happen to their children and grandchildren under environmental collapse and climate change.

    We have a surplus, but it is generated in the stupidest ways possible: with planned obsolesence, soil degradation and pollution causing environmental collapse.


    Matt Stoller: A Society Designed to Incentivize Criminal Behavior at the Highest Level


    Washington’s Dangerous New Consensus on China (not paywalled)

    Bernie Sanders [Foreign Affairs, via Naked Capitalism 6-18-2021]

    The deck: “Don’t Start Another Cold War.”


    The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

    Many Americans moved to less pricey housing markets in 2020 

    [AP, via The Big Picture 6-15-2021]

    Many Americans who moved last year relocated to areas where homes were, on average, bigger and less expensive. On average, people who moved to a different city in 2020 ended up in a ZIP code where average home values were nearly $27,000 lower than in their previous ZIP code.


    “Biden Could Cancel Student Loan Debt Right Now By Signing an Executive Order” [Teen Vogue, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-16-21]

    “When the Department of Education was first given the power to issue student loans, it was also granted the power to “compromise, waive, or release any right” to collect on them, an authority known as “compromise and settlement.” Essentially, the Biden administration can suspend the collection of student debt altogether, and poof!, tens of millions of Americans would be student loan debt-free! It’d be like waving a magic wand, except the wand isn’t magic, it’s a legitimate legal authority vested in the Department of Education by Congress.”


    Why Buffalo is a hub for illegal debt collectors who scam thousands across the country

    [The Buffalo News, via Naked Capitalism 6-15-2021]


    Inflation Is Here: Fast Food Bosses Make $5,460 An Hour 

    [Investor’s Business Daily), via The Big Picture 6-15-2021]

    Chipotle’s CEO Brian Niccol is in a class of his own — and his paycheck shows it. Niccol pulled down more than $38 million in total reported compensation in 2020. That’s more than double what he made the prior year. It’s also $18,286 an hour, if you assume 40-hour weeks for 52 weeks. 


    ProPublica’s Release of Leaked Tax Return Data for Billionaires: Why Wall Street’s Mega Banks Are Freaking Out

    Pam Martens and Russ Martens, June 14, 2021 [Wall Street on Parade]


    For Student Debtors, Time’s Running Out

    [The American Prospect, 6-17-2021]

    In just three months, the student loan payment moratorium is scheduled to come to an end. Borrowers are starting to panic….

    Through interviews with nearly a dozen student loan borrowers, it’s clear how much student debt weighs on Americans. Currently, 45 million people owe $1.7 trillion in student debt, and the average monthly payment is $393. Student loans are one of the greatest debts of any type in the country, surpassing national credit card and auto debt. A few borrowers told me that they expect to die with their student loans…. 

    The burden of student debt isn’t equal across borrowers; it disproportionately impacts Black Americans, making it one of the key mechanisms exacerbating systemic economic inequality. On average, Black borrowers owe $25,000 more in student loans than their white counterparts….

    The administration does have options. While Biden’s Education Department got off to a slow start on reforming borrower relief programs, student loan advocacy groups cheered when he appointed Richard Cordray, formerly in charge of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as chief of federal student loan programs. Cordray has a record of protecting borrowers, and he could be part of the department’s enabling of more loan forgiveness and fixing current systems, while cracking down on unscrupulous student loan companies that often deny borrowers relief to which they’re entitled.

    The administration could also extend the moratorium, or bring it back with a phased restart, only requiring a portion of payments to start. And of course, they could cancel the debt, a legal recourse under the Higher Education Act that doesn’t require additional legislation.

    Restoring balance to the economy

    How America’s Weirdest Guidebooks Were Funded by the Government

    [New York Times, June 15, 2021]

    Republic Of Detours: How the New Deal Paid Broke Writers to Rediscover America
    By Scott Borchert
    The main idea was simple: to hire a vast work force of impecunious and anonymous writers to create local and state guides that would avoid boosterism and mythmaking. The writers succeeded, instead showcasing incongruities, minorities and arcana. (They also collected oral histories, including invaluable interviews with formerly enslaved people.) The stunning richness and poverty of the American landscape and people have never been as impertinently depicted. And the entire project was, as Borchert points out, as antifascist as possible….

    Although more than 10,000 people helped produce the guides, two were the brains, soul and beating heart of the project: Henry Alsberg, its founding director and one of its most colorful figures, and Katharine Kellock, who came up with the idea for the guides and served as their primary editor. (She was, as Borchert writes, their “engineer and philosopher.”) Women played a huge role in the F.W.P., making up 40 percent of its staff, which is more than you could say for practically any other government office of its time….

    ... Martin Dies Jr., the Texas congressman whose House Committee on Un-American Activities essentially destroyed the F.W.P. in 1939, labeling the guidebooks “a splendid vehicle for the dissemination of class hatreds.” (The project limped on for a few more years, but was fatally crippled.)


    The Infrastructure Success Story in Chattanooga

    [The American Prospect, June 17, 2021]

    Some of the fastest broadband speeds in the world come from this Tennessee city’s public network. It could be replicated across the country.


    The Antitrust Revolution Has Found Its Leader

    Matt Stoller, June 16, 2021 [Big]

    The earth-shattering news in the antitrust world is that yesterday, Lina Khan became the Chair of the Federal Trade Commission, one of the two agencies that enforces antitrust law. In this issue, I’m going to explain who she is, why she got both Republican and Democratic votes for her confirmation in the Senate, and how her selection to this position indicates a potential revolutionary shift in politics.

    The TLDR version is that something just happened to make Wall Street analysts on CNBC very nervous….

    Khan is something rare in progressive politics, someone with academic credentials and mastery over a dense technical subject, but also connected with a broad-based populist social movement that crosses partisan lines. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve spoken to in business, Republicans as well as Democrats, who talk in reverential tones about Khan. It’s not just that she is an important thinker, it’s that she *understands* what they are going through, the coercive power they are up against. And that’s because she got her start understanding the economy not in a classroom or at a law firm, but as a business journalist, listening to business people and workers facing monopolists….

    Then she went to law school. While a student, Khan used her experience as a journalist to help craft a legal argument on the roots of Amazon’s power, which she traced to the transformation of antitrust enforcement. Her analysis, titled Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox, put her at the center of a worldwide debate over concentration and monopoly power….

    What is fascinating about the nomination and confirmation of Khan is that it suggests a different political roadmap, not just for Democrats but for Republicans as well. Both parties are confused and trying to figure out what they think, with scuffles within parties as much as between them, mirroring the disputes within the commercial world. Political operatives, pollsters, politicians, and lawyers in both parties are not comfortable with this new populist language and policy and how to wield it.

    On the right, libertarians and corporatist lawyers are the only ones with the substantive chops to operate in this dense and complex area. On the left, there’s a cultural dislike of commerce. Some Democratic activists often imagine, wrongly, that business questions are wonky, niche, and not relevant to ordinary people. Thinking about monopoly power isn’t really even politics to them, or if it is, using terms like ‘markets,’ and ‘competition’ signifies conservative political beliefs.

    Nonetheless, it’s evident there is interest on the right and left in addressing concentrated private power through revamped competition policy enforcement. What is increasingly clear is that there is consensus that something must be done, and that there is opportunity here to steal this issue from the other party. Both the Democrats and Republicans are trying to outflank each other on who is stronger on antitrust.

    In many ways, competition policy is very similar to trade, where Donald Trump stole the traditional Democratic issue and made it his own, accurately pointing out that Democrats like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama pursued policies incentivizing offshoring to China instead of protecting American jobs. Rather than oppose Trump on trade, populist Democrats quietly worked with Trump to reorient American policy. Trump’s trade chief, Robert Lighthizer, was the only cabinet member respected by Democrats, and was able to bring nearly every Democrat on board for a rewrite of NAFTA. Biden is trying to steal this issue back; Katherine Tai, who is Biden’s pick for trade, has continued Lighthizer’s agenda, with some modifications (like challenging pharma’s vaccine monopoly).


    JPMorgan, Citigroup and BofA Ruled Not “Fit” to Participate in Huge European Bond Offering Because of Past Crimes

    Pam Martens and Russ Martens, June 18, 2021 [Wall Street on Parade]


    What’s at stake at the Teamsters’ convention 

    [Tempest, via Naked Capitalism 6-18-2021]


    Delaware General Assembly passes $15 minimum wage, sends bill to Gov. John Carney 

    [Delaware Online, via The DailyPoster 6-17-2021]

    Both houses of the Delaware state legislature have now passed a bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, and Gov. John Carney is expected to sign it into law. When he does, Delaware will be the tenth state to have a $15 minimum wage. Not only is it a win for workers, but it also undermines the arguments made by the state’s federal senators who previously helped Republicans kill an effort to include a $15 minimum wage in the American Rescue Plan.

    California Defies Doom With No. 1 U.S. Economy 

    [Bloomberg, via The Big Picture 6-15-2021]

    Despite conservatives and Republicans insisting California’s “welfare state” is chasing out entrepreneurs and “makers”….

    California just keeps being the opposite of whatever doomed is. The Golden State has no peers when it comes to expanding GDP, raising household income, investing in innovation and a host of other key metrics. 


    Climate and environmental crises

    “Drought is here to stay in the Western U.S. How will states adapt?”

    [NBC, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-15-21]

    “Water is increasingly scarce in the Western U.S. — where 72 percent of the region is in “severe” drought, 26 percent is in exceptional drought, and populations are booming. Insufficient monsoon rains last summer and low snowpacks over the winter left states like Arizona, Utah and Nevada without the typical amount of water they need, and forecasts for the rainy summer season don’t show promise. This year’s aridity is happening against the backdrop of a 20-year-long drought. The past two decades have been the driest or the second driest in the last 1,200 years in the West, posing existential questions about how to secure a livable future in the region. It’s time to ask, “Is this a drought, or is it just the way the hydrology of the Colorado River is going to be?” said John Entsminger, the general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority.”


    Information Age Dystopia

    NY can’t force ISPs to offer $15 low-income broadband plans, judge rules 

    [Ars Technica, via Naked Capitalism 6-13-2021]


    “What are you legally allowed to say at work? A group of fired Googlers could change the rules.”

    [Recode, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-14-21]

    “The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the US’s top enforcer of labor rights, just expanded its complaint against Google to include three more fired Google workers. Those former employees say the company retaliated against them for protesting its work with US Customs and Border Protection (CBP)… The NLRB first filed its complaint against Google in December 2020, saying the company was “interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees” who were exercising their legal rights to discuss workplace issues with their colleagues, including firing two employees. In an amended complaint filed this Wednesday, the San Francisco regional office of the NLRB stated Google was similarly in the wrong for firing three other employees involved in workplace organizing around the same time… Meanwhile, tech companies such as Coinbase and Basecamp have tried to quell internal debate by banning political discussion at work entirely. But the Google NLRB case shows that when politics are inherently intertwined with a company’s business — something that often applies to tech companies when their services are used globally by billions of people, including national governments and world leaders — those boundaries can blur. Generally, employees don’t have a constitutional right to free speech at work. But under US labor law, companies are not allowed to punish workers for discussing wages or working conditions in what’s called “protected concerted activity.” Typically, though, the type of activities that are protected are ones that more obviously relate to the terms of workers’ employment, like asking for better shifts or refusing to work in an unsafe environment. In this case, the three Google workers being added to the complaint, all software engineers, were not asking for higher wages or longer lunch breaks. Instead, they were protesting work that they viewed as unethical.”


    Audio of Joe Manchin talking to Dark Money in private is different from Manchin in Public

    xaxnar [DailyKos 6-16-2021]


    Spread The Blame Around

    Atrios, June 16, 2021 [Eschaton, via Naked Capitalism 5-19-20]

    A lot of politicians love our the worst parts of Congress because it allows the blame to be spread around when things fail, and to pretend to support things you don't. Vote for things you know don't have any chance of passing. When you need 50 votes, blame Manchin, when you need 60, blame the Republicans. The President can say he wants Congress to do it, Congress can say the president has authority. And on and on and on.


    The reasons aren't always excuses, but if you take on the responsibility for leading things, you have taken on the responsibility for getting things done. There are carrots and sticks, and while no one is all powerful, if Chuck Schumer isn't promising to shit in Joe Manchin's Buick (or offering to move the Pentagon to Wheeling), he isn't doing all he can.

    Another problem is we have driven out all the good political corruption and replaced it with the bad kind. Good political corruption is "shower money for infrastructure on my districts and state and I will play ball." Bad political corruption is... I whatever the fuck is going on right now.

    Atrios’ comment about “we have driven out all the good political corruption” reminds me of the quote attributed to Alexander Hamilton about corruption being necessary in politics, invariably purveyed by Hamilton haters like Matt Stoller. I think they are wrong to label Hamilton an authoritarian elitist; a more accurate label would be scandalously honest realist.


    When the Institution Doesn’t Trust Itself

    David Dayen, June 18, 2021 [The American Prospect]

    ….The problem with this cunning plan lies with the Democrats in the House and Senate who would have to go along with it. And they just don’t trust one another. This is why a popular infrastructure package (68 percent in the most recent poll) is circling the drain, because in the simplest terms, nobody believes that Congress can actually function well enough to pass it—not even the actual members of Congress….

    Fundamentally, neither side of the Democratic congressional delegation believes in the other’s ability to live up to their commitments. Centrists aren’t buying into that at all, and progressives don’t think it can be done incrementally, with popular support building at each step. With the current composition of Congress, lawmakers who want to do something big need everyone to agree, but at least a faction of the party seems committed to doing as little as possible.

    But it’s worse than that. Not only do members question whether Congress can work, some of them don’t think it should. I’ll have more on this in future pieces, but one of the “pay-fors” in the bipartisan package involves privatizing the government’s assets, or selling off public assets to find the money to build the infrastructure. (This is sometimes called “asset recycling.”) That contradicts the basic bargain of the Biden presidency, that a muscular public sector can benefit everyone’s interests. There’s this deep-seated belief that government can’t do things it did routinely in the past, and only by creating private toll roads and selling water systems can we improve the country’s infrastructure. It’s untrue, but it’s part of a belief system that government shouldn’t be a factor in people’s lives.

    Again, it’s the philosophy, stupid. 


    Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

    “Laws Preventing Dark Money Disclosure Are Sweeping the Nation”

    [ReadSludge, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-16-21]

    “In four states, laws were adopted this year that bar government agencies from requiring nonprofit organizations to report their donors, essentially codifying the campaign finance loopholes that have allowed for an explosion of ‘dark money’ in politics. …The four laws passed this year represent the acceleration of a trend dating back to 2018, when Arizona became the first state to prohibit itself from seeking to disclose the identities of nonprofits’ donors. Mississippi adopted a donor disclosure ban in 2019, and three states enacted them last year: Utah, Oklahoma, and Virginia. The states that adopted the laws in 2021 are Arkansas, Iowa, South Dakota, and Tennessee. Penalties for violating the laws vary between the states, but in some states could include prison sentences. Iowa’s law, for example, says that anyone who knowingly discloses nonprofit donors would be ‘guilty of a serious misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than ninety days or a fine of not more than one thousand dollars, or both.'” • If money is speech, why are we trying to make it so people can’t hear it?


    Toll from political push at UNC continues to mount

    [NC Policy Watch, June 14, 2021]

    But like much of the faculty, she said, she has seen a glaring pattern in the school’s decision-making.

    An illegal, backroom deal with the Sons of Confederate Veterans over the Silent Sam Confederate monument. The disastrous decision to bring students back to full capacity dorms in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic against the advice of the Orange County Health Department. Private communications with wealthy, conservative donors over the hiring of Hannah-Jones and the decision to avoid a vote on the tenure bestowed on her white predecessors.

    The pattern in these actions: leadership that prized the political concerns of the conservative dominated UNC Board of Governors, political appointees of the North Carolina General Assembly’s GOP majority, above all else.

    These decisions have risked the health and safety of students and faculty, Lowery said, harmed their trust in the university and cost the campus millions in lost court battles and grants pulled by funding partners who say the school is betraying its own declared values.


    The Fort Bragg Murders Rolling Stone, via Naked Capitalism 6-18-2021]