All posts by Tony Wikrent

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 26, 2022

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 Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 26, 2022

by Tony Wikrent


Strategic Political Economy

“Supreme Court’s Abortion Ruling Puts States in Spotlight”

[Wall Street Journal, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-24-2022]

“By eliminating a constitutional right to an abortion, the high court’s ruling returns the issue to the states, and about half of them, mostly led by Republicans, have been poised to ban many or most abortions if Roe was wiped away. Other Democrat-led states are moving to protect access to the procedure, in some cases preparing for visitors from states where abortion will be unavailable. And in politically diverse states with divided government, clashes over the path forward on abortion policy could continue for years. ‘This is going to put abortion toward the center of our politics for the foreseeable future,’ said Steven Greene, a political-science professor at North Carolina State University. Advocates on both sides of the issue said that the ruling would place additional focus on state and local elections, because governors, state lawmakers and attorneys general will hold new power to enact and enforce a broader array of abortion policies. That means those contests could see additional funding and support from national groups and donors.”

TW: “This is going to put abortion toward the center of our politics for the foreseeable future.” That, I believe, is the actual intent of the puppet-masters and rich funders of movement conservatism: prevent or forestall people from focusing on climate change driven depopulation, ongoing economic collapse as the elites grasp whatever remains, and the transition of USA into a surveillance state of plutocratic despotism. 

Thomas, in his concurring opinion, says the quiet part out loud. “Substantive due process” is next:

[Lambert Strether, Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-24-2022]

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-24-2022]

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Will This Week’s Events Rouse the Electorate?

Robert Kuttner, June 24, 2022 [The American Prospect]

As a number of critics have pointed out, the Court’s ruling today does a lot more than criminalize abortion. It turns states into inquisitors, compelling women to prove that a miscarriage or stillbirth was not an abortion. It puts doctors on the defensive and makes it far harder for women to get routine care where reproductive health is concerned. It allows individual vigilantes to claim bounties for tracking down women who might have used abortion pills, and their enablers. As Jia Tolentino writes in The New Yorker, the closest analogy is the 1793 Fugitive Slave Act.


Dark Money Led To This Moment

Andrew Perez and Aditi Ramaswami, June 24, 2022 [The Lever]

The decision, which is part of a barrage of devastating, precedent-setting Supreme Court rulings this term, surely has many Americans wondering how we arrived at such a dark moment. The answer is simple, even if it is rarely discussed in corporate media: It lies in a giant pile of anonymous cash that was deployed to buy Supreme Court seats, help determine justices’ caseload, and shape their decisions.

A secretive, well-financed dark money network has spent years working to build the Supreme Court’s radical conservative supermajority and bankrolling many of the politicians and organizations involved in the most controversial cases now before the court, including the abortion rights case decided Friday.


“The Gerontocracy of the Democratic Party Doesn’t Understand That We’re at the Brink”

Jamelle Bouie [New York Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-24-2022]

“I’m reminded of the historian Jefferson Cowie’s argument about the New Deal’s relationship to the American political order. In ‘The Great Exception: The New Deal and the Limits of American Politics,’ Cowie argues for an interpretation of the United States in the 20th century that treats the New Deal era, from the administration of Franklin Roosevelt to the 1970s, as a ‘sustained deviation from some of the main contours of American political practice, economic structure, and cultural outlook.’ The Great Depression and World War II may have ‘forced clear realignments of American politics and class relations,’ Cowie writes, ‘but those changes were less the linear triumph of the welfare state than the product of very specific, and short-lived, historical circumstances.’ If this is true — if the New Deal was the product of highly contingent circumstances unlikely to be repeated either now or in the future — then the challenge for those committed to the notion of a government that protects and expands the collective economic rights of the American people is to forge a new vision for what that might be. ‘The path forward is not clear,’ Cowie writes, ‘but whatever successful incarnation of a liberal ‘social imaginary’ might follow will not look like the New Deal, and it might be best to free ourselves from the notion that it will.’ I think you can apply a similar ‘great exception’ analysis to the decades of institutional stability and orderly partisan competition that shaped the current generation of Democratic leaders, including the president and many of his closest allies. They came into national politics in an age of bipartisan consensus and centrist policymaking, at a time when the parties and their coalitions were less ideological and more geographically varied. But this, too, was a historical aberration, the result of political and social dynamics — such as the broad prosperity of the industrial economic order at home — that were already well in decline by the time that Biden, Pelosi, Feinstein and others first took office. American politics since then has reverted to an earlier state of heightened division, partisanship and fierce electoral competition. Even the authoritarianism on display in the Republican Party has antecedents in the behavior of Southern political elites at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. Millions of Democratic voters can see and feel that American politics has changed in profound ways since at least the 1990s, and they want their leaders to act, and react, accordingly.”

[TW: I agree with Bouie regarding the Democratic Party gerontocracy, but strongly disagree with the interpretation of the New Deal as “the product of very specific, and short-lived, historical circumstances.” That interpretation misunderstands and / or ignores 1) the importance of the creation of the USA as a republic in a world overun by monarchies and oligarchies [1]; 2) the abolition movement; 3) the significance of the American Civil War as a fight to eradicate the oligarchy of the southern slaveholders, 3) the populist movements of the 1870 through 1910s which laid the foundations for the New Deal (see the opening of Rex Tugwell’s retrospective for an acknowledgement of the influence of the 19th century populists), 4) the social gospel movement; 5) the suffragette movement; and, 6) the civil rights movement. 

I argue that these six examples are part of the actual dominant current of American history, not the retrograde but persistent attempts to stymie and destroy our experiment in republican self government. Heather Cox Richardson, in her 2020 book,  How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for Americais eloquent in explaining

“From its founding, America has stood at the nexus of democracy and oligarchy. And as soon as the nation was established, its history of conflating class and race gave an elite the language to take over the government and undermine democracy.” [p. 22] ….[Southern slaveholders] rejected the Enlightenment idea of human equality, arguing instead that God’s law naturally created
hierarchies in society, which should he modeled on a family structure based in paternalism. Increasingly, slaveholders bought into this vision and dehumanized their slaves, both brutalizing them in a constant demonstration of white men’s dominance…. [p. 32].

As Frank Michelman wrote in his 1988 Yale Law Review article, “Law’s Republic,” politics in USA is a process of “juris-generative” self-renewal that “challenges "the people's" self-enclosing tendency to assume their own moral completion as they now are...”

[1] The American Revolution “was not simply an act of rebellion against a particular king; it was an act of rebellion against all kings…. “It was a reworking of the very basis human government, a rejection of distinctions among men in the name of equality. It was dangerously radical….  Thomas Paine wrote in Common Sense that ‘The cause of America is in great measure the cause of all mankind.’ ”— Heather Cox Richardson, How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for America (2020, Oxford University Press), p. 12.


Power Causes Brain Damage 

[The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 6-24-2022] From 2017, still germane..


Global realignment as the USA republic self-terminates

Indonesia Tunes Out the U.S. 

[WSJ, via Naked Capitalism 6-20-2022]

With 274 million people, Indonesia is #4 in world population.

America’s problems in Indonesia aren’t about values, and they aren’t about policy. It is our credibility that raises concerns. The Indonesians I met aren’t sure that Americans mean what they say about the centrality of the Indo-Pacific in our foreign policy. Some of this is about resources. China offers more financing and investment on easier terms than the U.S. It is also about process. China responds quickly and clearly to infrastructure and investment proposals. The U.S. dithers and, I’m told, often does not deliver in the end.


China May oil imports from Russia soar to a record, surpass top supplier Saudi 

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism 6-20-2022]


St. Petersburg sets the stage for the War of Economic Corridors 

Pepe Escobar [The Cradle, via Mike Norman Economics 6-19-2022]

St. Petersburg in 2022 is even more crucial as it directly connects to three simultaneous developments I had previously outlined, in no particular order:

First, the coming of the “new G8” – four BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China), plus Iran, Indonesia, Turkey and Mexico, whose GDP per purchasing parity power (PPP) already dwarfs the old, western-dominated G8.

Second, the Chinese “Three Rings” strategy of developing geoeconomic relations with its neighbors and partners.

Third, the development of BRICS+, or extended BRICS, including some members of the “new G8,” to be discussed at the upcoming summit in China….

St. Petersburg offered several engrossing discussions on key themes and sub-themes of Eurasia integration, such as business within the scope of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO); aspects of the Russia-China strategic partnership; what’s ahead for the BRICS; and prospects for the Russian financial sector.

One of the most important discussions was focused on the increasing interaction between the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) and ASEAN, a key example of what the Chinese would define as ‘South-South cooperation.’


Right between the eyes: Putin to the West at the St Petersburg Economic forum 

Gilbert Doctorow [via Naked Capitalism 6-21-2022]

Both in the specialized sessions which were broadcast live and in the plenary session to which Putin spoke, the challenges posed by current, draconian Western sanctions on Russia were spelled out in great detail without any self-deception or gloss. The same was true of businessmen speaking truth to Power when commenting on the Government’s proposed programs to help the economy during the transition period to new logistical solutions, new trade flows and new local manufacturing:  “don’t do the usual thing and build a bridge to the middle of the river; go all the way with radical new solutions and in particular with a very cheap credit policy to provide working capital to where it is needed most.”

….Indeed, the most relevant adjective to describe the proceedings would be “frank.”  Political correctness was no longer being practiced.  Interlocutors in the West were no longer called “partners.”  In his speech, Putin led the way, criticizing the American administration and the European bureaucratic elites setting policy in Brussels for economic illiteracy.


Neocon think-tanks are driving Biden’s Ukraine policy 

James Carden [Asia Times, via Mike Norman Economics 6-22-2022]

TW: A commenter noted that “none of the people mention have any background in military science or experience in war fighting.”

A little-remarked-upon open letter that appeared in the Washington tabloid The Hill on June 1 put a public face on what had been until that point a discreet, though highly successful, effort on the part of Washington think-tanks  – many of which, like the disgraced Brookings Institution, are funded by foreign governments – to direct the White House policy on Ukraine….

The signatories of the open letter are urging the Biden administration to stay the course and to continue to arm Ukraine, so that when the time comes, it will be able to negotiate from a position of strength.

Among the more prominent signatories of the letter are neoconservative ideologues of long standing, including John Hopkins SAIS professor Eliot A Cohen; Eric S Edelman, also of Johns Hopkins SAIS; Paula Dobriansky of the foreign-funded Atlantic Council; failed congressional candidate and executive director of the McCain Institute Evelyn N Farkas; John Herbst, also of the foreign-funded Atlantic Council; former aide to John McCain David J Kramer; and, of course, former ambassador and MSNBC fixture Michael McFaul….

Yet the Biden administration remains recklessly wedded to a failed policy of spurning negotiations in favor of arming Ukraine to the teeth.


The Neocon's Dream - Decolonize Russia, Re-colonize China

[Moon of Alabama, via Mike Norman Economics 6-22-2022]

MN summarizes: “(break Russia up into its federated states and break China up into manageable states. BTW, this is a longstanding objective of Western geopolitics.)”



China’s comprehensive, systematic and elaborate response to Secretary Antony Blinken’s China policy speech —— Reality Check: Falsehoods in US Perceptions of China 

[Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States, via Naked Capitalism 6-21-2022]

Yves Smith: “Important, although it does go on a bit much, but this can be regarded as the master talking points document from which Chinese officials can hoist key facts and arguments. It’s very strong on some points, like various aspects of US trying to dress up its imperialism as protection of democracy, not so much on China’s actions vis a vis Hong Kong.”


The Return of Industrial Warfare 

[Royal United Services Institute, via Naked Capitalism 6-20-2022]

PlutoniumKun 6-21: “Short version – the west has destroyed its own ability to wage war.”

The war in Ukraine has proven that the age of industrial warfare is still here. The massive consumption of equipment, vehicles and ammunition requires a large-scale industrial base for resupply – quantity still has a quality of its own. The mass scale combat has pitted 250,000 Ukrainian soldiers, together with 450,000 recently mobilised citizen soldiers against about 200,000 Russian and separatist troops. The effort to arm, feed and supply these armies is a monumental task. Ammunition resupply is particularly onerous….

This reality should be a concrete warning to Western countries, who have scaled down military industrial capacity and sacrificed scale and effectiveness for efficiency… Currently, the West may not have the industrial capacity to fight a large-scale war....

The US is not the only country facing this challenge. In a recent war game involving US, UK and French forces, UK forces exhausted national stockpiles of critical ammunition after eight days….

The expenditure of cruise missiles and theatre ballistic missiles is just as massive. The Russians have fired between 1,100 and 2,100 missiles. The US currently purchases 110 PRISM, 500 JASSM and 60 Tomahawk cruise missiles annually, meaning that in three months of combat, Russia has burned through four times the US annual missile production….

Finally, there is an assumption about overall ammunition consumption rates. The US government has always lowballed this number. From the Vietnam era to today, small arms plants have shrunk from five to just one. This was glaring at the height of the Iraq war, when US started to run low on small arms ammunition, causing the US government to buy British and Israeli ammunition during the initial stage of the war. At one point, the US had to dip into Vietnam and even Second World War-era ammo stockpiles of .50 calibre ammunition to feed the war effort. This was largely the result of incorrect assumptions about how effective US troops would be. Indeed, the Government Accountability Office estimated that it took 250,000 rounds to kill one insurgent.

TW: This is not news to me — or for anyone who bothered to look at some of the Industry Studies Program reports that used to be produced by the Industrial College of the Armed Forces (renamed in 2012 as the Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy). It appears that this program had been shrunken to a single annual Industrial Capabilities Report


Colombia’s new leftist president Petro promises to fight inequality 

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism 6-20-2022]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 6-21-2022]

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Health care crisis

Universal Health Care Could Have Saved More Than 330,000 U.S. Lives during COVID 

[Scientific American, via Naked Capitalism 6-23-2022]


Florida undercounted COVID cases and deaths, failed to get test results, state audit says

[Miami Herald, via The Big Picture 6-19-2022]

Florida’s COVID-19 data was so inaccurate, incomplete and delayed during the first months of the pandemic that government officials and the public may not have had necessary information to determine the effectiveness of the state’s COVID-19 precautions and the best plan to fight the virus, according to a state report released Monday.


‘It was stolen from me’: Black doctors are forced out of training programs at far higher rates than white residents 

[STAT, via Naked Capitalism 6-21-2022]

A STAT investigation found that Black residents either leave or are terminated from training programs at far higher rates than white residents. The result of this culling — long hidden, dismissed, and ignored by the larger medical establishment — is that many Black physicians have been unable to enter lucrative and extremely white specialties such as neurosurgery, dermatology, or plastic surgery. It’s a key reason these fields have been unable to significantly diversify their ranks even as the total number of residency spots has increased nationally.


Class war

On Inflation: It’s the Monopoly Profits, Stupid 

Matt Stoller [BIG, via Naked Capitalism 6-23-2022]

The Fed sees lower wages as a victory for its mandate to stop inflation, and the stock market goes up when wages decline. The problem, however, is that in this highly inflationary period, real wages are actually going down, falling by 3.5% over the last 12 months. If that’s true, then there can’t be a wage-price spiral. So what is going up?

Well, profits.

Back in December, as this debate was first raging, I did a rough calculation, and showed that 60% of the increase in inflation was going to corporate profits. I was, along with others in this debate, trying to show that there’s a profits-inflation spiral. Such a claim generated deep anger among the neoclassical economics establishment, who largely subscribe to the argument that inflation is almost entirely a monetary phenomenon and cannot be a result of factors like market power in individual markets.

But the profit contribution to inflation is too obvious to deny. Lindsay Owens at the Groundworks Collaborative, a nonprofit, has been tracking investor calls, and laid out how CEOs routinely bragged about elevated pricing power. And over the past week, several papers have come out essentially confirming the original profits-inflation analysis….

...economists and analysts are rethinking the relationship between individual markets and the broad changes in inflation. That there is some sort of relationship between the pricing power of firms and prices in the economy writ large should be obvious, but the macro Gods of economics refused to consider it. Here’s Larry Summers in late December, with a tweet… 

Jason Furman, Obama’s chief economist, has also been an important voice against the idea that market power is a driver of inflation. But while these economists have intimidated Biden, they have not stopped the onslaught of research. The first crack in the macro temple was in January of 2022, when economists at the Fed looked at industries dependent on semiconductors, and found those industries increased prices by 40% more than non-dependent ones. This paper wasn’t attacking the wage-price spiral, but it does link semiconductors to price increases.

In March, 2022, economists at the Federal Reserve of Boston did a report on consolidation and inflation, concluding more directly that “the increase in industry concentration over the past two decades could be amplifying the inflationary pressure from current supply-chain disruptions and a tight labor market.” The response from certain traditional antitrust economist types was to refuse to accept the data. But then in April, there were two more papers on the problem. Antitrust economist Hal Singer showed that firm concentration levels and price increases were correlated. And Josh Bivens at the Economic Policy Institute did a great analysis of inflation and profits, illustrating that wages, far from increasing inflation, are actually holding it back.


Michael Hudson: The Fed’s Austerity Program to Reduce Wages

Michael Hudson [On Finance, Real Estate And The Powers Of Neoliberalism, via Naked Capitalism 6-19-2022]

To Wall Street and its backers, the solution to any price inflation is to reduce wages and public social spending. The orthodox way to do this is to push the economy into recession in order to reduce hiring. Rising unemployment will oblige labor to compete for jobs that pay less and less as the economy slows.


Larry Summers Says US Needs 5% Jobless Rate for Five Years to Ease Inflation 

[Yahoo, via Naked Capitalism 6-21-2022]


US Federal Reserve says its goal is ‘to get wages down’

[Defend Democracy Press, via Mike Norman Economics 6-19-2022]


Bill Mitchell [billy blog, via Mike Norman Economics 6-22-2022]
Larry Summers who is proposing that unemployment be deliberately increased by more than 2.3 million and held at that level or higher for years in order to reduce the current (transitory) inflation. Who would be so stupid? 


The Quants in the Room: How Much Power Do Economists Really Have?

 Jason Furman [Foreign Affairs, July/August 2022, via Naked Capitalism 6-21-2022]


Biden Taps Anti-Social Security Ideologue To Oversee Program 

Matthew Cunningham-Cook, June 21, 2022 [The Lever]

Biden nominated Andrew Biggs, a think tank denizen with a history of slamming Social Security, to oversee government retirement benefits for 66 million Americans.


“Blue and Red Do Have Something in Common. They’ve Both Been Ripped Off, Repeatedly”

Matt Taibbi [TK News, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-23-2022]

“This is a constant in financial predation stories that’s virtually always ignored in the popular press, which insists on portraying blue and red America as separate worlds, whose citizens have nothing in common. That’s not just a lie, it’s really the core lie at the heart of our partisan political system. It’s why the notion of “economic anxiety” as even a partial factor behind Trump’s rise was so violently suppressed by press wizards in 2016, and why such extraordinary effort was put behind a propaganda campaign to wipe out the ‘Russian asset’ Sanders. Even Biden was scolded on MSNBC by Stephanie Ruhle when he tried once to suggest a ‘Scranton vs. Park Avenue’ campaign theme. ‘Why is he going with this divide-and-conquer approach?’ Ruhle cried. ‘What about a message for all Americans?” Unity, and ‘all Americans,’ suddenly assumes enormous importance among professional division merchants once anyone starts talking not about red and blue, Trumpers and Dems, but few-versus-many. Really we don’t live in two Americas but one, whose obvious problem is that too many of its citizens have too much in common, having been repeatedly ripped off, in the same types of scams, by the same people, for decades. Sooner or later, the public will figure it out, and come running toward Washington all at once, pitchforks drawn. All the Bidens of the world can hope for is that that day comes later. As the “Putin price hikes” idiocy shows, they’re running out of ways to stall the inevitable.”


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

Americans Pawning Items to Buy Gas, Survive Inflation: Pawn Shop Owners 

[Newsweek, via Naked Capitalism 6-20-2022]


“The retail industry is facing a potential wave of bankruptcies – here’s why” 

[CNBC, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-23-2022]

“There could be an increase in distressed retailers beginning later this year, experts say, as ballooning prices dent demand for certain goods, stores contend with bloated inventory levels and a potential recession looms


They're not capitalists - they're a criminal predatory class

Buy and Bust: When Private Equity Comes for Rural Hospitals

[Kaiser Health News, via Naked Capitalism 6-19-2022]


The Wall St. Billionaire and GOP Mega-Donor Gaming the Tax System 

[ProPublica, via Naked Capitalism 6-21-2022]

Susquehanna founder and TikTok investor Jeff Yass has avoided $1 billion in taxes while largely escaping public scrutiny. He’s now pouring his money into campaigns to cut taxes and support election deniers.


The Ferocious, Well-Heeled Battle Against the SEC’s New Rules on Hedge Fund Activism

[Institutional Investor, via The Big Picture 6-24-2022]

A new institute with hedge fund backing joins Elliott, Pershing Square, Third Point, and others in opposing tougher disclosure rules for stock and swaps positions.


‘If you work hard and succeed, you’re a loser’: Can you really wing it to the top?

[The Guardian, via The Big Picture 6-19-2022]

Forget the spreadsheets and make it up as you go along – that’s the message of leaders from Elon Musk to Boris Johnson. 


Predatory Finance

JPMorgan Chase’s Derivatives Spike by $14 Trillion in First Quarter to Six-Year High of $60 Trillion
Pam Martens and Russ Martens, June 24, 2022 [Wall Street on Parade]


Is the Crypto Threat to U.S. Financial Stability $889 Billion or $10 Trillion?

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, June 23, 2022 [Wall Street on Parade]

So exactly how big is the problem? The $889.25 billion market cap for crypto cited by Benzinga [Crypto Inc.] is a miniscule part of the problem. That’s just the market value of all of the crypto that trades. And it should be noted that the market cap of crypto stood at $2.7 trillion as of last November, so investors have already experienced a negative wealth effect of $1.8 trillion.

But what about all of the crypto mining stocks that went public and have now lost 70 to 90 percent of investors’ money? What about the loans taken out by the crypto mining companies to buy all of that energy-guzzling computer equipment? What about the billions of dollars in margin loans sitting at federally-insured banks that were made to hedge funds to leverage their crypto bets? What about the bank loans to venture capital firms to invest in hundreds of crypto startup firms?

Estimates are that the real size of the crypto market is more in the range of $10 trillion.


As the Speeding Crypto Train Crashes, Scientific and Engineering Experts Tell Congress that Both Crypto and Blockchain Were a Sham from the Beginning

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


Restoring balance to the economy

Corporate Bribery Just Became Illegal Again 

Matt Stoller [BIG, via Naked Capitalism 6-19-2022]

Even as politics gets grim, antitrust enforcers go at the insulin cartel and private equity's takeover of pet care. Meanwhile Congress is passing antitrust legislation and re-regulating shipping….

I’m going to highlight a bunch of policy actions that happened this week, and how they show that out of the limelight we are slowly turning key parts of the U.S. government around. The most important change is FTC Chair Lina Khan resurrecting an old antitrust law that bars corporate bribery, and using it to attack corrupt middlemen in the insulin market. But while insulin is the immediate target, this law can reach Amazon and a host of other monopolies.

Plus, the Department of Justice Antitrust Division went after the Major League Baseball Antitrust exemption, the Senate passed an important antitrust bill, the big tech antitrust fight stalled, Biden signed a bill regulating the ocean shipping cartel, and there’s a football helmet shortage caused by private equity. 


Tax excess margins 

[Interfluidity, via Naked Capitalism 6-19-2022]

Nevertheless, it is good that Yglesias moves beyond the neoliberal reflex to assume taxes must always reduce incentives to produce. In theory, a reliably inframarginal tax wouldn’t affect those incentives at all. But we can do even better than that! We can design a profit tax that actually improves incentives to produce!

….You wouldn’t want to tax accounting-derived profit margins. Firms would just raise prices anyway, and find ways to pad costs to keep margins low. But for commodities like oil, we know how expensive oil has to be for even high-cost producers, like US-based frackers, to turn a decent profit on each barrel of oil sold. So all we have to do to penalize the scarcity strategy is tax revenue collected at a fair margin above that price. Suppose the all-in cost to frackers per barrel produced is $80/barrel. We simply impose a tax on revenue above $100/barrel. Once the price of oil rises to this level, it does no good for producers if the price jumps even higher, to $120 or $140. The state takes the extra $20 or $40 away. The only way, then, to increase profits is to sell more barrels, or produce them more efficiently. And that is the incentive structure we want. 


Biggest Rail Strike in 30 Years Brings UK to Standstill 

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism 6-21-2022]


Protest on the runway: Southwest Airlines pilots line up in anger at poor staffing and long hours as airport chaos continues across the nation with 200 flight canceled today after 14,000 over the weekend 

Daily Mail, via Naked Capitalism 6-22-2022]


Ep 5: What’s Ahead for Labor? (podcast)

[Class Matters, via Naked Capitalism 6-23-2022]

“Adolph Reed Jr. talks with Sara Nelson, President of the Association of Flight Attendants/CWA and APWU President Mark Dimondstein about what’s ahead for Labor in this moment that holds out both promise and peril.” 


Lake Mead is less than 150 feet away from becoming a “dead pool,” making much of the Southwestern U.S. uninhabitable 

[Natural News, via Naked Capitalism 6-25-2022]


Collapse of independent news media

TW: VERY embarrassing that MAGAite Greene is tweeting this, and not Democrats in Congress: 

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 6-19-2022]

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Will the Oligarchs Who Own the U.S. Media Save Democracy? Don’t Bet on It.

Eric Alterman, June 24, 2022 [The American Prospect]

It should come as no surprise that the fellow who is driving this effort by CNN, John Malone, is both a billionaire and a right-wing ideologue. (He may also be the largest landowner in America.) He’s on the board of directors of the Cato Institute and not only donated $250,000 to Donald Trump’s inauguration, but his companies donated another $250,000. He told an interviewer: “Look, I think a lot of the things Trump has tried to do—identifying problems and trying to solve them—has been great,” though he voiced skepticism as to whether Trump was “the right guy to do it.” This position tracks closely with that of Elon Musk, who, poised to take over Twitter, and vastly overpaying for the privilege, recently said that he was leaning toward supporting Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis for president; a politician who, as a Republican consultant quoted by the Journal puts it, has “all the benefits of Trump without the baggage.” Musk, according to the Journal, explained that his support for Republicans was based on the “scrutiny from some Democrats against him and his companies, Tesla and rocket company SpaceX.”

Malone’s closest competition as America’s biggest landowner business is Jeff Bezos, the rabidly anti-union owner of The Washington Post, who is, coincidentally, also in competition with Musk for the crown of wealthiest guy in the world. Having a bad year but still active in the mega-billionaire posse is Mark Zuckerberg, principal owner of Facebook, who has also made repeatedly clear his fealty to pro-Trump Republicans and his reliance on the likes of billionaire pro-Trump right-wing ideologue Peter Thiel. And let’s not forget Rupert Murdoch, yet another rapacious billionaire who is possibly more responsible than any other person on the planet for purveying the baseless conspiracy theories that continue to poison not just our politics but those of the U.K., Australia, and many other nations (and who, if justice is to be done, might just be forced to pay for a tiny part of it). And, oh, great news, there’s this TikTok guy, too, who apparently fits the mold perfectly.

Do you think we can expect that a mainstream media largely owned and operated by right-wing billionaires is going to save our democracy from the people who pursue the policies that ensure that they remain billionaires and pay virtually no taxes in doing so?


Getting Real About the Post-‘Roe’ World

Scott Lemieux, June 24, 2022 [The American Prospect]

….the 2014 midterms, a crucial step in the overruling of Roe, because Republicans were able to take the Senate that year. When Justice Antonin Scalia unexpectedly died in February 2016, Republicans held the seat open until after the presidential election, which was ultimately won by Donald J. Trump. Looking back, the 2014 midterms, derided as meaningless at the time, were just as consequential as any in recent memory.

One candidate who stressed that one potential consequence of the election was that Roe could be overruled if the GOP prevailed was Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, who was in a tough re-election fight with Republican candidate Cory Gardner. Udall’s forceful advocacy on the issue was prescient, but for his pains he was derisively labeled “Mark Uterus,” not only by Republicans but by multiple ostensibly neutral reporters. Gardner won, and voted to confirm all three of the justices nominated by Trump who are part of the anti-Roe majority.

The mocking of Udall as a hysterical scaremonger for talking too much about abortion rights is revealing in multiple ways. First of all, there is the transparent sexism in suggesting that it’s overreaching to emphasize rights that mostly protect women, made especially apparent by the puerile nickname. The idea that it’s somehow gauche to focus too much on reproductive rights is particularly remarkable given that coverage of the 2014 and 2016 elections was dominated by Republican-generated pseudo-scandals about a virus that killed zero Americans and one candidate’s email server management, respectively.

Also implicit in the “Mark Uterus” incident, however, were two additional forms of complacency. First of all, the survival of Roe, despite longtime control of the Court by justices nominated by Republican presidents who nominally opposed it, created a narrative that was enormously beneficial to Republicans trying to win elections in purple or blue states, like Gardner and Maine’s Susan Collins. The theory went that Republican elites didn’t really want to overrule Roe, but were merely pretending to for the sake of pandering to their base. This narrative was always false; the survival of Roe was always a highly contingent fluke, the product of several mistakes by Republican presidents. (Ronald Reagan didn’t want or expect Robert Bork’s nomination to be defeated.) We know this now, although it’s too late to change the outcome.


Climate and environmental crises

As Po dries up, Italy’s food and energy supplies are at risk 

[Associated Press, via Naked Capitalism 6-19-2022]


Gather them now: the documents you’d need to file a FEMA claim 

[Yale Climate Connection, via Naked Capitalism 6-22-2022]


The US Can Halve Its Emissions by 2030—if It Wants To 

[Wired, via The Big Picture 6-23-2022]

The economics are clear: Renewables are cheap enough for the country to rapidly decarbonize. Less evident is the political will to pull it off. 


As a heat wave grips the US, lessons from the hottest city in America 

[Grist, via The Big Picture 6-23-2022]


The Coming Green Hydrogen Revolution 

[Project Syndicate, via Naked Capitalism 6-23-2022]


Physicists Say They’ve Built an Atom Laser That Can Run ‘Forever’ 

[ScienceAlert, via Naked Capitalism 6-22-2022]



Information age dystopia

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-21-2022]

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Blockchains Vulnerable to Centralized Control, DARPA Report Finds

[Gizmodo, via Naked Capitalism 6-21-2022]


Democrats’ political suicide

It Is Time For Dems To Fear Their Own Voters

David Sirota, June 24, 2022 [The Lever]


“How ‘vice-signalling’ swallowed electoral politics”

[Financial Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-23-2022]

“We wouldn’t usually associate draconian measures on crime and punishment, or, indeed, a literal wall standing between two nations, as signs of virtue. These are examples of what you might instead call ‘vice signalling’: ostentatious displays of authoritarianism designed to reassure voters that you are ‘tough’ on crime or immigration…. Signalling matters in politics because most people vote on what political scientists call “valence” — your perceived competence on various issues. Now, there is no easy way to signal that you are competent at fighting crime or policing your nation’s borders, because most voters at any given time are not in direct contact with law enforcement or immigration agencies. But showy, conversation-starting pledges are a good way of signalling your commitment…. The real problem with vice signalling is that it risks sending what is, in a democracy, the most dangerous signal of all: that politicians do not really care about their electorate’s concerns, other than as a device to win and to hold on to their own power.”


The (Anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts

Supreme Court overturns constitutional right to abortion

[SCOTUSblog, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-24-2022]

Here is the opinion.


We’re Not Going Back to the Time Before Roe v. Wade. We’re Going Somewhere Worse 

[New Yorker, via Naked Capitalism 6-25-2022]


Clarence Thomas: Supreme Court should ‘reconsider’ rulings on contraceptives and same-sex marriage 

[The Week, via Naked Capitalism 6-25-2022]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-24-2022]

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“Abortion in America — the road to rolling back Roe vs Wade”

Lyz Lenz [Financial Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-24-2022]

Growing up in the Christian right: “None of my siblings believe what we were taught. We’ve all grown up. Very few even go to church. Some of my sisters have been victims of abuse and assault. Some have had children, got divorced, faced poverty and loss. One sister, after a devastating car accident, had to declare bankruptcy at 18 in the face of overwhelming medical bills. Some are queer. Some are single mothers. Anti-abortion rhetoric only works if you are never poor, never a victim, never without health insurance, have never found yourself bleeding in a dorm room, unsure how to name what happened to you but afraid you’ll be pregnant and lose everything you’ve fought so hard for, that thing women so rarely get — freedom. Anti-abortion rhetoric only works if you don’t know that your sister has a medical condition that could mean death if she gets pregnant. Anti-abortion rhetoric only works if you’ve never seen your friend recover from a violent beating at the hands of her boyfriend. Never worked at a women’s shelter and seen the wives of pastors come in sobbing, secretly on birth control, because they cannot afford to have another child. So, how did I, the indoctrinated daughter of the American conservative right, grow up to champion the very cause I had been told was evil? Simple: I lived life as an American woman.”


Federal appeals court puts FDA ban on Juul e-cigarette sales on hold 

[NBC, via Naked Capitalism 6-25-2022]


In 6-3 ruling, court strikes down New York’s concealed-carry law 

[SCOTUSBlog, via Naked Capitalism 6-24-2022]



Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

“Liz Cheney Is Winning the January 6 Committee”

[National Review, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-21-2022]

“Congresswoman Cheney has been very effective in relating the committee’s blistering case against the former president. In the short run, however, recent polls suggest an inverse correlation between the impression she has made on the country at large (favorable) and the impression she has made at home in red Wyoming, where pro-Trumpers dominate GOP politics (not so favorable). There are two poles in GOP politics right now: (a) the too-gradually eroding pro-Trump faction that punches above its weight in intraparty matters and (b) the preponderant but diffident “wouldn’t it be nice if he just went away and let us fight today’s battles instead of relitigating 2020” crowd. These camps leave no traction for a “virulently anti-Trump” alternative — it motivates the former and, by keeping Trump front and center, irritates the latter. That being the case, there is no stomach for impeaching Trump yet again. It’s not that he doesn’t deserve it. It’s that everything has its moment, and that moment is past. Today’s prudent Republican position is that Trump is a real problem but one that is fading (though too slowly); in the meantime, GOP objectives must be: Keep the spotlight on the faltering Biden administration and its ruinous woke-progressivism, wallop Democrats in the midterms, and then nominate someone who can win a national presidential election. The assumption is that the cumulative effect of pursuing these aims will marginalize Trump.”


Former Federal Judge Warns of Danger to American Democracy

[NPR, via The Big Picture 6-23-2022]

Retired Federal Judge J. Michael Luttig issued a dire warning to the country: 17 months after the riot on the U.S. Capitol, “Donald Trump and his allies and supporters are a clear and present danger to American democracy.” Luttig was appointed to the federal bench by George H.W. Bush and had worked in both the Bush and Reagan administrations, and was a legal adviser to former Vice President Mike Pence. The United States is at a crossroads similar to the one the country faced during the Civil War, and he said America needs help. (NPR)


‘What the F-ck Is This?’: Team Trump Blindsided by Jan. 6 Committee Getting Doc Footage 

[Rolling Stone, via Naked Capitalism 6-21-2022]


“Why is no one talking about Doug Mastriano’s plan to destroy public education in Pa.?”

[Philadelphia Inquirer, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-22-2022]

“GOP’s radical Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate would end property taxes, slash per-pupil spending, and boost religious schools and homeschooling.”


“The GOP’s War on Economic Populists”

Matthew Schmitz, June 22, 2022 [Compact]

“Last week, something strange happened in Mississippi. An upstart candidate came in first in a Republican primary while proposing major increases in social spending. Michael Cassidy, a former Navy pilot, beat the incumbent Michael Guest in the state’s Third District while proposing Medicare for All, a $20,000 bonus to newlyweds (repayable in case of divorce), a $250 monthly stipend for children under 10 (rising to $500 monthly for children between 10 and 17), and a maternal-leave program with five years of benefits. Yet more recently, Cassidy has scaled back his proposals—a testament to the difficulties even the most daring would-be populists face when it comes to challenging the GOP’s economic orthodoxies. Cassidy presented his original policy mix as part of an “American Dream” plan designed to make it easier for Americans to marry, have kids, and buy a home. His other ideas included a ban against corporations, hedge funds, and foreign entities owning private residences and farmland, plus “targeted tariffs” and “deporting all illegals.” As that last proposal makes clear, Cassidy is no man of the left. He hammered the incumbent for voting for an early iteration of the Jan. 6 committee and for voting for spending bills that included abortion funding.”



Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 19, 2022

Uncategorized

 Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 19, 2022

by Tony Wikrent


Strategic Political Economy

From 2010: The Unvarnished Truth About the US

Ian Welsh, June 15, 2022

Twelve years ago I wrote this post. I don’t see anything since then has made it wrong and I think it’s worth reading still, especially for those who weren’t with me 12 years ago:

I’ve been meaning to write this post for some time and in light of yesterday’s Supreme Court decision allowing unlimited corporate money into the political system, I think it’s time.

Yesterday’s decision makes the US a soft fascist state. Roosevelt’s definition of fascism was control of government by corporate interests. Unlimited money means that private interests can dump billions into elections if they choose. Given that the government can, will, and has rewarded them with trillions, as in the bailouts, or is thinking about doing so in HCR, by forcing millions of Americans to buy their products the return on investment is so good that I would argue that corporations have a fiduciary duty to their shareholders to buy out government – after all if you pay a million to get a billion, or a billion to get a trillion, that’s far far better returns than are avaiable anywhere else….

Add to this the US’s complete inability to manage its economic affairs, and its refusal to fix its profound structural problems, whether in the financial system, the education system, the military, concrete infrastructure, technology or anything else and I cannot see a likely scenario where the US turns things around. The US’s problems in almost every area amount to “monied interests are making a killing on business as usual, and ologopolistic markets and will do anything they can to make sure the problem isn’t fixed”.

Even before they had the ability to dump unlimited money into the political system, they virtually controlled Washington. This will put their influence on steroids. Any congressperson who goes against their interests can be threatened by what amounts to unlimited money. And any one who does their bidding can be rewarded with so much money their reelection is virtually secure.


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 6-15-2022]

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Ryan Morgan [American Military News, via Mike Norman Economics 6-15-2022]


The West Doesn’t Want The World To Know That Russia Just Saved Brazil’s Crop This Year
Andrew Korybko [One World, via Mike Norman Economics 6-14-2022]


The epidemic

WTO Fails to Promote COVID Vaccines

Robert Kuttner, June 17, 2022 [The American Prospect]

... the U.S., despite Biden’s commitment to a waiver of drug company patent rights, sides with Pharma.


A new study claims Medicare-for-all could have saved more than 200,000 lives during the pandemic 

[Vox, via Naked Capitalism 6-17-2022]


Disrupting mainstream economics 

Economic Rent and Exploitation

Michael Hudson [On Finance, Real Estate And The Powers Of Neoliberalism, via Mike Norman Economics 6-18-2022]

The academic economics curriculum finds unproductive credit too embarrassing to acknowledge. While I saw the importance of finance and real estate, none of that was discussed in the university’s economics courses at all. The pretense is that money is created by banks lending to investors who build factories and employ labour to produce more. All credit is assumed to be productive, and taken on to finance productive investment in the form of tangible capital formation. Well, that that was the hope in the 19th century, and actually was the reality in Germany and in Central Europe, where you had banking becoming industrialised. But after World War I, you had a snap back to the Anglo-Dutch-American kind of banking, which was really just the Merchant banking. It was bank lending against assets already in place.

I realised that the statistics that I worked on showed the opposite of what I was taught. I had to go through the motions of the PhD orals. and avoided conflict by writing my dissertation on the history of economic thought, because anything that I would have written about the modern economy would have driven the professors nutty. Needless to say, none of the academic professors I had ever actually worked in the real world. It was all very theoretical. So that basically how I came to realise that the 19th century fight for 100 years – we can call it the long 19th century, from the French Revolution, up to World War I, and from the French Physiocrats, to Adam Smith, Ricardo and Malthus, John Stuart Mill, Marx, Simon Patton and Thorstein Veblen – was the value and price theory of classical economics to quantify economic rent as unearned income.

The purpose of value and price theory was to define the excess of market price over actual cost value. The difference was economic rent. The essence of classical economics was a reform campaign – that of industrial capitalism. It was a radical campaign, because the basic cost-cutting dynamic of industrial capitalism was radical. It realised that in order to make Britain, France or Germany, or any country competitive with others, you had to get rid of the landlord class and its demands for economic rent. You also had to get rid of monopolies and their economic rent. You had to get rid of all payments of income that were not necessary for production to take place. The aim was to bring prices in line with the actual cost value of production, to free economies from this rake-off to unproductive investment, unproductive labour and economic rent – land rent, monopoly rent and financial interest charges. Those were the three basic categories of rent on which classical political economy focused.

To translate classical rent theory into practice, you needed a political reform, You had to get rid of the landlord class’s political power to block reform…. 

Protectionists in America said the way to minimise costs – and it may seem an oxymoron to you – the way you minimise costs is to have high-wage labour. You raise the wages of labour, or more specifically, you want to raise the living standards, because highly paid labour, highly educated labour, well fed labour, well rested labour is more productive than pauper labour. So they said explicitly, America’s going to be a high wage economy. We’re not like Europe. Our higher wages are going to provide high enough living standards to provide high labour productivity. And our higher labour productivity, shorter working day, better working conditions, healthy working conditions, public health, well educated labor will undersell that of countries that don’t have an active public sector….

[TW’s March 2016 article, HAWB 1800s - The Doctrine of High Wages - How America Was Built]

Another element of American GDP is financial services. I called up the Commerce Department where they make the NIPA statistics and asked what happens when credit card companies increase their interest charges. And where do penalty charges for late payments appear? Credit card companies in America make billions of dollars in interest a year and even more billions in fees, late fees and penalties. Most of the income that credit card companies make are actually on these fees and penalties. So where does that appear in that GDP? I was told, in “financial services.’ So the “service” of calculating how far the debtors must pay for falling behind in their payments. They typical charge 29%. That’s all counted as a contribution to GDP. But in reality it is a subtrahend, leaving less to spend on real “product.”


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

GRAPH Average change in price of raw materials since January 2022

[via The Big Picture 6-15-2022]


Gas prices hit new record high 

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism 6-13-2022]


To Fight Inflation, The Fed Declares War On Workers

Julia Rock, June 13, 2022 [The Lever]


How Do We Get a Wage-Price Spiral When Wage Growth Is Slowing? 

[CounterPunch, via Naked Capitalism 6-15-2022]


Hike Until Something Breaks

Brian Romanchuk [Bond Economics, via Mike Norman Economics 6-13-2022]

Finally, I want to emphasise the limited usefulness of mathematical macro theory. The only place where such a theory would have been of use is giving a better inflation forecast in 2021. Given that “transitory” was the base case for central bank economists (as well as being close to a consensus view). it is clear that the conventional models were not entirely helpful. (The growth industry in the next few years will be the rise of people who were inflation bugs last year.)

At this point, worrying about the innards of inflation is a secondary concern relative to the “will anything break?” question. Things blowing up is a balance sheet analysis question, and we need to focus on the weak link entities. This is not an area of strength for aggregated macro models. To what extent they will work, it is because we dodge potential crises.


The Rich Get Richer

Jed S. Rakoff, United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York. [New York Review of Books, June 23, 2022 issue]

Rethinking Securities Law
by Marc I. Steinberg
Oxford University Press, 339 pp., $85.00

...For example, in the 1970s, when most New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) securities were still owned directly by individual shareholders, the average length of time a share of an NYSE company was held by an average investor was about seven years. The average now, in this era of institutional investors, is a mere seven months. Indeed, according to some estimates, about 70 percent of all US securities trading is done by “hyper-speed” traders, who may own a share for just a few seconds. Much of this trading is accomplished by use of mathematical algorithms that are focused on short-term profitability. And even those funds that have a longer-term investment strategy commonly outsource their shareholder voting rights to separate services, so little do they care about exercising their power over management as long as the company returns high profits….

An equally important change has been the shift from public to private financial markets, which are often free of most of the disclosure requirements of federal law. SEC commissioner Allison Herren Lee said in a recent speech:

Perhaps the single most significant development in securities markets in the new millennium has been the explosive growth of private markets…. More capital has been raised in these markets than in public markets each year for over a decade…. The increasing inflows into these markets have also significantly increased the overall portion of our equities markets and our economy that is non-transparent to investors, markets, policymakers, and the public.





While Elites Fret About Inflation and Worker Wages, CEOs Are Robbing Us Blind 

[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 6-13-2022]


America’s Inequality Problem Just Improved for the First Time in a Generation 

[Businessweek, via The Big Picture 6-14-2022]

The collective wealth of the bottom 50% of households has nearly doubled in two years. Can the fragile gains continue?

[TW: A big bounce, but any bounce looks big when confined to the bottom. And thar is the correct question: can it continue? Not with the hard turn to austerity we’re seeing the elites initiate...]


The Austerity Push Is A Repeat Of History 

David Sirota, June 15, 2022 [The Lever]

Twelve years after their “entitlement reform” commission, will Dems again help Republicans try to cut Social Security?


Dire Straits

[New York Review of Books, via Naked Capitalism 6-13-2022]

Toxic Debt, Josiah Rector’s history of Detroit’s struggles for clean air and water, argues that municipal debt and austerity have furthered an ongoing environmental catastrophe.


Labor Slams Pensions for Burnishing Image of Private Equity

Lee Harris, June 17, 2022 [The American Prospect]

The chief executive of Washington State Investment Board (WSIB), one of the nation’s largest pension funds, has become a major-league booster for private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts’s Ownership Works, a nonprofit that proposes to help companies distribute equity shares to employees….

At a WSIB board meeting on Thursday, the labor union United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) submitted a public comment arguing that there is an apparent conflict of interest in Tucker’s public promotion of Ownership Works.

UFCW, which has long-standing grievances with KKR over its consolidation of the grocery industry, pointed to negative social impacts of the fund’s past investments. It drew attention to WSIB’s investment through KKR Asian Fund III in Cue Group, a firm that allegedly collaborated with a branch of the Chinese surveillance state….

KKR once reveled in its villainous public image, promoting a view of private equity as canny, nimble, and unapologetically capitalist. But as the buyout sector has swelled in size and cemented its place on Wall Street, executives have come to resent their unpopularity.


A Mélenchon Government Would Shake the Foundations of Neoliberalism in Europe 

[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 6-13-2022]


Should we save capitalism? | Slavoj Žižek, Paul Krugman, Yanis Varoufakis, Shoshana Zuboff, and more [videp]

Yanis Varoufakis [via Naked Capitalism 6-14-2022]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 6-13-2022]

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Information age dystopia

Facebook advertising algorithm may have given the GOP a social media edge over the Democratic Party: report 

[Alternet, via Naked Capitalism 6-13-2022]


Conti’s Attack Against Costa Rica Sparks a New Ransomware Era 

[Wired, via Naked Capitalism 6-18-2022]

For the last two months, Costa Rica has been under siege. Two major ransomware attacks have crippled many of the country’s essential services, plunging the government into chaos as it scrambles to respond. Officials say that international trade ground to a halt as the ransomware took hold and more than 30,000 medical appointments have been rescheduled, while tax payments have also been disrupted. Millions have been lost due to the attacks, and staff at affected organizations have turned to pen and paper to get things done.

Costa Rica’s government, which changed midway through the attacks after elections earlier this year, has declared a “national emergency” in response to the ransomware—marking the first time a country has done so in response to a cyberattack. Twenty-seven government bodies were targeted in the first attacks, which ran from mid-April until the start of May, according to new president Rodrigo Chaves. The second attack, at the end of May, has sent Costa Rica’s health care system into a spiral. Chaves has declared “war” on those responsible.

At the heart of the hacking spree is Conti, the notorious Russia-linked ransomware gang. Conti claimed responsibility for the first attack against Costa Rica’s government and is believed to have some links to the ransomware-as-a-service operation HIVE, which was responsible for the second attack impacting the health care system. Last year, Conti extorted more than $180 million from its victims, and it has a history of targeting health care organizations. However, in February thousands of the group’s internal messages and files were published online after it backed Russia’s war against Ukraine.


Creating new economic potential - science and technology

World’s Largest Computing Society Makes Thousands of Research Articles Freely Available; Opens First 50 Years 

[Association for Computing Machinery, via Naked Capitalism 6-18-2022]

CM, the Association for Computing Machinery, today announced that its first 50 years of publications, from 1951 through the end of 2000, are now open and freely available to view and download via the ACM Digital Library. ACM’s first 50 years backfile contains more than 117,500 articles on a wide range of computing topics. In addition to articles published between 1951 and 2000, ACM has also opened related and supplemental materials including data sets, software, slides, audio recordings, and videos.

Making the first 50 years of its publications and related content freely available expresses ACM’s commitment to open access publication and represents another milestone in the organization’s transition to full open access within the next five years.



Collapse of independent news media

A New Muckraking Newspaper From Ralph Nader Takes On Congress and Its Dirty Secrets 

[Capital & Main, via Naked Capitalism 6-13-2022]


Disrupting mainstream politics

Make Progressive Politics Constitutional Again

Joseph Fishkin and William E. Forbath [Boston Review, May 23, 2022]

Mounting an effective challenge to our conservative juristocracy requires understanding how we got here. It is not just that the right out-organized the left. On the contrary, liberals have contributed to conservatives’ success by imagining constitutional law as an autonomous domain, separate from politics. Liberals have likewise imagined that most questions about how to regulate the economy are separate from politics, best left to technocrats. These two ideas have different backstories, but both were at the center of a mainstream liberal consensus that emerged after World War II. For postwar liberals, constitutional law was best left to the lawyers, economic questions to the economists. These two key moves sought to depoliticize vast domains that had previously been central to progressive politics. Together they tend to limit the role of the people and the representatives they elect….

In the face of massive inequality and a dangerous trend toward oligarchy, progressives today are beginning to reclaim some elements of the democracy-of-opportunity tradition. This essay has only scratched the surface of a few of the areas where that is happening. This nascent revival of anti-oligarchy thinking is more than the sum of its parts. It is not just policy, but constitutional argument. Past generations of progressives understood this; their conservative opponents did too. Indeed, those conservative opponents never stopped understanding it. In preparation for a series of massive confrontations with a far-right court, it is time for progressives to once again mine this rich vein of U.S. constitutional history and constitutional thought.


In Massachusetts, a Limit on Gig Companies’ Deceptions 

Terri Gerstein, June 17, 2022 [The American Prospect]

On Tuesday, the highest court in Massachusetts struck down a ballot initiative that would have come before voters in November. The initiative, funded by such gig companies as Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash, sought to designate workers as independent contractors rather than employees….

In short, the court understood what was going on, and decided: The gig is up. In fact, the company-driven ballot initiatives in both California and Massachusetts tried to confuse and mislead people about what was at stake. In rejecting the companies’ effort to jam together multiple subjects in a confusing fashion, the court grasped the core issue: Should companies be able to spend money to confuse voters and ultimately purchase their own set of rules?

….There’s evidence that in California, many people who voted in favor of Proposition 22 didn’t understand what they were doing: An exit poll showed that 40 percent of those who voted “yes” did so because they supported workers’ rights and didn’t understand that the proposal would cement workers in a permanent sub-employee position.


“We Failed to Protect Abortion Rights. We Need a Labor-Based Strategy”

[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-14-2022]

“The US right has challenged [Roe v. Wade] for years in the streets and in the courts, state by state. The story of the end of Roe is the story of the most organized, militant, and successful conservative social movement of the past fifty years. In the end, the Democratic Party didn’t stop them. Neither did the reproductive rights and the social justice nonprofits that so many depend on for health care and legal support. Am I angry with the Right? Oh, yes…. But this outcome was entirely expected. As a result, I am now angrier with the abortion rights movement — from leftists to liberal Democrats. Now that Roe is almost dead, I’d like to be clear about why. Seventy percent of the US population supports abortion rights. The fact that we have lost these rights to a minority coalition should prompt self-criticism. It is our responsibility to put together a majority coalition that can safeguard basic reproductive rights. It is our responsibility to frame the issue in a way that challenges culture war narratives with a universalist program that advocates for those rights. We didn’t.”


“AFL-CIO Blocks Debate on Union Democracy Reforms – Amazon Labor Union & Starbucks Workers Excluded from Convention – Shuler Criticizes AFL-CIO Organizing Approach”

[Payday Report, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-15-2022]

“Earlier today, many were unexpectedly locked out of the AFL-CIO convention after the Secret Service closed the doors for the arrival of President Joe Biden. The lockout infuriated activists and delegates who had arrived early to see Biden, but many also saw it as a metaphor for how people are being excluded from the convention as a whole. Shockingly, the AFL-CIO did not invite the Amazon Labor Union, since it’s an independent union and doesn’t belong to the AFL-CIO. Nor did the convention invite members of the SEIU-affiliated Starbucks Workers United. ‘It’s just petty,’ one senior union official told Payday Report. ‘Starbucks and Amazon are two of the most exciting campaigns in recent memory, and we don’t even have anyone here from those campaigns to learn lessons from these campaigns.’ And of course: “Prior to the convention, the Vermont AFL-CIO submitted a motion that would allow for every member of the labor movement to vote on electing the leadership of the national AFL-CIO. Many unions, such as the Teamsters, the UAW, the Steelworkers, and NewsGuild allow their rank-and-file members to vote on leadership. In contrast, the leadership of the AFL-CIO is selected by a body of 500 delegates. The Executive Council blocked the motion from being considered in an open debate. Instead, only motions that passed by unanimous votes were brought to the floor.”


“Unlearning the Language of ‘Wokeness’”

Sam Adler-Bell [New York Magazine, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-13-2022]

“I have had to unlearn many of the ways of speaking I cultivated as a student radical in order to be more convincing and compelling off campus. The obligation to speak to non-radicals, the unconverted, is the obligation of all radicals, and it’s a skill that is not only undervalued but perhaps hindered by a left-wing university education. Learning through participation in collective struggle how the language of socialism, feminism, and racial justice sound, how to speak them legibly to unlike audiences, and how others express their experiences of exploitation, oppression, and exclusion — that is our task. It is quite different from learning to talk about socialism in a community of graduate students and professors.” 


Democrats’ political suicide

“Latino Democrats vent their fury after foreboding special election loss in Texas” 

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-16-2022]

“Republicans blew up more than a century of almost uninterrupted Democratic control in that region Tuesday night, earning a special election win in a heavily Latino border district they had rarely even contested since its creation in 2012 — but where the GOP has made rapid gains in the last few years. That trend has been on Democrats’ minds since former President Donald Trump cut deep into the party’s margins in the Rio Grande Valley in 2020. But national Republicans poured money into the special election in this 85 percent Latino district from the beginning. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and its allies, meanwhile, only made a small investment at the end, despite requests from members to get involved earlier.”


“Democrats play with fire in GOP primaries”

[Axios, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-15-2022]

“Democratic groups are buying ads touting some of the most extreme pro-Trump candidates in Republican primaries around the country — meddling in GOP contests to set up more favorable matchups in November. Why it matters: The risky gambit assumes general-election voters will reject candidates who embrace conspiracy theories or lies about the 2020 election. But it could dramatically backfire by vaulting fringe Republicans into national office. Driving the news: Ahead of last week’s primaries, the Nancy Pelosi-affiliated House Majority PAC funded a 30-second TV ad promoting self-declared ‘Trump Conservative’ Chris Mathys against moderate Republican Rep. David Valadao in California’s 22nd District.” 


The Premature Narrative on Democrats and Crime

David Dayen, June 16, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Last week, elections were held in California, and media desks were ready. They had a district attorney subject to recall in San Francisco, and a high-profile mayor’s race in Los Angeles turning on the subjects of homelessness and crime. If both races broke right, they could bundle Chesa Boudin’s downfall and Rick Caruso’s triumph and pull off the Holy Grail of political reporting: the election trend piece.

That piece was written, and replicated. “Progressive Backlash in California Fuels Democratic Debate Over Crime,” The New York Times warned. The reckoning was here. Progressive calls to defund and rethink policing were being punished in some of the most left-leaning cities on the West Coast.

But then they kept counting the votes.

East Coast media once again neglected an enduring fact about California elections: Votes are counted slowly and deliberately. All state voters receive ballots via mail, and mail ballots can come into registrar offices up to a week later and still be counted, as long as they are postmarked by Election Day. Hundreds of thousands of votes have been and will be counted after the Times and others wrote their trend pieces. And in just the first week, several outcomes have materially changed….

In fact, most of the tough-on-crime narratives told on election night are faltering as votes come in. Authoritarian L.A. sheriff Alex Villanueva is down to 31.86 percent in the first round, a shockingly bad result against no-name challengers. The city attorney race is trending away from the law-and-order candidates in the field, with one reformer likely in the runoff and a second close to it. Progressives are now winning key city council races. Nothing in the actual election results suggests that Angelenos have driven a backlash on criminal justice reform.


“Elephant In The Zoom”

[The Intercept, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-14-2022]

“Meltdowns Have Brought Progressive Advocacy Groups to a Standstill at a Critical Moment in World History.” [Lambert Strether: “This article is a horror story about the internal workings of NGOs, and well worth a read, especially if you like horror stories. But I think the article sums up the issue with NGOs in one sentence”] “The reliance of so many organizations on foundation funding rather than member donations is central to the upheavals the groups have seen in recent years, one group leader said, because the groups aren’t accountable to the public for failing to accomplish anything, as long as the foundation flows continue.” 


“The scandal embroiling Washington’s most venerable think tank, explained”

[Vox, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-14-2022]

“The scandal surrounding Allen’s resignation reveals how foreign and corporate interests have a bigger role in policy-idea production than we tend to realize, and how relatively little scrutiny the capital’s think tanks receive despite their outsize influence in policymaking.” And: “One central question is whether this scandal will prompt any broader reckoning with the way policy ideas are generated in the nation’s capital.


Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

“Will the Jan. 6 Hearings Change Anyone’s Mind?

[ProPublica, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-16-2022]

“The question that hangs over the Jan. 6 hearings is whether the emergence of similarly damning facts or documents would move either the Republican base or its leaders in Congress. The prevailing wisdom says no, and there are plenty of reasons to argue that a strikingly large portion of former President Donald Trump’s base will dismiss any disclosures by the media or members of Congress as ‘fake news.'” Why ignore independents? Or disaffected Democrats? More: “All of this is to say one should be cautious in predicting the effect congressional investigations will have on public opinion. Learning that Trump’s advisers were divided between Team Crazy and Team Normal, and that Team Crazy clearly had the upper hand, might disturb a fair number of voters. I’ve seen congressional hearings change minds, including my own.” 


She Helped Create the Big Lie. Records Suggest She Turned It Into a Big Grift.

[Reveal, via The Big Picture 6-12-2022]

True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht has played a pivotal role in helping drive the voter fraud movement from the political fringes to a central pillar in the Republican Party’s ideology. the Texas-based nonprofit organization has engaged in a series of questionable transactions that sent more than $1 million combined to its founder, a longtime board member romantically linked to the founder and the group’s general counsel. 


Steve Bannon and the Politics of Bullshit

[Damonlinker, via The Big Picture 6-12-2022]

A profile of the Trump ally on the eve of the January 6 Committee Hearings raises ominous questions about what’s lurking on the rightward fringes of American politics


Trumpism without Trump: Maybe he's beginning to fade — but the danger to democracy isn't 

PAUL ROSENBERG, June 12, 2022 [Salon]

Trump's 2020 "Lost Cause" ideology has taught Republicans how to seize power — and they may not need him anymore….

Republicans like Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger successfully defied Trump's efforts to steal the 2020 election, and then defeated Trump-endorsed candidates. But it's important to understand that they're committed to project of potentially stealing future elections, by repeating, amplifying and acting on a subset of election lies that they're personally most comfortable with — which of course could always shift again in the future.

That's precisely what happened with the original Lost Cause, as historian Adam Domby explores in "The False Cause: Fraud, Fabrication, and White Supremacy in Confederate Memory," which focuses on the unique political culture and history of North Carolina. "The construction of a coherent Lost Cause narrative was not always a deliberate process," Domby writes. "At times, it was an organic one built on minor exaggerations and fabrications woven into daily life. Some stories were created to serve a specific purpose for an individual, often for monetary gain; others, to garner social capital; and others still to aid in political mobilization." A similar narrative mishmash was used by many so-called conservatives, first to justify supporting Trump in 2016, then to explain away his 2020 election loss, and now to justify or explain away the Jan. 6 insurrection. In every case, a supposedly conservative, no-nonsense, traditionally-minded population engaged in fanciful, inventive storytelling in order to create a new comfort zone and then inhabit it.

As noted above, the core of the Lost Cause lay in denial about the central cause of the Civil War and in portraying the Confederacy as engaged in an heroic struggle for freedom, not slavery: "freedom" defined as states' rights to self-determination, thus turning the North into a tyrannical bogeyman. "This allowed Confederates to be recalled not as traitors but as noble patriots fighting to defend a set of principles that survived the war despite defeat on the battlefield," Domby notes.


[Twitter, via DailyKos, “Judge Luttig explains why he spoke slowly, carefully, exactingly and deliberately on Thursday” June 18, 2022]

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Doxxing and death threats against U.S. poll workers intensify as the right wing continues its ‘campaign of fear’ 

[Grid, via The Big Picture 6-12-2022]


The Rise of Political Violence in the United States  

[Journal of Democracy, via The Big Picture 6-12-2022]

From death threats against previously anonymous bureaucrats and public-health officials to a plot to kidnap Michigan’s governor and the 6 January 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, acts of political violence in the United States have skyrocketed in the last five years. The nature of political violence has also changed. The deeper trend: the “ungrouping” of political violence as people self-radicalize via online engagement. 


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[Twitter]

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The Message of the Republican Party: Don’t Tread on Me. I Tread on You.

Ethan Gray, June 15, 2022 [Medium]

That’s why when you use that same appeal—“pro-life”—when you ask Republicans to do something about gun violence in schools, it doesn’t work. Because you are now in the position of telling Republicans what to do. That’s precisely why they don’t want to do anything about it.

Anyway, gun violence in schools is not a problem, but their children having to wear masks in schools is. Because somebody is telling their children what to do. Dead children don’t bother them, but telling their children what to do? Only *they* should do that.

They claim to be for “small government”, but that really  means a government that tells them what to do should be as small as possible. But when the Republican Party recognizes it has an opportunity to tell people what to do, the government required for that tends to be large….

What you didn’t understand from the very beginning is that Democrats should not ultimately be in the position to tell anyone what to do. Only Republicans should be in the position to tell people what to do….

The whole point of an arrangement where you can tell people what to do, but you can’t be told what to do, is precisely to avoid having to consider others. This is why this is their ideal arrangement: so they don’t have to do that.


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 12, 2022

Uncategorized

 Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 12, 2022

by Tony Wikrent


Oligarchs' war on the experiment of republican self-government

The Money Trail to the January 6 Attack on the Capitol Is Ignored in Last Night’s Public Hearing

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, June 10, 2022 [Wall Street on Parade]

As we watched the two-hour public hearing on the critical facts uncovered by the House Select Committee on the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, we kept waiting to hear a discussion of the money trail that facilitated this attack. That discussion never came. And yet, big expenses were involved: dozens of buses were rented; signs advertising “Stop the Steal” were on the sides of some of those buses; food and lodging had to be paid for, in or around expensive Washington, D.C.; and, now, lawyers have to be paid to represent those indicted for brutalizing police on January 6 or destroying and/or stealing government property….

But the question that any good investigator of an unsolved crime scene must ask is this: who benefits from this crime? And to understand who, besides Donald Trump, would be the chief beneficiaries of a coup that installed Trump for an illegitimate second term as President, one has to follow the money trail. That money trail leads to Charles Koch, the billionaire Chairman and CEO of Koch Industries, one of the largest private corporations in the world….

One of the Koch front groups that played a major role in the 2016 election that put Donald Trump in the White House in the first place was Freedom Partners. (It quietly shut down in 2019 after the press started reporting on its role.) When the group was still active in 2018, we had taken a hard look at its Board of Directors. We found that all but one of its Board Members was a current or former Koch company employee. According to the Center for Media and Democracy, Freedom Partners ended up with 12 of its former employees working in the Trump Administration….

To handle any legal pushback, Koch Industries’ law firm, Jones Day, sent 12 of its law partners to staff up key positions in the Trump administration on the very day Trump was inaugurated. Jones Day has since removed the press release it issued at the time but you can read the reporting on it at the American Bar Association Journal….

According to the TrumpMarch.com website, which was sponsored by Women for America First, its “Coalition Partners” for the January 6 event at the Capitol included the Rule of Law Defense Fund; the Tea Party Patriots; and Turning Point Action, among others. The TrumpMarch.com website has since been taken down but it was captured on January 2, 2021 (give the page a little time to load) by the Internet Archives’ Wayback Machine.

Rule of Law Defense Fund is the dark money arm of Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), a group that was raising millions of dollars from corporate felons in order to elect the highest law enforcement officers at the state level. (See our in-depth report of January 14, 2021.) According to IRS filings made by RAGA, it has received $511,400 from Koch Industries and a subsidiary since 2014….

Another of the Coalition Partners, Turning Point Action, Tweeted that it was “honored to help make this happen, sending 80+ buses full of patriots to DC to fight for this president.” The Tweet was first reported by DailyDot.com.

Turning Point Action is a dark money group that does not report its donors to the Federal Election Commission. However, according to the Center for Media and Democracy, its sister group, Turning Point USA, has received $610,000 from Donors Trust since 2017. Charles Koch’s footprints are all over Donors Trust, another dark money group, as we exclusively reported in 2010. (See Koch Footprints Lead to Secret Slush Fund to Keep Fear Alive.)


#1 charge: “Illegal parading

Lambert Strether [Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-9-2022]

“Here is the chart of the charges under which they were convicted (there’s no legend, but orange seems to sentenced, and grey not yet sentenced:”

Graph

“The #1 charge: “Illegal parading.” Illegal parading?”


Did I experience aghastitude on “1/6″™? No.

Lambert Strether [Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-10-2022]

TW: I don’t agree with Strether’s argument that the events of January 6 2021 are not as terrible as Democrats, liberals, and the anti-Trumpers argue they are, but I think Strether is absolutely correct in his conclusion that what is driving these three groups of people is their sense of entitlement. 

Did I experience aghastitude on “1/6″™? No. The Winter Palace in 1917 this was not. And what if that guy, instead of being a right-winger in a Trump hat, had been a union guy with a giant inflatable rat? I would have been cheering him on! Finally somebody stood up! What’s really driving the liberal Democrats — and, I suppose, Never Trump Republicans — is that deep down they think Capitol Hill is their space, democracy is “our” democracy, norms are their their norms, and that they will be comfortable again when the “insurrectionists” are rooted out and purged. But it’s not, it’s not, they’re not, and they won’t be. They lost their minds in 2016 for the same reasons, and never did manage to find them again, party leadership and PMC base together.

Insurrection is a crime (18 U.S. Code § 2383). So how come Merrick Garland charged the vast majority of the “insurrectionists” with illegal parading?

TW: The assault on the Capitol and attempt to stop the certification of Biden was a serious, seditious assault on the rule of law, posing a dire threat to republican self government. But a serious investigation of this threat would focus, as Pam and Russ Martens assert, on the funders. But that would be a threat to the powers that have transformed USA from a republic to a plutocratic oligarchy, and which own both the Republican and Democratic parties. 



The Roots Of The January 6 Riot

Joel Warner, June 10, 2022 [The Lever]

“At its core, the January 6 insurrection was the weaponized manifestation of virulent anti-government sentiment in a putatively democratic country where a majority has not trusted its own government for two decades… The ideological crusade against government has always been a part of American politics. But it really began coalescing in modern form in the late 1970s when conservative demagogues, moguls, and business interests began building a movement to demonize public institutions...”

So as the horrors of January 6 become prime-time TV viewing, let’s not forget that the attempted coup wasn’t a political fluke whose danger has come and gone. The origins of the Capitol attack were a long time coming — and those who helped it along are still flush with corporate cash.


“Americans’ Views of Government: Decades of Distrust, Enduring Support for Its Role”

[Pew Research Center, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-9-2022]

“Americans remain deeply distrustful of and dissatisfied with their government. Just 20% say they trust the government in Washington to do the right thing just about always or most of the time – a sentiment that has changed very little since former President George W. Bush’s second term in office.”

Graph


“We’re Misunderstanding What Caused Jan. 6”

[FiveThirtyEight, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-10-2022]

“‘They’re interested in political reform and not in the fact that people are pissed.’ That’s something University of Michigan political science professor Christian Davenport told me in the days after Jan. 6…. Davenport was trying to get me to understand that while the riot at the Capitol was inherently political, the divisions fueling it were not. Right and left, Democrat and Republican: Those splits exist in society, but they weren’t the cause of what happened. Income inequality, racial resentment, declining trust in institutions — those were the really dangerous things, Davenport said. We tend to think of those divisions as partisan because that’s the divide our polling data is set up to track. But in quantifying and graphing the tree counts, we miss the fact that we are in a forest…. A team of researchers found in a 2021 paper that an anti-establishment dimension would explain some of the more worrying extremes in American politics — things like support for conspiracy theories, endorsement of anti-expertise opinions and seeing politics as a battle between good and evil — better than the left-right dimension of our politics. One of those researchers, University of Miami political science professor Joseph Uscinski, found no difference in the prevalence of anti-establishment beliefs between Democrats and Republicans, using survey data collected in October 2020. What’s more, Uscinski found that anti-establishment ideologies better predicted belief in the conspiracies of QAnon and Trump’s claims of voter fraud than did left-right orientations.”

Strategic Political Economy

Can the new US-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework really compete with China’s mammoth Belt and Road Initiative? 

[South China Morning Post, via Naked Capitalism 6-6-2022]

During the Quad leaders’ summit in Tokyo last month, the four countries involved agreed to release more than US$50 billion for infrastructure in the Indo-Pacific over the next five years. In last month’s Asean-US summit hosted by Washington, the US committed to investing US$40 million to mobilise US$2 billion in financing from various sources to underwrite clean energy projects in Southeast Asia.

However, even if all these are combined, they are still dwarfed by the enormity of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Projects under its banner were valued at a staggering US$4.3 trillion by the first quarter of 2020.


“In snub to Biden, Mexico’s president won’t attend US-hosted Summit of the Americas”

[USA Today, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-7-2022]

“Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced Monday that he is skipping this week’s Ninth Summit of the Americas, a blow to President Joe Biden as he tries to unite the region to address migration. ‘There cannot be a summit if all countries are not invited,’ López Obrador said at a press conference Monday after the United States refused to invite Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela to the summit. He said Mexico’s foreign affairs secretary, Marcelo Ebrard, will attend the summit instead. López Obrador said he will meet with Biden in July. López Obrador has been threatening to boycott the summit if the United States didn’t invite every country in the region, including the autocratic leaders of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. The Biden administration said they do not want to invite countries that have not upheld democratic principles.”


[One World, via Mike Norman Economics 6-11-2022]

Duma Speaker Volodin also noticed this too, which he elaborated upon in a recent Telegram post that RT just brought to the attention of its readers. According to him, “The group of eight countries not participating in the sanctions wars – China, India, Russia, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, IranTurkey – in terms of GDP at PPP is 24.4% ahead of the [G7]”, whose economies are continuing “to crack under the weight of sanctions imposed against Russia.” He concluded that “The United States created the conditions with its own hands for countries wishing to build an equal dialogue and mutually beneficial relations to actually form a ‘new Big Eight’ together with Russia.”

This insight is integral to understanding the global systemic transition to multipolarity that’s unprecedentedly accelerated as a result of Russia’s ongoing special military operation in Ukraine and the US-led West’s completely counterproductive anti-Russian sanctions that were promulgated in response. Instead of comprehensively reasserting the US’ declining unipolar hegemony, the Golden Billion’s moves have comprehensively facilitated the rise of the Global South that’s challenging the powers-that-be for control of the world system. The first-mentioned wants to retain as much of the previous one as possible while the second are actively working to gradually reform it so that everything is more equitable, just, and stable.


[Thecradle, via Mike Norman Economics 6-9-2022]

With The Destiny of Civilization: Finance Capitalism, Industrial Capitalism or Socialism, Michael Hudson, one of the world’s leading independent economists, has given us arguably the ultimate handbook on where we’re at, who’s in charge, and whether we can bypass them.

Let’s jump straight into the fray. Hudson begins with an analysis of the “take the money and run” ethos, complete with de-industrialization, as 90 percent of US corporate revenue is “used to share buybacks and dividend payouts to support company stock prices.”

That represents the apex of “Finance Capitalism’s” political strategy: to “capture the public sector and shift monetary and banking power” to Wall Street, the City of London and other western financial centers….

In short, our current Cold War 2.0 “is basically being waged by US-centered finance capitalism backing rentier oligarchies against nations seeking to build up more widespread self-reliance and domestic prosperity.”

….Hudson succinctly frames the central issue facing the world today: whether “money and credit, land, natural resources and monopolies will be privatized and concentrated in the hands of a rentier oligarchy or used to promote general prosperity and growth. This is basically a conflict between finance capitalism vs. socialism as economic systems.”


Is U.S. Intelligence Really this Screwed UP?

Larry C. Johnson [A Son of the New American Revolution, via Mike Norman Economics 6-9-2022]

Frankly, I find it hard to believe that there are not solid analysts at the Defense Intelligence Agency who know the answers to all these questions. The real problem may not be a lack of intelligence. Nope. It is the fear of telling the politicians hard truths they do not want to hear.



Torpedoes In the Water 

Matt Stoller [BIG, via Naked Capitalism 6-8-2022]

FTC Chair Lina Khan and Antitrust Division chief Jonathan Kanter have set in motion a revolution in antitrust. The explosions are about to start with attacks on mergers and the insulin supply chain.


The epidemic

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-7-2022]

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The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

They Plan On Repeating “Putin’s Price Hike” Until People Believe It
Caitlin Johnstone [via Mike Norman Economics 6-11-2022]


Zombie Firms Face Slow Death in US as Era of Easy Credit Ends 

[Bloomberg, via The Big Picture 6-5-2022]


Why Housing is More Important Than the Stock Market

[A Wealth of Common Sense, via The Big Picture 6-6-2022]

TW: Excellent graphical presentation on how much equities and real estate is owned by the top one and ten percents, compared to the bottom 50 percent. 

Housing has a far greater wealth effect on households than the stock market does. The top 10% can live through a bear market in stocks. The bursting of the housing bubble led to such a calamitous crisis in 2008 because real estate is an essential asset to the middle class….

The top 10% holds 70% of the net worth in this country while the bottom 90% accounts for 75% of the debt….

The top 10% owns 89% of the stocks while the bottom 90% owns more than 55% of the real estate.

The top 1% owns 54% of the stocks and less than 14% of the real estate.

Only 50% of households in the U.S. own stocks in any form. The homeownership rate is 65%.


“Free US school lunches were a dream come true. Now, a hunger crisis looms for 10 million children”

[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-8-2022]

“For the last two years, the notion that no kid should ever have to go hungry in the US has gotten closer to a reality, thanks to federal waivers that have expanded children’s access to food. The waivers resulted in a simple but revolutionary outcome: free lunch, year-round, for every American schoolchild. But that will come to an end in weeks, as Congress has failed to include an extension of the waivers, which have allowed schools to offer school lunches as well as summer lunch handouts, enabling an estimated 10 million more students to get a free meal. Now, as rising prices hit families and school food programs alike, the program’s expiration will cause a cliff that some parents, cafeteria workers and nutrition advocates say could cause a catastrophe.” 


The Kids Are Not All Right

Aditi Ramaswami, June 12, 2022 [The lever]

Congress is about to let a critical anti-hunger program expire, and millions of children will feel the pain.


Eclipse of Rent-Sharing: The Effects of Managers’ Business Education on Wages and the Labor Share in the US and Denmark (PDF)

[NBER, via Naked Capitalism 6-6-2022]

From the Abstract: “This paper provides evidence from the US and Denmark that managers with a business degree (“business managers”) reduce their employees’ wages. Within five years of the appointment of a business manager, wages decline by 6% and the labor share by 5 percentage points in the US, and by 3% and 3 percentage points in Denmark….. We establish that the proximate cause of these (relative) wage effects are changes in rent-sharing practices following the appointment of business managers. Exploiting exogenous export demand shocks, we show that non-business managers share profits with their workers, whereas business managers do not.” Professional Managerial Class.


How ‘Mega Landlords’ Threaten Housing Stability for Renters 

[Invisible People, via Naked Capitalism 6-6-2022]

It’s no secret that “mega landlords”—corporate entities that invest in rental housing—have bought thousands of homes across the country since the pandemic began. But what is less clear is how this buying spree threatens the housing stability of renters.

As housing costs continue to climb, families across the country face intense competition in the housing market from investment firms. This keeps many high-income renters from purchasing their own homes and threatens the stability of low-income renters who cannot afford the slightest rent hike.

“The mega-landlords argue, though, that while the number of houses they own is large, the proportion overall is small—too small, they say, to afford them any market power,” Suzanne Layni Charles, a professor of city and regional planning at Cornell University, wrote in an op-ed for The Hill. “But in neighborhoods, a much different picture emerges.”

The federal government helped mega landlords through the process by selling vacant homes in bulk to businesses that agreed to rent them out for a set number of years. This allowed mega landlords to amass huge portfolios. It also resulted in higher rents for many tenants who still lived in the units.

The impact effectively shut renters out of the housing market at an opportune time to buy a home. The program resulted in landlords spending approximately $36 billion to purchase more than 200,000 homes. In one Atlanta zip code, mega landlords accounted for 90 percent of the total purchases between January 2011 and June 2012.

These mega landlords now own approximately 20 percent of America’s rental stock.


Corporations aren’t greedy enough 

[Unherd, via Naked Capitalism 6-8-2022] 

The most intriguing and potentially alarming trends are visible in the oil market. In December 2019, before Covid, global oil consumption was about 100 million barrels per day, and the price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude hovered around $50-$60 per barrel. At that time, the US operating rig count was around 800 (around 2,000 globally), according to Baker Hughes. After the pandemic hit, in 2020, global oil demand fell to about 90 million barrels per day, prices collapsed and briefly went negative, and the US rig count hit a low of around 250. Oil demand recovered about half the lost ground in 2021 and is expected to return to 2019 levels of 100 million barrels per day this year. In December of 2021, WTI spot prices were around $75, rose significantly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and currently sit around $110. Yet the US rig count is still around 700 (of 1,600 globally). The last time oil prices were above $100, before the crash of 2014, the rig count was over 1,800 (3,600 globally).

This trajectory is difficult to square with inflation accounts based on excessive demand. Oil demand has still not exceeded pre-pandemic levels; it is supply that has lagged. Meanwhile, far from being “too greedy”, companies seem to not be greedy enough — at least in the conventional sense of maximising profits. Instead of reinvesting their earnings in drilling new wells, even at profitable oil prices, companies have returned cash to shareholders….

The best explanation is, therefore, the simplest one: shareholders prefer that companies return cash rather than invest, a preference widely discussed among industry participants and observers…. 


…across industries, the trend of shareholders preferring cash returns over investment has been prevalent in recent decades. Corporate share buybacks, which dropped from previous highs during the pandemic, returned to record pace in 2021 and 2022, according to Goldman Sachs.


Shipping Chaos Is the Latest Sign that Capitalism Is Eating Itself 

[Tribune, via The Big Picture 6-5-2022]

Capitalism rests on a network of privately-owned infrastructure, with shipping at its heart – but now the industry is in chaos as the profiteering of rentier corporations sends the world system into meltdown. 


Southern California ports rank dead last on global efficiency index 

[American Shipper, via Naked Capitalism 6-5-2022]


US consumer sentiment “This is a really really really bad number…. Really bad”

[Twitter, via Mike Norman Economics 6-11-2022]

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“Why everyone is freaking out about Target’s inventory”

[Freight Waves, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-9-2022]

This is a good aggregation of real economy downturn signs (and not-signs). I’ll pick transportation: “More and more spooky recession signs are cropping up seemingly every day, ranging from cooling housing starts to meek GDP growth, all amid the Fed tightening rates. …. A downturn, if not a full-on recession, is clear in the transportation world. While the rest of the economy debates whether things are that bad, it’s been clear for months to logistics providers that the situation has worsened — and the velocity of that change is still stunning.

The cost to move a container from Asia to a major port in North America or Europe has sunk by 23% since the beginning of this year, according to maritime research firm Drewry. Spot rates have plummeted even faster; marketplace Freightos said rates from China to the West Coast are down 38% month-over-month. FreightWaves forecast this week that ocean shipping volumes will “drop off a cliff” by this summer, based on slumping bookings out of China. Spot van rates in trucking are down 31% since the beginning of this year, with some truck drivers reporting that rising diesel and plummeting rates have already harmed their business. Even our mighty railroads are reporting a 3% year-to-date decline in volumes across the board, with only carloads of coal, chemicals and “stone, sand and gravel” (aka, frac sand) increasing.

The pullback in transports has been quicker and swifter than anyone imagined. In the ocean world, carriers have deployed more vessels than ever before, according to research firm Sea-Intelligence. In March, Sea-Intelligence forecast carriers to increase their capacity following Chinese New Year by 20% over 2019 levels. Asia-East Coast services were forecast to grow an eye-popping 40%. And in trucking, small carriers flooded the market, with more than 10,000 new trucking companies established every month since early 2021. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the number of trucks available to haul a load is up 10%. Transporters built up record capacity to move loads that are suddenly shrinking.” 


The Halo Effect: Bad Forecasts by Billionaires 

Barry Ritholtz, December 18, 2015 [The Big Picture]

Many people who achieve success in one sphere are emboldened to make broad pronouncements. And listeners, impressed by the obvious business success, tend to believe the forecasts, often to their financial detriment. 


Like capitalism itself, business journalism is broken. Can it be fixed? 

[The Ink, via The Big Picture 6-5-2022]

...David Gelles’s powerful new book, “The Man Who Broke Capitalism,” about Jack Welch and the larger crisis he fomented… The main target of the book’s criticism is clear from the subtitle: “How Jack Welch Gutted the Heartland and Crushed the Soul of Corporate America — and How to Undo His Legacy.” But as you’ll see in my conversation with David below, this is also a project rooted in his own realizations about his own past failures as a business reporter and, frankly, the failures of much (but not all) of the business press at large….

“The coverage I did of the aftermath of the Boeing 737 Max crashes brought this home in a visceral way because I spent time with families who lost their loved ones in those crashes. As one woman said to me, this was corporate manslaughter.

‘I'll never forget those words because this was a company that had been celebrated for years and years. And at the end of the day, I understood what she was saying. At this point, Boeing was a company that had completely lost its ethical compass and had created planes that were flawed and led to the deaths of hundreds of people. That was a seminal moment for me. As much as I was still in the thralls of business and capitalism on its own terms, it was impossible to continue to be after covering that story.”

….

An era of companies being nice to workers may even feel fantastical to people. Can you describe the business world Jack Welch entered as a young man and tried to upend?

“Many people have described it as the "golden age of capitalism." That may well be overstating it because there was still a lot of inequality and misallocation of opportunity and resources for marginalized communities of all shades and stripes in that period from roughly 1945 to the late '70s. But it's undoubtedly the case that businesses and CEOs operated with a fundamentally different orientation and understanding of their role in society in that era.

“Specifically, the way companies distributed their profits and how they talked about their purpose is virtually a 180-degree change from what we see in big business today. In the 1953 GE annual report, the company proudly ticked off how much money it paid its workers. It was screaming from the rooftops how wonderful it was that it was the largest payroll ever in its history. It talked about how much money it was paying its suppliers and giving them really good rates so they could continue to make profitable goods and services and take good care of their employees.

“GE even proudly talked about how much it paid the government in taxes, making the case that what was good for the company was good for the country and vice versa. I don't need to tell you that that is not the world we live in today, but it did exist.”


Restoring balance to the economy

New study shows welfare prevents crime, quite dramatically 

[Oxford University Press, via Naked Capitalism 6-8-2022]

A new paper in the Quarterly Journal of Economics indicates that removing cash welfare from children when they reach age 18 greatly increases the chances that they will face criminal justice charges in subsequent years….

As part of changes made to US social welfare programs in 1996 the US Social Security Administration began to reevaluate children receiving SSI when they turned 18 using different, adult, medical eligibility criteria. The Social Security Administration began removing about 40% of children receiving benefits when they turned 18. This process disproportionately removes children with mental and behavioral conditions such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

Using data from the Social Security Administration and the Criminal Justice Administrative Records System researchers estimated the effect of losing Supplemental Security Income benefits at age 18 on criminal justice and employment outcomes over the next two decades. By comparing records of children with an 18th birthday after the date of welfare reform enactment on August 22, 1996, and those born earlier (who were allowed onto the adult program without review) the researchers were able to estimate the effect of losing benefits on the lives of the affected youth.

They found that terminating the cash welfare benefits of these young adults increased the number of criminal charges by 20% over the next two decades. The increase was concentrated in what the authors call "income-generating crimes," like theft, burglary, fraud/forgery, and prostitution. As a result of the increase in criminal charges, the annual likelihood of incarceration increased by 60%. The effect of this income removal on criminal justice involvement persisted more than two decades later.


Labor’s John L. Lewis Moment

Steven Greenhouse, Harold Meyerson, June 9, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Will today’s unions invest big-time in the young workers now beginning to rebuild American labor? Or will they remain AWOL and ensure the movement’s continued decline?

….IN MANY WAYS, this moment resembles a landmark moment in labor history. It was the mid-1930s, and workers in America’s mass-production industries were flexing their muscles and seeking to unionize. But the leaders of many craft-based unions in the American Federation of Labor had zero interest in helping these workers unionize. They looked down on mass-production workers as less skilled. They were also appalled by these workers’ efforts to organize all of a factory’s thousands of workers into one union, rather than dividing them by craft (and then slotting them into the appropriate craft unions). Most AFL unions turned their backs on this fledgling movement to unionize mass-production industries.

But John L. Lewis, then president of the United Mine Workers, the nation’s richest, most powerful union at the time, reacted very differently. Lewis could see that wall-to-wall unionization was the future, and along with several other union presidents (particularly Sidney Hillman of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers), he threw his weight behind this newfangled strategy.

Defying the AFL, Lewis decided to underwrite this movement of mass-production workers: autoworkers, steelworkers, and machinery workers. He hired more than 500 organizers to go to Detroit and Flint, to Johnstown and Akron, to Pittsburgh and Chicago, to organize the very factory workers his fellow union presidents had chosen to ignore. Thanks to Lewis’s foresight, the United Mine Workers’ very deep pockets, and the courage, solidarity, and organizing ingenuity of many mass-production workers, a modest trickle of unionization turned into a colossal wave. Union density among the nation’s nonagricultural workers nearly tripled, from 12 percent in 1935 to 32 percent in 1947.


They're not capitalists - they're a criminal predatory class

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 6-6-2022]

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[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 6-5-2022] “Union-busting at Planned Parenthood:”

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Climate and environmental crises

As the Great Salt Lake Dries Up, Utah Faces An ‘Environmental Nuclear Bomb’ 

[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism 6-8-2022] 


A 50% reduction in emissions by 2030 can be achieved. Here’s how 

[EurekaLert, via Naked Capitalism 6-9-2022] 

Reducing GHG emissions by 50% by 2030 would put the United States on a path to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the target scientists say is required to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis.

The study, published in Science, consolidates findings from six recently published techno-economic models that simulate the U.S. energy system operations in comprehensive detail. According to the authors, the separate models all agree on four major points:

  • The majority of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions come from power generation and transportation, so to reduce overall emissions by 50%, the electricity grid needs to run on 80% clean energy (up from today’s 40%), and the majority of vehicles sold by 2030 need to be electric. Other important sources of GHG emissions reduction include electrification of buildings and industries.
  • The primary barrier to increased alternative energy use will not be cost, it will be enacting new policies. A coordinated policy response between states and the federal government will be necessary to succeed.
  • Thanks to advances in wind, solar, and energy storage technologies, powering the electric grid with renewables will not be more expensive; and electric vehicles could save every household up to $1,000 per year in net benefits.
  • A clean-energy transition would reduce air pollution, prevent up to 200,000 premature deaths, and avoid up to $800 billion in environmental and health costs through 2050. Many of the health benefits will occur in communities of color and frontline communities that are disproportionately exposed to vehicle, power plant, and industrial pollution.

“Our study provides the first detailed roadmap for how the United States can reach its 50% greenhouse gas emissions-reduction target by 2030,” said lead author John Bistline, program manager in the Energy Systems and Climate Analysis Group at the Electric Power Research Institute. “This will require tripling the pace of historic carbon reductions, an ambitious but achievable target if stakeholders collaborate across all sectors. By comparing results across six independent models, we provide greater confidence about the policies and technology deployment needed to achieve near-term climate goals, laying the groundwork for an affordable, reliable, and equitable net-zero future.”

Original.


Fact check: Energy costs of wind turbine manufacturing recouped in months

Kate S. Petersen [USA TODAY, Clean Power Roundup 6-8-2022]

Wind power is the largest source of renewable energy in the U.S., and it now accounts for more than 9% of electricity generated in the country, according to the Energy Information Administration.

As this supply of energy has expanded, critics have questioned its use. Recently, social media posts have alleged that wind power is inefficient and unnecessarily expensive.  

"The turbine has to spin continually for 7 plus years just to replace the energy it took to manufacture the turbine," reads part of the caption of an April 16 Facebook post….

However, the post is wrong. Wind turbines recoup the energy required to build them within a year of normal operation, according to researchers. Wind turbines recoup the energy expended to manufacture them within a year of normal operation, according to Eric Lantz, wind analysis manager at National Renewable Energy Laboratory.


Japan Is Dropping a Gargantuan Turbine Into The Ocean to Harness ‘Limitless’ Energy 

[Science Alert, via Naked Capitalism 6-11-2022]


Creating new economic potential - science and technology

This tiny handheld precision 3D scanner is the ultimate reverse-engineering instrument 

[Yanko Design, via Naked Capitalism 6-7-2022]


Democrats’ political suicide

“Democrats Need a Vision. Fast.”

[New York Magazine, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-10-2022]

“In recent comments to Politico, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont cut to the heart of the matter. ‘You really can’t win an election with a bumper sticker that says: ‘Well, we can’t do much, but the other side is worse,” he said, suggesting that the party make an affirmative case for holding on to power, ‘a Newt Gingrich–style ‘Contract with America,’’ as Politico put it. The democratic socialist raises a strong argument. It’s not enough for Democrats to portray the GOP as a threat to democracy, even though this is certainly a true statement. They need to explain what exactly they’ll do with the power they want if they stand any hope of not being wiped out in the midterm elections. That case has not been forthcoming. It has not always been clear what Democrats stand for exactly. The party’s big-tent ethos prevents it from staking out a coherent identity. Its neoliberal commitments strand it in a morass of means-testing and personal responsibility and incremental achievements. Party moderates contribute to the problem, as Sanders pointed out…. A savvy political class would address voters where they are and offer something positive in return for power.” 

Lambert StretherL “I agree with Sanders, but it’s much, much too late. To make any difference for 2022 or 2024, a new “Contract with America” would have to be accompanied by a blood sacrifice of the existing Party leadership. Na ga happen.”


Biden’s New Favorite Industrial-Policy Tool Isn’t Funded

Lee Harris, June 9, 2022 [The American Prospect]

President Biden is leaning heavily on the Defense Production Act, a provision to boost supplies for national defense with its roots in the War Powers Acts of World War II…. 

As fuel prices rose earlier this year, the White House announced it would use the DPA to ramp up production of minerals for car batteries. In response to a national shortage of infant formula, Biden invoked the DPA and instructed producers of baby food inputs to prioritize key ingredients. The president even called on the measure to send hoses to the U.S. Forest Service to fight wildfires.

This week, amid an ongoing trade dispute over solar energy manufacturing, Biden invoked the DPA to kick-start domestic manufacturing of green technology, including solar panel parts, heat pumps, and fuel cells. He also moved to speed up solar installations that have been stalled by a Commerce Department probe, announcing a two-year waiver of new tariffs on modules from four countries in Southeast Asia….

THE PENTAGON IS THE TOP USER of the DPA, which it routinely invokes to expedite sourcing of critical industrial items, issuing around 300,000 priority orders each year for procurement. In a recent Industrial Capabilities Report, the DOD praised Biden for requesting more DPA funding and detailed its plans to use the tool to ramp up production of everything from radiation-hardened electronics to rare earth elements….

Around $434 million is available in the DPA fund right now, according to Bloomberg. The government has been authorized to spend a further $111 million, and a Department of Energy press release refers to congressional appropriations. But those could be difficult to secure.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) has pushed to increase DPA funds since 2020, when he argued with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for $75 billion in funding for medical supplies to fight the COVID pandemic. In an interview, he told the Prospect the DPA is still not funded at anywhere near an adequate level.



Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

Kenneth Chesebro memo ruled by judge as “likely part of a criminal effort to overturn the election”

Heather Cox Richardson [Letters from an American], via The Big Picture 6-5-2022]

We have reached a place where Republican leaders no longer believe in the principle the nation’s Founders articulated in the Declaration of Independence, that governments derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed.” 


The Staggering Hypocrisy of Officials Who Are Blaming Mental Illness for Mass Shootings.

[Slate, via The Big Picture 6-5-2022]

The problem with this is that it’s just wrong. The evidence does not suggest that mental illness causes gun violence. Full stop. And paradoxically enough, it’s these same elected officials who have also chosen to not do anything to help mental health even as they point their finger at it as the problem. 


“‘It’s going to be an army’: Tapes reveal GOP plan to contest elections”

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-8-2022]

Video recordings of Republican Party operatives meeting with grassroots activists provide an inside look at a multi-pronged strategy to target and potentially overturn votes in Democratic precincts: Install trained recruits as regular poll workers and put them in direct contact with party attorneys. The plan, as outlined by a Republican National Committee staffer in Michigan, includes utilizing rules designed to provide political balance among poll workers to install party-trained volunteers prepared to challenge voters at Democratic-majority polling places, developing a website to connect those workers to local lawyers and establishing a network of party-friendly district attorneys who could intervene to block vote counts at certain precincts. ‘Being a poll worker, you just have so many more rights and things you can do to stop something than [as] a poll challenger,’ said Matthew Seifried, the RNC’s election integrity director for Michigan, stressing the importance of obtaining official designations as poll workers in a meeting with GOP activists in Wayne County last Nov. 6. It is one of a series of recordings of GOP meetings between summer of 2021 and May of this year obtained by POLITICO. Backing up those front-line workers, ‘it’s going to be an army,’ Seifried promised at an Oct. 5 training session. ‘We’re going to have more lawyers than we’ve ever recruited, because let’s be honest, that’s where it’s going to be fought, right?'”


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 5, 2022

Uncategorized

 Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 5, 2022

by Tony Wikrent


Strategic Political Economy

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 6-1-2022]

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“Those who had to choose between material goods and France's soul, the material goods made the choice for them. The wealthy are possessed by what they possess."

[Twitter, May 29, 2022]

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[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-2-2022]

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Electric vehicles accelerate China’s looming dominance as a car exporter 

[Financial Times, via Naked Capitalism 6-2-2022]


Bilderberg does China 

Pepe Escobar [The Vineyard of the Saker, via Mike Norman Economics 6-4-2022]

The Sanctioned Ones: How Iran-Russia are setting new rules

Pepe Escobar [The Cradle, via Mike Norman Economics 5-31-2022]

The first Eurasia Economic Forum, held last week in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, should be regarded as a milestone in setting the parameters for the geoeconomic integration of the Eurasian heartland.

Sergei Glazyev, Russia’s Minister in Charge of Integration and Macroeconomics of the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU), is coordinating the drive to design an alternative monetary-financial system – a de facto post-Bretton Woods III – in cooperation with China.

According to Glazyev, the forum “discussed the model of a new global settlement currency pegged to baskets of national currencies and commodities. The introduction of this currency instrument in Eurasia will entail the collapse of the dollar system and the final undermining of the US military and political power. It is necessary to start negotiations on signing an appropriate international treaty within the framework of the SCO.”


How The Ukraine War Completely Upended Global Crude Flows

Tsvetana Paraskova [Oilprice, via Mike Norman Economics 5-31-2022] 


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

The Conglomerate Problem 

Matt Stoller [BIG, via Naked Capitalism 6-3-2022]

Private equity is trying to gobble up baby formula. Broadcom is going to ruin VMware. Can antitrust enforcers stop the arson? Will judges let them?


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 5-30-2022]

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Mastercard CEO: SWIFT Payment System May Be Replaced By (Central Bank Digital Currencies) In Five Years

[Zero Hedge, via Mike Norman Economics 5-30-2022]

There has been a long list of revelations coming out of the recent World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, but one issue that might have gone under the media radar involves comments by Mastercard CEO Michael Miebach during a discussion on the future of cross-border payments between nations.

Miebach, participating in a panel on Central Bank Digital Currencies at the WEF and hosted by the Global Blockchain Business Council, was one of the few participants that was willing to suggest that the SWIFT system, long dominated by western interests, might be made obsolete along with the proliferation of digital currencies among central banks.

Initially dismissed as “conspiracy theory” only a few years ago by the media, whispers of CBDCs have suddenly gone mainstream and blockchain technologies took center stage at Davos in 2022. The Federal Reserve has even started active public discussions assessing the case for retail digital currency products.


Credit Unions and Banking Groups Warn of “Devastating Consequences” of a U.S Central Bank Digital Currency

Pam Martens and Russ Martens: May 31, 2022 [Wall Street on Parade]

Credit union and banking trade groups have released a joint letter to the chair and ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, warning of “devastating consequences” if the Federal Reserve moves forward with a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). The letter was sent on May 25, one day before the Committee convened a hearing on “Digital Assets and the Future of Finance: Examining the Benefits and Risks of a U.S. Central Bank Digital Currency.” That hearing took testimony from only one witness, Lael Brainard, the Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve.

The fact that credit unions, which frequently serve unionized labor, joined with banking trade groups to sign off on the letter, lends credibility to the “devastating consequences” the letter enumerates of a Central Bank Digital Currency.

A CBDC would allow the Federal Reserve to compete for deposits with credit unions and banks. The letter correctly assesses the downside of such a move as follows:

“Private money is created through financial intermediation by banks and credit unions– the process in which financial institutions take deposits and lend out and invest those deposits. Private money is used by financial institutions to provide funding for businesses and consumers and thus supports economic growth. Introducing a CBDC would be a deliberate decision to shift some volume of private money to public money, with potentially devastating consequences for the cost and availability of credit for consumers and businesses. In sum, the savings of businesses and consumers would no longer fund the assets of banks – primarily, loans – but instead would fund the assets of the Federal Reserve – primarily securities issued by the Treasury Department, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac.”


Ukraine / Russia

THE OLIGARCHS PLAY THEIR CARDS – THAT’S THE LOYALTY CARD, THE GET OUT OF JAIL FREE CARD, THE REWARDS REDEMPTION CARD 

John Helmer [Dances with Bears, via Mike Norman Economics 5-30-2022]

The Russian regime-change theory motivating US sanctions against the Russian oligarchs is that they will trigger a palace coup in which the oligarchs will arrange a bullet for President Vladimir Putin’s head, and in return the US will give them back the keys to their yachts, mansions, and offshore bank accounts.  

The terms of pain relief and life insurance which the oligarchs are discussing with Putin are different. The oligarchs want to be compensated for what they have lost offshore with an even larger stock of assets onshore, including takeover of exiting foreign companies and privatization of state assets; low-interest Central Bank finance;  import substitution and labour subsidies; tax holidays; postponement of ecological compliance; deregulation; amnesty for past crimes, immunity from prosecution for future ones….

When President Vladimir Putin announced at his meeting with state officials on May 24,   that he proposes “red tape needs to be scrapped” and “additional adjustments to the regulatory framework”, the phrases were not new. In the war economy, however, they signal deregulation and privatization — more freedom for the oligarchs, not less. When Putin added: “the Russian economy will certainly remain open in the new conditions”, the meaning, at least as the oligarchs are interpreting it, is that the president is promising more freedom from the state, not less.  


Cyber Command chief confirms US took part in offensive cyber operations

Ines Kagubare [via Mike Norman Economics 6-1-2022]


They're not capitalists - they're a criminal predatory class

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 6-4-2022]

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How John Deere leverages repair-blocking into gag orders 

Cory Doctorow [Medium, via Naked Capitalism 6-2-2022]


Economic Armageddon

Biden's Plan to Fight Inflation

Stephanie Kelton [The Lens, via Mike Norman Economics 5-31-2022]

By now, you’ve probably read (or at least seen coverage of) President Biden’s op-Ed in today’s Wall Street Journal….

At this point, the president’s plan to bring down inflation can be summed up as follows:

  • Leave the Fed alone to hike rates and slow the economy
  • Take proactive steps to reduce some costs and build more capacity
  • Take proactive steps to cut the fiscal deficit even more….

On #3, I have a very different view. The deficit is already collapsing. It has plunged from $2.8T in 2021 to around $1T this year. Some of the reduction is simply due to the fact that we have a faster growing economy, which naturally generates higher federal revenue via a progressive tax code. The bulk of the reduction, however, is coming from the active withdrawal of fiscal support—e.g. the $1,400 checks that went to most Americans last year ($350B in stimulus) is done. The expanded (CTC) child tax credit ($110B) lapsed in December. Student loan repayments are likely to start back up for tens of millions of Americans, robbing the economy of substantial spending beginning in a few months. Shut-off moratoriums just expired, leaving families drowning in utility debt ($23B in arrears as of March 1). And the list goes on….


Why the War FOR Poverty Has Made Gains: Discontinuing the expanded Child Tax Credit has plunged millions of families back into poverty and its anxieties.

Ramenda Cyrus, June 2, 2022 [The American Prospect]

The Child Tax Credit, a hallmark of American tax policy since 1997, was expanded in March 2021, lifting over three million children out of poverty from June to December. In part because of that program, 78 percent of Americans expressed that they were financially sound at the end of 2021, the highest number in the decade-long history of a survey conducted by the Federal Reserve. The CTC expansion was specifically cited in that survey as a significant boost to household well-being.

Today, six months after the expanded program ended, as inflation continues to rise, as wages lag behind it, and other pandemic-related support measures are discontinued, people raising children have been put in a position that is perhaps worse than pre-pandemic….

That expansion accounted for an almost 30 percent reduction in monthly child poverty. Without it, parents are often put in the difficult position of choosing between feeding themselves or their children. For any parent, that is a no-brainer—feed the children, always. But in the most prosperous country in human history, it is abhorrent that this is a consideration.

There is a common talking point among conservatives that government payments disincentivize people. Groups like ParentsTogether, however, are demonstrating how this is a false choice, and how a rightsized government program can make a huge difference in people’s lives. Even with inflation and a stalled agenda, enacting an adequate CTC shows that the government can ease the financial burden many families feel.


Deflating Larry Summers 

Robert Kuttner, June 1, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Larry Summers is at it again, misstating the connection between wage growth and price inflation. In an extended interview quoted in Tuesday’s Washington Post, Summers said, “I don’t think there’s a durable reduction in inflation without a meaningful reduction in wage growth.”

But Summers evidently failed to check the actual numbers. The estimable Josh Bivens of EPI did. As Bivens reported in a recent piece, wages have been lagging well behind inflation, not driving it…. Summers, in the same interview, flagrantly misstated the actual numbers. He said, “We now have wage inflation running at a close to 6 percent rate.” In fact, it was 3.7 percent in the last quarter, down substantially from 5.4 percent in 2021.


Latest Jobs Report Shames the Inflation Hawks 

Robert Kuttner, June 3, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Wage growth continues to decelerate. Contrary to Larry Summers et al., wages are not driving price increases.


The Pain Profiteers 

Rhode Fen, June 3, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Two new books reveal the distortion of the U.S. health care system by financial operators.


Disrupting mainstream economics

After Free Trade

Nic Johnson  Robert Manduca [Boston Review, May 25, 2022]

As the neoliberal order unravels, the international economic system can and must make room for cooperative forms of state-driven development.

The Neomercantilists: A Global Intellectual History
Eric Helleiner
Cornell University Press, $49.95 (cloth)

...Both sides of the so-called “new Cold War” between China and the West thus appear to be converging on a distinct but largely forgotten third tradition of political economy. This return of economic nationalism has troubled acolytes of the old religions. Though free trade is the one area where the more black-and-white canons of historical materialism and liberalism have traditionally been able to meet in agreement, today’s commentators have no widely accepted playbook or established intellectual tradition with which to make sense of the new shades of mercantilist gray. Beyond gestures to Friedrich List and Alexander Hamilton, Cold War historiography has vitiated our understanding of political economy’s past—and with it, the analytic resources for grasping our times.

Political scientist Eric Helleiner’s new book, The Neomercantilists: A Global Intellectual History, is perfectly timed to fill this void. A sweeping account of the men and women who argued for strategic protectionism and other forms of government economic activism to promote state wealth and power—an ideology he calls “neomercantilism”—between the publication of the Wealth of Nations in 1776 and World War II, it offers the first comprehensive global study of this discourse’s diverse origins and political valences.

One reason “neomercantilism” has proven so susceptible to historical erasure is that, unlike liberalism or Marxism, there is no Wealth of Nations or Das Kapital anchoring the tradition in a world-historical canonical text… Though today’s commentators are quick to associate nationalism with right-wing authoritarianism, this view largely stems from twentieth-century liberal historiography, which condemned economic nationalism as the cause of world war and the Great Depression.…

Helleiner shows that there were as many flavors of neomercantilism as there were national, imperial, and postcolonial traditions. From Meiji Japan to Sun Yat-sen’s China, from Muhammad Ali’s Egypt to Marcus Garvey’s African diaspora and the Swadeshi movement in India, neomercantilist ideas flourished throughout the long nineteenth century. They took form in political speeches, racist diatribes, bureaucratic memos, parliamentary debate, religious sermons, polemical pamphlets, and popular journalism as often as in philosophical monographs associated with the enlightened genre of political economy….

This is one of the characteristic leitmotifs of Helleiner’s book: the multiple and overlapping origins of multilateral development lending and international economic cooperation more generally. Such schemes were proposed again and again, from the ferment of warlord-era China to the revolutionary Mexican state’s finance minister José Manuel Puig Casauranc and interwar Romania’s central banker Mihail Manoilescu (arguably the most famous neomercantilist in the interwar period), neither of whom could imagine fighting the Great Depression without some kind of global governance mechanism to direct capital. Again and again neomercantilists came to the conclusion that it would take more than tariffs or public investment to achieve their vision of state-led development: “mercantilism in one country” would hit hard upper limits on what was possible. Fervent economic nationalists thus became some of the most powerful voices in favor of international economic governance....

The drama of the first half of Helleiner’s book revolves around the contrast he draws between two economists, German-born Friedrich List and American Henry Carey, as they theorize and propagandize on behalf of what was known then as the “American System” of tariffs, export subsidies, and internal improvements. List is the much better-known figure today: to the extent that any memory of neomercantilism survived the Cold War, it is generally List’s National System of Political Economy (1841), published after List had emigrated to the United States in 1825, that shows up in classrooms and citations. The security of his legacy is partly the result of his limpid German prose. The National System is a fierce polemic against British liberalism, arguing that “free trade” was nothing more than Britain’s attempt to “kick away the ladder” by which she herself had become rich. List accurately saw the Great Specialization for what it was....

There is a popular folk history that draws a straight line from Hamilton to List, and from there to Otto von Bismarck’s Germany, which industrialized behind Listian tariffs. From there the Listian idea is supposed to have spread to Japan, which took Germany as the model political economy for successful catch-up growth, and from there to the East Asian developmental states of the postwar period. (The most readable and popular version of this story can be found in Joe Studwell’s How Asia Works (2014), otherwise a compelling book.) Helleiner’s book makes clear what this version of history gets wrong. Not only were Legalist and kokueki discourses already widely available in the East, but to the extent that Western ideas were popular in Germany and Japan, they came more from Carey’s influence, not List’s. A good deal of space in The Neomercantilists is dedicated to documenting and debunking these myths in detail.

Where List was a methodological nationalist, racial imperialist, and long-term cosmopolitan who wanted civilized countries to imitate the British industrial revolution, Carey framed his own neomercantilism as an anti-imperialist, feminist, environmentalist discourse that would save America—indeed the world—from the worst depredations of British capitalism….

Unlike List, Carey was not enamored of Britain’s achievements: he spent a great deal of time describing the terrible conditions of the working classes in the United Kingdom that resulted from their global financiers’ monopolization. Free trade was leading to “barbarism,” he argued, because it tended to erode the social institutions that fulfilled human’s “greatest need,” their desire and ability for “association” with other humans. Like Tocqueville, Carey valorized the rich civil society of the early republic; unlike Tocqueville, he worried about disintermediation of the social sphere in commercial societies without tariffs. The “increasing dependence of the laborer, and making of her that mere instrument to be used by trade” was fueling class conflict in the form of riots and strikes, ultimately threatening political stability even in the UK.

In Carey’s eyes, it was therefore not a coincidence that Britain was simultaneously at the forefront of both free trade and “the power for oppression” of the domestic workforce. Since free trade benefited only the traders, impoverishing producers and consumers alike, implementing protectionist policies could achieve an internal “harmony of interests” within each country, aligning the incentives facing farmers, manufacturers, and consumers, allowing each to prosper without impoverishing the others. Carey also emphasized how protectionist policies could improve gender relations and protect the environment. “The world presents to view nothing that is more sad, than the condition of the female portion of the British population,” he wrote in 1859.


US Federal Reserve Bank economists going Marxist on us

Bill Mitchell [billy blog, via Mike Norman Economics 5-29-2022]

... work that was explicit in the 1960s is now being recognised by the central bank of the largest economy. In fact, the foundations of this new acceptance goes back to the C19th and was developed by you know who – K. Marx. Then a socialist in the 1940s wrote a path breaking article further building the foundations. And then a group of Marxist economists brought the ideas together as a coherent theory of inflation early 1970s as a counter to the growing Monetarist fiction that inflationary pressures were ultimately the product of irresponsible government policy designed to reduce unemployment below some ‘natural rate’. I am referring here to a Finance and Economics Discussion Series (FEDS) working paper – Who Killed the Phillips Curve? A Murder Mystery – published on May 20, 2022 by the Board of Governors of the US Federal Reserve System. I suppose it is progress but along the way – over those 6 decades – there have been a lot of casualties of the fiction central banks created in denial of these findings


[Young Money, via The Big Picture 6-4-2022]
I personally think there’s more to this market thing than the net present value of future cash flows, and markets certainly don’t seem to efficiently digest new information. CAPM, meet CAP MEME.


Where Can I Study MMT?

Stephanie Kelton [The Lens, via Mike Norman Economics 5-30-2022]

...I always recommend the same handful of programs, starting with the University of Missouri, Kansas City (UMKC), which became the bastion of MMT in the early 2000s, and the Levy Economics Institute, where some of the early developers of MMT currently teach. Today, I included an exciting new option—Torrens University in Australia.

The Torrens program is the brainchild of MMT economist Steven Hail (together with the indefatigable Gabrielle Bond), who’s leading the effort to combine Modern Monetary Theory with environmental and ecological sustainability. If you’re familiar with the work of Mariana Mazzucato and Kate Raworth, you can think of the Torrens program as, in part, a melding together of our work.


Restoring balance to the economy

No Surprises Act Blocked 2 Million Medical Bills in 2 Months: Report 

[WebMD, via Naked Capitalism 5-31-2022]


“How Amazon and Starbucks Workers Are Upending the Organizing Rules”

[In These Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-3-2022]

“The goal of momentum organizers is to foster a virtuous cycle of building to trigger events and then absorbing the subsequent explosion of energy through mass trainings and decentralized structures, while then building to another, future, trigger event. Police violence can be a trigger event, such as in the case of the murder of George Floyd, but so can worker victories. It’s not difficult to see this virtuous cycle being unleashed at Starbucks, where dozens of stores have successfully won union elections and hundreds more are seeking to vote. When the whirlwind comes, what was once seen as a risky long-shot action or fringe idea — going on strike, organizing a union, running for political office as a socialist, advocating for policies that divest from police and prisons and invest in communities — suddenly snowballs into a series of independent, self-organized actions. Among structure-based organizers, ​’mobilizing’ is often described, somewhat derisively, as turning out everyone who already agrees with us, while ​’organizing’ is seen as the more difficult work of systematically convincing those who don’t yet agree with us. This approach underestimates the power of movement moments — the whirlwind — where, very suddenly, the number of people who actively agree with us skyrockets. In the structure-based approach, organizers often spend months having organizing conversations, building committees, and assessing workers in the lead up to a union vote. They often spend even longer painstakingly building the confidence of workers through small, workplace actions to build to a strike. But in a whirlwind moment, those kinds of actions can suddenly be jump-started by the workers themselves. ‘In most conditions, momentum organizing is not the way to organize unions,’ Engler says. ​’The elders in the structure-based tradition know what they are doing and their advice is solid under normal conditions, but they don’t have the skills or the way of thinking that can take advantage of moments when those conditions radically change.’ Engler is not surprised that Amazon was organized through the self-activity of workers outside the mainstream labor movement. ‘It’s not structure-based mass organizations that can step into the void and absorb momentum quickly,’ Engler says. ​’It’s the people coming out of nowhere. Often by people who don’t even know how to do it or by those who are rooted in the mass protest tradition. It’s the unusual suspects.'” • Very interesting, well worth a read.


City Limits: Boston Mayor Michelle Wu’s bold plans for affordable housing run into old-school politics, perverse regulations, and limited home rule.

Gabrielle Gurley, June 2, 2022 [The American Prospect]


Germany Slashes Summer Train Fares More Than 90 Percent To Curb Driving, Save Fuel 

[Yale Environment 360, via Naked Capitalism 6-1-2022]

Germany’s parliament has set summer train fares at 9 euros per month in a bid to slash pollution and curb imports of Russian oil by spurring drivers to take public transit.

The initiative takes effect on June 1, with 9 euros covering the cost of all buses, trams, subways, and regional trains, effectively cutting fares by more than 90 percent in some cities. Berlin commuters will save 98 euros on their monthly travel pass, while commuters in Hamburg will save more than 105 euros, Bloomberg reported. Deutsche Bahn is adding 50 additional trains to absorb the expected increase in users.


Oligarchs' war on the experiment of republican self-government

Ten Times Empire Managers Showed Us That They Want To Control Our Thoughts 

Caitlin Johnstone [via Mike Norman Economics 5-30-2022]


In Australia’s Election, Rupert Murdoch Was a Surprise Loser 

[The Intercept, May 30, 2022]

The Labor Party’s victory offers a blueprint for diminishing the global influence of the Fox News founder….

Despite years in which Murdoch’s media properties vociferously backed conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Labor leader Anthony Albanese won the May 21 contest. Australia saw a wave of climate-friendly, independent candidates and Greens politicians take power in a thorough rejection of the culture wars around trans rights and “religious freedom” unleashed by Morrison and his backers in the Murdoch media.

Morrison lost for a range of reasons, including the basic fact that he’d become a deeply unpopular and unsympathetic figure after his Liberal Party had been in power for nearly a decade. He routinely mismanaged cases of sexual abuse and rape of women at the Australian Parliament House in Canberra. No amount of support and scaremongering from media outlets owned by Murdoch, who controls a stunning 65 percent of newspaper circulation in the country, could persuade voters to keep Morrison in power.

Despite daily attacks on Albanese and the other candidates who won office, the Murdoch campaign failed spectacularly. This shows that the power of the Murdoch empire isn’t enough when it’s selling rotten goods. More importantly, it shows the effectiveness of loud voices taking on Murdoch directly. Nobody does it better than former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who has spent years publicly condemning the mogul’s right-wing agenda. Rudd has urged politicians to reject Murdoch’s divide-and-conquer tacticsto name and shame the journalists and editors who produce Murdoch’s confected culture war poison. 

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 6-4-2022]

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Chris Hedges | America's PATHOLOGICAL Oligarchy

[YouTube]

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The Crazy Policies Are Going To Get (A Lot) Worse” (video)

Gonzalo Lira [YouTube, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-31-2022].

Lambert Strether summarizes: “Our elites have gone cray cray because they know what’s coming and don’t see how to stop it. So, gather ye rosebuds while ye may! Well worth a listen, because I think Lira has fought through to an important truth. or at least an aspect of it.”

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Thom Hartmann: The Hidden History of the Oligarchy

[YouTube]

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24:02
...the modern oligarchy that we're fighting came out of that and where it started arguably was in 1951 a fellow by the name of Russell Kirk wrote a book called The Conservative Mind and this is the book that kicked off the modern conservative
movement….[Discusses the Powell

32:31

...there's one one more piece to the story. In 1976, the Supreme Court -- Lewis Powell now on the court — the Supreme Court changed the rules of the game. After the Nixon bribery scandals of 1973-74 we passed a lot of good government legislation limiting the influence of money in politics… Lewis Powell and the Supreme Court looked at these laws and they said… if a individual billionaire wants to own a politician, wants to be the principal patron of a politician, the only source for that politician, and that politician wants to do whatever that billionaire wants in terms of producing legislation and voting — we used to call that corruption; we used to call that in fact bribery, but we're not going to call it that
anymore because what we're going to say is that money is not money, giving money to a politician that's not bribery, that's not money, that is speech and so when a billionaire Owns a politician he's exercising his right of free speech which is protected by the first amendment. And then two years later another decision that Lewis Powell actually wrote called First National Bank versus Belotti, the supreme court extended that logic to corporations because... “corporations are people too you know” this opened a floodgate of cash….


Climate and environmental crises

Vanuatu declares climate emergency 

[Bangkok Post, via Naked Capitalism 5-31-2022]

“Vanuatu’s responsibility is to push responsible nations to match action to the size and urgency of the crisis,” [Prime Minister Bob] Loughman said.

“The use of the term emergency is a way of signalling the need to go beyond reform as usual.”


Countries expected to face large claims from fossil fuel investors in pursuit of decarbonization 

[S&P Global, via Naked Capitalism 6-4-2022]

While there are growing calls from the scientific community that fossil fuel investment should be halted to avoid a climate catastrophe, lawyers and researchers warn governments could face large legal claims for cutting ties with high-carbon energy sources.

In a recent study published by Science, a team of researchers at Boston University, Colorado State University, and Queen's University in Canada estimated countries might be liable for up to $340 billion in compensation for terminating proposed oil and natural gas projects that have yet to begin production.

The analysis focused on potential claims from investors via the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) procedure, a type of international arbitration mechanism that allows an investor to take legal action against a foreign government for alleged violation of trade and investment agreements.


France limits water usage

[RT, via Mike Norman Economics 5-29-2022]

A severe drought has prompted 24 out of France's 96 departments to impose limits on water usage, the country’s Ministry of Ecological Transition said on Saturday.

The restrictions range from simple calls to save water in some areas to a more than 50% reduction in agricultural withdrawals and bans on washing cars, watering gardens and filling swimming pools in others, the ministry told Le Figaro.

Rainfall levels have been well below normal in France since September 2021, and last month the deficit reached 25%. The situation was exacerbated by abnormally hot temperatures in May, which is on track to become the warmest on record.


How San Diego secured its water supply, at a cost 

[ABC, via Naked Capitalism 5-31-2022]

Over the past three decades, San Diego County diversified its water supply, ramped up conservation and invested in big-ticket water infrastructure including the Western hemisphere’s largest desalination plant, which removes salt and impurities from ocean water. As a result, the water agency that serves 24 water utilities including the city of San Diego says it can avoid cuts until at least 2045, even during dry periods. But that security has come at a cost.

San Diego County's water is among the most expensive in the country, costing about 26% more at the wholesale level in 2021 than the Metropolitan Water District's, which serves Los Angeles and surrounding counties. Now, two rural irrigation districts in San Diego County home to large avocado industries want to break away from the regional water supplier, saying they can purchase cheaper water elsewhere. 


This Is Where Dirty Old Cars Go to Die

[Wired, via The Big Picture 5-31-2022]

...Western Europe’s old vehicles generally get packed up and shipped off to Eastern Europe. When they’ve reached the end of their useful life there, but are still roadworthy, they go south to Africa. North America’s unwanted cars travel south to developing countries in South America; Asia’s vehicles get shipped around the continent until they’re deemed unpalatable for consumers there, then they go to Africa.


Between 2015 and 2020, consumers around the world bought 10.2 million electric vehicles. But during the same time period, 23 million used light duty vehicles (LDVs)—cars, vans, SUVs, and pickup trucks—were exported. Two-thirds are sent to developing countries, according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). And when they arrive on the other side of the world, they keep on polluting.


Creating new economic potential - science and technology

Giant Deep Ocean Turbine Trial Offers Hope of Endless Green Power 

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 5-31-2022]


Siemens and partners to build Egypt’s 2000km new rail network

[International Railway Journal, May 30, 2022]

EGYPT’s National Authority for Tunnels (NAT) has signed a contract with Siemens Mobility, Orascom Construction and The Arab Contractors to build 2000km of high-speed lines and create what Siemens says would be the six-largest high-speed rail system in the world.

The Siemens Mobility share of the contract is €8.1bn, including an €2.7bn initial contract for the first 660km route from Ain Sokhna to Marsa Matrouh and Alexandria signed on September 1 2021.

According to Dr Roland Busch, president and CEO of Siemens, “it is the biggest order in the history of Siemens.”….

Construction of the new network will directly create up to 40,000 local jobs, with an additional 6700 jobs at Egyptian suppliers and indirectly through the wider Egyptian economy….

“The extensive 2000km high-speed rail network will connect 60 cities and enable around 500 million journeys a year. It will link the country like never before, fight pollution and global warming, while also providing an effective and reliable method for the movement of goods.”


Paris - Berlin high-speed service to launch in 2023

International Railway Journal, May 25, 2022

THE launch in 2023 of a high-speed service between Paris and Berlin was announced on May 24 by Mr Jean-Pierre Farandou, president and CEO of French National Railways (SNCF), and Mr Richard Lutz, chairman of German Rail (DB).

SNCF and DB are currently studying the extension of the existing Paris - Frankfurt service operated with DB ICE high-speed trains, which would offer a journey time of around 7 hours from Paris to Berlin.

The two operators say that passengers are increasingly willing to make longer rail journeys to avoid flying. Their joint Frankfurt - Marseille service operated with an SNCF TGV Duplex train offers a journey time of 7h 48min, for example.

In the 15 years since the opening of the first section of the LGV Est high-speed line between Paris and Strasbourg, high-speed services operated by the Alleo joint venture of DB and SNCF have carried 25 million passengers.

In 2021 more than 50% of passengers on the Frankfurt - Paris route opted for rail, with an even bigger proportion choosing the train between Stuttgart and Paris.


Lithium mining: How new production technologies could fuel the global EV revolution.

[McKinsey, via The Big Picture 5-31-2022]

Lithium is the driving force behind electric vehicles, but will supply keep pace with demand? New technologies and sources of supply can fill the gap. 


3D Printing: Scientists can now grow wood in a lab without cutting a single tree 

[Interesting Engineering, via Naked Capitalism 6-4-2022]

The researchers at MIT performed an experiment that gave stem cell-like properties to normal plant cells. They extracted cells from the leaves of a flowering plant called Common zinnia (Zinnia elegans) and then stored the same in a liquid medium for a couple of days. In the next step, the researchers treated the plant cells with a gel-based medium enriched with nutrients and hormones.  

After some time, the cells gave rise to new plant cells. The researchers also noticed that by changing the hormonal concentration in the gel medium, they could control the physical and mechanical properties of the newly grown cells. During the experiments, plant material that contained high hormone concentrations turned stiff….

An estimate suggests that the current furniture-making process leads to the loss of about 30% of the total wood as waste. Interestingly, the 3D bioprinting technique suggested by the researchers at MIT does not generate any waste and can be employed to produce plant material of any shape and size. “The idea is that you can grow these plant materials in exactly the shape that you need, so you don’t need to do any subtractive manufacturing after the fact, which reduces the amount of energy and waste," Beckwith said.


Guns = malthusian population culling

Crossing Lines — A Change in the Leading Cause of Death among U.S. Children

[New England Journal of Medicine, April 21, 2022]

For more than 60 years, motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of injury-related death among young people. Beginning in 2017, however, firearm-related injuries took their place to become the most common cause of death from injury (see graph).1 This change occurred because of both the rising number of firearm-related deaths in this age group and the nearly continuous reduction in deaths from motor vehicle crashes. The crossing of these trend lines demonstrates how a concerted approach to injury prevention can reduce injuries and deaths — and, conversely, how a public health problem can be exacerbated in the absence of such attention. Between 2000 and 2020, the number of firearm-related deaths among children, adolescents, and young adults increased from 6998 (7.30 per 100,000 persons) to 10,186 (10.28 per 100,000 persons), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


The Science Is Clear: Gun Control Saves Lives.

[Scientific American, via The Big Picture 5-30-2022]

In the U.S., we have existing infrastructure that we could easily emulate to make gun use safer: the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Created by Congress in 1970, this federal agency is tasked, among other things, with helping us drive a car safely. It gathers data on automobile deaths. It’s the agency that monitors and studies seat belt usage. While we track firearm-related deaths, no such safety-driven agency exists for gun use.

During the early 1990s, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began to explore gun violence as a public health issue. After studies tied having a firearm to increased homicide risk, the National Rifle Association took action, spearheading the infamous Dickey Amendment, diverting gun research dollars and preventing federal funding from being used to promote gun control. For more than 20 years, research on gun violence in this country has been hard to do.

What research we have is clear and grim. For example, in 2017, guns overtook 60 years of cars as the biggest injury-based killer of children and young adults (ages one to 24) in the U.S. By 2020, about eight in every 100,000 people died of car crashes. About 10 in every 100,000 people died of gun injuries.


The State Laws That Are Most Effective at Stopping Mass Shootings

[CityLab, via The Big Picture 6-1-2022]

With casualties mounting after the shooting in Uvalde, Texas, a health scholar’s research has found that enacting a few state policies can reduce gun violence by a third. 


Two Professors Found What Creates a Mass Shooter. Will Politicians Pay Attention? 

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism 6-3-2022]


When Science Becomes Embroiled in Conflict: Recognizing the Public’s Need for Debate while Combating Conspiracies and Misinformation 

[The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, via Naked Capitalism 6-2-2022]


Professional management class clowns

The jury verdict in the Depp-Heard case: A telling, deserved blow to the #MeToo witch-hunt 

[World Socialist Web Site, via Naked Capitalism 6-4-2022]


How Rich People Stole Identity Politics 

[The American Prospect, May 31, 2022]

Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò charts a course between cynical corporate liberalism and right-wing anti-wokeness.

Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

‘New Right’ takes it back to old pre-neocon roots, starting with Ukraine 

[Responsible Statecraft, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-3-2022]

“[O]pposition to the $40 billion bill that Biden promptly signed into law was a minority position. But zero Democrats in either chamber of Congress voted against it. All 11 no votes in the Senate and 57 in the House came from Republicans….. Soon there were reports that the conservative-libertarian coalition that has for over a decade sought to defang the GOP hawks are seeing this as their big moment. And they have as unlikely allies some of the biggest guns in the conservative movement, including new Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts. ‘Heritage is consciously shifting gears on foreign policy, with an eye toward less military involvement in Europe and more attention on China in particular,’ Roberts told Axios in an interview saying the venerable think tank that helped arm the Ronald Reagan revolution was shifting its gears closer to those of the Cato Institute and Koch network. ‘Roberts said Heritage’s rank and file donors have generally come down firmly on the restraint side of the foreign policy fight,’ Axios stated.”

Lambert Strether notes: “a nice little description of the linkage between donor, NGO, and party. The donors rejiggered their NGO portfolio, and that in turn affected the party.”


“The New MAGA Establishment”

[The Bulwark, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-3-2022]

“If you want to understand what an ‘establishment’ is in politics, it is this: A collection of people, institutions, and ideas which are not all powerful but are dominant to the point of being all-encompassing. The establishment can be, every once in a while, circumvented or leapfrogged. But it cannot be successfully opposed. Which is why the Reagan legacy remained in firm control of the GOP for 28 years after Reagan had left office. Until Trump… e are now six years into the Trump era and one clearly sees—in the donor and media ecosystems, in the new ideologies (however poorly grounded and tendentious), in the odd combination of orthodoxies that an establishment can enforce and the flexibility it can grant itself—that a new MAGA establishment has been created. Do not count on it going away soon. It may not last as long as the Reaganite establishment. That establishment was built on the foundations of a large-scale win over a sitting president, followed by a massive re-election victory, followed by the election of Reagan’s vice president, followed by a victory in the Cold War which had been set in motion by Reagan’s policies, followed by one of the largest expansions of peace and prosperity in America’s history. The Trump establishment obviously has no such claims. Instead, Trump’s claim on the party centers around failures. He beat a weak Democratic candidate in 2016 while losing the popular vote. He lost the popular vote by an even bigger margin in 2020, as he became the first sitting president to lose re-election in 30 years. His hold over the party is based not on expansion, but on contraction: He has whittled the party base down to a demographic nub—but it is a nub which is in thrall to him precisely because of its sense of grievance.”


“Trump’s Insurrection Is Building Professionalized Institutions Next time, they won’t rely on amateurs.”

Jonathan Chait [New York Magazine, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-3-2022]

“The plan is to flood voting sites with Republican volunteers, who largely believe they are witnessing crime scenes. The Republican poll watchers will almost inevitably harass and challenge both voters they suspect of fraud (i.e., ones who have dark skin) and the poll workers processing their votes. These objections can gum up the workers, increase lines, and discourage potential voters. Worse, they can trigger messy disputes, which opens the door for legislatures to override the results and select the winner. ‘Come Election Day, you create massive failure of certification’ in Democratic precincts, Nick Penniman, founder and CEO of Issue One, an election-watchdog group, tells Politico. ‘The real hope is that you can throw the choosing of electors to state legislatures.'”


The RNC’s Ground Game of Inches: Inside the secretive, dubious, and extremely offline attempt to convert minorities into Republicans

Alexander Sammon, June 1, 2022 [The American Prospect]

The community centers were established to bore the opening further, making the appeal directly to racial minorities inside their communities, with an extremely offline, grassroots offering. This wasn’t a soft sell: The centers beckon potential voters with everything from movie nights to free dinners to holiday parties to gun safety trainings, thrown by local organizers and paid for by your friends at the RNC, which has dedicated millions of dollars to the program. If those tactics sound familiar, that’s because they were once used to great effect, by groups as varied as the Black Panthers in Oakland or Democrats in New York’s Tammany Hall.


The Republican blueprint to steal the 2024 election 

[CNN, via The Big Picture 5-29-2022]

The objective is not to rescind the 2020 election — that’s constitutionally impossible. Trump’s and the Republicans’ far more ambitious objective is to execute successfully in 2024 the very same plan they failed to execute in 2020 — and overturn the 2024 election if Trump or his anointed successor loses again.


Clarence and Ginni Thomas Are Telling Us Exactly How the 2024 Coup Will Go Down 

[Slate, via The Big Picture 5-29-2022]

But the other way to look at the texts and emails that were pinging around the highest echelons of power and influence in the weeks after November 2020 is as a warning and road map for what is already being put into place for the next presidential contest. But next time, the lawyers won’t be sweating brown makeup or referencing crackpot theories of Italian election meddling. (Slate)


Anti-abortion activists are collecting the data they’ll need for prosecutions post-Roe 

[MIT Technology Review, via Naked Capitalism 6-1-2022]


How Sean Patrick Maloney Has Built Power for Republicans 

Lee Harris. June 3, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Maloney’s announcement that he will exit his old district for a slightly safer seat spells doom for Democrats. But he has long put personal interests over his party….

But local politicians in Maloney’s region say that although the congressman heads the party’s national electoral strategy, his willingness to sabotage fellow Democrats is familiar. Maloney has long guarded his right flank by supporting Republicans and declining to campaign for Democrats in the district he is now exiting.

That strategy, several disgruntled Democrats said, is representative of a party that has jettisoned issues popular with its base, such as abortion rights and environmental issues, in favor of promoting bipartisanship that may not deliver returns.

“He hasn’t done anything to build the party or the infrastructure behind it,” former Dutchess County Democratic Committee Chairman Joe Ruggiero told the Prospect and New York Focus. “Locally, he’s all about himself.”….

MALONEY BIGFOOTED HIS WAY into the district he’s bigfooting out of. He originally entered the old 18th after buying a home in Cold Spring, and quickly became a force holding the line against progressives.

Elisa Sumner, then chairwoman of the Dutchess County Democratic Committee, had recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with DCCC chair Steve Israel about strategy for the region, where she and other party leaders were confident that a progressive could win. She pointed to Rep. John Hall, an environmentalist and rock star with the 1970s band Orleans (“Still the One”) who had written music performed by Pete Seeger, criticized the Iraq War, and been a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

If Hall could win in the Hudson Valley, she reasoned, so could another progressive local like Matt Alexander, then mayor of Wappingers Falls. But she learned that Maloney, who had been an aide to former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, had President Bill Clinton making robocalls on his behalf.

“We begged him not to run in the district,” Sumner said. “We already had [political] machines up and running, and he just came in and cleared the field.” In response, she added, Maloney “intimated that he wanted to be in this district because it was closer to the New York City media market.”



Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – May 29, 2022

Uncategorized

 Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – May 29, 2022

by Tony Wikrent


Strategic Political Economy

Science or the academy?

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-24-2022]

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[Twitter]

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They’re Worried About The Spread Of Information, Not Disinformation 

Caitlin Johnstone, via Naked Capitalism 5-24-2022]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 5-25-2022]

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Liberalism, conservatism and the lack of discussion of civic republicanism

Quote of the week: Ha-Joon Chang on liberalism, ‘the most confusing term in the world’

[The Political Economy of Development, via Mike Norman Economics 5-26-2022]

“Few words have generated more confusion than the word ‘liberal’. Although the term was not explicitly used until the nineteenth century, the ideas behind liberalism can be traced back to at least the seventeenth century, starting with thinkers like Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. The classical meaning of the term describes a position that gives priority to freedom of the individual. In economic terms, this means protecting the right of the individual to use his property as he pleases, especially to make money. In this view, the ideal government is the one that provides only the minimum conditions that are conducive to the exercise of such a right, such as law and order. Such a government (state) is known as the minimal state. The famous slogan among the liberals of the time was ‘laissez faire’ (let things be), so liberalism is also known as the laissez-faire doctrine.

Today, liberalism is usually equated with the advocacy of democracy, given its emphasis on individual political rights, including the freedom of speech. However, until the mid-twentieth century, most liberals were not democrats. They did reject the conservative view that tradition and social hierarchy should have priority over individual rights. But they also believed that not everyone was worthy of such rights. They thought women lacked full mental faculties and thus did not deserve the right to vote. They also insisted that poor people should not be given the right to vote, since they believed the poor would vote in politicians who would confiscate private properties. Adam Smith openly admitted that the government ‘is in reality instituted for the defence of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all’

— Ha-Joon Chang (2014), Economics: The User’s Guide, Pelican Books, p.69-70.


Make Progressive Politics Constitutional Again

Joseph Fishkin and William E. Forbath, May 23, 2022 [Boston Review]

Mounting an effective challenge to our conservative juristocracy requires understanding how we got here. It is not just that the right out-organized the left. On the contrary, liberals have contributed to conservatives’ success by imagining constitutional law as an autonomous domain, separate from politics. Liberals have likewise imagined that most questions about how to regulate the economy are separate from politics, best left to technocrats. These two ideas have different backstories, but both were at the center of a mainstream liberal consensus that emerged after World War II. For postwar liberals, constitutional law was best left to the lawyers, economic questions to the economists. These two key moves sought to depoliticize vast domains that had previously been central to progressive politics. Together they tend to limit the role of the people and the representatives they elect.

Conservatives never accepted either of these moves. They have a substantive vision of a political and economic order they believe the Constitution requires, and that vision translates easily into arguments in court—arguments against redistribution, regulation, and democratic power. Inspired by their forebears a century ago in the Lochner era, when conservative courts routinely struck down progressive reforms for violating protections for property and contract, today’s conservatives have methodically installed movement judges who reliably advance those goals. And they are succeeding. Witness the litigation over the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Although the law narrowly survived, conservatives outside and inside the courts embraced novel arguments that Congress had transgressed constitutional limits on its powers. Liberals disagreed, offering arguments that the ACA was permissible. But they never made the argument their progressive forbears might have made: that something like the ACA is required to meet our constitutional obligations.

[TW: See Erwin Chemerinsky’s 2018 book, We the People: A Progressive Reading of the Constitution for the Twenty-First Century: ““If the Constitution will every truly provide for the general welfare, every child should be guaranteed a quality education and every person should have the food, shelter, and clothing needed for survival.” (P. 222).]

….Bringing the Court back in line will be a challenge. Fortunately we have precedents to draw from. For the first two-thirds of U.S. history, generations of reformers—from Jacksonian Democrats to Reconstruction Republicans to New Deal Democrats—made arguments in what we call the democracy-of-opportunity tradition. These reformers argued that the Constitution not only permitted but compelled legislatures to protect U.S. democracy in the face of oligarchy and (later) racial exclusion. The Constitution, in this tradition, not only permits, but compels, the elected branches to ensure the broad distribution of power and opportunity that are essential to a democratic society.

Reformers made these arguments in the teeth of hostile courts determined to impose court-made doctrines to shield elites from democratic encroachment. But the elected branches could and often did challenge the Court’s interpretation of the Constitution, especially about the trajectory of the nation’s political economy—the political decisions that shape the distribution of wealth and power through our laws and institutions….

Our current court reads the First Amendment in ways that undermine not only the labor unions that workers democratically elect, but also the campaign finance regimes that our elected leaders enact in an effort to preserve democratic self-rule. It has become a pro-oligarchy Amendment.

This is a neat trick. It works the same way every time. In place of democracy, the modern court sees only a bureaucratic state. Instead of people attempting to work together to govern ourselves, the modern court sees, in every First Amendment case, simply a fight between two actors: a lone individual plaintiff whose “speech claims” are pitted against the regulatory goals of a hostile government. If we look beyond the lone plaintiff and the state, we see something else: the numerous ordinary people whose power, in politics and in economic life, depends on collective self-government as a bulwark against oligarchy….

In his Citizens United dissent, John Paul Stevens argued that “our lawmakers have a compelling constitutional basis, if not also a democratic duty, to take measures designed to guard against the potentially deleterious effects of corporate spending.” His reference to “democratic duty” is highly unusual today. It evokes a lost world of democratic lawmaking, one that acknowledged that legislators have a constitutional duty to build the countervailing political power of the democratic majority against the wealthy few….

Unsurprisingly, for decades the remnants of this vision have been squarely in the crosshairs of conservative politicians and judges. Starting with the counterrevolution of the late 1940s, the “right to work” movement has waged an ongoing campaign of legislation and litigation funded and supported by corporate executives and employers’ associations, as well as by wealthy anti-union ideological activists, to destroy the New Deal vision of labor as a source of countervailing social and political power against oligarchy….

Opponents of racial inclusion have also long understood the connection between racial inclusion and political economy. They have not trained their fire exclusively on race-conscious programs like affirmative action. Instead they have consistently chosen lines of constitutional attack that reduce the potential of public law to intervene in our political economy in ways that might promote a broader distribution of economic or political power. They have also pressed the interventions of public law downward, away from the federal government and toward the states. This gives Southern, white political elite more power to block interventions that might benefit Black people. Finally, they have worked to carve out constitutional domains where private law norms of contract and property trump public policy interventions such as antidiscrimination law….

To reach this surprising result, Roberts had to build new constitutional doctrine. Forcing states to accept a broad and universal program for the poor and the working class, or else lose the narrower and stingier program they had before, was “coercion,” Roberts held, a “gun to the head”—and therefore unconstitutional, according to an account of the relationship between the federal government and the states that elevates the constitutional entitlements of states over those of citizens. Roberts’s opinion caused well over 2 million Americans to become uninsured. But this was no random set of Americans. About nine out of ten of the people deprived of health insurance live within the boundaries of the former Confederacy, and a vastly disproportionate number of them are Black. This fight might seem very distant from the hot-button, constitutional conflicts over race. And yet it is all about race—built on centuries of laws and policies of racial exclusion, the political economy of social insurance has a profound racial dimension.


Erwin Chemerinsky, We the People: A Progressive Reading of the Constitution for the Twenty-First Century [YouTube].

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The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

Global Banks Privately Prepare for ‘Dangerous Levels’ of Imminent Civil Unrest in Western Homelands 

[Byline Times, via Naked Capitalism 5-22-2022]

Global banks and investment firms are bracing themselves for an “unprecedented” upsurge in civil unrest in the US, UK and Europe as energy and food price spikes are set to drive costs of living to astronomical levels, Byline Times can exclusively reveal….

The senior investment executive, who spoke to Byline Times on condition of anonymity because the information he revealed is considered highly sensitive, said that contingency planners at top financial institutions believe “dangerous levels” of social breakdown in the West are now all but inevitable, and imminent. An outbreak of civil unrest is expected to occur anytime this year, but most likely in the coming months as the impact of the cost of living crisis begins to saturate the lives of “everyone”.


Pete Buttigieg: Hungry Babies, Regrettably, Are Just the Price of the Free Market 

[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 5-24-2022]


Personal consumption and expenditures 

Warren Mosler [The Center of the Universe, via Mike Norman Economics 5-27-2022]

Graphs: personal income and personal saving are declining; “So consumers are spending more than their incomes, mainly through borrowing;” 


“Apple’s Cement Overshoes”

[Cory Doctorow, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-26-2022]

“Many people have noticed that their parents used to keep refrigerators and washing machines in service for decades, but their own appliances all seem to end up beyond repair after a few short years. This is by design, and Apple led the appliance manufacturers to victory in killing Ohio’s Right to Repair bill, then they took the fight to Nebraska, where they helped kill farmers’ dreams of fixing their own tractors (they also convinced Ontario’s Ford “open for business” government to kill a repair bill, giving countless small businesses the shaft so that a tax-evading multinational headquartered in Cupertino, California could make more money off the people of Ontario)…. Eventually, it became clear to Apple and other anti-repair companies that they were going to lose the repair wars some day — it was a matter of when, not if. Apple needed a backup plan. They needed to make it look like they were taking steps to allow managed, safe repairs, while doing nothing of the sort. They needed to invent repairwashing. First came 2019’s certified independent repair program, which allowed independent shops to fix iPhones with Apple’s blessing. This program was designed to be as cumbersome and useless as possible…. This week, The Verge’s Sean Hollister got to try out Apple’s home repair program. The company shipped him 79 pounds’ worth of gear, in two ruggedized Pelican cases. Included in the kit: ‘an industrial-grade heat station that looks like a piece of lab equipment,’ to loosen the glue that holds the phone together (recall Apple’s aversion to ‘screws, not glue’). For all the gear Hollister got from Apple, following the official Apple manual and using official Apple tools was much harder than fixing your phone with an equivalent set of tools, parts and manuals from iFixit.”


Predatory Finance

JPMorgan Whistleblower Names Former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair in Court Documents as Receiving “Emergency” Payments from Bank

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

An attorney turned whistleblower who worked in compliance at JPMorgan Chase, Shaquala Williams, has named former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair as one of the parties receiving improperly processed “emergency payments” from the bank. Williams is suing the bank for retaliating against her protected whistleblowing activities by terminating her employment after she raised concerns about these payments to Blair and other serious compliance issues. (The case is Shaquala Williams v JPMorgan Chase, Case Number 1:21-cv-09326, which was filed last November in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York.) The new revelation naming Tony Blair was contained in a transcript of Williams’ deposition that was filed with the court last week. Prior to that, Blair had been referred to simply as “a high risk JPMorgan third-party intermediary for Jamie Dimon…” 


Restoring balance to the economy

How Corporate America’s Favorite Legal Trick Is Backfiring

Sam Mellins, May 27, 2022 [The Lever]

For decades, companies have used arbitration agreements to shirk responsibilities to their customers and employees — but now the tables have turned….

Uber is one of several companies that has been targeted by a new legal tactic for vindicating the rights of aggrieved consumers and employees: “mass arbitration,” which is based around the very same tool that corporate America has used for decades to insulate itself from legal responsibility.

The strategy relies on recruiting tens of thousands of injured customers or employees of a company to simultaneously file claims requesting that their complaints go to arbitration, a process in which a private mediator selected by the targeted company referees the dispute. Unlike a class action lawsuit, each arbitration claim must be litigated individually, one by one.

Victims of corporate malfeasance are turning to mass arbitration because it offers a way to force companies to pay up for their misdeeds — and in a world where many companies forbid customers and employees from suing them, is often the only way to do so.

This new grassroots strategy suggests that corporate America’s favorite trick of using arbitration rules to avoid liability could be losing some of its potency. This legal tactic was further watered down earlier this week, when the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that companies could lose their right to arbitrate if they fail to invoke that privilege in a timely manner.


Oil Windfall Brings Free College and Day Care to One of the Poorest States 

[Businessweek, via The Big Picture 5-25-2022]

New Mexico this year became the first US state to offer free college to its residents and free child care to most families, all on the back of soaring revenue from royalties and taxes on oil and gas production, which are booming on its patch of the Permian Basin. The state now ranks behind only Texas in energy production. 


A Formula for Public Ownership: What the Similac debacle teaches about the consequences of arrogant corporate concentration

Robert Kuttner, May 27, 2022 [The American Prospect]

So consider: Of the two giant companies that control manufacture of this vital product, one is cavalier about sanitation and safety, and the other doesn’t want to be in the business at all. The government has a huge amount of leverage because the WIC program buys more than half of all infant formula.

The remedy is either to break the industry up into lots of smaller producers, or even better, to have a public option, where a public entity enters the market as a major producer. FDR called this “yardstick competition.” The stuff isn’t hard to make, and WIC provides a guaranteed market.


The Best (Progressive) Democrat You Probably Never Heard Of: Michael Kazin on Robert Wagner

Eric Alterman, May 27, 2022 [The American Prospect]

In 1926, Wagner won a seat in the U.S. Senate by clinging to the coattails of Al Smith, then his state’s popular governor. On Capitol Hill, he proposed measures to aid the unemployed and use government funds to stabilize the economy. When FDR became president, Wagner seized a unique opportunity to pass bold initiatives to markedly improve the lives of working Americans. Leon Keyserling, a 27-year-old economist on his staff, wrote the National Labor Relations Act, which the press immediately dubbed the Wagner Act, although it was co-sponsored with a congressman from Massachusetts. The senator also introduced bills to erect millions of units of public housing and provide every citizen with health insurance. Wagner’s reputation as the most prominent and most effective labor liberal in America made him the natural choice to oversee the drafting of the 1936 Democratic platform, on which FDR ran his campaign for re-election that carried all but two states and gave the Democrats huge majorities in both houses.

Wagner was also one of the few Democrats in Congress whose empathy for ordinary people never faded at the color line. In 1934, he proposed a bill to make lynching a federal crime and fought, in vain, to stop Southerners in his party from filibustering it to death. He also sought to amend the Social Security Act and his own National Labor Relations Act to include domestic workers and farmworkers—occupations held by two-thirds of Black workers in the South. But the New Yorker and his fellow liberals lost that struggle, too; Southern Democrats composed too large a bloc in the party and had too much power in Congress. 


Should Congress Shrink the Deficit to Fight Inflation? — Stephanie Kelton

[The Lens, via Mike Norman Economics 5-28-2022]


Climate and environmental crises

The air conditioning paradox: How do we cool people without heating up the planet?  

[Vox, via The Big Picture 5-23-2022]

The world is now 1.1 degrees Celsius — 2 degrees Fahrenheit — warmer on average than it was at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. But baked into that seemingly small change in the average is a big increase in dangerous extreme temperatures. That’s made cooling, particularly air conditioning, vital for the survival of billions of people.

The devastation of extreme temperatures is playing out right now in several places around the world. A gargantuan heat wave over India and Pakistan, where 1.5 billion people live, is now in its third week. Just 12 percent of India’s population has air conditioning, but even those people are suffering. The heat has triggered power outages, created water shortages, and killed dozens, although the true toll may not be known for weeks.

Swaths of western Europe are also facing a heat wave, with temperatures forecasted to breach 40°C, or 104°F, later this week.

Closer to home, Texas is currently facing a record-breaking heat wave just as six power plants suddenly went offline. The state’s grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, asked residents to avoid using large appliances and set thermostats to 78 degrees Fahrenheit between 3 pm and 8 pm….

During warmer weather, pollutants like ozone form faster, which can lead to breathing problems. In addition, the stress from heat is cumulative. High temperatures at night are particularly worrying because it means people have little relief from the heat during the day. Because of climate change, nights are actually warming faster than daylight hours….


Cooling is not just for people. Refrigeration and freezing are essential for producing, storing, and transporting food, medicine, electronics, and, as Carrier found, books. By 2050, AC energy use is poised to triple on its current course, according to the IEA — which is roughly equivalent to the amount of electricity China uses today.

Within the current crop of air conditioners, there is wide variation in efficiency and the power sources they use. The spaces they cool aren’t all insulated the same ways, either.

There is also a huge gap in access. The IEA notes that for the nearly 3 billion people living in the hottest parts of the world, only 8 percent of them have ACs. And within countries, ACs are not distributed evenly. Access varies by income, but also by location. Last summer’s massive heat wave across the Pacific Northwest was especially worrying because so few people in the region have air conditioners due to the ordinarily mild climate. Seattle has the lowest percentage of households with air conditioning of any major metro area in the US. That likely contributed to hundreds of excess deaths.


Exxon Faces the Music

MATTHEW CUNNINGHAM-COOK, 28 MAY 2022 [The Lever]

In 2019, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey sued ExxonMobil over the fact that it had long known about the climate crisis and its own role in making the problem worse. The fossil fuel giant sought to get the case thrown out of court, using a state law designed to prevent frivolous lawsuits against journalists and claiming the company was engaged in protected speech.

But this week, Massachusetts’ high court rejected Exxon’s spurious argument and allowed the lawsuit to go forward. There will now be a trial in a lower court to determine what Exxon knew and when it knew it — and the results could expose the company to enormous financial liability for misleading investors and the public.

A New Enzyme Found in Compost Just Set a Speed Record For Breaking Down Plastic 

[Science Alert, via Naked Capitalism 5-25-2022]


New night-time solar technology can be used to generate electricity in the dark 

[AutoEvolution, 23 May 2022, via Clean Power Roundup]

Renewable energy research may have taken an unexpected turn as UNSW scientists found a way to produce electricity from the so-called "night-time" solar power. This is possible because the Earth stores the sun's energy as heat during the day, radiating it during the night. This heat can be harvested as infrared light using materials usually found in night-vision equipment.

A semiconductor device called a thermoradiative diode was used to generate power from the infrared light emitted at night. The amount of energy generated this way is tiny, about 100,000 times less than what you get from a solar panel during the day. Nevertheless, the researchers believe the result can be improved in the future once they will find the best materials to convert infrared light into electricity.


Information age dystopia

The Surveillance State Is Primed for Criminalized Abortion 

[Wired, via Naked Capitalism 5-25-2022]


Your Phone Could Be Used to Prosecute for Getting an Abortion: Here’s How 

[Scientific American, via Naked Capitalism 5-28-2022]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 5-25-2022]

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The Way We Discuss “Disinformation” Is Toxic 

[Slate, via The Big Picture 5-26-2022]

Study the literature surrounding terms like misinformation, disinformation, fake news, and propaganda. Despite the terms’ complexities and heavy connotations, they’ve become buzzwords, often thrown around with little justification. The practice can have serious consequences for those accused of spreading “disinformation” and the larger media environment.


What People Misunderstand About Red-Pilling

[Slate, via The Big Picture 5-25-2022]

I’ve been doing fieldwork in far-right online communities since 2016. I hang out on white supremacist Telegram channels, comb through QAnon threads on 8kun (formerly known as 8chan), and watch TikToks that claim COVID-19 is a globalist plot. Like most people who work with far-right content, I find it emotionally draining and unpleasant. But I’m also convinced that the mainstream acceptability of extremely racist and conspiratorial beliefs is a threat to American democracy.  


If You Think Free Speech Is Defined By Your Ability To Be An Asshole Without Consequence, You Don’t Understand Free Speech

[Tech Dirt, via The Big Picture 5-24-2022]

One of the more frustrating things about the various “debates” regarding “free speech” lately, is how little they are actually about free speech. Quite often, they are actually about people who are quite upset about having to face social consequences for their own free speech. But facing social consequences has always been part of free speech. Indeed, it’s part of the vaunted “marketplace of ideas.” If people think your ideas aren’t worth shit, they may ignore or shun you… or encourage others to do the same.

Over at The Bulwark, Prof. Nicholas Grossman has a really good article exploring Elon Musk’s attempt at reframing the debate over free speech. It is well worth reading. The crux of the argument that Grossman makes (in great detail that you should go read to have it all make sense) is that when you break down what Musk actually seems to be thinking about free speech, his definition hews quite similarly to what a lot of trolls think free speech means: the right to be a total asshole without consequence.


“Free Speech” Ought to Mean More than Mocking Trans People 

Nicholas Grossman [The Bulwark, via The Big Picture 5-24-2022]


Where the internet went wrong – and how we can reboot it 

[New Statesman, via The Big Picture 5-22-2022]

The online world is run by tech companies that we depend on but deeply distrust. New books by Justin EH Smith and Ben Tarnoff ask: is an alternative possible? 


Disrupting mainstream economics

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-26-2022]

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Oligarchs' war on the experiment of republican self-government

The Crypto Kings Are Making Big Political Donations. What Could Go Wrong? 

[New Republic, via Naked Capitalism 5-25-2022]

The list is long and spans the geographical and political spectrum: Bankman-Fried has donated to both Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey. Fred Ehrsam, the co-founder of the successful cryptocurrency investment firm Paradigm, has donated to Oregon Senator Ron Wyden’s campaign and Nevada Senator Jacky Rosen’s reelection campaign as well (both are Democrats). Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (of Facebook and The Social Network fame) have also poured thousands into Senate and congressional races. Somewhat paradoxically, they’ve donated both to Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s reelection campaign and the campaign of Arizona Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters, who is seeking the GOP nomination to face Senator Mark Kelly and is a Peter Thiel protégé. The Winklevoss brothers have also donated to Donald Trump’s Save America PAC.


Democrats’ political suicide

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-25-2022]

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The Liberal Obsession With ‘Disinformation’ Is Not Helping

[New York Magazine, via The Lever 5-22-2022]

“The other pernicious problem with liberals’ fixation on ‘disinformation’ is that it allows them to lie to themselves. Trump’s ascendance in 2016 posed a painful psychic challenge to liberal elites. It suggested the possibility that many millions of Americans were motivated by deep, venomous dissatisfactions with the world they had helped create, that our cultural disagreements were profound, not superficial, and that our perspectives were practically irreconcilable inversions of each other.”


Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

Republicans on the Wrong Side of Public Outrage

Robert Kuttner, May 25, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Here’s the bizarre thing about mass gun violence that takes the lives of schoolchildren and the likely reversal of Roe v. Wade: Public opinion is not with the right. It is overwhelmingly in favor of banning civilian purchase of assault weapons. It is overwhelmingly in favor of keeping Roe. And yet a party that espouses these and other extreme views is on the verge of taking over the country. If we let it.

What can prevent this grim fate is resolute leadership that stands with most Americans—and also hangs this lunacy around the necks of Republicans and makes them squirm. In his first statement on the mass murder, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott noted that the shooter was dead. You can imagine how much comfort that offers parents.

Other Republicans have offered reassurance by pointing out that the killer acted alone. No, he did not. He had multiple Republican accomplices who keep blocking gun control and valorizing guns with open-carry laws.


Heather Cox Richardson: U.S. Politics "A Tyranny of the Minority" | Amanpour and Company [YouTube], March 27, 2022

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Heather Cox Richardson, May 27, 2022 [Letters from an American] 

​​​​​​​...during the Cold War, American leaders came to treat democracy and capitalism as if they were interchangeable. So long as the United States embraced capitalism, by which they meant an economic system in which individuals, rather than the state, owned the means of production, liberal democracy would automatically follow.

That theory seemed justified by the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The crumbling of that communist system convinced democratic nations that they had won, they had defeated communism, their system of government would dominate the future… In the 1990s, America’s leaders believed that the spread of capitalism would turn the world democratic as it delivered to them global dominance, but they talked a lot less about democracy than they did about so-called free markets.

In fact, the apparent success of capitalism actually undercut democracy in the U.S. The end of the Cold War was a gift to those determined to destroy the popular liberal state that had regulated business, provided a basic social safety net, and invested in infrastructure since the New Deal. They turned their animosity from the Soviet Union to the majority at home, those they claimed were bringing communism to America. “​​For 40 years conservatives fought a two-front battle against statism, against the Soviet empire abroad and the American left at home,” right-wing operative Grover Norquist said in 1994. “Now the Soviet Union is gone and conservatives can redeploy. And this time, the other team doesn't have nuclear weapons.”


Heather Cox Richardson, May 26, 2022 [Letters from an American] 

Last night, Texas candidate for governor Beto O’Rourke confronted Texas governor Greg Abbott at a press conference. Last year, Abbott signed at least seven new laws to make it easier to obtain guns, and after the Uvalde murders, he said tougher gun laws are not “a real solution.” O’Rourke offered a different vision for defending our children than stocking up on guns. "The time to stop the next shooting is right now, and you are doing nothing," O'Rourke said, standing in front of a dais at which Abbott sat. "You said this is not predictable…. This is totally predictable…. This is on you, until you choose to do something different…. This will continue to happen. Somebody needs to stand up for the children of this state or they will continue to be killed, just like they were killed in Uvalde yesterday.”

Uvalde mayor Don McLaughlin shouted profanities at O'Rourke; Texas Republican lieutenant governorDan Patrick told the former congressman, "You're out of line and an embarrassment”; and Senator Ted Cruz told him, “Sit down.”


“GOP frustration builds with Freedom Caucus floor tactics”

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-25-2022]

“[Members of the House Freedom Caucus] have forced recorded votes on normally noncontroversial bills on the suspension calendar, forcing lawmakers to hang around the chamber for hours to get their votes in rather than conduct other business…. Some GOP lawmakers are getting frustrated with the hard-line tactics of the conservative House Freedom Caucus…. [Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.)] said that he told the Freedom Caucus members: ‘​​I’m just telling y’all, just giving you a heads up, you’re getting a lot of ill will around here. This stuff will come back to you. You just can’t do this to people and think that they’re not going to remember it.’…. Bills and resolutions considered under suspension of the rules have historically passed by voice vote, often with few members in the House chamber. They account for the majority of bills passed in modern Congresses. But Freedom Caucus members last year started demanding recorded votes for those bills, drastically changing the pace of floor action. Perry and Roy in a joint interview argued that most all bills deserve a recorded vote, that it gives more time for members to review the legislation and that leadership often sneaks through controversial bills as suspension bills. Members should not be considered as on record supporting a bill that passed by voice vote if they did not get a chance to vote on it, they say. ‘What ought to happen in this body, irrespective of what we’re doing at any particular moment, is we ought to have a consensus on a fair way to move bills through appropriately, where we start with the default position of voting, and you’re only moving something by voice or consent when there’s universal agreement that is unobjectionable,’ Roy said. Freedom Caucus members have also argued that the tactic helps slow down and delay Democrats’ agenda.”


The (Anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts

The Supreme Court just made it much easier to bribe a member of Congress 

[Vox, via The Big Picture 5-22-2022]

A case brought by Ted Cruz is a huge boon to rich candidates and moneyed lobbyists…. 

The Court’s decision in FEC v. Ted Cruz for Senate is a boon to wealthy candidates. It strikes down an anti-bribery law that limited the amount of money candidates could raise after an election in order to repay loans they made to their own campaign.

Federal law permits candidates to loan money to their campaigns. In 2001, however, Congress prohibited campaigns from repaying more than $250,000 of these loans using funds raised after the election. They can repay as much as they want from campaign donations received before the election (although a federal regulation required them to do so “within 20 days of the election”).


Threat Lurks to STB’s Independence 

Frank N. Wilner, [Railway Age]

Once upon a time, conservative jurists were the best friends to federal regulatory agencies such as the Surface Transportation Board (STB). When those agencies pushed the boundaries of their decision-making independence, federal courts considered them experts in their field and accordingly deferred to their interpretations of the statutes they administered….

To be tested is a 1984 Supreme Court decision, Chevron USA v. Natural Resources Defense Council, written by former Justice John Paul Stevens, then considered part of the Court’s liberal wing. The decision—creating what is known as the Chevron Doctrine—later was celebrated by one of the court’s more conservative justices, the late Antonin Scalia, and all seemed well for activist federal regulatory agencies.

That 1984 decision held that expert federal regulatory agencies such as the STB—not federal courts—should be the primary interpreters of statutes that Congress authorized those agencies to administer. Federal regulatory agencies, holds the Chevron Doctrine, should be afforded deference in their rulemakings even if they differ from what the court considers to be the best interpretation, except where the statutory language permits only one interpretation.…

Many conservative jurists previously supportive of Chevron Deference “now disavow” it, says Harvard Law Professor Cass R. Sunstein in a review of a new book by Columbia University Law Professor Thomas W. Merrill (The Chevron Doctrine: Its Rise and Fall, and the Future of the Administrative State)…. Conservatives nowadays, wrote Sunstein in the May 26 New York Review of Books, have adopted the view “that much of the modern administrative state is unconstitutional and that there is something seriously wrong with a situation in which major policy decisions are made by [federal regulatory] agencies instead of by Congress.”


The Dark Side

This Is the Southern Baptist Apocalypse 

[Christianity Today, via Naked Capitalism 5-23-2022]


The report on Southern Baptist abuses is a portrait of brutal misogyny 

[Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism 5-25-2022]




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