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Trump on his Transition

2016 November 21
by Ian Welsh

Folks on the left really should watch this. It doesn’t sound insane, even if I disagree with parts.  Note that I don’t disagree with parts, for example, killing the TPP trade deal.

And France Moves Hard Right

2016 November 21

Here we go again:

Fillon, who has said he will cut public sector jobs and rein in

Francois Fillon

Francois Fillon

government spending, won 44 percent of votes in Sunday’s first-round of voting for the center-right’s nomination. He faces a second-round vote against another former prime minister, Alain Juppe, who trailed him by 15 percentage points.

Polls had him in third place. He came in first. Maybe pollsters should stop polling till they figure out how they keep getting it wrong. Customers might wish to demand refunds.

Fillon thinks Thatcher is the best thing ever and wants to cut 500,000 government jobs.

A neoliberal’s neoliberal, in other words, who is also socially conservative.

Assuming he wins the nomination, he will likely wind up head-to-head against the neo-fascist LaPen.

Here’s how that works.

If Fillon wins, his policies will hurt the French so much that LaPen will likely win the next election.

If LaPen wins, well, LaPen wins.

The left is not a factor because Hollande has betrayed everything they stand for and alienated the left wing base completely.

Frankly, France should leave the Euro at the very least and quite possibly the EU. They are not winning from it any more.  Since only LaPen will say that, since the left continues to insist on irrelevance to real problems, LaPen is the future, whether Fillon wins this time or not.

This is the twilight of neoliberalism. As I have said for many years, what follows will be an age of war and revolution. This is where neoliberal policies inevitably led, and we are now on the leading edge of the new era.

There will be a chance to do the correct, kind things starting in 4 to 8 years when the weight of demographics favors young people enough. In the meantime, the old will simply have to age out of politics.

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Why Many People Love Trump

2016 November 20
by Ian Welsh
Donald Trump

Ok, you should read this entire article. I’m going to excerpt one piece but it’s all there, the trade, jobs, the rhetorical style, the anti-war message and so on.  You never heard this, most of you, and I haven’t been able to get through to a lot of people.

So read.

Or consider the particularly emotional exchange Trump had with a father from upstate New York. “I lost my son two years ago to a heroin overdose,” says the father from off camera.

“Well, you know they have a tremendous problem in New Hampshire with the heroin,” says Trump. “Unbelievable. It’s always the first question I get, and they have a problem all over. And it comes through the border. We’re going to build a wall. ”

Then, instead of moralizing anger, playing against type come compassion and respect: “In all fairness to your son, it’s a tough thing. Some very, very strong people have not been able to get off it. So we have to work with people to get off it.”

At this point it becomes clear that the bereaved father has started to cry. Trump shifts to tough-guy reassuring. “You just relax, OK? Yeah, it’s a tough deal. Come on. It’s a tough deal.” And, in a veiled reference to Trump’s own brother’s death from alcoholism, “I know what you went through.” Then, to the audience while pointing at the father: “He’s a great father, I can see it. And your son is proud of you. Your son is proud of you. It’s tough stuff, it’s tough stuff, and it could be stopped.”

Trump did not campaign the way you thought he did. Or, not entirely. You only got half the picture, which is why so many people can only screech “racism”.

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The Historical Context of Clinton’s Popular Vote Victory & How It Shows A Constitutional Crisis

2016 November 19
by Stirling Newberry
US Constitution by KJD

(This article is by Stirling Newberry)

The election was not stolen, but it was massaged. A majority of the voters in the United States wanted Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump, but that is not the way the election was decided. If we, the people, of the United States want a different system, then there are steps to get one. But first we have to look back at the election of 2016, and see the many different routes that allowed Donald Trump, who clearly did not win the majority of votes, to nevertheless claim the presidency. Again these are not suppositions, but facts that have two be dealt with, or in the future they will be used the same way another time to get a minority president. Remember that several times this has happened, and in some cases a good president has one out – for example Lincoln won with only 40% of the vote.

It is also not the case that Trump was the only factor, this is why it is a constitutional crisis – but one that the elites can ignore, because they have the wherewithal to weather the storms, whereas a large number of the populace does not. In Rome they called the elites “Patricians”, and the populace were called “ plebes”, and it may be useful to recognize that in American society we are not that far down the road from Rome, but that we are not equal. Or as Orwell once wrote “all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”

The Division of the People

In a democratic government, all votes should be equal, thus the first step towards making an undemocratic government is to divide the people, so that the vast majority of them do not really have an effective vote. The majority of people in the United States are like this – so much so, that it is part of the primer on presidential elections. A Democrat in Wyoming or a Republican in New York, might as well stay at home for all the good there presidential vote means – it will be counted, but it does not mean anything. Simply put, it is for all intents and purposes, a wasted vote.

But hat matters is that there are more wasted votes on one side than the other, and this again is part of the system – states, not people, decide election. In 1787, which was modified by the 12th amendment, but still had the same thrust, the states not the people were the ultimate arbiters of the presidency. This is remain true even though we would like to think that the people elect the president. And in most cases they do, but hardly all.

Five times a popular vote winner lost the presidency to another, the first time in 1824 was different, because no one attained a majority of the vote, but Jackson won a plurality of the electoral college, and was also the winner of the vote – but it was John Quincy Adams who took the presidency, because if no one had won the presidency through the popular vote, in the election was thrown into the house of representatives, which voted by state. The other four times however, 1876, 1888, 2000, and 2016 – it was much clearer. While the winner of the popular vote may not have commanded a majority, each of those times he commanded more than the winner of the electoral vote system.

In fact, in 1876, there was a case of the presidential vote being “ massaged”. On election day, the polls opened, and when they closed the Democrat, Samuel J. Tilden seemed to be elected president. But a single man looked at the results differently. That man is Daniel Sickles, and he is no more than a forgotten footnote. But at the time he was the one who, by sheer force of will at times, moved the 1876 election to a crisis point.

While the story is told in many particular ways, the upshot was that the election was not decided by constitutional means. The results of this constitutional crisis resulted in passing a law, which would decide the presidential election – it formed a 15 man committee, and that committee decided 8 to 7 in favor of the Republican, Rutherford Hayes, as the winner of all 20 disputed electoral votes. In reality, several of the states would not be “fair” as we would define it – several decisions were made by an elected official, who somehow manage to make a decision which was in accordance with their party. Eventually it was the end of the Reconstruction Period. This was a period where the southern confederate states were brought back into the union, and that was a Republican union.

So one could can see that in the past their were constitutional crisis points, this is not the first. But while these crisis points can happen, it requires a spark – both a running spark, and an ignition. Or to put it another way, there is an argument between the people deciding the Presidency, and the states deciding the presidency.

And 2016 is such a point.

The deep background

first of all, the election of 2016 does not occur in a vacuum, the election of 2000 also featured an indecisive result. The important thing to remember, however, is that if the result is thrown to the House of Representatives, the inevitable result is a Republican victory. This is because the result is not based on one representative equals one vote, but one state equals one vote. That is to say, Alaska has the same weight as California. Thus the pressure on the Democratic party must be that the election was decided by the popular vote, or George W Bush would win any contest in the House of Representatives.

But there was a hidden feature, the Republicans had rigged the vote by a variety of means, and they knew how it was done. But the Democrats did not have this information, so they had to guess which votes in Florida needed to be recounted, and they guessed wrong. The result was decided in the Supreme Court of the United States as Bush v Gore. While the people thought that the election was theirs to decide, in actuality it was between the Democratic presidential candidate and the Republican presidential candidate. The difference is that if the election was the People’s to decide, every length to correctly determine the winner would be gone through. But if it is a struggle between the two presidential candidates, this is not the case – instead there is an agreement, and that agreement will be rubber stamped by the Congress. The agreement, though never put in to words, was the Democrats would have one chance to contest the election in Florida, and no more than that.

Gore thought that counting the “undervotes” would be enough. But in fact there were three sets of problems with the ballots. The first was that Florida was run by Republicans, and officers of the Republican party would often go into a county election board, and would fill out Republican voters absentee ballots. In one case some 5000 of these were done. The problem with this from the Democratic party, is that these votes were all legitimate, and one could say that the Republican party was correcting the voting rolls. And this is true in so far as it goes, thus these votes were counted. The problem is that Democratic votes were not counted, and thus democratic voters had no such help in getting there absentee ballots counted.

The next problem was with “ under votes” these were votes which could not be decided by machine whether the individual casting the vote meant to have a selection made. Much of the time, he or she did not want to, but often it was the voting equipment being unable to decide. In Florida, the under votes needed to be counted by hand and there was an additional problem, that there were multiple kinds of voting equipment. So in one county of vote would be registered, and in the next county over one would not be recorded. The problem is “ how to you know?” and in many cases, it comes down to a point of diminishing returns. If a human vote counter cannot tell, then a vote should not be counted. When totaling up the human counted total, there is a slight difference from the machine counted total. But this, alone, would not give Gore the additional votes that he needed. So under the elite agreement, the winner was Bush.

The Final problem is with the “overvotes”, that is a person want to be sure that there vote was counted, and so not only did they punch the ticket for whichever candidate they selected, they also wrote it in. again, the machine throws the battle out, however the law says that the vote should be counted if the name in the writing section is the same as the punch section. And this is important because with over votes, and the under votes both counted, Gore would have won.

But the key factor is who is deciding who wins the election? And the subterranean decision was that the two parties would decide the election, not the people.

However, this is not the end of story. Because at the end of his presidency, Bush basically wrecked the economy, not as in a recession, but The Great Recession. The problem was that the elites thought that it was up to them to decide, and the decision was 50-50, one would be acceptable whichever one they chose. But that was not the case, Bush ruined the economy, and brought America in two to wars which, while it did not lose, it was a struggle to see it to its conclusion. In other words, the elites picked Bush, and the elites were wrong. There was a difference between the two candidates, and it resembled catastrophe theory in its result.

The Big Sort

There was however a deeper problem, Americans were sorting themselves in to Democrats and Republicans. This was documented by a book – “ The Big Sort” by Bill Bishop. In this book, Bill Bishop lays out the way which the two parties sorted themselves, and how the Republicans came out the better of the two. This means that any election could be the trigger, only an overwhelming Democratic surge keeps this in check. And in 2008 and 2012, this surge quieted the undercurrent of the big sort. The other problem is that before the sort, their were many more democratic counties which could be described as “landslide” and afterwards there were many times more Republican counties that could be described as landslide. This meant that the Democrats relied on a view large counties to offset the overwhelming majority of likely populated Republican counties.

This meant that in 2016, a problem emerged – a few razor thin Republican states, could overwhelm the popular preference for a Democratic candidate. Thus Hillary Clinton is winning by some 1.43 million votes.

But the big sort is not the only problem, because on the ground level, the Republicans have twisted the election system, so that many people who wanted to vote for Clinton, were purged from the rolls – and this made a difference in the rust belt states. Again, legally they had the power to do this, but ethically it is questionable for one side to skew the results – because not only did Trump win the states, t he won by a lot. Also remember, there is always one to be cheating at the local level – after all the results are going to be enormous – and people who count the votes are often intertwined with their candidate. Again, this happens in most elections, it is just that with the Presidency of the united states, the consequences are tremendous.

Some examples of this can be seen from the member of polls in 2012 vs. 2016 Came to 868 by a count in The Nation magazine. There were also purges of voters in key states, such as Michigan. Enough so that the result could quite probably have been different. While many commentators talk about GOTV – getting the vote out – at least as important is “KITV” – keep in the vote. This has been done in almost every election, it is just that at the presidency, the results are larger than in any other form. Is also true that the keep in the vote largely does not matter. But this time it did.

The other problem was with the Democratic party – almost all of the officeholders wanted Hillary to be there president. In hindsight, this was bad, because Hillary did not mobilize enough voters to score the “ down ballot” races. In Indiana and Wisconsin to “sure thing” Democratic candidates lost, because of the low turnout on the Democratic side. Sanders was clearly a better candidate, because the electorate wanted change, and Hillary was not a change candidate and Sanders clearly was. The problem with Sanders is that he was overwhelmingly not the favorite of the Democratic party establishment. So much so, that he was an outsider. This is a problem, because if had been a slight outsider, he might well have persuaded the Democratic party to nominate him on his merits. But just as Trump was not well liked in side the party, Hillary was overwhelmingly the insiders choice even though they knew that she was widely disliked among the electorate. It may not have been fair, but that is not the point. Changing the public’s perception of a candidate takes years, or you can go with someone lesser known.

The other problem however is the media almost no media outlet gave Trump their support, and much more importantly no media outlet forecast Trump as the winner even on the day of election. So this was not just a matter of the Republican stealing the election, it was the Republican, Democratic, and media spheres which were involved.

Remember the public was crying out for a different form of priorities, one which Obama and Hillary could not give them. Obama was not on the ballot, and thus Clinton could count on the African American vote in the same way they he had. This too is documented, Hillary did not turn out the African American vote the way Obama did.

But still in all, she won the popular ballot. The problem is there is more than one piece of the electoral puzzle – imagine that a candidate could score a small victory by counting on a few counties, such as New York, and leave the rest alone. In other words, imagine that the positions were reversed – a Democratic candidate who got just a few more votes in a few more cases, but the over whelming majority wanted a Republican. So it is not just the case that we have to juggle the system so that the popular will of people determines the vote.


A great deal of the media wants 2016 to be swept under the rug, primarily because they are mostly for-profit companies. In the mid-20th century, there was an agreement that news the treated as an obligation, not a center for profit but those days are over. There was also the case that the Democratic party was the People’s party and that time is over. Instead with a new generation of political thinkers, some who were there before Bill Clinton came in to office, the Democratic party became a means for enriching its members. Again,this is not unusual. LBJ enriched himself as Senator.

The problem is that enriching oneself came second in the mid-20th century, and it was reversed in the early 21st century – first one figured out how to enrich oneself, and then asked how many people did you need to do this. And unfortunately, Hillary Rodham Clinton miscalculated, and Donald Trump already had money, so he could massage the election to his advantage.

Under neoliberalism, getting rich became ther eason for winning, not the side benefit and this was one of the reasons for neo-liberalism. Instead of making a few industries open to trade, it became a mantra among the Democratic party economists to open everything. But the problem with this is that a great deal of the outside the US trade deals rely for their competition on lower wage scale. And in this time much lower wage scales.

So the massaging of 2016, rests on a large problem, namely the big sort, which the government should have realized was a significant problem. It then filtered through a corrupt Republican party, which spent years on stacking the deck, even though a single election might be out of reach. But it came to 2016 when the big sort filtered through the Republican party – and the Democratic party and the media were not aware of just how large their mistake was.

I wish I was telling the story of a great person who was brought down. But that is not where the facts line. Every person involved, even some of the greatest, had disadvantages which meant there ruin. The next time I will talk about what we have to do, and it is more complicated than most people realize and even though many media outlets understand the problem, they do not comprehend the solution.

If Trump wasn’t right that DC elites are fuckups Trump wouldn’t be President-elect

2016 November 18
by Ian Welsh

There are three themes emerging since Trump won the election.  The first is his embrace of people with rather unpleasant views. That’s being covered plenty by others, so let’s concentrate on the other two.

Loyalty and a disorganized transition.

Some folks are beginning to understand how much loyalty matters to Trump.  A lot of his early appointments and advisors are easy to understand in those terms.  Kushner, his son-in-law was always there for him. Bannon was there during the nastiest of it, the tape. He didn’t back down, he didn’t cavil. He doubled down on supporting Trump. Sessions was loyal all the way thru.  Flynn was loyal all the way thru, even when other retired generals suggested he shut it.

Ex-Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney once said “you dances with them that brought you.”  Trump is dancing with people who were loyal through the worst of it.

This is not unreasonable. He’s going to be under constant attack, and he needs people he can trust.  I may not like the politics of some of these people, but they did prove they could be trusted to handle the absolute worst and not abandon Trump.

The third theme is all sorts of wailing about Trump and Putin talked before Trump talked to State and Defense; or how he met with Japanese PM Abe without going thru State.


This sort of stuff shows clearly that the usual suspects don’t get it. Trump ran as an actual outsider, despite his wealth. He said “these people are fuckups. All the people who run the country are incompetent.”

So people wailing that the Pentagon thinks Trump cozying up to Russia is wrong are missing the point. Trump ran on “we should be friends with Russia”.  He ran on “people who think we should be enemies with Russia are wrong.”

I agree with him, as it happens, but that’s irrelevant. He ran against the foreign policy consensus on Russia and he won.

Trump doesn’t think that State or Defense or whoever have been giving the right advice or doing the right thing. He thinks they have group-think which is incorrect and he ran against them.

Trump is doing what he said he would do. He has a mandate for being buddies with Putin. You may not like it (I do), but who gives a damn. He ran on it.

He ran on cutting DC elites out of decision-making, because they’ve run the country into the ground (yes, yes they have.)

I make no claims that all of this mess isn’t partially incompetence.  The team clearly did not have a good transition plan read (or much of one at all.).

But hey, he fired the person who didn’t have a transition plan ready. That was Christie’s job, Christie did not do it. People are focusing on this as Kushner ousting Christie (because Christie prosecuted his father) and that’s part of it, but Kushner couldn’t stop Trump giving him the job in the first place: he could only get rid of Christie after Christie completely screwed the job up.

There’s a lot of stuff I don’t agree with Trump on, but whether you like it or not (and no, the popular vote count doesn’t change this) he’s actually running his transition in line with his campaign promises: in line with his mandate.

As for Kushner, better hope he keeps winning his intra-Trump battles, because he’s one of the only powerful figures in the administration who doesn’t want to, say, deport Muslims.

Until people wrap their heads around why so many people (in the right places) voted for Trump, they aren’t going to be able to predict him or fight him properly.

Trump had a critique of how the country is run. His critique was essentially correct (I don’t agree with many of his solutions). He won on that critique, and so far he is doing what someone in his position should do: he is acting in accordance with what he said he’d do on the campaign trail.

What people are whining about so far, are actual signs of integrity on Trump’s part. Integrity for a cause many disagree with, but integrity, nonetheless.

Like all candidates, even the best and most honest, Trump won’t fulfill all his promises. But he is acting in line with his meta-narrative “DC is broken, those people don’t know how to run the country.”

Whether he can run the country is another matter, but it’s clear that DC elites can’t, because they’ve fucked it up for 4 decades, culminating in Trump.

If Trump wasn’t right that DC elites are fuckups, Trump wouldn’t be President-elect.

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How Jefferson and Hamilton Designed the Republic for Labor

2016 November 17
by Tony Wikrent
US Constitution by KJD

(This article is by Tony Wikrent)

What is our system of government supposed to be? A republic. But a republic is so ill-defined that even John Adams famously wrote “the word republic, as it is used, may signify anything, everything, or nothing.”

According to historian Gordon Wood:

The sacrifice of individual interests to the greater good of the whole formed the essence of republicanism and comprehended for Americans the idealistic goal of their Revolution…. To eighteenth-century American and European radicals alike, living in a world of monarchies, it seemed only too obvious that the great deficiency of existing governments was precisely their sacrificing of the public good to the private greed of small ruling groups. [1]

Just as important: Are there principles and policies of political economy that are supposed to distinguish a republic from other forms of government, i.e., monarchies, oligarchies, plutocracies, dictatorships, etc.?

Since it became clear that President Obama was unwilling to directly confront the power of Wall Street, I have read deeply trying to answer these questions for myself.

Contrary to what many on the left believe, the US Constitution is NOT solely designed to protect the rich. Our system of government definitely has been twisted to that end, but I do not believe that was the intent of Hamilton, the founder most responsible for laying the foundation of the US economy. (And remember, Washington used Treasury Secretary Hamilton basically as a prime minister, and agreed with or acceded to literally all of Hamilton’s economic beliefs and policies. This was in no small part a function of their shared experience at the pinnacle of American military command during the Revolutionary War, when they both identified Britain’s major strategic advantage to be Britain’s ability to raise funds and float debt through its financial system.)

Culturally, the most important aspect of a republic is supposed to be equality, especially economic equality. This is of course contrary to the view that the government was set up solely to protect property and the accumulation thereof. It was not – at least, not by Hamilton.

Economic equality is basic to a republic because, the idea was, no person can be fully independent and be a good citizen if their livelihood depends to some extent or other on another person’s largess, benevolence, or tolerance. This was the basis of the fight between the Hamiltonians and the Jeffersonians. Jefferson believed that only farmers who owned their own land were independent enough to honestly exercise the duties of citizenship. Jefferson wanted to delay the advent of industrialization and subservient factory labor as long as possible. This is why Jefferson acceded to the Louisiana Purchase, which he would otherwise have opposed on the grounds that the federal government has no express power to acquire such territory. [2] With the Louisiana Purchase, yeoman squeezed out of the established eastern seaboard would be able to cross the mountains, and buy, steal, or somehow take the land of the Native Americans and set themselves up as independent farmers.

Hamilton, by contrast, understood that the economy could not be frozen in time and remain entirely agrarian. Industrialization HAD to not only proceed, but be encouraged [3], for the US to have any chance of resisting the intrigues and hostility of the European powers – which remained committed to eradicating the American experiment in self-government until the US Civil War. (France and Spain landed troops in Mexico and Caribbean at the beginning of the war; the Mexican republic was eliminated and Maximilian, younger brother of Austrian emperor Francis Joseph I, was installed as puppet emperor; and the British were preparing to land troops in Canada in 1862, but were deterred by the pro-US street fighting in London and elsewhere which was led by Garibaldi’s revolutionaries.)

Hamilton’s great insight was that economic development depended entirely on improving the productive powers of labor. This meant the development of science and technology, and the spread of machinery to replace muscle power. The correct view of Hamilton must be precise: It was not that Hamilton sought to encourage and protect wealth, but to encourage and protect the CREATION of wealth. (Read Section II, Subsection 2, “As to an extension of the use of Machinery…” in Hamilton’s December 1791 Report to Congress on the Subject of Manufactures, if you want something to read today.)

This is where Marxist analysis fails catastrophically. Yes, much of economic history is that of elites accumulating wealth through exploitation, fraud, and violence. BUT: How was that wealth, which is stolen, created in the first place? Thorstein Veblen, and his discussions of industrial organization versus business organization, are far more useful in understanding the COMPLETE economic story, not just the exploitation side of it. I believe that once you understand this, you can understand why Elon Musk is much more useful to society than Peter Thiel. Musk and Thiel are both rich: Should we therefore oppose and denigrate both because they are rich, and we dislike our system of government, which has been mutated and diminished in order to protect the rich? No. I admire Musk because he has used his PayPal lode to create new wealth (which takes the corporate forms of Tesla, SpaceX, and Solar City), while Thiel has used his PayPal lode to fund libertarian ideas which are fundamentally hostile to what America is supposed to be. In Veblen’s analysis, Musk is an industrialist, while Thiel is merely a businessman.

In the nineteenth century, it was generally understood that the system established by Hamilton was in opposition to the “classical economics” of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Thomas Malthus, and the other apologists for the death and destruction wrought on entire countries by the British East India Co. and the British empire. In the 1820s, Henry Clay coined the term “American system” to distinguish it from the British system. Michael Hudson has pointed out that, in addition to these two systems of political economy, a third was developed in the nineteenth century: Marxism. [4]

It is easy to be confused by American history, because at the same time that the American system was being built and practiced, the British system was competing with it for control of domestic economy and polity. To the extent that people today mistakenly believe that the American economy was founded on the ideas of Adam Smith — it most emphatically was not, as Hamilton explicitly rejected the ideas of Smith — the British system is winning. Michael Hudson has written at least two excellent overviews of this fight within the US between the American and British systems. [5] For now, the simplified version is that the British system was dominant in the slave South, and fought for free trade in opposition to the American system’s protective tariffs.

Because Hamilton’s American system sees economic strength flowing from increases in the productive power of labor, labor naturally has a favored place in the system. Or, at least, it is not ignored and even denigrated as it is in the British system, which likes to focus more on such things as monetary aggregates, and physical hoardings of “wealth” such as gold or land. What made the New Deal work (and it should be understood that the GI Bill was one of the most important legal enactments of the New Deal, along with financial regulation and Social Security) was that it allowed labor to achieve parity with, if not superiority over, capital, represented by the financial system.

The development of the Eurodollar market in the 1960s allowed US banks to begin sidestepping New Deal regulations. This was augmented, and eventually dominated, by increasing flows of hot money from illegal narcotics and organized crime. In 1976, the pound sterling crisis allowed US financial interests, acting through the International Monetary Fund, to impose economic austerity on Britain, terminating the Labor Party’s policy focus on full employment. In the US, this shift in policy priority from full employment was imposed by the new Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Paul Volcker, who  pushed “interest rates up to record highs in order to break inflation and undermine the wage militancy of American workers…. This restoration of class power, underpinning the neoliberal political project, relied upon high interest rates, recession and market liberalization.” [6]

The slow destruction of the Democratic Party since the Atari Democrats (see Matt Stoller’s recent article on “How Democrats Killed Their Populist Soul”) and then Bill Clinton, is because Democratic Party elites have come to accept the neo-liberal fantasy that finance is more important than labor.


[1] The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787, by Gordon S. Wood, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC, 1969, page 53.

In February 1866, when Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner delivered an epic speech urging the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, his direct observations on republicanism covered twelve pages (pages 176 to 188). Sumner’s is as good a summary of what a republic is supposed to be as any you are going to find. It consists of carefully selected quotes from many of the founding fathers. In the 1850s, Senator Sumner was such a persistent and powerful critic of Southern slave holders that in May 1856, South Carolina Congressman Preston Brooks nearly killed Sumner on the floor of the Senate by beating him over the head with a cane. Brooks continued to beat Sumner even after Sumner had lost consciousness. Other Senators were prevented from stopping the attack by Virginia Representative Henry A. Edmundson and South Carolina Representative Laurence Keitt, who brandished a pistol. Sumner required three years to recover before he could return to his Senate seat, and suffered chronic, debilitating pain for the rest of his life. Two weeks after the attack, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “I do not see how a barbarous community and a civilized community can constitute one state. I think we must get rid of slavery, or we must get rid of freedom.”

[2] Jefferson’s original instructions to his envoys to Paris contained no mention whatsoever of acquiring land for the United States, because their mission was to secure for Americans the right of free passage down the Mississippi River. It was the French who proposed the idea to sell the territory, motivated by the need to raise monies for their war with England.

[3] In one of the most remarkable passages in Hamilton’s December 1791 Report to Congress on the Subject of Manufactures, Section VII, Hamilton writes that “the apprehension of failing in new attempts” requires the government to take an active role in promoting and supporting the attempts of private entrepreneurs at “overcoming the obstacles inseparable from first experiments.”

[4] Michael Hudson on the American School of Political Economy

[5] Hudson, America’s Protectionist Takeoff 1815-1914: The Neglected American School of Political Economy, ISLET, 2010, which I quote extensively in HAWB 1791 – Alexander Hamilton rejected Adam Smith. Also by Hudson: Simon Patten on Public Infrastructure and Economic Rent Capture. Another very useful book is James L. Huston, Securing the Fruits of Labor: The American Concept of Wealth Distribution, 1765-1900, Louisiana State University Press, 1998.

[6] Jeremy Green, American Power and the Making of British Capitalism, 04 June, 2013. Green is referring to Sam Gindin and Leo Panitch,The Making of Global Capitalism: The Political Economy of American Empire, Verso, 2012.

Living in the Truth or Dying in Lies

2016 November 16
by Ian Welsh
Image by Admit One

One of the main reasons we are here, today, where we are, is that people confused their fears, their loyalties, their greed, and their partisan tribal identifications, for truth.

The world does not care if you didn’t (or don’t) believe in climate change. Carbon and methane have specific effects on the atmosphere, and your opinion that they don’t is as relevant as that of a flat earther’s about the rotation of the sun around the Earth–it has real world consequences, to be sure, but is simply wrong.


It is nice that you don’t think that racism and racists get stronger when times are bad, and that people who don’t see a pay raise in 40 years are likely to turn to nasty politics, and it is even important that you think so, since your sheer stupidity and blindness makes it harder to stop, but you are wrong. You are, in fact, part of the problem, because problems happen and we need to be able to fix them, and you and your type are making it harder to do anything by muddying the water.

The inability to separate partisanship from a clear understanding of the world is at the heart of why we are where we are today. Clear consequences of action and non-action are dismissed wholesale until it is too late to do anything about it.

Yeah, we’ve got sort of a consensus on climate change, but, it’s basically too late, and hey, even with a consensus we aren’t doing even close to enough. It is laughable to me that people are running around saying, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” because Trump was elected and he says he doesn’t believe in global warming. Obama “believes” in it and made it worse.

“Ooooh, he might pull out of the Paris accords.” You mean the accords that virtually no one is fulfilling their pledges to already?

Then there is this: “Trump promises to deport between two and three million immigrants!”

You mean, about the same amount as Obama did (2.4 million)?

Meanwhile, we have people screaming about Russia backing an international neo-fascist movement.

Oh? Well, they’ve supported some, yes. But who supported the neo-Nazis in the Ukraine until they got into power? Yes, that would be the US.

The fact is that elites are quite happy to do business with neo-Nazis. It is people like Corbyn they are scared of. Fascists get along great with corporations: The Nazis slashed wages, locked up union organizers, and gutted workers rights–even before they went to slavery (which the US already has, in its prisons).

The warnings on climate change and about the rise of the racist right go as far back as the 80s, in my memory. Why? Because the evidence was already there for people to see. By the late 80s, we could see that the inequality data was going in a radically bad direction, for example, and people were already saying, “This will lead to the rise of bad people, like fascists.”

This was not hard to predict. It was obvious. You did not need to be some sort of special genius, you just had to ask yourself “What happened last time?”

What you had to be “special” to do was to ignore it, to hand wave it away, to spend your life (and many, many lives were dedicated to the project) saying, “Oh, no, inequality is no big deal. They aren’t really poor, they have TVs!”

Every person who did that is culpable in what is coming down the line, just as everyone who cut a check for climate denials (usually to protect their own business, a.k.a. oil) is complicit in mass murder.

Social science is inexact, but there are some parts of social science that are pretty close to physics.

Let me give you two.

People who are treated badly become bad people. (As a group. Yes, you are a special flower and it didn’t happen to you, OR if you were one of them, you would be the exception. You’re special. I know.)

People are unhappy or happy with leadership based on whether they perceive things as getting better or getting worse. It is not based on absolute standards, it is based on what they expect the future to be like.

Right after the Versailles treaty, Keynes was able to predict the gross outlines of history right through to World War II. He said, “Well if you do this to the Germans, they aren’t going to put up with it forever, and it will enable the rise of really nasty people.”

You had to be a special sort of idiot, or a partisan fool, not to see it coming once someone like Keynes had explained it to you (and many others knew it as well).

If you will not live in something fairly close to reality, reality will clock you upside the head for it eventually. As individuals, we may dodge this, we often do, which is why individuals often live in denial.

As societies, no. The bill is always paid, and it is always paid in full. It’s just usually not paid by the people who wrote the checks based on other people’s bodies. Which is why, if you aren’t powerful (and you probably aren’t), you can’t afford to live in fantasy-land.

It is now too late to stop the rise of the nasty right. It was, in fact, too late in 2009 when Obama completely decided to continue the bail out of the rich. That was the last exit-ramp. But oh, people love Obama. He was the last person with the ability to stop this, and he made an affirmative choice to make sure it would happen.

And for many people, he’s a great man, a hero. Especially to people on the left, who, if the nasty right gets out of control, are the ones who are going to die and be tortured and raped and imprisoned.

This is what Americans have been voting for, and that includes Democrats, for over 40 years. This wasn’t just a few elites. No, as a group, Americans kept taking actions to make it happen. (Yes, you may be an exception, but among voters, you are an exception.)

And so what has happened, has happened. Americans let those in the rustbelt rot. They have rebelled, and you now have Trump. Democrats voted for Clinton (yes, the DNC had its thumbs on the scale, but all evidence I’ve seen is that registered Dems really did prefer Clinton to the man who was against Iraq).

Clinton lost (she would have been terrible too).

And here you are. And meanwhile, climate change is roaring down the pike, and while Trump may be worse, no, Clinton wouldn’t have done enough to stop it. No reason to bother, her donors don’t want real regulation, and heck, she’ll be dead, and her daughter can live somewhere it won’t effect her much.

Consequences are paid. Your opinion that they aren’t paid is irrelevant, and if you don’t have power, the check is being written on your body and those of the people you claim to care about.

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If Trump Is a Nazi

2016 November 15
by Ian Welsh
Flag of the German Reich

Okay, Trump has appointed Bannon his chief strategist. Bannon is a straight up white supremacist. This is bad.

I am hearing screams of Nazi and fascism. I am hearing a lot of such screams.

Let’s cut to the chase. If Trump is a Nazi he will do very bad things. Let’s get specific.

Will he be as bad as a fairly standard nasty dictator: Pinochet?

  • Train dogs to rape women? Rape as a policy (more than it already is in the US, which, umm, it is.)
  • Mass graves?
  • Death squads striking at night either with government sanction or with government looking aside (this is, actually, the first thing to look for. If you start seeing it, GET OUT. GET OUT NOW.) But it happens in plenty of governments which aren’t Nazi or fascist.

Will he be worse?

  • Actual concentration camps (remember, Obama already locks up illegals in camps for long periods without meaningful trial.)

I’ve heard people say things like “false flag attacks,” but those happen under non-fascist regimes.

If you think Trump is a Nazi, I sincerely encourage you to set up markers of Nazi (or fascist)-dom, so you can track the success of your prediction.

And I sincerely suggest you make one of them the red line where you flee the goddamn country. As a friend of mine wrote the other day, his grandmother, when she fled Hitler in the 30s, was mocked by her relatives. Every single one of them died under Hitler.

I don’t think Trump is Hitler, though he’s got some damn unpleasant people in his administration.

But if he is, you’d better know when you’re going to cut and run, or, alternatively, pick up a gun.

I note, also, that if he isn’t, all the people screaming are doing everyone a great disservice, because when the real thing comes, having been falsely warned before, they won’t believe it.

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Taking Care of Yourself in the Time of Trump

2016 November 14
by Ian Welsh

I’m seeing a lot of people scared, angry or full of despair over Trump’s election, even now, five days later. If that’s you, please watch this (it’s about 12 minutes).

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The Imperial Trump Court

2016 November 14
by Ian Welsh
Donald Trump

Trump is going to rule as emperor, not president.

By this I do not mean that he’s going to overthrow democracy and become president for life, I regard that as very unlikely.

What I mean is that Trump isn’t interested in a lot of running the Presidency. Even when he has definite ideas, he generally isn’t interested in the details.

So personnel will matter even more than they do in normal administrations. Who has Trump’s ear, and when, will matter a great deal.  Trump is very persuadable. Issues may well go back and forth for quite a while till someone gets Trump to make a firm decision.

There will be fiefs.  Given that Pence was given the transition, pushing aside Christie, he appears to be on the fast track to be the most important person after Trump, and in day-to-day operations probably more important. He may well be even more powerful than Cheney was in the Bush administration.

Trump has multiple factions in his government. Thiel is a libertarian and dubious about women, but he’s not a racist.  Bannon is a racist. Pence’s main concern is crushing women into the dirt, and Trump will allow some of that, but his wife and daughter have a lot of influence on him and they’ll try to mitigate that.  Remember that Trump has praised Planned Parenthood in the past.

There are issues Trump has made his own, and there are issues that he cares a lot less about.  The wall will get built, even if parts of it are a fence.  At least one trade deal will get rewritten (Canada has already said they’re willing to reopen NAFTA). Immigrants will be expelled. (If you’re worried about the 2 to 3 million, you should be. Just remember, Obama expelled 2.4 million. He just did it relatively quietly.)  ISIS will be bombed to smithereens. Nice will be made with Russia to some extent.

But beyond that, much is in the air, and much will depend on WHO gets his ear. Even within settled policy, details matter, and Trump is not going to handle the details (Bill Clinton was infamous for actually being on top of details. Hillary would have been the same way, it’s not a given the President hand-waves them.)  So who is given the job of executing policy will matter a great deal.

This is going to be a courtier’s administration. It is going to be an administration of fiefs and fierce internal infighting, both below the Emperor’s notice and for his notice.  Who wins those fights will matter, a lot.

So far, outside his family, we have Pence managing the transition (woman hating, job #1). We have Bannon as his chief strategist (white supremacy and ministry of propaganda job #1 & #2) and we have Priebus as his chief of staff (career Republican apparatchnik.)

Keep an eye on the people, and the appointments, BUT don’t count out the family.  What they think, and by all accounts Ivanka is the toughest of the children, will matter a lot too. Melania might have outsize influence, for all we know: Nancy Reagan wound up more important than Reagan himself when Reagan’s Alzheimer’s took its toll, and was vastly influential even before that.

Trump will make the big announcements. He’ll insist on cutting the deals (at least the final cut) with other leaders. He’ll have a few things he wants done, but beyond that, it’ll be those around him who matter.

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