The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Month: January 2021 Page 1 of 4

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – January 31, 2021

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – January 31, 2021
by Tony Wikrent

The Impeachment and Trial of a Former President (PDF)

Congressional Research Service, via Naked Capitalism 1-27-21]

Here’s the full list of Biden’s executive actions so far

[NBC, via Naked Capitalism 1-27-21]

Strategic Political Economy

This is How You Recover From Fascism — and America’s Not Doing Any of It

Umair Haque, January 26, 2021 [Medium, via The Big Picture 1-29-21]

….Fascism always has economic roots. Always. American pundits still don’t want to discuss that, because then they’d have to admit they were wrong about the economy for decades — and they’ll never do that, because then they’ll look like the fools they are.

Think about Germany. How did “it” happens here? Because the Weimar Republic fell into poverty. The average German, expecting a stable and secure life of relative prosperity, instead experiences sudden, sharp, downward mobility. Old racial hatred suddenly resurfaces. The Jews were blamed for the travails of the average good German — they have always been the enemy within. Who else was responsible for all this poverty and despair and ruin — except the hated minorities who had always been poisoning us from the inside?

That’s exactly the story of modern day America, too. The American middle class finally began to implode around 2010, after have a century of stagnating wages, while costs like healthcare and education and food and housing exploded year after year. The average American — the white one — expected the life he or she was promised: a suburban dream of easy, thoughtless prosperity. Instead, what they got was blighted cities, an opioid epidemic, half of all Americans trapped in “low wage service jobs,” trips to the doctor that cost as much as a house. They experienced just what Weimar Germans — sudden, sharp downward mobility. They might have tried to hide it by buying McMansions on credit, but the economic facts tell the true story: the average American by 2015 or so lived in a new underclass, couldn’t raise a tiny amount to pay for an emergency, lived pay check to paycheck, and died in massive debt.

Open Thread

Use the comments to discuss topics unrelated to recent posts.

What Is Important About The Reddit Gamestop Short-Squeeze

So, some Redditors found that Gamestop was being massively shorted. They bought up the stock, forcing the hedge funds involved to buy those stocks at huge prices to cover their shorts. This is known as a short squeeze, and market players do it all the time. What is different here is that a bunch of unwashed hoi polloi are getting in on the action.

The main hedge fund appears to have been driven to bankruptcy, or it would be if it wasn’t going to get bailed out.

And that’s what matters: not what the Redditors have done, which is 100% legal and done all the time, but the institutional response: to bail out rich people who got caught with their pants down.

The markets exist, at this point, for one reason and one reason only: to give money to rich people. It is an insider game, and if you’re on the inside you essentially can’t lose. The exceptions are very rare, the class of insiders is protected at all costs, as it was in 2008 to the tune of 20 trillion or so in the US alone (ignore the Treasury and things like TARP, the real action happens at the Fed.) Other central banks also flooded the system with money, so the end result was probably over a 100 trillion.

Since then central banks have regularly bought up assets simply by printing money. Insiders play various games, but the key is that if they win they get to keep the money; and if they lose, government steps in to make them whole. Since the game is rigged for them to make money in the first place, it’s hard to lose money, but like a gamer who knows that death isn’t real, and they can just restart, they push everything to the max.

The entire game needs to be shut down and re-booted with Glass-Steagall era controls at the very least. Hedge Funds need to be made essentially illegal, private equity needs to go away, and these people need to eat the losses when it is shut down.

But in the meantime, as you watch this show, notice the institutional reaction: “OH MY GOD, ordinary people are making money and real people are losing money and we must do everything possible to stop this!”

It’s a big club, and you aren’t in it. (Well, one reader wrote me recently to say they in it, but I assume the rest of you aren’t.) While you struggle for rent and food and put up with an abusive boss at a shitty job so you can survive, these guys enjoy their super-yachts and if anything goes wrong, know that regulators and government will jump all over themselves to save their asses.

Hope you’re enjoying that $600 check, as Biden reduces the $2,000 check to $1,400 and says he’s OK with means testing it.

Update: and so it goes.

Update 2: Same hour that apps close purchases to retail investors, AMC (another target), issues 44 million shares: Hedge funds can buy ’em, but short squeeze retail investors cannot. Sickening.

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The Free, Diverse Internet In America Is Coming To An End

Matt Taibbi’s been covering who is being censored, and his latest is worth a read.

But basically the internet now runs thru a number of major content aggregators: Google, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, etc… (many of these are owned by the same few firms.) Most people go to the major sites and find their media there, and those who don’t use Google as their search engine.

These platforms are private and thus, as we are told over and over again by fools, are not subject to the first amendment, which they seem to think means “it’s not censorship.” But when almost all of the media consumption on the internet goes thru sites owned by five or so large companies, the commons are owned private firms, and all that has happened is that private firms are doing the censoring.

These content aggregators are aggressively banning outlets, and there is effectively no appeal. The content producer Taibbi talks to had live-streams of events taken down because “guns”, but YouTube left up streams from large media outlets of the same content. They took down his stream of the Jan 6th protests beccause it included a bit of Trump lying about election fraud, but left up clips from large media outlets with that speech.

This all really took off after 2016, with RussiaGate hysteria and concerns over Cambridge Analytica’s program of targeted propaganda. It is now about to enter a new phase, and sweep internet aggregators of a vast number of independent voices.

Both the right and center are to blame for this. The right has been putting out straight up lies, in large quantities. Q-Anon was a funded operation, no one with sense will pretend otherwise. Lies are flooded into the discourse, and have led to real, and nasty effects, like the January 6th capitol attack, which as I pointed out at the time, was the right thing to do IF the election had really been stolen. (It hadn’t.)

The center wants only the discourse they approve of in the media. It’s not primarily about lies: after all, they aren’t pushing for the people who lie all the time in the mainstream press to be de-platformed; no one is screaming for the heads of those who spread the ridiculous Russian bounties on American soldiers story.

So the internet of free ideas and diverse ideas is about to take it in the neck. Some stuff that seems diverse will remain; a lot of identity politics, for example, because elites really really believe that women and minorities and gays and trans people should also be in boardrooms and oppress everyone else. It is important that representatives of every group bomb foreigners and so on. You can see this in the constant stories about people weeping in corporate meetings about how their company is about to publish someone nasty.

A lot of this won’t effect me much. When Google changed its algos after 2016 I lost a lot of traffic (aim right, hit left), but I don’t get much from any social media outlet. I’m glad that I never really engaged, except on twitter, which I don’t spend time on for traffic.

But the internet of truly diverse voices we dreamed of and, to some extent, created in the late 90s and early 2000s is dying; being strangled before our eyes. And it’s going to get worse.

The internet was a nice idea. Now it’s just a few large firms controlling most of the meaningful traffic. Some good remains: the vast information available without going to a library; email, and so on. But diverse politics and controversial ideas?

That time approaches dusk.

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Will Bill Gates And mRNA Vaccine Monopolies Be Responsible For Millions of Covid Deaths?

Good question.

Oxford University surprised and pleased advocates of overhauling the vaccine business in April by promising to donate the rights to its promising coronavirus vaccine to any drugmaker…

…A few weeks later, Oxford—urged on by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—reversed course. It signed an exclusive vaccine deal with AstraZeneca that gave the pharmaceutical giant sole rights and no guarantee of low prices

Seems pretty straight forward.

Then there’s a second issue. The mRNA vaccines, which so far seem to be the most effective, are supply capped: they can’t manufacture them fast enough. Unrelated to Gates (so far as I know) the manufacturers of those vaccines, like Moderna, are refusing to share the manufacturing process and other information. Vastly more doses could be produced and many lives saved, but IP is sacred, not your grandmother’s life.

Moderna’s entire costs for the vaccine were covered by government, yet the manufacturing process is kept secret, and people die.

It would be simple enough to just pay Moderna and Pfizer their expected profits plus some, and break the patents: this is something governments can do. It was suggested and vetoed.

So, if someone you know dies because of no vaccine, remember that government and Bill Gates wanted that, because the holy grail of restricting information so that the rich could profit off it was more important than people living or dying.

This is always who Gates has been, by the way. He’s white-washed his reputation over the last few decades, but he’s always been a monopolist who is willing to have other suffer and his foundation is mostly about his own interests. The Gates Foundation interference in education was a vast disaster, as well.

All the content here is free, but subscriptions and donations do help, a lot.

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – January 24, 2021

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – January 24, 2021
by Tony Wikrent

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

The Biden Recovery Plan and the Disarray of Economic Theory: The pandemic had one good effect. It sidelined a lot of bad economic thinking.

Robert Kuttner, January 19, 2021 [The American Prospect]

….Among the many bad policy ideas of recent Democratic regimes, both as economic theory and as political strategy, was the conceit that public spending needed to be “paid for.” In other words, new taxes were required to finance all new spending once the Great Recession was over….

On the question of what changed in the economy to create long-term low inflation, and by extension low interest rates, most economists offer two basic answers. The first is that the economy had never fully recovered from the Great Recession when the pandemic depression hit.

The second explanation is the demolition of labor bargaining power and the rise of globalization. And of course the two are connected….

At some point, also, it would be smart to finance some of the public spending with tax reform, for the sake of greater income equality. Simply repealing the Trump tax cuts would provide about $2 trillion that would make the economy less unequal and provide funds for public investments—which would make it still more equal.

Economist Robert Pollin of UMass Amherst, a sometime adviser to Bernie Sanders, proposes that we raise some $300 billion a year from a financial-transactions tax, which could support urgently needed public outlays such as green investment.

With the Treasury paying just 1.837 percent to borrow money for 30 years, it also would make sense for the government to borrow a lot more money with longer maturities. That way, we could lock in very low interest rates….

A related question is whether the government can just keep borrowing as much as it needs, without interest rates rising. In the past century, we’ve had three tests of that proposition. During World War II, the Fed and the Treasury made a deal… In the wake of the financial collapse of 2008, the Fed again bought bonds to the tune of several trillions of dollars… The current borrowing to deal with the COVID depression is occurring in similar circumstances. Simon Johnson, the MIT economist who was formerly chief economist of the IMF, says, “The lack of a recovery is the problem, not the debt.”​​​​​​​

Here’s An Idea: Put People To Work & Print Money To Pay Them

[Heisenberger Report , via Naked Capitalism 1-22-21]

The nation’s infrastructure is in disrepair (to put it generously), food banks need staffing, vaccine rollout needs scaling up, testing needs to be expanded, and the health care system needs all the help it can get right now.

The point (in case it’s somehow unclear) is simply the following. There’s no shortage of critical jobs that need doing. There are millions upon millions of jobless Americans. And the US issues the world’s reserve currency.

You don’t need to be a quant to work out this equation. The federal government should just put people to work doing the jobs that desperately need to get done. You don’t have to worry about how to pay them, because you print money.

Hilariously (or not, depending on what you find funny) there are legions of economists and pundits out there who will tell you that isn’t feasible.

And what is their job? What do they do to contribute to society? Do they build bridges when the bridges aren’t sturdy anymore? Do they staff food banks when millions of families are lined up for miles because they’re starving? Do they go and help the government test and trace in an effort to bring an end to the worst public health crisis since the Spanish Flu?

In most cases, the answer is obviously “no.” Instead, they spend their days explaining to everyone else why something like, say, a federal jobs guarantee isn’t a viable proposition.

Why $15 minimum wage is pretty safe

[Noahpinion, via The Big Picture 1-20-21]

When David Card and Alan Krueger came out with a landmark study in 1994 showing that a big minimum wage hike didn’t cause unemployment (as most economists predicted), Card was actively shunned by many of his colleagues, who were deeply invested in the theory that minimum wage kills jobs

Highlights from Janet Yellen’s Confirmation Hearing for Treasury Secretary
Pam Martens and Russ Martens, January 21, 2021 [Wall Street on Parade]

Strategic Political Economy

Taiwan Invited To US Inauguration For First Time Since 1979

[Agence France Presse, via Naked Capitalism 1-21-21]

Open Thread

Feel free to use to discuss topics unrelated to recent posts.

The Logic Of Bootlickers Is The Logic Of Too Many Americans

This is sweet and lovely in the purity of its boot-licking authoritarianism:

The account then goes on to insult those who do not worship at the Biden altar.

The authoritarian personality is simple: it slurps up; kicks down. You know the type. You’ve seen them wherever you’ve worked, and you loathe them.

What is true is that Biden, Harris and Pelosi people are good at politics. They are good at seeking and getting political office.

But this is a category error; a profoundly stupid and harmful one.

First, this says nothing about their intelligence. Trump became President, is he smarter than you? (Or, if you’re dumb, smarter than many philosophers, scientists and so on who never earn any political office?)

What about George Bush Jr. smarter than you?

These people are good at getting political office, that doesn’t mean they are good at anything else. Pelosi is good at raising money and intra-caucus politics, but the House Democrats haven’t had a great electoral record while lead by her. She also passed almost all of Trump’s bills, including terrible ones like massive tax cuts and so on. She has renewed the Patriot Act multiple times. She refused to reign in George Bush when she got a majority in 2006.

She may be a good politician, but so what?

Harris did terribly in the primaries. She attacked Joe Biden as a segregationist (he was) and earned the VP slot, as best I can tell, by a campaign of backstabbing all the other possible candidates. She helped keep people known to be innocent in prison when a prosecutor.

Biden, in addition to being a segregationist, was one of the main Democratic boosters of the Iraq war. He was a driving force behind the bankruptcy bill which made it impossible to to discharge student debt. The Patriot Act was based on a bill he tried to pass in the 90s. He threatened Cuba with devastation if they dared give Snowden asylum. He’s apparently a great boss and a loving family man, but he’s filth. He’s also a known plagiarist.

Being able to get political power implies nothing more than an ability to get political power. Becoming rich implies nothing more than an ability to become rich.

Being good at A does not mean you are good at B to Z.

It certainly doesn’t mean your getting political power or money is good for anyone else. In most cases, the rise of most billionaires has been bad for other people. They have made money because they found a way to impoverish other people. Of course, there are exceptions, but they are exceptions.

Grow some self-respect and a spine. Your leaders are only better than you in one sense: they are better predators than you are.

“Oh, I so admire the wolf,” simpered the sheep.

In fact, much of why you aren’t them is because you have morals. You aren’t willing to lock up people who know are innocent, like Kamala. You aren’t willing to destroy a foreign country and kill a million people like Biden. You wouldn’t go along with Trump’s massive tax cuts like Pelosi.

You have some ethics; some morality. You wouldn’t run a huge scheme to defraud millions of people and/or steal their homes like almost everyone senior on Wall Street. There are limits on the evil you are willing to do for money or power, and that means, in America, you can’t have either.

Whenever someone who has ethics gets anywhere near power, (Corbyn or Sanders) everything possible is done to destroy them. The media lied over 75% about Corbyn. Every single candidate dropped out in a period of a day to deny Sanders the Democratic nomination; an effort coordinated by Obama (who may well be smarter than you, and whose evil was carefully concealed behind his smiling sociopathy.)

The elites have spent the last 50 or so years driving 97% of Americans into the dirt, and rewarding themselves with billions. They are predators, and nothing else. You are the sheep, and the cops and military are the sheepdogs: still animals, and discarded the moment they aren’t useful. (Check those military veteran homeless stats.)

Biden, Harris and Pelosi (who cares about Carville?) aren’t smarter than you, odds are, and unless you’re Stalin reborn, they’re worse people than you in every way except their ability to get and hold power and use it against the American people and foreigners.

Hopefully they’ll be less evil rulers than Trump (though note, he didn’t start any new wars), but that’s not a bar.

Have some self respect. Your system elects not the best of you, but the worst.

Thinking the worst are the best: that’s the problem. They’ve indoctrinated you like farm animals “they feed us, and I’m sure the beating are because they love us, and I’m sure when they loaded Thelma and Fred and George on the truck last week and they never came back, well they were taking them to a better place.”

Except you don’t even get that good a deal, since they’re happy to see you starve and don’t try and heal you when you’re sick.

Grow up.

These people feed on you, and that’s all you are to them.

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