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

Are Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Harbingers of the Turning of the Tide

Ilhan Omar

The two most media-savvy new House members from the last election were undoubtedly Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC). AOC has single-handedly made the Green New Deal a topic of discussion, and Omar has broken the Washington consensus that one can’t say bad things about Israel without being destroyed by the Israeli lobby as an anti-semite.

Along the way, they’ve also shifted–or started shifting–the Overton window on topics like Reagan being a racist (AOC) and on Obama being a mass murderer (Omar).

They’re a bit less radical than they seem: Omar, for example, is for the two-state solution in Palestine, but compared to what was allowed to be said previously, what was allowed to be supported previously, they are radical.

Meanwhile, the Democratic presidential field has as its norm support for Medicare for All, breaking up the big tech monopolies, and so on.

What it’s possible to talk about and espouse has changed.

On the other side of the ledger, the simple fact is that most of the new Democratic house members who were elected in 2018 are “moderates” and they have also received, overall, better committee assignments than the left-wingers.

Nancy Pelosi, who’s in charge of House Democrats, openly mocked the idea of the Green New Deal.

The Democratic Party establishment is still run by moderates; and those moderates still respect the right and despise the left.

Nor have Omar and AOCs’ voting records been as radical as their rhetoric.

So, are they, and the Presidential candidates, the harbingers of the turning of the tide?

Yes. But not that it will definitely be as left-wing as we might like. There is a demographic turn that is certain. Pelosi and other baby boomers are old. This is the end for them. They have another four to eight years at most, and then most of them will be replaced. The Millenials (who are no longer young) are coming of political age. Unlike GenX, which was not numerous enough to replace the Boomers wholesale, they will be the new majority in politics.

How radical they will be remains to be seen. The trends are optimistic, but Millenials have an authoritarian streak as well as a radical one. Certainly we can expect them to take climate change, for example, more seriously: They will have to live with the results, while the Boomers always knew they’d be dead before it really mattered.

We will know by the end of 2024 approximately how this is going to play out. That’s when the demographic edge will simply require that Millenials take over.

That’s not long from now. To put into perspective, it’s only three house elections away.

If the future is to be better, we will, in the old and tired blogosphere saw, need better democrats than the ones we are electing now. AOC and Omar are outliers, even among their own generation, within Congress.

I’m actually somewhat optimistic. I think that as the Overton window turns, and given just how much pain both the young and the old are in America (with soaring suicide rates, drug addiction, and declining life spans among key constituencies) that there’s a good chance of positive change.

There remains a strong chance of negative change as well. In 2010, I stated that the next President after Obama would be a right-wing populist or authoritarian. It was obvious, because Obama was fucking up and had decided to favor the rich and screw the middle class and poor.

When people are in pain they will choose the disruptive alternative. In 2016, that disruptive alternative was Trump (if Sanders had been the Presidential candidate for the Democrats, I agree with the polling that says he would have won, as he was also disruptive and, unlike Trump, not clearly a cruel lunatic).

So we have cycles: The Democrats get their chance. The Republicans get their chance.

When one of them actually succeeds and makes enough Americans clearly better off in ways that Americans can feel, they’ll lock down politics for the next 30 years or so, in the same way that FDR did and that Reagan and Thatcher did.

If they fail, they will simply pass the ball to the other party.

So far Democrats have been satisfied–more than satisfied–with just passing the ball back and forth. They liked Republicans, basically agreed with neoliberalism and wealth concentration (why not, Democratic leaders personally benefited), and didn’t want to upset the status quo.

AOC, and in particular Omar, are not okay with the status quo. Neither are most of the serious Democratic candidates for President.

If these candidates actually go on to govern in ways change the status quo in a way that is win for a clear voting majority of Americans (and non-voters can become voters), then they will succeed at turning the tide. If they don’t, they won’t.

What individuals do often does matter. It goes against the grain of our society with its “wisdom of crowds” consensus to admit this. A few individuals, chosen by large numbers of people, will likely decide if the US has a turn for another Golden (or more likely, Silver) Age, or not.

Choose wisely.

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Week-end Wrap, March 10, 2019


The Question Isn’t Manafort’s Short Sentences


  1. Hugh

    Ocasio-Cortez and Omar simply show how out of touch with and contemptuous of ordinary Americans the Establishment in general and the Democratic leadership in particular is. As Ian points out, what AOC and Omar aren’t all that radical but the Establishment certainly treat them as if they are. Importantly, they have started conversations and not shut up when the Establishment tried to squash them.

    And the Establishment is far from giving up. Pelosi has effectively pre-empted any progressive action by adopting Pay-go. You have to understand that progressive measures would be fought and sabotaged by McConnell in the Senate, but the reconciliation process would at least provide a pathway for some initiatives. But Pelosi conveniently took that off the table. And just today she effectively took impeachment off the table as well.

    So we have this dichotomy of the Old Guard Democrats like Pelosi opposed to change, to standing for anything, fighting for anything, essentially just going through the motions and the New Guard represented by AOC and Omar who are at least trying to begin to talk change.

    The kicker in all this is that we do not have the time to wait for the Old Guard to die off and generational change to take place.

  2. Hugh

    Democratic moderates are what used to be called conservatives a few years ago.

  3. bruce wilder

    I am glad you mentioned the authoritarian streak.

    The number of House freshmen with ties to the military, security or intelligence services is notable and a bit frightening.

    Polling indicates that the ridiculous Russia,Russia,Russia narrative has convinced two-thirds of the population that Russia is the enemy.

    The decline of newspapers and blogs is a political disease that has eroded the capacity of the body politic to think critically at a time when the legitimacy of elites is eroding rapidly.

  4. different clue

    The wise will choose wisely, and the duhm will choose duhmly. And the Pelosi-Schumer Clintobamacrats will conspire their hardest to make the “Decent Three” ( Sanders/ Gabbard/ Warren) all lose the nomination.

    If Warren gets nominated, the Clintonites will tolerate it. If Gabbard gets nominated, the Clintonites will sit in sullen sulkitude. If Sanders gets nominated, the Clintonites will conspire with the Republicans to get Sanders defeated and Trump re-elected, so that the Clintonites can brag about how right they were that Sanders could “never win”.

    Let them do so. Let the Clintonites re-elect Trump in order to spite Sanders. Let them do it out in the open before the gaze of a watching world.

  5. Evie Vincent

    When one of them actually succeeds and makes enough Americans clearly better off in ways that Americans can feel, they’ll lock down politics for the next 30 years or so, in the same way … that Reagan and Thatcher did.

    Are you smoking crack?

  6. Ian Welsh

    I guess an article on what Reagan and Thacher did is needed. They made a majority voting coalition better off for about 28 years or so.

    They didn’t make everyone better off.

    The inability to understand the genuine victories of one’s enemies is nearly disabling.

  7. Stirling S Newberry

    1. Trump is not getting removed. 2/3 senate just does not happen. It is broken by design.
    2. DC and PR as states is a different matter. Simply say “State or country” in PR’s case.
    3. The “Israel is Jewish” is cracking. Both sides of the pond. The problem was the most anti-Israelites were anti-Jewish, but that is long past.
    4. We are going to need a bit of authoritarian in Climate Change, just in small amounts.

  8. Hugh

    Trump isn’t getting removed in the next two years, but then the Democratic agenda isn’t going anywhere either in those two years. Pelosi didn’t have to say anything or just that Democrats would fulfill their Constitutional responsibilities as events demanded. Instead she pre-emptively capitulated. Not exactly the message of strength and resolve the Democrats should be sending to the country. Rather it is more along the lines of when the going gets tough, OK, long before the going gets tough, we’re out of here.

    On top of this, Pelosi lied when she defended her decision by referencing a push to impeach Bush which never went anywhere. It didn’t go anywhere because there was no such push. It never happened.

  9. In many ways, AOC reminds me of Trump, as she can also be very low information, easily attracts media attention, and goes against the grain.

    I haven’t looked carefully at this, but I’m under the impression that phony and/or dubious legal challenges are being thrown at AOC. Again, like was done to Trump, with the phony Russia, Russia, Russia stuff.

    So, like Trump, AOC has powerful enemies.

    Meanwhile, Omar has displeased the Israel-Firsters, and will probably be dealt with like what they did to Cynthia McKinney. (However, my uneducated guess is that the demographics that would allow the election of an Omar, in the first place, will protect her at the ballot box.)

    Trump hasn’t turned out to be nearly the disruptor that was suggested by his campaign utterances. Nevertheless, even being merely verbally disruptive makes things more interesting, and AOC similarly makes things more interesting. I can’t support the abuse of power that has taken place, against Trump, and may be being marshaled against AOC, but surely one benefit of their disruption is waking up the public to how corrupt things are.

    Trump sycophant Sean Hannity lied through his teeth, trying to demonize (from his perspective) the Democratic establishment as anti-Semitic, because AOC is “the boss” (of the DNC!), Omar was not strongly condemned by Pelosi, yadda, yadda.

    He will fail with a general audience, just as the Democrats (mostly) failed with the Russia, Russia, Russia hysteria.

  10. Tom

    An interesting presentation of how our dietary policy is so screwed up and the bad science behind it and the politics of it.

  11. Ché Pasa

    Democratic moderates are what used to be called conservatives a few years ago.

    Hugh is correct. The Democratic Party is the US conservative party and has been for decades. The Rs are the radicals (radical right). There is no Left — yet — in US national politics, and there hasn’t been for many, many years.

    The sense of political moderation is largely a crock. It’s about baby-splitting and waffling behind a curtain of “messaging.” But that could just as easily be called a definition of pragmatic conservatism. A conservatism that resists change in any direction from a political basis frozen in time and belief — but will change incrementally when pressured from the right. The Democratic Old Guard personifies that attitude and behavior. In our system, it’s very easy to do that. It’s not so easy — nay, it’s nigh impossible — to go the other way.

    AOC appears to be the designated bomb thrower from the Democrats. Not only is she not silenced, she is encouraged to keep talking and tweeting as much as she wants. The media loves her! At least at this point, Nancy knows that nothing she says matters, because none of what she wants will get done, at least not in the Old Guard’s lifetime, so what’s to worry, right?

    The Muslim women are told in no uncertain terms to sit down and shut up, though. Omar’s talk was inconvenient at best; suggesting that Israel has such power and control over US politicians and policy is not done. What she said may not be antisemitic in any objective way, but it was enough to trigger antisemites, and that’s not tolerable. Talib used bad language to refer to the president. That’s not tolerable. Etc.

    Democrats in the House seem largely focused on atmospherics, since realistically, they can’t get much of substance done. Actually, they could but they won’t. They are the party of the status quo, and they’re not about to seriously disrupt anything at this point, though they may make it look like they are. They’ll bide their time, still keeping that powder dry, for so long as they need to. Which could be forever.

    The active party, the Rs, will — for the time being — remain the political leaders, and Trump will stay in the White House ranting like a crazy uncle, and all will be well, right?

    The Russia Thing is a distraction from what’s really going on, yes, but it only seems to captivate a media segment and a certain furious element of the internet commentariat. Most Americans really couldn’t care less. It’s not a Thing with them.

    This is a very decadent stage of US politics, and where it heads from this point is a mystery. More authoritarianism is almost certain (built in, you know), but to what object, apart from further service to the rich (and Israel?) is unknown. Wherever we’re headed, we would be no matter which party is driving the national jalopy.

  12. Vpc

    The corporate media seem rather to have been rather friendly to AOC right from the start though. Their coverage of Venezuela suggests they\’ve changed little since the Iraq WMD ****show in 2002-2003, so that seems a bit strange. Her position on the Omar fracas was noticeably more mealy-mouthed than Sanders\’ was.

    The media coverage of Omar OTOH was closer to what I would have normally expected.

  13. someofparts

    “They made a majority voting coalition better off for about 28 years or so.”

    So what was the demographic breakdown on that? I’m figuring it would have been the wealthy and the near-wealthy among the middle to upper ranges of the middle class, plus the whole basket of cultural reactionaries. Am I missing anything?

  14. Ian Welsh

    Massive increase in housing prices: faster than inflation for decades. Massive increase in stock prices (still ongoing) due to Fed action and tax laws.

    There is a portion of the middle class that did very well.

    Remember, a lot of people don’t vote. You don’t need 51% of the adult population. You need 51% of the voters.

    In very general terms, hourly wage earners got reamed. Anyone who owned a house or had enough money to own a decent chunk of stocks (or had an old fashioned good pension) did very very well.

    The first half of the boomer cohort won big time, so did the Silents and the remaining GIs.

    Reagan DELIVERED for his people. Also let them escape from those nasty people with melanin, into the suburbs. (And that racism was a big part of it.)

  15. bruce wilder

    In addition to making some classes of people materially better off, Reagan’s policies also gave a sense of agency to a large class of people.

    There was an element of illusion and another of racism and a third of religious chauvinism in the very effective symbolic politics of Reagan, but it was a politics that a large part of the Left was and is simply unwilling to counter.

    Ian says, “The inability to understand the genuine victories of one’s enemies is nearly disabling.” And, that applies double to aspects of human psychology and sociology that your own ideology requires that you deny or mock.

    Individual agency and scope for personal or family ambition are vital aspects of life. Republicans were really good at “God and Guns”, which often required nothing more than amplifying the contempt of privileged liberals of the credentialed classes who peopled the Democratic establishment. But, there was an economic interest there, too, as Reagan Republicans managed to find ways to extend the ability of people to pursue their “dreams” in the suburbs and ex-urbs, driving to better schools, compensating for stagnating wages with two-earner households and big box stores and imports from China.

    Left neoliberals conveniently emerged to legitimate de-regulation fading into pervasive economic predation and widespread industrial dis-investment.

    It is genuinely frightening to me how many soi disant leftists want to talk MMT and a basic income, but have to complain of “inequality” not predation. Usury laws? And, do not even get me started on the politics of perpetual war or a Navy that cannot steer straight.

  16. Z

    AOC and Ilhan Omar are brave and taking a lot of guff for their positions, but they believe in the morality of their positions and so does the majority of the people in this country. They’re leading and they feel a sense of urgency, primarily due to climate change.

    I’ve felt for a while now that if there was to be a soft revolution in the U.S., it would be driven by women. Part of the reason for it is that they have had less power so they have been less corrupted by the power structures in the U.S. And women are more unifying than men, for the most part. If you want to divide the police, the first line of defense for our rulers, tell them to forcibly put down a protest of women. Many won’t do it. Tell them to do it to a group of men and almost all of them will do it gladly without a moments thought as to what they are actually suppressing. Just doing their job.

    Say what you will, and there are certainly horrible women (some of them in the old guard of the democratic party), but they haven’t been given anywhere near the power in the U.S. that their numbers warrant and it has hurt this country not to have their perspective having a greater influence. Women have to think of things differently than men. They can’t use physical force to get their way so they are forced into more integrative thinking. Our ruling ethos in this country is to not think of anyone but yourself, otherwise you’re weak.

    The rise of women taking the moral leadership of this country is another reason why it was better that Hillary Clinton lost, this movement would have been suffocated with platitudes as “women finally get their chance to run the country” when it would have still be driven by the interests of our current ruling class.


  17. ponderer

    If you want to divide the police, the first line of defense for our rulers, tell them to forcibly put down a protest of women. Many won’t do it.

    Optimism isn’t a viable tactic when it comes to violence. The ones that won’t will be replaced by ones who will. Americans who won’t kill Americans is rare enough that we are still surprised by it.

    In addition to making some classes of people materially better off, Reagan’s policies also gave a sense of agency to a large class of people.

    The timing was pretty good as well. A large part of his success was that we wouldn’t know the outcome for decades. For me at least Regan was the epitome of identity politics e.g. “sense of agency”. His father was a story teller and his older brother became an advertising exec, that should tell you something. It’s no wonder Obama likes him so much, he was a master of looking like one thing, and rapaciously doing the opposite.

  18. Hugh

    I have no problem with viewing Putin as a bad actor and a thug or that Russia has been meddling in US elections. That doesn’t mean I don’t think the Russia, Russia, Russia meme as strange and overblown, especially when you consider that any criticism of Israel is immediately branded as anti-semitic. But Israel has interfered far more in US elections than Russia. AIPAC is an agent of a foreign government. Israel is touted as our closest ally in the Middle East and receives huge amounts of aid from us, but it isn’t an ally. It has undermined and subverted US interests in the region for the last 50 years. It is described both as the strongest military power in the ME and being imminently driven into the sea. Neither is true. Israel has nukes but can project its conventional military power only against its immediate neighbors and then only out to about one hundred miles in a sustained fashion. It can conduct the occasional one-off raid further afield, but when it comes to countries like Iraq and Iran it needs to push the US into conflicts with them because short of nukes, it doesn’t remotely have the capacity to conduct operations against such large countries not on its borders. Israel defenders also praise it as the one true democracy in the Middle East. But it isn’t. It is an apartheid state. If you are one, you can not be the other.

    So if the Democrats and our Establishment want to be critical of Russia, like I said I have no problem with that, but I do have problems with their rank hypocrisy with regard to Israel.

    And while I have no use for Putin, I think it is important that we look at countries like Russia not just in terms of what we see as their current interests but their histories. This applies to all countries really, but I would say at the moment especially to Russia, China, and I would add Mexico. US policy or the lack thereof is profoundly ahistoric. It is like these countries arrived on the world stage fifteen minutes ago and that their leaders are much like any pol from Nebraska or businessman from New York just with a different accent. This is deeply counterproductive and stupid.

    What Bruce Wilder calls predation, I call kleptocracy. But I agree with him. Inequality is like when our elites talk about opportunity and insurance and not results and healthcare. It is subterfuge for looking like they are addressing an issue when in fact they are avoiding it.

    As for MMT, save us. Me, Ian, others have written on multiple occasions what it does and doesn’t do, what it gets wrong, what it misses, its continuation of neoclassical theory and neoliberal policy (especially with regard to taxing the rich and corporations and the purposes of its job guarantee), and its fundamental theoretical structural flaws. None of this prevents its cult-like status at sites like Naked Capitalism or being invoked for its magical fix-it-all properties much like markets and the invisible hand are in neoclassical and libertarian economics.

  19. nihil obstet

    As I keep saying like a scratched record, we live in a propaganda state. The breaking through the platitudes of the status quo is a very good thing. And then there’s the screaming obviousness of how out of touch the legislative leaders are. Nancy Pelosi and Dianne Feinstein do not have the understanding or charm to overcome their clueless address to others. So far, they’ve taken bigger hits than the male prima donnas almost certainly because of sexism, but Chuck Schumer and Steny Hoyer don’t inspire confidence.

    Crucial neoliberal promises are passing their sell-by date. It’s one thing to hear “The hardworking and smart will prosper if government quits taking all your money and giving it to the undeserving and just gets out of the way of the employers who will give you a good life” when you’re about to start your career or in its early stages. After all, you’re hardworking, smart, and deserving so you’ll win. It’s another thing to face retirement at the end of the career and realize that hard work and smarts aren’t going to meet your bills. However fast housing prices have increased in the past thirty years, the costs of medical care have gone up faster. Your children are struggling with various kinds of debt, and will have trouble helping you.

    All of a sudden, the concept of “personal responsibility” which used to flatter you now insults you.

    While those of us on the left would like to see more ideas about restructuring the economy, right now the Democrats are focusing on the ideas that address the explosion of costs over the last 40 years — medicare for all, college tuition, and, since the perception of electoral fraud is now widespread and seen to frustrate what people want, electoral reform.

    If we can get candidates for all offices that don’t spend time condemning voters, we have a chance at decent government. Otherwise, the strong man on the white horse.

  20. Z

    The U.S. stock market is a financial rape machine, heavily rigged by the powerful to multiply their wealth and power, and, as a consequence, take from the people in the other classes.

    Three or fours ago Goldman (Government) Sachs made their quarterly earnings announcement and stunningly, IMO, admitted that they made money in the market every single day that quarter! Didn’t lose in the market on one single day in 60 some trading days? What kind of market is that? What sort of competing forces are there if a major player like that didn’t even lose 1% of the time? Well, it’s a market that they have the collusive leverage to push up, the fuel for that leverage often coming from the Fed.

    But now they don’t even need the Fed’s money as much because the Wall Street titans were also part of that collusion to “save the economy” in 2008-2009 by saving the markets. Those ties are still there, not that they weren’t too tight even before, but those collusive forces are so tight now that they don’t require as much liquidity to move the markets around because they are all using it together to push the markets in the same direction and much of the “trading”, probably almost all of it, is done through computer programs and algorithms. It’s basically programmed to rise at this point.

    Another reason that they don’t need the Fed as much and can still goose the markets when the Fed is raising interest rates … a “sign of a healthy economy” … is that they’re getting mondo-liquidity from the corporate CEOs who are raping their company’s treasure chest so that they can dump their personal stock into an inflated stock price.

    Of course there are some conflicting forces in it, and there are some minor adjustments that have to be made from time to time to this machine, usually just an additional injection of liquidity, but our rulers know what direction it is going to go: in theirs. They own the Fed.

    There are victims in this game of steep disparity when the wealth of the 1% goes up so much via the etch-a-sketch U.S. Stock Markets while the rest of us toil in jobs that don’t have rapidly increasing pay. And their riches aren’t simply made while ours stay the same. These riches are being fueled by forces that are very much in opposition to the working class’s economic, physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. It’s essentially a brutal and inhumane taking from the working class, a violent, cruel, and humiliating taking ultimately. So, in that respect, it’s a raping machine that they have programmed and can basically feed it liquidity and keep it running against our interests.

    And it is our lives, sometimes in parts, sometimes whole, that are the waste debris of that machine because Wall Street rewards companies immediately with a higher stock price whenever they announce labor cutbacks or off-shoring. It doesn’t even require proof of the efficacy of these maneuvers. And that is indeed part of the overall market algorithm: labor cuts mean a higher stock price. And of course, the CEOs run their whole operations based upon the short-term worth of their personal stock options.


  21. Herman

    I don’t think that the Millennials will save us. People said similar things about the Baby Boomers who also thought that they would save the world and that everything was the fault of bad old people. “Don’t trust anyone over 30” and all that. We have seen how that worked out.

    Ultimately climate change and our obsession with consumerism and endless growth and technological progress will probably destroy us since I see no evidence that people are willing to grapple with those issues in a serious way. For example, from what I have read AOC and her Green New Deal make no demands that Americans make sacrifices to save the environment. The assumption is that we can save the environment and keep our high-consumption, materialistic lifestyle. Good luck with that.

    When consumerism and materialism end up conflicting with the environment Americans, including young Americans, will probably choose consumerism and materialism. It will take a massive disaster to change our attitudes about consumerism and materialism.

    In the meantime, I think the best we can hope for is America moving closer to some kind of social democratic model of economy which would be an improvement over neoliberalism but this really won’t do much to save the environment, stop climate change or prevent human life from being swallowed up by the technosphere.

  22. different clue


    “It will take a massive disaster to change our attitudes about consumerism and materialism.” A new Greatest Ever Depression might be such a disaster. Or a fast-rising tide of F6 and F7 tornadoes and C6 and C7 hurricanes combined with randomly occuring hyper-megadroughts “here” and ” Harvey Rain-load” flood events “there” with now and then some melon-sized hailstones. Ooooo . . . weather porn!

    Still, wallowing in a bottomless pond of objects was not innate and inherent to our past. Ori0n Magazine once ran an article on how the Lords of Bussiness headed off the danger of “more leisure time” which early industrialization and mechanization offered the promise of . . . and diverted that desire onto the sterile siding of “more Things, please!” Here is the link . . .

    Some few of the Hippies ( the “real” ones) tried to “deconsumptionize” the culture. It was hard to do in the midst of abundance. It could be easier to do in the midst of rising shortages and interruptions. Dmitri Orlov might have some guidance to offer here.

    As to making demands that Americans sacrifice . . . Americans will want to see the Upper Classes and the Overclass sacrifice first. If the rest of us are satisfied with the reality of visible Sac! ri fice on their part, then we too will Sac! ri fice.

    How might part of the non-rich majority be encouraged to reduce consumption of material and energy resources in the meantime? If we can be shown a way guaranteed to inflict greater pain on the Upper Classes than what we accept upon ourselves, I think some of can be motivated to reduce usage of matter and energy. Picture 50 million pairs of Strong Blue Hands all wrapped around the throat of Big Koch and Coal, squeezing the revenue-stream windpipe flat, cutting off revenue-oxygen from reaching the Brain of Koch and the Brains of all the Coal, Gas and Oil spin mills. Is it not a beautiful vision? Is there a way in which accepting pain onto ourselves can be guaranteed to inflict a vastly greater pain upon the enemy?

  23. someofparts

    “As for MMT, save us. Me, Ian, others have written on multiple occasions what it does and doesn’t do, what it gets wrong, what it misses, its continuation of neoclassical theory and neoliberal policy (especially with regard to taxing the rich and corporations and the purposes of its job guarantee), and its fundamental theoretical structural flaws.”

    I’d like to look at that. Does anyone have links?

  24. Tom

    Well this is just embarrassing. All the talk about Omar being in Pakistan, turns out he was just 2 miles from a major US Military Base who despite two searches, never found him in his safe house. Not once did he go to Pakistan during 2001-2013 period.

  25. Anon

    The Boomers being dead before climate change really matters is the single most rational and on point thing I have read today. It is the truth. They don\’t care and they never did. They\’re generational attitude has always been, I got mine, fuck you. And to the Boomers, as they are about to step through the door into the abyss, all I can think to say is, No, fuck you.

  26. churchdog42 weighed in on OCA and the Green New Deal. Not very flattering.

    However, he was short of details on exactly what was in it, especially what corporate friendly manipulations that the corporate input he spoke about would have injected.

    That made me curious as to what, exactly, is in it. It turns out that it’s all of 6 pages! If I understand correctly, it’s basically a resolution expressing some related ideas. There’s probably no cost/benefit analysis; and furthermore, it almost can’t be a serious piece of legislation.

    This is only 1 step above Trump’s “repeal and replace Obamacare with something better”, in terms of specifics.

    One reason I had assumed that the “Green New Deal” was more than a wishlist is because of the mega-multi-trillion dollar price tag attached to it. It turns out that, at least in it’s most extreme form, this claim originated in a right wing think tank. “Another breathlessly repeated criticism of the deal is that it will cost $93 trillion, an eye-popping estimate fabricated from a conservative think tank report, Politico reported. ”

    Lots of BS on both sides…..

    Even if OCA turns out to be a complete fraud, as churchdog42 claims, the Justice Democrats, which supported her, should not automatically be assumed to be a “veal pen” organization, to use Jane Hamsher’s terminology.

  27. different clue


    Naked Capitalism is an endless feast of posts and comments about Magical Monetary Thinking.
    It is an overflowing toilet of Magical Monetary Thinking. Hugh was put on Permanent Pre-Censorship Status over there for noting the Cargo Cult Nature of the True Believers in Magical Monetary Thinking.

    “Federal taxes do Not! not! NOT! fund Federal spending.” Well . . . what do they do, the? Well . . . they remove excesses of Federally issued-and-spent currency back out of the economy to keep the currency from inflating from too much issued currency. So they create and maintain the “headroom” necessary for the FedGov to create and spend money without rendering the money worthless through wild excess.

    So . . . okay. Federal taxes don’t “fund” Federal spending. Federal taxes merely “maintain” the non-excess-currency inflation-prevention conditions which keep Federal spending possible.
    To me that is a distinction without a difference.

  28. someofparts

    I asked for links because there is a discussion of MMT underway at Angry Bear. Since Ian and Hugh are both writers whose thinking I value, I wanted to hear their contributions to the discussion.

    Also, in response to Z upstream – I was at a major demonstration at the Presidio decades ago which was staged entirely by women. There were no clashes with the police because we were organized and civil. The only disruptions were random men here and there who showed up and started giving orders because – you know- the only other people around were women. We made those guys leave, so they never had a chance to cause problems.

  29. Z


    I find it odd that some random guys that were not part of your group that was demonstrating would go around barking orders simply because it was a group of women. I don’t believe that most men would do that. Perhaps they were trying to discredit your cause?

    What was the demonstration about? Did you believe that anything was accomplished by it? It was several decades ago so the efficacy of your demonstration should be clear by now.


  30. bruce wilder

    On MMT: The first thing to realize about most discussion of economics as a theory of policy is: most of what is said will be rubbish.

    Neoclassical, textbook economics barely has a theory of money and its related theory of macroeconomics is not much better. And, mostly neither theory nor evidence matters in economics. What matters is seriousness of moral tone while waving one’s hands.

    There is a kind of deadly centrism built on telling people “the hard truths” about how “we” as a country cannot afford nice things and, for example, “your children will end up paying for our deficit spending and running up debt now”.

    Lots of people think about economics not at all and just go instead with what they feel about morally freighted terms like “debt”. Prosperity is virtue for such people and achievable thru sacrifice and discipline and “sound money”.

    Up against that, MMT is genius.

    I do not if explaining to ordinary people how exactly money works will ever pay off in better policy. Of course, it would be necessary to understand a bit about it, and I have doubts about Mosler and Bill Mitchell, who seem to enjoy pointless provocation.

    But, it is true that money is an instrument, not a good, and very useful as an instrument in which role it enables scorekeeping and deal-making and some hedging against uncertainty.

    Knowing when a shortage (or surfeit) of instrumental money was causing distress or waste would be an object of public inquiry of vital importance to policymakers and the politically aware, in a better, less propaganda -drenched world than ours. But, most people prefer magical thinking or stylized jargon to carefully evaluating the context or circumstances.

  31. someofparts

    Z – I don’t know what the demonstration accomplished. It happened over forty years ago. In the intervening years, the country has become so right-wing that any widely successful organizing against war has become impossible.

  32. Hugh

    someofparts, I don’t have links. I looked up some of my old copies of things. I wrote a lot about MMT in 2012-2013 and some again in 2016. I really lost interest in it some time ago, but if you have any particular points you would like me to address, I can do that.

  33. Hugh

    I should say that money for me is a medium by which we as a society create, direct, and manage our resources. When we use government to do this, it does so in 4 ways: taxing, spending, legislation, and regulation.

    MMT is wrong when it says that taxing is necessary for the state to enforce the use and value of money. It is the will of the people that underlie its use and value. Additionally, in the US, constitutionally, there is the guarantee of Section 4 of the 14th Amendment: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law . . . shall not be questioned.”

    It is one of many contradictions in MMT that at the same time that it asserts that taxing gives money its value, it says that we should not go after the rich to pay taxes (it’s too hard) and corporations should be allowed to keep their profits (because they earned them). These positions as absurd as they are came from Randy Wray. I remember them well because it is why I was shown the door at Naked Capitalism. But they illustrate that many who embrace MMT don’t really understand what it is or stands for.

    The Jobs Guarantee is another example. In MMT, its purpose is to create a “buffer stock of labor,” a place to park excess workers during downturns until they were needed again by the private sector. There is much to dislike in this. It is a commodification of people. The intent was always to keep workers uncomfortable enough that they would always prefer to go back to the private sector and no real thought was given to the kind of work to be done. Under pressure from people like me, MMTers started talking about offering a living wage. I don’t think they ever accepted the condition that these jobs involve meaningful work. But it should. However, the more the jobs of the Jobs Guarantee become people centered the less they fulfill the buffer stock purpose of MMT, because most people would prefer the stability of a good public job than face the vagaries of the markets.

    This in turn raises several points. MMT believes in the magic of markets, that they provide the best possible outcomes available, as much as any mainstream neoclassical economist. MMT says money creation can continue without inflation until full employment. But if the Jobs Guarantee provides permanent full employment, what does this say about money creation and inflation? Another thing is MMT ignores what happens to the money it creates after it is created. And what happens to it is that it gets sucked upwards by the rich to the rich, increasing inequality. Even in the absence of inflation, this is not a harmless process. What it does is create bubbles and besides having the capacity to blow up large parts of the economy when they burst, even before, they have major distortive effects on the economy (stock price before what makes business sense or good for our society). MMT takes mostly a Minskyan view on bubbles: can’t see them coming (laughably false) and can only try to mitigate their effects, as with a so-so Jobs Guarantee.

    And of course, the central tenet of MMT is fiat money. The problem in the US is that it does not really have a fiat currency. It could have one, it even has had one on occasion, as during the Civil War with its greenbacks, but it hasn’t had one for more than a century, 1913 to be exact with the creation of the Federal Reserve. Article I, Section 8, Paragraph 5 of the Constitution gives the Congress the right to “coin money.” The Treasury Department continues to coin money, but this accounts for only a few percent of money creation each year. The rest is done through the Fed, and more specifically the regional Feds which are essentially private banking cartels. The result is that the US government functions as if it were on a gold standard, needing to finance its deficits because it has ceded most of its money creation power to the Fed. (I don’t know if you came across or knew a blogger named beowulf (Carlos Mucha), a self-described conservative, who introduced the concept of the platinum coin as a work around to this.)

    Finally, banks. MMT likes to say that banks don’t need reserves to make loans, and that by making loans they create money is true but uninteresting. You do the same thing when you use your credit card. That’s because we live in a credit economy.

    Anyway, these are a few quick points on MMT. Hope this helps.

  34. nihil obstet

    Thanks, Hugh. This is clear and persuasive.

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