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

Author: Tony Wikrent Page 1 of 36

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 09 2024

by Tony Wikrent

 

Strategic Political Economy

骑 虎 难 下

Average Old Democrat, June 02, 2024 [DailyKos]

…What happens to the Republican Party?  Where do they go and who will lead them?

The Chinese have an adage —     – “When you ride the tiger, it is impossible to dismount.”

For the past several decades, the GOP has mounted up on a lot of tigers, none of which will be happy when, post-Trump, the Republican Party tries to dismount and return to being the Republicans I grew up with – responsible, reasonable, fiscally cautious, internationalist, willing to compromise . .

… with Reagan’s August 1980 speech in Philadelphia, Mississippi, and the GOP mounted the Southern white supremacist tiger.

Then there’s the NRA tiger, which the GOP is only to happy to ride.

The list of tigers they must get down from is long — the anti-abortion tiger that now is the anti-contraception tiger; the “great replacement theory” tiger; the reduce and kill Social Security and Medicare tiger; the “teachers are grooming your children” tiger; elections are rigged tiger . . . I could go on and on but you get the picture.

How 1978 Shifted Power In America And Laid The Groundwork For Our Current Political Moment

Joshua Green, January 12, 2024 [Talking Points Memo]

…There is a backstory that illuminates the Democratic Party’s embrace of finance in the years leading up to the [2008] crash — a story that begins in 1978. At the time, Democrats were still reliable partisans of the New Deal, but the steady economic progress of the American middle class was coming to a turbulent end. Jimmy Carter was president. He was struggling, without much success, to manage an economy buffeted by inflation, oil shocks and recessions — problems for which his party had no answers. A conservative countermovement of business groups and Republican politicians was beginning to gather force. One of history’s critical inflection points arrived that fall, when Wall Street made its first deep incursion into the Democratic Party in a way that would have lasting significance, although it passed mostly unnoticed at the time.

The great irony of this early conquest is that it began with Carter’s ambitious attempt to change the tax code to favor workers at the direct expense of Wall Street investors. Instead, Carter and his fellow reformers suffered a defeat so thorough that the financial lobby not only got to preserve its favorable tax treatment, but was able, with Democratic help, to rewrite the rules of the economy in a way that gave Wall Street an enduring structural advantage at the expense of the middle class — the opposite of what Carter had set out to do….

Soon after Carter launched his presidential bid, [Charls] Walker took over a sleepy financial industry trade group called the American Council on Capital Gains and Estate Taxation and rebranded it as the more exalted-sounding “American Council on Capital Formation,” a euphemism for the aggressive accumulation of wealth. Walker began pushing the idea that the economy’s productivity crisis could be solved if the government changed the way it induced business investment. Since the New Deal, the preferred method had been the investment tax credit, which rewarded companies for building factories. This generally satisfied labor interests, since factories produce jobs. The major business lobbies like the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers liked the investment tax credit because many of their members were large industrial corporations. Carter’s plan to eliminate the capital gains preference didn’t threaten them.

But it terrified Wall Street. Walker’s project was to pull off a feat of legislative legerdemain by persuading lawmakers that the solution to U.S. economic malaise lay in shifting the government’s focus to encouraging capital formation — a move that would, its backers insisted, revitalize the supply side of the economy by spurring investment, unleashing entrepreneurial energies and turbocharging productivity. In practical terms, this meant preserving the biggest giveaway to investors in the tax code: the capital gains preference….

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 02 2024

by Tony Wikrent

 

Strategic Political Economy

Can Democracy and Billionaires Coexist?

Sam Pizzigati, May 30, 2024 [inequality.org]

…Back in that same 1976, the always helpful World Inequality Database reminds us, the 40 percent of Americans in the nation’s statistical middle held just over a third of America’s wealth, 33.7 percent. The top 1 percent’s considerably smaller share that year: 22.6 percent. Today’s story? Our richest 1 percent hold just about 35 percent of our nation’s wealth, our middle 40 percent less than 28 percent.

The wealthiest of our wealthy, a just-released report from Americans for Tax Fairness points out, are doing their best to keep these good times — for America’s rich — rolling.

“Just 50 billionaire families,” the new ATF report details, “have already injected more than $600 million collectively into the crucial 2024 elections, with that number sure to show accelerating growth in the final six months of the campaign.”….

What can we do to significantly limit how deeply political candidates can feed at the billionaire trough? The Billionaire Family Business — the new Americans for Tax Fairness report — advances two core recommendations.

Off Leash: Inside the Secret, Global, Far-Right Group Chat 

Ken Silverstein, May 30, 2024 [The New Republic]

Military contractor Erik Prince started a private WhatsApp group for his close associates that includes a menagerie of right-wing government officials, intelligence operatives, arms traffickers, and journalists. We got their messages….

All of which makes Off Leash arguably more concerning, because the group can’t be dismissed as merely a collection of harmless cranks. Many of the participants, though not all household names, are wealthy and politically wired—which makes their incessant whining in the group chat about being crushed under the bootheel of the deep state particularly grating—and they will collectively become wealthier and more influential if Trump wins the November election. That’s especially true of the Americans in the group, but the same holds for the international figures because the global right will become immensely more powerful and emboldened if the former president returns to the White House. That prospect is a source of great hope to Off Leash participants. “Trump, Orban, Milei, it’s happening,” former Blackwater executive John LaDelfa posted to the group during a trip to Argentina on December 4, two days after Prince created it. “Around the Globe, we are the sensible, the rational, the majority. Don’t give in to fear. We will defeat the Marxists.”….

Off Leash was launched less than two months after Israel commenced its assault on Gaza following Hamas’s deadly October 7 attack on Israel, and that topic has been one of the group chat’s main concerns since it was established by Prince on December 2….

But Biden was merely a figurehead controlled by “elements that are actually ruling for the Deep State,” he continued. The real problem was that Democrats had been “in cahoots with the Muslim Brotherhood and infiltrated by their proxies and agents, as well as Ayatollah sympathizers” ever since President Bill Clinton’s administration.

With the Democratic Party captured by Islamic terrorists, Marxists, globalists, and other foreign and domestic evildoers, the U.S. was “being destroyed from within,” warned Kasraie, whose fears were shared by many among the Off Leash crew.

 

US Immigration: How many people are coming to the US and where are they coming from?​ 

[Angry Bear, via Naked Capitalism 05-29-2024]

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – May 26 2024

by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy

The Middle-Out Moment Is Here

[Democracy Journal. Spring 2024, No. 72]

Eleven years ago, this journal published a symposium called “The Middle-Out Moment,” touting a new theory of growth no one had heard of. Today, everyone has heard of middle-out economics, but most people still don’t know exactly what it is. With this issue, we revisit the topic: naming its core tenets, touting its successes, acknowledging its hurdles and complexities—but still arguing forthrightly that this is the economic future the country needs.

A New Economics Takes Hold
BY NICK HANAUER DAVID GOLDSTEIN

Industrial Policy’s Triumphant Return
BY FELICIA WONG

Moving Past Global Neoliberalism
BY TODD TUCKER

 

Vladimir Roosevelt and Franklin Putin

Chuck Lindeberg, January 8, 2023 [VoteNo2BigDough Newsletter]

The prevailing popular understanding is Roosevelt and Churchill saw eye to eye on World War II grand strategy. In fact there were fundamental differences between them from the outset, as indicated by this exchange between the two heads of government at the Atlantic Charter conference held aboard ships anchored in Argentia Bay, Newfoundland, in August 1941:

“I [Roosevelt] am firmly of the belief that if we are to arrive at a stable peace it must involve the development of backward countries. Backward peoples. How can this be done? It can’t be done, obviously, by eighteenth-century methods. Now – “

“Who’s talking eighteenth-century methods?” [replied Prime Minister Winston Churchill]

“Whichever of your ministers recommends a policy which takes wealth in raw materials out of a colonial country, but which returns nothing to the people of that country in consideration. Twentieth-century methods include increasing the wealth of a people by increasing their standard of living, by educating them, by bringing them sanitation – by making sure they get a return for the raw wealth of their community.”

This disagreement was no mere tempest in a teapot. It played out in the deliberations of the Combined Chiefs of Staff that established the joint UK/USA strategy to be pursued, which in turn determined why, where and how many soldiers, sailors and airmen would be dying. From FDR down the Americans were determined no Americans should die to preserve the British colonial empire, and Churchill was determined the sun would not set on that Empire on his watch….

As we have seen President Roosevelt believed colonialism was the underlying cause of the wars of the 20th century. However he saw that a much more imminent threats existed and that were Facism and Nazism. Their appeal extended beyond Europe to the dictators the USA supported in Latin America and also, most disturbingly, to more than a few of America’s elite financiers and industrialists. Not to mention the southern wing of his own party, representing states the racist laws of which Hitler used as templates for Nazi legislation. Roosevelt felt it was so urgent the USA join the hostilities against Germany that he risked political suicide by deliberately putting the Pacific Fleet at risk. He understood that only a direct attack on the USA would overcome the America First movement that held sway right up to December 6, 1941. For Roosevelt, World War II was all about defeating Nazism in Germany so thoroughly the movement would never raise its ugly head again. Also it was likely the reason he pushed for the controversial phrase “unconditional surrender” as the ultimate war objective to be included in the Casablanca Conferences communique.

Well before World War II ended President Roosevelt, Vice President Henry Wallace, Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Treasury economist Harry Dexter White and Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles began planning for a post-war international structure intended to promote widespread prosperity, while minimizing incentives toward war. Historians have dubbed their program “Rooseveltian Internationalism,” and it envisioned two main thrusts: to foster the recovery of the war-torn countries; and to assist former colonies to become prosperous and truly independent sovereign states now that the decolonization movement was re-energized by the exhaustion of the European colonial metropoles. The plan was fully fleshed out when it was presented to the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference held in the summer of 1944.

That gathering is better known by the name of the small resort town in New Hampshire where it was held, Bretton Woods….

But President Roosevelt died in April of 1945, 26 days before the end of the war in Europe and 4 ½ months before the surrender of Japan. This is widely assumed to be the turning point toward the demise of the Rooseveltian vision of the post-war world, however an equally significant pivot took place nine months earlier during the Democratic National Convention. About 10:00 PM July 20, 1944, the delegates were returning to their seats after marching around the floor of the Chicago Stadium celebrating the renomination of President Roosevelt by acclamation, and they were in a mood to do likewise for the incumbent Vice President Henry Wallace. At that point a cabal of southern Democrats and big city party bosses buttonholed the temporary chairman and leaned on him to gavel the session closed. There followed a sleepless night of wheeling and dealing. Wallace led the votes on the 1st ballot the following day, but he was short of the majority needed for the nomination. His support collapsed and Harry Truman, a machine pol from Kansas City in the border state of Missouri won the necessary majority on the 2nd ballot. Wallace was fully on board with Roosevelt’s domestic and internationalist agendas. Truman was not….

 

These Choke Points Pose Global Shipping’s Biggest Risks 

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 05-24-2024]

 

Global power shift

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – May 19 2024

by Tony Wikrent

 

Strategic Political Economy

You Can’t Run Industrial Policy OR A War Economy Under Neoliberalism 

Ian Welsh, May 13, 2024

…Neoliberalism is about unearned profits. This is seen most clearly in the stock market and in real estate…. But this isn’t just true of housing and stock prices, it’s true of almost everything. Profit margins have soared during the neoliberal era. Our companies don’t compete on price or quality, they try to create oligpolies or monopolies so that they can charge more without having to provide significantly more value. The way they took advantage of Covid to raise prices far faster than their costs were rising is instructive.

Simply put, neoliberalism is about unearned money: about capital gains; PE plays where you buy a company with debt, load it with the debt and then dump it; monopolies and oligopolies and getting government to juice asset prices or pay you far more than you deserve for shoddy goods (see mil-industrial complex.)…

For about six years, I’ve heard constant complaints from Chinese that it was no longer possible to buy a home. Their housing market, like ours, was being bought up by investors, pricing out young people.

What was the Chinese response? They crashed their housing market and the government has stepped in….

We can’t compete with this. It’s impossible. Not because it’s impossible in theory, but because we don’t believe in doing such things and to pursue such policies we would have to hurt rich people, a lot, and they own Congress and the Presidency and our politicians in other countries.

China has repeatedly shown that if a policy is good for the majority, but hurts the rich, they’ll do it anyway. We’ve repeatedly shown the opposite.

And you can’t run industrial policy or a war economy if you want fake profits based on not actually producing good new goods at cheap prices. It can’t be done. If an entire society is based around “give me money for the least possible effort”, you’re cooked….

The West is toast. We can’t compete. It’s that simple. To compete we will have to change significantly, and while putting up tariffs isn’t actually a bad idea, it’s not enough alone. Without changing our fundamental governing and economic policies and ideology so that to get rich and stay rich you have to actually make good cheap new products in a way that improves the majority’s lives, we will never be able to compete.

When Your Rulers Ignore Voters But Are Terrified Of Protesters, That Tells You Something 

Caitlin Johnstone [Caitlin’s Newsletter, via Naked Capitalism 05-13-2024]

It’s hard to understand the tyranny of a system that relies on propaganda and manipulation as opposed to overt totalitarianism, in the same way it can be harder to recognize a psychologically abusive relationship than a physically abusive one.

 

Oligarchy

US Oligarchs Started One Civil War — and They Could Do It Again

Thom Hartmann, May 17, 2024 [CommonDreams]

The ideology of the Republican Party and the stranglehold of powerful corporations of our political system overall has transformed America from a democracy into a late-stage oligarchy, and the point of no return is now visible….

Billionaires and civil war? A billionaire-funded Supreme Court Justice flew the American flag upside down outside his house after January 6th in apparent support of Donald Trump‘s attempt to overthrow our government.

Americans for Tax Fairnessreports that 50 billionaire families have, at this early stage, already injected almost a billion dollars into our political system — the overwhelming majority of it going to Republicans and in support of Donald Trump — in an effort to maintain enough control of our political system that their taxes won’t go up. And that total is just what’s reported: it doesn’t count the billions in unknowable dark money that’s sloshing around the system thanks to Citizens United….

The clear result of five corrupt Republicans on the 1978 and 2010 Supreme Courts legalizing political bribery of politicians (and Supreme Court justices) by both corporations and the morbidly rich is that America is now well past the halfway mark of a fatal-to-democracy slide into oligarchy and the strongman autocracy typically associated with it. And the conflict that can follow that….

What we are watching is the final stage of the 40-year neoliberal transition of our nation from a forward-looking and still-evolving democratic republic into a white supremacist ethnostate ruled by a small group of fascist oligarchs.

Some years ago, Trump economic adviser Stephen Moore (before he was Trump’s advisor) was a guest on my radio/TV program. I asked him, “Which is more important, democracy or capitalism?“

Without hesitation, Moore answered, “Capitalism.” He went on to imply this was how the Founders wanted things….

[TW: I hope that regular readers, familiar with my dogged insistence on the need to revive civic republicanism as a philosophy of government, know how completely wrong Moore is. ]

 

Global power shift

The Dragon-Bear-Hug Signals Unprecedented Expansion of Ties 

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – May 12 2024

by Tony Wikrent

 

Strategic Political Economy

‘Sad What We Are Doing’: Global CO2 Increase Sets New All-Time Record

Olivia Rosane, May 10, 2024 [CommonDreams]

The average monthly concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere jumped by a record 4.7 parts per million between March 2023 and March 2024, according to new data from NOAA’s Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii.

The spike, reported by the University of California, San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography on Wednesday, reveals “the increasing pace of CO2 addition to the atmosphere by human activities,” the university said.

How Good, Kind, Caring People Became The Bad Guys 

Jessica Wildfire [OK Doomer, via Naked Capitalism 05-05-2024]

…When you complain, people judge you. It doesn’t matter what you’re complaining about. It doesn’t matter what you’re protesting or whistle-blowing. It doesn’t matter if your life is at stake. It doesn’t matter if thousands of lives are at stake. It doesn’t matter if the fate of humanity is at stake. Someone’s first instinct is to suspect you. It’s to accuse you of lying. It’s to label you a troublemaker.

They hear negative words coming out of your mouth. They associate those negative things with you, because you’re the person saying them. That’s how our primate brains operate. It takes a lot of self-awareness to overcome that, and many people lack it….

The New Anti-Antisemitism 

Rick Perlstein, May 8, 2024 [The American Prospect]

The response to college protests against the war on Gaza exemplifies the darkness of the Trumpocene….

THE PROVOCATIONS FOR THESE ASSAULTS are so much milder now than they were in the 1960s that an administrator then who could peer 55 years into the future would probably smirk. Students peacefully chanting slogans on a single, specific issue, backed by easily realizable demands? Pshaw….

But to repeat: What is happening now, I believe, might be far more dangerous….

Concerns for the “safety” of Jewish students has become a rhetorical commonplace in elite discussions of campus politics these days: “Jewish students of all political beliefs,” Theo Baker, son of New York Times superstar Peter Baker, tells us in The Atlantic in “The War at Stanford,” “have been given good reason to fear for their safety. They’ve been followed, harassed, and called derogatory racial epithets.”

It makes me feel like I’m losing my mind. You know who has good reason to fear for their safety? People, many of them Jews, getting pummeled by cops and fascists. People getting high-powered rifles aimed at them from rooftops by agents of the state who surely have been told by the people giving them orders to be ready to shoot because of all the “dangerous” things that are going on amid those protesters’ tents.

Sure, offensive things have happened to protesters. And that’s awful. But when I told some Chicago neighbors about all the Judaism going on down in Hyde Park, they were frankly shocked to hear it: They watch Morning Joe, from which they got the impression that Jew-hate was the overwhelming leitmotif of this whole protest thing.

It suggests one of those Talmudic puzzlements, or perhaps the setup for a dad joke: How many Jews have to pray peacefully in a pro-peace encampment (or alternatively, to cite a scene witnessed outside the 116th Street gate of Columbia University, how many black-hatted ultra-Orthodox Jews have to chant, “Anti-Zionism is not antisemitism”) for them to stop being an antisemitic mob?

 

Global power shift

The liberal international order is slowly coming apart 

[The Economist, via Naked Capitalism 05-10-2024]

[TW: I include only because The Economist is a notorious mouthpiece for the Anglo-American elites and their neoliberal policies.]

The In-Flight Magazine for Corporate Jets 

Luke Goldstein, April 2, 2024 [The American Prospect]

The Economist has channeled the concerns of elites for decades. It sees the Biden administration as a threat.

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – May 5 2024

by Tony Wikrent

 

Disrupting mainstream economics

Finding the Money OFFICIAL TRAILER

[Finding the Money, YouTube,

Release MAY 3, 2024: www.findingmoneyfilm.com

An intrepid group of economists is on a mission to instigate a paradigm shift by flipping our understanding of the national debt — and the nature of money — upside down. FINDING THE MONEY follows Stephanie Kelton, former chief economist on the Senate Budget Committee, on a journey through Modern Money Theory or “MMT,” to inject new hope and empower democracies around the world to tackle the biggest challenges of the 21st century: from climate change to inequality.

Biden’s Economic Adviser Tries and Fails To Explain How Money Works

[Washington Free Beacon on YouTube, via Naked Capitalism 05-03-2024]

[TW: Jared Bernstein is one of the most progressive, pro-labor mainstream economists out there. He is is a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and serves  as Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers. His stupefaction on this question sparked a very interesting and informative discussion in the comments on Naked Capitalism Links 05-03-2024.]

 

Global power shift

SITREP 4/27/24: U.S. Admits Top Weapons Failures to Superior Russian EW 

[Simplicius the Thinker, via Naked Capitalism 04-28-2024]

Another US pilot confirms F-16s in Ukraine are toast 

[InfoBrics, via Naked Capitalism 04-30-2024]

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – April 28 2024

by Tony Wikrent

Global power shift

Ukraine: A Guide For The Perplexed 

Aurelien, via Naked Capitalism 04-27-2024]

 

Gaza / Palestine / Israel

Naked Capitalism Links 04-21-2024, by Lambert Strether, has a series of X-tweets regarding the suppression of pro-Palestinian protests in USA, France, and other countries, the attempt to label protestors as anti-Semitic, and commentary about ties to intelligence agencies and suborning of police.

Israel’s defense minister calls for halting pro-Gaza protests at US universities 

[Anadolu Agency, via Naked Capitalism 04-25-2024]

Netanyahu Calls for Crackdown on Pro-Palestine Protesters in the US

Dave DeCamp [via Delphi Initiative, April 24, 2024]

Echoing President Biden, Netanyahu labeled the demonstrations ‘antisemitic’ by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday called for a crackdown on Americans protesting against Israel’s slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza at college campuses across the United States. “What’s happening in America’s college campuses is horrific. Antisemitic mobs have taken over

Israel’s Doom Loop for Our Democracy

Skip Kaltenheuse [via Thomas Neuburger, God’s Spies, April 26, 2024]

Would it go over if any other foreign country’s minions publicly announced they’d spend a hundred million dollars to defeat a handful of US Representatives who opposed ethnic cleansing? If they offered bribes of 20 million dollars to people to primary those they want removed?

Free Speech on the Ropes: Legislation to Revoke Not-for-Profit Status of Organizations that Support Palestine Protests Passes in House

[Naked Capitalism 04/26/2024]

[X-Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 04-27-2024]

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[X-Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 04-23-2024]

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Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – April 21 2024

by Tony Wikrent

 

Strategic Political Economy

Will the American Oligarchy Accept Limits or Choose World War Three?

Posted on April 14, 2024 by Conor Gallagher

 

Database Exposes ‘Illicit Network Undermining Democracy Around the World’

Brett Wilkins, April 05, 2024 [CommonDreams]

“Coups. Assassinations. Riots. Detentions. Disinformation. We know the tactics that have been deployed to undermine our democracies. But who is behind them?”

Progressive International (PI) asks and answers this and other questions with an extensive new database published Wednesday that connects the dots in what the leftist group calls the “Reactionary International“—a loose global network of right-wing leaders and organizations working to subvert democratic institutions.

PI calls it an “illicit network undermining democracy around the world.”….

A cursory search of the database’s contents shows users can:

  • Learn about Israel’s NSO, Rayzone, and Team Jorge, and how a team of Tel Aviv tech entrepreneurs fuel unrest in Latin America;
  • Meet the Grey Wolves, Turkey’s roving death squad with links to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the ethno-nationalists in his governing coalition; and
  • Explore the global network of the Falun Gong, its Trump-connected media outlet The Epoch Times, and its traveling dance troupe known as Shen Yun….

 

Global power shift

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