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

Open Thread

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ATMs and Debit Payments Go Down In Canada


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 10, 2022


  1. NR

    Found this on social media and thought it was worth sharing here. National politics in the U.S. get most of the attention, but just as big a story is what’s happened at the state level over the last decade or two, where in red states the Republicans have absolutely gutted the public educational system. The following words are not mine, but I will say that I recently talked to a friend of mine who had been a teacher for many years in a red state and recently quit because the situation had just become so intolerable.

    There’s a fair bit about COVID in here, but the destruction of red state public education predates the pandemic by a lot.

    “Florida, like Arizona (where I was teaching) treated teachers as disposable objects. They threw off the masks early, ran us through wave after wave of infection, and people died. I lost friends. We lost a student and she didn’t even get a memorial bench. Parents died. A bus driver died. We lost a teacher. My wife was hospitalized and on oxygen for weeks. Many of us were just waiting for our contracts to expire so we could get the hell out. Some of us couldn’t wait. I’ve never seen so many teachers just walk out mid-year. It was insane.

    We had rolling 50% absence rates and NO JANITORS during omicron. Our “extreme cleaning measures” were me wiping down tables in my classroom with brown paper towels and bleach I’d brought from home. Didn’t matter. We were wide open and couldn’t even mention masks to the kids without parents screaming down our necks in the next board meeting. I had students openly mocking my mask use in-class while half the room was empty from an insanely infectious raging airborne respiratory infection.

    Throughout, our superintendent insisted Covid was overblown and no big deal. Our governor insisted on spreading Covid as fully as possible. If my school’s expressed goal was to spread covid to as many students as was humanly possible, they wouldn’t have done anything different.

    Cap it off with parents screaming at us for “grooming” and students coming in with their “let’s go Brandon” shirts. Book bans. Dog whistles like “critical race theory”. Charter schools popping up everywhere as the state races to kill public education. Pay freezes and insane class sizes (my smallest class last year had 37 students in it). Low retirement pay (if you ever get there – tenure is dying or dead in most red states and they fire experienced teachers before they fully vest their retirement, and you can’t carry all your experience into a new school on their salary schedule). No collective bargaining, strikes are illegal, and the school doesn’t have enough paper to get through the year.

    Good luck filling those open slots, Florida. When I was in school to become a teacher I was in a cohort of more than 30 students, and there were MANY cohorts. My graduating class was large enough to fill a gymnasium. I spoke to the woman who runs that same teaching program today. They had seven. Not seven cohorts. Seven students. Total. Of my graduating cohort of more than 30, I think 3 of us are still teaching. 1 in 10. My wife and I are taking at least a year or two off from the profession. I doubt I’ll ever come back.

    And hey, inflation going up wildly while the districts are telling us we might need to accept another pay freeze “because the economy” is just the straw that breaks the camels back. My wife has had her pay frozen eight out of the last fifteen years.

    Red states are awful for teachers. We are FLEEING.”

  2. bruce wilder

    . . . broad loss of faith in the institutions that organize our society is dangerous, experts say

    [Gallup] found that since last June, when Gallup last asked this set of questions, Americans’ confidence in almost every institution has dropped. . . . Americans’ average confidence in 14 of the institutions that Gallup asked about was only at 27 percent — the lowest point since Gallup began the survey in 1979.

    What interests me is the tension in the narrative used to report about this decline in “faith”.

    Widespread distrust can be dangerous. If people don’t trust government institutions, they’ll be more likely to believe that elections are untrustworthy too.

    The narrative pushed forward is all about the indirect and psychological effects of a perception — and active avoidance of the implications of actual loss of competence.

    Yeah, I guess the knock-on effect of a loss of trust is important, but hey what about the actual loss of competence, capacity and capability?

    And, what does it mean that elite opinion makers do not want to address directly the loss of competence?

    The report I am quoting from 538 observes that The Gallup poll found that Democrats’ confidence in the institution of the presidency fell from 69 percent in 2021 to 51 percent this year — an alarming drop among members of Biden’s own party. You think it might have something to do with installing in office a corrupt, stupid liar who is now senile whose only committment is to the principle that nothing fundamentally change at a time when fundamental change is being forced on many fronts?

    It seems like a lot of effort to avoid confronting the fact that confidence in institutions is a lagging indicator of a loss of institutional integrity and capacity that has become general. General due, I suppose, to factors that if we could discuss what they are, might be amenable to remedy.

    Katherine Carman, a senior economist at the RAND Corporation, was one of the authors of a 2020 report that examined why Americans trust institutions in the first place. “Competence and honesty — these are really important factors that contribute to trust,” she said. “We ask the government to make and enforce laws and policy for us. So we need them to be truthful about the information they’re providing. And we want them to have the skills and knowledge to actually do those things.” . . . . The danger . . . is that Americans’ trust in institutions doesn’t just decline — mistrust starts to grow. Her report found that there was already active mistrust of the government and media. “I think that’s particularly worrisome,” she said. “Active distrust means not only do you think they’re not always honest — maybe they lie to you. Maybe they’re trying to hurt you.”

    It seems like deflection to go from declaring a need for competence and honesty to paranoia without even pausing at the waystation of abject failure to perform. Are we not suppose to notice the policy and political failures mounting up? Or the obvious proximate causes of such failures such as putting the senile, the stupid and senile in charge?

  3. Trinity

    “And, what does it mean that elite opinion makers do not want to address directly the loss of competence?”

    Slavery is imminent? In many ways we already are slaves. Based on what they do (not what they say) the goal seems to be to kill off a bunch of us, immiserate whoever is left, and enslave the children.

    They play a long game.

  4. bruce wilder

    Bemoaning the supposed failings of public education is a cliche, as are the grifters who promise “solutions” (including charter schools). What I rarely encounter is a pundit or politician who knows anything about institutionalized education or actually cares about kids not his own.

    Red-Blue polarization on public education throws way more heat than light. Is public education in any better shape in any “blue” State? Than why focus a rant on “Red”? Was Biden any better on COVID? Biden seemed bound and determined to send kids back to school and to end masking; his Administration did nothing on ventilation et cetera. So, what is the point of the emphasis on the “Red” of an unnamed state?

  5. Trinity

    NR, the examples given are horrid, thanks for posting this, but I see a tiny positive there. Newton said “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” and I think that applies to the social sphere as well. For every bad deed they do, there is a response from us, a pushback, a reaction that pushes back.

    But will our pushback come too late? And can we generate enough pushback such that it is truly “equal”? I was taught that when I jump in the air, I am pushing against the earth, and the earth pushes back at me. It’s not noticeable by me (or anyone), nor does it change anything because of the enormous difference between my mass and the earth’s mass. My teeny tiny push against the earth results in a teeny tiny push back from the earth. And that’s also true for me and my doings with my despised cable company.

    It’s only together that we can ever hope to achieve sufficient “mass” to make a difference.

  6. NR

    Is public education in any better shape in any “blue” State?

    Yes, as a matter of fact, it is, as just a few minutes of research on any search engine could have told you.

  7. Chuck Mire

    Next January 6th Committee Hearing:

    Tuesday, July 12th at 10:00am ET

  8. Ché Pasa

    Public institutions have been collapsing for a generation or more. Start with the Catholic Church. Trust in these institutions wasn’t that high to begin with a generation (or probably more) ago, but now it is widely acknowledged to be in the toilet. Ironically, the Motor Vehicle Department is one of the least worst government institutions in many places. Is that because MVD is better or is everything else so much worse?

    Through the pandemic, confidence in government should have collapsed altogether; except for the direct payments they couldn’t seem to get anything right. Well over a million are dead from Covid in the US, and doG only knows how many are permanently fully or partially disabled. It didn’t have to be that way but it is, and it happened right in front of us, and there was nothing we could do.

    For the most part, our institutions are not run and staffed by incompetents. It’s just that their competence is often not what we expect or need from the institutions. This includes public education, now so top heavy with administration that it’s amazing schools can function at all. Well, many can’t and don’t. Some aren’t even trying anymore.

    It’s all traceable and understandable in some sense, but tracing and understanding doesn’t fix the problem. In fact it may make it worse by putting the focus on how we got this way and who to blame rather than on what to do about it and how.

    Right now we do not have leadership in any political party or private interest sector that can or will do what’s necessary to fix it. We are on our own. To muddle through. As best we can.

  9. bruce wilder

    Not noticeably better in my very blue Los Angeles . . .

  10. Joan

    @NR, thanks for sharing this. I wonder how things like this will shake down in the future, and whether there will eventually be a redistribution of the population into more unanimously red and blue states. One exception I can think of is Texas, which is notorious for paying its teachers well. That might be old information though.

    People like to speculate on what would happen if the US Balkanized, where the fracture lines would be. But with the current state of blue cities and red countrysides, there isn’t really a way for it to divide out into populations with any kind of agreement on how they want to live and organize their society. I hope your friend gets to a better school district or in a better profession, in a blue state if need be.

  11. Z

    Getting pumped thinking about Speed Queen Nancy P and Sneaky Schnucky Chuckie Schumer (D-Wall Street) bemoaning the extreme Right’s hold on the republican party next year when the candidates on the far right that those two are funneling money to win their mid-term races against the democrat’s pragmatists they are running against who back tax cuts for the rich, deregulation, cutting social security, Ukraine above U.S.ers, and unlimited money for the military-propaganda-industrial-complex.

    All according to plan: fund those far right candidates into a mid-term red tidal wave when they have their best chance to win just because they’re not democrats.


  12. Ché Pasa

    How’s that Inflation doing where you are? Out here in the wilderness, gasoline has fallen to $4.09 — lowest it’s been for… quite a while. We got our annualized natural gas bill adjustment last month. It’s half what it was for the last year. Big merchants are overloaded with goods; prices are being slashed, in some cases by 70% or more. Too bad it’s not on stuff we need (reno materials and supplies) but at least those prices aren’t still increasing. Groceries are still higher than we’d become used to but most prices are relatively stable and sales are happening more than they were.

    Real estate prices out here are are still remarkably high. On the other hand, properties which might have sold in a week for over asking price not too long ago are staying on the market for a month and in one case I know for three months, still no sale.

    I’m sure our corporate overlords fully intend to gouge every penny from the Little People and our politicians will let them do it, but it looks from my limited vantage point that the Bugaboo Inflation has been mitigated somewhat if not tamed.

  13. different clue


    Blue States people should decide why they are blue, and what they like about it, and how to deepen it. Does “blue” color-code for “support public education”? If it does, that support should be strengthened and deepened, for example.

    It sounds like the Conservatard Trumpanon scum are strongly in charge of Arizona.
    “Blue” state departments of education should help and assist teachers to flee Arizona and every other Shit Headistani State where conditions are engineered to be similar.

    Meanwhile, IF Modernians can become an overwhelming majority in Modernian Blue States, to the point of being culturally and socially dominant, they might figure out how to encourage Shit Headistanis living within Blue States to move to Shit Headistani
    States where they can follow their bliss without any Modernians around to harsh their mellow.

    Any states which color code for being in a state of “tippy purple balance” might be assessed for prospects of making them “blue” and then “deeper blue”. Hopefully blue states would border eachother in one or two contiguous clusters, so they could begin to harmonize their State Laws and the State Economies to prepare for Separate Survival.

    Legal Abortion States should forbid abortion tourism from Illegal Abortion states. The pressure around abortion should be raised within the Illegal Abortion states to the point where these states are either turned into Legal Abortion states by a pro-legal-abortion majority of people within those states, or until those states erupt in social chaos and violence within their own borders. Either outcome would make them less of an organized threat and menace to such Legal Abortion states as remain and can protect themselves against Chrislamofascist Sharia Church Law aggression.

  14. Willy

    Did somebody just say red vs. blue?

    I just saw a few video interviews and speeches from a guy from my high school class, the one who was known as the smartest kid. He went the full academic distance, all at public schools, to become a ‘behavioral/political scientist’, and now professors at a European university.

    He seems to answer everything with this sorta complex-sounding vagueness, constantly talking up stuff like global democracy, economic sustainability, and maintaining a civil society in a globalized world, from a global perspective.

    I don’t hear any specific answers for our great many problems, just that it’s all so hella complex and we all need to be doing the right thing. Whatever the hell that means. I’m guessing that he’s just trying to hang on to outdated, now-dying, once-popular philosophies, so he can keep cashing university paychecks until he retires.

    I think this is how most red staters see liberal elites. All talk with no concrete answers. Like progressives, they see that most of our problems stem from a selfishly out-of-control elite class. Interestingly, these red staters firmly believe that absolutely none of these problems could ever be solved by anything “leftist”, despite all the obvious evidence to the contrary which can be found everywhere throughout the developed world.

    Of course, I can’t take these red staters very seriously, with their seemingly insatiable mindless drive towards a 13th century- style white male dominated theocracy complete with authoritarian minority rule via some anointed demagogue.

    I’m curious about how progressives could possibly hook up with such people.

  15. NL

    “They play a long game.”

    But they are incompetent….?

  16. NR


    I found this article which cites current data indicating that average teacher pay in Texas is 26th in the nation, so right in the middle. However the article goes on to state something interesting, which is that while Texas pays new teachers more than the national average, they pay experienced teachers significantly less.

    Of course as the person I quoted made clear, pay is only one reason of many that teachers might leave an area or the profession entirely.

  17. Eric Anderson

    Public education? Private education? Any mass education in this country isn’t about anything more than churning out obedient little capitalist cogs. Honestly, I’m of the opinion that the best primary education to prepare for the future these days consists in teaching self sufficiency. You know: growing things, building things, fixing things, hunting, fishing, etc. Heck, teach them to read, write, basic math, and how to be curious about the world and they’ll take it from there if the impetus takes them. I mean, I really didn’t ‘learn’ much more than how to party and chase women until I sobered up in my mid-thirties. Then, the impetus took me and now I have multiple degrees. The educational rat race is a sham.

  18. bruce wilder

    C P:For the most part, our institutions are not run and staffed by incompetents. It’s just that their competence is often not what we expect or need from the institutions.

    That is a strange formulation.

    My view is that most American institutions have been corrupted directly or indirectly by elites pursuing big bucks and fast bucks. When Reagan reduced marginal taxes on high incomes, it became broadly possible to draw large incomes from positions of institutional power. The capitalist class — the really rich who own — realized that they could pay the top professional managers — the c-suite executives with real power from authority in large bureaucratic enterprise — to betray and screw their communities and fellow wage workers. Rationales for professional managers to behave badly were quickly supplied by economists at business schools. Tools and opportunities for behaving badly were embedded into financialization and globalization — “trends” for which no one could be blamed — besides, there could be no alternative. Michel’s Iron Law of institutions — that over time the leadership of institutions trade the interests and purposes of the institutions for their own selfish interests, power and profit — accelerated under the new incentives to draw income and wealth in the short-term from opportunities embedded in bureaucratic positions of power. The corruption at the top seeped into the workplace cultures of the professionals and managers of “middle management” and local leadership, sometimes explicitly as corners were cut to fund the top boss’s bonus, but more often implicitly in the context of the nature of the plans formulated and executed to disinvest to fund those aforementioned bonuses or to build monopoly power to fund those bonuses or to screw communities and trade unions to pay those bonuses.

    Tracing thus, I think, might be vital to understanding what we are up against — the pervasive corruption of a whole society, a corruption most of us have co-opted by or mired in ourselves.

    I could say more but I am going to sleep.

  19. Eric

    “Michel’s Iron Law of Institutions”
    The Iron Law of Institutions is attributed to Jon Schwarz, and it is this:

    “The people who control institutions care first and foremost about their power within the institution rather than the power of the institution itself. Thus, they would rather the institution ‘fail’ while they remain in power within the institution than for the institution to “succeed” if that requires them to lose power within the institution.”

    It needs to be tattooed on the inside of everyone’s eyelids.

  20. Z

    Apparently, 4chan got Hunter Biden’s iPhone password and are sifting through his iPhone’s contents.

    Lots of talk on some of the twitter accounts I follow of COVID vaccine complications such as myocarditis but don’t have any idea as to any actual proof of causation or any numerical statistics regarding it and it’s not likely the U.S. government will do any research on it.

    Lithuania, no doubt encouraged by the U.S., is ignoring EU dictates to cease their blockade to Kaliningrad. This has gone back and forth for a few weeks and now Russia says their patience has been exhausted and they are going to take measures against Lithuania.

    So we go, the entire world endangered in a game of nuclear chicken between a cognitively challenged U.S. president whose humongous ego can’t sustain an ‘L’ and a very practical Putin who for logical reasons has to have a ‘W’.


  21. Z

    I suppose the Sri Lankans aren’t buying into “ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what your country can do for Ukraine”.

    Perhaps War Pimp Zelenskyy can Ukraine-plain how their misbehavior is not helpful towards his war effort and cheer them up with the news of the latest half a billion he got for weapons.


  22. Trinity

    “They play a long game.”

    But they are incompetent….?

    I don’t think they are incompetent, but others here may. So yes, they are playing a long game. They’ve been playing it for quite some time now (this time for over fifty years), and they have their desired future mapped out. That future looks similar to now, but much, much worse from the non-oligarch perspective.

    The push back has started, and they may have to go back to ground at some point in the future, but they’ll still keep planning and waiting for any advantage to reinstate their power and advance their philosophy. This endless cycle will not stop until we collectively decide that they should never, ever gain power of any kind again. The indigenous Americans figured it out (some of them), and so can we.

  23. bruce. wilder

    @ Eric

    I think Jon Schwarz (an Intercept writer) was implicitly referencing Michels and specifically Michels most famous work on the sociology of political parties, not claiming originality.

    For the pedants, “Iron Law of Oligarchy” would be closer to how Michels originally labelled the principle, but “Iron Law of Institutions” has long since become conventional in English.

    And, yes, I agree that it is a very basic tendency built into the “dna” of bureaucratic organization and deserves much more universal recognition.

  24. bruce. wilder

    Before I fell asleep, I had wanted to draw a connection from my thesis of general corruption of American society to the deterioration of public education described in NR’s initial comment above.

    The whole charter school movement, driven as it is by grifters and greedy businessmen, is kind of obvious. In its original impetus way back when, the charter school idea may have been adopted (from still earlier “voucher” gambits by racists and Catholics) in part by well-meaning activists trying to find a way to short-circuit the arterial scelerosis of creeping growth of administration and administrative requirements in the governance of public schools. The real energy, from my observation of local politics in Los Angeles in particular, seems to be the greed of the rich who hope to profit from these low-risk ventures.

    More subtle is the issue of the kudzu of administration growth in general. I deal with it in higher education in my day-job and I loathe it, but I am not sure what the details of the connection might be to the general corruption of the polity by neoliberal capitalism unbound. I admit I do not feel I understand what drives it. Credentialism and the privileges credentialism claims for its adherents is part of it. The empty performative do-goodism of NGOs and non-profits generally infects higher education, which is largely organized as non-profit, whether State-sponsored or nominally “private”. (“Proprietary” for-profit always ends badly but never actually dies it seems.) What Thomas Frank observed about Hillary’s brand of Democratic Party politics applies I think and the foundation of corruption in Hillary Clinton’s politics is not incidental to its entitled self-righteousness. I just cannot draw it altogether in my mind as a “system”.

  25. Willy

    There’s Michel’s Iron Law of Oligarchy:

    Michels’s theory states that all complex organizations, regardless of how democratic they are when started, eventually develop into oligarchies. Michels observed that since no sufficiently large and complex organization can function purely as a direct democracy, power within an organization will always get delegated to individuals within that group, elected or otherwise. – from Wikipedia.

    I disagree somewhat, based on personal experience.

    My experiences suggest that all complex organizations, regardless of how democratic they are when started, eventually develop into oligarchies because of who it is that usually wins power games.

    Competitions for power do often reward the competent, but only as long as the organization remains democratic and far more important, is still goal driven with all goal targets made public and accurately measured with rewards and punishments based on the objective reality. That last part is the democratic part.

    Unfortunately, most profit-based organizations I’ve ever been a part of lose their democracy over time, as basic human failings like greed, cronyism, nepotism, sociopathy, and cunning duplicity increasingly seep in. What was once a chess game becomes increasingly more like poker.

    At the end of the cycle there’s either an organizational renewal with an appropriate amount of purging, or the organization is rescued by a greater power of some kind, or the organization collapses entirely.

  26. bruce wilder

    @ Willy

    The explosion in the 1980s in top executive pay into the kind of fu money that would make even a short tenure in the top spot a bonanza did result, I think, in tournaments among c-suite candidates that could only be won by skilled and ruthless sociopaths. Previous generations of top executives enjoyed the perks and prestige of position but earned modest salaries, and held onto their positions for long tenures: a career trajectory that favored prudence in cultivating a reputation for benevolence and preserving the foundations of corporate business power in capability.

    A friend who achieved as high a level of professional staff as possible at IBM in the 1970s and 1980s, argued to me from his experience with IBM that an important transition was the moment when working for the good of the organization was eclipsed among subordinates by working to do what the boss seemed to want. Non-sociopaths can easily become functional instruments of evil just by cynically abdicating their independent judgment in favor of ass-kissing obediance and submission, especially to a boss they do not much respect. I think a lot of that kind of soft sociopathy goes on in American business and government. If the subordinate does well enough for themselves economically — they keep a job that pays well enough — they rationalize or simply do not question the substance of what they do. To do well (for one’s self, while probably hiding also from precarity) is to rationalize that you do good — or maybe you do not care. The scoreboard of money results shows you “winning” sorta, so you must be doing good.

    The feeling of powerlessness that Che Pasa refers to has something to do with a sense of helplessness against a pervasive system where no one tells their own truth, but simply parrots “the” truth of some narrative devised by professionals in narrative construction, experts in feeding anxiety and wishful thinking. (That has something to do with my having lost patience with red v blue cheerleading — a feeling that it is a distraction devised to ill purpose. )

  27. Eric Anderson


    Michel stated the Iron Law of Oligarchy, as Willy states. Schwarz adapted it, somewhat more usefully in my opinion.

  28. Z

    Americans’ average confidence in 14 of the institutions that Gallup asked about was only at 27 percent — the lowest point since Gallup began the survey in 1979

    without the bag …


  29. Willy

    If I’d been born over there, I wouldn’t have such a fit bird now would I?

    Sure. But then team blue doesn’t capitulate all the time just because red’s got the better corporate sponsors. And team red isn’t actively and obviously, trying to illegally take over the league just so they can “win” while doing nothing.

  30. Z

    The two groups of people most likely to end this war:
    1. Ukrainian women protesting in Kiev against the war
    2. Europeans rioting to the point the European leaders get scared or they get tossed out

    A coup is unlikely to happen because the CIA is so entangled in everything in Ukraine that they’ll snuff it out. And if anyone was able to lead a successful coup against War Pimp Zelenskyy and his Kiev-caine Cowboys they’d have to kill CIA to do it which would essentially make it an eventual suicide mission because they’d have a flock of armed drones following them wherever they went for the rest of their abbreviated life.

    There have been zero, as far as I know, protests against the war in the U.S. and there likely won’t be any as the abortion issue is dividing people and the U.S.ers are so easily led into fighting each other rather than the folks who are primarily responsible for their misery.


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