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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – December 19, 2021

by Tony Wikrent


Strategic Political Economy

Political Philosophies and Positive Political Psychology: Inter-Disciplinary Framework for the Common Good

Masaya Kobayashi [Frontiers in Psycholog, via Mike Norman Economics 12-14-2021]

This manuscript explores the relationship between positive psychology and political philosophy, revealing an inter-disciplinary approach that speaks to the concerns of the common good. Since positive psychology has been expanding its reach into social and political spheres, its relationship to philosophical arguments has been worthy of exploration. Positive psychology is associated with utilitarianism, and aspects of hedonic psychology. However, an alternative concept of eudaimonic well-being has enabled this psychology to have links to other political philosophies. Therefore, this manuscript provides an overview of contemporary political philosophies: first, it discusses the debate between liberalism and communitarianism, and secondly, it summarizes the subsequent developments of liberal perfectionism, capability approach, and deliberative democracy. Then, the configuration of these political philosophies is indicated by the figure of two axes of “individual/collective” and “ethical/non-ethical.” The following section compiles the inter-relationships between the conceptions of citizenship, justice, and well-being, regarding the main political philosophies: egoism, utilitarianism, libertarianism, liberalism, communitarianism, and conservatism. Utilitarianism is associated with happiness, while liberalism and libertarianism rely on the concept of rights, which is almost equal to the idea of justice. Accordingly, utilitarianism is a philosophy of well-being, while liberalism and libertarianism are philosophies of justice. However, there is little connection between well-being and justice in these philosophies because the two kinds of philosophies are incompatible. The latter kind criticizes the former because the maximization of happiness can infringe on people’s rights. Moreover, these philosophies do not particularly value citizenship. In contrast, communitarianism is intrinsically the political philosophy of citizenship most attuned to increasing well-being, and it can connect an idea of justice with well-being. The final part offers a framework to develop an inter-disciplinary collaboration. Positive psychology can provide the empirical basis of the two axes above concerning political philosophies. On the other hand, the correspondence makes the character of political philosophies clearer. While libertarianism and liberalism correspond to psychology as usual, utilitarianism and communitarianism correspond to positive psychology, and the latter can be regarded as positive political philosophies. This recognition leads to the interdisciplinary framework, enabling multi-disciplinary collaboration, including work with the social sciences, which could benefit the common good….

…Sandel typically argued for the resurgence of republicanism as a public philosophy in America instead of the liberalism that has been dominant since WWII (Sandel, 1996). Republicanism originates in res publica in ancient Greek and Rome, and it means active political participation for self-government by people with civic virtue. If people lack civic virtue, they tend to fall into political apathy or become manipulated by demagogues. Thus, civic virtue has a vital role in making democracy sound and better in quality.

Although liberalism sometimes supports republicanism, it respects the institutional mechanism against dictatorship, typically separation of powers. Accordingly, it sometimes supports people’s political participation: this version is liberal republicanism (Ackerman, 1993/2000). Nevertheless, liberalism, including even this version, tends to disregard the ethical aspect of republicanism. In contrast, communitarianism emphasizes the vital significance of civic virtue for political participation. It advocates civic virtue as one of the essential human virtues, and therefore it frequently accompanies republicanism to be termed communitarian republicanism.

In sum, while liberalism and libertarianism are individualist and non-ethical, especially concerning public spheres, communitarianism has an ethical and communal (or public) orientation: it attaches importance to various collaborative activities and communities, as well as to the good life sustained by morality and virtue, not only in private lives but also in public lives.


“The force of historical decline.”

Haydar Khan [The Scrum, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-17-2021] Galbraith v. Thiel. 

Galbraith: “The institutional, infrastructure, resource basis, and psychological foundations for a Keynesian revival no longer exist.”


The Court and the Rise in Vigilantism. Last Friday’s ruling on Texas’s new anti-abortion law makes it possible to undo long-established rights.

ERWIN CHEMERINSKY, December 15, 2021 [The American Prospect]

(Chemerinsky is dean of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, and one of the most cited legal authorities of United States constitutional law and federal civil procedure.)

I fear that our society has entered an age of vigilantism that reflects a profound distrust in government institutions and individuals. It is a path that only can lead to disaster. Consider several quite different events of the last few weeks….

Justice Sonia Sotomayor outlined this danger powerfully in her dissent when she declared, “While the Court properly holds that this suit may proceed against the licensing officials, it errs gravely in foreclosing relief against state-court officials and the state attorney general. By so doing, the Court leaves all manner of constitutional rights more vulnerable than ever before, to the great detriment of our Constitution and our Republic.”


The 1937 Project. Or maybe the 1979 Project. Either way, Democrats are blundering into premature austerity.

David Dayen, December 16, 2021 [The American Prospect]

…. cutoff of CTC payments is not the only looming financial problem facing millions of Americans. Since the pandemic began, student loan payments have been on a pause. The pause has been extended several times, but the White House has confirmed that it will not extend the pause again after January 31. This means that payments of $393 per month (on average) will resume for 42 million federal borrowers. The raw total of those renewed payments, on an annual basis, approaches the level of the one-time checks handed out in the American Rescue Plan.

So under current policy, in January, CTC checks will stop, and in February, student loan payments will restart. This double whammy is a form of austerity that might bolster the federal government’s bottom line, but will severely crunch millions of families and young college graduates in the middle of an inflation surge….

In fact, in the current crunch, it could worsen the problem. Companies have been double-ordering inventory because of the uncertainty of getting goods smoothly. The slightest reduction in demand could leave them stuck with a bunch of items that nobody wants or can afford. This is a ticking time bomb that could prompt those companies to lay off workers. It’s a function of an unstable supply chain, and pushing austerity on millions of people could light the fuse.

So you have a form of inflation-fighting that won’t actually fight inflation, doesn’t deal with the supply issues at the heart of the problem, and instead stumbles into austerity for no good reason. A combination of overconfidence, reluctant corporate Democrats, and wrong-headed political strategy has Democrats moving in a disastrous direction.


Those ‘Wage Increases’ Stories Miss the Big Picture

Harold Meyerson, December 16, 2021 [The American Prospect]

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that after-tax corporate profits hit an all-time high as a share of the economy in the third quarter of this year, reaching a previously unheard-of 11 percent. That broke the previous record of 10.7 percent, which was set in the second quarter of this year.

And if the share going to profits is rising, the share going to some other economic components must be falling. Earlier this week, Larry Mishel and Jori Kandra of the Economic Policy Institute published a report on the distribution of wages that noted yet another record set. In 2020, the report concluded, the wages of the bottom 90 percent of wage earners constituted the lowest share of all wages paid in a single year since the government began charting such things in 1937.


COVID vs. The General Welfare

Stripped of power, Missouri health depts abandon COVID health measures

[ars technica, via Naked Capitalism 12-12-2021]

NC commenter Chuck L: “Societal collapse.”

….health officials in Laclede and elsewhere are pulling back rather than ramping up health prevention measures, citing a December 7 letter from state Attorney General Eric Schmitt. The letter informed them of a recent court ruling that stripped state health agencies of a variety of disease-prevention powers, particularly regarding issuing isolation and quarantine orders. “You should stop enforcing and publicizing any such orders immediately,” the letter read.

The ruling comes from Judge Daniel Green of the Cole County Circuit Court, who entered a judgment on November 22 in the case of Shannon Robinson, et. al., v. Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS). Robinson and her co-plaintiffs challenged health agencies’ powers to issue restrictions to prevent the spread of disease, such as ordering quarantines. Attorney General Schmitt defended DHSS in the case and has refused to appeal its outcome.


The Coronavirus Turned a Rural County Into a Battleground for Millionaires

[Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 12-12-2021]

Property rights uber alles.


Amid violent threats, lawmaker ditches bill to make unvaxxed pay hospital bills

[Ars Technica, via Naked Capitalism 12-12-2021]


120 Manufacturers in the Global South Could Be Producing mRNA Vaccines If Big Pharma Would Only Show Them How

[In These Times, via Naked Capitalism 12-17-2021]


Gorsuch’s Crusade Against Vaccine Mandates Could Topple A Pillar of Public Health

[Slate, via Naked Capitalism 12-16-2021]


First U.S. vaccine mandate in 1809 launched 200 years of court battles 

[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 12-14-2021]

“It doesn’t seem to have triggered widespread opposition at the time. People were terrified of smallpox, and people’s own experience with vaccination reassured them. When smallpox outbreaks struck their area, people could see that those in their community who had been vaccinated didn’t get sick.”


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

The Working Class is Not Voting Against Its Interests

[CounterPunch, via Naked Capitalism 12-16-2021]

Today’s Democratic Party is completely irrelevant. Who needs a Party of the Left that shuns the working class and only represents elite professionals, woke academics, Wall Street, billionaires, and poor minorities?

America needs a labor party. A party of the working class. But right now it has nothing that even vaguely resembles either one.


Tornadoes ripped the roof off American capitalism

Will Bunch [Philadelphia Inquirer, via Naked Capitalism 12-17-2021]

Among the many questions: Are today’s giant warehouses and open factories — the building blocks of our consumer economy — safe in an age when climate change is fueling stronger tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods? Do business practices aimed at maximizing production — Amazon seeks to ban employees from having cell phones on the job, for example — threaten worker safety in emergencies? Would the return of labor unions bring more protection for workers in the warehouse economy, as well as living wages that account for the dangers of today’s work?

Mindy Isser, the Philadelphia-based labor organizer and writer, whose recent work has focused on the intersection between workers’ rights and global warming, told me Monday that the deaths in Illinois and Kentucky show that “our lives, outside of productivity at the workplace, matter very little. Our safety and our families are completely ignored and belittled the vast majority of the time, and that includes during natural disasters.” She said the risks of working in extreme weather — including punishing heat, which has particularly been a problem at Amazon warehouses — make a compelling case for the Green New Deal, and for unionizing the workforce.

Weather experts noted that the extremely rare December twisters — fueled by a cold front’s collision with pockets of unseasonably warm air in the American heartland — were the kind usually seen in the spring. That’s key here, Jason Furtado, an associate professor of meteorology at the University of Oklahoma, told NBC News. “We’re seeing these environments that can support tornadic activity.” But is the American workplace ready for this new era?


Smartphones Are a New Tax on the Poor

[Wired, via Naked Capitalism 12-17-2021]

DAMON, WHO WORKS full-time at an upscale hotel and part-time at a burger joint in Washington, DC, gets his weekly schedules through texts from his managers, often with last-minute requests to come in to cover for missing coworkers. To make sure he can receive these messages, Damon juggles two basically broken low-end smartphones, one with a shattered screen and another that turns on and off unpredictably when he tries to use it. “I’m waiting on my next check so I can get another phone,” he told me. Meanwhile, he’s using stagnant wages to purchase a phone that’s functionally a workplace requirement, all just to keep the jobs he has now.

Science fiction author William Gibson famously said that the future is already here, it’s just not very evenly distributed. Smartphones and on-the-go internet access have made many of our working lives more efficient and flexible. But the requirement for constant connectivity isn’t only a fact of white-collar work—it has spread to workers up and down the income ladder. And while the requirement has spread, the resources that workers need to maintain it are not evenly distributed. Today, more than a quarter of low-income Americans depend solely on their phones for internet access. Amid historic levels of income inequality, phones and data plans have become an increasingly costly burden on those who have the least to spare….

THE HIGH COSTS of connectivity represent an increasingly large slice of household incomes for low-wage workers. Even though maintaining these connections has become necessary for many low-wage workers, their incomes have not kept pace. According to 2020 numbers from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, those in the lowest 20 percent of income earners spent $150 more a year on their cell phones than they did in 2016. The cost of connectivity represents more than half of what these households spent on electricity, and nearly 80 percent of what they paid for gas. As a proportion of household income, the lowest earners spent four times more on phones than high earners. With inflation looming, these issues are likely to get worse before they get better.


“Car Companies Want You to Keep Paying For Features You Already Have”

[Vice, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-17-2021]

“Back in the day, car companies made money by selling cars and financing those car purchases. Now, automakers plan to make even more money by selling subscriptions and software updates to cars that have already been sold, perhaps even for features people expect cars to have. Brace yourselves now for this nickel-and-diming future. Automakers have been fairly explicit that they see “Software as a Service,” as it is known in business speak, as a significant earner to make back some of the billions of dollars they invest in electric and autonomous vehicle development…. the big play here is not going to be the $80-a-year stuff for marginal features like remote start. Instead, it will be performance, range, and perhaps even safety upgrades to electric vehicles that make the actual car better at being a car. These were upgrades that were difficult or impossible to engineer with gas cars, but are relatively trivial for electric ones. The goal, from the automakers’ perspective, will be getting people to pay for the same thing multiple times as often as possible. This strategy is taking its cue from Tesla, which calls over-the-air upgrades ‘an essential part of the Tesla ownership experience.’”


‘At 75, I still have to work’: millions of Americans can’t afford to retire

[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 12-14-2021]


They’re not capitalists – they’re a criminal predatory class

Natwest fined £264m after taking deposits of laundered cash in bin bags

[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 12-14-2021]


The Great Inheritors: How Three Families Shielded Their Fortunes From Taxes for Generations

[ProPublica, via The Big Picture 12-17-2021]

In the early 1900s some of the wealthiest Americans claimed their fortunes would never last through the generations. A century of tax avoidance later, the dynasties are going strong.


Why New York’s Billionaires’ Row Is Half Empty

[,  December 15, 2021, via YouTube]


Wall Street Is Close to Triggering a Climate Financial Crisis

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 12-15-2021]

NC commenter Deck: “And just like 2008, the biggest losers will be those least responsible for it.”

Worker Protection Bill Blocked Before Tornado Disaster: Lawmakers and corporate lobbyists stymied legislation to protect employees’ jobs when they flee an unsafe workplace.

David Sirota, Julia Rock, Andrew Perez [The Daily Poster, December 7, 2021]


Inside the Secretive World of Union Busting: Labor-Focused Academics Targeted for Their Research

Capital & Main, via Naked Capitalism 12-12-2021]

Capital and Main is running a series on union busting; this article is one of several.


Restoring balance to the economy

Boycott Kelloggs

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-13-2021]


The Union of Autoworkers and Grad Students: With last week’s victory at the University of California, roughly 100,000 UAW members work for universities.

Harold Meyerson, December 16, 2021 [The American Prospect]

Running third in the media’s eye was actually the nation’s largest unionization in several years: 17,000 research assistants at the University of California have joined the United Auto Workers (UAW). Despite the relative lack of buzz, that unionization more immediately pointed to a brighter future for the American labor movement than the victory at Starbucks….

But that doesn’t fully explain how grad students whom universities employ as teaching and research assistants across the nation were drawn to the UAW. Part of the answer is the UAW’s affiliation, over the course of the 1980s, of the independent left union known as District 65—a trailblazer in the union movement for such causes as civil rights and anti–Vietnam War activism. Progressive activist grad students both in New York City (where District 65 was headquartered) and in Berkeley had long admired District 65, and the synergies between those students and District 65 organizers led to a growing UAW presence on campus.


Disrupting mainstream economics – Modern Monetary Theory

Seven Replies to the Critiques of Modern Money Theory

Eric Tymoigne [Levy Economic Insititutevia Mike Norman Economics 12-14-2021]

Modern Money Theory (MMT) has generated considerable scrutiny and discussions over the past decade. While it has gained some acceptance in the financial sector and among some politicians, it has come under strong criticisms from all sides of the academic spectrum and from conservative political circles. MMT has been argued to be both fascist and communist, orthodox and heterodox, dangerous and benign, unworkable and obvious, and unrealistic and clearly nothing new. The contradictory aspects of the range of criticisms suggest that there is at best a superficial understanding of the MMT framework. MMT relies on a well-established theoretical framework and is not inherently about changing the economic system; it is about changing the policymaking praxis to implement a given public purpose. That public purpose can be small or large and can be conservative or progressive; it ought not to be narrowly determined but rather should be set as democratically as possible. While MMT proponents tend to favor a public purpose that deals with what they see as major drawbacks of capitalist economies (persistent nonfrictional unemployment, unfair inequalities, and financial instability), their policy proposals do not lead to a major shift of domestic resources to the public purpose. If a major increase in government spending is implemented, MMT provides some guidance on how to do that in the least disruptive manner by drawing on past economic experiences. The point is to implement the public purpose at a pace that recognizes the potential constraint that comes from domestic resource availability and potential inflationary pressures from bottlenecks, rising import prices, and exchange rate depreciation, among others. In most cases, economies have more flexibility than what is admitted. In all cases, when monetary sovereignty prevails, the fiscal position and the public debt are poor metrics for judging the viability of a public purpose and its pace of implementation.

As such, applying MMT to policymaking does not mean that a government ought to be encouraged to record fiscal deficits or that the relation between the central bank and the treasury ought to be radically changed to allow direct financing. The fiscal balance is not a proper policy goal because it leads to irrelevant or incorrect policymaking and because it is largely outside the control of policymakers. The financial praxis of monetarily sovereign governments already conforms to MMT. Central banks and treasuries routinely coordinate their financial operations. Some governments have allowed direct financing of the treasury by the central bank; others have not but have developed equivalent ways to coordinate their fiscal and monetary operations that work around existing political constraints. Such routine coordination ensures an elastic financing of government operations that at least deals with domestic resources and is not intrinsically inflationary….


Climate and environmental crises

Collapse of Thwaites Eastern Ice Shelf by intersecting fractures

[AGU, via Naked Capitalism 12-16-2021]


“A frenzy of well drilling by California farmers leaves taps running dry”

[Los Angeles Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-16-2021]

“In the verdant San Joaquin Valley, one of the nation’s most productive farming regions, domestic wells … are drying up at an alarming pace as a frenzy of new well construction and heavy agricultural pumping sends the underground water supply to new lows during one of the most severe droughts on record…. The Los Angeles Times analyzed state groundwater data from the hard-hit San Joaquin Valley and found that 2021 is on track to see the most agricultural wells drilled since the last drought ended. The Times analysis found that more than 6,200 agriculture wells have been drilled in the valley since the flawed Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, known as SGMA, was passed in 2014.”


Postcards From a World on Fire 

[New York Times, via The Big Picture 12-17-2021]

Cities swallowed by dust. Human history drowned by the sea. Economies devastated, lives ruined. These 193 stories show the reality of climate change. In every country in the world.


Conservatives Have a New Bogeyman: Critical Energy Theory: Inside ALEC’s new campaign to push anti-climate legislation across the country

[The New Republic, via DailyPoster, December 16, 2021]


Information age dystopia

Revealed: LAPD used ‘strategic communications’ firm to track ‘defund the police’ online Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 12-16-2021]


Creating new economic potential – science and technology

For 50 years, CT scans have saved lives, revealed beauty and more

[Science News, via Naked Capitalism 12-12-2021]


Health Innovation for All

Mariana Mazzucato and Jayati Ghosh [Project Syndicate, via Naked Capitalism 12-13-2021]


Can Indoor Farms Reach Skyscraper Height? 

[CityLab , via The Big Picture 12-17-2021]

A proposed Shenzhen skyscraper would include a 51-story hydroponic farm, as hopes grow that vertical farms can help address food insecurity.

A new untethered and insect-sized aerial vehicle

[PhysOrg, via Naked Capitalism 12-16-2021]


Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

Heather Cox Richardson, December 13, 2021 Letters from an American

Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) grabbed the headlines, though, as she read text messages Meadows received on January 6. They included texts from lawmakers to Meadows begging Trump to call off the rioters, making it crystal clear that those closest to him understood that those attacking the Capitol would respond to his orders. Dozens of texts urged the president to act to stop the protesters: “Someone is going to get killed.” “POTUS needs to calm this sh*t down.”

Those writing the texts to Meadows about the president also included his son Donald Trump, Jr. (why was he communicating with his father through Meadows?), and Fox News Channel personalities Laura Ingraham, Brian Kilmeade, and Sean Hannity, revealing how dangerously intertwined the right-wing media system is with Republican lawmakers. “This is hurting all of us,” Ingraham wrote to Meadows during the insurrection.

Cheney said: “These texts leave no doubt: the White House knew exactly what was happening at the Capitol. Members of Congress, the press, and others wrote to Mark Meadows as the attack was underway.”

And yet, Trump remained unmoved for 187 minutes while our Capitol was under attack and lawmakers hid from the mob. As Cheney said: “Hours passed without necessary action by the president. These non privileged texts are further evidence of President Trump’s supreme dereliction of duty during those 187 minutes.”


Trump’s White House Emailed About a PowerPoint on How to End American Democracy

[Rolling Stone, via The Big Picture 12-14-2021]

Former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows handed over a trove of pre-Jan. 6 documentation. It’s damning stuff

Meadows Was Deeply Involved in Fighting Election Outcome, Jan. 6 Panel Says 

[New York Times, via The Big Picture 12-14-2021]

The House committee laid out its case for a contempt of Congress charge against Mark Meadows, the chief of staff to former President Donald J. Trump.


Trump’s Next Coup Has Already Begun

[The Atlantic, via DailyPoster, December 12, 2021] 

“The prospect of this democratic collapse is not remote. People with the motive to make it happen are manufacturing the means. Given the opportunity, they will act. They are acting already. Who or what will safeguard our constitutional order is not apparent today. It is not even apparent who will try. Democrats, big and small D, are not behaving as if they believe the threat is real. Some of them, including President Joe Biden, have taken passing rhetorical notice, but their attention wanders. They are making a grievous mistake.”


The reason the Jan. 6 coup failed that no one is talking about

Will Bunch [Philadelphia Inquirer, via Naked Capitalism 12-17-2021]

Shock and awe would be a good phrase to describe the pace of bombshell disclosures as the House Select Committee probing the January 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill picks up the pace of its investigation. In particular, though, there is one new revelation that both shines a light on how close a coup to unlawfully keep Donald Trump in the White House came to succeeding, but also on a key twist that caused it to fail. The House panel has obtained an email from Trump’s top aide at the time of the insurrection — his chief of staff Mark Meadows — from January 5 stating that the National Guard was on standby to “protect pro Trump people.” That sounds very bad in and of itself, but it’s even worse when you take a step back to understand why Trump’s people thought his “Stop the Steal” backers would need help from troops.

There was, in that great Sherlock Holmes-uttered analogy, a dog that did not bark on January 6. Based on a series of encounters in the streets of Washington going back to Trump’s inaugural weekend in 2017 and continuing through the final days of 2020, Team Trump expected that supporters marching on the Capitol would encounter left-wing protesters — include the hardcore folks branded as “antifa” — along the way. Trump himself even tweeted about antifa a couple of times on January 5. He’d also spent his final weeks staffing the Pentagon — which had the power to call in the Washington National Guard or otherwise intervene — with die-hard loyalists. If clashes involving left-wing protesters had turned bloody or even deadly on January 6, troops commanded by Trump-friendly generals like Michael Flynn’s brother, Lt. Gen. Charles Flynn, might have entered the Capitol early in the day — and stayed there, thus preventing the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory, while Trump instead declared “a National Security Emergency.”

There was just one problem: There were no leftist protesters in D.C. that fateful day. Smelling the potential rat in the room and not willing to put Biden’s victory at risk, left-wing opinion leaders on social media had one big message for January 6: Stay away. There was even a Twitter hashtag: #DontTakeTheBait. Instead, the Pentagon and National Guard did receive urgent requests from D.C. district leaders and others to intervene — not on behalf of pro-Trump insurrectionists, but to stop them. No wonder those military men froze, like deer in the headlights, for hours before acting. And no wonder Fox News commentators stayed on script and blamed violence on the “antifa” who were nowhere in sight. Lacking its planned pretext, Trump’s coup by national emergency had become a non-starter. The rest is history.


GOP Election Objectors Rake In Corporate Cash

[The Hill, via The DailyPoster, December 16, 2021]

The nation’s biggest companies have steadily ramped up their donations to GOP lawmakers who voted against certifying the 2020 election results, largely ending the giving freeze instituted following the Capitol riot.

Less than a year after the Jan. 6 attack, PACs affiliated with Fortune 500 companies and their trade groups have contributed $6.8 million to the 147 Republicans who objected, according to a new analysis of campaign finance records from liberal watchdog group Accountable.


Why the Biden Presidency Feels Like Such a Disappointment

[The New York Times, via DailyPoster, December 12, 2021]

“There is a sense that however large his spending bills may be, they come nowhere near to solving the problems they are meant to address. There is also a sense that however much in control of the federal government progressives may be, the right is still calling the shots. The first point is inarguable, especially when it comes to climate change and inequality. The second point is questionable, but it can find confirmation in everything from a conservative Supreme Court supermajority to the right’s ability to unleash one debilitating culture war after another — and in the growing fear that Republicans will ride back into the halls of power and slam the doors of democracy behind them, maybe forever.”


The scam of the Reagan-era neoliberalism is crumbling — and there’s a battle for its replacement

Thom Hartmann [Alternet, via Mike Norman Economics 12-16-2021]

It started back in 1951, when Russell Kirk electrified a small coterie of conservatives like William F. Buckley and Barry Goldwater with his prediction that the middle class was growing too rich, and the inevitable result would be massive and widespread social upheaval in this country.

This little band of conservatives predicted that if the middle class continued to gain income and wealth faster than the top 1% (which was the case in 1951), soon “the rabble” of working class people would be so wealthy that they’d feel safe challenge the institutions and social norms of America.


The Radical Young Intellectuals Who Want to Take Over the American Right

[New Republic, via DailyPoster, December 12, 2021]

Hochman is a rising a star of what is being called, rather unimaginatively, the New Right. He and his comrades are populist culture warriors, cohered as much by temperament as ideology—and by certain fiercely held enmities. Some are ‘national conservatives,’ who, like ‘Reformicons’ of the 2010s, support pro-family welfare policy and reject the GOP’s tax-cutting orthodoxy. (NatCons, as they’re known, also tend to be China and immigration hawks who want an “industrial policy” for the heartland.) Others are “postliberal” localists, in the vein of Patrick Deneen, who wrote Why Liberalism Failed, and Rod Dreher, the irascible Eastern Orthodox blogger and author of The Benedict Option, a spirited argument for Christian retreat from the turpitude of public life into virtuous communal separatism. And others are Roman Catholic integralists, aspiring to a theologically ordered politics; Harvard Law professor Adrian Vermeule and University of Dallas politics professor and American Affairs editor Gladden Pappin are their touchstones.”


Fox News’s shaky veneer collapses 

[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 12-17-2021]

Text messages the Jan. 6 committee received from Mark Meadows included appeals from several Fox News hosts, including Sean Hannity and Brian Kilmeade, warning Meadows Jan 6 rioters were “destroying everything you have accomplished.” This ended the ability for Fox News to credibly claim that its approach to its coverage is objective.


Democrats’ political suicide

“Political suicide”

[White Hot Harlots, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-17-2021]

“One of my most offensive (or maybe fatalistic) beliefs is that the Biden administration, as it is constituted and how it governs, is a form of reparations…. Here’s what Actual Reparations entail: the token diversification of the elite castes in Democratic politics and other liberal-dominated arenas along with a few thousand sinecures for the race stooges who worked dutifully in 2016-2020 to ensure that banks and pharmaceutical companies shall never feel unsafe. … This is the end result of the Stan-Culture-as-Politics paradigm that’s ruled liberalism since Obama’s ascent. The success of a small handful of individuals from historically marginalized groups is proffered as a substitute for systemic reforms. You don’t fight racism by rebuilding the infrastructure of black communities that have been left to rot. Instead, you fight racism by making Beyonce richer. Her success is your success. Ignore the fact that your tap water has chunks in it and celebrate how many books Amanda Gorman just sold. This is progress. This is liberalism. This, I’m sorry to say, is your reparations. Now, such an approach to politics was enough to beat a demented game show host on the second try, but I’m afraid it’s already sputtering out. The generic ballot now favors Republicans by a greater margin than has ever been recorded, Biden’s already polling below 40% and is set to repeal most of the COVID-era’s financial relief policies in a few weeks, and–oh, wow, fuck–hispanic voters are now split evenly between the two parties, and upper-class Asian Americans appear to have been the decisive factor in the GOP’s shocking upset in the Virginia gubernatorial race.”


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-17-2021]




Open Thread


Today’s Center Is Yesterday’s Extreme


  1. Trinity

    I haven’t yet made it past Khan’s “The force of historical decline”, I’m so incensed. Why would anyone even posit a method for “saving” a corrupt and impudent government makes me question motives, especially Thiel’s motives.

    Are we capable? Absolutely, but it’s extremely doubtful any “saving” will ever take place given how entrenched are the habits of our vastly rich overlords. And there’s the answer: our habits bring about our downfall, both individual habits and national habits. And we are habit-minded creatures (most creatures are). Can our overlords break their habit of gluttony? Can the general populace break their habit of selfishness and self-serving behavior? I don’t think so. The US is inhabited by addicts of all kinds. Even worse, the soul-crushing nature of US culture begs people to develop unhealthy habits just to cope, a reinforcing feedback loop. In almost all cases, these unhealthy habits are also self- and environmentally-destructive.

    What goes up must come down, what is born grows old and dies, cycles are a natural feature of the universe, and change is a universal constant. Trying to keep everything unchanging is an even bigger part of the problem, and costs for maintaining everything past and present grows more expensive (in dollars, in environmental destruction) by the month. And lest we forget, most of the newer infrastructure is crap, not designed to last more than a few decades, and requires even more maintenance, while almost everything else is manufactured to fail within a few weeks, months, or years.

    My question is: did we learn anything so we won’t repeat the same mistakes for yet another millennium or two or three?

  2. different clue


    The Indian Nations obviously learned something because they have lived for many thousands of years without even making these mistakes to begin with.

    So all those Boat-Person Americans who want to avoid making the same mistakes over the millenia to come might learn from the still-here Indian Nations that which the still-here Indian Nations still already know.

  3. Soredemos

    @different clue

    What a weird thing to pretend that American Natives were somehow static cultures that didn’t rise, fall, and generally change over time. Go back a thousand years before European contact with any tribe (or probably just a few centuries) and you’d likely find that the ancestors of that tribe didn’t view or define themselves in the same way as their later descendants, who they might even have looked down upon.

    Mesa Verde, Cahokia; natives were just as capable of golden ages and decline as anyone else. In fact it’s very likely that the ‘primitive’ cultures encountered by the Europeans in some areas were the diminished remnants of more impressive ancestors.

  4. Soredemos

    I’m amazed by the stunning revelation that Manchin won’t support Biden’s bill. What a shocking plot twist that no one could have possibly seen coming. /s

  5. Chicago Clubs

    Yes, one of the interesting things to me in checking out native cultures once upon a time was how many of them where relatively recent newcomers to the land they were on when the Europeans encountered them, pushed about, oftentimes, by other tribes who were themselves getting pressure from elsewhere and so on. The “land acknowledgements” and much of the rest of American attitudes toward natives reify what was essentially a snapshot in time, treating the lands tribes happened to occupy at the time they were encountered as some Eternal Fixture of those tribes’ being.

  6. different clue


    “What a weird thing to pretend that American Natives were somehow static cultures that didn’t rise, fall, and generally change over time.”

    What a weird thing to pretend to accuse me of thinking. With all the changes in culture and language, the rise and fall and move-arounding of the Tribes and Nations, and all the dynamic fluidity; all the different groups and types spent the last 10,000 years not degrading and destroying the land they lived on, and in many cases improving its ecological function.

    This is already being admitted to here and there by the Dominant Society, when its forestry people begin to show interest in the culture of controlled burning practiced by many Native Indigenous peoples until its suppression by the U. S. Forest Service and others.

    Many Indigenous Nations were indeed decimated and reduced by the Great European Germocaust. The Amazon Basin population got burned down from many millions to less than a million in about a century by the Great Iberian Germocaust which the Portuguese and Spanish explorers brought them, such that later Spanish explorers of the Amazon after Orellana himself thought that Orellana had to be making it all up.

    Eco-rehabilitation of the Amazon and other places will probably be partly based on whatever Indian knowledge of eco-terraforming still survives from the disciplines by which the Amazon Nations up-terraformed the Amazon and the Gran Chaco and the Pantanal & etc. to begin with.

    Same with the Maya Food Forest. & etc. and so on.

  7. different clue

    . . . . a sudden thought which just occurred to me . . .

    Western thinkers should really ask themselves whether the Casiquiare Canal between the Rio Negro and the Orinoco River is really just a natural stream or whether it was a canal dug on purpose by the Indian Nations of its day to link the Amazon and the Orinoco basins on purpose.

  8. Oregoncharles

    From that last Tweet:
    “Relief package: $400B smaller than the CARES Act
    College debt moratorium: ended under the Democratic president
    Eviction moratorium: ended under the Democratic president
    Unemployment extension: ended under the Democratic president”

    Yeah, that’s what the Dems are really for.

  9. Trinity

    “all the different groups and types spent the last 10,000 years not degrading and destroying the land they lived on, and in many cases improving its ecological function”. I was going to say this, but you beat me to it and probably said it better.

    The Hopi believe they’ve been in the same general area for 10,000 years. Who cares if it’s true or not, see different clue’s quote above. I lean in to believing them, as they aren’t stealing my money and corrupting what’s left of my government.

    People don’t seem to realize that all the so-called “conveniences” of “modern life” are both contrived (a form of enslavement), and making us all weak and stupid. And ill. “ … why is the dominant culture so excruciatingly, relentlessly, insanely, genocidally, suicidally, destructive?”. Foreword by Derrick Jensen to Jack D. Forbes’ Columbus and other Cannibals.

    We can all agree to cheer on the demise of Faux News, however. If it happens, that is.

  10. Soredemos

    @Chicago Clubs

    My favorite example of that is the Black Hills. The Lakota were themselves very recent (as in post-European contact) interlopers who conquered the area from tribes that already lived there. Crazy Horse’s “my lands are where my dead lie buried” line was said in response to someone pointing this out. It was basically a smartass non-answer. Plenty of Cheyenne were buried out there long before his people came along, and Arikara before them.

    If the region ‘belongs’ to anyone, it belongs to the Arikara who got there first in the 16th century.

  11. Ché Pasa

    Re: Kobayashi

    Some years ago, I wrote a fairly long report on the differences between the ’60s countercultural strains of communitarianism and libertarianism. Obviously, libertarianism won out and is now is now reaching its inevitable chaotic nadir.

    Of course, communitarianism has continued alongside the triumphant libertarianism of the last 60 years or so, but I question whether it will resurge as libertarian ruling ideologies disintegrate around us. Communitarianism among the masses is so alien to
    the ruling class that the idea of it is nearly impossible for them to imagine.

    That’s largely been a blessing for the communitarian underground up to now.

    But as for tomorrow, I dunno….

    Best not to rely on politicans and political parties to ease us through the coming years and crises. They’ve amply shown they cannot do it.

  12. bruce wilder

    @ different clue

    the first peoples — if they even were the first “first peoples” of the Americas, some doubts have been raised on that point by the fever to identify the oldest oldest remains — altered the landscape and the ecology, contributing to the demise of many species of large mammals in pre-Columbian America among other “disasters”.

    Humans are humans, and “noble savages” a myth.

    That said, I agree with you that we really do need to be thinking at every level how we can get as rapidly as possible to a truce with Mother Nature, now that human extinction seems to be the only practical approach proffered from the billionaire class.

  13. bruce wilder

    I feel like I should say something about MMT.

    That article by Eric Tymoigne is in denial about the “content” of much of the pro-MMT propaganda representing MMT to the popular imagination. The “hook” for MMT screeds is often some superficial provocation, along the lines of denying that the monetarily sovereign government along the lines of denying that such a government needs to borrow / issue bonds or even that such a government must tax. It is hard to walk back from such suggestions. And, yes contra Eric, some self-appointed MMT advocates have argued strongly, in less provocative rhetoric, against issuing bonds at all or against separating Treasury and Central Bank roles.

    Mainstream economics erects what amounts to a series of strawman arguments from nonsense theories (e.g. “Loanable Funds theory” — that savings finance investment is completely indefensible but used when convenient by the likes of Krugman and Mankiw contributing to the low level of public understanding of fiscal and monetary policy; another example: it is commonplace for economists to talk as if there is one interest rate and it balances savings and investment, et cetera) Against such idiotic and disingenuous argumentation, MMT theorists understandably despair. I feel their pain, I really do.

    MMT is not sophisticated about some topics where it ought to be very sophisticated, indeed. Eric Tymoigne, to his credit, at least mentions international exchange rates. But, the commonly repeated story that “market rates” of international exchange represent a self-correcting mechanism by which trade flows balance capital flows is another one of those strawman arguments used by the mainstream to shutdown understanding. International trade and financial flows do not work that way — deficits and surpluses are obviously persistent even in the face of arbitrage opportunities in real goods prices. MMT does itself no credit when MMT advocates flippantly rely on myths about the efficacy of floating exchange rates. A realistic MMT policy in any country but the U.S. at the height of its hegemonic dominance is going to need serious institutional mechanisms in place to control the flow of capital and MMT does not talk about such mechanisms enough to be a serious policy framework. Even for the U.S. — now that the U.S. is well past the point where it can afford its hegemony (aka being the consumer of first resort for much of the industrial and industrializing world as well as reserve currency provider for everyone) — MMT-come-lately has the potential for triggering catastrophic crises, with no more concept for managing them than the neoliberals who created the just-in-time-to-lower-wages supply-chain nightmare.

    The centrality of a marketable national debt to the management of banking and investment is not an area much explored by MMT. It really should not be such a reach, to look at the role of a “zero-risk” financial instruments as hedge vehicles and a reference for the great array of interest rates that spread through any financial system. A marketable national debt has great public utility as stabilizing ballast. At a time when the Euro is daily exploring the risks of trying to do without — or worse, do it with one country only — MMT might pay more attention. At one time, MMT was getting a lot of attention in Italy, which is the next scheduled victim of the Euro, its national debt and banking system teetering on the edge; what is MMT doing with this opportunity for prophetic policy recommendations? Anything?

  14. Trinity

    Like pretty much everything, no two native tribes are alike, and some definitely ruined the environment (usually the most greedy and violent), and some didn’t. Some were violent but not greedy. Some were non-violent and non-greedy.

    Same goes for other parts of the world, where some groups destroyed their part of paradise and either moved or died out, and some didn’t. A professor of mine used to emphasize that humans alter the earth everywhere they go, and I always counter that the time scale of the damage needs to be considered. The greedy always want it NOW, when a more thoughtful, long-term approach might be better.

    The point being, right now we are no better than the Mayan, and could maybe strive to emulate the Hopi instead. Or maybe even the northwest tribes, who annually distributed the year’s extras equally across the entire tribe, rather than the chief building his great-great-great-grandchildren’s retirement plan.

  15. different clue

    @ Bruce Wilder,

    The paleo-hunters who demised all the great ice age beasts left descendants who appear to have learned lessons from that, and have spent the last 12,000 or so years after the demise of the great ice age beasts . . . . not demising any more beasts, great or small.

    So my observation remains valid and correct.

  16. Soredemos

    @bruce wilder

    “This thing that has been the de facto policy framework since 1971 is not a serious policy framework.”

    Uh huh…

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