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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – December 25, 2022

by Tony Wikrent

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-23-2022]



Strategic Political Economy

Come to America and Live a Shorter Life!

Harold Meyerson, December 22, 2022 [The American Prospect]

While life expectancy continued its upward climb among our peers—the nations with advanced economies—it fell in 2021 to its lowest level since 1996 in these United States according to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics. COVID and fentanyl each took a terrible toll, adding to the well-documented deaths of despair from suicide, alcoholism, and the other plagues statistically associated with the lives of working-class Americans.

An American child born last year had a life expectancy of 76.4 years—down from 77 years in 2020. The earlier year, of course, was the year of COVID with no vaccines, while 2021 was the year of COVID with vaccines, which only highlights the role that vaccine resistance played in dooming some hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens who might otherwise still be among us. Lest anyone doubt that the MAGA mishegas about the satanic vaccines was key to the continuation of COVID deaths well beyond the date when the vaccines became widely available, it’s notable that the death rate from COVID among whites surpassed that among Blacks and other racial groups in mid-2021.

Indeed, as a late-October study in The Lancet Regional Health–Americas documented, there was a direct correlation between the conservatism of a congressmember’s voting record and the death rate from COVID of their constituents, across all age groups and taking into account such factors as race, education, and income. Those death rates were 11 percent higher in states with Republican governors. This wasn’t just a function of state policy (like, e.g., Ron DeSantis’s war on vaccines), of course, but also of the beliefs of our MAGA-istic compatriots.

Another late-October study, this one published in the academic journal PLOS One, demonstrated that the perils of living in red-state America aren’t limited to greater COVID mortality rates.


Mortality Change among Less Educated Americans

[American Economic Association. Commentary below on Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 12-18-2022]



Can False Balance Kill You? It Sure Can 

[FAIR, via Naked Capitalism 12-23-2022]

The Washington Post (12/16/22) had a recent headline: “Can Politics Kill You? Research Says the Answer Increasingly Is Yes.” And the lead of the article, by Akilah Johnson, told readers of two studies that reveal what it calls “an uncomfortable truth”:

The toxicity of partisan politics is fueling an overall increase in mortality rates for working-age Americans.

But when you read further into the article, you find that politics is not really the problem here.  One of the studies, the Post reported, found that “people living in more conservative parts of the United States disproportionately bore the burden of illness and death linked to Covid-19.” The other found that “the more conservative a state’s policies, the shorter the lives of working-age people.

So the problem is not so much “politics” as it is conservatism.  Indeed, the article noted that one of the reports found “if all states implemented liberal policies” on the environment, guns, tobacco and other health-related policies, 170,000 lives would be saved a year.

Still, the analysis in the piece centered around the idea that it is not right-wing ideology, but lack of bipartisanship, that is to blame—as in, “The division in American politics has grown increasingly caustic and polarized.”


Workplace Fatalities Hit Highest Rate Since 2016 

[Manufacturing, via Naked Capitalism 12-23-2022]


The pandemic

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 12-18-2022]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 12-20-2022]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-20-2022]


‘World Health Organisation Doomed the World by Concealing Evidence of Airborne COVID Transmission’ 

[Byline Times, via Naked Capitalism 12-20-2022]


Morgue Data Reveal Africa’s High COVID-19 Death Toll 

[Boston University School of Public Health, via Naked Capitalism 12-20-2022]


Global power shift

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 12-22-2022]


Moscow Says US Policies Have Put the US and Russia on Brink of ‘Direct Clash’

[Defend Democracy, via Naked Capitalism 12-21-2022]


Russia Sitrep of Sorts

Yves Smith, December 23, 2022 [Naked Capitalism]


SCOTT RITTER: A Lexicon for Disaster 

[Consortium News, via Naked Capitalism 12-20-2022]

When the INF treaty was negotiated, U.S. and Soviet negotiators had the benefit of decades of negotiating history regarding the anti-ballistic missiles (ABM) treaty, the strategic arms limitation talks (SALT), and START, from which a common lexicon of agreed-upon arms control terminology was created.

Over the years, this lexicon helped streamline both the negotiation and implementation of various arms control agreements, ensuring that everyone was on the same page when it came to defining what had been committed to.

Today, however, after having listened to these veteran arms control professionals, it was clear to me that a common lexicon of arms control terminology no longer existed — words that once had a shared definition now meant different things to different people, and this definition gap could— and indeed would — further devolve as each side pursued their respective vision of arms control devoid of any meaningful contact with the other.


Olaf Scholz’s foreign policy manifesto in ‘Foreign Affairs’ magazine 

Gilbert Doctorow [via Naked Capitalism 12-21-2022]

Now let us look at the content of the manifesto which is firstly a very carefully trimmed narrative of what over the past thirty years has brought us to the present turning point in the road, or “Global Zeitenwende,” and secondly, a road map to the future, which the author(s) say, in the subtitle to the manifesto, will enable us “to avoid a New Cold War.”

In their hands, the narrative of European and world history over the past thirty years is the story of Russian revanchism that exists in a vacuum, without context of provocations and escalations from the USA, the EU and other actors, and propelled by the animus of one man, Vladimir Putin.

The key message about Russian culpability for everything comes in a couple of paragraphs.  The original sin was Putin’s evaluation of the collapse of the Soviet Union as “the biggest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century.” From that the authors fast forward to Putin’s “aggressive speech” at the February 2007 Munich Security Conference, “deriding the rules-based international order as a mere tool of American dominance.”  This was followed in short order by the war Russia launched against Georgia in 2008. And from there we are off to the races….

Yes, Germany will greatly expand its military spending and make amends for the pitiful forces of the present day Bundeswehr.  However, the Russians will not go back to their bear caves and hibernate when the fighting stops in Ukraine.  Indeed, what I now see is that progressively, over the past 300 days of warfare, Russian society has moved from consumerism and consolidated around patriotism. The ‘fifth column’ Liberals have now mostly left the country and moved to where their assets have long been kept in the West. Russian industry, under state direction, has risen to the challenge of supplying the army with equipment and munitions that are being expended at the highest daily rate since WWII. This trend will only accelerate going forward, as the Russian economy reorganizes on a war footing.  Moreover, and most importantly, the small professional army that Russia built up from the start of Putin’s tenure in the presidency has been replaced conceptually by plans to develop an army scaled to offset the whole of European conventional forces. This means, as we have heard repeatedly from the host of the Evening with Vladimir Solovyov talk show, a standing army of three million men and women…


You’re Not Actually Helping When You “Support” Protesters In Empire-Targeted Nations 

Caitlin Johnstone [via Naked Capitalism 12-21-2022]


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

Mathematical modeling in economics

Lars P. Syll [via Naked Capitalism 12-18-2022]

If scientific progress in economics lies in our ability to tell ‘better and better stories’ one would, of course, expect economics journals to be filled with articles supporting the stories with empirical evidence confirming the predictions. However, the journals still show a striking and embarrassing paucity of empirical studies that (try to) substantiate these predictive claims. Equally amazing is how little one has to say about the relationship between the model and real-world target systems. It is as though explicit discussion, argumentation, and justification on the subject aren’t considered to be required.


Car repossessions are on the rise in warning sign for the economy 

[NBC, via Naked Capitalism 12-18-2022]


Monopoly Power vs Democracy – Matt Stoller

Yves Smith, December 21, 2022 [Naked Capitalism]

Yves Smith preface:

Please enjoy a lively and wide-ranging discussion between Matt Stoller and’s Tara Baroncelli. The point of departure is Matt’s current policy focus, monopoly power, but Matt has long been interested in the way power is exercised in our economy and society.

Matt remarks that this degree of concentrated economic power is a historical anomaly. It’s hard to curb some of the drivers. One is contracts, particularly so-called contracts of adhesion, where users, usually consumer, have no ability to negotiate and in some cases even understand the agreement. Think of credit card contracts. They are necessary for many people, for instance, if you want to rent a car or buy an airline ticket. Yet even Alan Greenspan said he couldn’t understand a credit card contract and they were shorter in his day than now. How can someone possibly be deemed to have entered into an agreement on the basis of good faith and fair dealing when even experts can’t make sense of them?

This is plutocracy, not capitalism

Bank Error in Our Favor: A backroom drafting error leads to more antitrust enforcement.

Matt Stoller, BIG , via Naked Capitalism 12-24-2022]

Schumer and his Republican counterpart McConnell tried to water down the reform they did stick into the bill. They wanted to be sure that Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan couldn’t get extra money, so they put a two-year delay into the bill. Under the version they included, the merger filing fee money won’t get to the Antitrust Division until 2025, after Biden’s first term is over. It was a way of saying that they would boost enforcement, but only if people who are aggressive wouldn’t get to touch the money.

So that’s where we stood earlier this week. The problem is, someone in Schumer/McConnell world screwed up the drafting, essentially cutting and pasting the wrong Microsoft Word file. The version that had passed the House and Senate applied to new antitrust cases filed by state attorneys general. The version they accidentally stuck in the omnibus applies not only to cases filed by state attorneys going forward, but applies to pending cases. And this is a problem for Google, because they are facing just such a case in Texas. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has a devastating complaint against Google’s ad monopoly, but the suit had been removed from its Texas-friendly court and combined with a bunch of other suits in New York. If the strong version of the venue bill passed, that case would get kicked back to Texas, which Google does not want.

After the omnibus became public and Google lobbyists realized what had happened, they went nuts and demanded Schumer and McConnell fix it. California Senator Alex Padilla, who tends to support the search giant, pushed to fix it as well. So Schumer and McConnell groveled to the original authors of the bill, Amy Klobuchar and Mike Lee, and asked if they would consent to fixing what everyone knew was a drafting error. Most Senators are lazy and weak, and would probably allow such a fix without putting up a fuss. But Schumer had treated Klobuchar with contempt, and Klobuchar is actually substantive. So she and Lee said that they would only agree to the legislative fix if Schumer and McConnell backtracked on the two-year merger filing fee delay, thus allowing extra money to flow to the agencies (mostly the Antitrust Division).


How Big Tech fought antitrust reform — and won

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism 12-24-2022]

So how did tech companies and industry groups fight to ensure the bills didn’t reach President Biden? They leveraged big connections, and big money.

The tech industry leaned on armies of lobbyists — including ones with professional and personal ties to lawmakers — to urge opposition to the antitrust efforts.

Five former top aides to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) lobbied against antitrust bills on behalf of tech giants, along with some of Pelosi’s longtime senior staffers.

Schumer, meanwhile, faced calls from progressive groups to recuse himself from the bills because two of his daughters work for tech giants. Jessica Schumer is a registered lobbyist for Amazon in New York, while Alison Schumer is a product marketing manager at Meta.

Amazon alone deployed 20 lobbyists with ties to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to oppose AICOA. And two months ago, Sonia Gill, Democrats’ senior counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee who helped draft the antitrust bills, left to become Meta’s public policy manager.

Some companies also sent their top executives to Capitol Hill as the session drew to a close to speak with lawmakers, again letting the companies play to their individual strengths. Haworth said Apple CEO Tim Cook was on Capitol Hill “over and over” while Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg was notably absent because “nobody likes Mark Zuckerberg.”….

Those lobbying efforts only scratch the surface of the tech industry’s sprawling Washington strategy. Tech giants bankrolled dozens of trade associations and advocacy groups that pushed their message when it mattered most.

As Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) considered whether to back antitrust bills, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance spent millions on ads in Texas warning that AICOA would empower China in the global technology race. Many senators faced targeted ads in their home states from tech-backed progressive and free market groups.

That came after former national security officials with tech ties — including former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats — urged congressional leaders to delay AICOA over security concerns last year.

Big Tech didn’t just defeat the antitrust bills — the top priority — but also online privacy bills and legislation to funnel ad revenue from digital platforms to news outlets. The industry pulled off a clean sweep as it successfully painted all of the measures with the same brush.


Wells Fargo Wants to Buy Its Way Out of Trouble

David Dayen, December 22, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Over the course of 11 years under review by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Wells Fargo Bank denied mortgage borrowers loan modifications when they were eligible, froze and closed customer bank accounts through an automated fraud detection system without a proper rationale, charged illegal surprise overdraft fees, claimed that it would waive monthly account fees and then failed to do so, imposed phantom charges on auto loans, misapplied auto loan payments in ways that added costs to borrowers, posted the incorrect date on payments that generated millions in late fees, neglected refunds owed to auto loan customers, and repossessed customer vehicles incorrectly. This is just a sampling of a range of conduct, including fake bank accounts, falsified records, secret changes to the terms of mortgage contracts, force-placed insurance, and a personal favorite, stealing from mortgage bond investors to cover legal fees in lawsuits filed by those same investors…


“CFPB Orders Wells Fargo to Pay $3.7 Billion for Widespread Mismanagement of Auto Loans, Mortgages, and Deposit Accounts”

[Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-20-2022]

“The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is ordering Wells Fargo Bank to pay more than $2 billion in redress to consumers and a $1.7 billion civil penalty for legal violations across several of its largest product lines. The bank’s illegal conduct led to billions of dollars in financial harm to its customers and, for thousands of customers, the loss of their vehicles and homes. Consumers were illegally assessed fees and interest charges on auto and mortgage loans, had their cars wrongly repossessed, and had payments to auto and mortgage loans misapplied by the bank. Wells Fargo also charged consumers unlawful surprise overdraft fees and applied other incorrect charges to checking and savings accounts. Under the terms of the order, Wells Fargo will pay redress to the over 16 million affected consumer accounts, and pay a $1.7 billion fine, which will go to the CFPB’s Civil Penalty Fund, where it will be used to provide relief to victims of consumer financial law violations. ‘Wells Fargo’s rinse-repeat cycle of violating the law has harmed millions of American families,’ said CFPB Director Rohit Chopra. ‘The CFPB is ordering Wells Fargo to refund billions of dollars to consumers across the country. This is an important initial step for accountability and long-term reform of this repeat offender.’”


Banks’ Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card

Rebecca Burns & Julia Rock, December 22, 2022 [The Lever]

Wall Street lobbyists are trying to stop a federal proposal designed to punish criminal banks.


Wall Street Wins Again on Retirement Savings 

Lee Harris, , December 22, 2022 [The American Prospect]

A perk for the asset management industry found its way into the omnibus spending bill. Meanwhile, the savings of disabled Americans living in extreme poverty will continue to be strictly means-tested.


The Battle Over The Side-Letter Scam

Matthew Cunningham-Cook, December 23, 2022 [The Lever]

Lobbyists and their congressional allies are trying to protect secret deals that can enrich Wall Street insiders at workers’ expense.


DeSantis Leaves Floridians At The Mercy Of His Insurance Donors

Jason Garcia, December 19, 2022 [The Lever]

A rewrite of Florida’s property insurance laws will usher in the state’s most sweeping civil lawsuit restrictions since Jeb Bush was in office.


Restoring balance to the economy

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 12-18-2022]


Disrupting mainstream economics

MMT answers — Richard Murphy

[December 20, 2022, via Mike Norman Economics]

Tom Hickey’s preface:

Basic stuff, but it is difficult for many people to get since they are programmed otherwise.

In my experience (anecdotally), those who know little to nothing about economics and finance get the MMT basics of money creation pretty easily since it make sense in the absence of countervailing the assumptions. Accountants also get MMT; Richard Murphy is an expert in accountancy, for instance. As one accountant replied after I finished explaining MMT, “How else could it be?” It’s just the way the accounting works.


But the real reason why it is perplexing is that there is nothing in MMT that says that:

  • Money can be created without limit;
  • There are no inflationary consequences of money creation;
  • Additional money, compared to existing budgets, must be created.

People who do not understand MMT, or have not read it, or who seek to undermine it might suggest it says such things, but the reality is that it does not.

MMT explains how money works. It says that government spending is in a modern economy with its own central bank is always funded by central bank money creation in the first instance. This is as true of right wing as it is true of left wing governments. There is no policy prescription here.

Then it notes that money cannot be created without limit. In fact it makes explicitly clear that such money would be worthless. That is because MMT says a government must tax to reclaim the money it has created, and by demanding that the tax in question be paid using the currency that it has created it both gives that currency value and requires that it be used for transactions in its own economy, providing it with macroeconomic control. Tax is in that case as much a part of MMT as money creation is.

Professional Management Class war on workers

Apple ‘created decoy labor group’ to derail unionization 

[The Register, via Naked Capitalism 12-19-2022]


Climate and environmental crises

Global coal use set to reach fresh record 

[Financial Times, via Naked Capitalism 12-18-2022]


Audi Is Converting All Factories To Produce EVs As It Phases Out Gas Cars 

[Electrek, via Naked Capitalism 12-21-2022]


USPS Expects To Only Buy Electric Delivery Vehicles Starting in 2026 

[Engadget, via Naked Capitalism 12-21-2022]


Billion-dollar NASA satellite launches to track Earth’s water 

[Nature, via Naked Capitalism 12-19-2022]


Information age dystopia

The Earthling: Out-of-control AIs are here 

[Nonzero, via Naked Capitalism 12-18-2022]


Notes from the Twitter Files: Twitter and the Foreign Influence Task Force (FITF)

Matt Taibbi [TK News, via Naked Capitalism 12-19-2022]

“In a curious exchange, the government expresses annoyance with Twitter for reporting little ‘recent’ foreign activity.” What’s “curious” about it? Institutionally, it’s exactly like cops with an arrest quota. “Agent 86, I’ve got a budget to secure. Now get out there and find me some foreign influencers!”


Twitter Aided the Pentagon in its Covert Online Propaganda Campaign 

Lee Fang [Intercept, via Naked Capitalism 12-21-2022]


Disrupting mainstream politics

“Volunteers fueled an upset WA Congressional win one doorbell at a time”

[Seattle Times (PI), via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-20-2022]

“Amid the punditry and late-night quarterbacking of the postelection season, a major lesson is getting lost: The importance of volunteers knocking on doors. A case in point is the astonishing victory that an army of volunteers more than 500 strong, most of them young mothers, pulled off in the last weeks of the race in Washington’s 3rd Congressional District that includes Vancouver. The pollsters at FiveThirtyEight had given Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, a down-to-earth auto body shop owner and Democrat, a 2% chance of winning the district against Joe Kent, a career soldier and rising MAGA Republican star who was crushing Gluesenkamp Perez in their debates.” Good detail on the volunterers, and: “Early on in Gluesenkamp Perez’s campaign, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee decided it had bigger fish to fry, leaving her largely to fend for herself. Just across the river, the party threw its weight behind Jamie McLeod-Skinner, the incumbent in Oregon’s District 5, south of Portland. The DCCC funded a field staff at least five times larger than Glusenkamp Perez’s but recruited many fewer volunteers. McLeod-Skinner lost by 2 points. Most campaigns don’t believe that people will volunteer their time to save their country, and that’s a fatal mistake. Many elections that decide the future of the country come down to a handful of votes. Yet a number of voters hold a complex set of views and can go either way. A real conversation with a volunteer from their community is the most effective way to persuade them to go to the polls.”


Democrats Frittered Away the Lame-Duck Session

David Dayen, December 22, 2022 [The American Prospect]

A lackadaisical approach led to failure for numerous bipartisan bills, and kept alive Republican goals to take the debt limit hostage in 2023.


“The surprising resurgence of Republicans in Miami”

[Financial Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-20-2022]

“When Raquel Regalado was growing up in 1980s Miami, she remembers protesters demanding that immigrants speak English and an inhospitable bumper sticker that asked: ‘Will the last American to leave please remember to bring the flag?’ These days, Regalado, a county commissioner who is the daughter of Cuban immigrants, delights in what she calls ‘this fusion that is very Miami’. It is a place where Hispanic immigrants of various stripes have mixed and mingled and intermarried. Bilingualism and multiculturalism are the norm. So, increasingly, is the Republican party. In one of the more surprising results of November’s midterm elections, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis became the first Republican candidate for statewide office in 20 years to conquer Miami-Dade, the state’s most populous county and a Democratic bastion dominated by black and Hispanic voters. DeSantis’s 11-point victory in Miami-Dade represented a whiplash-inducing 40-point swing from Hillary Clinton’s 2016 triumph there over Donald Trump, intensifying speculation the governor will mount a White House campaign. It also confirmed what many on the ground already knew: Republicans now dominate what was, until recently, a vital swing state that has shifted to the right even as conservatives’ grip appears to be loosening on other traditional havens, such as neighbouring Georgia. It had become conventional wisdom among pundits that the growing numbers of Latino voters in states such as Florida would fill the Democrats’ ranks. Instead, Miami-Dade’s turn could be a sign that Republicans have honed their appeal to more culturally conservative Latino voters, something that could pay dividends far beyond south Florida.”

[Lambert Strether comments: “The “coalition of the ascendant” — the concept that Democrats didn’t actually have to deliver on anything, because demographics would do their work for them — turned out to be a debacle (called it). It’s been quietly abandoned, but very naturally nobody has been held accountable since this is, after all, the Democrat party.” ]


Seven Theses On American Politics

Dylan Riley & Robert Brenner [New Left Review, via Naked Capitalism 12-24-2022]

This new electoral structure is related to the rise of a new regime of accumulation: let us call it political capitalism. Under political capitalism, raw political power, rather than productive investment, is the key determinant of the rate of return. This new form of accumulation is associated with a series of novel mechanisms of ‘politically constituted rip-off’.footnote2 These include an escalating series of tax breaks, the privatization of public assets at bargain-basement prices, quantitative easing plus ultra-low interest rates, to promote stock-market speculation—and, crucially, massive state spending aimed directly at private industry, with trickledown effects for the broader population: Bush’s Prescription Drug legislation, Obama’s Affordable Care Act, Trump’s cares Act, Biden’s American Rescue Plan, the Infrastructure and chips Acts and the Inflation Reduction Act.footnote3 All these mechanisms of surplus extraction are openly and obviously political. They allow for returns, not on the basis of investment in plant, equipment, labour and inputs to produce use values, but rather on the basis of investments in politics.footnote4 This new structure is the real basis of Piketty’s main finding: that the rate of return on capital now outstrips the rate of growth (although Piketty himself, in our view incorrectly, presents this as a return to capitalist normality after the exceptional period of the long boom).footnote5

The rise of political capitalism has profoundly reconfigured politics. At the elite level, it is associated with vertiginous levels of campaign expenditure and open corruption on a vast scale. At the mass level, it is associated with the unravelling of the previous hegemonic order, for in a persistently low- or no-growth environment––‘secular stagnation’—parties can no longer operate on the basis of programmes for growth. They cannot therefore preside over a ‘class compromise’ in the classic sense. In these conditions, political parties become fundamentally fiscal rather than productivist coalitions. Before going on to hypothesize how these coalitions work, we should first clarify the terms we use for class analysis….

A brief narrative of how Biden came to occupy his current position may be useful here. Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016 was as strongly committed to neoliberalism as the three prior administrations had been—appealing to the Democratic Party’s natural constituencies among the credentialled fraction of the working class in the twin terms of expertise and diversity, but proposing virtually nothing by way of economic growth. Had Clinton won, this would have represented the ongoing hegemony of multicultural neoliberalism in its pure form.

Trump’s surprise victory blocked that path. This electoral break with multicultural neoliberalism was then compounded by the pandemic. Although Trump himself resisted at every step of the way the obvious and rational response to the Covid-19 crisis, his Administration nonetheless opened a path towards a new form of politics due to the unavoidable necessity of countering the pandemic. The Federal state intervened massively to sustain the lives of many ordinary working-class Americans—the opposite of what Trump and his collaborators proclaimed they wanted. This produced a bizarre situation, in which Trump discredited the very policies his Administration had pursued, especially with regard to masks and mass vaccination.

[TW: I have mixed feelings including Riley and Brenner’s article. They struggle to explain why there are no class-based politics in USA, but do have some insights which are interesting and perhaps even useful. But I think their article is symptomatic of how Marxist analysis fails to fully grasp reality. They reject the concept of a professional management class, with very little to counter the massive evidence of a PMC. More importantly, there is no discussion whatsoever of predatory finance, banks, or Wall Street, and thus the primary economic factor of usury as the leading cause of the immiseration of the working class, is excluded by focusing on exploitation instead. This avoids having to grant any credibility to the socio-economic analysis of the ancient religions—for example Richard Murphy’s twitter thread at the beginning of this wrap: ]

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-22-2022]


Book Review: Lance deHaven-Smith, “C*******cy T****y in America”

Lambert Strether, December 19, 2022

3) DeHaven-Smith’s purpose in writing the book is to replace CT with a what he calls a policy science of State Crimes Against Democracy (SCADs):

“In contrast to conspiracy theories, which speculate about each suspicious event in isolation, the SCAD construct delineates a general category of criminality and calls for crimes that fit this category to be examined comparatively.”

And there is this description of the political class, which is much the same as a professional management class, which Riley and Brenner argue does not really exist:

With advantageous and profitable connections proliferating between government and business in political-economic complexes and therefore between individuals Who can be of mutual service to one another, the political class is becoming increasingly cohesive as a group aware of itself and motivated by this awareness to increase its cohesion and influence. It is comprised of the officials, lobbyists, technocrats think tanks, and other individuals and organizations who participate in the nation’s governing processes. The Founders do not appear to have anticipated the mobilization of political officials and insiders as a unified force. Otherwise they surely would have tried to devise institutional arrangements to insert cheeks and balances between various parts of the organism. The political class as a whole appears to be on its way to forming into a cohesive, self-serving faction of its own, independent of both the distinct constituencies its various components may represent and the branch or significant structural unit in which it may be located.


Lee Harvey Oswald, the CIA, and LSD: New Clues in Newly Declassified Documents 

Ryan Grim [Intercept, via Naked Capitalism 12-20-2022]


The (Anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts

“Conservative Judges Are Helping the “Freedom of Contract” Stage a Dramatic, Dangerous Comeback”

[Balls and Strikes, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-22-2022]

“Earlier this month, in Golden Glow v. Columbus, a three-judge panel of Fifth Circuit judges disposed of a lawsuit filed by a tanning salon owner against the City of Columbus, Missouri, over COVID-19 lockdowns that forced the business to temporarily close while places like churches, Walmarts, and liquor stores stayed open. In the opinion, Judge Edith Jones explained that the panel felt boxed in: Although ‘subsequent experience strongly suggests that draconian shutdowns were debatable measures’ and ‘inflicted enormous economic damage,’ she wrote, they were ‘constrained’ to affirm. But Ho wasn’t happy just signing onto a bog-standard Fifth Circuit case that grumbled about COVID-19 mitigation efforts. Instead, he had to write his own concurrence based on the premise that it’s time to start thinking about ‘the right to earn a living’ as a constitutional right. In it, Ho complains that the Supreme Court’s approach to ‘unenumerated’ rights, including the right to privacy, ‘privileges a broad swath of non-economic human activities, while leaving economic activities out in the cold.’ He also grumbles about government grants of monopolies, quoting James Madison, who referred to them as ‘justly classed among the greatest nuisances in government.’… [Ho’s concurrence] is a thinly-veiled call for the revival of the ‘freedom of contract,’ which the Supreme Court tossed into the dustbin of history nearly a century ago. In 1905, in Lochner v. New York, the Court held that worker safety laws that limited bakers’ work hours ran afoul of their rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. (Ho writes in terms of the ‘right to earn a living,’ but this is a distinction without a difference.) The logic of Lochner was ascendant until 1937, when the Court, in the midst of the Great Depression, changed its mind and upheld a minimum wage law, holding that economic regulations are generally permissible—a case that forms the legal foundation for basic workplace safety rules to this day. Ho and his ilk are not fans of unenumerated rights when it comes to, say, abortion, so it’s easiest to read this opinion as a particularly lazy troll job: If you love some unenumerated rights, he argues, you have to love his favorite one, too.”


The Corruption of Supreme Court Conservatives

[The Threats Within, via The Big Picture 12-18-2022]

The Court’s falling approval is worsened by conservative Justices’ blatant partisanship. Many of its decisions are untethered from any form of recognizable jurisprudence, and the contempt of conservative Justices for precedent is incomprehensible. The collapse of public approval for the Court – dismissed in arrogance by people like Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito – has nothing to do with disagreeing with “objective” decisions. Rather, it is a wide recognition that justices like Alito and Clarence Thomas consider themselves no different than lifetime senators, and don’t even bother to hide it….

Now, we need to delve into how unusual this “precedent be damned” outcome of the Roberts Court has been. Of the more than 25,500 decisions handed down by the Supreme Court since its creation in 1789, it has only reversed course 146 times, less than one-half of one percent. Yet…almost 25 of those reversals have come in the Roberts Court – or one-in-five of the cases overruling precedent in the past 233 years. That means the Court overturned precedent about once every two years prior to the Roberts Court. Then, the reversals skyrocketed to once every eight months.

Roberts is one of only two justices since 1946 to support 100% of decisions overturning precedent that led to conservative outcomes. His record in precedent-overturning cases is the second-most conservative among 37 justices who have ruled in at least 5 precedent-overturning cases since 1946. With 84% conservative votes in precedent-reversing cases, Roberts only trails Justice Alito’s 88%. He is the second-most frequent member of the majority in precedent-overturning cases. Only Justice Thomas has been a more frequent member of the majority in such cases at 90%.

Not all absurdities that are rubber-stamping GOP political positions have come from reversing precedent. Some just involve irrational refusals to abide by lower court decisions without ruling on them. Best example: the court’s action in a 2014 Ohio voting case. Ohio has long been at the forefront of a campaign by Republican-led states to keep the poor, students and other citizens who are more likely to vote Democratic from being able to cast a ballot (an effort made all the easier by the court’s decision to gut the Voting Rights Act just ‘cause). The 2014 campaign aimed to cut back on early voting, particularly on Sundays.

A 2012 report in The Palm Beach Post quoted former GOP officeholders and strategists who said that once the party realized how many Democratic voters were turning up at the polls because of the longer schedules, Republicans wrote legislation to cut them back. In particular, they wanted to limit Sunday voting, which is used by black churches to organize buses and carpools to bring parishioners to the polls. “I know that the cutting out of the Sunday before Election Day was one of their targets only because that’s a big day when the black churches organize themselves,” one GOP consultant told the Post.

Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

The Meadows Texts: A Plot To Overturn An American Election

[Talking Points Memo, via The Big Picture 12-18-2022]


“NC Supreme Court strikes down voter ID constitutional amendment”

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-21-2022]

“North Carolina’s Supreme Court on Friday struck down a state voter ID requirement, finding that it was enacted with a racially discriminatory purpose and violated the state’s constitution. Senate Bill 824 — which was passed by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature in 2018 over a veto from its Democratic governor — sought to implement a state constitutional amendment requiring photo ID to vote. The court found that while the law appeared neutral on its face, it was enacted ‘to target African-American voters who were unlikely to vote for Republican candidates.’ ‘In doing so, we do not conclude that the General Assembly harbored racial animus; however, we conclude just as the trial court did, that in passing S.B. 824, the Republican majority ‘targeted voters who, based on race, were unlikely to vote for the majority party,” the court said in its ruling in Holmes v. Moore.”


British Labour Party war on progressives

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 12-18-2022]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 12-19-2022]



Merry Christmas


A New Age Of Vertical Integration


  1. bruce wilder

    Re: Richard Murphy on MMT

    There is a lot of denial in Murphy’s brief essay: “There is nothing in MMT that says, . . .”

    But, this is a key one: “What is not essential in MMT is government borrowing.”

    This a huge shortcoming in MMT and, I dare say, a source of the very confusion Murphy claims perplexes him.

    Murphy claims, “MMT explains how money works.” A large part of how “money works” — how a credit system with a fiat money establishing the unit of account and banking and a payments system and so on — is founded on the vast scale of government borrowing and payments on government debts of various duration. Murphy says, “. . . government spending . . . in a modern economy with its own central bank is always funded by central bank money creation in the first instance.” Well, yes, but operationally (and MMT advocates are forever prattling on about “operations” so let’s be consistent in our explanatory methods) a central bank is managing the sovereign debt, the marketable national debt — acting as market-maker at all times ensuring that full-faith-and-credit securities can be exchanged without risk — no liquidity risk as well as no default risk. That vast sea of “zero-risk” securities forms the foundation of the banking and financial system, providing a means of hedging and a reference point for the vast, complex array of interest rates that apply to private credit and investment transactions. Government borrowing is essential to how money works, and MMT seeming to assert otherwise is confusing at best and stupid ignorance at worst.

    I want to like MMT. Lord knows so-called mainstream narrative accounts are both idiotic in their theory and destructive in the policies (e.g. austerity) they support. Krugman trotting out the execrable Loanable Funds doctrine to instruct the unwashed tells you how untrustworthy he is as an intellectual, but nothing about how money in the economy works.

    But, MMT doesn’t help either public understanding or responsible policy advocacy by failing to acknowledge that a central bank manages the sovereign debt as the core means of stabilizing the unit of account for a fiat currency in a system of credit creation by the private banking and financial system.

    I have read my share of MMT screeds and many of them are written like those clickbait infomercials for some doctor’s alleged anti-aging or weight loss breakthru. At least the medical charlatans will eventually get to what they are selling: a bottle of pills or whatever. With MMT it seems an infinite regress. No wonder people are confused.

    For me, the bottom-line is that a financial system founded on a fiat money has to be regulated, which is to say, deliberately managed. That is the dirty secret the libertarians and reactionary conservatives are at pains to deny. There is no “mechanism” to bring everything into an optimal balance, no interest rate that will balance supply and demand, present and future automagically. There is a very complex system of distributed decision-making in the banking and financial system, ballasted by central bank management of the marketable national debt and government regulation of credit creation, predation and fraud (such as it is). Functional finance is how it is (but without Abba Lerner’s naive faith that anyone knows where or how to navigate into a murky future).

    It would be nice if MMT and mainstream academics both did a much better job of countering the cynical right-wing use of scare tactics that rely, say, on rhetorically equating Federal borrowing with personal or household debt, but so far I do not think either MMT or idealistic mainstream academic economists in the main do an intellectually defensible job.

    Nor do I feel MMT advocates always make a convincing case for having the depth of understanding to manage the institutional machinery. Not being careful enough to distinguish between managing a currency and managing a money for a financial system is kind of a tell that bad faith stupid is involved. The religious intolerance of heretics is, too.

  2. Z

    One of the most laughable things that some of the MMT priests and priestesses promote is that there’s no need to increase taxes on the rich and corporations to fund and enact MMT.

    As if our rulers are going to lounge around leaving their power they’ll still maintain in their pockets and allow this MMT system to benefit the greater society and therefore weaken their leverage over their subjects. And all this would have to be enacted through our rulers’ bribed and blackmailed obstacle course of a Congress! Hahaha! You just can’t print this hilarity up!

    MMT advocates, please spare me your nuances about this. I’d imagine they exist but they won’t ever come into play if MMT policies are ever actually put in place.

    I sincerely believe that part of the MMT faction is financed by the Deep State on some level and is just preparing us for the inevitability that the financial system will have to be arbitrarily restructured because it will collapse. Then our rulers will tell us: No, this is not us restructuring the financial system to our advantage again that we previously stole so much from that we blew it up , this is MMT. Blame it on the liberals, this is what they wanted.


  3. Z

    What’s talked about most in the CIA’s MK-Ultra program is their experiments with LSD; what’s talked about least is their experiments with amphetamines, which happens to tighten the trigger and amplitude of fear and greed, and that play in the trigger is best manipulated with the carrot-and-stick trick by simultaneously deploying blackmail and bribery.

    The majority of major U.S. politicians, IMO, are on amphetamines and our rulers do their damndest to keep them in power and keep them wanting to remain in power and therefore useful to our rulers.


  4. different clue

    @Bruce Wilder,

    You should try saying that over at Naked Capitalism. See if they even run it at all.

    ( They are deeply into their Cargo Cult of Magical Monetary Thinking over there).

  5. bruce wilder


    I was banned for much less.

    MMT aside, it is not hard to raise Yves’ hackles. I wrote a comment once comparing the size (land area) of France and Ukraine sans Crimea and the Donbas republics prior to February — it was entirely quantitative; I made no qualitative remark. She called into question my reference to “Metropolitan France” (the conventional way to refer to that part of France in geographic Europe) on the way to calling into question every aspect of what was a simple summary of objective facts. She’s that argumentative.

  6. Z

    Yves is very smart and an exceptional writer, but also narcissistic and petty at times. She generally has well thought out opinions but when she is challenged on them she often doesn’t reconsider them and instead aggressively defends them convinced that she is smarter and knows more than the person who is challenging her. If you differ with her too much and prove her wrong too often, she takes name and she will find a way to get rid of you. Mind you too that time is probably a factor in some of her dismissals of differing opinions; when she is arguing with multiple posters it’s difficult to give them each a fair hearing.

    Overall, what I like most about her, and what makes her and her blog an overall positive IMO, is that she hits sharp and heavy on some issues that many won’t touch.


  7. Adam Eran

    Several commenters fault MMT for some inaccuracy in its description of how federal fiscal policy works, and accurately point out that the ability to issue fiat currency has served the oligarchs. After all “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter” said Dick Cheney.

    But there’s still some confusion about government borrowing. MMT says “spend first, then retrieve some dollars in taxes” is the accurate sequence of federal fiscal policy. “Tax and spend” is backwards, and assumes dollars grow on billionaires. Taxes don’t retrieve dollars because the government needs them; it retrieves them so they are in demand and valuable.

    What do we call the dollars spent, but not retrieved? Answer #1: the dollar financial assets of the population. Answer #2: National ‘debt’… Both answers describe *exactly* the same thing. The dollars even *say* they are IOUs (a “note” is an IOU).

    What does the Fed owe holders of dollars? Answer: a dollar’s worth of relief from an inevitable liability, taxes.

    The accounting is exactly like your bank account. That’s your asset, but the bank’s liability. Your asset is someone else’s (the bank’s) debt.

    **ALL** the dollars (not just the bonds) are debt, in addition to being people’s assets/savings. Suck peoples’ savings out of the economy and you inject fragility into the economy. A wave of asset forfeitures and foreclosures ensues.

    And yes, MMT has been weaponized by the political right…which is not to say it couldn’t be used correctly (e.g. a job guarantee).

    See also Randal Wray’s account here:

  8. Z

    Savvy move by War Pimp “Let Them Eat Lead” Zelenskyy partnering Ukraine with Larry’s and Stanley’s Asset Inflation Factory BlackRock.

    That means that the U.S. will send in troops if need be to protect Odessa because there’s no way that Larry and Stanley and the gang are going to stand by and allow Russia to damage their investment by landlocking Ukraine. They’ll send in their rabid dog instead to try to prevent it.


  9. different clue

    @Bruce Wilder,

    I too have been banned over at NaCap.

    Here is a little movie snippet from Cool Hand Luke which neatly illustrates the relationship between Yves Smith and any commenters she decides she does not like.

  10. different clue

    To use ” MMP” ( Modern Monetary Practice ) correctly, you would have to tax back out of the economy enough of the dollars you have injected into the economy to prevent an amount of dollars larger than the amount of dollar-denominatable economic activity from building up. If you don’t tax that many of your MMT-emitted dollars back out of the economy, you will lower the value of all the dollars by the “surplus-to-economic-expansion” overall excess number of the excess dollars, divided by all the dollars in existence and assigned, fraction by fraction, to every single one of the existing dollars.

    The NaCappers don’t want to admit that, because if they admitted that, then they would have to admit that the same old inter-class power relations problem still exists . . . namely, will the greater society have enough violence at its command to be able to torture and terrorise the upper class into submitting to having enough of “its” accumulated dollars taxed back into government hands for government destruction in order to maintain the headroom-clearance needed to safely emit and spend more dollars on democratically agreed upon government projects.

    The NaCappers just repeat the happy horsepoop slogan that ” taxes don’t fund Federal spending.” And in an oh-so-exquisitely tortured-logic sense, they don’t . . . in the very narrowest sense. But they are required to create and maintain the non-growing non-surplus of dollars needed to prevent inflation and then hyperinflation caused by emitting ever more dollars while removing none. So Federal taxes would be just as required as ever under an MMP regime, and the NaCappers don’t want to admit to that unhappy buzzkilling fact.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén