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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – February 4, 2024

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – February 4, 2024

by Tony Wikrent


Global power shift

Everything You’re Told About The Global Economy Is Wrong (interview)

Philip Pilkington, YouTube, via Naked Capitalism 02-02-2024] Grab a cup of coffee. Or two cups. Starting with the Houthis and moving on from there:

Summary of The Truth About The Global Economy | Aaron Bastani Meets Philip Pilkington

The Houthis have just enacted a naval blockade with cheap technology, a first in human history with enormous consequences….The ability of the Houthis to enact a naval blockade with cheap technology represents a historical shift in warfare and global power dynamics….

In the West, the interests of capital dictate political decisions, whereas in China, political decisions dictate capital…. China’s control over investment and housing prices stabilizes their economy, while their advancements in technology and science surpass Europe and may eventually reach the same GDP per capita as the UK.

[TW: “In the West, the interests of capital dictate political decisions, whereas in China, political decisions dictate capital….” This is a key insight to promote understanding that neoliberalism and even capitalism itself are basically incompatible with the political philosophy of civic republicanism. A primary tenet of civic republicanism is that one purpose of government is to promote the general welfare. ]


Gaza / Palestine / Israel

Domicide: The Mass Destruction of Homes Should Be a Crime Against Humanity 

[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism 01-30-2024]

How war destroyed Gaza’s neighbourhoods – visual investigation 

[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 02-01-2024]

Satellite image with destroyed buildings in red

Israeli Ministers Attend ‘Resettle Gaza’ Conference 

[, via Naked Capitalism 01-30-2024]

[X-Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Links 01-31-2024]


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

How Reagan’s Embrace of “Greed is Good” Brought Us Broken Airplane Doors & Being Hours on Hold

Thom Hartmann, January 29, 2024 [DailyKos]

In 43 short years, because Reagan implemented Bork’s policies, America has devolved from being a relatively open market economy and a functioning democracy into a largely monopolistic economy with a bought-off political system….

…Bork wrote, the entire notion of antitrust law as a vehicle to protect small and local businesses from large and national predators was a terrible mistake.

Trying to stop “a [market] trend toward a more concentrated condition” is a blunder, Bork said, because “the existence of the trend is prima facie evidence that greater concentration is socially desirable. The trend indicates that there are emerging efficiencies or economies of scale … which make larger size more efficient.” FDR’s theory of antitrust, he noted, is “unsophisticated, but currently ascendant.” …. “If it now takes fewer salesmen and distribution personnel to move a product from the factory to the consumer than it used to; if advertising or promotion can be accomplished less expensively, that is a net gain to society. We are all richer to that extent. Multiply such additions to social wealth by hundreds and thousands of transactions and an enormously important social phenomenon is perceived. . . . To inhibit the creation of efficiency . . . is to impose a tax upon efficiency for the purpose of subsidizing the inept.”

To say that Bork’s paper (and numerous others, and 15 years of work advocating this position) changed America would be a dramatic understatement. As he himself pointed out in his paper, in the 1962 antitrust case of Brown Shoe Co. v. United States, the Supreme Court blocked the merger of Brown and G. R. Kinney, two shoe manufacturers, because the combination of the two would have captured about 5% of the US shoe market. (For comparison, post-Reagan Nike today has 18% of the US shoe market.)….

As Jonathan Tepper pointed out in The Myth of Capitalism, fully 90% of the beer that Americans drink is controlled by two companies. Air travel is mostly controlled by four companies, and over half of the nation’s banking is done by five banks.

In multiple states there are only one or two health insurance companies, high-speed internet is in a near-monopoly state virtually everywhere in America (75% of us can “choose” only one company), and three companies control around three-quarters of the entire pesticide and seed markets.

The vast majority of radio and TV stations in the country are owned by a small handful of companies, and the internet is dominated by Google, X, and Facebook.

Right now, 10 giant corporations control, either directly or indirectly, virtually every consumer product we buy. Kraft, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Mars, Unilever, and Johnson & Johnson together have a stranglehold on the American consumer. You can pick just about any industry in America and see the same monopolistic characteristics.

A study published in November 2018 by Jan De Loecker, Jan Eeckhout, and Gabriel Unger showed that as companies have gotten bigger and bigger, squashing their small and medium-sized competitors, they’ve used their increased market power to fatten their own bottom lines rather than develop new products or do things helpful to their communities or employees….

Markups (the price charged above production costs), they note, were fairly constant between the 1950s and the 1980s, but there was a sharp increase starting when Reagan was elected in 1980. Thus, they conclude, “[i]n 2016, the average markup charged is 61% over marginal cost, compared to 21% in 1980.”….

The good news is that the Biden administration is the first of either party since 1981 to seriously try to regulate corporate monopolistic behavior and stock share buybacks.

Corporate America will squeal and howl, and since five corrupt Republicans on the Supreme Court legalized political bribery in America, will throw millions at stopping any effort to regulate their behavior. But the ongoing damage to our business landscape, our communities, and our families can’t be ignored any longer.

Tell your members of Congress to support the Biden administration’s efforts to reign in corporate monopolies, and that corporate share buyback programs must once again be criminalized and called what they are: illegal market manipulation.

‘Rooftop solar is the future; it’s also a scam’

Thomas Neuburger, January 31, 2024

An important piece by Cory Doctorow makes several important points: about AI “reward hacking,” rooftop solar, and Wall Street. Let’s look at each, and discuss an additional point — the reason all this occurred.

The main point of Doctorow’s piece is rooftop solar; in particular, financialized rooftop solar:

“The problem starts with a pretty common finance puzzle: solar pays off big over its lifespan, saving the homeowner money and insulating them from price-shocks, emergency power outages, and other horrors. But solar requires a large upfront investment, which many homeowners can’t afford to make. To resolve this, the finance industry extends credit to homeowners (lets them borrow money) and gets paid back out of the savings the homeowner realizes over the years to come.”

But all this depended on homeowners actually wanting to spend the money. Which they didn’t, not on sufficient quantity to meet the government goal of accelerated rollout. So the government created subsidies that homeowners could get. The idea was, those subsidies would fuel the market demand for the finance industries loans.

“The government created subsidies – tax credits, direct cash, and mixes thereof – in the expectation that Wall Street would see all these credits and subsidies that everyday people were entitled to and go on the hunt for them. And they did! Armies of fast-talking sales-reps fanned out across America, ringing dooorbells and sticking fliers in mailboxes, and lying like hell about how your new solar roof was gonna work out for you.”

As with the subprime mortgage market, where the toxic loans were turned into investment vehicles (derivatives), so was solar indebtedness financialized. Why this is a problem, and what kind of problem it is, is best explained by pointing to this hard-titled piece in Time: “The Rooftop Solar Industry Could Be on the Verge of Collapse.”….

The Global Neoliberal Project

Doctorow correctly identifies the solution: “If governments are willing to spend billions incentivizing rooftop solar, they can simply spend billions installing rooftop solar – no Slow AI required.”
But let’s go one step farther. The primary goal of neoliberalism and what we ought to call the Neoliberal Project is “creating a world economy where entrepreneurs could let their fortunes bloom unimpeded by negative government intervention.” Nothing gets in the way of making more money.

Philip Mirowski has since said that neoliberalism evolved from that — government not impeding profit-making — to making sure the government actively promotes the “blooming” of fortunes….


Trader Joe’s Attorney Argues National Labor Relations Board Is ‘Unconstitutional’ 

HuffPo, via Naked Capitalism 01-29-2024]

Obamacare Created Big Medicine

Matt Stoller, January 29 2024 [The Lever]

There’s a basic conflict of interest at the heart of American health care. We need to break up the industry to fix it.

Whichever way the issue is looked at, to suggest that markets are rational is wrong 

[Funding the Future, via Naked Capitalism 01-28-2024]

… it is very clear that mainstream economics and politics have no idea how to manage the crises that we are in: neoliberalism is out of road, and those who are addicted to it are so frightened of giving up the only theory that they know, meaning that they would rather the world suffer than admit that they were wrong all along.

We are, to be blunt, in the middle of a crisis of staggering scale, and despite that US stock markets are hitting record highs.

Why Defense Contractors Are Saying No to Their Biggest Customer: The Pentagon 

[Wall Streeet Journal, via Naked Capitalism 01-30-2024]

Mapping the Lobbying Footprint of Harmful Industries: 23 Years of Data From OpenSecrets

[The Milbank Quarterly, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 01-31-2024]

“We found that the ultraprocessed food industry spent the most on lobbying ($1.15 billion), followed by gambling ($817 million), tobacco ($755 million), and alcohol ($541 million). Overall, companies were more active than trade associations, with associations being least active in the tobacco industry. Spending was often highly concentrated, with two organizations accounting for almost 60% of tobacco spending and four organizations accounting for more than half of alcohol spending. Lobbyists that had formerly worked in government were mainly employed by third-party lobby firms.” And the lead: “The definition of commercial determinants of health (CDoHs) set out in The Lancet 2023 series recognizes that commercial actors are diverse and have different impacts on health. Yet too often, public health advocates fail to make these distinctions, referring to ‘the industry’ or ‘corporations’ as a proxy for harmful commercial actors. This lack of nuance stymies efforts to develop a science of commercial determinants.”

It Just Got More Expensive To Fight Corporate Abuse 

Freddy Brewster, January 30, 2024 [The Lever]

You’ll now be forced to pay huge arbitration fees if you try to challenge corporate contracts.…

On Jan. 15, the American Arbitration Association (AAA), the largest private provider of arbitration services in the world, quietly implemented new fees for individuals filing a mass arbitration case seeking monetary damages or contract relief from a company.

The new fees include a $3,125 initiation fee that must be paid before AAA officials determine if the case can move forward. If the case does move forward, then consumers and employees will have to pay case management fees that were previously paid by the companies as well as new arbitrator appointment fees, according to an analysis by Goodwin Procter, one of the largest law firms in the world that specializes in a broad range of topics.



The Top 20 Landowners In America, According To A New Report 

[Forbes, via Naked Capitalism 01-28-2024]

Musk’s $55 Billion Pay Package Voided, Threatening World’s Biggest Fortune 

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 01-31-2024]

Column: A judge voids Musk’s huge Tesla pay package as dishonest, and hoo boy, is he steamed 

[LA Times, via Naked Capitalism 02-01-2024]

Must We Limit the Wealthy’s Wealth? 

[Counterpunch, via Naked Capitalism 01-31-2024]

Ingrid Robeyns … lays out in her just-published  Limitarianism: The Case Against Extreme Wealth, that economic inequality unconscionably undermines the values we say we hold dear…. In Limitarianism, she makes what may be the most accessible brief yet for capping how much fortune any one individual can hold and hoard.…

How much pushback do you get when you speak to general public audiences about limiting personal wealth? What seems to give people the most pause? How do you respond?

Some people ask me whether we could still have small companies and family firms under limitarianism. That seems to me the most substantial question/objection I get from people not sure whether limits would work.

Other people worry that a limitarian world would essentially kill the economy as we have it, in the process harming everybody….

[TW: As Thom Hartmann shows in a previous, concentrated wealth leads to oligopoly and monopoly which have extremely negative effects on entrepreneurship and capitalism itself. I made this argument over ten years ago. ]

In ‘Brazen Wealth Transfer’, Exxon and Chevron Pay Out Record Sums to Shareholders

Olivia Rosane, February 02, 2024 [Common Dreams]

Exxon reported a total of $36 billion in profits with $32.4 billion paid to shareholders, while Chevron took home $21.4 billion and paid out $26.3 billion, putting them behind only Apple, Microsoft, and Google parent Alphabet for total payouts from a U.S. company, according to a Wall StreetJournal analysis. The shareholder payouts far surpassed what either company had planned to spend on climate solutions, the Journal said.

“Everybody” Agrees: Tax The Rich… Except The Rich, Who Don’t Even Agree That They Are Rich
The Rich Have The Financial Means To Buy Political Power

Howie Klein, February 1, 2024  []

There are a lot of things that Barbara Lee (D-CA), Summer Lee (D-PA), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Chuy Garcia (D-IL), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Jared Huffman (D-CA) have in common, all of them good. And one of those things is that they are all sponsors and co-sponsors of the Oligarch Act (Oppose Limitless Inequality Growth and Reverse Community Harms). The purpose is to create an annual wealth tax focused exclusively on containing destabilizing inequality in America and ensuring the viability of democratic capitalism for the next 250 years. UPDATE: More co-sponsors of the Oligarch Act: Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ), Jamie Raskin (MD), Cori Bush (MO), Valerie Foushee (NC), Eleanor Norton (DC), Madeleine Dean (PA), Maxwell Frost (FL), Katie Porter (CA) and Andrea Salinas (OR).….

Robert Reich
A wealth tax in Massachusetts raised $1.5 billion for free school lunches
and more by taxing millionaires.

A flat tax in Kansas will deliver a $875,000 windfall tax cut to billionaire
Charles Koch, the richest man in Kansas.

Inequality is a policy choice.

2:15 PM -Jan 31, 2024


The Power to Destroy: How the Antitax Movement Hijacked America

Michael J. Graetz [Princeton University Press, February 2024]

In 1819, Chief Justice John Marshall declared that the power to tax entails “the power to destroy.” But The Power to Destroy argues that tax opponents now wield this destructive power. Attacking the IRS, protecting tax loopholes, and pushing tax cuts from Reagan to Donald Trump, the antitax movement is threatening the nation’s social safety net, increasing inequality, ballooning the national debt, and sapping America’s financial strength. The book chronicles how the movement originated as a fringe enterprise promoted by zealous outsiders using false economic claims and thinly veiled racist rhetoric, and how—abetted by conservative media and Grover Norquist’s “taxpayer protection pledge”—it evolved into a mainstream political force.

The important story of how the antitax movement came to dominate and distort politics, and how it impedes rational budgeting, equality, and opportunities, The Power to Destroy is essential reading for understanding American life today.


Rich People’s Movements : Grassroots Campaigns to Untax the One Percent 

[Social Science Research Council]

Isaac William Martin. Oxford University Press, $29.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-19-992899-6,
September 2013

Ever since the Sixteenth Amendment introduced a Federal income tax in 1913, rich Americans have protested new public policies that they thought would threaten their wealth. But while historians have taught us much about the conservative social movements that reshaped the Republican Party in the late 20th century, the story of protest movements explicitly designed to benefit the wealthy is still little known. Rich People’s Movements is the first book to tell that story, tracking a series of protest movements that arose to challenge an expanding welfare state and progressive taxation. Drawing from a mix of anti-progressive ideas, the leaders of these movements organized scattered local constituencies into effective campaigns in the 1920s, 1950s, 1980s, and our own era. Martin shows how protesters on behalf of the rich appropriated the tactics used by the Left-from the Populists and Progressives of the early twentieth century to the feminists and anti-war activists of the 1950s and 1960s. He explores why the wealthy sometimes cut secret back-room deals and at other times protest in the public square. He also explains why people who are not rich have so often rallied to their cause.

America Is Not a Democracy

David Dayen, January 29, 2024 [The American Prospect]

The movement to save democracy from threats is too quick to overlook the problems that have been present since the founding….

You can fill a book with issue areas where public opinion roundly supports action but Congress doesn’t act. Minority vetoes are partially to blame, as is distorted representation. But there’s also the problem of who lawmakers see as their constituents: the wealthy and powerful.

The classic text on this comes from Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page, two researchers who found in 2014 that the preferences of “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests” mattered far more for policy outcomes than ordinary citizens or coalitions of public-interest groups. There have been rebuttals to their data over the years, but reality is on Gilens and Page’s side. In a recent interview, Page said, “When they say democracy may be failing, I would disagree. I think it hasn’t been tried!”

Between 71 and 98 percent of U.S. federal elections over the past 20 years were determined by which candidate had the most campaign money. This was enabled by a judiciary that allowed corporations to be considered people for purposes of equal protection under the law, a constitutional provision intended to safeguard the rights of Black former slaves. Corporations later obtained what amount to free speech rights in the Citizens United case, part of a decades-long approach, as writer Corey Robin has explained, to reorient the practices of “the businessman and the banker” as speech….

WE KNOW IT’S POSSIBLE TO FASHION an agenda like this, because it’s already been done. In December 2012, the Communications Workers of America (CWA), Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, and the NAACP launched the Democracy Initiative, a plan to challenge the “democracy blocks” that stymied popular reforms. It was fitting for this to come out of the labor movement. After a decisive Democratic victory in the 2008 elections, unions had a majority of votes in Congress in favor of reforming U.S. labor law, but could not get them through a supermajority Senate. This roadblock is the primary reason private-sector unionization has fallen from 35 percent to 6 percent since the 1950s.

The coalition highlighted three key areas of reform: changing Senate rules to eliminate the filibuster, limiting money in politics, and enhancing voting rights. They actually notched some partial victories. The Senate changed its rules in 2013 to allow for a majority vote for executive branch and judicial nominees. Voter participation has gradually risen in some locations, in part due to new pandemic-era rules to maximize participation, which states like Michigan have retained….

initiatives head to WA ballot with $6M support of Brian Heywood [Seattle Times].

[Seattle Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 02-01-2024]

“Pouring more than $6 million of his money into a paid signature-gathering campaign, Heywood has almost single-handedly bankrolled six initiatives that are likely headed to the November ballot. The unprecedented initiative slate would eliminate the state’s new capital gains tax, repeal a landmark climate law, allow people to opt out of a long-term care payroll tax and reverse police-pursuit restrictions passed in recent years by the Legislature. They’d also ban local and state income taxes and guarantee parents access to information on K-12 school curricula and school medical records. All six initiatives have been certified as having received the required signatures to make the 2024 ballot. The final one, targeting the state’s long-term care payroll tax, was certified on Friday by the Secretary of State’s Office.”

Intergenerational mobility in the very long run: Florence 1427-2011 (pdf)

[X-Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 02-03-2024]



Restoring balance to the economy

Austin experimented with giving people $1,000 a month. They spent the no-strings-attached cash mostly on housing, a study found. 

[Business Insider, via Naked Capitalism 01-29-2024]

Amy Klobuchar introduces bill to prevent algorithmic price fixing 

[Axios, via Naked Capitalism 02-03-2024]

Climate and environmental crises

Truth Actually 

Lapham’s Quarterly, via Naked Capitalism 01-29-2024] The deck: “A tour through a century of climate-change documentaries.”

New Evidence Reveals Fossil Fuel Industry Sponsored Climate Science in 1954 

[DeSmogBlog, via Naked Capitalism 01-31-2024]

US Cattle Herd Shrinks to 73-Year-Low in Blow for Beef Lovers 

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 02-03-2024]


Disrupting mainstream politics

No, Florida Is Not A Lost Cause, Despite What Republicans Want Democrats To Think

Howie Klein, January 31, 2024  []

…Former Orlando Congressman Alan Grayson, a candidate for the Rick Scott Senate seat … “In 1996, right around the time that I moved to Florida,” he wrote, “Bill Clinton’s campaign registered 550,000 Democrats, and he won Florida. In 2008, when I was elected to Congress, Barack Obama’s campaign registered 700,000 Democrats, and he won Florida. And following that, Stacey Abrams registered 2.6 million Georgian voters, which gave the White House and the Senate to the Democrats. Georgia, a neighboring state with a similar mix of folks, is half the size of Florida.”

“In Florida,” wrote Grayson, “we need to register 1,000,000 Democrats this year. And it will be easier than it ever was in Georgia. Here in Florida, we’re not registering people for the first time; we’re re-registering 1,000,000+ people who were registered before. Plus we have a pool of 1,500,000 convicted felons who have had their rights restored, but no one has reached out to register them. They skew 3-to-1 Democratic. Plus we have another pool of nearly 500,000 young first-time voters to register. They skew 2-to-1 Democratic.”

“This is the greatest opportunity for real change in the entire country. If we register 1,000,000 Florida Democrats, we will deprive Donald Trump of 30 Electoral Votes. He will lose (and scream that we cheated— hahahahahaha!) And we will pick up a Senate seat, currently held by Skeletor, that will help us keep the Senate…. “That’s what my campaign is all about this year— registering 1,000,000 Democrats, so that we can turn Florida Blue, and keep the White House and the Senate out of the hands of the MAGA nuts, forever,” he concluded.

Inside The Israel Lobby’s New $90 Million War Chest 

Amos Barshad, February 1, 2024 [The Lever]

Internal AIPAC materials reveal huge gifts from moguls — and the strategies lobbyists used to score the cash.


(anti)Republican Party

Wonder why alleged Christians are Trump Supporters? David French has a report that explains much

xaxnar,  January 28, 2024 [DailyKos]

When the Right Ignores its Sex Scandals is the headline over a column by David French about a news story you may not have heard about — almost certainly if your primary news sources are from the right wing media bubble. (The link should provide full access.) Here’s how it starts:

”Let me share with you one of the worst and most important recent news stories that you’ve probably never heard about. Late last month, the Southern Baptist Convention settled a sex abuse lawsuit brought against a man named Paul Pressler for an undisclosed sum. The lawsuit was filed in 2017 and alleged that Pressler had raped a man named Duane Rollins for decades, with the rapes beginning when Rollins was only 14 years old.

”The story would be terrible enough if Pressler were simply an ordinary predator. But while relatively unknown outside of evangelical circles, Pressler is one of the most important American religious figures of the 20th century. He and his friend Paige Patterson, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, are two of the key architects of the so-called conservative resurgence within the S.B.C.”….

And if people on the Right do hear about things like this? “Conservative partisans can simply cry “media bias!” and rely on their followers to tune it all out. To those followers, a scandal isn’t real until people they trust say it’s real.” This is a dynamic Sara Robinson detailed in her introductory piece about authoritarian movements. Scroll down to her descriptions of leaders and followers.

If you’ve been wondering why Donald Trump has such a following among the Christian Right, it’s because they’ve been conditioned by their religion to accept the leadership of patriarchs who can do no wrong, whose authority is not to be questioned, and their conviction that they are the only truly moral actors. It’s how they can support a rapist with 91 criminal cases pending against him.

Who Sowed The Seeds Of Trumpism– And Why Did Conservatives Devour Them So Readily?

Howie Klein, January 29, 2024  []

…They’re afraid of him— afraid for their diminished careers. And for them there’s a greater good than breaking with Trump: ensuring “that Republicans can keep living in Washington, D.C., and exercising power on behalf of a shrinking political minority. Republicans might phrase this differently: The party’s overall position is that the Democrats are so awful, and so dangerous to the nation, that the ends will now always justify the means. Rather than oppose or even criticize Trump, they retreat into the fog of ‘supporting the nominee’ and saving the country from Biden and the left-wing deep-state cabal that supposedly controls him. A tiny handful of elected Republicans have said that they will not vote for Trump. (They won’t vote for Biden either, of course, and if Trump wins— well, such is the price of saving the republic while keeping one’s hands clean.)”….

10 Oregon GOP State Senators Have Been Barred From Running For Re-Election

Howie Klein, February 2, 2024  []

The Oregon State Senate has 30 members, 17 Democrats, 11 Republicans and 2 independents. When the Republicans didn’t want the legislature dealing with issues they oppose (gun safety, women’s Choice, taxes, Climate Change, transgender health care…) they would just walk out and stay away making 2/3 quorum impossible. In 2022 the voters overwhelmingly passed Measure 113 which amended the constitution to prohibit members with 10 or more unexcused absences from running for reelection. It was a landslide— 1,292,127 (68.3%) to 599,204 (31.7%). Even all but 3 of Oregon’s reddest rural counties voted for it.

But that didn’t stop the Republicans last year. Republican minority leader Tim Knopp led several walk outs and exceeded the 10 days for 10 senators. Last summer Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade ruled the 10 would not be on the 2024 ballot. They sued. Yesterday, the state Supreme Court unanimously ruled against the Republicans. A federal district court had already ruled against them as well….

Historians File Brief In Support Of Removing Trump From Ballot 

[Huffington Post, via Naked Capitalism 01-30-2024]

Here is the filing: Did the Colorado Supreme Court err in ordering President Trump excluded from the 2024 presidential primary ballot?

Mitch McConnell’s Plan to Sabotage Social Security From Within

Alex Lawson, January 30, 2024 [Common Dreams]

…McConnell understands the political dangers of being openly hostile to Social Security. So instead, he is plotting to sabotage it from within. The latest instrument of that sabotage is Andrew Biggs, a senior fellow at the billionaire-funded American Enterprise Institute. Biggs is McConnell’s pick to serve on the Social Security Advisory Board (SSAB), which “provides advice and recommendations to the President, Congress, and the Commissioner of Social Security on matters related to the Social Security and Supplemental Security Income programs and policies.”….

Biggs served as an associate commissioner of Social Security under former President George W. Bush and was instrumental in Bush’s push to privatize Social Security. His goal was to hand the American people’s earned benefits over to Wall Street. Thankfully, the Bush privatization push failed due to massive grassroots opposition.

Biggs supports raising the retirement age, and has testified before Congress that people should work longer….


Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

Governor Abbott’s Perilous Effort at Constitutional Realignment

[Lawfare, via Naked Capitalism 01-30-2024]

“Article I, § 10, Clause 3 is primarily a statement of several things that states may not do. It includes a default rule that ‘[n]o State shall, without the Consent of Congress, … engage in War.’ It is true that the final clauses of Clause 3 create a limited right for states to respond to “invasions” in a way that the clause otherwise denies them—namely, the power to “engage in War” without congressional consent when they are ‘actually invaded” (or at imminent risk of the same). The ‘Actual Invasion Clause,’ in other words, is an exception to the default prohibition on states’ war-engagement power in Clause 3. In arguing that Clause 3 provides a federal constitutional basis for its actions along the U.S.-Mexico border, Texas has advanced two broader claims. The first is that what is currently happening along the border meets the threshold definition of ‘invasion.’ The second is that Texas can defend itself against invasions without regard to—and even in derogation of—federal laws and policies. Neither argument is persuasive, but the second is truly extraordinary.” More: “[E]ven in cases (unlike in Texas today) in which § 10 is applicable, it does not give the state any power to ‘supersede’ federal statutes. Abbott’s claim to the contrary—which he has yet to test outside of briefing in the current lawsuits between the United States and the Biden administration—is an extraordinary assertion of state supremacy over federal law. It misreads the text, purpose, and historical understanding of how the Constitution structures federal and state relationships when it comes to national defense. And however sympathetic some might be to what Texas claims it is trying to do, were courts to endorse these arguments, it could have ominous implications for national security far beyond the specific—and hotly contested—space of border security.”

Texas’ Border Stunt Is Based on the Same Legal Theory Confederate States Used to Secede

[The Daily Beast, via Naked Capitalism 01-30-2024]

“Abbott’s accusation that the federal government has breached the Constitution by having ‘broken the compact between the United States and the States’ is almost identical to South Carolina’s 1860 declaration of secession.” I don’t think “almost identical” is correct, but it’s certainly worth a click-through to see the Slave Power pounding the table. More: “Abbott’s letter espouses the fringe theory of constitutional law known as ‘compact theory,’ popularized by Confederate states during the Civil War era and supported by Confederate President Jefferson Davis. This theory posits that the United States was formed through a compact agreed upon by the states, with the federal government being a creation of the states. However, this view conflicts with the widely accepted social contract theory, which asserts that the federal government derives its authority from the consent of the people, not the states. The Supreme Court has consistently rejected compact theory, deeming it illegitimate and incompatible with constitutional law. At the crux of what’s happening at the southern border lies the question: Does the federal government have the authority to regulate access to Texas’ borders? The answer is unequivocally, yes. Texas’ embrace of compact theory and its assertion that state government can supersede federal authority directly contradict the landmark Supreme Court case of McCulloch v. Maryland (1819).”

Congressman urging Texas to ignore the Supreme Court is backed by major law firms

[Popular Information, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 02-02-2024]

“Congressman Chip Roy (R-TX) is publicly urging Texas to ignore the Supreme Court. In previously unreported comments, Roy explained that he feared his position would push the country into ‘a post-constitutional world.’ But, Roy said, the Supreme Court is ‘pushing our hand’ by issuing a ruling related to the southern border that he opposes, and the Supreme Court needs to ‘feel the pressure.’ Major law firms and numerous prominent corporations are financially backing Roy’s reelection campaign, according to a Popular Information analysis of federal campaign finance filings…. Roy’s 2024 reelection campaign is supported by two prominent law firms. Covington & Burling is an international law firm based in Washington, DC…. Roy also received $750 on May 17, 2023, from the PAC of another prestigious DC-based law firm, Akin Gump…. Since 2023, Roy has also received financial support from the PACs of major corporations and professional organizations, including Valero Energy ($2,500), Union Pacific ($2,000), iHeartMedia ($2,000), Toyota ($1,000), Dell ($1,000), and the National Association of Realtors ($1,000).”

Texas Ignores the Constitution and the Rule of Law

Joyce Vance [via [ 02-02-2024]

Election Countdown, 282 Days to Go: The “States’ Rights” Era Returns

[James Fallows, Breaking the News, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 01-31-2024]

“This past Monday, the US Supreme Court ruled that the US federal government had jurisdiction over US national borders. And specifically that if Texas National Guard and other Texas forces kept installing razor wire along the Rio Grande, on orders from Governor Greg Abbott, they could not prevent US Border Patrol officers from removing it. The Supreme Court ruling came with no explanation and was only by a 5-4 margin. It’s a sign of our times that this was even a close call, given longstanding Court rulings that the national government controls national borders. Americans hold passports from the United States, not from Iowa or California. When an international flight lands at Newark airport, inbound passengers deal with federal agents, not New Jersey state police…. The politics of immigration and ‘the mess at the border’ are long-brewing and increasingly nasty. But the Texas reaction is significant. The Supreme Court said: Here is what you will do. Texas said: We won’t. That’s oversimplified but not by much. Even more important is what happened next. Apart from Greg Abbott in Texas, there are 26 other Republican governors. All but one of them signed a letter three days ago, supporting the Texas assertion of ‘Constitutional Right to Self-Defense.’”

Delaney Nolan, Oliver Laughland, February 2 2024 [The Intercept]

LOUISIANA’S FAR-RIGHT GOVERNMENT has quietly obtainedOpens in a new tab hundreds of pages of communications between the Environmental Protection Agency and journalists, legal advocates, and community groups focused on environmental justice. The rare use of public records law to target citizens is a new escalation in the state’s battle with the EPA over its examination of alleged civil rights violationsOpens in a new tab in the heavily polluted region known as “Cancer Alley.”

MAGA’s Ugly New “Civil War” Fantasy Should Be Taken Seriously

Greg Sargent, January 31, 2024 [The New Republic]

Far-right personalities are fantasizing about “civil war” again, amid a standoff between Texas Governor Greg Abbott and the feds over border enforcement. That may seem silly, but unbridgeable differences over immigration truly are driving many big stories of the moment, from that Texas battle to Senate negotiations over a border bill to the House GOP impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. If you want to understand what’s really going on with all these complex issues, few voices bring more clarity than that of Aaron Reichlin-Melnick of the American Immigration Council. We chatted with him about the deeper conflicts and tensions animating this crisis….



Open Thread


Construction of Reality Preview: The Ritual Masters


  1. All these ‘the right ignores their sex scandals’, ‘republicans decide to ignore the constitution’, ‘republican’s decide big government is good’ etc etc exhibit how propagandized everyone is.

    Republicans never supported those principles, they were a means to achieve their ends which was transferring wealth and power to the powerful.
    We’re in the marketing age. Argument is crafter to sound convincing rather then being based on substance, or principles.

    Western society is the equivalent of being 7 miles in the air on a Boeing 747. The plane is nose diving to the ground and everyone is arguing about whether the Mexican family in the back should be kicked off or not.

  2. VietnamVet

    The Houthis have turned the world upside down. Like the Taliban, the mountain people have found a way to defend their families and religion on the cheap. This is a time of flux. The same as the arrival of cannons and gunpowder in the Hundred Years War when lords in castles became helpless against Monarchies and standing armies armed with rifles. Since the Carter Administration, Neo-feudal oligarchs have so eviscerated western government and the military in endless wars for profit that ocean choke points are being closed to western shipping one by one. If the USA is to remain united, troops have to be withdrawn home and Fortress America rebuilt with closing the Darién Gap between North and South America a priority. Most importantly, the constitutional republics have to be reestablished that serve the best interests of the people. If divide and rule, identity politics, continues, North America will splinter into around 11 ethnic zones with the nuclear weapon armed military bases in each. Some radical Christian theocracies and others secular city states. All will be on the verge of invading one or the other, to get their resources, if a nuclear holocaust is somehow avoided.

    The alternative to neo-feudalism is signing peace treaties, restoring sovereign nations and securing strong borders. This would be the rebirth of the Cold War 2 in a multipolar world with peace enforced by Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). In the long-term, paying the Houthis for passage through the Gate of Grief at the entrance to the Red Sea is cheaper than the perpetual Holy Wars against Islam on the Arabian Peninsula or the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine that only profits the new lords in their siloed castles.

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