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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – January 17, 2021

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – January 17, 2021
by Tony Wikrent

Liberalism and socialism are ineffective against capitalism

Prop 22 Is Here, and It’s Already Worse Than Expected

Alexander Sammon, January 9, 2021 [The American Prospect]

Just a handful of weeks have passed since California’s Proposition 22, a new labor standard concocted by Silicon Valley venture capitalists to lock rideshare and food delivery drivers out of basic employee wages, benefits, and protections, went into effect. It has arrived with a bang.

Already, companies beyond just the usual digital suspects have embraced the new law, which creates a third category of worker for those toiling in the gig economy, neither full-time employees nor independent contractors. That means no eligibility for state unemployment insurance, no guaranteed state minimum wage, stripped-down worker protections, no overtime pay, no sick leave, no workplace discrimination protection, and no right to collectively bargain.

A large number of historians have explained how capitalism and liberalism go hand in hand: self-interest is the bases of the market pricing mechanism. But they usually shy away from addressing a crucial problem that at an underlying philosophical level, liberals are simply not capable of resisting extreme capitalism and its pathologies. Similarly, socialists, Marxists, and communists are philosophically incapable of resisting conservatism and neoliberlism. Philip Mirowski and Corey Robin have some really excellent articles on this; Mirowski in particular explains why von Mises’ conception of markets as a super calculator of value is philosophically impervious to any and all assaults by the left.

I concluded years ago the only way you make conservatism and neoliberalism vulnerable philosophically is to jettison modernity’s separation of politics from economics, and return to a conception of political economy. And then, ask the simple and obvious question: what are the proper principles and policies of political economy for a republic?

… the duty of a republic [is] to control “the selfishness of mankind … ; for liberty consists not in the permission to distress fellow citizens, by extorting extravagant advantages from them, in matters of commerce or otherwise.” Because it was commonly understood that “the exorbitant wealth of individuals” had a “most baneful influence” on the maintenance of republican governments and “therefore should be carefully guarded against…”  — Gordon Wood, The Creation of the American Republic. pages 63-64.

What does it mean to “Promote the General Welfare”? Certainly it should include focusing on increasing the purchasing power earned by the nation’s workers. This would be “demand side” economics, instead of the supply side of focusing on giving more money to already rich investors and waiting for it to “trickle down” on the masses below. Demand side economics was a major issue in the 1930s through 1950s. Coming out of the First Great Depression was recognition by all except conservatives and rich reactionaries that the underlying cause of the Depression had been the failure to fairly distribute income, and hence buying power: working people simply were not being paid enough for them to purchase all that could be produced.  The most progressive and militant labor unions, led by the Congress of Industrial Organization (CIO), framed this demand side issue as “under-consumption.” The most militant union, the United Auto Workers (UAW) — led by Walter Reuther, probably the greatest union leader in American history — began its November 1945 strike against General Motors by demanding a 30-cent an hour wage under the slogan, “Purchasing Power for Prosperity.” This is firmly in the uniquely American economics tradition of the Doctrine of High Wages, which has been written out of mainstream economics.

Only by reviving the ideas of civic republicanism can we avert liberalism’s inability and unwillingness to oppose the depredations of capitalism.

America Abandoned Its Economic Prophet. The World Embraced Him.

James Galbraith [Foreign Policy, via Naked Capitalism 1-16-21]

Galbraith’s discussion of the legacy of his father is useful for tearing at the fabric of illusions of today’s failed capitalism. But note that the Galbraithian solution is not to oppose the depredations of capitalism as contrary to the principles of civic republicanism, but to merely build up organized labor as a countervailing power to giant corporations. The rapacious nature of capitalism, embodied so brutally in California’s Proposition 22, is not addressed at all.

An example of civic republicanism

Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-13-21]

Strategic Political Economy

We Need a New Media System

Matt Taibbi, January 11, 2021 [via Ian Welsh, You Can Always Get Half the Population To Hate The Other Half]

Media firms work backward. They first ask, “How does our target demographic want to understand what’s just unfolded?” Then they pick both the words and the facts they want to emphasize.

It’s why Fox News uses the term, “Pro-Trump protesters,” while New York and The Atlantic use “Insurrectionists.” It’s why conservative media today is stressing how Apple, Google, and Amazon shut down the “Free Speech” platform Parler over the weekend, while mainstream outlets are emphasizing a new round of potentially armed protests reportedly planned for January 19th or 20th.

What happened last Wednesday was the apotheosis of the Hate Incera, when this audience-first model became the primary means of communicating facts to the population. For a hundred reasons dating back to the mid-eighties, from the advent of the Internet to the development of the 24-hour news cycle to the end of the Fairness Doctrine and the Fox-led discovery that news can be sold as character-driven, episodic TV in the manner of soap operas, the concept of a “Just the facts” newscast designed to be consumed by everyone died out.

News companies now clean world events like whalers, using every part of the animal, funneling different facts to different consumers based upon calculations about what will bring back the biggest engagement kick….

Trump began to be described as a cause of America’s problems, rather than a symptom, and his followers, every last one, were demonized right along with him, in caricatures that tickled the urbane audiences of channels like CNN but made conservatives want to reach for something sharp. This technique was borrowed from Fox, which learned in the Bush years that you could boost ratings by selling audiences on the idea that their liberal neighbors were terrorist traitors.

A Simple Thing Biden Can Do to Reset America

Matt Stoller, BIG, January 10, 2021

“[Ashli Babbitt] died from a gunshot wound as she tried to climb into the Speaker’s lobby…. According to the New York Times, Babbitt was a 35 year-old woman from California who spent 14 years serving in the U.S. Air Force, deploying to both Iraq and Afghanistan…. After her time at war, Babbitt had a modest propensity for violence, threatening a rival love interest by rear ending her with a car in 2016. She married, and bought a small business with her husband, a pool supply company called Fowlers Pool Service and Supply. There she ran into commercial problems common to small businesses these days. The pool business isn’t a good one, dominated as it is by monopoly pool supply distributor Pool Corp…. Fowlers Pool Service and Supply predictably ran into trouble. So Babbitt took out what was known as a “merchant cash advance” from a company called EBF Partners, which she calculated charged her an interest rate of 169%. She quickly defaulted, and was embroiled in a lawsuit…. And then she got more into politics through social media, and then into QAnon….

If we recognize that a major short-term cause in creating this paranoid cult is social media models based on addiction, monopolization and surveillance, and a long-term cause is systemic cheating in our economy and culture, we can break down our problems in manageable chunks. These problems originate from laws and regulations guiding commerce.

And that’s why I think the solution lies in part at the agency set up to regulate commerce – the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC is a potentially economy-reshaping institution. It has broad jurisdiction over privacy, consumer protection, and antitrust laws, meaning it can reorient how virtually every corporation in the country functions. It can write rules against ‘unfair methods of competition,’ which can include prohibiting anything from discriminatory pricing in industrial gas markets to addictive or deceptive user interfaces to certain kinds of targeted ads. As a small example, the commission took action earlier this year against corporations engaging in ‘merchant cash advances,’ precisely the predatory lending that trapped Babbitt.

So why doesn’t anyone pay attention to the FTC as a way to solve any social problems? Well, the FTC has been effectively dormant for forty years, a playpen of elite well-paid lawyers who come up with elaborate reasons to whitewash lawbreaking by the powerful. The latest example is when the $100B+ video conference call giant Zoom was caught lying about its security practices. The FTC didn’t fine the corporation, merely requiring the company to implement an internal compliance program. Such “no money no consequence” settlements encapsulate how enforcers condone serial lawlessness. Still, strong legal authority remains at the FTC, waiting to be used precisely to stop the systemic cheating that inflames protesters across the spectrum.

If we can restore the FTC and get it to do its original job, one it did reasonably well for decades, we can begin to rebuild our trust in our institutions.

The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

The lowest-paid workers have an unemployment rate above 20 percent, according to Fed governor Lael Brainard.

[CNBC, via The Daily Prospect 1-14-2021]

Their Family Bought Land One Generation After Slavery. The Reels Brothers Spent Eight Years in Jail for Refusing to Leave It.

[ProPublica, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-14-21]

Focuses on Carteret County, on the central coast of North Carolina.

Many assume that not having a will keeps land in the family. In reality, it jeopardizes ownership. David Dietrich, a former co-chair of the American Bar Association’s Property Preservation Task Force, has called heirs’ property “the worst problem you never heard of.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture has recognized it as “the leading cause of Black involuntary land loss.” Heirs’ property is estimated to make up more than a third of Southern black-owned land — 3.5 million acres, worth more than $28 billion. These landowners are vulnerable to laws and loopholes that allow speculators and developers to acquire their property. Black families watch as their land is auctioned on courthouse steps or forced into a sale against their will.

Between 1910 and 1997, African Americans lost about 90% of their farmland. This problem is a major contributor to America’s racial wealth gap; the median wealth among black families is about a tenth that of white families. Now, as reparations have become a subject of national debate, the issue of black land loss is receiving renewed attention. A group of economists and statisticians recently calculated that, since 1910, black families have been stripped of hundreds of billions of dollars because of lost land. Nathan Rosenberg, a lawyer and a researcher in the group, told me, “If you want to understand wealth and inequality in this country, you have to understand black land loss.” ….


We made a list of ways that families can protect themselves and describe legislative reforms that experts have proposed.

“Wall Street Visionaries Provide Chilling Views on Next Big Risk”

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-12-20]

Goldman Sachs: Cybersecurity. Bridgewater Associates: Displacement of the workforce. Two Sigma Investments: “We may be building a world that is not particularly designed for humans.”


Joe Biden wants to set aside deficit concerns to invest in ailing U.S. economy

[NBC, via Naked Capitalism 1-11-21]

Sherrod Brown, One of Wall Street’s Biggest Critics, Set to Take the Gavel at Senate Banking
Pam Martens and Russ Martens, January 13, 2021 [Wall Street on Parade]

….Wall Street’s mega banks [will] be fighting behind the scenes in an effort to prevent him from advancing to Chair.

Wall Street despises Brown because he has an institutional knowledge of their patterns of crimes against the public and the regulations that they have succeeded in getting the Trump administration to gut in order to make those crimes evermore opaque and lucrative.

The Stock Market Is Broken as a Bellwether; Here’s How to Fix It

Pam Martens, January 15, 2021 [Wall Street on Parade]

So how do we fix our broken stock market so that it is once again a barometer to lead the country in the right direction? We listen to our whistleblowers who love their country so much that they will put their careers on the line to blow the whistle on all that is wrong on Wall Street.

Reanimated Corpse of Antonin Scalia Tries to Stop Student Debt Cancellation

David Dayen, January 14, 2020 [The American Prospect]

An Education Department memo released this week, asserting that the agency has no authority to cancel student debt on its own, purports to be written by Reed Rubinstein, the principal deputy general counsel. But authorship could also be reasonably claimed by a man who has been dead for close to five years.

Former archconservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote six of the opinions cited in the memo, and co-authored a scholarly paper cited in the text. Scalia also concurred with the opinions in five other cases mentioned in the document. The only citations quoted at length in the memo either came from Scalia’s hand or sprung from an opinion he joined. It’s fair to say that Antonin Scalia, from the grave, wrote this analysis.

The Rubinstein/Scalia memo was obviously designed as a preemptive strike as the Trump administration comes to a close.

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 1-13-21]


The Epidemic

An evidence review of face masks against COVID-19

[PNAS, via Naked Capitalism 1-13-21]

Lambert Strether introduction: An awesome multidisciplinary round-up, well worth a read (and worth forwarding to relevant decision makers, even at the local level).

From the Abstract: “The preponderance of evidence indicates that mask wearing reduces transmissibility per contact by reducing transmission of infected respiratory particles in both laboratory and clinical contexts. Public mask wearing is most effective at reducing spread of the virus when compliance is high. Given the current shortages of medical masks, we recommend the adoption of public cloth mask wearing, as an effective form of source control, in conjunction with existing hygiene, distancing, and contact tracing strategies.”

Restoring Balance

Former Michigan Governor and Others To Be Charged Over Flint Water Crisis

[DailyKos, January 13, 2021]

Original story in Detroit Free Press: Michigan plans to charge ex-Gov. Rick Snyder in Flint water scandal:

Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, his health director and other ex-officials have been told they’re being charged after a new investigation of the Flint water scandal, which devastated the majority Black city with lead-contaminated water and was blamed for a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in 2014-15, The Associated Press has learned.

Two people with knowledge of the planned prosecution told the AP on Tuesday that the attorney general’s office has informed defense lawyers about indictments in Flint and told them to expect initial court appearances soon.

Prosecuting elites is exactly what needs to be done:

The Terrible Bind America’s Elites Are In

Ian Welsh, January 11, 2021]

[The Trumpist insurrection] made US elites feel unsafe in a way that hasn’t been true since 9/11. US elites regularly kill, impoverish, and hurt millions of people, but for them to even be so much as scared is intolerable.

The problem is, this is colliding with another principle: The principle of elite immunity from consequences. Elites don’t really go after other elites. Trump, pre-Presidency had committed dozens of crimes, but was never prosecuted, because everything he had done, did others had done also.

Essentially, every senior Wall Street and banking executive is guilty of fraud in the lead up to the sub-prime crisis, and they were all let off with slaps on the wrist. George Bush was unquestionably a war criminal and so were many of his senior officials, and I’d argue the same is true of Obama….

US elites send other elites to jail very rarely, and political elites do this almost never.

So there’s a real bind here. On the one hand, some Republican elites put the rest of the US federal political class at risk. On the other hand, well, who wants to set a precedent that a US president, senator, or representative can be truly held to account? Impeaching is one thing, convicting another (which is why Biden is wishy-washy about impeaching and convicting Trump).


The Biden Transition and the Fight for Real Hope and Change This Time

Inside Joe Biden’s plan to avoid a midterm ‘shellacking’ 

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism 1-14-21]

Biden is also committed to pumping resources into state Democratic parties that atrophied during the Obama years, according to a Biden official, cognizant of the shortcomings of the last Democratic president’s approach. Rather than build out his own infrastructure, like Obama did, his team is in conversations with battleground state directors about the upcoming midterms and preparing to bulk up outreach to rural voters, with early conversations about having Agriculture secretary nominee Tom Vilsack serve as a possible surrogate….

Paul Begala, the famed Bill Clinton adviser, said the mantra of the 1992 campaign — “It’s the economy, stupid.” — still applies today.

“Taming Covid is necessary, but not sufficient,” Begala said. “Creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs by fixing bridges, repairing water systems, updating the grid, retrofitting buildings — a Biden jobs agenda can help stave off the midterm slump.”

Amazing — no mention of getting Stacy Abrams involved or studying what she did in Georgia, other than a warning from South Carolina Rep. Clymer , “We did door-knocking, that’s how we won Georgia. That’s how we win in the midterms…”

“Building a Grassroots Strategy to Elect Democrats in North Carolina: How Wisconsin Did It.” [Zoom recording]

[Neighbors on Call, January 15, 2021]

After their losses in 2016, Wisconsin Democrats and activists worked together to start winning. And it worked! Let’s find out how they did it! Join Ben Wikler (Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and a former leader of and Nellie Sires (Executive Director, DPW) in conversation with Dr. Aimy Steele, 2020 candidate for NC House District 82, with introductions by Sydney Batch, former NC House Representative for District 37.

The New Progressive Left Shows How to Deal With Sedition

Alexander Sammon, January 9, 2021 [The American Prospect]

….The freshmen came out aggressively, pushing not only for a second impeachment of Trump, but for removal of the Republicans who abetted and openly courted the putsch.

The first announcement came from Cori Bush, who stated that her very first resolution as a member of Congress would be one calling for the expulsion of congressional Republicans who incited the attack, on the grounds that they’d broken their oath of office.

Shortly after Bush went public, Mondaire Jones announced he’d be co-sponsoring the measure. Jones was recently appointed to the House Judiciary Committee. Right behind him was Marie Newman, who also committed to co-sponsoring Bush’s resolution. Of those four freshmen, Newman has been considered to be the most cautious of the bunch. But she signaled her support for the resolution enthusiastically.

Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

“The same cast of characters will show up again and again”

Patrick Wyman [Perspectives, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-12-20]

“The same cast of characters will show up again and again. This ties directly into the last point: The people involved don’t go away afterward. They stick around, becoming key cogs in the next thing, and the thing after that…. People with experience in the last thing usually take part in the next. That’s one of the key takeaways from my fellow history podcaster Mike Duncan’s lovely book The Storm Before the Storm, on the opening phases of the downfall of the Roman Republic: It’s the same people, over and over again. Julius Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus, the three members of the First Triumvirate, were all heavily involved in the prior round of civil wars and disturbances; Crassus led troops for Sulla, Pompey first gained fame as Sulla’s “teenaged butcher,” and Marius, Sulla’s great rival, was Caesar’s uncle. Old grudges carried forward; one line crossed led to another, from the executions of senators to massacres in Rome itself, until finally only the Rubicon was left. We know what happened next…. The only thing that matters now is whether we allow this to become normal, part of the cost of doing business, or whether we re-draw the lines to emphasize that it’s completely unacceptable. If violent extremists want to be violent extremists, they’ll find ways, but we can make those would attempt to benefit from their violence pay the price for their allegiance…. If there’s a lesson to draw from history here, it’s that only consequences – visible and serious consequences – will contain the damage.”

Why People Won’t Change Their Mind 

[Wealth of Common Sense, via The Big Picture 1-14-21]

The concept of cognitive dissonance was developed by psychologist Leon Festinger in the 1950s. It arises when a person holds two different beliefs that are inconsistent with one another. The theory is that when this happens it causes our minds discomfort which we then seek to reduce. Whenever this inconsistency in our attitudes, ideas or opinions kicks in our default is to eliminate that dissonance.

Heather Cox Richardson, January 14, 2021 [Letters from an American]

….Biden’s plan is far larger than a way to address our current crisis. It outlines a vision for America that reaches back to an older time, when both parties shared the idea that the government had a role to play in the economy, regulating business, providing a basic social safety net, and promoting infrastructure.

That vision was at the heart of the New Deal, ushered in by Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt after the Great Crash of 1929 and the Depression that followed it illustrated that the American economy needed a referee to keep the wealthy playing by the rules. Government intervention proved so successful and so popular that the Republican Party, which had initially recoiled from what its leaders incorrectly insisted was communism, by 1952 had adopted the idea of an activist government. Republican President Dwight Eisenhower added the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to the Cabinet on April 11, 1953, and in 1956 signed into law the Federal-Aid Highway Act, which began the construction of 41,000 miles of interstate highways.

While this system was enormously popular, reactionary Republicans hated business regulation, the incursion of the federal government into lucrative infrastructure fields, and the taxes it took to pay for the new programs (the top marginal tax rate in the 1950s was 91%). They launched a movement to end what was popularly known as the “liberal consensus”: the idea that the government should take an active role in keeping the economic playing field level.

The liberal consensus was widely popular, these “Movement Conservatives” turned to the issue of race to break it. After the Supreme Court unanimously declared racial segregation in schools unconstitutional in the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision, Movement Conservatives warned that an active government was not defending equality but redistributing the tax dollars of hardworking white men to grasping minorities through social programs….

But now, the dangers of gutting our government and empowering private business to extremes have become only too clear. For four years, we have watched as a few privileged business leaders got rid of career government employees and handed their jobs to lackeys. The result has been a raging pandemic and a devastating economic collapse, as money has moved dramatically upward. Even before the pandemic, the Trump administration had added 50% to the national debt despite cuts to domestic programs. In the 2020 election, Trump offered more of the same. Americans rejected him and chose Biden.

The Day the Confederate Flag Flew in the United States Capitol

[Moyers on Democracy. Podcast: Bill Moyers and Heather Cox Richardson, via Naked Capitalism 1-10-21]

A lot of what we used to call brainwashing can’t be undone and won’t be undone. And they will go to their graves believing that this was a stolen election. But some, and you could see them on their faces yesterday, some people sort of went, “Well, wait a minute. This was supposed to be the storm. We were supposed to be having a revolution. And it didn’t happen. We got into the Capitol building. We did our part, and there was nobody there to greet us and to help us take over.” And what’s interesting in a moment like that is there are two things to do: you can go deeper into your delusion, or you can turn on the people who took you there in a really powerful and passionate way. And this is one of the reasons this moment is so fraught is a lot of people might be waking up and going, “Wait a minute. They lied to us. They changed their minds last night and they made Biden president.” And you can see if you’re watching QAnon. They’re sort of saying, “Well, wait a minute. I’m sure Trump has an even deeper plan.” Which, of course, puts him in a bind because he can’t now say, “Oh, never mind. I didn’t mean this,” because then he’s going to lose their loyalty. So, we’re in this fraught moment. But I think people will either go ahead and continue to believe and this will a rump group that we are going to have to be dealing with for many, many years. Or some of them will become some of our most vocal opponents of people like Trump.

After Deadly Capitol Riot, Fox News Stays Silent On Stars’ Incendiary Rhetoric

[NPR, via The Big Picture 1-14-21]

Fox News, the network that has helped shape conservative politics in the U.S. for more than two decades has yet to acknowledge how the heated rhetoric radiating from its shows and stars may have helped inspire the pro-Trump rampage. Comments from prominent Fox News hosts and guests had helped stoke the MAGA mob’s fury for the two months following the November elections.

“How Facebook Incubated the Insurrection”

[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-13-21]

“Facebook’s algorithms have coaxed many Americans into sharing more extreme views on the platform — rewarding them with likes and shares for posts on subjects like election fraud conspiracies, Covid-19 denialism and anti-vaccination rhetoric. We reviewed the public post histories for dozens of active Facebook users in these spaces. Many, like Mr. [Dom] McGee, transformed seemingly overnight. A decade ago, their online personas looked nothing like their presences today. A journey through their feeds offers a glimpse of how Facebook rewards exaggerations and lies. But the rewards are trivial compared with the costs: The influencers amass followers, enhance their reputations, solicit occasional donations and maybe sell a few T-shirts. The rest of us are left with democracy buckling under the weight of citizens living an alternate reality.”

Whither America?

Joseph E. Stiglitz, January 12, 2021 [Project Syndicate]

A number of years ago, I began posting comments that because the political activities of the reactionary rich have moved the center of American politics so far in an authoritarian direction, we needed to find some way to restrain the free speech of the rich in much the same way as the free speech of military officers is restrained. I clearly remember one of my posts provoked one of the front pagers at DailyKos into a typical liberal rant about “freedom.”  The Trumpist insurrection of January 6 2021 appears to be forcing the issue….

We must reconcile freedom of expression with accountability for the enormous harm that social media can and has caused, from inciting violence and promoting racial and religious hatred to political manipulation.

The US and other countries have long imposed restrictions on other forms of expression to reflect broader societal concerns: one may not shout fire in a crowded theater, engage in child pornography, or commit slander and libel.

Trumpin’ Lumpen Republicans: The transformation of the GOP has been half a century in the making.

Harold Meyerson, January 7, 2021 [The American Prospect]

The pivotal year in the creation of the modern Republican Party is 1964, when Lyndon Johnson’s lobbying for and signature on the Civil Rights Bill cast the formerly Democratic Dixiecrats adrift, and when Barry Goldwater, one of just six Republicans who voted against the bill, won the Republican presidential nomination. With that, the 65-year devolution of the Republican Party into a neo-Confederate, white supremacist party of lumpen bigots and the lumpen rich began. While Donald Trump has taken this transformation to greater depths with his complete indifference to the concepts of equality before the law, democracy, and majority rule, we must remember that this transformation has been ongoing for more than half a century.

During that time, voter suppression, once the Jim Crow property of the South, spread north as Republicans placed obstacles to minority voting everywhere they could. The union-busting “right to work” laws of Southern states—reincarnating the antebellum practice of Southern slavery as a kinder, gentler disregard for worker rights—came to the industrial heartland when Republicans with Dixiecrat values won control there in the early 2000s. That Trump entered our current political landscape by insisting that Barack Obama had been born in Kenya and is leaving it by inciting a Confederate flag–waving mob to disrupt the ratification of the pro–civil rights Joe Biden is, of course, heinous, but it’s also just the latest developmental stage of the transformation of the GOP into a dangerous thugocracy divorced from reality

The Conditions Now Exist For A Long Term Right Wing Insurgency In America

Ian Welsh, January 13, 2021

It’s hard to find general polling data, but over 50% of registered Republican voters think the attack was justified. Almost half blame Biden more than Trump. Fourty-five (to 43%) think the protest/attack was justified.

Republican support, like Democratic support, is geographically concentrated….

So what seems like a distinct possibility is a low grade insurrection, combined with protests that often turn violent, by very heavily armed people. Biden will pass his Patriot Act II, even more cameras and security checks and intrusive laws and unjust nonsense like the no-fly list (which is not made good or right because it was used against right wingers) proliferate.

The US becomes even more of a police and prison state.

If this metastasizes into the next stage, well, the US is full of Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. They know how area denial works (repeat after me, IEDs) and there will be techies willing to make them drones and so on. Parts of the country become no-go zones, where the security services can only go in convoys or by air, and even then at great risk.

“Here Are The Donors To Tea Party Group That Helped Organize Pre-Riot Rally” [The Intercept, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-13-21]

“Donors to the Tea Party Patriots Foundation, one of the groups that helped organize the January 6 rally preceding the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, include the Jewish Community Federation and late billionaire Republican donor Sanford Diller, according to a 990 form submitted to the IRS by the tax-exempt nonprofit in 2019. The right-wing organization was listed on the March to Save America website alongside groups like Stop the Steal, Turning Point Action (an affiliate of Turning Point USA), and Women for America First, according to a report last week from Documented, a watchdog group that investigates corporate influence. The March to Save America website is down, but archived versions list several participating organizations. Supporters of President Donald Trump gathered for a mass event outside the Capitol last week, aiming to coincide with challenges to Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. The rally culminated in a mob attack on the Capitol that left five people dead. The Tea Party Patriots’ tax filing was obtained by Eli Clifton, the a senior adviser at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, who shared it with The Intercept.”

Here Are the Donors to Tea Party Group That Helped Organize Pre-Riot Rally

Aída Chávez, January 13, 2021 [The Intercept]

Tea Party Patriots Foundation, one of the groups that helped organize the January 6 rally preceding the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, include the Jewish Community Federation and late billionaire Republican donor Sanford Diller, according to a 990 form submitted to the IRS by the tax-exempt nonprofit in 2019.

The right-wing organization was listed on the March to Save America website alongside groups like Stop the Steal, Turning Point Action (an affiliate of Turning Point USA), and Women for America First, according to a report last week from Documented, a watchdog group that investigates corporate influence.

Meet the “Conservative” Groups that Fueled a Violent Insurrection at the Capitol on January 6
Pam Martens and Russ Martens, January 11, 2021 [Wall Street on Parade]

Many of the web pages for the nine groups listed as Coalition Partners for the January 5th and 6th event have quietly disappeared from the Internet. Fortunately, the Internet Archives’ Wayback Machine has allowed us to reconstruct what these groups were doing and saying in the leadup to an event… The group that was officially in charge of the event, Women for America First, is Chaired by Amy Kremer who has a storied history with the Tea Party movement,

The dam breaks
Judd Legum and Tesnim Zekeria [Popular Information 1-12-2021]

Last week, Popular Information contacted 144 corporations and asked if they would continue to support the Republican members of Congress who objected to the certification of the Electoral College vote. We received a trickle of about 15 responses and published the results on Sunday morning. Among those responding, three were particularly notable — Marriott, BlueCross Blue Shield, and Commerce Bank said they would suspend PAC contributions to the 147 Republicans who voted to overturn the election results in one or more states.

On Sunday, Popular Information’s report was picked up by The Wall Street JournalThe Washington PostBloombergThe Financial TimesReuters, and many other publications. That coverage prompted several more companies to announce changes. Citi said it would “not support candidates who do not respect the rule of law.” JPMorgan suspended all its contributions for six months.

On Monday, the dam broke. Dozens of companies sent statements regarding their PAC contributions. Popular Information began hearing from companies we had never contacted.

The Untold Story of How the Republican Attorneys General Association, Funded with Large Sums from Corporate Felons, Including OxyContin Drug Pusher Purdue, Participated in Recruiting the Mob that Attacked the Capitol

Pam Martens and Russ Martens: January 14, 2021 [Wall Street on Parade]

Purdue Pharma has given more than $570,000 to RAGA in just the three-year span between 2015 and 2017. In 2007, Purdue Pharma was fined $600 million by the U.S. Department of Justice on charges that it “illegally marketed and promoted OxyContin by falsely claiming that OxyContin was less addictive, less subject to abuse and diversion, and less likely to cause withdrawal symptoms than other pain medications — all in an effort to maximize its profits.” …. RAGA seems to have a fondness for companies addicting young people. Reynolds American, whose cigarette brands include Camel, Newport, Pall Mall and others, has given more than $400,000 to RAGA since 2014. Altria, parent of Philip Morris, whose brands include Marlboro, Parliament, Benson & Hedges, Virginia Slims and others, has enriched RAGA to the tune of $484,154 since 2014.

“The Slush Fund Bankrolling The Insurrectionist GOP

David Sirota, Andrew Perez, Walker Bragman, and Julia Rock [Daily Poster 1-14-2021].

Corporations are being lauded for halting PAC donations after the insurrection — but they are not shutting down the real pool of cash supporting authoritarian extremists.… the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF) and the Senate Leadership Fund (SLF), the two main party-aligned super PACs supporting House and Senate GOP lawmakers….

The bait and switch is underscored by the data: SLF and CLF together raised more than $578 million to support Republican lawmakers in the 2020 election, while their affiliated dark money nonprofits, One Nation and American Action Network, spent another $50 million on unregulated TV ads, according to OpenSecrets.

By comparison, all corporate PACs combined donated less than half that amount to Republicans congressional candidates in the 2020 election, and those contributions comprise an all-time low of just 5 percent of all campaign donations in 2020.

‘This isn’t the final chapter’: Analyst warns, again, about rise of right-wing extremists” (interview)

[NBC, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-13-21]

Background: “In April 2009, a senior Homeland Security intelligence analyst named Daryl Johnson wrote an internal report warning that right-wing extremism was on the rise in the United States and that it could lead to violence. The report leaked, and the backlash was swift.” Now the interview: “NBC NEWS: What was your reaction when you saw the insurrection on the Capitol last week? JOHNSON: Over the summer, spring and fall we had two other capitol buildings, in Michigan and Idaho, that were overrun and breached by the same type of people. It was not beyond the realm of possibility that these people will do a similar thing to try to stop the election. I thought it was going to be at another state capitol building, but it ended up being the U.S. Capitol. So it wasn’t a surprise.”

QAnon reshaped Trump’s party and radicalized believers. The Capitol siege may just be the start.

[Washington Post 1-13-2021]

….the fervor among QAnon supporters appears not to have ebbed, even as arrests mount. A mix of excitement and fear pushed QAnon believers further into their alternative digital reality. One QAnon-affiliated account with more than 11,000 subscribers on Telegram posted a list of emergency resources the night of the failed insurrection, including survival guidebooks and documents detailing firearms and physical training in isolation.

QAnon believers doubled down on their worldview, offering contradictory and nonsensical theories for the week’s events: The siege was instigated by undercover Black Lives Matter and antifa activists, they said, but pro-Trump operatives seized the opportunity to steal laptops they said would contain evidence of widespread sex trafficking among elites.

Another theory posited that Trump’s comments on Thursday about a “smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power” were not about an incoming Biden administration but about imminent military rule led by Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, whose Twitter account was suspended last week as part of the platform’s widening ban on QAnon content.

QAnon’s Afterlife: A Holy Civil War

[CounterPunch, January 15, 2021, via Mike Norman Economics]

…QAnon provided Trump loyalists with a transcendent narrative, moral certitude, hostile enemy, and unit cohesion. QAnon sought to mobilize a mass to “change the narrative” in accordance with a putative military operation. Its redpilling phase (The Great Awakening) is now over, as it successfully won over a sufficient number of hearts and minds. The Storm is here now, and that phase of the mission is different, as we’ll see below….

Here are its key accomplishments, coming into relief in the last six months:

*It has expertly constructed an enemy through seemingly grassroots means. QAnon recruited and integrated its zealots through classic wartime propaganda techniques, stirring the passions to invent an all-powerful yet ultimately vanquishable enemy. Hardcore adherents will never see Biden as a legitimate president because he heads the party of bloodthirsty child predators….

*More than anything, QAnon has been fomenting war in various spheres. From its inception, QAnon has rested on the prophecy of an imminent military coup against the deep state. This coalesced around the Presidential election. In July 2020 we saw QAnon circulate a Digital Soldiers oath in which members swore fealty to Trump and the Constitution. This campaign converged with the Army for Trump, part of his presidential bid that involved watching over (translation: meddling with) the voting process.

Lambert Strether comment, Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-13-21]

“Consequence” discourse makes my back teeth itch is because to me, the political class of the United States includes the most consequence-free people on the planet, save only the oligarchs it serves. This is the political class that allowed life expectancy to drop without making it a political issue. With no consequences. This is the political class that deindustrialized flyover and sent our manufacturing capability to China. With no consequences. This is the political class that still embraces the war criminals who brought us Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, and Yemen. With no consequences. Within the political class, the Democrats wagging their fingers while yammering about “consequences” are the party that never even did a post mortem on the 2016 election. No consequences. The party of RussiaGate. No consequences. The party whose base is protected from globalization by credentials and guilds. No consequences. This is the party whose response to the last crash was to sail off in half-empty lifeboats like Titanic survivors.



Open Thread


Staying Happy in Self-Isolation


  1. Plague Species

    This is who Trump is. These are his supporters — 75 million strong, or weak I’d say. Pathetic, filthy scum. Insane freaks.

  2. different clue

    Economics is warfare by “other means”.

    The future is zero sum. Actually the future is less than zero sum. The future will be won by those who can force their targets to absorb the greater loss.

  3. Joan

    Oof, that Prop 22 is a doozey.

  4. Chicago Clubs

    Eileen Murray, Former co-CEO, Bridgewater Associates (the Bloomberg article) seems to not know what she is talking about, which isn’t that surprising, really. Why should some financial manager have any particular insight into how the world works? America continually and absolutely incorrectly conflates wealth with wisdom. Anyway, she makes two errors, the first being taking the increasingly discredited narrative of “automation” being the cause of unemployment at face value, and the second being this statement: “Throughout history, education has proven to be the vaccine for poverty and for the gaps between the haves and have-nots.” What a facile, wrong statement. In our fairly recent history this has been true for *individuals* but I can’t see how anyone could say it was ever true *societally*. As people continue to pursue education the wage premium steadily decreases, so it’s not even really that true for individuals anymore and will continue to be less so as time goes by. After that I couldn’t be bothered to pay any attention to what she had to say and didn’t finish the article, because if she was one of the three people they dug up to give opinions on future trends (and the first guy had a very specific and not very illuminating fear) then there’s probably nothing of value in the last one, either.

  5. Hugh

    I agree with Chicago Cubs. The next big risk article is strange. It’s the view from the neoliberal echo chamber. Some arsonists wondering why their world has so much smoke in it.

    5 years into Trump and we’re only now getting articles on the right being detached from reality? The election? A hoax. White racism? A hoax. The insurrection? A hoax. The coronavirus? A hoax. Climate change? A hoax. Science? A hoax. If only there was a pattern . . .

  6. Thomas Golladay


    The election was stolen, evidence was overwhelming and in 22, the Establishment is getting wiped in the midterms. Racism is more prevalent on the left with their racial preferences. The storming of the Capitol was a riot, not an insurrection.

    Not that you and your ilk care about facts. So round we go.

    Some commentary from a legal perspective on Big Tech’s overreach and downward death spiral, the coming 2022 counter-offensive to break the Republican Establishment and purge the Republicans of the Corporatists and NeoCons.

  7. Chicago Clubs

    Thomas Golladay is such a broken record noise machine that I don’t understand why Ian even lets his comments out of moderation to shit up the place.

  8. Stirling S Newberry

    He is what waits for us in the shadows.

  9. Plague Species

    I patronized an establishment this past week, I think it was Friday, where the proudly unmasked proprietor warned me McDonald Trump was going to declare Martial Law and arrest the Clintons and the Obamas and the Bidens and Pelosi and Schumer and AOC and many others. The cross necklace worn outside of his shirt was a nice touch and telling. He was convinced. He showed me a video on his phone as proof.

    I was masked, fyi, and a deer caught in his insane headlights. I wanted the product he had, so I suffered him for ten to fifteen insane minutes. He told me about the pedophile cults and that the pope was involved and he was going to be arrested and his second in charge already was and he said the Italian prime rib had just been arrested. He had the news on, not Fox believe it or not but ABC, and I looked at it and said “that’s bizarre because the news isn’t covering it.” He said “of course they’re not covering it because they’re part of the cover up of all this corruption and evil that has been going on for years. President Trump is trying to stop them.” I just humored him and played dumb and said “oh, okay, yeah, that makes sense.”

    Anyway, he said McDonald was declaring Martial Law this past weekend and of course it didn’t happen, not that this will dissuade these nuts from believing the next absurdity to replace the previous unfounded absurdity. He said McDonald was going to get on Air Force One while he was doing this because the Deep State would try to assassinate him, presumably.

    This is how insane these freaks are. They are living in an alternate reality and have revealed beyond a shadow of a doubt they will believe anything and therefore, do anything based off of these false beliefs. This nut is not the exception in these here parts and in many parts, he is the rule.

    Unity with these nutjobs? You have got to be joking. Of course they’re joking. They know there could never be any unity with these insane freaks. Not even an alienist could help them let alone and exorcist.

  10. NR

    The election was stolen, evidence was overwhelming

    Right-wingers simply don’t understand that repeating a lie over and over and over again doesn’t make it true.

  11. Hugh

    Other truisms from Thomas: War is peace; freedom is slavery; ignorance is strength.

    Also day is night and up is down. However, left is definitely not right.

  12. KT Chong

    I know a lot of leftists especially progressives want to dismiss Joe Biden as having “no real difference in substance from Republicans.” However, Biden has already signaled his priority issues, i.e., what agendas he will pursue first as the US President; and, I have to admit, based on what I’ve been reading, he is signficantly difference from Republicans.

    1. Biden plans early legislation to offer legal status to 11 million immigrants without it:

    2. Biden to sign executive orders rejoining Paris climate accord on first day:

    3. Biden indicates plans to cancel Keystone XL pipeline permit on 1st day in office, sources confirm:

    Different liberals and different progressives have different priorities. Neither of those Biden agendas is my personal priority. (In fact, I disagree with Biden — and the majority of liberals and progressives — on immigration.) However, I recognize that all those issues are the liberal and progressive causes, platforms and priorities. Just because they are not my personal issues does not mean they are not liberal or progressive values.

    I know the mudslingers on the left like Krystal Ball, Jimmy Dore and Kim Iversen would dismiss Biden and not give him any credit unless he pursues THEIR priorities, (i.e., Medicare-for-All, which is the ONLY thing they seem to care about.) That is them being selfishness and self-serving. (And more and more people are starting to recognize that Krystal-behind-the-scene answers to a CEO who is a Trumplican, Jimmy Dore is a grifter, and Kim is about a year away from coming out as/turning into a conservative.) Guess what? In life, people do not always get everything they want. Those three need to grow up.

    Those are progressive causes. A Republican President would NEVER pursue any of those agendas. So, we should recognize that fact, and reject the false conflation that a Biden presidency will have no real or substantial difference from a Republican presidency. Those are just three progressive causes, but there are a few more that I’ve seen that genuinely surprised and pleased me, even if those issues are not my priorities.

  13. different clue

    @ Chicago Clubs,

    The nice thing about things like Thomas Golladogdoo is that you can see them lying on the sidewalk and step around them rather than in them.

    God made a scroll button.

  14. edmondo

    “If you abandoned the whole earth project after you started it, how come you are still so concerned and aware of the granular details of events here so as to be able to find this particular blog and write a comment?”

    god had to come here. Naked Capitalism banned him. Yves argued with him about creation and off he went.

  15. George

    right click any trash comment and choose inspect, scroll down to highlighted area, the comment will instantly be highlighted when you do this, right click again and hit delete element. Send poster to cornfield.

  16. Mark Pontin

    Different clue wrote (to God): ‘how come you are still so concerned and aware of the granular details of events here so as to be able to find this particular blog and write a comment’

    ‘Cos He’s got that omniscience and omnipotence thing going on. Not a sparrow falls ….

  17. god is dead

    The conditions now exist for a long-term period of darkness in the U.S.

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