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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – January 21, 2024

by Tony Wikrent


Global power shift

China Is the World’s Sole Manufacturing Superpower

Richard Baldwin [VoxEU, via Naked Capitalism 01-17-2024]

…The US is the world’s sole military superpower. It spends more on its military than the ten next highest spending countries combined. China is now the world’s sole manufacturing superpower. Its production exceeds that of the nine next largest manufacturers combined. This column uses the recently released 2023 update of the OECD TiVA database to paint an eight-chart portrait of China’s journey to superpower status and the asymmetric impact that its dominance has had on global supply chains….

When it comes to gross production, China’s share is three times the US’ share, six times Japan’s, and nine times Germany’s. Taiwan, Mexico, Russia, and Brazil now have higher gross output than the UK. Canada is further down the ranking, in 15th place….

China’s dominance is less stark in exports (Figure 3), though the rise is equally amazing. In 1995 China had just 3% of world manufacturing exports, By 2020, its share had risen to 20%. The corresponding fall in the G7 share was less dramatic than for its share of production….

Figure 4, left panel, shows that the US relies far more on Chinese manufacturing production than vice versa. 2 While shocking at first sight, this should not be unexpected. It is natural that a country with 11% of the world output buys more from a country that produces 35% than vice versa, but the numbers are astounding. China was more exposed to US inputs before 2002, but the US has had greater exposure since then. In 2020, the US was about three times more exposed to Chinese manufacturing production than vice versa….

Robust growth in 2023: China maintains top position in global shipbuilding sector for 14 years

[, via Naked Capitalism comments 01-17-2024]

In the past 12 months, China’s shipbuilding output reached 42.32 million deadweight tonnes (dwt), a year-on-year increase of 11.8 percent, accounting for 50.2 percent of the world’s total.

The new orders rose 56.4 percent year on year to 71.2 million dwt during the period, taking up 66.6 percent of the world’s total.

By the end of December, the volume of orders on hand was 139.39 million dwt, up 32 percent year on year, accounting for 55 percent of the world’s total.

In 2023, five Chinese shipbuilding enterprises ranked in the global top 10 in output, seven in top 10 for new order volume, and six for holding orders, said the MIIT.

The US, Israel Have Lost Battlefield Control – Houthis Have Attacked US Destroyer, Hit Greek-US Owned Bulker; Iran Has Hit US Base in Kurdish Capital, Erbil

John Helmer [via Naked Capitalism 01-17-2024]




Republicans are just servants, the root of our danger in America is the oligarchs

Peter Olandt, January 18, 2024 [Daily Kos]

Trump may have tapped into a large well-spring of racist, ignorant, rage but he neither created it nor is he essential to it.  Getting rid of Trump does not rid ourselves of the people who are ultimately behind the January 6th, 2021 insurrection…  Both Trump and corporate media are tools of American oligarchs.  The Murdochs, Kochs, and Crows of the world are the real power, menace, and conspirators out to destroy America.

From the comments: GRAPH older but still relevant view of the Koch brothers’ extensive influence operations, by Hello1814

[TW: I flag this because I believe it — being DailyKos — reflects the awakening in public consciousness of the problem of oligarchy, and the ever lasting fight of oligarchy versus republicanism.]

Predators and Prey: Subverting Liberal and Populist Institutions: How the rich destroy populist movements from the inside

Thomas Neuburger, January 17, 2024

[This is a very important article that lays bare the fact that the political divisions in USA are largely artificial constructions aimed at preserving the institutional and social power of the reactionary rich. The issue of abortion, for example, was seized upon by Paul Weyrich — a full six years after the Roe v. Wade decision — as an effective means of driving religious conservatives to the polls to vote for (anti)Republicans. Another example of reactionary wealth creating then promoting a radicalized right wing agenda is the Second Amendment “gun rights” issue. In May 1977, after the leadership of the National Rifle Association had decided to retreat from politics by NRA headquarters from Washington DC to Colorado, radicals from the Second Amendment Foundation and the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms seized control of the NRA at its annual meeting. This is now known as the  “Revolt at Cincinnati.” These groups were funded by Adolph Coors Foundation, the Koch brothers, and Richard Mellon Scaife and included on its board Richard DeVos, Peter Grace, and Jesse Helms. The crucial fact of USA politics over the past half century is that the “overton window” has been deliberately shifted by a conservative movement that is not at all organically spontaneous or democratically based.]

​​​​​​​…George W. Bush and Karl Rove engineered an institutional takeover of faith communities. Note the roles of Ralph Reed, head of the unironically named Christian Coalition, and Richard Land in the passage below….

Richard Land was president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1988 to 2013. Land, through the ERLC, controlled the political arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. He was simultaneously part of the Rove machine.

Subverting Liberal Churches

One more example, so you can see the process. If you’re old enough to have seen the 1960s battles for civil rights and all those other freedoms (sexual, feminist, and so on), you remember the great religious leaders that movement produced and attracted.

Martin Luther King Jr., for example, was a Baptist minister (a reason for the subversion described above) and the first President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

The brothers Daniel Berrigan, a Jesuit priest, and Philip Berrigan, a Josephite priest, were strong pro-Movement activists and often jailed.

As Frederick Clarkson writes of the Movement’s Protestant contingents:

For much of the 20th century, the mainline Protestant churches maintained a vigorous “social witness.” That is what these Protestants call their views on such matters as peace, civil rights and environmental justice. While there was certainly conservative opposition to the development of these views, and to the activities that grew out of them, the direction of mainline Protestantism was clear. The churches became powerful proponents of social change in the United States. They stood at the moral and political center of society with historic roots in the earliest days of the nation. Indeed, they epitomize the very idea and image of “church” for many Americans….

In retrospect, it seems inevitable that powerful external interests would organize and finance the conservative rump factions into strategic formations intended to divide and conquer—and diminish the capacity of churches to carry forward their idea of a just society in the United States—and the world.

When the strategic funders of the Right, such as Richard Mellon Scaife, got together to create the institutional infrastructure of the Right in the 1970s and 80s, they underwrote the founding of the IRD [Institute on Religion and Democracy] in 1980 ….

The goal of the IRD is clear: to infiltrate, to neutralize, to control. The process, if you’re interested, is called “Steeplejacking.” For a book on this subject, the publisher says this (emphasis added):

An insider account by two ministers on the front lines of mainstream religion’s longtime shadow war against the religious right, Steeplejacking reveals how conservative renewal groups, backed by a right-wing organization called the Institute on Religion and Democracy [IRD], use social wedge issues like homosexuality to infiltrate mainline churches and stir up dissent among members of the congregation, with the goal of taking over the leadership of the church, and ultimately, the denomination. The book unmasks the covert methods that renewal groups and the IRD use to spread their propaganda[.]

The Right-Wing Media Takeover Is Destroying America 

Michael Tomasky. January 19, 2024 [The New Republic]

The purchase of The Baltimore Sun is further proof that conservative billionaires understand the power of media control. Why don’t their liberal counterparts get it? ….

Smith wasted no time in showing his cards during his first meeting with the staff Wednesday. He was asked about a comment he made to New York magazine back in 2018, when he said, “Print media is so left wing as to be meaningless dribble.” (“Dribble”? Let’s hope he won’t be on the copy desk.) Did he feel that way about the Sun specifically? “In many ways, yes,” Smith said, adding that he wants the paper to emulate the local Fox affiliate, which is owned … by Sinclair….

I’ve been in the trenches of this fight for many years. Back in the George W. Bush era, the late Rob Stein, a Democratic insider and good friend of mine, mapped for the first time the conservative infrastructure in a PowerPoint presentation that became such a hot ticket in Washington liberal circles that The New York Times Magazine did a story about it. He showed, from looking over conservative groups’ 990s (because they were mostly all nonprofits), how much was spent on policy development, how much on field operations, how much on youth training, and how much on media. I don’t remember the numbers, but the media figure was high….

How different would things be out there in America if, 15 or 20 years ago, some rich liberal or consortium of liberals had had the wisdom to make a massive investment in local news? There were efforts along these lines, and sometimes they came to something. But they were small. What if, instead of right-wing Sinclair, some liberal company backed by a group of billionaires had bought up local TV stations or radio stations or newspapers all across the country?

Again, we can’t know, but we know this much: Support for Democrats has shriveled in rural America to near nonexistence, such that it is now next to impossible to imagine Democrats being elected to public office at nearly any level in about two-thirds of the country. It’s a tragedy. And it happened for one main reason: Right-wing media took over in these places and convinced people who live in them that liberals are all God-hating superwoke snowflakes who are nevertheless also capable of destroying civilization, and our side didn’t fight it. At all.

The Fourteenth Amendment Scolds Abetting Trump’s Return

Jason Linkins, January 13, 2024 [The New Republic]

The pundit class has finally found a section of the Constitution they can’t abide. By coincidence, it’s the part that’s designed to protect the nation from an insurrectionist….

…We are, however, not completely unarmed against Trump’s thuggery: Article 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment lays out a fail-safe, disqualifying anyone who played a part in inciting an insurrection from holding office again. Unfortunately, while it is rare for the Supreme Court to disarm anyone, it will, in all likelihood, deny the American people this protection. But the Roberts court has been vastly aided and abetted by our political media, who after waiting so long for Trump to discover virtue, have quickly declared the Article 3 tool to be a vice—either searingly unfair to use in this instance or invalid on its face. When the decision eventually comes, the press will have created an environment in which the Supreme Court’s disregard for the Constitution’s text won’t be viewed as a radical act.

That this consensus was reached so quickly is something of a surprise, as the dominant mode of the pundit class is to venerate the Constitution as a peerless document, the final answer to all questions….

Writing for his newsletter, Indignity, Tom Scocca provides a concise survey of those who’ve recently endeavored to “pretend” that the Fourteenth Amendment doesn’t say what it says, from the “half-baked excuses” from pundits to the “feeble political claims” of legal experts doing business as Constitution doubters.

One example that stands out for its sheer mendacity comes from Yale Law professor (and it’s almost always a Yale Law professor) Jed Rubenfeld, who pooh-poohed Article 3 for The Wall Street Journal’s opinion section, admonishing those who might wield it to save the country from harm that while the “Colorado Supreme Court didn’t exactly get the law wrong” when it plucked Trump from its ballot, the “problem” was “there was no law to get right,” on account of the fact that “almost no case law exists on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.”


[TW: I want to highlight Rubenfeld’s comment. because it is a painful example of the philosophical inability of liberalism to defend itself against the onslaught of conservative authoritarianism. “Almost no case law exists,” and this is an insurmountable barrier for Rubenfeld and his fellow travelers. Now, the question can be asked, “What did the first judges at the very beginning of the republic do when there was no case law?” Rubenfeld and other would probably answer, “The relied on the precedents of English common law.” But they are wrong: in the winter of 1790-1791, Supreme Court justice James Wilson — who also served as one of the most important delegates at the Constitutional Convention — in a series of lectures attended by almost all members of Congress, explicitly rejected English common law as the basis for American jurisprudence:

A question deeply interesting to the American States now presents itself. Should the elements of a law education, particularly as it respects publick law, be drawn entirely from another country—or should they be drawn, in part, at least, from the constitutions and governments and laws of the United States, and of the several States composing the Union?

The subject, to one standing where I stand, is not without its delicacy: let me, however, treat it with the decent but firm freedom, which befits an independent citizen, and a professor in independent states.

Surely I am justified in saying, that the principles of the constitutions and governments and laws of the United States, and the republicks, of which they, are formed, are materially different from the principles of the constitution and government and laws of England; for that is the only country, from the principles of whose constitution and government and laws, it will be contended, that the elements of a law education ought to be drawn. I presume to go further: the principles of our constitutions and governments and laws are materially better than the principles of the constitution and government and laws of England.

[The guide for law in a republic, Wilson insisted, must be justice.

The first and most necessary duty of nations, as well as of men, is to do no wrong or injury. Justice is a sacred law of nations. If the law of the great society of nations requires, as we have seen it to require, that each should contribute to the perfection and happiness of others; the first degree of this duty surely is, that each should abstain from every thing, which would positively impair that perfection and happiness.

[There are many that now believe that “The US Constitution is a document written by criminals for criminals to serve criminal purposes.” This erroneous view is the direct result of the propagandizing of the reactionary rich, who have successfully written out of history ideas such as Wilson’s. ]

How The Koch Network Hijacked The War On Covid

Walker Bragman and Alex Kotc, December 22nd, 2021 []

This is the story of how that corporate-bankrolled campaign succeeded in supplanting public health experts and hijacking governmental response to the pandemic….

When COVID began its spread across the United States in early March 2020, states responded by locking down to varying extents. All 24 Democratic governors and 19 of the 26 Republican governors issued weeks-long stay-at-home orders and restrictions on non-essential businesses.

Lockdown measures drove down cases in the U.S. and likely saved millions of lives globally. But the decline of in-person shopping and work, combined with factory shutdowns in places like China, disrupted the economy. A 2020 report from the corporate consulting firm McKinsey & Co. found the hardest-hit industries would take years to recover.

One sector in particular that took a big hit was the fossil fuel industry. Oil demand fell sharply in 2020, placing the global economy on uncertain footing.

Before long, business-aligned groups — particularly those connected to fossil fuels — began targeting the public health measures threatening their bottom lines. Chief among them were groups tied to billionaire Charles Koch, owner of Koch Industries, the largest privately held fossil fuel company in the world.

The war on public health measures began on March 20, 2020, when Americans For Prosperity (AFP), the right-wing nonprofit founded by Charles and David Koch, issued a press release calling on states to remain open.

“We can achieve public health without depriving the people most in need of the products and services provided by businesses across the country,” it read.

A month later, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a business lobbying group partially funded by Koch Industries, published a letter calling on President Donald Trump to enable states to reopen. That letter was signed by over 200 state legislators and “stakeholders,” including leaders from Koch-funded groups like the Texas Public Policy Foundation and the James Madison Institute.

Republican State Financial Officers Group Doubled Its Revenue After Being Weaponized to Fight “Woke” Capitalism and Sustainable Investing Practices 

by David Armiak, December 22nd, 2023 []

The State Financial Officers Foundation (SFOF), a membership group of 37 Republican state treasurers, auditors, and financial executives weaponized to fight “woke” capitalism, more than doubled its revenue in 2022 — to over $2 million — according to its latest IRS filing obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD).

Prior to 2022, SFOF had only cracked $1 million in revenue once — in 2019. The organization maintained a low profile until CMD published a February 2022 report on its annual meeting, which exposed its agenda of fighting so-called “woke” capitalism and “defend[ing] the market economy” against the growing environmental, social and governance (ESG) movement among corporations to consider their potential impact on climate change, social justice, and other community interests (instead of just shareholders) when making business decisions.

SFOF has deep ties to both the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the pay-to-play, corporate bill mill, and CRC Advisors, a far-right PR firm catering to the fossil fuel industry and founded by Trump’s “court whisperer” Leonard Leo.

Who is Dr. Frankenstein? – Or, what Professor Hayek and his friends have done to science


Figure 4. Mighty oaks from little acorns grow. An outline of the connections between people, doctrines, texts, and organizations mentioned in the text. Only some connections are shown to keep the graph readable. The names of the Mont Pelerin Society members are rimmed in blue. The names of doctrines are sandwiched between blue lines; texts are indicated by the titles within white rectangles. mOCD stands for market obsessive compulsive disorder (see text), which is manifested as the malaise of science, education, industry, politics, and some other activities. Note that the depicted individuals can identify themselves with diverse political movements and philosophies, but share the belief that the best way to organize society is by considering all human activities as economic market transaction, and by assuming that the market as the highest authority on what is good and what is not. For example, Ayn Rand, who was born in the city where I grew up, was not fond of Hayek’s ideas but both agreed on the superiority of a free market and the need for what I call neo-morals (see text).

[TW: At the bottom, right “Follow your calling” replaced by “Follow market signals.” Neo-liberalism is an assault on the moral foundations of a republic. A ‘calling” was the Christian idea that a person’s life vocation should be a way to serve God by serving all of humanity. Not by following self-interests alone.]

Inequality Inc. How corporate power divides our world and the need for a new era of public action

Rebecca Riddell et al. [OXFAM International, via Mike Norman Economics, January 17, 2024]

Since 2020, the richest five men in the world have doubled their fortunes. During the same period, almost five billion people globally have become poorer. Hardship and hunger are a daily reality for many people worldwide. At current rates, it will take 230 years to end poverty, but we could have our first trillionaire in 10 years.

This report shows how a huge concentration of global corporate and monopoly power is exacerbating inequality economy-wide. Seven out of ten of the world’s biggest corporates have either a billionaire CEO or a billionaire as their principal shareholder. Through squeezing workers, dodging tax, privatizing the state and spurring climate breakdown, corporations are driving inequality and acting in the service of delivering ever-greater wealth to their rich owners. To end extreme inequality, governments must radically redistribute the power of billionaires and corporations back to ordinary people. A more equal world is possible if governments effectively regulate and reimagine the private sector.


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

Pondering Neoliberalism

Peter Radford [via Mike Norman Economics, January 17, 2024]

But what about the resource side? Where did all this money go? Why, for example, can the Lebanese Armed Forces, not the wealthiest military in the world, have a dozen Brigades deployed on operations, as well as numerous independent regiments, whereas the British, with their massively greater resources and a larger Army, would be pushed to deploy two? And in this, the British are the norm, rather than the exception.

The paradox has no one single cause, but is probably due more than anything else to the move since the 1980s towards managing defence as budgets, rather than programmes. Let me expand on that slightly gnomic statement. In the private sector, it is accepted that companies can and will manipulate their financial statements to inflate their profits and minimise their losses where possible. It’s also accepted that there is a distinction between the financial picture (a company makes increased profits by selling off assets) and the reality (it is doing so in a desperate attempt to avoid going out of business.) In a world where only profits and the share price matter, it is at least a coherent strategy for the short term. If you think about it, it’s also a ridiculous strategy for the public sector, since what matters, and what the voters want, is output for the long term. But from the 1980s onwards, beginning in Britain and spreading rapidly, the idea of managing the defence programme in terms of budgets, and the “efficient” spending of money took over. This meant, in effect, abandoning the previous pattern of managing programmes for capability output, and managing them instead according to budgetary limits. And as time passed, the poisonous theories of management consultants about “efficiency” began to seep into the public sectors of a number of countries.…

Saving Bidenomics: Biden’s industrial policy program promises a massive shift from decades of neoliberal orthodoxy. Can it deliver inclusive gains in time?

[Boston Review, via The Big Picture 01-13-2024]

At a June 2023 assembly of business and community leaders in Chicago, President Biden outlined what has become a central theme of his reelection campaign. “Bidenomics,” the President declared, embracing the moniker for his economic policy agenda, represents a “fundamental break from the economic theory that has failed” for decades. The Reaganite commitment to unfettered market capitalism and an anemic public sector never delivered on the promise of equitable prosperity. “It failed the middle class,” he continued. “It failed America. It blew up the deficit. It increased inequity. And it weakened our infrastructure. It stripped the dignity, pride, and hope out of communities one after another.”

Senior Biden administration leaders have self-consciously styled Biden’s approach as a move away from the neoliberal presumptions of the Washington Consensus. This approach signals a major shift from decades of economic policy, with massive new public investment in infrastructure and green energy, a commitment to worker empowerment, and policies to promote competition and limit unhealthy concentrations of power in the market. It also revives the tradition of “industrial policy,” the basic premise that governments can and ought to restructure markets to better advance public goals and values.

How does the Fed control interest rates? 

Kevin Drum [via The Big Picture 01-19-2024]

The Fed no longer relies on open market operations to influence interest rates. Instead, it just changes the rate it pays banks on their reserves.

Boeing Supplier Ignored Warnings Of “Excessive Amount Of Defects,” Former Employees Allege 

David Sirota, et al., January 8, 2024 [The Lever]

Less than a month before a catastrophic aircraft failure prompted the grounding of more than 150 of Boeing’s commercial aircraft, documents were filed in federal court alleging that former employees at the company’s subcontractor repeatedly warned corporate officials about safety problems and were told to falsify records.

According to the court documents, the employee told a colleague that “he believed it was just a matter of time until a major defect escaped to a customer.”

The allegations come from a federal securities lawsuit accusing Spirit of deliberately covering up systematic quality control problems, encouraging workers to undercount defects, and retaliating against those who raised safety concerns. Read the full complaint here….

Spirit was established in 2005 as a spinoff company from Boeing. The publicly traded firm remains heavily reliant on Boeing…. Spirit and Boeing are closely intertwined. Spirit’s new CEO Patrick Shanahan was a Trump administration Pentagon official who previously worked at Boeing for more than 30 years, serving as the company’s VP of various programs, including supply chain and operations….

Profits And Payouts Over Passenger Safety

[The Lever, January 12, 2024]

While the companies responsible for the door plug that blew out of a plane in mid-air last week were cutting corners, outsourcing manufacturing, laying off employees, and working to evade expensive safety upgrades, they paid their top executives $817 million and showered Wall Street investors with $68 billion in dividends and stock buybacks over the past decade.

How Boeing Ruined the JetBlue-Spirit Merger

David Dayen, January 19, 2024 [The American Prospect]

The judge’s ruling in the case revealed all the deficiencies in the manufacturing and distribution of commercial air travel.

This week, the sixth-largest and seventh-largest U.S. airlines, JetBlue and Spirit, were denied the opportunity to merge. Stripped from context, it doesn’t sound like an earth-shattering development. But the ruling by Judge William Young, a Reagan appointee, signals the end of four decades of unstoppable waves of airline consolidation that have damaged passengers, workers, smaller communities, and commerce. More broadly, it’s another victory for the Biden Justice Department’s aggressive antitrust enforcers, who are drawing the line at additional concentration….

But if Spirit was subsumed into JetBlue’s fleet, it would likely not be replaced by other ultra-low-cost carriers (ULCCs) like Frontier or Allegiant, the judge concluded. It’s worth going through why he concluded that.

Airlines today simply cannot grow, because of a number of factors. There are shortages of both air traffic controllers and pilots, in large part because of voluntary retirements and buyouts during the COVID pandemic. But the bigger issue is that airlines can’t get their hands on any planes. Part of that is a supply chain issue, and part of it is a miscalculation of how many flights would be needed for increased post-pandemic demand. But mainly it’s because they’re all trying to source from one supplier….

The Airbus Advantage: Why Europe’s mixed economy produces safer planes than America’s financialized capitalism

Harold Meyerson, January 18, 2024 [The American Prospect]

…Boeing continually objected to what it said were Spirit’s high costs and inability to meet deadlines. As the workers on the shop floor and their union repeatedly noted, this led to rushed production and deficient oversight. Workers—members of the International Association of Machinists—had “great quality and safety concerns,” one union representative wrote to union leaders, but their concerns were routinely ignored by senior management, the Journal reported.

So how are work practices at Airbus different from those at Boeing? I’m not arguing that Airbus provides a panacea for 21st-century production; a chunk of their own production, for instance, is outsourced as well. But consider, for starters, who actually owns the two companies. Airbus’s four largest shareholders, in order, are the government of France, the government of Germany, the Capital Research and Management Company, and the government of Spain. Boeing’s four largest shareholders, in order, are The Vanguard Group, Vanguard Group subfiler, Newport Trust Company, and State Street Corporation (a bank and asset manager). In other words, Airbus’s largest shareholders are mainly politically accountable governments that must pay heed to such public concerns as air safety; Boeing’s are entirely investors in business for profits….

By the way, just how outsourced is Boeing production? Only yesterday, it was revealed the door plug that blew out of the Alaska Airlines plane wasn’t actually produced in Wichita. It was produced in Malaysia, where I very much doubt that workers’ concerns about speed of production and quality oversight have much impact on their managers. More significantly, the fact that the Malaysian production of the door plug didn’t come to light until yesterday—12 days after the blowout—suggests just how profoundly outsourcing can obscure the public visibility required for corporate accountability.

Dollar General Overcharges ‘Hundreds of Thousands’ of Customers, Lawsuit Alleges

Ramenda Cyrus, January 19, 2024 [The American Prospect]

The prices paid at the register do not match the price tags, according to a class action lawsuit working through the courts….

Dann told the Prospect that his firm has collected “thousands of pages” of public records that show the violations. Part of the case has to do with “weights and measures standards,” which are designed to prevent stores from undercutting their customers by ensuring that products sold are the proper size and weight claimed on the packaging. As Dann told the Prospect, Dollar General regularly fails state and federal weights and measures tests, at an average of 20 percent….

In September 2023, Missouri attorney general Andrew Bailey initiated a different lawsuit against Dollar General for pricing scams. As KOAM News reported, a joint investigation between the attorney general’s office and the Missouri Department of Agriculture Weights and Measures Division found that more than half of the inspected stores failed price accuracy checks, with discrepancies up to “as much as $6.50 per item.”


They’re not capitalists — they’re predatory criminals

The DOJ’s Incestuous Relationship with Jamie Dimon Is Captured in a Graphic from an Historic Lawsuit

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, January 18, 2024 [Wall Street on Parade] [Wall Street on Parade]

Everything that’s Dangerous about U.S. Banks Today in One Highly Readable Book

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, January 17, 2024 [Wall Street on Parade] [Wall Street on Parade]

Three Branches of U.S. Government Have Kept the Secrets of Jeffrey Epstein’s Money Man, Leslie Wexner, Locked Up Tight

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, January 12, 2024 [Wall Street on Parade] [Wall Street on Parade]


Information age dystopia

The World Depends on 60-Year-Old Code No One Knows Anymore

[PC Magazine, via The Big Picture 01-07-2024]

An alarmingly large portion of the world’s business and finance systems run on COBOL, and only a small community of programmers know it. IBM thinks Watson can help, but it’s not guaranteed.


Climate and environmental crises

2023’s billion-dollar disasters list shattered the US record for weather and climate disasters amid Earth’s hottest year on record

[The Conversation, via The Big Picture 01-14-2024]

The U.S. set an unwelcome record for weather and climate disasters in 2023, with 28 disasters that exceeded more than US$1 billion in damage each. While it wasn’t the most expensive year overall – the costliest years included multiple hurricane strikes – it had the highest number of billion-dollar storms, floods, droughts and fires of any year since counting began in 1980, with six more than any other year, accounting for inflation.    

Buying Home and Auto Insurance Is Becoming Impossible

[Wall Street Journal, via The Big Picture 01-14-2024]

Huge losses from national disasters prompt industry to jack up prices and pull back from some markets; ‘worst possible scenario’ for consumers.


Democrats’ political malpractice

It’s Time for Democrats to Make Some Enemies

Jason Linkins, January 20, 2024 [The New Republic]

The New Republic’s editor, Michael Tomasky, in setting the table for this campaign season, has repeatedly stressed the need to name some enemies and pick some broad public fights with these foes… This can’t be the stuff of wonks and white papers—this is about emotions and morality, a gut punch to the bad guys….

…a slew of corporate enemies abound: junk-fee crooksprivate equity goons; the gangsters of the pharmaceutical industry; banks plucking high overdraft fees out of the pockets of people living paycheck to paycheck; a small universe of price gougerswage thieves, and consumer predators….

The fact that the Democrats are of two minds on the matter is emblematic of the asymmetry of America’s political warfare. Republicans can be counted on to speak with one voice, picking topics on a daily basis on which to do a Two Minutes Hate, keeping the right-wing media Wurlitzer filled with fresh sheet music to call the next dance. Democrats can’t match the GOP in terms of propaganda infrastructure, but they can marshal far more relevant and substantive topics of conflict than the Republican Party’s typical culture-war fare.…


Collapse of independent news media

How Fighting Monopoly Can Save Journalism 

Phillip Longman, January 16, 2024 [Washington Monthly]

The collapse of the news industry is not an inevitable consequence of technology or market forces. It’s the result of policy mistakes over the past 40 years that the Biden administration is already taking measures to fix….

…it is a direct result of specific, boneheaded policy choices that politicians in both parties made over the past 40 years. By repealing or failing to enforce basic market rules that had long contained concentrated corporate power, policy makers enabled the emergence of a new kind of monopoly that engages in a broad range of deeply anticompetitive business practices. These include, most significantly, the cornering of advertising markets, which historically provided the primary means of financing journalism. This is the colossal policy failure that has effectively destroyed the economic foundations of a free press….

This tradition in America’s political economy found early expression in the Postal Act of 1792. Reflecting the founding generation’s belief that a democratic republic required an informed citizenry, the law stated that the largest and most crucial communications network of the era had to treat all users equally by offering the same prices and terms of service to everyone. It was the same principle that in much later debates over the governance of the internet would be known as “net neutrality.”….

Americans once again deployed extensive government interventions after monopolists gained control of a new communications network that had become essential to journalism by the mid-19th century. The dominant telegraph company of the day, Western Union, which fell under the control of the financier Jay Gould, and the dominant newswire provider, the Associated Press, became so intertwined that they were called “a double-headed monopoly.” …

To reverse such concentrations of control over the information environment, Americans took myriad measures. As with the U.S. Postal Service, they enacted regulations that required, for example, that telegraph and telephone companies operate as utilities providing every user, or class of users, with the same prices and terms of service. Similarly, while granted an exemption from liability for the messages people sent over their wires, telecommunications companies were not allowed to pick and choose who got to send or receive what content. Americans also used antitrust enforcement and utility regulations to prohibit such companies from vertically integrating into adjacent lines of businesses, such as advertising and publishing. Finally, by the end of the 19th century, privacy laws in every state prohibited them from disclosing or otherwise misusing the personal data generated by their users….


(anti)Republican Party

New York City Is a Lot Safer Than Small-Town America

[Bloomberg, via The Big Picture 01-17-2024]

Rising homicide rates don’t tell the whole story. When you dig deeper into data on deaths, you’ll find the more urban your surroundings, the less danger you face.

‘Plain historical falsehoods’: How amicus briefs bolstered Supreme Court conservatives 

[Politico, via The Big Picture 01-07-2024]

A POLITICO review indicates most conservative briefs in high-profile cases have links to a sm


Open Thread


Why Every Society Failed The Covid Test


  1. Curt Kastens

    I am a person who has been trying to spread the idea that the US Constiution is a document written by criminals for criminals to serve criminal purposes.
    I am not rich. I reached this conclusion on my own not as the result of some right wing propoganda tract.
    It is true that I never heard of an early Supreme Court Justice by the name of Wilson.
    But Wilson conclusion that when there is no precedent Justice rather than English Common Law should be the bedrock on which US Law rests changes little about whehter or not the US Constitution is written by criminals for criminals to serve Criminal purposes.
    Even if we could go back in a time machine and verify that the the Consititution was written by men with good intentions does not change the fact that the document has been transformed by criminals for criminals to serve criminal purposes since at least as far back when Andrew Jackson refused to abide by a Supreme Court ruling.
    The Constitution is a sacred cow that has to be slain to free people from their illusions.

    Not that it will do people any good at this point. Unless it is another dimension after this one.

  2. different clue

    It seems to me that Naked Capitalism and especially its Lambert Strether have decided to join those 14th Ammendment Scolds who are abetting Trump’s return. When the subject of Trump comes up, pro-Trump and pro-Trumpanon magasbara oozes from Naked Capitalism like pus from a gangrenous wound. (Perhaps they secretly hope that another Trump term can destroy what is left of America so thoroughly that the “left” can finally take power over the wreckage.)

    It is one of those things which is pointless to try discussing over there, just like MMT ( Magical Monetary Thinking).

  3. somecomputerguy

    All thinking about crime needs the following context;

    Crime has been falling more or less continuously for 30 years. And not by a little. Just recently it seems to have plateaued, it would be surprising if it could fall much further.

    Regardless of year to year statistical blips, crime levels are still historically low, and it would take a dramatic body-count to come close to changing that.

    It is prudent to be skeptical of crime statistics, but trend lines measured over decades are probably telling a true story.

    Crime fell across the entire country, regardless of policing strategy pursued, or lack of any policing strategy. As one would think, since policing has little provable effect on levels of crime. The most reliable factor associated with levels of crime is the number of prison-risk-age males (16-30 years old) in the population.

    Now for the mind-blower. Crime didn’t just fall in the U.S., it fell in Canada and Western Europe.

    Social phenomena just doesn’t do that. I have heard exactly one plausible explanation; The Clean Air Act.

    My understanding is that the U.S. was the first. Every country that has banned leaded gasoline, 20 years later, sees their levels of crime drop and continue to drop.

  4. bruce wilder

    Trump may have tapped into a large well-spring of racist, ignorant, rage but he neither created it nor is he essential to it. Getting rid of Trump does not rid ourselves of the people who are ultimately behind the January 6th, 2021 insurrection… – Peter Olandt (Daily Kos)

    Predators and Prey: Subverting Liberal and Populist Institutions: How the rich destroy populist movements from the inside . . .- Thomas Neuberger

    I should probably stipulate at the outset of my comment that I truly believe that “the oligarchy”, rich and reactionary, combined with the absence of any effective political opposition to “the oligarchy” and its self-aggrandizing political program of upward income redistribution combined with ever more concentrated monopoly power thru finance and corporate structures, is destroying the United States morally and economically as a republican polity. I am horrified by what I see happening. I say that “at the outset” because what I want to express analytically is a skepticism about how Democrats conceive of the struggle and the obstacles to opposing the reactionary rich and their neoliberal servants effectively.

    I don’t imagine many in Ian’s readership or commentariat fit comfortably into the DailyKos mindset, but let’s look at Olandt’s framing from a distance and appreciate how that framing confuses the very issue he raises. I take that issue to be the role of mega-wealthy reactionaries driving political movements and media reporting on politics. But, is that “well-spring of racist, ignorant rage” cause? effect? something to be gotten rid of? what is ‘ultimately’ behind the “January 6 insurrection”?

    “well-spring of racist, ignorant rage” is a formula, a cliche, a shibboleth of Trump Derangement Syndrome. I think it is a formula meant to not-deal with an awareness that Trump appeals to people who feel that “the system” is unjustly rigged against them, that Washington politics is deeply corrupt, that elite authorities are incompetent and untrustworthy, and who, in the absence of any coherent and credible program of reform, are willing to vote for a carnival barker who promises to break the system and bring its structure of institutional authority down.

    Now let’s turn to Neuberger and “subverting liberal and populist” institutions. That headline, to my ear, promises far more than his essay delivers and not just because his essay is too brief and rehashes very old news, with an emphasis on the agency of some already famous figures of the coalition that elected George W. Bush. (Maybe that should be allegedly “elected”.) Clinton took over the Democratic Party as the New Deal generation faded away, relying on the support of a different set of oligarchs (actually a succession of oligarchs from different backgrounds beginning with a Rockefeller who paid for the transformation of Arkansas politics and continuing with Wall Street financial monopolists seeking a final end to Glass-Steagall and going on to globalist channeling of funds through the Clinton Foundation, Clinton Global Initiative and all that rot.)

    In fairness to Neuberger, he has space limitations and does gesture at the end at the DLC, and he mentions PBS (but without mentioning John C. Malone’s Liberty Media buying a controlling equity stake in MacNeil/Lehrer Productions in 1994, just to name names).

    Neuberger is recalling ancient history for the most part. He isn’t concerned with, for example, how Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaigns were reduced to impotence and eventually to an endorsement of Hillary Clinton and four years later of “his good friend” Joe Biden. He certainly isn’t foolhardy enough to tackle Russiagate or the first impeachment of Trump for endangering the prospect of a war in Ukraine (or a Biden Presidency) with his clumsy, “transactional” foreign policy.

    A successful progressive-populist coalition — one with enough votes and popular support to pursue a reform program against the oligarchs — would have to appeal to a lot of the voters who are voting for Trump. Yes, the deplorables! Such a coalition would have to reach a consensus that the country is in deep trouble, that political corruption is rampant and systematic, that Media is not to be trusted, that many institutions are failing, including such stalwarts as, say, the New York Times or the CDC. Swearing up and down that the integrity of our electoral processes are beyond reproach as the Democratic establishment requires — well, that’s not going to cut it.

    A lot of practical small-d democratic politics is agreeing to disagree on many aspects of worldview and attitude. It might mean — just take an example — a combination of peace-and-anti-imperialist leftists allying with America First rightists bringing an end to the MIC’s Empire. It is not fomenting civil war with aghastitude and tortured narratives of our virtue and their “racism” and “ignorance”. Potentially liberal and populist movements and institutions are being destroyed by a divide-and-rule strategy of manipulation, disinformation and censorship thru corporate media and social media platforms. That’s reality and I see a lot of resistance to recognizing that reality from people participating in the show with unseemly enthusiasm.

  5. VietnamVet

    The current ruling supra-global economic/political system that has atomized society into amoral cartels, mobs and families has made government secondary to corporations that place profits over human lives. To stay on top, the plutocrats, as always, pit human tribes against each other. This funds the war profiteers.

    Boeing only manufactures airliners to make money. It is incapable of designing and building a new generation passenger aircraft or a Minuteman ICBM replacement. Of course, this is of national security concern but is dismissed since it is secondary to revolving door participants getting their cut of the money. The Republican instigated invasion of Iraq in 2003 was crazy. The Iraq and Syrian occupations that continue to date are untenable. US airbases in both countries are being attacked regularly with ballistic missiles. First Vietnam and then the Afghanistan Wars were lost. The Democrat led regime change campaign against the Kremlin in 2014 was insane. Thanks to all of this, with a four year hiatus, WW3 is underway. The regional wars in the Balkans and the Middle East are out of control. Only UN Armistices and DMZs can restore peace.

    The Fulton County Georgia DA who hired her lover to prosecute Donald Trump shows the incestuous corrupt nature of the oligarch captured US government. This is nothing new. It was why civil services laws that are ignored now were put in place over a century ago.

    Restoration of sovereign national constitutional government run by and for the people with the rule of law for all is the only way to avoid the looming economic collapse from downsizing from being the sole global hegemon and the ethnic driven chaos that will split North American into around eleven distinct cultural zones that will each have, at least, one nuclear armed military base; if an Apocalypse is some how avoided.

  6. bruce wilder

    @ different clue

    I think Lambert Strether has been striving to report on the 14th Amendment claims for removing Trump from the ballot as objectively as he can. He has featured some of the most sophisticated legal arguments in favor of barring Trump at length.

    There is inevitably perhaps an undertone in his presentation that reflects a questioning of whether individual proponents in any particular instance are variously sincere or wise in their advocacy. Many Democrats in their righteous conviction that Trump engaged in “insurrection” seem to lose sight of the contested nature of the claim that the December 6 riot at the Capitol constituted an “insurrection”. Strether in taking on the role of “objective” reporter makes no commitment of his own and continues to ask what various partisans argue, what evidence they present and in what process.

    I will say for my own part that it is political narcissism to imagine that adopting a partisan narrative creates objective facts. Everyone may be entitled to her own opinion, but not to her own facts. You are obligated to operate politically within a shared reality, though not shared desiderata. Respect for precedent is what norms are made of — and a prudent anticipation that turnabout will come, fair play or not.

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