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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – January 22, 2023

by Tony Wikrent


Strategic Political Economy

How Much Income Do You Need to Be Rich? 

[Of Dollars And Data, The Big Picture 1-19-2023]

Based on the 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances, what are the top 10%, top 5%, and top 1% of household incomes in the U.S.? We take a high level overview of how much income the highest earning households make so that you can determine for yourself what it means to be rich…

  • Top 10% = $191,406
  • Top 5% = $290,164
  • Top 1% = $867,436

Thomas Frank On Why Democrats Suck

Katie Halper [YouTube, January 3, 2023]

10:49 If you go back and look at the sociological literature in … the mid-1960s, it was triumphant … about … the middle class achievement; that the gap between rich and poor had shrunk; that we had solved the problem [of inequality]; that we were the “affluent society…” there’s a a book that came out in 1966 … by an economic [with] a whole chapter establishing that white collar and blue collar people basically had the almost exactly the same standard of living….

..the richest man in the world in 1965 … was J Paul Getty, an … American Oil Baron he was living in London by that time and his net worth in 1965 was one billion dollars and this is the richest man in the world … he wrote an article for one of the popular magazines … complaining …  that it wasn’t really awesome he was the richest man in the world a… because even the middleclass man could afford all the things that he had….

…look at what has happened to us since… billionaires shooting themselves sinto space … billionaires making billion dollars in a single year…


Is the Reason Some Wealthy People Oppose Democracy Deeper Than We Think?

Thom Hartmann, January 18, 2023 [DailyKos]

Why are America’s plutocrats funding efforts to weaken our democracy and replace it with plutocracy and oligarchy? …. An extraordinary investigative report from tells how morbidly rich families, their companies, and their personal foundations are funding efforts to limit or restrict democracy across the United States…. Most Americans — and lots of editorial writers — are convinced it’s simply because rich folks want to influence legislation to benefit themselves and keep their regulations and taxes down….

But history does suggest that many are trying to “stabilize” America rather than just pillage her.

They are worried that America is suffering from too much democracy.

The modern-day backstory to this starts in the early 1950s when conservative thinker Russell Kirk proposed a startling hypothesis that would fundamentally change our nation and the world….

Kirk and colleagues like William F. Buckley postulated that if the middle-class and minorities became too wealthy, they’d feel the safety and freedom to throw themselves actively into our political processes, as rich people had historically done.

That expansion of democracy, they believed, would produce an absolute collapse of our nation’s social order — producing chaos, riots, and possibly even the end of the republic.

The first chapter of Kirk’s 1951 book, The Conservative Mind, is devoted to Edmund Burke, the British conservative who Thomas Paine visited for two weeks in 1793 on his way to get arrested in the French revolution. Paine was so outraged by Burke’s arguments that he wrote an entire book rebutting them titled The Rights of Man. It’s still in print (as is Burke).

Burke was defending, among other things, Britain’s restrictions on democracy, including limits on who could vote or run for office, and the British maximum wage.

That’s right, maximum wage.

Burke and his contemporaries in the late 1700s believed that if working-class people made too much money, they’d have enough spare time to use democratic processes to challenge the social order and collapse the British kingdom.

Too much democracy, Burke believed, was a dangerous thing: deadly to nations and a violation of evolution and nature itself.

Summarizing his debate with Paine about the French Revolution, Burke wrote:

“The occupation of a hair-dresser, or of a working tallow-chandler [candle maker], cannot be a matter of honour to any person—to say nothing of a number of other more servile employments. Such descriptions of men ought not to suffer oppression from the state; but the state suffers oppression, if such as they, either individually or collectively are permitted to rule [by voting]. In this you think you are combating prejudice, but you are at war with nature.”

That was why Parliament passed a law making it illegal for employers to pay people over a certain amount, so as to keep wage-earners right at the edge of poverty throughout their lives….

The Republican/Conservative “solution” to the “national crisis” these movements represented was put into place with the election of 1980: the project of the Reagan Revolution was to dial back democracy while taking the middle class down a peg, and thus end the protests and social instability.

Their goal was, at its core, to save America from itself.

While it looks from the outside like the singular mission of the Reagan Revolution was simply to help rich people and giant corporations get richer and more powerful (and that’s certainly been the effect), the ideologues driving the movement also thought they were restoring stability to the United States, both socially, economically, and — most important — politically….

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, wealthy people associated with Kirk’s and Reagan’s Republicans built a massive infrastructure of think tanks and media outlets to promote and amplify this message about the dangers of too much democracy. (Emphasis in original)

[TW: For nine decades now, we have allowed the reactionary rich to develop and fund the conservative and libertarian movements, and allowed those movements to “feed red meat to the base” to motivate their voters.


The objective of the reactionary rich has been mostly achieved: to replace the founding ideology of civic republicanism — in which even the rich and the powerful are supposed to be held to account and in check by the idea of public virtue. Nay, even more: in the the founding ideology of civic republicanism, the rich were the subject of great suspicion because of their desire and ability to destroy republican self-government from within, as clearly shown in the historical record:

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. — James 5:1-6


“When one person or a few stand out from the crowd as richer and more prosperous, then, as a result of their haughty and arrogant behavior, there arises [a government of one or a few], the cowardly and weak giving way and bowing down to the pride of wealth.” — Cicero, On the Republic, Book 1


“Man is of an aspiring nature, and apt to put too high a value on himself. They who are raised above their brethren, though but a little, desire to go farther; and if they gain the name of king, they think themselves wronged and degraded, when they are not suffered to do what they please. In these things they never want masters; and the nearer they come to a power that is not easily restrained by law, the more passionately they desire to abolish all that opposes it.” — English republican Algernon Sydney, in his 1680 masterpiece, Discourses Concerning Government.


“To men of overgrown estates, everything which does not contribute to advance their power and honor is considered by them as an injury.” — Montesquieu, The Spirit of Laws, Book 5. Chapter 5, ”In what Manner the Laws establish Equality in a Democracy.”

And, what replaced civic republicanism ? Liberalism. Especially economic liberalism. That’s why the Democratic Party has been unable to halt the march of the (anti)Republican Party to authoritarianism: liberalism is philosophically incapable of defending civic republicanism.

An example of how the shift from civic republicanism to liberalism has corrupted and debased the USA as a republic is the rise of “private” online colleges and the privatization of funding for higher education. There is currently an electronic media campaign for Walden University, a private online for-profit university created in 1970. In 2001, Walden was bought by Laureate International Universities. According to Wikipedia,

Former US President Bill Clinton was an Honorary Chancellor of Laureate International Universities from 2010 to 2015. President Clinton was the keynote speaker at Walden University’s commencement on July 30, 2011. Jonathan Kaplan served as CEO from 2007 to 2018. Mr. Kaplan previously served three years as economic policy adviser to President Clinton…. In 2015, Ernesto Zedillo, former president of Mexico and director of the Yale University Center for the Study of Globalization, succeeded President Clinton as Laureate Education’s Presidential Counselor…. [Clinton] received $17.6 million from Laureate as part of this role….

Walden University receives more than 75% of its funds from the US government, including more than $750 million a year for graduate student loans, the largest amount for any US college.[23] Walden University has been under “heightened cash monitoring” from the US Department of Education since 2016.

In the debates about funding public education in the early 19th century are, many leaders evinced a much better understanding of civic republicanism by arguing that the General Welfare would be richly served by educating even the poorest and most downtrodden, because there was no difference between them and the rich in what they could potentially contribute to society by developing their intellects and capabilities. The idea that this basic function of elevating all individuals to an equal station should be made the object of profit was totally absent from the debates.

The $17.6 million payoff to Clinton is no longer “illegal,” but remains “corruption” of the body politic under the standards of civic republicanism. That the Democrats wallow in this corruption as much as any (anti)Republicans goes a long way in explaining why voters swing support back and forth between the two parties. (And see Thomas Frank’s remarks about Bayard Rustin, in the YouTube video linked below.)

In fact, some of the corporate annual reports in in the early 19th century are remarkable for the explicit expressions by their management of their civic responsibility to avoid excess profits. This reflected the general expectation of civic republican ideology that preserving social harmony while advancing society’s economic development, was just as important as individual liberty. Contrast this to the next item concerning the assault on the idea of public health. [end TW]


Big Mystery Donors Fund COVID Conspiracy Nonprofit

Walker Bragman [Important Context, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-20-2023]

“The country’s media, and to a large extent, policymakers, have moved on from the ongoing crisis—a reality that is, at least in part, a testament to the work of one man: Jeffrey Tucker, the founder of the Brownstone Institute, a shadowy new nonprofit dedicated to waging war on public health measures….. With his Brownstone Institute, a tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Tucker has sought to turn the clock back on public health—and perhaps on child labor laws as well…. New federal tax filings obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy and provided to Important Context and the OptOut Media Foundation reveal that the organization has little popular support. Instead, it is bankrolled mostly by large donations of up to $600,000…. Throughout the pandemic, business-aligned groups and the political right have been pushing back against public health measures. Koch-backed organizations have been in the fight since March 2020, messaging against business closures and later, school closures and masking in an effort to minimize economic disruption. The Brownstone Institute arose out of those efforts; specifically, an October 2020 conference Tucker helped organize while at AIER…. Held at AIER’s headquarters in Great Barrington, Mass., the conference spawned an influential open letter—the “Great Barrington Declaration”—calling on governments and scientists to reject broad public health measures in favor of pursuing herd immunity through mass infection and “focused protection” only of the vulnerable. Similar ideas had been proposed in a reopening plan from the Koch-funded Heritage Foundation months earlier. The declaration and its authors, three scientists from prestigious universities—Drs. Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford and the Koch-funded Hoover Institution, Martin Kulldorff (then) of Harvard, and Sunetra Gupta of Oxford–were promoted by the political right, including the Trump White House, DeSantis, and Koch-tied groups, to undermine scientific consensus around public health measures…. The declaration signaled that public health was the new front in the war over the size and scale of government.”


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-20-2023]


Nick Bostrom, Longtermism, and the Eternal Return of Eugenics 

[TruthDig, via Naked Capitalism 1-21-2023]


Group aiming to sabotage Whitmer’s Covid policies funded by dark money

[The Guardian, via The Big Picture 1-15-2023]

Non-profit affiliated with utility DTE Energy funded effort to repeal Michigan governor’s emergency order powers.


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 1-17-2023]



The Deep State Awards

Matt Stoller [BIG, via Naked Capitalism 1-15-2023]

[Lambert Strether comments: “Despite the horrid meme in the title, this is a very acute analysis of how business is done in Washington. Well worth a careful read, especially in conjunction with this by Thomas Frank. (I do think Stoller misses the subtle point that one of the purposes of such ceremonies is to signal that the awards-givers have the power to give awards; they control the, as it were, process of consecration in their field. This dynamic precedes and is a necessity for the influence-peddling that Stoller describes in such rich detail.”]


This is plutocracy, not capitalism

How Nevada Picks Millions From California’s Pocket: A lawsuit against members of the wealthy Getty family exposes the intricacies of state trust law.

CHUCK COLLINS, KALENA THOMHAVE,  January 17, 2023 [The American Prospect]

recent exposé by Evan Osnos in The New Yorker explains how one segment of the Getty family—sisters who inherited wealth from their father, Gordon Getty—used a system of Nevada trusts to avoid more than $300 million in California taxes over the last decade ($100 million from one trust alone). A Getty investment adviser recommended her clients pay their California tax obligations rather than maintain the fiction that the sisters were domiciled in Nevada, where their trusts were based. Other family wealth advisers objected, and the adviser, Marlena Sonn, was fired. Sonn then filed a wrongful termination lawsuit, exposing the shady details of the Nevada trusts.

We have been studying the complex ways that the world’s richest 0.01 percent—those with roughly $30 million or more—play a global shell game to keep their wealth out of the public eye. Together we have co-authored studies on dynastic wealthfamily offices, and trusts. One of us authored the book The Wealth Hoarders: How Billionaires Pay Millions to Hide Trillions.

AT THE GLOBAL LEVEL, the ultra-wealthy are hiding at least 10 percent of the world’s private wealth, though the real number may be as much as $32 trillion, according to estimates of offshore wealth. In the U.S., there is an estimated $5.6 trillion in trust and estate assets alone, but this number is probably much higher; there aren’t federal laws or rules requiring state disclosure of trust registration and assets. Some states allow unregulated trust companies, so even states themselves may not know how much money their trust companies are dealing with.


The Lawsuit That Could Freeze Speech Against Billionaires

Jordan Uhl, January 17, 2023 [The Lever]

A gas mogul’s case against Beto O’Rourke could deter candidates from ever talking about money in politics….

At issue is a suit brought by Texas oil and gas billionaire Kelcy Warren. It accuses former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke of defamation for slamming Warren’s $1 million donation to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) in 2021.

Warren’s lawyers have asserted the natural gas tycoon experienced “mental anguish” from comments, ads, and social media posts in which O’Rourke’s campaign suggested the money was a reward for Abbott going easy on Warren’s pipeline company, Energy Transfer Partners, before and after a deadly storm that shut down power to more than four million people.

“Beto O’Rourke told millions of his followers that [Warren] engaged in bribery, corruption, and extortion and that he profited from the death of his fellow Texans simply because Mr. Warren gave a perfectly legal campaign contribution to the candidate of his choosing, Gov. Abbott,” Warren’s attorney Dean Pamphilis argued during a December hearing asking to dismiss the case. “When you look at the comments that his followers put in on his tweets, they believe him. They believe that Mr. Warren is a criminal that is engaged in profit over lives of Texans.”

[TW: As in the “colleg” payoff to Clinton, the payoff to Abboptt is no longer “illegal,” but remains “corruption” of the body politic under the standards of civic republicanism.]


How Billionaires Shape The News They Own

David Sirota, January 22, 2023 [The Lever]

You can debate whether Bezos’ ownership specifically resulted in consistently slanted Post coverage against Sanders. But on the larger question of media ownership’s influence and independence, there shouldn’t be any dispute, as evidenced by what happened this week. Three years after the Sanders spat, news broke that Bezos was present in a Washington Post morning editorial meeting — one of “a number” of times he has sat in on such meetings over the years. He also reportedly met with the newspaper’s national editors and one of its top political reporters….

In Bezos’ case, he has always been a looming presence at the news outlet he said he bought because it is “the newspaper in the capital city of the most important country in the world” and “has an incredible role to play in this democracy.” And if you thought Bezos was just philanthropically motivated rather than influence-focused, remember: His purchase of the newspaper playing that role shaping the capital city’s discourse just so happened to coincide with a six-fold increase in Amazon’s lobbying expenditures in Washington.

Bezos’ latest visit to his newsroom illustrates how billionaire and corporate influence often operates in legacy media.

As I documented in a Harpers magazine exposé a decade ago, it’s less the heavy hand of a Citizen Kane line-editing copy and bullying reporters, and more the softer touch of Citizen Bezoses subtly reminding journalists who they work for and what their priorities are. Under the ever-present threat of mass firings, reporters know that if they want to stay off that layoff list, they should try to make the owner happy.

In Bezos’ case, context sends a message. His visit came a few months after Washington Post management announced layoffs. It also followed him making clear some of the Washington Post content he most appreciates. For example, he recently touted one of his paid pundits slamming Democrats for suggesting that corporate profiteering is fueling inflation (it most certainly is, including at Amazon).

[TW: It should be clear that civic republicanism is radically hostile to economic concentration of the means of communications, given the importance of an informed citizenry to political and cultural health of a society.]


Davos World Economic Elites Forum 

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 1-20-2023]

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 1-18-2023]

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 1-18-2023]

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 1-18-2023]

[Lambert Strether comments: “Let’s review! For the 1%, the pandemic is not over (even though they tell you different). They protect themselves with testing, as we have seen, with HEPA filters, with outdoor air, and possibly with UV (even though they tell you you don’t need these things). But then you knew that: “How Ashish Jha and Rochelle Walensky of Newton, MA Protect Their Children from Covid (But not Yours)” (September 2022).” ]


World Economic Forum’s global risk report: A devastating picture of the capitalist crisis

[WSWS, via Naked Capitalism 1-20-2023]


How the Davos elite took back control 

[Unherd, via Naked Capitalism 1-17-2023]


Don’t bet on the Davos consensus

[Semafor, via The Big Picture 1-18-2023]

Davos is a lot of things: elitist, cold, kinda cabal-y. But it’s also wrong, like, all the time. The “Davos consensus” as contra-indicator: it missed the 2008 crisis, Brexit, Trump, the rise of nationalism & balkanization, and of course the pandemic.


(Anti)Republican Party debt charade

25% of total US national debt incurred over 230 years happened during… the Trump Administration

annieli, January 18, 2023 [DailyKos]


The Debt Limit and the Constitution: How the Fourteenth Amendment Forbids Fiscal Obstructionism

Jacob D. Charles [Duke Law Journal (2013)]

…the Fourteenth Amendment’s Public Debt Clause mandates that all the government’s financial obligations be met. This Note argues that the Public Debt Clause is violated when government actions create substantial doubt about the validity of the public debt, a standard that encompasses government actions that fall short of defaulting on or directly repudiating the public debt. The Note proposes a test to determine when substantial doubt is created. This substantial doubt test analyzes the political and economic environment at the time of the government’s actions and the subjective apprehension exhibited by debt holders. Applying this test, this Note concludes that Congress’s actions during the 1995–96 and 2011 debt-limit debates violated the Public Debt Clause, though Congress’s conduct during the debate over the debt limit in 2002 did not. And under a departmentalist understanding of executive power, a conclusion of this nature would be the basis for the president to ignore the debt limit when congressional actions create unconstitutional doubt about the validity of the public debt.


Turning the Debt Ceiling Crisis Against McCarthy’s Republicans

Robert Kuttner,  January 17, 2023 [The American Prospect]

One way is for the Biden administration to turn the tables on the Republican Supreme Court and invoke constitutional originalism. Until 1917, when the government needed to sell a large sum of war bonds, there was no such thing as requiring a separate vote on increasing the national debt. But during World War I, the Wilson administration came up with the idea of having Congress vote in advance for a statutory debt limit. This allowed the Treasury to issue bonds without specific congressional approval, as long as the total public debt did not exceed the statutory debt ceiling.

But from 1789 to 1917, the government simply sold bonds and borrowed money necessary to carry out spending authorized by Congress. There was no such thing as a debt ceiling.

As a number of legal scholars, led by Garrett Epps, have pointed out, the 14th Amendment explicitly dispenses with the need for a separate vote on increasing the debt. Section 4 provides that “the validity of the public debt of the United States … shall not be questioned.”

And as Epps has explained, the circumstances of its enactment were eerily similar to today’s. In 1868, there was a risk that Republicans who supported Reconstruction would lose their majority in Congress. Democrats, dominated by Southerners, had openly threatened to repudiate the national debt, most of which had been incurred to finance the Civil War. But thanks to the 14th Amendment’s explicit guarantee, the debt was routinely rolled over.


This Is How the Trillion Dollar Coin Could End Debt Ceiling Fights for Good (podcast)

[Odd Lots, via Naked Capitalism 1-15-2023]


The origins of the ‘household analogy’ 

[Tax Research UK, via Naked Capitalism 1-16-2023]

[Housewives and Downing Street, Joanna Bright, 1935, London: Ivor Nicholson and Watson. So many terrible economic ideas originate in Britain. Screw Adam Smith; give me Colbert and Hamilton! And don’t forget Marx formulated his theories while sitting in the British Library and living off Engel’s slave/textile fortune. ]


Global power shift

Democracy and War (II) 

Joe Costello [Life in the 21st Century, via Naked Capitalism 1-16-2023]

Nothing better defines the degraded politics of America than the ceaseless advocacy for war by those who came to power in the last several decades after they had all run from battle when it was their turn – Clinton, Gingrich, Bush, Cheney, Biden, Obama, Trump, the list is endless.

In their lust for power and glory, Athens’ young radicals increasingly disregarded the ethos and eventually the very structures of Athenian democracy. In part, this change was instigated by a new generation of Greek thinkers known as the Sophists, whose part misinterpretation of nature and society, not unlike the survival of the fittest, to the victor belong the spoils, and might makes right of popularly superficial thinking today, rejected Athens’ founding democratic traditions of justice and equality….

The Athenian Assembly votes to kill all Melos’ male citizens and enslave the women and children, tragically illustrating Athens’ amoral turn, at the same time rationalizing while weakening the defense of their empire.

Over the last seventy-five years, the Mytilene and Melos debates are most popular amongst America’s National Security State intellectuals. It is the thinking first promoted as Realpolitik by Mr. Nixon and his great Sith Lord Henry Kissinger as they dropped more bombs on three small countries in Southeast Asia than were dropped in total in World War II. Realpolitik as a term has pretty much been dropped, but as thinking behind American imperial actions it’s more popular than ever.


Why the CIA attempted a ‘Maidan uprising’ in Brazil 

Pepe Escobar [The Cradle, via Naked Capitalism 1-15-2023]


The Chinese View of the World: Is a Non-Zero-Sum Game Possible? 

[Valdai Discussion Club, via Naked Capitalism 1-17-2023]


China population: 2022 marks first decline in 60 years 

[South China Morning Post, via Naked Capitalism 1-17-2023]


Russia produces first batch of nuclear-armed Poseidon torpedo drones ‘capable of wiping out entire coastlines with radioactive tsunamis’ – as Putin cronies call for Britain to be ‘demolished from the face of the earth

[Daily Mail, via Naked Capitalism 1-17-2023]


The U.S. Can’t Make Enough Plutonium Triggers for Its Nuclear Warheads 

[Vice, via Naked Capitalism 1-16-2023]


China’s Trade Surplus Grows, Including With the US

Ian Welsh, January 17, 2023

Genuine oligarchic plutocracies, which is what most of the West is, including the US, are generally very bad at industry and war, though there are exceptions… The steps required for America and the West to rise to the challenge of China require Western elites to make painful choices they so far are avoiding: they simply have to give a better deal to their populations, and not concentrate on keeping wage increases under inflation increases (which is what has happened in the US.)


Neoliberalism requires a police state

“Shock and anger after fired worker killed by police at Oklahoma pork plant”

[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-20-2023]

“Chiewelthap Mariar, a 26-year-old refugee from Sudan, was killed by police officers while working at the Seaboard Foods meatpacking plant in Guymon on 9 January. A worker who filmed parts of the incident on his cellphone, and was later fired for doing so, requested to remain anonymous for fear of further retaliation. The worker claimed Mariar was fired from his job by a supervisor but was told by human resources to finish his shift. The worker said the supervisor who fired him confronted Mariar on the shop floor after he was fired, and police arrived soon after to escort Mariar from the site. Seaboard Foods did not comment on but did not refute this characterization of the situation. ‘I witnessed the entire thing, from when they started arguing with him until he was shot,’ said the worker. ‘He had a company-issued band-cutter in his hand. When the police got to the plant, the guy was already working, minding his own business.’ The worker provided cellphone footage leading up to and following the incident, where Mariar can be seen with the band-cutter in his hand working around other employees and being confronted by officers on the shop floor. ‘They made him out to be a danger when they said he had a knife in his hand, when it wasn’t. And that’s wrong on so many levels,’ the worker said. The worker claimed employees were told to keep working after the incident occurred. ‘I worked in maintenance. All they had us do was cover the scene with plastic, and we proceeded to finish what was on the production line,’ the worker added. ‘This company fired me for recording the truth they were trying to brush under the mat. They never asked me if I was OK. It was my first time seeing a guy get killed – and then I get fired.’”


Climate and environmental crises

Skipped Showers, Paper Plates: An Arizona Suburb’s Water Is Cut Off 

[NYT, via Naked Capitalism 1-17-2023]


EVs Made Up 10% of All New Cars Sold Last Year

[Wall Street Journal, via The Big Picture 1-17-2023]

Worldwide, sales of electric vehicles in 2022 passed 10% market share for the first time; 11% of total car sales in Europe (Plug-in hybrid vehicles were another >9%), EVs were 19% in China, and 5.8% in U.S. (up from 3.2% in 2021).


5 unintended consequences of the EV revolution

[Vox, via The Big Picture 1-17-2023]

EVs are going to change our cars — and how we drive.


“U.S. Lithium Production Is Set To Explode”

[, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-18-2023]

“The federal government is throwing money at lithium producers to develop lithium supply chains fast enough to support the rapid renewable sector growth targeted by the Inflation Reduction Act. Just last week, Australian lithium company Ioneer said that the U.S. Department of Energy gave them a conditional commitment of a loan of up to USD $700 million. The company’s main project will be in Nevada, at the Rhyolite Ridge Lithium-Boron Project in Esmeralda County. “When fully operational, the site will produce enough lithium for 400,000 electric vehicles,” CNBC reports, “while also producing boron.” The Rhyolite Ridge project is just the latest in a series of lithium companies to introduce new or expanded plants in the U.S. since the unveiling of the Inflation Reduction Act. In addition to more Nevada facilities, plans have also been announced for lithium production centers in North Carolina and Tennessee. The Rhyolite Ridge plant hasn’t even become operational, and already EV producers including Ford and Toyota have already inked offtake agreements with Ioneer, underscoring the growing anxiety that there might not be enough lithium to go around once EVs and short-term renewable energy storage take off in earnest. That anxiety is understandable. If all the gas-powered cars in the world were replaced with electric cars overnight, projections show that the global supply of lithium would be completely depleted in just fifty years. Of course, this is just a thought experiment, but it is an important reminder that even ‘renewable’ technologies rely on finite resources.”


Information age dystopia

How Police Exploited the Capitol Riot’s Digital Records 

[IEEE Spectrum, via Naked Capitalism 1-16-2023]


Democrats’ political suicide

A Warning About The White Working Class From An Erased Civil Rights Leader [Bayard Rustin]

Katie Halper interview of Thomas Frank [YouTube, January 3, 2023]

[1:36] …in 1971 … there was this huge debate in America over the white working class. At the time they called them the hard hats, right fascists…   there was a Democratic party manifesto that talked about how we have to leave these people behind and reach out to the highly educated…. But Bayard Rustin said … depending on how you define the issues [working class people] can either go to the right or to the left. If it’s all just about culture wars they’re going to go with Nixon but if you make the debate about economic issues, if you stick to the sort of traditional populist issues, you can win these people. And to our great cost we didn’t listen to him then, and we don’t listen to people like him to this day, and we’ve lost them. And this is this is a slow-motion disaster….


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-19-2023]


Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

McCarthy’s 21 Republican Defectors Didn’t Get Much. That’s because the party already agreed with them.

David Dayen, January 20, 2023 [The American Prospect]

…I’m making a very specific argument here. I’m not saying that Kevin McCarthy ignored pleas from his far right and managed to win the Speaker’s gavel without concessions. He was forced into some important changes to democratize Congress, like more amendments on voting, the single-subject rule for bills that should prevent omnibus legislation, and a 72-hour notice before a bill is placed on the floor. But as Greene has pointed out, all of those decisions were made before anyone took any vote for Speaker on January 3, 2023.

In other words, Kevin McCarthy wasn’t hijacked by a small group of angry dissidents during a harrowing week of Speaker votes. McCarthy was “hijacked” years ago by the strain of conservative thought that has predominated since the late 1970s. In today’s Republican Party, everyone is a hijacker. And that’s what makes the next two years more dangerous….

The truth is that the Republican Party speaks with one voice. They want lower taxes, and less help for the vulnerable and needy, and pro-business deregulation—in other words, their economic strategy for the past half-century. They are eager to leverage social issues for political gain. On tactics, they want to use the veto points in the American system to force their opposition to accept unpopular policies. They want to create more of those veto points to serve anti-government goals. And there are no real dissenters within their caucus to these views.

We are careening toward catastrophe not because of a few hijackers, but because of an entire planeload of them. The sooner Democrats rid themselves of these incorrect narratives and understand the nature of the threat, the better.


“The McCarthy deal is guaranteed fiscal brinkmanship”

[Brookings Institution, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-19-2023]

“In both the formal rules adopted for the session and the additional commitments made by McCarthy to building a winning coalition are provisions that bear on fiscal politics. Some of these changes are the result of negotiations with holdouts in the Republican conference who initially opposed McCarthy while others reflect longer-held GOP positions. Several provisions related to fiscal policy are better understood as expressions of Republicans’ core positions rather than binding constraints, especially in a period of divided government. Consider, for example, the restoration of the Cut-As-You-Go (CUTGO) rule. Last used by the Republican majority between 2011 and 2019, CUTGO prohibits the consideration of measures that would increase, on net, mandatory spending such as Medicare and Medicaid; it permits, however, the House to bring up bills that reduce revenue. Under divided government, the chances of major new entitlement spending or major new tax cuts are low, and CUTGO, like other House rules, can be waived by a simple majority of the chamber. Often, a majority that has come to agreement on a measure is also willing to set aside any rules that stand as obstacles to passage. But codifying in the House rules a budget enforcement tool that, at least on paper, treats spending increases one way and tax cuts another reflects the GOP’s core position on the question. In many ways, the agreements between McCarthy and the holdouts aren’t surprising. House Republicans have been telegraphing for some time that they would be willing to take the debt limit hostage as leverage for enacting large spending cuts, and if past is prologue, we need only to look to 2011, the last analogous arrangement of divided government (GOP House, Democratic majority in the Senate, and a Democratic president in the White House) to find the country’s last major debt limit crisis.”


What the Jan. 6 probe found out about social media, but didn’t report 

[Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism 1-18-2023]


How Trump’s allies stoked Brazil Congress attack

[BBC, via The Big Picture 1-15-2023]

The scenes in Brasilia looked eerily similar to events at the US Capitol on 6 January two years ago – and there are deeper connections as well.


Two years since the Jan. 6 insurrection, extremist groups are fragmented, but live on

[USA Today, via The Big Picture 1-15-2023]

Two years later, these groups are fractured and leaderless. Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers, was convicted of seditious conspiracy late last year and faces decades in prison. With his demise, his organization has all but disappeared from public view.


Rightwing group pours millions in ‘dark money’ into US voter suppression bid

[The Guardian, via The Big Picture 1-15-2023]

Tax filings reveal advocacy arm of Heritage Foundation spent $5m on lobbying in 2021 to block voting rights in battleground states.


The New “Church” Committee and the Torturous History of Gov. Ron DeSantis (podcast interview)

John Kiriakou [Jesse Ventura’s Die First Then Quit. , via Naked Capitalism 1-15-2023]


Dismay and anxiety’ on college campuses as DeSantis ramps up anti-CRT campaign

[Orlando Sentinel, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-17-2023]

“Yovanna Pineda, hired more than a decade ago to teach Latin American history at the University of Central Florida, rebranded one of her signature courses last fall. Striking references to ‘dictatorships’ and ‘human rights’ from the title, she decided to simply call her class ‘History of South America.’ Pineda said many of her colleagues are making similar changes, either because they fear blowback from state leaders who say they are trying to eliminate ‘indoctrination’ from university campuses or because they don’t want the hassle of additional scrutiny. ‘Some of us are becoming a little more cautious about how we say things and much more aware of how we title our courses,’ Pineda said.”


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-19-2023]


The (Anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts

Corporations Are Pushing The Supreme Court To Crush Unions

Julia Rock, January 16, 2023 [The Lever]

Major corporate lobbying groups, as well as organizations in conservative legal activist Leonard Leo’s orbit, are pressuring the Supreme Court to hamstring unions’ power to strike for better working conditions, according to legal briefs reviewed by The Lever. The organizations are vilifying unions as violent and aggressive in efforts to support a case that could crush unions’ primary lever of power, at a time of surging strike activity and historically high support for unions among Americans.

Facing an increased union threat, a purportedly pro-union White House, and growing support for unions in Congress, corporations are turning to the Supreme Court — the corporate star chamber they helped fill with right-wing justices — to undercut worker power.

The case at issue, Glacier Northwest, Inc. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, deals with a 2017 strike at a concrete mixing company. During the work stoppage, Teamsters who drove cement mixers walked off the job and left their trucks running so that the cement wouldn’t harden. But without the truck drivers, the company couldn’t deliver the cement, and it hardened.



Open Thread & Fundraising Finale


The Red Queen’s Race, Neoliberalism & Why Healthcare Is Being Privatized


  1. Raad

    Man NC are trying hard to make civic republicanism a thing – it’s lovely watching them dance around socialism and how it doesn’t/can’t work at the same time too!

  2. Willy

    Too much democracy, Burke believed, was a dangerous thing: deadly to nations and a violation of evolution and nature itself.

    Burke speaks as if those receiving the most merit will usually be the most meritorious. This hasn’t been my experience at all. A few brilliant inventors and hardworking value creator-traders sure, but most wealthy I’ve seen game the system and exploit their workers and are committed to the idea that it’s the ones with the most weapons who wins. I believe that’s called sociopathy.

    So is Burke believing that human evolution and nature demands that sociopaths be in power, while honorable and empathic people be held powerless? How is that not deadly to nations or evolution and nature itself?

    Or maybe his core belief was that his beloved Christianity would guide the ruling sociopaths with an invisible hand.

    God these people are screwed up.

  3. VietnamVet

    The Washington Post’s money problems that led to laying off workers is that readers don’t want to pay for propaganda. They want information, the truth, that helps them.

    The Western Corporate-state is run for the benefit of the Global Jet Set not its citizens. Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk do the damnedest to hide this. But results of the corruption are too thick to conceal:
    1) The proxy world war in Ukraine is being used to draw down all of the West’s military stocks and strength to increases the war mongers’ profits,
    2) The regime change campaign against the Kremlin since 2014 intends to balkanize the Russia Federation and enable corporate control its resources,
    3) The failure to exterminate coronavirus is due to the lack of money because public health systems across the world were privatized,
    4) Fracking Oil in the dried-out Texas Permian Basin is releasing clouds of invisible methane gas and increasing the number of earthquakes, while California’s drought was flooded out, and
    5) The success of a gold base BRICS currency in a new multi-polar world would mean that the US dollar would be only worth the wealth, labor and resources of its part of North America.

    The Upper Crust is a caste. Their whole ideology is that by the right of superiority they deserve being rich at the expense of everyone else. The 1% managers and overseers must go along with the belief system too; otherwise, they are weeded out. It is best to believe. But when the famines, wars and pestilence get out of hand due to greed and incompetence, civilizations crash.

    Despite the fog of misinformation, it is clear that there are no democratic republics left. The first step to reform the US political system is to declare that corporations are not people. They have no right to buy elections.

  4. bruce wilder

    What is David Dayen of the American Prospect playing at?

    The big-D Democrats never adopted the small-d democratic reforms conceded by McCarthy and he “warns” the Democrats — the other pro-business, pro-corruption Party — that the Republicans are pro-business. To what end?

  5. bruce wilder

    Also, what is the point of ridiculing the debt ceiling?

    Yes, it is an accounting fiction. So what?

    Are we meant to suppose that burgeoning national debt — also a fiction as is money itself — representing no policy lever at all. Should it really be treated as non-issue by Democrats? Why can’t we discuss the substantive policy effects of rapidly growing debt, public and private?

    If the liberal-left wasn’t so caught up in feeling smart and superior, maybe some thought could be given to role of public debt in licensing the massive trade deficit and the upward redistribution of income through the banking system.

  6. Feral Finster

    “Nothing better defines the degraded politics of America than the ceaseless advocacy for war by those who came to power in the last several decades after they had all run from battle when it was their turn – Clinton, Gingrich, Bush, Cheney, Biden, Obama, Trump, the list is endless.”

    Every winning US presidential candidate since arguably Bush 1.0 (“kinder gentler nation”) ran for office as a non-interventionist who would restore the middle class. Even Dubya promised a humbler foreign policy in 2001. (Biden may be the exception, but it took the MSM and Big Tech openly putting their fingers on the scale, and the FBI to run interference, for the man barely to wheeze out a win over an incompetent Trump.)

    Once inaugurated, each candidate morphed into a handmaiden to the moneyed interests at the expense of everyone else, not to mention, a foaming-at-the-mouth hawk.

    Remember when Obama was elected in 2008? Conservatives clutched their pearls and made dire predictions of imminent socialist dictatorship and peace breaking out. Every Team R apparatchik turned into an internet Alinsky expert. The collective freakout was even bigger when Trump was elected – and it wasn’t limited to one party. Formerly sober people bought wholeheartedly into a conspiracy theory so asinine that it would have embarrassed the 1962-era John Birch Society.

    What happened in both cases?

    Obama governed as a slightly more articulate version of Dubya, with a smattering of Identity Politics. The only “socialism” he brought was in the form of free money for his rich friends and a giant gimme for the insurance industry. Not only did he fail to end any wars, he gave us three more stupid wars.

    For his part, Trump has governed as a meaner, stupider, more reckless, more dysfunctional version of Dubya. As a candidate, he was even more explicit, perhaps, in his promise to restore the middle class and end the wars. The less said about Trump’s actual record in office, the better.

    Bottom line: I don’t pretend to know how the process works, or even if it is the same for every president, but the results speak for themselves. I suspect without evidence that it is something like what we saw in “Yes, Minister”.

    In other words, if Biden were to be replaced with Sanders, a President Sanders wouldn’t govern as Robert Mugabe but as Jimmy Carter.

  7. Adam Eran

    The proper perspective on awards (from Jerry Seinfeld):

  8. anon y'mouse

    if the “debt ceiling” was not always and only used to cut programs and services for the actual people alive here now (and, infrastructurally, for future gens) then it might not be a pointless discussion.

    these people already legislated, and this just gives the cutters another bite at the apple for things they’ve already approved. why should we allow this end-run around legislation that should already be “settled”?

    the debt ceiling is a fake, pointless and possibly illegal fight. show me the bonds that they sold to send trillions away for pointless wars, because those are the ones you should take issue with. then maybe we could have a real fight over something materially important.

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