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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 12, 2020

by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy

Supreme Court Rules That About Half Of Oklahoma Is Native American Land
[NPR, July 9, 2020]

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that about half of the land in Oklahoma is within a Native American reservation, a decision that will have major consequences for both past and future criminal and civil cases.

The court’s decision hinged on the question of whether the Creek reservation continued to exist after Oklahoma became a state. “Today we are asked whether the land these treaties promised remains an Indian reservation for purposes of fed­eral criminal law. Because Congress has not said otherwise, we hold the government to its word,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the majority opinion. The decision was 5-4, with Justices Gorsuch, Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer in the majority, while Justices John Roberts, Brett Kavanaugh, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented.

The ruling will have significant legal implications for eastern Oklahoma. Much of Tulsa, the state’s second-largest city, is located on Muscogee (Creek) land.

For Oklahoma Tribe, Vindication at Long Last
[New York Times, July 11, 2020]

After decades of betrayals and broken treaties, the Supreme Court ruled that much of Oklahoma is their land, after all.

Why We’re Still Fighting the South: The irrepressible conflict continues to be 
between oligarchy and democracy.
[The American Prospect, July 10, 2020]

How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America, by Heather Cox Richardson (Oxford University Press)

…A present-day Jeremiah, Richardson laments the betrayal of the nation’s soul, first by the slaveholders whose secession from the Union in 1861 convulsed the nation in civil war; and second, by the “movement conservatives” in the 1950s who challenged the “liberal consensus” behind desegregation and paved the way for the Republican Party of today….

The Neoliberal Looting of America
Mehrsa Baradaran, July 2, 2020 [New York Times]

….an ideological coup quietly transformed our society over the last 50 years, raising the fortunes of the financial economy — and its agents like private equity firms — at the expense of the real economy experienced by most Americans.

The roots of this intellectual takeover can be traced to a backlash against socialism in Cold War Europe. Austrian School economist Friedrich A. Hayek was perhaps the most influential leader of that movement, decrying governments who chased “the mirage of social justice.” Only free markets can allocate resources fairly and reward individuals based on what they deserve, reasoned Hayek. The ideology — known as neoliberalism — was especially potent because it disguised itself as a neutral statement of economics rather than just another theory. Only unfettered markets, the theory argued, could ensure justice and freedom because only the profit motive could dispassionately pick winners and losers based on their contribution to the economy…. By the 1980s, neoliberalism was triumphant in policy, leading to tax cuts, deregulation and privatization of public functions including schools, pensions and infrastructure. The governing logic held that corporations could do just about everything better than the government could. The result, as President Ronald Reagan said, was to unleash “the magic of the marketplace.”

….Neoliberalism led to deregulation in every sector, a winner-take-all, debt-fueled market and a growing cultural acceptance of purely profit-driven corporate managers. These conditions were a perfect breeding ground for the private equity industry, then known as “leveraged buyout” firms…. In the last decade, private equity management has led to approximately 1.3 million job losses due to retail bankruptcies and liquidation. Beyond the companies directly controlled by private equity, the threat of being the next takeover target has most likely led other companies to pre-emptively cut wages and jobs to avoid being the weakest prey.

…. Unregulated market competition actually led to market consolidation instead. Would-be monopolies squeezed competitors, accrued political power, lobbied for even more deregulation and ultimately drove out any rivals, leading inexorably to entrenched political power. Instead of a thriving market of small-firm competition, free market ideology led to a few big winners dominating the rest.

The biggest companies are crushing the competition this year
[via The Big Picture 7-7-20]

I think this is a very interesting presentation of the structure of the USA stock market by size of company as measured by how much it is valued in the stock markets. First, note the shocking dominance of the ten largest companies: nearly twice as much as the $440.8 billion of all the rest of the companies. Second: the ten largest are by far making the most “profit” as measured by stock market returns. What this indicates is that the USA economy is now entirely dominated by monopolies and oligopolies, which are adept and sucking up almost all the profits to be had: USA is a financialized rentier economynot capitalism.

Private equity’s role in retail has killed 1.3 million jobs, study says
[Washington Post, July 24, 2019]

Women and people of color have been disproportionately affected by the layoffs as debt-ridden retailers closed thousands of stores, according to the report by six progressive nonprofit organizations and workers’ advocacy groups, including Americans for Financial Reform and the Center for Popular Democracy.


[Economic Policy Institute, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-9-20]

“In May, the official unemployment rate was 13.3%. However, the unemployment rate that takes into account all those who are out of work as a result of the virus was 19.7%, and the unemployment rate that includes only those who are out of work and don’t have a reasonable chance of being called back to a prior job was 10.7%…. All three of these unemployment rates are extremely elevated across all demographic groups. However, the highest rates are found among Black and brown workers, women, and particularly Hispanic, Asian, and Black women. Young workers and workers with lower levels of education have also been hit disproportionately hard…. Another group of workers who are left out of the official unemployment rate are those who are out of work as a result of the virus but are not actively seeking work.”

Just One Week to Stop a Calamity
David Dayen, July 11, 2020 [American Prospect]

And as I’ve been stressing, you cannot do just unemployment enhancement without boosting state and local government grants, because it puts too much pressure on mayors and governors to re-open. (I’ll have more on this on Monday.) If you limit state and local spending, you’ll have the same spiraling effect that comes from limiting the unemployment boost. The CARES Act was inadequate because of the lack of state and local aid; son of CARES Act is poised to be inadequate because of a lack of support across the board. It would also be nice to spend some money to, you know, stop the virus, since that’s the primary hurdle to economic recovery.
We are hurtling toward disaster, and this is a moment where lawmakers need some pressure. We have engaged in a large demonstration project over the efficacy of cash payments, and whaddya know, they work. But they can’t work in isolation; forced austerity at the local level created a bad dynamic, and a lack of infrastructure for contact tracing and other methods to mitigate spread left us unprepared for the inevitable surge. This time, Congress needs to look at pandemic response as a coherent system, where actions (and lack of actions) have consequences. Otherwise we will continue our unblemished record as the worst country at handling the crisis in the developed world.
Of course, when you engage in down-to-the-wire negotiations and give yourself one week to design such a system, you shouldn’t be surprised at the insufficient outcome. The kakistocracy rolls on.

Tracking PPP Loans

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 7-8-20]

The Carnage of Establishment Neoliberal Economics

Want to tear down insidious monuments to racism and segregation? Bulldoze L.A. freeways 

[Los Angeles Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-8-20]

“Los Angeles was never a paradise of racial acceptance, but in 1910 some 36% of L.A.’s African Americans were homeowners (compared with 2.4% in New York City) — tops in the nation. L.A.’s comprehensive Red Car transit system, which offered easy, unsegregated access to the region’s growing economic opportunities, was fundamental to this success. Integrated, racially diverse neighborhoods like Watts and Boyle Heights emerged and thrived along these transit corridors. But as L.A.’s population surged from 320,000 in 1910 to more than 1.2 million in 1930 — including tens of thousands of African Americans from the Deep South — white Los Angeles decided it was time to ramp up its own brand of Jim Crow segregation. These efforts took many forms — most famously racially restrictive covenants, which barred African Americans and other ethnic minorities by deed from living in houses and neighborhoods deemed “white.”… But neither the Klan nor legally dubious covenants nor flagrantly unconstitutional land grabs were arguably as effective as the automobile and its attendant infrastructure at turning Los Angeles into an intentionally segregated city. When the 1944 Federal-Aid Highway Act allocated funds for 1,938 miles of freeways in California, planners used the opportunity, with full federal support, to obliterate as much as possible the casual mingling of the races.”

Labor Repression in Mexico and Dangers in the COVID Workplace
David Dayen, July 10, 2020 [American Prospect]

Throughout Mexico, workers and worker advocates trying to assert the rights given through USMCA and in the country’s new labor law are being harassed, fired, and arrested. And coronavirus is being used as a smokescreen to facilitate these subjugations. Manufacturing wages in Mexico are 40 percent lower than wages in China, according to Public Citizen’s Lori Wallach, and the resistance from mostly U.S.-owned manufacturing sites along the border ensure that things will stay that way.

On Wednesday, Wallach hosted a remarkable event with Rep. Chuy Garcia (D-IL) and Susana Prieto Terrazas, whose story the Prospect has previously covered. Prieto, a labor attorney, was arrested and held for a month in a Matamoros prison for “leading a riot” at a labor court. In reality, it was a protest that Prieto didn’t attend. She was put in jail because she represents one of the first independent labor unions in Mexico, not the sham “protection unions” that the USMCA was supposed to eliminate. Prieto helped workers in Matamoros win wage hikes last year, and therefore she must be punished.

The main thing that Prieto was organizing at the time of her arrest was workplace and wage protections due to COVID-19. Most of the border manufacturing sites, known as maquiladoras, have not shut down or even slowed down their assembly lines. Masks or other protective equipment were not distributed, and travel on packed buses to the factories continued. Prieto alleged that 25 percent of workers in the maquiladoras have fallen ill, and “death has begun in Matamoros.”

So the maquiladora owners reacted to Prieto trying to assist workers in asserting their right not to be killed in a pandemic by throwing her in jail. After a month without release and international outcry, Prieto was finally let out on bail. However, under the stipulations of the order, she was banned from the state of Tamaulipas for 30 months and banished to Chihuahua, while being ordered to pay “reparations” to government officials (really) who were at the labor court protest. There are now warrants for her arrest in Chihuahua, and she expects to be hauled back into prison. This all violates the new Mexican labor law, but those are words on a page, a “fallacy” as Prieto puts it.

Can Davos Man Punch the “Great Reset” Button?
Lambert Strether [Naked Capitalism 7-6-20]

The Epidemic

Trump’s Tulsa rally ‘likely’ source of virus surge

[MPR News, via Naked Capitalism 7-9-20]
Identifying airborne transmission as the dominant route for the spread of COVID-19

[Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, via Naked Capitalism 7-6-20]

“Our analysis reveals that the difference with and without mandated face covering represents the determinant in shaping the trends of the pandemic worldwide.”

Cognitive Bias and Public Health Policy During the COVID-19 Pandemic

[Journal of the American Medical Association,  via Naked Capitalism 7-8-20]

Why are so many people distressed at the possibility that a patient in plain view—such as a person presenting to an emergency department with severe respiratory distress—would be denied an attempt at rescue because of a ventilator shortfall, but do not mount similarly impassioned concerns regarding failures to implement earlier, more aggressive physical distancing, testing, and contact tracing policies that would have saved far more lives?2 These inconsistent responses may be related to errors in human cognition that prioritize the readily imaginable over the statistical, the present over the future, and the direct over the indirect. Together, these biases may have promoted medicalized responses to and messaging about the pandemic, rather than those rooted in the traditions and practices of public health.

These cognitive errors, which distract leaders from optimal policy making and citizens from taking steps to promote their own and others’ interests, cannot merely be ascribed to repudiations of science. Rather, these biases are pervasive and may have been evolutionarily selected. Even at academic medical centers, where a premium is placed on having science guide policy, COVID-19 action plans prioritized expanding critical care capacity at the outset, and many clinicians treated seriously ill patients with drugs with little evidence of effectiveness, often before these institutions and clinicians enacted strategies to prevent spread of disease.


[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 7-5-20]

Progressive Policies into the Breach

This town of 170,000 replaced some cops with medics and mental health workers. It’s worked for over 30 years
[CNN, via Naked Capitalism 7-6-20]

Around 30 years ago, a town in Oregon retrofitted an old van, staffed it with young medics and mental health counselors and sent them out to respond to the kinds of 911 calls that wouldn’t necessarily require police intervention. In the town of 172,000, they were the first responders for mental health crises, homelessness, substance abuse, threats of suicide — the problems for which there are no easy fixes. The problems that, in the hands of police, have often turned violent….

It always paired one medic, usually a nurse or EMT, with a crisis responder trained in behavioral health. That holistic approach is core to its model. Per self-reported data, CAHOOTS workers responded to 24,000 calls in 2019 — about 20% of total dispatches. About 150 of those required police backup. CAHOOTS says the program saves the city about $8.5 million in public safety costs every year, plus another $14 million in ambulance trips and ER costs….

Police encounters with the homeless often end in citations or arrests. Of homeless people with mental health conditions, anywhere from 62.0% to 90% of them will be arrested, per one journal review of homelessness studies. They may end up in jail, not in treatment or housing, and thus begins the cycle of incarceration that doesn’t benefit either party.

Why a small town in Washington is printing its own currency during the pandemic
[TheHustle, June 12, 2020]

Wayne Fournier was sitting in a town meeting when he had his big idea.
As the mayor of Tenino, Washington (population: 1,884), he’d watched the pandemic rake local businesses. Residents couldn’t afford groceries. Long lines snaked outside the local food bank. For more than a month, the downtown area looked almost abandoned.
To bring back the economy, Fournier needed to act. “We were talking about grants for business, microloans, trying to team up with a bunch of different banks,” he tells The Hustle. “The big concern was, ‘How do we directly help families and individuals?’”
And then it hit him: “Why not start our own currency?”
The plan came together fast. Fournier decided that Tenino would set aside $10k to give out to low-income residents hurt by the pandemic. But instead of using federal dollars, he’d print the money on thin sheets of wood designed exclusively for use in Tenino. His mint? A 130-year-old newspaper printer from a local museum. But why print the money on wood? Why not just give residents $300 worth of federal dollars?
The answer is simple: By creating its own local currency, Tenino keeps the money in the community. As Fournier puts it, “Amazon will not be accepting wooden dollars.”
“The money stays in the city. It doesn’t go out to Walmart and Costco and all those places,” says Joyce Worrell, who has run the antique shop Iron Works Boutiques for the past decade. Worrell sells clothes, jewelry, and — in an outdoor garden that adjoins her shop — an assortment of furniture. These days, she’s added masks and disinfectants.


[Reasons To Be Cheerful, via The Big Picture 7-7-20]

The Redd solves all these problems in one fell swoop, acting as a distribution hub, an affordable storage space and a shared industrial kitchen. Ecotrust, the environmental think tank behind the Redd, also hosts a business accelerator, helping small farmers to scale up. Currently, the Redd supports more than 150 small to mid-size food-related businesses. From 2018 to 2019, the facility’s core tenants saw a 45 percent increase in job creation and a 12 percent increase in jobs at or above the living wage…. As Michael Pollan noted in his recent piece in the New York Review of Books, our industrial food chain is broken, but local food systems, like the one championed and supported by the Redd on Salmon, are proving to be more resilient….

The Redd on Salmon is an integral part of this system. It is what is known as a food hub, a centrally located space that facilitates the aggregation, storage, processing, distribution and/or marketing of regionally produced food products. Not only does the block-long space provide farmers a 2,000-square-foot cold storage facility (half freezer, half refrigeration), it has offices and “dry storage” space so local companies like Ground Up PDX (nut butters) and Hoss Sauce (hot sauce) can stash boxes and product at a central location closer to their customers.

The Redd solves the transport conundrum, too, with its main tenant, B-Line. A short-haul service with a fleet of electric-assist trikes, B-Line executes “last-mile” delivery without spewing carbon dioxide or jamming up the roads at delivery sites. Trike drivers load up their insulated trailers with up to 600 pounds of product and drop off food at restaurants, grocery stores and corporate cafeterias like AirBnB and Google. (B-Line also has one truck for deliveries that are further than three miles away. Founder and CEO Franklin Jones is saving up for an electric one.)

Is Racism a Mental Illness?

[Vice, via Naked Capitalism 7-8-20]
[Medium, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-7-20]

Pavlina Tcherneva, The Case for a Job Guarantee. “Tchervenva wrote her book before the Covid-19 Crisis produced the disastrous employment numbers shown above. During this crisis, the key question for tens of millions has been my job or my health? That has been an agonizing dilemma for precariat workers because they have no bargaining power, no savings, and often no health insurance. JG would help redress their lack of bargaining power, so that workers can do what’s right for them, their families, co-workers and communities. With JG, low-wage workers can stay home if they feel they need to, a public health measure to control Covid-19 could be part of their JG job, knowing that they can still get a living wage job with benefits, which they often don’t have, if their previous job is no longer available. It gives them some power and control over their lives that those with much higher income have right now. Even during an economic recovery, without JG many long-term unemployed will become ‘unemployable,’ a catch-22 the longer they remain without a job. JG would help prevent that outcome. Tcherneva uses the metaphor of joblessness as a deadly epidemic that must be prevented.”

“Reparations Are a Concrete Way to Address Systemic Racism and Inequality”
A. Kirsten Mullen and William A. Darity [June 19, 2020, Teen Vogue].

“As we say in From Here to Equality, some believe recompense should come from clearly identified perpetrators. But, as we write, when ‘the entire political order is complicit, it is not sufficient to bill individual perpetrators. Laissez-faire or ‘piecemeal reparations’ may assuage individual guilt but cannot meet the collective national obligation. The invoice for reparations must go to the nation’s government. The U.S. government, as the federal authority, bears responsibility for sanctioning, maintaining, and enabling slavery, legal segregation, and continued racial inequality.’”

“The Racial Wealth Gap Is About the Upper Classes” 

[Matt Bruenig, Jacobin].

“What this means is that the overall racial wealth disparity is being driven almost entirely by the disparity between the wealthiest 10 percent of white people and the wealthiest 10 percent of black people.”

Your Tax Dollars at Work [HAWB How America Was Built]

[WaPo], via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-8-20]
The filtering material for N95 masks was created in 1995 by scientist Peter Tsai — an immigrant from Taiwan — while on the public payroll at the University of Tennessee, which is co-manager (with Battelle Memorial Institute) of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, “the nation’s largest and most diverse science and energy laboratory.” Tsai was called back by Oak Ridge National Lab to help figure out how to scale up emergency industrial production. Now Cummins, which builds diesel engines for trucks and tractors, and also manufactures filters for the engines, is using the new technologies to produce one million masks a day. 

“When the novel coronavirus began gripping the globe in March, Tsai was summoned from his short-lived retirement. He was in urgent demand because he is the inventor who, in 1995, patented the filtration material used in disposable N95 respirators…. Oak Ridge National Lab, a Tennessee-based laboratory sponsored by the U.S. Energy Department, got in touch, too. The team at Oak Ridge was searching for ways to scale production of N95 masks…. The goal was to convert the lab’s carbon-fiber-processing facility into a filtration-cloth facility to produce the filter technology needed for N95 masks. The conversion process proved complicated, but with Tsai’s help, “we quickly got the system up and running,” said Lonnie Love, a lead scientist at Oak Ridge…. While Oak Ridge does provide the filter material to other labs to study, it does not sell the product directly for widespread distribution. Rather, the team teaches industry partners how to scale production.”

This is the Hamiltonian model of how to build a national economy, and it is the only one that has ever worked successfully, having been copied in Germany, Russia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, and other countries. Note also that it does not fit in the pattern described by Marxists of the mode of production determining the social and political structure of the rest of society: it is government activity that determines the mode of production. This is a crippling flaw in Marxist theory. 

Climate and environmental crises

[National Geographic, via Naked Capitalism 7-7-20]

Information Age Dystopia

[Vox, via The Big Picture 7-9-20]

It’s the oligarchy, stupid

[CNBC, via Naked Capitalism 7-5-20]
Sol Stern, July 7, 2020 [, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-10-20]

At this point I became convinced there was editorial interference coming from the boardroom. Two suspects came to mind. The first was the Manhattan Institute’s chairman, Paul Singer. The hedge fund billionaire was the Board of Trustees’ biggest yearly donor ($525,000 in 2016) as well as one of the Republican Party’s most generous and influential funders….

Trump’s lack of fitness for the presidency was entirely predictable. What was unforeseen was the moral collapse in the face of the gathering storm by conservative activists and intellectuals. The Trump seduction happened at so many distinguished conservative thought centers and magazines that it led some Never Trumpers like Max Boot to conclude retrospectively that there was something amiss in the DNA of American conservatism that made the movement susceptible to a repellent figure like Trump….\

The Manhattan Institute for Policy Studies opened its doors in midtown Manhattan in 1978. The founders were an odd pair: a wealthy former Battle of Britain fighter pilot and businessman named Antony Fisher and Wall Street powerhouse William Casey (who soon became Ronald Reagan’s CIA director). Fisher was a disciple of Friedrich A. Hayek, author of the classical economics tract The Road to Serfdom. He established a British think tank promoting Hayek’s ideal of a rules-based, international order of free market, open societies. Partnering with Bill Casey, Fisher had the audacity to launch a version of the Hayekian think tank in the belly of the beast of modern, welfare-state lieralism.

Of course, Stern does not follow through. How could he, and remain a conservative? Stern is merely constructing an intellectual charade to avoid concluding that authoritarians like Trump is where conservatism and libertarianism inevitably lead. Conservatives look to Edmund Burke as their first great icon. Burke spun out an ideology that was intended to preserve the power and wealth of the English oligarchy in the face of the rising young American republic. Hayek and his sidekick Mises (von Measles), developed their ideology of neoliberalism in their determination to preserve the class structure of the Astro-Hungarian empire, even as it died a well deserved death. (See Corey Robin, 
Nietzsche’s Marginal Children: On Friedrich Hayek) The simple fact is, conservatism and libertarianism were created in opposition to the Hamiltonian program of nation building that successfully made the USA economically sovereign and independent. That’s why there is such an affinity between conservatives, libertarians, and neoconfederates. 

A Leader Without Leading

David Dayen July 7, 2020 [American Prospect]

When some economists advised sending every American a check, Pelosi shot that down, arguing against money for millionaires. This culminated in a means-tested $1,200 stimulus payment. You only got the money if your earnings were under $100,000 per year, based on earnings data as far back as 2018. This deprived people who subsequently may have lost their job from getting relief.

A separate legislative response purported to provide sick leave to workers, except employers with more than 500 workers and those with fewer than 50 were exempted from the requirement. When asked about this, Pelosi said large employers should provide sick leave themselves, without government subsidies (workers needing paid time off might not have minded). Meanwhile, several legislative efforts promised free COVID-19 testing for all, but the health care industry has managed to find loopholes there too: Reporters keep finding people paying thousands of dollars.

Meanwhile, while Pelosi took the lead on the initial, smaller bills, she allowed Mitch McConnell to write the vehicle for economic relief, known as the CARES Act. McConnell casually drew up a $4.5 trillion “money cannon” corporate bailout, which rapidly rescued the investor class before it was even spent. Who drafts the baseline legislation makes a big difference: If Pelosi had written the CARES Act, it could have included such ideas from her caucus as government-provided payroll support, increased food stamps, guaranteed vote-by-mail to ensure voting rights during the pandemic, significant state and local aid, free coronavirus treatment, assistance for the U.S. Postal Service (which may go belly-up come September), a national contact tracing program, and much more. Instead, they just got to tweak McConnell’s work, without altering its tilt toward the powerful.

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 7-9-20]

Taniel @Taniel
The Biden/Sanders task force did not endorse legalizing pot; apparently was a major no-go for team Biden.
We hear a lot of angst about the left threatening electability.
Michigan, a KEY state for Biden to win back, voted to legalize pot 56%-44% in 2018.

[Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 7-7-20]
[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-8-20]
High up Democrats saying idiotic shit like “we have the best healthcare system” are why people don’t see a difference between the parties.
Quote Tweet
Ronald Klain
· Jul 3

We are the richest country in the world with the best health care system — failing badly while Europe and others nations beat the threat.The President has power to act to fight the virus. This isn’t a message: this is laziness and incompetence masking as a “strategy.”…

5:03 PM · Jul 5, 2020Twitter Web App

“Financial advisory firm tells clients Biden won’t be moving too far left if he becomes president” [CNBC, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-10-20]

“Financial advisory firm Signum Global Advisors told clients Thursday that it isn’t convinced Joe Biden is going to be as progressive as some may hope if he beats President Donald Trump in November. The firm told its corporate clients in a note that it believes the policy recommendations put together by task forces filled with allies of Biden’s and the more progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders show that the presumptive Democratic nominee doesn’t plan to side too often with those on the left side of the political spectrum if he becomes president. ‘The report is very aspirational; it pays lip service to some of the party’s more progressive ideas, though has few specifics about how ideas will be achieved, and generally repeats most of the moderate ideas from the Biden campaign’s website,’; the note said. • “Nothing fundamental will change.


“How Biden’s Foreign-Policy Team Got Rich”

[The American Prospect, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-9-20]

“If ‘personnel is policy,’ as Sen. Elizabeth Warren likes to say, we can learn a lot about Biden from his team. In addition to Blinken, advisers include Nicholas Burns (The Cohen Group), Kurt Campbell (The Asia Group), Tom Donilon (BlackRock Investment Institute), Wendy Sherman (Albright Stonebridge Group), Julianne Smith (WestExec Advisors), and Jake Sullivan (Macro Advisory Partners). They rarely discuss their connections to corporate power, defense contactors, private equity, and hedge funds, let alone disclose them. I asked a Biden spokesperson if the campaign would commit to more transparency and expand the Obama-era pledge to strategic consultants. ‘There’s a difference between consulting and lobbying,’ he told me. ‘There’s a pretty strong line there … So, presumably we don’t have a ban on people who were consultants at one time or another, since I’m one myself.’”

“First the People”

[Rusty Guinn, Epsilon Theory, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-9-20]

Friends, for the first time in any of our lifetimes, everyone around us is seeing the same things that we are seeing about the same institutions. They know the same things we know. We may all observe in real-time the brokenness of a fragile economic system built on the present-efficient tools of the Long Now, the over-optimization of cash, inventory, supply chains, operating and financial leverage. We may all observe in real-time how complexity makes liars out of global institutions designed with political pacification of the masses (“All is well!”) as their primary purpose. We may all observe in real-time the condescending moral bankruptcy of the nudging state who would tell us noble lies to conserve masks and limit fear or “moral hazard”, or the nudging oligarchy who would lie that saving companies and jobs means that we must bail out equityholders! Before long, we will observe in real-time both politicians and corporations who see long-term benefits in making permanent the temporary restrictions on liberty we have accepted and will accept to protect us and transition us back to a functioning economy.

Far more importantly, however, we may all see in real-time how the strength we have shown as a nation did not come from faceless institutions, but from the efforts and sacrifices of individuals, families, associations, communities, towns and tribes, connected by both the value they place in each other AND by the values they share.


Plutocrats, Platitudes and Pitchforks

[Sardonicky, via Naked Capitalism 7-7-20]

A Letter on Justice and Open Debate

[Harpers, via Naked Capitalism 7-8-20]ending the charade

Fredrik DeBoer [via Naked Capitalism 7-8-20]


Open Thread


The “System” Did Not Appear Ex Nihilo


  1. Ché Pasa

    There’s no returning to the neoliberal status quo ante. It appears that most of our Democratic leaders haven’t been informed yet, though some are trying to come up with a viable alternative.

    That’s been one of our problems for decades. We can come up with programs to address some of the problems created by neoliberal economics and neoconservative policies — sometimes — but most of those programs are not enacted or are put in place for the pleasure and profit of our overlords.

    But we don’t have a comprehensive alternative to the neolibcon ideology if you will. Mere opposition isn’t enough. Nor are the simplistic material benefits that some say is enough to counter the overall thrust of neoliberalism.

    When everything must be so arranged for the power and profit of our lords and masters, progress on behalf of the majority is effectively impossible. Unfortunately the political gerintocracy won’t move toward building a better future until they are forced to by their owners and betters, and by that time… it’s too late.

  2. Stirling S Newberry

    If you want to see what is wrong with writing about the past, you could not do much better then to a New York Review of Books piece by Robert Darnton .

    This is because he does not put together a synoptic view of the event, specifically I am talking about the climate change which started in 1783 with the volcanic eruption of Grímsvötn which began a long period of cooling which peaked in 1816 with Mount Tambora and only subsided when the 1835 eruption of Cosigüina. While there is more data in scientific papers 1 can get a sense from Wikipedia ( )

    While the activities of men are important for the French Revolution, one must also look at the natural environment and the way it structures the economy. Which is why The Great Wave shows us that in the foodstuff inflation of the late 18th century and early 19th century peaks at just the moment when the riots of sans culottes reached a peak with the storming of the Bastille. It is not just words that figure in 2 the great revolutions, but as well the climate change, economics, and literary history. Consider that the romantic movement in Germany had almost died with its major figures turning to Weimar Classicism. But the English Romantic movement had just gotten started and Coleridge had painted the dark and fiery figures on the sea that came from the corruption, and would eventually be part of this movement with poems by Byron and Shelley. With the peak of it being the year without a summer which left several markings on British Romanticism.

    If the New York Review of Books wants to be a source of information they should actually look at the source and see that the books being printed at the time had reasons to exist and forces that they wish to express. But no – that would be hard and too much trouble to expound on and make their readers actually think.

  3. Olivier

    When reposting a reposting, as with “Week 16 of U.S. Labor Market Collapse”, you should credit the original source and not the intermediate one: in this case Wolf Street and not NC. Both are fine blogs but credit where credit is due.

  4. bruce wilder

    not “structures” (v), Stirling. “stresses”, perhaps.

    the corporate integrity of French society/state had been degenerating for decades in the lead-up to the Revolution, as feudalism continued past its own demise from old age. when famine came, the traditional responsibility of the state to intervene to distribute grain and ration bread was palsied and hesitant. Liberal opinion among the bourgeoisie insisted that the “free market” be allowed to work, the price of grain and bread was to find its own level and all would be well. The poor had other expectations.

    Darnton is curious about the prominence place of fraternité, but fails to see a society that had been starved of social solidarity, social affiliation even, a society in which social class and privilege had undermined the fiscal and judicial integrity of the state to the point of contempt and bankruptcy.

    French political society and economy broke down under the weight of extreme population pressures and degenerate political structures resistant to reform. Charles X wanted to cure scrofula at his coronation — talk about learning nothing!

    One lesson of the French Revolution is that revolutionary change takes a long time to complete. The French did not finally settle on a Republic over a Monarchy until after 1870. They did not reconcile themselves to the emancipation and integration of the Jews until Dreyfus. The relationship of the state with the Catholic Church was not settled until 1906. Rationalization of the Law, the need for which had been recognized for decades before the Revolution waited for more than a decade after and, in the end, required Napoleon and his sword.

  5. Stirling S Newberry

    Tycoons Exploit
    secretive titan poultry
    ruthlessly leveraging
    Reason atrocious
    Commercial Workers International Union
    retail establishment
    Selbyville represented
    farmland greed
    coal sawmilling mining
    dominated multinational concentrated
    government deregulating
    discrimination disenfranchised
    Free Fellowship Foundation
    Who would Jesus kill?

    – – –

    Revolutions do take a long time to complete: you point out the French revolution, the American Revolution went until 1828 by some measures. But I would take issue with your start, in that if a civilization has a means to manage the decay it will not collapse – that is why the French Revolution starts when it does – the Ancien Regime could not borrow as it had.

  6. bruce wilder

    . . .if a civilization has a means to manage the decay it will not collapse – that is why the French Revolution starts when it does – the Ancien Regime could not borrow as it had.

    given the ability of humans in political society to paralyze their own societies in socially self-destructive chaotic contention, even when solutions to problems beckon to people of good will and a modicum of sense, that seems a trifle optimistic. people in politics love a good game of hold-up and no country at any time has a shortage of fools and tools in politics.

    liberal public opinion in enlightened France in 1788 seemed to contemporaries to be very near consensus on the desirability of a number of reforms, legal and fiscal. popular opinion in support of the reactionary parlements in their struggles against the attempts of the kings’ alternating ministers of finance to rationalize taxation and finance and the operation of law in general by arbitrary exercises of the king’s absolute authority created the crisis, but also seemed to offer deliberation in representative councils as a way out, a possible method to mobilize public opinion in understanding and supporting reform measures, even fairly radical ones.

    it did not work out.

    and the social stress of hunger amidst the threat of famine would be a major factor driving the chaotic course of events.

    but that the means to solve the fiscal problem was within easy reach was also a factor in setting the conflagration off. they thought they had the means to manage the decay, as you say, but the decay managed them

  7. bruce wilder

    it cannot be lost on perceptive observers of our own political decay and institutional incapacity in the face of the natural force of contagious disease that the U.S. may be arriving at a revolutionary moment of its own

    public opinion, in our case, is no longer a novel but promising source of political salvation, but rather a means by which propaganda is infused like embalming fluid into the corpse of representative democracy.

  8. bruce wilder

    i know very few people care much about the French Revolution and no one but Stirling would know much about it, but i find revolutions interesting . . . and the clichéd ways people “remember” their histories interesting as well.

    political conservatives and reactionaries have this argument that they love to deploy that dismisses historic revolutions as unnecessary and wasteful and counterproductive, and not incidentally, disappears the roles of reactionaries and conservatives in fomenting them in the first place. the American Civil War was completely unnecessary, you see, because slavery as an institution was clearly dying and white southerners would have emancipated their slaves in time if just left alone. an aggressive slavepower, hell-bent on securing the institution, disappears from history, the stubborn intransigence of slaveholders replaced by a principled concern for the constitutional privilege of states’ rights.

    reactionary conservatives make revolutions happen, usually by some combination of intransigence and instigating counter-revolution. in this, they may well be aided by feckless or clueless liberals. this was certainly true of the French Revolution. it was the stubborn intransigence of reactionaries and the delusional aspirations of a parasitic class of nobles to return to oligarchic power that set the whole thing off. and the liberals, stubbornly reluctant to impose effective price controls or rationing on grain or bread, except when the sans culottes were at the door weapons in hand, that created the bloody, dynamic tension and paranoid distrust between politics out-of-doors and politics in the room where it happened.

    for a conservative looking back, la Grande Peur (the Great Fear) is inexplicable

  9. nihil obstet

    14 juillet: aux armes, citoyens!!!

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