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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 16 2024

by Tony Wikrent


Strategic Political Economy

‘The whole supply chain is subsidised’: inside the EU’s blockbuster Chinese EV probe 

[South China Morning Post, via Naked Capitalism 06-13-2024]

…the tariff percentages the EU would slap on electric vehicle imports from China landed with a bang.

In the Belgian capital, officials set about briefing reporters on what had been uncovered in an investigation that saw dozens of case handlers spend 250 mission days on the ground in China, conducting 100-plus company visits, piecing together thousands of pages of evidence, which cumulatively tore a new rift in an already fraught relationship.

“The whole supply chain is subsidised,” said a senior official, who read through the charge sheet on a case that many predict could launch a trade war.
“This means that the Chinese government provides subsidies to all operators,” he continued. “Starting from the refining of lithium used in the batteries, to production of cells and batteries, to the production of BEVs [battery electric vehicles], and even transport of BEVs to EU markets.”….
Between January 2020 and September 2023, Chinese companies increased their EU market share from 4 per cent to 25 per cent, while local rivals’ share dropped from 69 per cent to almost 60 per cent, officials said.
[TW: If you really want to transition off of fossil fuels, it is basic common sense you should support in any way possible the design, manufacture, and sale of electric vehicles. This is a monstrous example of how the leadership of the West has been lobotomized by neoliberal “free market” ideology.” ]

Global power shift

MAJOR: Russia Officially Becomes World’s 4th Largest Economy, Passing Japan 

[Simplicius the Thinker, via Naked Capitalism 06-10-2024]


China has become a scientific superpower 

[The Economist, via Naked Capitalism 06-15-2024]

[X-Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 06-14-2024]


Gaza / Palestine / Israel

How ‘Israel’ Has Lost The North 

[, via Naked Capitalism 06-14-2024]

‘Israel’ has completely lost the north of occupied Palestine. It’s under fire and on fire every day now. Hezbollah has methodically eye-poked ‘Israel’s’ intelligence outposts and is literally blasting them in the nuts every day, on camera. The map above shows the new line of control for occupied Palestine, as reported by the thinking man’s Der StürmerHaaretz. ‘Israel’ has lost it.

It’s fascinatingly boring how Hezbollah did this. For months their videos have been methodically mundane, blowing up this communication tower, that building, that listening station. It seemed like a bunch of nothing, but it adds up. Hezbollah had a list of ‘Israel’s’ eyes and ears in the north and has spent months methodically eye poking them, like Odysseus and the Cyclops. Now—however big the IOF might be—they’re effectively blinded.

As Hezbollah opens bigger and bigger gaps in ‘Israel’s’ air defenses, they can send bigger and more missiles in, with better and better penetration. For ‘Israel’, this attrition is a compounding problem. Their air defenses are a connected system and the network is increasingly returning 404. Take for example, the destruction of the $230 million dollar SKYDEW blimp/spy balloon….

Each time a hole in ‘Israeli’ air defenses opens, the hole only gets bigger, because of Hezbollah is damaging complex, interconnected systems.

Now the Meron base can barely defend itself, let alone the region. ‘Israel’ has responded by assassinating Hezbollah (and Iranian) leaders, but the Resistance just names missiles after the martyrs and send more. This is a battle of attrition and Hezbollah is paying attention while ‘Israel’ is mindlessly lashing out. ‘Israel’ is completely distracted by a genocide in the south, and has lost the battle for the north….


Suppressing Palestinian Drone Forces: U.S. Uses Aid Pier to Deploy Anti-Drone Combat Vehicles to Gaza 

[Military Watch Magazine, via Naked Capitalism 06-09-2024]


Why are America’s elite universities so afraid of this scholar’s paper?

[The Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 06-10-2024]

The Columbia Law Review website was temporarily shut down after it published a Palestinian human rights lawyer’s article proposing a new way to understand Palestinian life under Israeli rule



Psychology’s “Dark Triad” and the Billionaire Class 

[Psychology Today, via Thomas Neuburger, God’s Spies, 06-14-2024]

[S]hould we really be trying to emulate the one-percent? Perhaps not. Psychological research suggests that the super-rich, as a group, aren’t necessarily the role models we collectively need if our goal is to advance the common good and build a more decent society. In particular, one reason to be skeptical involves a constellation of interlinked personality traits — Machiavellianismpsychopathy, and narcissism — that psychologists call the “Dark Triad.” The originators of the term summarize it this way: “To varying degrees, all three entail a socially malevolent character with behavior tendencies toward self-promotion, emotional coldness, duplicity, and aggressiveness.”

Let’s now consider each of these three components separately, in regard to what they may tell us about the one-percent. …


Why Plutocrats Are Rallying to Trump

Jeet Heer [The Nation, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 06-12-2024]

“Civic lessons won’t sway America’s oligarchs. Instead, we need forthright economic populism to bring them to heel.” Oh well. More: “The fact that so many rich people are willing to abandon democracy for the sake of money they don’t even need is a great argument for economic populism. In the past, Democrats have tried to undermine Trump’s popularity by claiming that his wealth is phony. In 2016, Hillary Clinton boasted, “I love having the support of real billionaires.” Clinton touted her support from Warren Buffett and Michael Bloomberg (who was given pride of place at the Democratic National Convention in both 2016 and 2020). But the sad truth is that Trump himself has the support of many real billionaires—and for good reason: He upholds their class interests. If the Democrats really want to rally popular support, they’d do well to mothball Bloomberg and run on good old-fashioned economic populism. Trump-loving plutocrats are a threat to democracy, and there is political capital to be reaped by highlighting that fact and promising to rein in their outsize economic power.”


Corporate law and corporate psychopaths

[PubMed, National Institute of Heath, via Thomas Neuburger, God’s Spies, 06-14-2024]

From the Conclusion:

In this paper we have attempted to map out some of the complex issues arising in organisations where leaders exhibit psychopathic and severe Dark Triad traits. The emerging research into who corporate psychopaths are and of the damage they can do to other employees and to organisations poses important questions for corporate law that have not been addressed or discussed to date. As we have outlined, the topic itself is complicated not only by the available knowledge as to what constitutes psychopathic and Dark Triad conduct, but also the tensions that exist within organisations to achieve their strategic aims. The research and understanding of personality and the ‘Dark Triad’ is still evolving.


Billionaires Shouldn’t Exist— But Not Because We Need Their Money For Anything

Howie Klein, June 13, 2024 []

…The ultra-wealthy use the political power that flows from their wealth to force policy choices that increase their wealth, which further increases their political power. In the end, we lose our democracy. Peter Thiel years ago declared his belief that freedom and democracy are not compatible. In 2021, ProPublica revealed that Thiel dodged tax on $5 billion of income through the misuse of a Roth IRA. In 2022, Thiel effectively bought himself a U.S. Senator, JD Vance, by contributing $15 million to Vance’s campaign. Now, Thiel and dozens of other multi-billionaires are lining up to support Trump to secure additional tax breaks.…

Pizzigati further noted that in a just-released report from Americans for Tax Fairness, “The wealthiest of our wealthy are doing their best to keep these good times— for America’s rich— rolling. ‘Just 50 billionaire families,’ the new ATF report details, ‘have already injected more than $600 million collectively into the crucial 2024 elections, with that number sure to show accelerating growth in the final six months of the campaign.’ Stats like these, adds the report, offer ‘further proof that the nation’s richest families consider democracy just another commodity they can buy.’”

Many adherents of MMT leave out a crucial piece when discussing its advocacy for taxing the ultra-rich. It isn’t about needing their money for social good. That isn’t how money works in the real world. Taxing the billionaire class is about keeping them from buying society, which is very much what they’re doing now. I wanted to check my thinking, so I went right to the source. This comes from Stephanie Kelton’s new book, The Deficit Myth, which I hope you read if you haven’t yet:

Can Democracy and Billionaires Coexist? Not on this planet 

Sam Pizzigati, June 11, 2024 [Informed Comment via Howie Klein, June 13, 2024,]


What’s Wrong With Extreme Self-Funding Candidates In A Representative Democracy?

Howie Klein, June 10, 2024  []

…The GOP’s— and to some extent the Democrats’— strategy of backing self-funders reflects a broader issue: the growing influence of money in politics, which undermines the democratic process. When candidates can buy their way into office, it exacerbates inequality and reinforces a plutocracy, where the wealthy have disproportionate power and influence.

The Republicans’ reliance on wealthy candidates suggests a party increasingly out of touch with ordinary voters. As their small-dollar donor base shrinks, they turn to the ultra-wealthy to fund their campaigns, distancing themselves further from the working and middle classes and their interests. This dynamic perpetuates policies that favor the rich, deepening economic inequality….

How the IRS went soft on billionaires and corporate tax cheats 

[International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, via Naked Capitalism 06-12-2024]


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

Economic Termites Are Everywhere  

Matt Stoller [BIG, via Naked Capitalism 06-09-2024]


Monopoly Round-Up: The Harvey Weinstein of Antitrust  

Matt Stoller [BIG, via Naked Capitalism 06-10-2024]



[Law and Political Economy Project, via Naked Capitalism 06-11-2024]


US importers caught in a vicious circle as labor union strike threat raises fears of soaring freight rates and massive disruption at US East and Gulf Coast ports 

[Hellenic Shipping News, via Naked Capitalism 06-13-2024]


The Insulin Empire: How profiteers pushed a lifesaving drug out of reach.

[The Baffler, via The Big Picture 06-09-2024]


Predatory finance

Private equity firms have amassed $1tn in ‘carry’ fees as taxation debate mounts 

[Financial Times, via Naked Capitalism 06-13-2024]

The world’s largest private capital firms have avoided income taxes on more than $1tn in incentive fees since 2000 by structuring the payments in a way that subjected them to a much lower levy, according to new research from Oxford university.



David Sirota, June 14, 2024 [The Lever]

The Lever has done a ton of reporting on private equity moguls telling pension officials that they should invest retirees’ money in Wall Street’s opaque, high-fee investment vehicles because those investments will supposedly generate better returns than inexpensive stock index funds. But the Financial Times now reports that private investment funds “have taken more money from investors than they’ve distributed back to them in gains for six straight years, for a total gap of $1.56 trillion over that period.”….

REPUBLICAN COURT PROTECTS THE PONZI SCHEME: The Securities and Exchange Commission recently passed a rule to protect pension funds and force private investment funds to better disclose their fees and business practices. However, a Republican-packed court in Texas just ruled for Wall Street lobbyists and blocked that rule.


Crypto Tries to Recreate the Koch Money Machine to Pack Congress with Shills

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, June 13, 2024 [Wall Street on Parade]

Editor’s Note: For watchdog Better Markets’ detailed analysis of crypto’s “track record of lawlessness, deception, fraud, and investor losses,” see here.

As meticulously chronicled by Jane Mayer and numerous others, the billionaire owners of fossil fuels giant Koch Industries — Charles Koch and his late brother, David Koch – spent decades building the tentacles of what became known as the Kochtopus. It was, and remains, a sprawling network of Super Pacs, nonprofits, dark money groups, activist groups and think tanks deployed to push an anti-regulatory agenda in Congress – particularly when it comes to fossil fuels and climate change. Koch’s latest addition is an Orwellian voter-mining database and its dangerous appendages.

Crypto billionaires appear to have studied the Koch playbook carefully and are now rapidly rolling out a strikingly similar network. As we reported on Tuesday, a handful of crypto billionaires and their related crypto businesses had plowed $92.87 million (as of April 30) into a Super Pac, ironically called “Fairshake,” to defeat candidates for Congress who refuse to be toadies for the crypto agenda….


They’re not capitalists — they’re predatory criminals

Mnuchin Chases Wall Street Glory With His War Chest of Foreign Money

[Bloomberg, via The Big Picture 06-08-2024]

Trump’s former Treasury secretary is going where few seasoned investors can — and where some wouldn’t.


Restoring balance to the economy

If You Believe Either Biden Or Trump Will Halt Decline You’re A Fool

Ian Welsh, June 14, 2024

…tariffs alone cannot fix the US economy. America has too many economic pathologies. Without crushing the rich, dropping housing prices, making Private Equity illegal, forbidding share buybacks, ending stock options for executives, massive anti-trust enforcement and huge number of other policies, the US cannot take advantage of being hidden behind tariffs, especially when China is now producing more scientific and engineering advances than America….


Colombian Victims Win Historic Verdict Over Chiquita: Jury Finds Banana Company Liable For Financing Death Squads

[EarthRights International (press release), via Thomas Neuburger, God’s Spies, 06-14-2024]


The Chiquita Verdict Was a Long Time Coming

Kate Aronoff, June 12, 2024 [The New Republic]

On Tuesday, a jury in South Florida found Chiquita Brands liable for the deaths of eight people killed by the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, a right-wing paramilitary organization that the company paid nearly $2 million to in exchange for “support” in Colombia’s banana-growing region from 1997 through 2004. The court ordered the multinational fruit seller to pay out $38.3 million to the victims’ surviving relatives as part of a civil case. Lawyers for the affected families argued that the AUC—a designated foreign terrorist organization in the United States, which disbanded in 2006—killed and forcibly displaced people in fertile areas of Colombia, allowing the company to buy up land for cheap and convert plantain farms into banana farms.


Bring Back the Corporate Death Penalty: State laws specifically enable corporate death

Thomas Neuburger [God’s Spies, 06-12-2024]

“All powers and franchises of corporations are derived from the people and are granted by their agent, the government, for the public good and general welfare, and the right and duty of the state to control and regulate them for these purposes is hereby declared. The power, rights and privileges of any and all corporations may be forfeited by willful neglect or abuse thereof. The police power of the state is supreme over all corporations as well as individuals.”
—Wyoming Constitution


Taming the Pricing Beast

Bilal  Baydoun, June 14, 2024 [The American Prospect]

The government has a variety of strategies to protect the public from price-gouging and information advantages over the consumer….

The Fed’s outdated theories have obvious limitations in an age of monopolistic concentration, low taxation, and high-powered algorithms. As corporate America’s pandemic profiteering spree demonstrates, pricing is often a function of power, not demand. And the Fed’s principal tool—tinkering with interest rates—is woefully inadequate to deal with the market muscle that inevitably leads to predatory pricing. When corporations are too powerful, they will use that power to strong-arm both American workers and consumers. That’s particularly true when they can capture so much data about their customers, and use so many high-tech tricks and traps to get them to pay more.

The Fed can’t implement price controls, break up big corporations, or sue companies for anti-competitive practices. The Fed cannot control algorithms used by corporate landlords to drive up rent prices, or force the largest credit card issuers to stop collecting predatory junk fees. Yet all of these are imperative components of a strategy to combat predatory pricing. The Fed has a single blunt tool—interest rates—that scapegoats workers and makes them poorer. And in this era of pricing, it doesn’t really work that well.

A new paradigm is needed to deal with high prices, one that involves Congress, executive branch regulatory and law enforcement agencies, state attorneys general, and the White House working in tandem to tackle the corporate power that enables predatory pricing. It means shaking off our obsession with “inflation,” and instead thinking broadly about affordability and fairness….

Low taxation is a key yet underdiscussed enabling force of this new pricing regime. Companies may be able to hike prices by taking advantage of their market power, technological innovation, and economic emergencies like the pandemic recession. But those higher prices reap supernormal profits because of tepid taxation, creating a perverse incentive to profiteer.

A February paper from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy that studied 342 profitable corporations found that these companies paid an effective tax rate of 14.1 percent, well below the historically low statutory rate of 21 percent signed into law by the Trump administration in 2017. At the same time, we have seen record corporate profits since 2021, culminating in an all-time high in the fourth quarter of 2023. Companies seek out excess profits in increasingly harmful ways, because they get to keep more of those excess profits….


Lina Khan: Extraction Exterminator 

June 14, 2024 [The American Prospect]

The Federal Trade Commission chair plays a key role in preventing exploitative pricing schemes from taking root.


A Continuing Struggle to Reform Payday Lending

Janie Ekere, June 13, 2024 [The American Prospect]

While several states have capped interest rates recently, in Rhode Island, removing debt traps has been a 15-year odyssey with no end in sight.


The Congressional Progressive Caucus Agenda for 2025

Rep. Pramila JayapaL, June 3, 2024 [The American Prospect]

The people of this country want to see us rewrite the rules, not continue the status quo. That’s where the Congressional Progressive Caucus comes in. Progressives in Congress and in the movement have consistently pushed for Democrats to use their governing power for those who need it most. We’re continuing that tradition with the release of ourProgressive Proposition Agenda,” a comprehensive domestic policy agenda that we can implement on Day One if we keep President Biden in the White House, take back the House, and keep the Senate in 2025.


The $220 Billion Medical Debt Problem (With Rep. Ro Khanna) 

[The Lever, June 13, 2024]

Rep. Ro Khanna unveils his plan with Bernie Sanders to wipe out more than $200 billion in medical debt…. If signed into law, the program could relieve the debt burden for more than 100 million people.


40 Acres and a Lie (Part 1 of 3) 

[Mother Jones, June 15, 2024]

We expose the truth about 40 Acres and a Mule—and the government betrayal that fueled today’s racial wealth gap….

Union General William T. Sherman’s Special Field Orders, No. 15—better known as 40 acres and a mule—implied a better life in the waning days of the Civil War. Hutchinson is among the formerly enslaved people who received land through the field orders, which are often thought of as a promise that was never kept. But 40 acres and a mule was more than that.

It was real.

Over a more than two-year investigation, our partners at the Center for Public Integrity have unearthed thousands of records once buried in the National Archives. In them, they found more than 1,200 formerly enslaved people who were given land by the federal government through the field orders—and then saw that land taken away.


Paradise StolenBlack families were cheated out of their land on Skidaway Island. Now it’s a wealthy white enclave.

Alexia Fernández Campbell and Pratheek RebalaJuly [Mother Jones, August 2024 Issue]


‘There Has to Be a Fight’: How Workers Can Start Winning the Class War in 2024 and Beyond 

Jon Queally, Jun 15, 2024 [CommonDreams]

“Why are working class people apathetic about politics? Because politics is completely dominated by corporations.”


Health care crisis

People Gave Up on Flu Pandemic Measures a Century Ago When They Tired of Them – and Paid a Price 

[Michigan Medicine, via Naked Capitalism 06-12-2024]


Information age dystopia / surveillance state

Patrick Lawrence: Scott Ritter Silenced by Liberal Authoritarians 

[Scheerpost, via Naked Capitalism 06-10-2024]


How Data-Fueled Neurotargeting Could Kill Democracy 

[MIT Reader, via Naked Capitalism 06-15-2024]

[NC reader Paul R: “This is a good article. It says what Cambridge Analytica was doing with all that facebook data. Classifying people’s personality types, picking out the neurotics (who were likely to be susceptible to emotional manipulation) and spewing tailored misinformation at them, supposedly to help the Trump campaign. It’s only been getting worse since then. It demystifies stuff that I think a lot of us had picked up on but not quite understood.”]


Climate and environmental crises

What’s Going On in the Atlantic is Off the Charts: Another reminder that global warming has accelerated

Thomas Neuburger [God’s Spies, 06-11-2024]


Riots erupt in drought-stricken central Algeria over months of water shortages 

[AP, via Naked Capitalism 06-14-2024]


Solar Power’s Giants Are Providing More Energy Than Big Oil

David Fickling, June 13, 2024 [Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 06-15-2024]

GRAPH: In the long term, the energy that solar companies are providing each year is well above what’s available in Big Oil’s geological reserves


Administration Playing From Behind on Domestic Solar Production

David Dayen, June 12, 2024 [The American Prospect]

There are seven different trade actions to limit Chinese dominance of solar components. But only now is trade policy being aligned with industrial policy.


The ‘One simple trick’ Paris used to reduce air pollution 40% ahead of Olympics 

[Elektrek, via Naked Capitalism 06-14-2024]

…So what was the trick? Kicking out cars.

Or perhaps more specifically, Paris reduced the city’s dependence on cars in favor of alternative forms of transportation.

As NBC’s Mike Gagliardi recently explained, “a campaign to make Paris greener, primarily by reducing its dependence on cars, has transformed it into a shining example of what many environmental activists, city planners and transit advocates say ought to be the future of cities worldwide.”….


The world’s on the verge of a carbon storage boom

[MIT Technology Review, via The Big Picture 06-15-2024]

Hundreds of looming projects will force communities to weigh the climate claims and environmental risks of capturing, moving, and storing carbon dioxide.


merica could double the capacity of its existing electricity grid by simply upgrading the wires

[Washington Post, via David Sirota, June 14, 2024, The Lever]

The U.S.’s grid infrastructure is antiquated, disorganized, and inadequate — and it’s preventing the country from transitioning to renewables. There’s a debate going on over utility permitting reform, but The Washington Post notes that America could double the capacity of its existing electricity grid by simply upgrading the wires on the current high-voltage lines crisscrossing the country.


Creating new economic potential – science and technology

Dementia Breakthrough: Brain Scans Predict Disease Up to 9 Years Early 

[ScienceAlert, via Naked Capitalism 06-15-2024]


Democrats’ political malpractice

The Speech FDR Would Give

David Dayen, June 14, 2024 [The American Prospect]

Wall Street donors who once rejected Donald Trump after January 6th have returned to his side. Silicon Valley bigwigs held a fundraiser for Trump in the heart of San Francisco last week. Trump asked oil barons for $1 billion in campaign funds in exchange for regulatory relief. A hedge fund manager pledged hundreds of thousands of dollars to Trump minutes after he was convicted of a felony; Miriam Adelson, heir to the casino fortune, pledged $100 million. Even FDR would blanch at the open rallying for the presumptive Republican nominee from those who need to use the word “billion” to describe their net worth.

Corporate America’s sentiment was summed up pretty well by Kathryn Wylde, who represents the Partnership for New York City, a business lobby, who has openly described Wall Street as New York’s Main Street in the past. “The threat to capitalism from the Democrats is more concerning than the threat to democracy from Trump,” Wylde told Politico. She will bear any burden to pay a little less in taxes and regulatory compliance, in other words.

When people discuss how Roosevelt handled a similar mutiny by the rich, they tend to point to a speech given on the eve of the 1936 election at Madison Square Garden, the famed “I welcome their hatred” speech, where he openly sided against “the old enemies of peace—business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.”

But there is another speech, far more detailed in its discussion of economic tyranny and the dangers of concentrated power, within and without the political realm. It was his acceptance speech at the 1936 Democratic National Convention, given 88 years ago this month.…

What Roosevelt is doing is defining what Americans lost when their government fell to the economic royalists: restrictions of business initiative and opportunity, crushing of wages, inequality of wealth and prosperity. The economy, thus controlled, imploded with the Great Depression, and the people sought another direction. But like the Stephen Schwarzmans and Bill Ackmans of today, the economic royalists were appalled that anyone elected by the people could act as if they had the authority to carry out the people’s will: “The royalists of the economic order,” Roosevelt says, “have conceded that political freedom was the business of the Government, but they have maintained that economic slavery was nobody’s business.”


The Democratic Base Has Gotten More Progressive— But Elected Democratic Leaders, Not So Much

Howie Klein, June 11, 2024  []

Yesterday, Gallup’s Justin McCarthy reported that Americans— especially Democrats— have gotten more progressive in their views. Good— but… there are a couple of very real problems here that need to be dealt with seriously:

  • Liberal on social issues, conservative on economic issues
  • The Democratic base has moved left, while the party leadership hasn’t (not at all)
  • Outside funding in primaries is skewering the congressional Democrats towards the right
McCarthy wrote that “Americans have become significantly more likely to identify as liberal in their views on social issues over the past quarter century. In most annual measures since 2015, they have been about equally likely to express having liberal views [33%] as moderate [32%] and conservative [32%] ones— reflecting a shift from Gallup’s earliest measures, when liberal perspectives on social issues were a firmly minority viewpoint. Meanwhile, Americans still lean conservative on economic issues, but the percentage leaning liberal has been trending up slightly. Both trends toward more liberal views than in the past are driven by U.S. Democrats; neither Republicans nor independents have become more liberal in their views over time….

Conservative / Libertarian / (anti)Republican Drive to Civil War

Gingrich’s 1996 Memo Fostered Divisiveness— There’s A Much Better Way To Do What He Was Attempting

Howie Klein, June 9, 2024  []

…Gingrich was encouraging as adversarial and divisive an approach as could be mustered, even if it meant undermining the principles of the kind of healthy democratic discourse that thrives on open, honest debate and the exchange of ideas. When political language is heavily scripted to manipulate emotions rather than inform, it degrades public trust— and for many, even interest— in electoral politics and institutions and in this case it certainly deepened political polarization, very much contributing to the “us vs them” mentality, that has defined American politics since then. …


The Trump-MAGA Playbook Is Precisely The One The Nazis Were Using Before They Took Over Germany

Howie Klein, June 9, 2024  []


The return of trickle-down economics

Capital and Main, June 09, 2024 [DailyKos]

The return of trickle-down economics—the much-criticized theory that tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy eventually result in job growth and higher wages for the middle class and working class—has inspired a fierce debate in the Kansas Legislature that has gone on for months. A bill that included a flat 5.25% personal income tax, an 8% reduction from the current rate for top earners, was approved by Republicans in both chambers, though critics say it would disproportionately benefit the wealthy in the state.

The top 20% of earners in Kansas—those with average annual incomes above $315,000—would get nearly 40% of the benefits, with Koch himself receiving an estimated $485,000 in annual tax breaks under the proposal, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a nonpartisan research group that favors a progressive tax system. It would also cost the state almost $650 million every year once fully implemented, per ITEP.

The bill was sponsored by two lawmakers who have received campaign contributions from Koch and who have significant ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a national organization of conservative lawmakers and corporate interests that drafts “model legislation” for state legislatures to adopt and has long advocated for the elimination of state income taxes. Kansas state Sen. Ty Masterson was named the chairman of ALEC in December, and fellow Sen. Caryn Tyson was named the country’s legislator of the year in 2021 by the group. Neither lawmaker returned calls for comment to Capital & Main.


Multiple Trump Witnesses Have Received Significant Financial Benefits From His Businesses, Campaign

[ProPublica, via The Big Picture 06-09-2024]

Witnesses in the various criminal cases against the former president have gotten pay raises, new jobs and more. If any benefits were intended to influence testimony, that could be a crime.


A Republican Election Clerk vs. Trump Die-Hards in a World of Lies

[New York Times, via The Big Picture 06-08-2024]

Cindy Elgan has overseen elections in rural Nevada without incident for 20 years, but now even her neighbors wonder if she’s part of “the deep state cabal.”


Former Obama adviser: Kushner engaged in ‘level of corruption that we’ve just never seen’ with foreign relations

[The Hill, via The Big Picture 06-09-2024]

“This is a guy, Jared Kushner, who had no expertise, no qualification whatsoever to be in the White House while he was there. He made it his account to work in the Gulf Arab states. He basically helped lead the cover-up for [Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman]. Get him in from the cold after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”


DeSantis Declares Emergency Over Floods After Cutting Stormwater Funds

Edward Carver, June 13, 2024 [CommonDreams]

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency on Wednesday for five counties due to heavy flooding in southern Florida just the day after he cut $205 million in stormwater, wastewater, and sewer projects from the state’s budget.


The (anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts

The Supreme Court’s Blocking Strategy

Michael Meltsner, June 14, 2024 [The American Prospect]

America’s top legal authority is doing all it can to prevent Donald Trump from standing trial before the election.


Supreme Court backs Starbucks over Biden labor board in ‘Memphis 7’ union case 

[USA Today, via Naked Capitalism 06-14-2024]


The Supreme Court Just Made Future Mass Shootings Even Deadlier

Matt Ford, June 14, 2024 [The New Republic]

…“The majority’s reading flies in the face of this Court’s standard tools of statutory interpretation,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a dissent joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson. “By casting aside the statute’s ordinary meaning both at the time of its enactment and today, the majority eviscerates Congress’s regulation of machineguns and enables gun users and manufacturers to circumvent federal law.”….


The Right’s Truly Incredible Argument for Weakening Consumer Safety 

Matt Ford, June 9, 2024 [The New Republic]

A baby products company and an anti-woke activist group are trying to weaken a critical consumer watchdog agency. If one of their cases reaches the Supreme Court, we’re all in trouble.


Being Against Poop in Rivers Is Now “Un-American” 

Heather Souvaine Horn, June 14, 2024 [The New Republic]

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt has an unusual interpretation of Oklahoma v. Tyson….

The Oklahoma case is part of a bigger picture. Protecting lakes, rivers, and drinking water is actually extremely popular. Polls typically find higher support for that than for fighting climate change. But as TNR’s Kate Aronoff and others have repeatedly observed, the legal system is typically much more favorable to corporations than to their victims—human or animal.


The cloudy future of the Federalist Society 

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 06-14-2024]

“Late last week, the Federalist Society’s leader Eugene Meyer announced his plans to step down as president and CEO, kicking off a high-profile national search for the group’s next boss. His legacy is far-reaching: Meyer transformed the organization from a small ‘debating society’ for right-leaning law students into a legal and political powerhouse that has been involved in almost every high-profile conservative judicial appointment of recent decades, including those to the Supreme Court…. Meyer has not announced a formal date for his retirement or named a successor, though the organization is expected to begin considering candidates to replace him later this summer. With Meyer’s successor likely to be named just months before the 2024 election, the decision is expected to signal how closely the society’s leaders plan to align themselves with the MAGA movement — or whether they will lean into the organization’s traditional posture as a big-tent for the legal right. Meyer, who helped found the society in the 1980s and has served as its leader for over 40 years, has long served as a sort of elder statesman within the conservative movement, acting as a bridge between its founding generation and its current, more Trump-ified leadership. His father, Frank Meyer, was a longtime senior editor at William F. Buckley’s National Review who became best known as the philosophical proprietor of ‘fusionism’ — the idea, central to the creation of the modern conservative movement in the post-World War II era, that traditionalist social conservatism and free-libertarianism could serve as mutually reinforcing programs. The younger Meyer made his father’s fusionist creed a cornerstone of the conservative legal movement from its creation, positioning the Federalist Society as an open forum where conservative and libertarian legal thinkers could come together to forge a shared philosophy and legal strategy.”


AOC, Raskin Announce Bill to Rein in ‘Captured and Corrupted’ Supreme Court

Julia Conley, June 12, 2024 [CommonDreams]

To rein in what he called “the highest court in the land with the lowest ethical standards,” U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin on Tuesday evening joined Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in announcing plans to introduce legislation to bar Supreme Court justices from accepting gifts worth more than $50, matching a ban for members of Congress.

Announced after a roundtable discussion with several legal experts on the pattern of ethics violations at the court, the legislation would be the latest attempt by progressive lawmakers to constrain right-wing justices including Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas.


Civic republicanism

Recovering the Republican Sensibility

Andy Smarick [National Affairs, Winter 2024]

[TW: This is a excellent article, but very dangerous. It is the best example I have seen so far of “the right’s” effort appropriate the concept of republicanism by redefining it to carefully exclude any principles of moral political economy. I don’t think Democrats and “the left” are yet aware of what is going on here.]

…As Notre Dame’s Patrick Deneen has written, “[l]iberalism has failed — not because it fell short, but because it was true to itself.” Accordingly, some now believe our most pressing challenges require post-liberal responses.

This view overstates the role of liberalism in the American founding and distorts how we think about American institutions and policy. It neglects the tradition that primarily shaped the views of our founding generation, the principles underlying the federal and state constitutions, and the governing practices of subsequent generations. Republicanism — rooted in the ancient world and renewed during the Renaissance and the Enlightenment — was embraced and consciously adapted by America’s founders. Today’s governing problems are not the result of liberalism’s ascendency, but republicanism’s decline. Our goal, therefore, shouldn’t be to move past liberalism, but to revitalize republicanism….

Second, citizens of a republic should demonstrate “republican virtue.” When rulers have near-total power, individuals are expected to be passive while their rulers govern; when the people have power, they have a duty to be engaged in matters affecting the community. Active, constructive participation in public life is thus essential to republican government. Citizens must behave in ways that help the community succeed, including acting with honesty and civility, avoiding corruption and self-dealing, and putting public benefit ahead of private gain….

[TW: All well and good to this point. But after this, Smarick dwells on participation in public life but has nothing to say about how capitalism and its emphasis on self-interest is innately hostile to republicanism, or how unfettered market facilitate the concentration of economic wealth and its use to purchase and corrupt the political system. There is no discussion of the sociopathic pathologies induced by concentrated wealth and power — which of course would call into question the right’s belief that society should be ordered according to a “natural” hierarchy. Nor is there any discussion of the facts that economically unequal societies have measurably worse outcomes on a range of health and social issues. ]


Imagining the Good Life 

Shahrzad Shams, June 13, 2024 [The American Prospect]

A series of essays makes the case that breaking free from neoliberalism must present a clear vision to fulfill Americans’ psychic longing for community, stability, and control….

Neoliberalism’s grip is slipping. The ideological, economic, and cultural paradigm of the last half-century is waning, and for good reason. Neoliberalism has been disastrous for America’s political economy, as austerity, privatization, and deregulation have led to crippling wealth and political inequality. More insidious though equally damaging, neoliberalism has also created a sort of cultural sickness; hyperindividualism and the ever-present narratives of deservedness, productivity, and merit have infiltrated our psyches, warping our sense of self, how we view others, and how we move through the world. It’s no surprise that we are facing loneliness and suicide epidemics, that overwork and burnout are commonplace, and that our society has become atomized….

The right starts with a clear idea of what it views as the good life—for individuals and for society at large. Its policy platforms and political decisions flow from that vision and are crafted in service of it. Of course, that vision is exclusionary and threatening—a heteronormative, theocratic, patriarchal ethnostate, a caste system dominated by wealthy, white, cisgender, heterosexual Christian men. But horrific as it is, it’s a clear, articulable vision, and one that allows the right to function with coordination and cohesion to establish an entrenched reality. It’s a far more strategic course of action than the wonky, narrow approach we tend to take on the left.

[TW, I worry that well-intentioned people such as Shams do not see that “the right’s vision of the “good life,” appeals to people’s innate sense of hostility of individuals being crushed under the weight of government power — “big government.” Trump’s rise, based on economic populism, has forced some people on “the right” to begin developing a narrative of resistance to corporate power as well. See Smarick’s article Recovering the Republican Sensibility in the link above.]


Looking Across: A political prescription for breaking free from neoliberalism and getting to the good life

Maurice Mitchell, June 13, 2024 [The American Prospect]


Locating Ourselves in the Wreckage of Neoliberalism

Daniel Martinez Hosang, Colena Sesanker, June 13, 2024 [The American Prospect]

Democracy Schools and other community listening sessions can bring together people of different experiences around common themes.


American Messianism

Paul R. Grenier, June 12, 2024 [Landmarks: A Journal of International Dialogue, via Naked Capitalism 06-14-2024]

Evil, when we are in its power, is not felt as evil but as a necessity or even a duty….

From the perspective that matters in Washington, the reasons for this war are uncomplicated, having to do with the evil will of the Russian president, who, it is said, initiated a war on his neighbor, wholly unprovoked, in the usual Bond villain pattern. Still today, no compromise is being considered, nor is any diplomacy underway. Quite to the contrary, what we have seen, since the war began, is a constant escalation in the lethality of weapons supplied to Ukraine, and in the risks the US side is willing to take in its unprecedented direct confrontation with the Russian nuclear superpower.

The result is a strange paradox:  on the one hand, we are confronted with a war which, as any responsible analyst will admit, could easily have been prevented altogether, by the simple expedient of allowing Ukraine to remain neutral. It is also a war that could have almost immediately been stopped, back in March/April 2022, after negotiations between Kiev and Moscow reached a successful compromise in Istanbul – a compromise which the Americans, making use of the good offices of British foreign minister Boris Johnson, saw fit to reject. The upshot of this process, then, is that, for the sake of avoiding a neutral Ukraine, the world now faces the very real risk of a further escalation that could easily end in nuclear war.

How did we get into such a thoroughly irrational position, which seemingly has reached a dead end?  We have gotten here by viewing reality through the prism of moralism, through the assumptions, just described, that those who oppose us must be motivated by an evil will….

The dire consequences of these habitual assumptions make obvious the need for a different approach, one that is both less moralistic and more adequate to reality.  Fortunately, such a perspective exists, and has existed for almost as long as philosophy itself. In the Platonic (Socratic) philosophical tradition, as anyone can see from reading, for example, the dialogue Gorgias or The Republic, the greatest danger we face in our political community is viewed not as the ‘bad will’ of the enemy, but ignorance and illusion, which may exist and usually does exist on all sides.  From Socrates’ perspective, all desire is oriented to what is believed to be the good, even if irrationality, or failure to understand the true needs of the soul, often leads us astray….


Disrupting mainstream economics

Economics 101:  Why introductory economics courses continued to teach zombie ideas from before economics became an empirical discipline

[Aeon, via Naked Capitalism 06-14-2024]

What happens to the job market when the government raises the minimum wage? For decades, higher education in the United States has taught economics students to answer this question by reasoning from first principles. When the price of something rises, people tend to buy less of it. Therefore, if the price of labour rises, businesses will choose to ‘buy’ less of it – meaning they’ll hire fewer people. Students learn that a higher minimum wage means fewer jobs.

But there’s another way to answer the question, and in the early 1990s the economists David Card and Alan Krueger tried it: they went out and looked. Card and Krueger collected data on fast-food jobs along the border between New Jersey and Pennsylvania, before and after New Jersey’s minimum wage increase….

‘The prediction from conventional economic theory is unambiguous,’ Card and Krueger wrote. It was also wrong. Fast-food restaurants in New Jersey didn’t hire fewer workers – instead, Card and Krueger found that employment slightly increased.…

In 2019, Harvard University’s introduction to economics course, Ec10, changed hands. The respected conservative economist and textbook author Greg Mankiw handed it over to Jason Furman and David Laibson. Furman was chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under the US president Barack Obama. Laibson, also a textbook author, focuses his research on behavioural economics – which he prefers to describe as ‘psychology and economics’. As part of this transition, the course textbook shifted from Mankiw’s popular Principles of Economics (5th ed, 2015) to Economics (2nd ed, 2018) by Laibson, Daron Acemoglu of MIT, and John List of the University of Chicago.…


[TW: If you feel, as I do, that what is taught as economics is a form of cultural warfare (“the greatest danger we face in our political community is viewed not as the ‘bad will’ of the enemy, but ignorance and illusion,”), Mankiw ranks as one of the most heinous criminals of this century;

Defending the One Percent (pdf)

N. Gregory Mankiw [Journal of Economic Perspectives, Volume 27, Number 3—Summer 2013] ]

[TW: The Econ 101 zombie idea of wage gains raises unemployment still has power:]

The fast-food industry claims the California minimum wage law is costing jobs. Its numbers are fake.

Michael Hiltzik [Los Angeles Times, via The Big Picture 06-13-2024]



Behold The House GOP’s Never-Ending Stream Of Disinformation

David Kurtz, June 12, 2024 [Talking Points Memo]

A year and half after Republicans captured the House majority, I’m still not sure it has sunk in how all-encompassing their effort has been to yoke the powers of the lower chamber to the Trump Republican Party’s 2024 electoral aims.

In particular, House Republicans have done a phenomenal job of taking advantage of the existing constructs and conceits of traditional journalistic outlets to peddle their disinformation campaign.

“Investigations,” “contempt of Congress,” and “impeachment” have been rolled out one after the other by the GOP House. We know the predictably slavish and uncritical amplification these efforts get in right-wing media. But more mainstream news outlets continue to be hobbled by their own institutional and competitive imperatives to cover these House machinations with the same breathless procedural myopia that they would bring to their news coverage if these were legitimate legislative efforts grounded in facts, evidence, and some modicum of good faith.

[TW: (“the greatest danger we face in our political community is viewed not as the ‘bad will’ of the enemy, but ignorance and illusion”]


The Second US Civil War Has Already Begun 

Steven J. Harper, June 14, 2024 [CommonDreams]

This time, the rebels are using their power inside the government and their influence through social media to subvert fundamental democratic institutions.


Open Thread


China’s Rise Is Normal


  1. Mark Level

    I had a wonderfully bitter laugh at Pramiya Jayapal’s vain promise of a “Proposition Agenda” for 2025– the “Progressive” caucus ran cover for Biden in 2020, he shat on their heads with his “friends” Joe Mansion (now an Independent) & “Let them Eat Cake & Live on the Streets” Kirstin Sinema. They really think that all of us former Dems will forget the lies during the last 3.5 years, the endless failed wars of Biden’s crew, etc. and install the clearly dying hate-filled old bigot in power for “4 more years.” Sullivan & the ghoul Blinken run the Biden admin, but neither has the “charisma” to run publicly, obviously. (Not that Biden has charisma except to rich ShitLibs & the severely masochistic.)

    I’ll give her a bit of credit though, as an East Indian Hindu, it makes sense that she supports someone who believes in exterminating Muslims (& Christians?) in Palestine en masse. Even the neutered & generally useless Tech Bro fellator Ro Khanna sometimes calls out Biden’s foreign policy failures (more for theatrics than substance, & perhaps not to face War Crimes trials in a decade or two, a wise choice on his part.)

    I appreciate the inclusion of the Howie Klein piece (1 in every dozen or so he writes is valuable, the rest just Trump Derangement Syndrome tribalism) on how the Dems betray EVERY position that their base wants.

    “This whole country is full of lies, we’re all gonna die & we’ll die like flies.”– Nina Simone, Mississippi God Damn, 1963. 60 years later, things have only gotten worse.

  2. Willy

    I once learned the hard way that shaming the good guys for not being martyr enough, is exactly what the PTB want.

  3. Jan Wiklund

    Well, electric vehicles won’t help much. They would also want energy, which has to be produced.

    If ban on Chinese EVs help restricting European transport quantities, so much the better. Perhaps we will learn to cut the need of transports. But, of course, that can’t be done with “free markets” either….

    It was in 1980 Alferd D Chandler, scion of the DuPont empire, concluded that an immense state-run reorganization was needed to change our oil-consuming economy, something like the reorganization accompanying industrialization in the 19th century see But almost nothing has been done.

  4. Adam Eran

    As accurate as all you write is… Do you you really think it’ll accomplish much? And if not, is running around with a heart full of hate a cost you’re willing to bear? Is there any benefit whatsoever to being so hateful?

    These are serious questions.

  5. NR


    I think John Oliver is a good example of this. John Oliver is the furthest left you can possibly be on a mainstream, corporate-owned network. He was calling for a ceasefire in Gaza weeks before anyone in the mainstream media was even talking about it.

    And yet there are some on the left who absolutely hate him. But what they fail to understand is that the right has used mainstream commentators for decades to funnel people over to their viewpoints. The left should be looking to do the same.

  6. Willy


    I can remember when Fox was “Fair and Balanced” with Bill O’Reilly proclaiming objective independence on behalf of the common man. In hindsight, they were obviously strategically lying to build up a base of tribal addicts who might buy the patriotic Jesus catheters their sponsors were selling.

    I once saw a bit on MSNBC where a sophomore Democratic Party representative was appalled by all the sudden appearances of newfound wealth amongst his freshman representative class. Wish I’d been more on the ball to store that clip – I only saw it once. It might have been silenced. It’d be hard to be an honest progressive, observing dishonest progressives like Sinema suddenly appearing in ludicrously expensive clothing and cars.

    Not sure what I’d do in that situation, where on the one side your peers are flashing their new corruption bling, yet it seems like you’re the one getting shit on for not being “representative” enough.

    It’s a strange world for me where guys like Trump are always expected (given a pass) to be corrupt buffoons, while do-gooders are always expected (condemned) to be ethical. It’s almost as if the PTB are subliminally seducing the worst of human base instincts for wealth and power, as being ‘strong qualities’ which should be admired.

  7. somecomputerguy

    When you are a lefty with significant voice, every word out of your mouth is a tactical decision.
    A judgement call about how close you can get to the to the truth and still keep your megaphone.

    Jon Stewart ran the Summers interview and lost his job.

    John Oliver has noticeably moderated his tone, compared to a few years ago.
    It seems to me that Oliver is at his most milquetoast when he is the only one actually doing a particular story.

    David Dayen now writes in a publication that has actual influence. When they want to criticize the powerful, the write about how great it would be if elites did ‘A’, instead ripping them a new one for doing ‘C’.

    This approach resulted in the Prospects’ Presidential powers series, which has caused Joe Biden more real aggravation and pain, and at the same time done actual good (by making him help some people) than the harshest criticism.

    One of the contributors, bizarrely, was Scott Lemieux (as you would think, a waste of ink). I wonder if that was a tactical decision too.

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