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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 26, 2022

by Tony Wikrent


Strategic Political Economy

“Supreme Court’s Abortion Ruling Puts States in Spotlight”

[Wall Street Journal, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-24-2022]

“By eliminating a constitutional right to an abortion, the high court’s ruling returns the issue to the states, and about half of them, mostly led by Republicans, have been poised to ban many or most abortions if Roe was wiped away. Other Democrat-led states are moving to protect access to the procedure, in some cases preparing for visitors from states where abortion will be unavailable. And in politically diverse states with divided government, clashes over the path forward on abortion policy could continue for years. ‘This is going to put abortion toward the center of our politics for the foreseeable future,’ said Steven Greene, a political-science professor at North Carolina State University. Advocates on both sides of the issue said that the ruling would place additional focus on state and local elections, because governors, state lawmakers and attorneys general will hold new power to enact and enforce a broader array of abortion policies. That means those contests could see additional funding and support from national groups and donors.”

TW: “This is going to put abortion toward the center of our politics for the foreseeable future.” That, I believe, is the actual intent of the puppet-masters and rich funders of movement conservatism: prevent or forestall people from focusing on climate change driven depopulation, ongoing economic collapse as the elites grasp whatever remains, and the transition of USA into a surveillance state of plutocratic despotism. 


Thomas, in his concurring opinion, says the quiet part out loud. “Substantive due process” is next:

[Lambert Strether, Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-24-2022]

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-24-2022]



Will This Week’s Events Rouse the Electorate?

Robert Kuttner, June 24, 2022 [The American Prospect]

As a number of critics have pointed out, the Court’s ruling today does a lot more than criminalize abortion. It turns states into inquisitors, compelling women to prove that a miscarriage or stillbirth was not an abortion. It puts doctors on the defensive and makes it far harder for women to get routine care where reproductive health is concerned. It allows individual vigilantes to claim bounties for tracking down women who might have used abortion pills, and their enablers. As Jia Tolentino writes in The New Yorker, the closest analogy is the 1793 Fugitive Slave Act.


Dark Money Led To This Moment

Andrew Perez and Aditi Ramaswami, June 24, 2022 [The Lever]

The decision, which is part of a barrage of devastating, precedent-setting Supreme Court rulings this term, surely has many Americans wondering how we arrived at such a dark moment. The answer is simple, even if it is rarely discussed in corporate media: It lies in a giant pile of anonymous cash that was deployed to buy Supreme Court seats, help determine justices’ caseload, and shape their decisions.

A secretive, well-financed dark money network has spent years working to build the Supreme Court’s radical conservative supermajority and bankrolling many of the politicians and organizations involved in the most controversial cases now before the court, including the abortion rights case decided Friday.


“The Gerontocracy of the Democratic Party Doesn’t Understand That We’re at the Brink”

Jamelle Bouie [New York Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-24-2022]

“I’m reminded of the historian Jefferson Cowie’s argument about the New Deal’s relationship to the American political order. In ‘The Great Exception: The New Deal and the Limits of American Politics,’ Cowie argues for an interpretation of the United States in the 20th century that treats the New Deal era, from the administration of Franklin Roosevelt to the 1970s, as a ‘sustained deviation from some of the main contours of American political practice, economic structure, and cultural outlook.’ The Great Depression and World War II may have ‘forced clear realignments of American politics and class relations,’ Cowie writes, ‘but those changes were less the linear triumph of the welfare state than the product of very specific, and short-lived, historical circumstances.’ If this is true — if the New Deal was the product of highly contingent circumstances unlikely to be repeated either now or in the future — then the challenge for those committed to the notion of a government that protects and expands the collective economic rights of the American people is to forge a new vision for what that might be. ‘The path forward is not clear,’ Cowie writes, ‘but whatever successful incarnation of a liberal ‘social imaginary’ might follow will not look like the New Deal, and it might be best to free ourselves from the notion that it will.’ I think you can apply a similar ‘great exception’ analysis to the decades of institutional stability and orderly partisan competition that shaped the current generation of Democratic leaders, including the president and many of his closest allies. They came into national politics in an age of bipartisan consensus and centrist policymaking, at a time when the parties and their coalitions were less ideological and more geographically varied. But this, too, was a historical aberration, the result of political and social dynamics — such as the broad prosperity of the industrial economic order at home — that were already well in decline by the time that Biden, Pelosi, Feinstein and others first took office. American politics since then has reverted to an earlier state of heightened division, partisanship and fierce electoral competition. Even the authoritarianism on display in the Republican Party has antecedents in the behavior of Southern political elites at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. Millions of Democratic voters can see and feel that American politics has changed in profound ways since at least the 1990s, and they want their leaders to act, and react, accordingly.”

[TW: I agree with Bouie regarding the Democratic Party gerontocracy, but strongly disagree with the interpretation of the New Deal as “the product of very specific, and short-lived, historical circumstances.” That interpretation misunderstands and / or ignores 1) the importance of the creation of the USA as a republic in a world overun by monarchies and oligarchies [1]; 2) the abolition movement; 3) the significance of the American Civil War as a fight to eradicate the oligarchy of the southern slaveholders, 3) the populist movements of the 1870 through 1910s which laid the foundations for the New Deal (see the opening of Rex Tugwell’s retrospective for an acknowledgement of the influence of the 19th century populists), 4) the social gospel movement; 5) the suffragette movement; and, 6) the civil rights movement.

I argue that these six examples are part of the actual dominant current of American history, which has succeeded in expanding democracy by becoming ever more tolerant and inclusive of those previously excluded. But this current of expanding democracy has been in constant and often bloody conflict with a current of retrograde but persistent attempts to stymie and destroy our experiment in republican self government. Heather Cox Richardson, in her 2020 book,  How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for Americais eloquent in explaining that USA was established with a “great paradox of freedom”:

“From its founding, America has stood at the nexus of democracy and oligarchy. And as soon as the nation was established, its history of conflating class and race gave an elite the language to take over the government and undermine democracy.” [p. 22] ….[Southern slaveholders] rejected the Enlightenment idea of human equality, arguing instead that God’s law naturally created hierarchies in society, which should he modeled on a family structure based in paternalism. Increasingly, slaveholders bought into this vision and dehumanized their slaves, both brutalizing them in a constant demonstration of white men’s dominance…. [p. 32].

America was born in idealism and the profound principle that all human beings had a right to self determination. It grew up, though, in an environment that limited that right to white men of property. The struggle between these two concepts determined the early years of the American republic. In 1860,  when the conflict between the concept of democracy and the hierarchical ideology of the slaveholders became irreconcilable, Americans set out to reclaim the government from an oligarchy and rededicate to the proposition that all men are created equal. While they while they won, they never erased at the slaveholder’s ideology entirely.

The new American West was fertile ground for preserving and propagating a vision of society based on hierarchies. Mythology tells us that the theme of the American West was freedom, but the opposite was true. Like the antebellum South, society in the West was hierarchical according to race, class, and gender… Just as the South was a cultural and political force that came to dominate American society in the early eighteenth century, the West was a cultural and political force that came to dominate American society in the late twentieth century.

Rich men attempted to garner power through words and images that convinced American voters that extending the right of self-determination to people of color, women, and poor Americans would destroy it for white men. That argument is based on the American paradox, and it is a reflection of American history, not of human logic.  American democracy was built on the principle of human self-determination for all. Its extension will not destroy democracy; it will preserve it by drawing the fangs of the paradox that has been used by oligarchs twice in order to rise to power. [p.203]

As Frank Michelman wrote in his 1988 Yale Law Review article, “Law’s Republic,” politics in USA is a process of “juris-generative” self-renewal that “challenges “the people’s” self-enclosing tendency to assume their own moral completion as they now are…”

[1] The American Revolution “was not simply an act of rebellion against a particular king; it was an act of rebellion against all kings…. “It was a reworking of the very basis human government, a rejection of distinctions among men in the name of equality. It was dangerously radical….  Thomas Paine wrote in Common Sense that ‘The cause of America is in great measure the cause of all mankind.’ ”— Heather Cox Richardson, How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for America (2020, Oxford University Press), p. 12.


Power Causes Brain Damage 

[The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 6-24-2022] From 2017, still germane.


Global realignment as the USA republic self-terminates

Indonesia Tunes Out the U.S. 

[WSJ, via Naked Capitalism 6-20-2022]

With 274 million people, Indonesia is #4 in world population.

America’s problems in Indonesia aren’t about values, and they aren’t about policy. It is our credibility that raises concerns. The Indonesians I met aren’t sure that Americans mean what they say about the centrality of the Indo-Pacific in our foreign policy. Some of this is about resources. China offers more financing and investment on easier terms than the U.S. It is also about process. China responds quickly and clearly to infrastructure and investment proposals. The U.S. dithers and, I’m told, often does not deliver in the end.


China May oil imports from Russia soar to a record, surpass top supplier Saudi 

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism 6-20-2022]


St. Petersburg sets the stage for the War of Economic Corridors 

Pepe Escobar [The Cradle, via Mike Norman Economics 6-19-2022]

St. Petersburg in 2022 is even more crucial as it directly connects to three simultaneous developments I had previously outlined, in no particular order:

First, the coming of the “new G8” – four BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China), plus Iran, Indonesia, Turkey and Mexico, whose GDP per purchasing parity power (PPP) already dwarfs the old, western-dominated G8.

Second, the Chinese “Three Rings” strategy of developing geoeconomic relations with its neighbors and partners.

Third, the development of BRICS+, or extended BRICS, including some members of the “new G8,” to be discussed at the upcoming summit in China….

St. Petersburg offered several engrossing discussions on key themes and sub-themes of Eurasia integration, such as business within the scope of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO); aspects of the Russia-China strategic partnership; what’s ahead for the BRICS; and prospects for the Russian financial sector.

One of the most important discussions was focused on the increasing interaction between the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) and ASEAN, a key example of what the Chinese would define as ‘South-South cooperation.’


Right between the eyes: Putin to the West at the St Petersburg Economic forum 

Gilbert Doctorow [via Naked Capitalism 6-21-2022]

Both in the specialized sessions which were broadcast live and in the plenary session to which Putin spoke, the challenges posed by current, draconian Western sanctions on Russia were spelled out in great detail without any self-deception or gloss. The same was true of businessmen speaking truth to Power when commenting on the Government’s proposed programs to help the economy during the transition period to new logistical solutions, new trade flows and new local manufacturing:  “don’t do the usual thing and build a bridge to the middle of the river; go all the way with radical new solutions and in particular with a very cheap credit policy to provide working capital to where it is needed most.”

….Indeed, the most relevant adjective to describe the proceedings would be “frank.”  Political correctness was no longer being practiced.  Interlocutors in the West were no longer called “partners.”  In his speech, Putin led the way, criticizing the American administration and the European bureaucratic elites setting policy in Brussels for economic illiteracy.


Neocon think-tanks are driving Biden’s Ukraine policy 

James Carden [Asia Times, via Mike Norman Economics 6-22-2022]

TW: A commenter noted that “none of the people mention have any background in military science or experience in war fighting.”

A little-remarked-upon open letter that appeared in the Washington tabloid The Hill on June 1 put a public face on what had been until that point a discreet, though highly successful, effort on the part of Washington think-tanks  – many of which, like the disgraced Brookings Institution, are funded by foreign governments – to direct the White House policy on Ukraine….

The signatories of the open letter are urging the Biden administration to stay the course and to continue to arm Ukraine, so that when the time comes, it will be able to negotiate from a position of strength.

Among the more prominent signatories of the letter are neoconservative ideologues of long standing, including John Hopkins SAIS professor Eliot A Cohen; Eric S Edelman, also of Johns Hopkins SAIS; Paula Dobriansky of the foreign-funded Atlantic Council; failed congressional candidate and executive director of the McCain Institute Evelyn N Farkas; John Herbst, also of the foreign-funded Atlantic Council; former aide to John McCain David J Kramer; and, of course, former ambassador and MSNBC fixture Michael McFaul….

Yet the Biden administration remains recklessly wedded to a failed policy of spurning negotiations in favor of arming Ukraine to the teeth.


The Neocon’s Dream – Decolonize Russia, Re-colonize China

[Moon of Alabama, via Mike Norman Economics 6-22-2022]

MN summarizes: “(break Russia up into its federated states and break China up into manageable states. BTW, this is a longstanding objective of Western geopolitics.)”

China’s comprehensive, systematic and elaborate response to Secretary Antony Blinken’s China policy speech —— Reality Check: Falsehoods in US Perceptions of China 

[Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States, via Naked Capitalism 6-21-2022]

Yves Smith: “Important, although it does go on a bit much, but this can be regarded as the master talking points document from which Chinese officials can hoist key facts and arguments. It’s very strong on some points, like various aspects of US trying to dress up its imperialism as protection of democracy, not so much on China’s actions vis a vis Hong Kong.”

The Return of Industrial Warfare 

[Royal United Services Institute, via Naked Capitalism 6-20-2022]

PlutoniumKun 6-21: “Short version – the west has destroyed its own ability to wage war.”

The war in Ukraine has proven that the age of industrial warfare is still here. The massive consumption of equipment, vehicles and ammunition requires a large-scale industrial base for resupply – quantity still has a quality of its own. The mass scale combat has pitted 250,000 Ukrainian soldiers, together with 450,000 recently mobilised citizen soldiers against about 200,000 Russian and separatist troops. The effort to arm, feed and supply these armies is a monumental task. Ammunition resupply is particularly onerous….

This reality should be a concrete warning to Western countries, who have scaled down military industrial capacity and sacrificed scale and effectiveness for efficiency… Currently, the West may not have the industrial capacity to fight a large-scale war….

The US is not the only country facing this challenge. In a recent war game involving US, UK and French forces, UK forces exhausted national stockpiles of critical ammunition after eight days….

The expenditure of cruise missiles and theatre ballistic missiles is just as massive. The Russians have fired between 1,100 and 2,100 missiles. The US currently purchases 110 PRISM, 500 JASSM and 60 Tomahawk cruise missiles annually, meaning that in three months of combat, Russia has burned through four times the US annual missile production….

Finally, there is an assumption about overall ammunition consumption rates. The US government has always lowballed this number. From the Vietnam era to today, small arms plants have shrunk from five to just one. This was glaring at the height of the Iraq war, when US started to run low on small arms ammunition, causing the US government to buy British and Israeli ammunition during the initial stage of the war. At one point, the US had to dip into Vietnam and even Second World War-era ammo stockpiles of .50 calibre ammunition to feed the war effort. This was largely the result of incorrect assumptions about how effective US troops would be. Indeed, the Government Accountability Office estimated that it took 250,000 rounds to kill one insurgent.

TW: This is not news to me — or for anyone who bothered to look at some of the Industry Studies Program reports that used to be produced by the Industrial College of the Armed Forces (renamed in 2012 as the Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy). It appears that this program had been shrunken to a single annual Industrial Capabilities Report


Colombia’s new leftist president Petro promises to fight inequality 

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism 6-20-2022]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 6-21-2022]



Health care crisis

Universal Health Care Could Have Saved More Than 330,000 U.S. Lives during COVID 

[Scientific American, via Naked Capitalism 6-23-2022]


Florida undercounted COVID cases and deaths, failed to get test results, state audit says

[Miami Herald, via The Big Picture 6-19-2022]

Florida’s COVID-19 data was so inaccurate, incomplete and delayed during the first months of the pandemic that government officials and the public may not have had necessary information to determine the effectiveness of the state’s COVID-19 precautions and the best plan to fight the virus, according to a state report released Monday.


‘It was stolen from me’: Black doctors are forced out of training programs at far higher rates than white residents 

[STAT, via Naked Capitalism 6-21-2022]

A STAT investigation found that Black residents either leave or are terminated from training programs at far higher rates than white residents. The result of this culling — long hidden, dismissed, and ignored by the larger medical establishment — is that many Black physicians have been unable to enter lucrative and extremely white specialties such as neurosurgery, dermatology, or plastic surgery. It’s a key reason these fields have been unable to significantly diversify their ranks even as the total number of residency spots has increased nationally.


Class war

On Inflation: It’s the Monopoly Profits, Stupid 

Matt Stoller [BIG, via Naked Capitalism 6-23-2022]

The Fed sees lower wages as a victory for its mandate to stop inflation, and the stock market goes up when wages decline. The problem, however, is that in this highly inflationary period, real wages are actually going down, falling by 3.5% over the last 12 months. If that’s true, then there can’t be a wage-price spiral. So what is going up?

Well, profits.

Back in December, as this debate was first raging, I did a rough calculation, and showed that 60% of the increase in inflation was going to corporate profits. I was, along with others in this debate, trying to show that there’s a profits-inflation spiral. Such a claim generated deep anger among the neoclassical economics establishment, who largely subscribe to the argument that inflation is almost entirely a monetary phenomenon and cannot be a result of factors like market power in individual markets.

But the profit contribution to inflation is too obvious to deny. Lindsay Owens at the Groundworks Collaborative, a nonprofit, has been tracking investor calls, and laid out how CEOs routinely bragged about elevated pricing power. And over the past week, several papers have come out essentially confirming the original profits-inflation analysis….

…economists and analysts are rethinking the relationship between individual markets and the broad changes in inflation. That there is some sort of relationship between the pricing power of firms and prices in the economy writ large should be obvious, but the macro Gods of economics refused to consider it. Here’s Larry Summers in late December, with a tweet…

Jason Furman, Obama’s chief economist, has also been an important voice against the idea that market power is a driver of inflation. But while these economists have intimidated Biden, they have not stopped the onslaught of research. The first crack in the macro temple was in January of 2022, when economists at the Fed looked at industries dependent on semiconductors, and found those industries increased prices by 40% more than non-dependent ones. This paper wasn’t attacking the wage-price spiral, but it does link semiconductors to price increases.

In March, 2022, economists at the Federal Reserve of Boston did a report on consolidation and inflation, concluding more directly that “the increase in industry concentration over the past two decades could be amplifying the inflationary pressure from current supply-chain disruptions and a tight labor market.” The response from certain traditional antitrust economist types was to refuse to accept the data. But then in April, there were two more papers on the problem. Antitrust economist Hal Singer showed that firm concentration levels and price increases were correlated. And Josh Bivens at the Economic Policy Institute did a great analysis of inflation and profits, illustrating that wages, far from increasing inflation, are actually holding it back.


Michael Hudson: The Fed’s Austerity Program to Reduce Wages

Michael Hudson [On Finance, Real Estate And The Powers Of Neoliberalism, via Naked Capitalism 6-19-2022]

To Wall Street and its backers, the solution to any price inflation is to reduce wages and public social spending. The orthodox way to do this is to push the economy into recession in order to reduce hiring. Rising unemployment will oblige labor to compete for jobs that pay less and less as the economy slows.


Larry Summers Says US Needs 5% Jobless Rate for Five Years to Ease Inflation 

[Yahoo, via Naked Capitalism 6-21-2022]


US Federal Reserve says its goal is ‘to get wages down’

[Defend Democracy Press, via Mike Norman Economics 6-19-2022]

Bill Mitchell [billy blog, via Mike Norman Economics 6-22-2022]
Larry Summers who is proposing that unemployment be deliberately increased by more than 2.3 million and held at that level or higher for years in order to reduce the current (transitory) inflation. Who would be so stupid? 

The Quants in the Room: How Much Power Do Economists Really Have?

Jason Furman [Foreign Affairs, July/August 2022, via Naked Capitalism 6-21-2022]


Biden Taps Anti-Social Security Ideologue To Oversee Program 

Matthew Cunningham-Cook, June 21, 2022 [The Lever]

Biden nominated Andrew Biggs, a think tank denizen with a history of slamming Social Security, to oversee government retirement benefits for 66 million Americans.


“Blue and Red Do Have Something in Common. They’ve Both Been Ripped Off, Repeatedly”

Matt Taibbi [TK News, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-23-2022]

“This is a constant in financial predation stories that’s virtually always ignored in the popular press, which insists on portraying blue and red America as separate worlds, whose citizens have nothing in common. That’s not just a lie, it’s really the core lie at the heart of our partisan political system. It’s why the notion of “economic anxiety” as even a partial factor behind Trump’s rise was so violently suppressed by press wizards in 2016, and why such extraordinary effort was put behind a propaganda campaign to wipe out the ‘Russian asset’ Sanders. Even Biden was scolded on MSNBC by Stephanie Ruhle when he tried once to suggest a ‘Scranton vs. Park Avenue’ campaign theme. ‘Why is he going with this divide-and-conquer approach?’ Ruhle cried. ‘What about a message for all Americans?” Unity, and ‘all Americans,’ suddenly assumes enormous importance among professional division merchants once anyone starts talking not about red and blue, Trumpers and Dems, but few-versus-many. Really we don’t live in two Americas but one, whose obvious problem is that too many of its citizens have too much in common, having been repeatedly ripped off, in the same types of scams, by the same people, for decades. Sooner or later, the public will figure it out, and come running toward Washington all at once, pitchforks drawn. All the Bidens of the world can hope for is that that day comes later. As the “Putin price hikes” idiocy shows, they’re running out of ways to stall the inevitable.”


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

Americans Pawning Items to Buy Gas, Survive Inflation: Pawn Shop Owners 

[Newsweek, via Naked Capitalism 6-20-2022]


“The retail industry is facing a potential wave of bankruptcies – here’s why” 

[CNBC, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-23-2022]

“There could be an increase in distressed retailers beginning later this year, experts say, as ballooning prices dent demand for certain goods, stores contend with bloated inventory levels and a potential recession looms


They’re not capitalists – they’re a criminal predatory class

Buy and Bust: When Private Equity Comes for Rural Hospitals

[Kaiser Health News, via Naked Capitalism 6-19-2022]


The Wall St. Billionaire and GOP Mega-Donor Gaming the Tax System 

[ProPublica, via Naked Capitalism 6-21-2022]

Susquehanna founder and TikTok investor Jeff Yass has avoided $1 billion in taxes while largely escaping public scrutiny. He’s now pouring his money into campaigns to cut taxes and support election deniers.


The Ferocious, Well-Heeled Battle Against the SEC’s New Rules on Hedge Fund Activism

[Institutional Investor, via The Big Picture 6-24-2022]

A new institute with hedge fund backing joins Elliott, Pershing Square, Third Point, and others in opposing tougher disclosure rules for stock and swaps positions.


‘If you work hard and succeed, you’re a loser’: Can you really wing it to the top?

[The Guardian, via The Big Picture 6-19-2022]

Forget the spreadsheets and make it up as you go along – that’s the message of leaders from Elon Musk to Boris Johnson.


Predatory Finance

JPMorgan Chase’s Derivatives Spike by $14 Trillion in First Quarter to Six-Year High of $60 Trillion
Pam Martens and Russ Martens, June 24, 2022 [Wall Street on Parade]


Is the Crypto Threat to U.S. Financial Stability $889 Billion or $10 Trillion?

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, June 23, 2022 [Wall Street on Parade]

So exactly how big is the problem? The $889.25 billion market cap for crypto cited by Benzinga [Crypto Inc.] is a miniscule part of the problem. That’s just the market value of all of the crypto that trades. And it should be noted that the market cap of crypto stood at $2.7 trillion as of last November, so investors have already experienced a negative wealth effect of $1.8 trillion.

But what about all of the crypto mining stocks that went public and have now lost 70 to 90 percent of investors’ money? What about the loans taken out by the crypto mining companies to buy all of that energy-guzzling computer equipment? What about the billions of dollars in margin loans sitting at federally-insured banks that were made to hedge funds to leverage their crypto bets? What about the bank loans to venture capital firms to invest in hundreds of crypto startup firms?

Estimates are that the real size of the crypto market is more in the range of $10 trillion.


As the Speeding Crypto Train Crashes, Scientific and Engineering Experts Tell Congress that Both Crypto and Blockchain Were a Sham from the Beginning

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, June 17, 2022 [Wall Street on Parade]


Restoring balance to the economy

Corporate Bribery Just Became Illegal Again 

Matt Stoller [BIG, via Naked Capitalism 6-19-2022]

Even as politics gets grim, antitrust enforcers go at the insulin cartel and private equity’s takeover of pet care. Meanwhile Congress is passing antitrust legislation and re-regulating shipping….

I’m going to highlight a bunch of policy actions that happened this week, and how they show that out of the limelight we are slowly turning key parts of the U.S. government around. The most important change is FTC Chair Lina Khan resurrecting an old antitrust law that bars corporate bribery, and using it to attack corrupt middlemen in the insulin market. But while insulin is the immediate target, this law can reach Amazon and a host of other monopolies.

Plus, the Department of Justice Antitrust Division went after the Major League Baseball Antitrust exemption, the Senate passed an important antitrust bill, the big tech antitrust fight stalled, Biden signed a bill regulating the ocean shipping cartel, and there’s a football helmet shortage caused by private equity.


Tax excess margins 

[Interfluidity, via Naked Capitalism 6-19-2022]

Nevertheless, it is good that Yglesias moves beyond the neoliberal reflex to assume taxes must always reduce incentives to produce. In theory, a reliably inframarginal tax wouldn’t affect those incentives at all. But we can do even better than that! We can design a profit tax that actually improves incentives to produce!

….You wouldn’t want to tax accounting-derived profit margins. Firms would just raise prices anyway, and find ways to pad costs to keep margins low. But for commodities like oil, we know how expensive oil has to be for even high-cost producers, like US-based frackers, to turn a decent profit on each barrel of oil sold. So all we have to do to penalize the scarcity strategy is tax revenue collected at a fair margin above that price. Suppose the all-in cost to frackers per barrel produced is $80/barrel. We simply impose a tax on revenue above $100/barrel. Once the price of oil rises to this level, it does no good for producers if the price jumps even higher, to $120 or $140. The state takes the extra $20 or $40 away. The only way, then, to increase profits is to sell more barrels, or produce them more efficiently. And that is the incentive structure we want.


Biggest Rail Strike in 30 Years Brings UK to Standstill 

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism 6-21-2022]


Protest on the runway: Southwest Airlines pilots line up in anger at poor staffing and long hours as airport chaos continues across the nation with 200 flight canceled today after 14,000 over the weekend 

Daily Mail, via Naked Capitalism 6-22-2022]


Ep 5: What’s Ahead for Labor? (podcast)

[Class Matters, via Naked Capitalism 6-23-2022]

“Adolph Reed Jr. talks with Sara Nelson, President of the Association of Flight Attendants/CWA and APWU President Mark Dimondstein about what’s ahead for Labor in this moment that holds out both promise and peril.”


Collapse of independent news media

TW: VERY embarrassing that MAGAite Greene is tweeting this, and not Democrats in Congress: 

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 6-19-2022]



Will the Oligarchs Who Own the U.S. Media Save Democracy? Don’t Bet on It.

Eric Alterman, June 24, 2022 [The American Prospect]

It should come as no surprise that the fellow who is driving this effort by CNN, John Malone, is both a billionaire and a right-wing ideologue. (He may also be the largest landowner in America.) He’s on the board of directors of the Cato Institute and not only donated $250,000 to Donald Trump’s inauguration, but his companies donated another $250,000. He told an interviewer: “Look, I think a lot of the things Trump has tried to do—identifying problems and trying to solve them—has been great,” though he voiced skepticism as to whether Trump was “the right guy to do it.” This position tracks closely with that of Elon Musk, who, poised to take over Twitter, and vastly overpaying for the privilege, recently said that he was leaning toward supporting Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis for president; a politician who, as a Republican consultant quoted by the Journal puts it, has “all the benefits of Trump without the baggage.” Musk, according to the Journal, explained that his support for Republicans was based on the “scrutiny from some Democrats against him and his companies, Tesla and rocket company SpaceX.”

Malone’s closest competition as America’s biggest landowner business is Jeff Bezos, the rabidly anti-union owner of The Washington Post, who is, coincidentally, also in competition with Musk for the crown of wealthiest guy in the world. Having a bad year but still active in the mega-billionaire posse is Mark Zuckerberg, principal owner of Facebook, who has also made repeatedly clear his fealty to pro-Trump Republicans and his reliance on the likes of billionaire pro-Trump right-wing ideologue Peter Thiel. And let’s not forget Rupert Murdoch, yet another rapacious billionaire who is possibly more responsible than any other person on the planet for purveying the baseless conspiracy theories that continue to poison not just our politics but those of the U.K., Australia, and many other nations (and who, if justice is to be done, might just be forced to pay for a tiny part of it). And, oh, great news, there’s this TikTok guy, too, who apparently fits the mold perfectly.

Do you think we can expect that a mainstream media largely owned and operated by right-wing billionaires is going to save our democracy from the people who pursue the policies that ensure that they remain billionaires and pay virtually no taxes in doing so?


Getting Real About the Post-‘Roe’ World

Scott Lemieux, June 24, 2022 [The American Prospect]

….the 2014 midterms, a crucial step in the overruling of Roe, because Republicans were able to take the Senate that year. When Justice Antonin Scalia unexpectedly died in February 2016, Republicans held the seat open until after the presidential election, which was ultimately won by Donald J. Trump. Looking back, the 2014 midterms, derided as meaningless at the time, were just as consequential as any in recent memory.

One candidate who stressed that one potential consequence of the election was that Roe could be overruled if the GOP prevailed was Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, who was in a tough re-election fight with Republican candidate Cory Gardner. Udall’s forceful advocacy on the issue was prescient, but for his pains he was derisively labeled “Mark Uterus,” not only by Republicans but by multiple ostensibly neutral reporters. Gardner won, and voted to confirm all three of the justices nominated by Trump who are part of the anti-Roe majority.

The mocking of Udall as a hysterical scaremonger for talking too much about abortion rights is revealing in multiple ways. First of all, there is the transparent sexism in suggesting that it’s overreaching to emphasize rights that mostly protect women, made especially apparent by the puerile nickname. The idea that it’s somehow gauche to focus too much on reproductive rights is particularly remarkable given that coverage of the 2014 and 2016 elections was dominated by Republican-generated pseudo-scandals about a virus that killed zero Americans and one candidate’s email server management, respectively.

Also implicit in the “Mark Uterus” incident, however, were two additional forms of complacency. First of all, the survival of Roe, despite longtime control of the Court by justices nominated by Republican presidents who nominally opposed it, created a narrative that was enormously beneficial to Republicans trying to win elections in purple or blue states, like Gardner and Maine’s Susan Collins. The theory went that Republican elites didn’t really want to overrule Roe, but were merely pretending to for the sake of pandering to their base. This narrative was always false; the survival of Roe was always a highly contingent fluke, the product of several mistakes by Republican presidents. (Ronald Reagan didn’t want or expect Robert Bork’s nomination to be defeated.) We know this now, although it’s too late to change the outcome.


Climate and environmental crises

Lake Mead is less than 150 feet away from becoming a “dead pool,” making much of the Southwestern U.S. uninhabitable 

[Natural News, via Naked Capitalism 6-25-2022]


As Po dries up, Italy’s food and energy supplies are at risk 

[Associated Press, via Naked Capitalism 6-19-2022]


Gather them now: the documents you’d need to file a FEMA claim 

[Yale Climate Connection, via Naked Capitalism 6-22-2022]


The US Can Halve Its Emissions by 2030—if It Wants To

[Wired, via The Big Picture 6-23-2022]

The economics are clear: Renewables are cheap enough for the country to rapidly decarbonize. Less evident is the political will to pull it off.


As a heat wave grips the US, lessons from the hottest city in America 

[Grist, via The Big Picture 6-23-2022]


The Coming Green Hydrogen Revolution

[Project Syndicate, via Naked Capitalism 6-23-2022]


Physicists Say They’ve Built an Atom Laser That Can Run ‘Forever’ 

[ScienceAlert, via Naked Capitalism 6-22-2022]

Information age dystopia

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-21-2022]


Blockchains Vulnerable to Centralized Control, DARPA Report Finds

[Gizmodo, via Naked Capitalism 6-21-2022]

Democrats’ political suicide

It Is Time For Dems To Fear Their Own Voters

David Sirota, June 24, 2022 [The Lever]


“How ‘vice-signalling’ swallowed electoral politics”

[Financial Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-23-2022]

“We wouldn’t usually associate draconian measures on crime and punishment, or, indeed, a literal wall standing between two nations, as signs of virtue. These are examples of what you might instead call ‘vice signalling’: ostentatious displays of authoritarianism designed to reassure voters that you are ‘tough’ on crime or immigration…. Signalling matters in politics because most people vote on what political scientists call “valence” — your perceived competence on various issues. Now, there is no easy way to signal that you are competent at fighting crime or policing your nation’s borders, because most voters at any given time are not in direct contact with law enforcement or immigration agencies. But showy, conversation-starting pledges are a good way of signalling your commitment…. The real problem with vice signalling is that it risks sending what is, in a democracy, the most dangerous signal of all: that politicians do not really care about their electorate’s concerns, other than as a device to win and to hold on to their own power.”


The (Anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts

Supreme Court overturns constitutional right to abortion

[SCOTUSblog, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-24-2022]

Here is the opinion.


We’re Not Going Back to the Time Before Roe v. Wade. We’re Going Somewhere Worse 

[New Yorker, via Naked Capitalism 6-25-2022]


Clarence Thomas: Supreme Court should ‘reconsider’ rulings on contraceptives and same-sex marriage 

[The Week, via Naked Capitalism 6-25-2022]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-24-2022]



“Abortion in America — the road to rolling back Roe vs Wade”

Lyz Lenz [Financial Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-24-2022]

Growing up in the Christian right: “None of my siblings believe what we were taught. We’ve all grown up. Very few even go to church. Some of my sisters have been victims of abuse and assault. Some have had children, got divorced, faced poverty and loss. One sister, after a devastating car accident, had to declare bankruptcy at 18 in the face of overwhelming medical bills. Some are queer. Some are single mothers. Anti-abortion rhetoric only works if you are never poor, never a victim, never without health insurance, have never found yourself bleeding in a dorm room, unsure how to name what happened to you but afraid you’ll be pregnant and lose everything you’ve fought so hard for, that thing women so rarely get — freedom. Anti-abortion rhetoric only works if you don’t know that your sister has a medical condition that could mean death if she gets pregnant. Anti-abortion rhetoric only works if you’ve never seen your friend recover from a violent beating at the hands of her boyfriend. Never worked at a women’s shelter and seen the wives of pastors come in sobbing, secretly on birth control, because they cannot afford to have another child. So, how did I, the indoctrinated daughter of the American conservative right, grow up to champion the very cause I had been told was evil? Simple: I lived life as an American woman.”


Federal appeals court puts FDA ban on Juul e-cigarette sales on hold 

[NBC, via Naked Capitalism 6-25-2022]


In 6-3 ruling, court strikes down New York’s concealed-carry law 

[SCOTUSBlog, via Naked Capitalism 6-24-2022]


Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

“Liz Cheney Is Winning the January 6 Committee”

[National Review, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-21-2022]

“Congresswoman Cheney has been very effective in relating the committee’s blistering case against the former president. In the short run, however, recent polls suggest an inverse correlation between the impression she has made on the country at large (favorable) and the impression she has made at home in red Wyoming, where pro-Trumpers dominate GOP politics (not so favorable). There are two poles in GOP politics right now: (a) the too-gradually eroding pro-Trump faction that punches above its weight in intraparty matters and (b) the preponderant but diffident “wouldn’t it be nice if he just went away and let us fight today’s battles instead of relitigating 2020” crowd. These camps leave no traction for a “virulently anti-Trump” alternative — it motivates the former and, by keeping Trump front and center, irritates the latter. That being the case, there is no stomach for impeaching Trump yet again. It’s not that he doesn’t deserve it. It’s that everything has its moment, and that moment is past. Today’s prudent Republican position is that Trump is a real problem but one that is fading (though too slowly); in the meantime, GOP objectives must be: Keep the spotlight on the faltering Biden administration and its ruinous woke-progressivism, wallop Democrats in the midterms, and then nominate someone who can win a national presidential election. The assumption is that the cumulative effect of pursuing these aims will marginalize Trump.”


Former Federal Judge Warns of Danger to American Democracy

[NPR, via The Big Picture 6-23-2022]

Retired Federal Judge J. Michael Luttig issued a dire warning to the country: 17 months after the riot on the U.S. Capitol, “Donald Trump and his allies and supporters are a clear and present danger to American democracy.” Luttig was appointed to the federal bench by George H.W. Bush and had worked in both the Bush and Reagan administrations, and was a legal adviser to former Vice President Mike Pence. The United States is at a crossroads similar to the one the country faced during the Civil War, and he said America needs help.


‘What the F-ck Is This?’: Team Trump Blindsided by Jan. 6 Committee Getting Doc Footage 

[Rolling Stone, via Naked Capitalism 6-21-2022]


“Why is no one talking about Doug Mastriano’s plan to destroy public education in Pa.?”

[Philadelphia Inquirer, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-22-2022]

“GOP’s radical Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate would end property taxes, slash per-pupil spending, and boost religious schools and homeschooling.”


“The GOP’s War on Economic Populists”

Matthew Schmitz, June 22, 2022 [Compact]

“Last week, something strange happened in Mississippi. An upstart candidate came in first in a Republican primary while proposing major increases in social spending. Michael Cassidy, a former Navy pilot, beat the incumbent Michael Guest in the state’s Third District while proposing Medicare for All, a $20,000 bonus to newlyweds (repayable in case of divorce), a $250 monthly stipend for children under 10 (rising to $500 monthly for children between 10 and 17), and a maternal-leave program with five years of benefits. Yet more recently, Cassidy has scaled back his proposals—a testament to the difficulties even the most daring would-be populists face when it comes to challenging the GOP’s economic orthodoxies. Cassidy presented his original policy mix as part of an “American Dream” plan designed to make it easier for Americans to marry, have kids, and buy a home. His other ideas included a ban against corporations, hedge funds, and foreign entities owning private residences and farmland, plus “targeted tariffs” and “deporting all illegals.” As that last proposal makes clear, Cassidy is no man of the left. He hammered the incumbent for voting for an early iteration of the Jan. 6 committee and for voting for spending bills that included abortion funding.”



Open Thread


Books and TV and Movies Are Mind Control


  1. marku52

    Well to be fair, McClellan was always complaining to Lincoln about not having enough troops. Still a fine joke on the Useless Dems.

    Want to actually stand for something, rather than “fighting” (and always losing?). Start up abortion clinics on military bases, send out abortion pills from a .gov website.

    Never in a million years. !More fundraising emails!

  2. Z

    The production team of Weekend at Biden’s setting the table for next season’s “appeasement” to the republicans on SS cuts, their lead stiff’s wet dream:


  3. Z

    Bummer Joe, too bad she ain’t a bit taller and had bigger hair …


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