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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 29, 2019

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 29, 2019
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

Strategic Political Economy

Jan Fichtner, Eelke Heemskerk, Javier Garcia-Bernardo, May 11, 2017 [The Conversation, via Alternet]

Disrupting mainstream economics

The new left economics: how a network of thinkers is transforming capitalism
[The Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 6-27-19]

There is a dawning recognition that a new kind of economy is needed: fairer, more inclusive, less exploitative, less destructive of society and the planet. “We’re in a time when people are much more open to radical economic ideas,” says Michael Jacobs, a former prime ministerial adviser to Gordon Brown. “The voters have revolted against neoliberalism.

Climate and environmental crises

Mark Sumner, June 28, 2019 [DailyKos]

The five hottest European summers in the last 600 years have all come in the last twenty years. And 2019 is looking like it may provide not just the hottest day, but the hottest week, month, and year as the radically destabilized weather system continues to draw scalding air farther and farther north. Germany is experiencing it’s hottest June ever. Temperatures in Italy have turned deadly. And records have been shattered across at least six nations. The wave of hot air is also bringing up dust from the Sahara, prompting health warnings because of both temperatures and air quality.

[Weather Underground via Naked Capitalism 6-26-19]

“When low wind shear occurs in summer or fall in the Atlantic’s main development region (MDR), from the coast of Africa through the Caribbean, an active period for major hurricane activity often results. But the major hurricanes that form in the MDR during these situations often have trouble maintaining their intensity when they reach the Southeast U.S. coast, since low wind shear in the MDR is typically accompanied by high wind shear along the Southeast U.S. coast. This high shear, typically associated with strong upper-level winds from the mid-latitude jet stream, helps protect the U.S. East Coast against strikes by full-strength major hurricanes. But research published last month led by Mingfang Ting of Colombia University, Past and Future Hurricane Intensity Change along the U.S. East Coast, found that the Southeast U.S. protective barrier of high wind shear is likely to weaken in coming decades due to global warming. Using multiple climate computer models, the researchers found that global warming is likely to cause wind shear along the Southeast U.S. coast to decline significantly, mostly due to the northward migration of the mid-latitude jet stream that would accompany the expansion of the tropics (in meteorological lingo, we call this the expansion of the Hadley Cell).”

“Heat waves and climate change: Is there a connection?” 

[Yale Climate Connection, via Naked Capitalism 6-28-19]

“Extreme heat may not trigger the same visceral fear as a tornado, but according to NOAA’s natural hazard statistics, it causes nearly twice as many fatalities in the United States each year – more than any other weather hazard…. Extreme heat occurred very rarely 50 years ago in the United States…. But as a result of climate change, the [graph of temperatures plotted on a] bell curve has already shifted by one standard deviation interval – a measure that tells you how spread out the values are – according to a 2016 paper by climate scientist James Hansen. As a result, extreme summer heat now occurs about 7% of the time.”

Sunrise Sits In at DNC Headquarters, Demanding Climate Debate
[Real News Network 6-26-19]

The day before the first Democratic debate in Miami, dozens gathered at the DNC to demand a climate debate. They say they plan to stay until the DNC meets their demands


[Kate Aronoff, Rolling Stone, via Naked Capitalism 6-25-19]

“[A]fter decades of spreading disinformation, fossil fuel interests the world are shifting into a different strategy: carving out a greener, friendlier image for themselves and appearing to embrace a progressive climate stance — as they continue to try to shape legislation to their benefit. The London-based think tank InfluenceMap found the world’s five largest oil companies have spent $1 billion rebranding themselves as ‘green’ since the Paris Agreement, all the while pushing aggressively to access new supplies of oil and undermine climate rules and regulations.”

New York Passes Nation’s Most Comprehensive Clean Energy Legislation
[Real News Network 6-26-19]

Adrien Salazar, who fought for the bill discusses how this bill, which calls for no fossil fuel energy by 2050, will affect poor communities hardest hit by the climate crisis

“The global transition to clean energy, explained in 12 charts” 

[David Roberts, Vox, via Naked Capitalism 6-25-19]  Summary of the “Renewables Global Status Report.”

“[A] few background facts. First, we’re still moving in the wrong direction. Global carbon emissions aren’t falling fast enough. In fact, they aren’t falling at all; they were up 1.7 percent in 2018. Second, we’re still pushing in the wrong direction. Globally, subsidies to fossil fuels were up 11 percent between 2016 and 2017, reaching $300 billion a year. And third, the effort to clean up is flagging. Total investment in renewable energy (not including hydropower) was $288.9 billion in 2018 — less than fossil fuel subsidies and an 11 percent decrease from 2017. This is all bad news. The public seems to have the impression that while things are bad, they are finally accelerating toward something better. It’s not true. Collectively, we haven’t even succeeded in reversing direction yet. Despite all the progress described below, we’re still struggling to get ahold of the emergency brake.”

 GND – An opportunity too big to miss

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 6-25-19]

“Deep declines in wind, solar and battery technology costs will result in a grid nearly half-powered by the two fast-growing renewable energy sources by 2050, according to the latest projections from BloombergNEF (BNEF). In its New Energy Outlook 2019 (NEO), BNEF sees these technologies ensuring that – at least until 2030 – the power sector contributes its share toward keeping global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius.”

“How to design a Green New Deal that really works, for every industry in the U.S.” 

[Fast Company, via Naked Capitalism 6-25-19] A series.

“Though [the AOC/Markey] resolution lacks specific mandates, the concept of a Green New Deal is firm in its goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions in the next decade, creating millions of high-paying jobs for all, providing equal access to necessities like affordable housing and healthy food, and promoting justice for the historically marginalized people in the transition to a new economy. ‘Climate change is the greatest challenge we face,’ Markey tells Fast Company. ‘Every industry and every business will be compelled to respond.’”

Sustainable cost accounting – the change needed to make business take the Green New Deal seriously

[Tax Research UK, via Mike Norman Economics 6-27-19]

Until markets correctly evaluate true price based on true costs, negative externalities will continue to be socialized and the public, which now included everyone in the world, will pay the difference. This won’t happen without institutional changes, including legal….

In contrast natural capital accounting has a very different capital maintenance concept inherent within it. Focusing on the world as a whole, its logic is that that natural capital of the planet must be maintained. I have interpreted this as meaning that the natural capital that might be utilised in a period is that stock of natural resources that might be used by humans at that point in time to support their material needs without prejudicing the opportunity of those in future periods to meet their needs in similar fashion. As is apparent, this is very different from the capital maintenance concept of financial accounting, and in my opinion this is one of the many frontiers in the management of the economy that the climate crisis creates, but which have hardly been touched upon as yet.

[Treehugger, via Naked Capitalism 6-26-19]

Disrupting mainstream economics

Bernie Sanders’ plan to empower workers could revolutionise Britain’s economy:
[Guardian, via Avedon’s Sideshow 6-19-19]

Giving employees a stake in firms would reshape power: this could be the start of a transatlantic challenge to neoliberalism.

[Southfront, via Mike Norman Economics 6-27-19]

A lost century in economics: Three theories of banking and the conclusive evidence

[International Review of Financial Analysis, via Naked Capitalism 6-23-19]
From 2016, still germane.

Disrupting mainstream economics – Modern Monetary Theory

Lars P. Syll — The weird absence of money and finance in economic theory
[Lars Syll, via Mike Norman Economics 6-27-19]

It is indeed strange since “money” as a unit of account is basic for quantitative measurement in economics and finance. Moreover, economic activity involving production, distribution and consumption of real good is dependent of finance in the creation of “money” in a monetary production economy.

“Money” and finance are hidden assumptions in economics that constitute foundations of the framework for economic activity and therefore economics. They are for the most part unexamined, and where they are examined much of the investigation is either wrong or confused.

Economics in the real world

[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 6-24-19]
[Dissent, via Naked Capitalism 6-27-19] .

“As the data show, among high-school-educated white voters, it is the richer members of that group who most dismiss the salience of racial discrimination. The poorest white people are the only income group where a majority believes racism drives the racial economic gap—undercutting the idea that racism is the result of economic suffering. The denial of racism is strongest among high-school grads making $90,000 or more a year. The same is true of college grads and those with graduate degrees: those with higher incomes generally deny the prominence of racism at higher rates than lower-income members of the same educational level. Rather than racism being driven by personal economic pressure, far more compelling are theories that see white racism as stemming from voters justifying their own relative economic success, and their “fear of falling” (as Barbara Ehrenreich put it) if society became more equal.”

The brutal psychological toll of erratic work schedules

Unpredictable hours and variable pay may cause even more distress than low wages.
[Washington Post, via NC AFL-CIO 6-28-19]

12 Facts You Need to Know from the 2019 AFL-CIO Executive Paywatch Report

[AFL-CIO, via NC AFL-CIO 6-28-19]

Even with that extra cash, wages are not keeping up with inflation. The average worker isn’t making enough to cover rent for a two-bedroom apartment in 15 of the largest cities across the country! Meanwhile, 40% of hourly workers have nothing saved up for an emergency, while 75% have less than $500.

We know this equality gap isn’t new. Over the past decade, the average S&P 500 CEO’s pay increased by more than $5 million, while the average worker only saw an increase of less than $800 a year. Not surprisingly, the CEO-to-worker pay ratio remains high: 287 to 1.

Matt Stoller and Lucas Kunce [The American Conservative, via Naked Capitalism 6-28-19]

Wall Street’s short-term incentives have decimated our defense industrial base and undermined our national security.

[Seattle Times, via Naked Capitalism 6-24-19]

Dean Baker [Counterpunch, via Naked Capitalism 6-26-19]

…the OECD reports that life expectancy at birth in Japan increased from 75.9 years in 1990 to 81.0 years in 2016 (the last year for which data are available). In the United States it increased from 71.8 years in 1990 to 76.1 years in 2016. This means that the gap in life expectancy between Japan and the United States has increased from 4.1 years in 1990 to 4.9 years in 2016.

There is an even more dramatic difference in life expectancy at age 65. In Japan, this went from 20.0 years to 24.4 years in 2016. In the U.S., life expectancy at age 65 increased by just 1.7 years over this period, from 18.9 years in 1990 to 20.6 years in 2016.

If we look at unemployment rates, most of us are happy to see that the unemployment rate in the United States has fallen to 3.6 percent, a fifty-year low. By comparison, the unemployment rate in Japan is just 2.4 percent.

I posted this in March 2010 on What really caused Japan’s Lost Decade?

Predatory Finance

Banks reward shareholders with billions in buybacks, dividend hikes after Fed approval
[Mike Norman Economics 6-29-19]

The 10 Most Powerful Hedge Fund Managers This Year
[Worth, via The Big Picture 6-27-19]
In the mythology of economic neoliberalism, these guys get paid the billions they do because they are the smartest, most talented managers skilled at allocating capital. But how much “value” do they actually create? I hope someone takes a list of top hedge fund managers like this and looks up how many patents they have been rewarded for some useful scientific or technological development. Do the same for the “private equity” crowd. These people are all billionaires. (For how much these people get paid yearly, see The Highest-Earning Hedge Fund Managers And Traders.)

Now think of people like James Watson and Francis Crick, the molecular biologists who hypothesized the double helix structure of the DNA molecule. Or Admiral Grace Hopper, who pioneered the profession of computer programming and the idea of machine-independent programming languages, and was a conmsultant to the research team that developed COBOL, one of the first high-level programming languages, and which is still in use today.Why didn’t they become billionaires? Now who of all these actually did something to improve the human condition? 

Lloyds freezes 8,000 offshore bank accounts after money laundering crackdown

[Independent, via Naked Capitalism 6-25-19]One In Six Migrant Children In The U.S. Are Staying At A Shelter Operated By A Private Equity Tycoon

[Forbes, via Naked Capitalism 6-23-19]

Creating new economic potential – science and technology

[Science Daily, via Naked Capitalism 6-28-19]

Our oceans provide…
[World Economic Forum, via The Big Picture 6-23-19]

Desalination plants are here, but they’re not solving the water crisis yet

[Boing Boing, via Naked Capitalism 6-25-19]UK adopts net-zero by 2050 goal for GHGs
[Thomson Reuters Foundation, via American Wind Energy Association 6-27-19]

The UK has passed new legislation calling for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. “Today we’re leading the world yet again in becoming the first major economy to pass new laws to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050,” says energy minister Chris Skidmore.

The country also went two whole weeks without burning coal for electricity.
[Vox, 6-27-19]
Global offshore wind capacity poised to hit 190 GW by 2030
[S&P Global Platts (free registration), via American Wind Energy Association 6-27-19]

The world currently has an installed offshore wind capacity of 23 gigawatts and that figure could increase to 190 GW by 2030, says the Global Wind Energy Council. “We are standing within reach of a truly global offshore wind industry,” says Director of Market Intelligence Karin Ohlenforst.

EIA: US clean energy surpassed coal in April
[Bloomberg (tiered subscription model), via American Wind Energy Association 6-27-19]

The US sourced more of its electrical needs from clean energy than coal for the first time in April, says the Energy Information Administration. The report says the trend will likely continue as more wind and solar projects come online.

Sandia National Labs’ new robot designed for turbine inspections

[TechCrunch, via American Wind Energy Association 6-25-19]

Sandra National Labs has developed a crawling robot that inspects turbine blades both visually and using ultrasonic imaging. The technology improves safety for human workers and can detect internal issues before surface damage appears.

Ship carrying nearly 200 Vestas blades nears PacifiCorp repowering project

[The Daily Astorian (Astoria, Ore.), via American Wind Energy Association 6-25-19]
Vestas turbine blades for a PacifiCorp repowering project in Washington are heading through Astoria, Ore., and up the Columbia River. The blades, which were manufactured in Taranto, Italy, are bound for the Marengo Wind Project near Dayton, Wash.

Editorial: Military-wind bill threatens the future of N.C. wind

[The News & Record (Greensboro, N.C.), via American Wind Energy Association 6-24-19]

The Military Base Protection Act threatens the future of wind in North Carolina, potentially preventing the state and its rural communities from reaping the benefits of wind, writes the editorial board of the Greensboro News & Record. “The military has a process in place for reviewing wind farm proposals and recommending any needed changes, and it’s handling it just fine without this kind of help from North Carolina’s legislators,” the board write.

Top 5 OEMs to control 68% of wind market by 2020

[CleanTechnica, via American Wind Energy Association 6-21-19]
Original equipment manufacturers Vestas, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, General Electric, Goldwind and Envision are on track to control 68% of the global wind market by 2020, according to Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables. The top three will account for more than 50% of the market in 2019.SNCF aims for zero emissions by 2035
[Railway Age 6-27-19]

French National Railways (SNCF) has announced a plan to eliminate emissions – both greenhouse gases and particulates – by 2035 as part of its contribution to achieving France’s zero net emissions target in 2050. This is despite a 20% forecast increase in passenger and freight traffic in France by 2050.

ION Light Rail Transit launched in Ontario, Canada
[Railway Age 6-24-19]

The first of the two phases of the ION Light Rail Transit (LRT), the region of Waterloo’s new rapid transit system in Ontario, Canada, was launched June 21 at Kitchener’s Fairway station.

Quantum Squeezing Lets Researchers Measure Sub-Nanoscale Motion
[Machine Design Today 6-24-19]

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have harnessed the phenomenon of “quantum squeezing” to amplify and measure the motion of a magnesium ion as it travelled a few trillionths of a meter.

Airliner Concepts: A Step Change In Efficiency
Graham Warwick [Aviation Week & Space Technology 6-28-19]

The rising clamor over aviation’s carbon emissions could offer a step change in efficiency beyond that possible with just improvements in engine technology. Here are some of the novel concepts being considered.

The Flying-V is an unconventional configuration for an ultra-efficient Airbus A350-class long-haul aircraft. The concept was originally designed inside Airbus’ advanced projects office in Germany, but is now being pursued by the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands with support from Dutch airline KLM.

 International Federation of Robotics – Annual President’s Report
[International Federation of Robotics 6-26-19]

With over 384,000 industrial robots installed globally in 2018, we again face another record year – according to our preliminary data presented in April. But the growth has slowed down significantly in 2018, compared to the high growth rates of the previous years. This slowdown is caused by several factors: uncertainties over the transition from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles, declining smartphone sales and certain geo-political trends.

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 6-26-19]

“The rail link beneath the Hudson River is critical for commuters on New Jersey Transit and Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, the busiest and most profitable U.S. route with more than 800,000 daily passengers. It sustained severe structural and electrical-system damage from Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and must be shut for repairs. The states are trying to delay that closing until Gateway, a second tunnel, opens.”

Lambert Strether adds: “We can’t even build a tunnel under the goddamned Hudson when we know the existing tunnel is going to fail. Elites to each other, on America: ‘It’s a tear-down.’ ”


Information Age Dystopia

Worldwide Traffic: Top 10 Websites
Barry Ritholtz [The Big Picture 6-26-19]

“Amazon gets U.S. patent to use delivery drones for surveillance service”

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism 6-25-19]

“ Inc is exploring using drones not just to deliver packages but also to provide surveillance as a service to its customers, according to a patent granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office…. The delivery drones can be used to record video of consented user’s property to gather data that can be analyzed to look out, say for example, a broken window, or a fire or if a garage door was left open during the day, the patent described.

“Comcast broke consumer protection law nearly half a million times, Washington state judge rules”

[Inquirer, via Naked Capitalism 6-25-19]

“Comcast must pay a $9.1 million fine and refund thousands of customers for breaking Washington state’s consumer protection law more than 445,000 times, a judge ruled last week…. Comcast charged $5.99 per month for the plan that allowed customers to avoid charges for certain service visits. Between 2011 and mid-2016, Comcast earned more than $85 million in gross revenue from Washington alone in monthly fees for the protection plan, according to the Washington State Attorney General’s Office. More than a third of Washington customers enrolled in the plan by phone were signed up without consent between July 1, 2014, and June 30, 2016, the judge found.”

Boeing’s Software Fix For The 737 MAX Problem Overwhelms The Plane’s Computer

[Moon of Alabama, via Naked Capitalism 6-28-19]

Disrupting mainstream politics

‘An existential threat’: Bernie Sanders faces mounting opposition from moderate Democrats
[The Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 6-25-19]

The legal fight over North Carolina gerrymandering isn’t over. How we got here, and what’s next.
[Raleigh News and Observer, via NC AFL-CIO 6-28-19]

Enemy Actions

Conservative Philanthropy in Higher Education (pdf)
[Urban Institute, via Naked Capitalism 6-25-19]

This literature review sheds light on conservative philanthropic efforts to transform American higher education by promoting free market ideology. It also offers insights into the mechanics behind the conservative, pro–free market philanthropic movement’s success, and is organized into a series of “case studies” of specific efforts and organizations.

How a radical legal ideology gave rise to economic inequality in the US

[Scroll, via Naked Capitalism 6-26-19]

Restoring balance to the economy

UAW, AFL-CIO Hold Workers’ Bill of Rights Town Hall in Statesville

[NC AFL-CIO 6-26-19]

United Auto Workers Local 3520 teamed up with the NC State AFL-CIO to host a “Workers’ Bill of Rights” Town Hall in Statesville last week. The topic of the town hall was the AFL-CIO’s 9-point Workers’ Bill of Rights. Workers, union and community members, and elected officials, including Salisbury Mayor Al Heggins, came together to share personal stories of victories and challenges in the workplace and in public policy and to declare that working together, especially in unions, is the best way for working people to reclaim our freedoms. The town hall also featured the first-ever Piedmont exhibition of “North Carolina Labor History Revealed,” which presents the rich history of worker organizing in our state.

Last Call to Enroll in Carolina Labor School!

Carolina Labor School will return Sunday, July 21 for 6 days of labor education, skill building, and solidarity bonding at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.


End of Fundraiser and Open Thread


Happy Canada Day



    Do these peeps even recognize their own contradictions? Even Guy McPherson has his own shop where he sells near term extinction paraphernalia that further destroys the planet. It’s useless shit no one needs that should not be produced. Whatever happened to leading by example? The Young Turks does it too. In fact, TYT is in the business of selling everything it can sell, including vpn services so their followers can troll the internet like TYT does using many monikers with stellar anonymity tools.

    The Sunrise Movement Shop

  2. StewartM

    Two things:

    1) I think the ‘fear of fallling’ better explains white racism. With our neoliberal economy and its frequent “Jack Belch Welch” layoffs (‘rank and yank’) you are never secure, no matter how “good” your job. I have witnessed myself people who made $75,000, $100,000, $150,000, $200,000 or more losing their jobs in a layoff and then falling from the ranks of the well-to-do to the suddenly struggling. Studies of fascism point out that fascists tended to be people who ‘had, but lost’ or who ‘had, but fear losing’ more than those who never had in the first place. This explains Hitler, and it explains Trump.

    2) On the neoliberal influence on the US military, I offer this:

    Instead of having to PAY all those extra sailors, why not staff it all capitalist-y-like (read: badly understaffed, like all US businesses are nowadays) with far fewer crewmen so that there are no experts at anything on-board!! Seriously, if this ship catches fire due to battle damage, the crew will have to evacuate the ship because NO ONE aboard is skilled in damage control!!

    In WWII, damage control techniques on US navy ships became so advanced that if they had been more fully in-place earlier in the war, only one aircraft carrier would have been lost the entire war. US ships were able to recover from blows that would have sunk the equivalent ships in most other navies. But no, to achieve that all-important *short term cost advantage*, we’re willing to have the whole ship sink to save a few bucks short-term!

    This is what I see every day in capitalist America. Capitalism sacrifices the future for the short-term profit of today. It risks millions in the future to save a buck today for Wall Street. Unless we’re willing to ditch it, not just tweak it, we’re doomed.

  3. Geof

    I worry that “Poverty Doesn’t Make You Racist” is open to a misunderstanding that would encourage abandoning the white working class.

    The article focuses on the contrast between poor whites, making less than $20k a year, the majority of whom (51%) “recognize racism,” and the relatively rich whites making more than $90k, of whom 27% do. But the really big gap in recognition of racism, shown in the final graph, is between the poor (less than $20k, 51% recognize racism) and the working class ($20-$50k, 34%). Keep in mind that working class group represents a lot more voters than does the wealthy category making over $90k.

    The real story in the data, especially when sheer population numbers are considered, isn’t that rich whites deny racism: it’s that the white working class do. Doesn’t this justify the establishment Democrats’ coalition of professionals, poor and minorities, with labour jettisoned?

    I don’t think so. The article talks about economic “fear of falling.” If you’re wealthy, that may just mean losing your privileges. If you’re working poor, that means losing everything. Another word for it is “precarity.” It’s nothing to be sniffed at. No wonder these people are looking for an explanation for what’s happening to them. That’s what Trump delivered: they activated a racist frame to give the white working class a reason for their pain.

    If racism is treated as an immutable characteristic, then it could make sense to discard the working class. I don’t think that’s moral, as I see everyone as flawed but worthwhile, and I think it would have terrible consequences. But just as a frame can be activated, it can be sidelined. The way to elbow out a frame is with a competing frame, a better explanation: like class inequality. (I’m not saying that racism is all reducible to economics, but it sure is fueled by it.)

    The article says that “there is no tradeoff between racial and economic justice; the same message can mobilize black, Latinx, and Asian Democratic voters as well as the portion of the white electorate who recognize the reality of racism.” I agree, but I think it’s an even bigger winner than that: I think this can even reach whites who do not currently recognize the reality of racism.

    My worry is that there is an unintended catfood interpretation: poverty doesn’t make you racist, so we can address racial injustice without economic injustice. It is quite possible to deliver racial justice by give people of colour a hand up without reducing racism among white people (heck, one could even increase it). That’s probably a pretty wedge technique for building a coalition. But it’s no way to solve the root problem, nor to build a country.

  4. StewartM


    I don’t think so. The article talks about economic “fear of falling.” If you’re wealthy, that may just mean losing your privileges.

    I guess we differ on what is ‘rich’. People making $90,000, $125,00, $150,000 even $200,000 are not ‘rich’ in that they are immune to being wiped out too…it just takes longer for their savings to be drained away than someone who is the 50 % percentile. Some of these incomes don’t get you even into the top 10 %. So yes, these people are richer than most but still have a quite-legitimate fear of falling into poverty too.

    To give you an idea, to be in the 1 % you need an income of at least $720,000 and a net worth exceeding $10 million. Yeah, if you’re *there* you’re relatively safe. $10 million or more would be able to let most live in reasonable comfort for the remainder of their lives even if they lost their job.

    The problem with Democratic “liberalism” over much of the past forty years is that “liberal” (sneer quotes fully intended) policies involve taking money and benefits away from those making, say, $90,000 a year to give it to to those making < $20k or 30k, and usually doing it in a way that not only doesn't touch the top 1 % or 0.1 % (i.e. the donor class), but makes the very richest even richer in the process. That's why they turned against "liberalism"; and understandably so, for it cost them personally.

    Yet the top 1 % and 0.1 % is where the money is, and where it can be taxed and cost the fewest votes.

  5. Geof

    StewartM: I agree with everything you say. I should not have used that word.

    I think some people would interpret the original article this way too, as saying that it’s not the poor who are racist, but those in the upper part of the distribution (the vast majority of whom, as you say, are not wealthy by any reasonable standard).

  6. bruce wilder

    @ StewartM

    RE: Navy ship manning.

    Very interesting article. I do not have the information to judge damage control prep and planning.

    I can say without equivocation that the Burke-class destroyers had their design wrecked by a traditionalist insistence on too large a crew. The Fitzgerald and McCain — the two destroyers that suffered fatalities in collisions with commercial ships — demonstrated some of the very real hazards of having way too many people on board. Those destroyers have a theoretical complement of around 280. That is an absurd number. The Zumwalts — a procurement catastrophe that demonstrates neoliberalism’s real vice, greed and tech delirium — have 130 i believe, which would have been a reasonable design goal for the Burke ships in the 1980s.

    Controlling the ship is not a process that lends itself well to multiplying the number of hands assigned to the task. The McCain got into trouble when the officer in charge of controlling the ship’s direction and speed (which he must do thru the hands of enlisted crew members) ordered one crew member to take over the helm while a different crew member retained propulsion control.
    But, previously a decision had been made to separate the port and starboard propulsion shafts but no one remembered this, and one-half of propulsion went with the transfer of helm. Switching assignment control from one computer panel work station to another reset the rudder and combined with the unnoticed transfer of half of propulsion confused both officer and crew about which panel had actual control of either function. (Imagine trying to drive a car by instructing two different people, one at the wheel and one with her foot on the accelerator and not noticing that two different people had feet on two different accelerators! And, the officer trying to manage really cannot tell for certain what anyone is doing at a glance. Oh, and by the way, a whole ‘nother team is managing the process of looking ahead and in the vicinity) Mind, with the McCain nothing had actually failed electromechanically; the officer and his team did not know that.

    The Fitzgerald fell afoul of a system of navigation and situational awareness that requires a fairly large team to manage several conceptually different and unintegrated systems of navigation and navigation monitoring. A team completely different and physically separated from the team actually steering the ship. (Warships have a more challenging problem than commercial ships because they cannot broadcast their own positions with the transponders used by commercial ships and are procedurally discouraged from relying on the monitoring of commercial ship transponders.). The Fitzgerald managed to miss the commercial ship’s flashing lights warning of imminent collision as well.

    Back in the day, ships’s crews did have to have highly specialized craftsmen both to operate the “analogue” systems and to maintain and repair parts on board. As the electronic and electrical control systems have proliferated, and with that proliferation, a repair by swapping out spare parts philosophy, the imperative to improvise repairs while underway has resulted in routine cannibalization. As a result, important systems are routinely inoperable. One of the McCain’s radar units was not working. And i understand it the Fitzgerald’s radar was out as well — the report i saw was unspecific. If i recall correctly, on the Fitzgerald, the bridge monitoring station in the captain’s cabin was largely or completely inoperable due to cannibalization.

    I have zero confidence in the Navy’s ability to design a ship to fulfill realistic military purpose. But, reducing crew size and eliminating pseudo-craft specializations is actually sensible as a direction, given the evolution of control technologies.

  7. bruce wilder

    Re: racism & poverty

    There is an older literature on authoritarian political attitudes and personality built on empirical observation (using survey instruments primarily) that identified a clustering of certain authoritarian attitudes or prejudices in some people. So, a propensity to subscribe to racist generalization seemed to correlate highly with . . . what? Fear, economic dependence, limited education and cultural horizons. The literature identified the clustering of authoritarian attitudes as defining “right-wing authoritarian followers“. And, distinguished a completely different personality configuation — social dominance orientation — in demagogic leaders (Trump).

    Racism as political philosophy was historically a deliberate creation by elites to justify and rationalize a system of dominance and oppression. When people today use, say, accusations of “white privilege” against working class or even merely middle class people, i cannot help but think their hidden intent is to undercut any sympathy for poor whites and to undermine the potential for class solidarity across color. I see attacks on the faint memory of the New Deal or industrial unionizing of the New Deal era as irredeemably racist, for example from trolls representing themselves as “left”.

    At the same time, there is practically a cottage industry now in analysis of institutional racism of often ill-conceived character. Daily Howler (an ancient blog) has been carrying on about claims made by “experts” about the current state of school segregation, claims designed to incite outrage but not effective reform. Too many statistics make us stupid apparently, so stupid that Kamala Harris looks good and sounds good on teevee when talking nonsense on “busing”.

  8. Frank Stain


    You are mashing together different theoretical formulations of the history of authoritarianism. In the 1950s, the theory had a distinctly Freudian slant, with a focus on childhood relationships and an unhappy resolution of the oedipus complex as the origin of prejudicial attitudes. It is actually Bob Altameyer’s account that relies on social learning rather than infant development, and a social constellation of authoritarian followers and SDO leaders. Problem with Altameyer’s account is it’s a bit circular. Political prejudice is present in people whose answers to survey questions reveal prejudice. But that doesn’t tell us anything about the underlying dynamic driving the prejudice. This is why it makes more sense to define authoritarian as a generalized fear of (social/cultural) difference (unlike conservatism, which is more akin to a fear of social change). What’s vitally important, but never part of the research agenda in ’empirical’
    studies, is figuring out how authoritarianism is driven by the experience of living in a deeply stratified, rapidly changing capitalist society.

  9. bruce wilder

    Frankie: What’s vitally important, but never part of the research agenda in ’empirical’
    studies, is figuring out how authoritarianism is driven by the experience of living in a deeply stratified, rapidly changing capitalist society.

    Of course, that is what is important. Altemeyer in his mild-mannered, stilted academic data-driven way has quite a bit to say about that. Just calling authoritarian followers, “followers”, is critical. Calling attitudes, “attitudes”, and not philosophy, is important. The role-playing games that demonstrate the social dynamics of having a high density of authoritarian followers in the room are important. The measurable shifts that happen with education and life experience are important.

    Most people cannot wrap their minds around the simple notion that leaders and followers do not share values or philosophy in authoritarian political dynamics.

    Defining authoritarian as a generalized fear of (social/cultural) difference would be both circular and superficial. That is only one propensity among three clusterings in Altemeyer’s scheme. And, like all of his attitude continua, it is a continuum. It is present to a degree in everyone. I dare suggest that such a fear of the flyover people was manifest in the liberal Clinton scorning “deplorables”.

    The problem arises in politics because of political leadership that exploits the receptive attitudes of people some ways down the social and economic hierarchy. Or fails to make appeals of the necessary form on behalf of responsible policy.

    Adorno et alia, having survived the cataclysm of the two world wars and the great depression which is attributable in part to the demagogic mobilization in totalitarian political movements were, imho, too ready to pathologize individual psychology.

  10. Hugh

    Re Blackrock et al, those trillions have to go somewhere. I assume the vast majority of that money comes from the upper 20%. I agree with your point about innovation. Surprisingly, Einstein, Bohr, Fermi, Feynman, Hubble weren’t billionaires either.

    “There is a dawning recognition that a new kind of economy is needed: fairer, more inclusive, less exploitative, less destructive of society and the planet. “We’re in a time when people are much more open to radical economic ideas,” says Michael Jacobs”

    This is actually funny in that having an economy that is fairer and less destructive is considered radical.

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