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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – March 7, 2021

by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy

All futurism is Afrofuturism

Noah Smith [Noahpinion, via Naked Capitalism 3-4-21]

recent paper in The Lancet attempts to model how African population will change as women’s education and access to contraception (the two biggest things other than GDP that we know affect fertility) increase. They predict a population for Sub-Saharan Africa of about 3.4 billion by century’s end — only 0.8 billion lower than the UN median projection. That’s still an absolutely enormous fraction of humanity, and an even larger chunk of the young population.

Thus, the future of Africa is the future of humanity, despite the fact that Africa will experience a normal fertility transition and its population will eventually stabilize rather than explode. I don’t think people in the U.S. (or, probably, other regions) have come to grips with the full import of this.

But what happens to Africa is even more important, relative to the rest of the world, than these population numbers suggest! This is because Africa is still a mostly poor region. Economics teaches us that marginal utility — i.e. the amount life gets better when you get a little richer — is much higher for poor people. And with China and (to some degree) India industrializing successfully and seeing population growth slow, soon most of the extremely poor people in the world will probably reside in Africa.

Chinese vaccines sweep much of the world, despite concerns

[AP, via The Big Picture 3-3-21]

China’s vaccine diplomacy campaign has been a surprising success: It has pledged half a billion doses of its vaccines to more than 45 countries. With just four of China’s many vaccine makers claiming they are able to produce at least 2.6 billion doses this year, a large part of the world’s population will end up inoculated not with the fancy Western vaccines boasting headline-grabbing efficacy rates, but with China’s humble, traditionally made shots.

Trends in Income From 1975 to 2018 

[Rand Corporation, via Naked Capitalism 2-28-21]

 We document the cumulative effect of four decades of income growth below the growth of per capita gross national income and estimate that aggregate income for the population below the 90th percentile over this time period would have been $2.5 trillion (67 percent) higher in 2018 had income growth since 1975 remained as equitable as it was in the first two post-War decades. From 1975 to 2018, the difference between the aggregate taxable income for those below the 90th percentile and the equitable growth counterfactual totals $47 trillion.

The American Dream is dying, and it’s taking democracy with it

[Washington Post 3-5-2021]

Democracy is in retreat around the globe, according to the latest annual report from Freedom House, a civil liberties watchdog.

The situation is especially concerning in the United States, where a decade of creeping authoritarianism has produced one of the world’s most rapid paces of democratic deterioration, according to the report. In terms of individual freedoms, we’re now “closer to countries such as Romania and Panama than Western European partners such as France and Germany,” as Ishaan Tharoor noted recently. But there’s a major economic component to our recent decline, as well: the yawning divide between rich and poor, which researchers have found to be both a cause and a consequence of democratic backsliding here and elsewhere….


“Long-running and interrelated disparities in education and housing” are another major area of concern. Black homeownership rates continue to fall from their 2004 peak, according to the report, driven in part by mortgage discrimination against non-Whites. In the United States, homeownership is both the engine of middle-class wealth and a major determinant of quality public schooling. As a result, there is a yawning wealth gap between White and Black American families….

The American Dream — “the notion of a fair society in which hard work will bring economic and social advancement, regardless of the circumstances of one’s birth,” as they define it — is faltering in a society that now has one of the lowest rates of upward mobility in the wealthy world….

Disrupting mainstream economics

The Goldilocks Stimulus Myth

Yanis Varoufakis [Project Syndicate, via Naked Capitalism 3-3-21]

The great difference between 1929 and 2008 was that in 2008 the banks were not allowed to fail. One way to save them was a large enough fiscal stimulus. Direct injections of freshly minted money to consumers and firms – to pay off debts and to increase consumption and investment – would have re-floated Main Street and, indirectly, Wall Street. This was the road not taken by the Obama administration.

Instead, the Fed printed trillions of dollars, and the failing banks were re-floated directly. But while the banks were saved, the economy was not freed from the liquidity trap. The banks lent the new money to corporations, but, because their customers were not re-floated, managers were unwilling to risk plowing the money into good jobs, buildings, or machines. Instead, they took it to the stock market, causing the largest-ever disconnect between share prices and the real economy….

The 12 years before the pandemic arrived explain why a sizeable stimulus today may not achieve what it could have achieved in 2009. A successful stimulus must bring investment closer to the level of available savings. But the moment financial markets get a whiff that this is about to happen, they will push interest rates up to a level reflecting the better balance between savings and investment. Immediately, corporations hooked on low interest rates will face ruin; so will their bankers….  in practice, there is no time for corporations to be weaned off their dependency on low interest rates, because any stimulus takes a lot longer to stimulate incomes than it does to boost interest rates.

The combination of the liquidity trap and 12 years of corporate dependency on near-zero interest rates has, therefore, seen to it that any fiscal stimulus now, whatever its size, is bound to fail in one or both of its crucial aims: To boost investment and to prevent a chain reaction of corporate failures.

“Going big” might have worked in 2009, but in 2021 Biden must go beyond fiscal stimulus. Whatever quantity of money he pumps into the US economy, he will fail unless he does what is necessary to lift the spending power of those who have next to none: a decent minimum wage, compulsory collective bargaining, and direct unconditional payments.


Predatory Finance

The Big Long

[Reformed Broker, via The Big Picture 3-6-21]

The risk-free rate is what you can earn from buying an asset that theoretically cannot lose its value (think 3-month Treasury bills or 3-7 year Treasury bonds) and subtracting the rate of inflation from the current yield of those bills or bonds. If we believe inflation is 2 percent annually (sure, so long as you don’t try to actually buy something), then the risk-free rate is effectively and actually zero (or worse).

The investments you are making do not have to generate cash flow right now to support the cost of your borrowing, because you’re borrowing for nothing…. We’re in year twelve of this phenomenon for all practical purposes – zero percent interest rates and no cost of capital whatsoever, save for that short-lived game of chicken between the Fed and the S&P 500 that resolved itself on Christmas Eve 2018 (spoiler: the Fed swerved, the stock market got to kiss the hot girl who waved the flag). And of course, the monetary policy that was necessary to counteract the pandemic was like dropping a gasoline truck onto a forest fire.

So now you have trillions of dollars, owed with almost no interest, all chasing investments with the potential for massive capital appreciation – the cost of this money being so low as to render the need for current cash flows completely irrelevant to the global players of this game: Sovereign wealth funds, hedge funds, asset managers, index ETFs, mutual and closed-end funds, retirement savers, family offices, day traders, corporate treasuries and teenagers on TikTok.

GM cut its dividend and the stock price doubled. Disney too. Dividends used to be sacred. Cutting them was a sign that something was severely wrong. Not anymore. Nobody wants your stupid f***ing two percent dividend yield. “What is this a tip?” We want annually recurring revenue business models and 300 percent capital appreciation of the share price. We don’t even care if you actually earn profits. Just don’t tell us there’s a ceiling on revenue growth. That’s the kiss of death. No limit. No ceiling. Other than that, do whatever you want. Smoke weed on Joe Rogan’s podcast. Launch rockets. Manipulate crypto currencies. Tweet on acid. Pierce your nose. Spit in the eyes of your regulators. Incite a riot. Just don’t anchor yourself to a profit margin or take your foot off the accelerator.

One year ago, MicroStrategy was a mundane, third-tier publicly traded software concern with a moribund stock price that hadn’t moved in nearly two decades. Then the CEO decided to dump most of his treasury into Bitcoin. The the stock went from 100 to 1000. Now he’s doing a convertible bond offering (more free money) with the express purpose of buying more Bitcoin. He’s not even pretending to invest in his company’s software products. He’s not working on productivity nor innovation. He’s simply creating value out of thin air through a massive bet on asset price inflation.


Climate and environmental crises

Why Texas Republicans Fear the Green New Deal

Naomi Klein [New York Times, via The Big Picture 2-28-21]

….Texans are living through the collapse of a 40-year experiment in free-market fundamentalism, one that has also stood in the way of effective climate action. Fortunately, there’s a way out — and that’s precisely what Republican politicians in the state most fear.

A fateful series of decisions were made in the late-’90s, when the now-defunct, scandal-plagued energy company Enron led a successful push to radically deregulate Texas’s electricity sector. As a result, decisions about the generation and distribution of power were stripped from regulators and, in effect, handed over to private energy companies. Unsurprisingly, these companies prioritized short-term profit over costly investments to maintain the grid and build in redundancies for extreme weather…. Put bluntly, Texas is about as far from having a Green New Deal as any place on earth. So why have Republicans seized it as their scapegoat of choice?

Blame right-wing panic. For decades, the Republicans have met every disaster with a credo I have described as “the shock doctrine.” When disaster strikes, people are frightened and dislocated. They focus on handling the emergencies of daily life, like boiling snow for drinking water. They have less time to engage in politics and a reduced capacity to protect their rights. They often regress, deferring to strong and decisive leaders — think of New York’s ill-fated love affairs with then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani after the 9/11 attacks and Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Large-scale shocks — natural disasters, economic collapse, terrorist attacks — become ideal moments to smuggle in unpopular free-market policies that tend to enrich elites at everyone else’s expense. Crucially, the shock doctrine is not about solving underlying drivers of crises: It’s about exploiting those crises to ram through your wish list even if it exacerbates the crisis…. [Texas governor Abbott] knows that the Green New Deal, which promises to create millions of union jobs building out shock-resilient green energy infrastructure, transit and affordable housing, is extremely appealing…. All that Texas’s Republicans have to offer, in contrast, is continued oil and gas dependence….

So of course the Green New Deal finds itself under fierce attack. Because for the first time in a long time, Republicans face the very thing that they claim to revere but never actually wanted: competition — in the battle of ideas.

Goldman Made $200 Million Off the U.S. Deep Freeze, at Least on Paper

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 3-6-21]

The missing trillions: The hidden cost of energy externalities

[University of Sussex, via Naked Capitalism 3-2-21]

The hidden social, environmental and health costs of the world’s energy and transport sectors is equal to more than a quarter of the globe’s entire economic output, new research from the University of Sussex Business School and Hanyang University reveals.

According to analysis carried out by Professor Benjamin K. Sovacool and Professor Jinsoo Kim, the combined externalities for the energy and transport sectors worldwide is an estimated average of $24.662 trillion—the equivalent to 28.7% of global Gross Domestic Product….

“It is not that these costs are never paid by society, they are just not reflected in the costs of energy. And unfortunately these hidden costs are not distributed equally or fairly. The most affected parties are under-represented in the marketplace, and have external costs imposed upon them, whether that be the families forced to live in areas of highest air pollution and toxicity because they have no other choice to the inhabitants of low-lying island states such as the Maldives or Vanuatu who are threatened most immediately by rising sea levels.”

“Interview: Saikat Chakrabarti, creator of the Green New Deal”

Noah Smith [Noahpinion, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 3-3-21]

Chakrabarti: “[T]he team that worked on the Green New Deal was greatly inspired by the American approach to World War 2. In 1940, as the threat of war loomed, FDR famously delivered his Arsenal of Democracy speech. What’s a little less known is he followed up in a speech to Congress by setting specific production targets for what America needed to produce, which included 185,000 planes, 120,000 tanks, 55,000 anti-aircraft guns, and 18 million tons of merchant shipping. For context, in 1939, America had built 3,000 planes. A lot of experts at the time thought FDR was just doing political theatre and these numbers were completely unrealistic. But of course, America crushed these targets–we built 300,000 planes in five years. So how’d we do it? That’s a long story (and I highly recommend the amazing Destructive Creation if you are curious about it), but it involved mobilizing our economy to hit actual goals. It wasn’t a story of socialism vs. capitalism, but rather a story of all of American society trying, together, to do something ambitious and not being tied to any ideology to do it.”


Economic Armageddon: The COVID Collapsed Economy

“Silicon Valley Bus Drivers Restored Community Rides for Free—By Taking Matters into Their Own Hands”

[Labor Notes, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 3-1-21]

“With Covid cases surging in their ranks, bus drivers in Santa Clara, California, demanded to resume rear-door boarding, which is proven to reduce the risk of infection. Management of the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) balked, even blaming the workers for getting sick. Pressure mounted from the leadership of Transit (ATU) Local 265, and from rider and community groups. But it was rank-and-file bus drivers who forced management’s hand when they started planning to stop boarding at the front door whether the agency agreed or not. Bosses prefer anything to allowing workers to run the company. On February 3, the agency announced that it would resume rear-door boarding.”

Housing insecurity and the COVID-19 pandemic

[Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, via Naked Capitalism 3-1-21]

Lambert Strether summarizes: “$90 billion in missed payments. Nearly 10% of Americans may lose housing.”

First 100: Biden’s Rescue Plan Is Necessary Because Inequality Masks the Economic Pain

David Dayen, March 2, 2021 [The American Prospect]

There are two main objections to the bill, or at least to the economic relief portions of it. First, the economy is fine; second, people have too much money already. When you break it down, those are the objections. They’re a bit self-negating, but let’s take them one by one.

The economy is not fine. Real personal income less transfer payments, which is a measure of the economy absent government support, is down nearly 3 percent year over year. And it decreased in January, so the trend is negative. This is a worse trough than the 1982 or 1991 recessions. Meanwhile the low point in this cycle, created last April, was worse than the Great Recession. In other words, if you kick out the government’s props under the economy, it’s not a pretty picture.

Even this is a distortion, because we know that the harm from the COVID crisis has collected in the low end of the income scale. Every complaint about the ARP is sold as a story about the economy in aggregate, without accounting for that pain at the low end. But Matthew C. Klein managed to disaggregate some of the numbers last week….  “about 28 percent of the increase in liquid assets… went to Americans in the top 1 percent of the income distribution.” Meanwhile, just 14 percent of that increase is held by the bottom 60 percent of income earners. And these figures cut off last September; we know that in the fourth quarter, when no additional federal support was coming in, lower-income Americans drew almost one-third of their checking account funds out of the bank, and most Americans had less in checking at the end of 2020 than the previous quarter. Meanwhile stock and housing wealth is concentrated at the top.

Another way of saying this is that Blackstone CEO Steven Schwarzman took home $610.5 million in compensation last year. That could mess up the aggregate figures!

On minimum wage bill: 

Either you end the filibuster or find 10 Republicans to support this bill. But several Republicans have spent the past week coming up with alternative wage-hike ideas. There’s at least a starting point for negotiations, as Republicans want to avoid rejecting a popular policy. This is what I meant by putting the bill on the floor. Democrats might have to hear out Republicans on E-Verify, the system intended to confirm eligibility to work at U.S. employers. You wouldn’t need a militarized border if you accepted that concession and removed economic incentives to migrate, so if Republicans want to talk about demilitarization, so be it.

The Pandemic Proves the Value of Raising the Minimum Wage 

[Bloomberg, via The Big Picture 3-1-21]

States that have balked at requiring a higher wage lag in growth, personal income and, most important, retail business (Bloomberg)

Between 2012 and 2020, the 29 states that approved minimum wages above the federal level expanded faster with bigger increases in personal income, employment and consumer spending than the 21 states resisting anything above the minimum $7.25 last raised in 2009, according to data compiled by Bloomberg….

California, whose five-year-old Fair Wage Act proved benign for business, still leads the nation with 13% per capita growth in gross domestic product since 2016. Nine of the top 10 states setting the pace for U.S. growth are similarly committed to the higher minimum wage…. Since Washington state voted to increase its minimum wage in steps five years ago, its retail business contribution to U.S. GDP increased $17 billion, or 51%, more than any other state, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

First 100: Will Senate Democrats Shrink the State and Local Aid Fund?

David Dayen, March 3, 2021 [The American Prospect]

What absolutely needs to happen is a “maintenance of effort” clause so red states don’t take this money and pour it into tax cuts. Kansas is already thinking about this. That should absolutely be disallowed. If the state of Kansas can’t find a worthwhile project to spend on, they can give the money back. In fact, I have an idea for them: Kansas is 42nd among states in vaccinations of at least one dose to their population, an 39th in percentage of supply used. Maybe spend on that!


Health Care Crisis

I think we’re getting to a tipping point 

[Welcome to Hell World, via Naked Capitalism 3-1-21]

Features an interview with a health insurance billing coder, who reveals the dirty not-so-secrets.

For about ten years our man here today has worked in medical billing. What is that? Basically he’s the guy who takes the bill from your doctor for your medical care, presents it to the insurance company to try to get money out of them to cover it, then comes back to you with whatever stupid amount you now owe. Along the way all manner of mystical bullshit transpires that he almost doesn’t even understand himself. It’s essentially alchemy. Turning medicine into money.

He’s worked for single practice providers and nursing facilities and doctors with a variety of specialties including ones whose clientele are regular assholes like us and ones who cater to the rich and famous in California….

In my lifetime I’ve seen a demonstrative decrease in how satisfied people are with the care they receive, and a lack of trust in physicians. That to me is all driven by the profit motive. I think that there’s a real lack of understanding, by design, of how the business of healthcare operates, and how insurance companies make money. I think the real driver of discontent with healthcare is the move into for-profit health insurance….

The way that for-profit insurance makes money is this: You pay your premium, and then they hold that in an account that gains interest. Maybe they invest it. The point is they are making money off of holding it. You go to see your doctor, they write down why you were there, the length of the appointment, then I code it and submit it out. The insurance company gets it and they say, oh we didn’t actually get it. They say the claim was lost in the mail. Then I have to go, no, no, it was sent on this day. Then they go, oh, ok we did get it, but actually, you needed a pre-authorization for this. Ok, let’s go back and do that. All of these things are to really delay and hold onto that money so it gains interest. That’s why you get pre-authorizations, and ticky-tack denials, these things that really make it more difficult for you the consumer, while the insurance company makes more money.

The History of Homelessness in the United States

[National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, July 2018]

Appendix B from Permanent Supportive Housing: Evaluating the Evidence for Improving Health Outcomes Among People Experiencing Chronic Homelessness.


Creating new economic potential – science and technology

How Europe Became the World’s Biggest Electric-Car Market—and Why It Might Not Last

[Wall Street Journal, via The Big Picture 3-2-21]

Subsidies and more choices have helped spur consumer demand, but China serves as a warning that such momentum can be fleeting…. Sales of plug-in electric vehicles in Europe rose 137% to 1.4 million vehicles last year, outpacing China, which recorded a 12% increase to 1.3 million, and the U.S., where sales rose 4% to 328,000, according to, a research group.

World’s highest-capacity’ solid-state battery developed in Japan

[Nikkei Asian Review, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 3-5-21]

“With a lower risk of fires and more enhanced energy efficiency than conventional lithium-ion batteries, solid-state batteries are considered to be the next-generation power source. Leading manufacturers in solid-state technology include Japanese peers Toyota Motor and Murata Manufacturing, but they have yet to tackle such challenges as increasing capacity and trimming costs. Hitachi Zosen sees demand for use in such harsh conditions as space and for industrial equipment operated in atypical environments. With plans to double the battery’s capacity by 2025, the infrastructure and plant builder has begun small-scale production of a prototype and seeks to work with a partner on commercialization.”

Information Age Dystopia

Google’s FLoC Is a Terrible Idea”

[Electronic Frontier Foundation, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 3-5-21].

“The power to target is the power to discriminate. By definition, targeted ads allow advertisers to reach some kinds of people while excluding others. A targeting system may be used to decide who gets to see job postings or loan offers just as easily as it is to advertise shoes. Over the years, the machinery of targeted advertising has frequently been used for exploitationdiscrimination, and harm. The ability to target people based on ethnicity, religion, gender, age, or ability allows discriminatory ads for jobs, housing, and credit. Targeting based on credit history—or characteristics systematically associated with it— enables predatory ads for high-interest loans. Targeting based on demographics, location, and political affiliation helps purveyors of politically motivated disinformation and voter suppression. All kinds of behavioral targeting increase the risk of convincing scams.” I can think of some examples… Concluding: “We emphatically reject the future of FLoC. That is not the world we want, nor the one users deserve. Google needs to learn the correct lessons from the era of third-party tracking and design its browser to work for users, not for advertisers.” • But that’s not what Google needs at all. It’s what we need.

Collapse of Independent News Media

In Defense Of Substack

Matt Taibbi, March 1, 2021

….Roberts is making a “stolen valor” argument. As it’s abundantly clear she’s talking about people like myself and Greenwald in particular, she’s arguing that we made our names as reporters in the structure of traditional newsrooms, taking advantage of “norms and practices” like fact-checking and editing that, in her mind, is what first induced readers to trust us. Then we took that trust, that precious thing nurtured in the cradle of mainstream media oversight, absconded with it, and fled to Substack, to hoard unearned profits.

Roberts has things backward. Greenwald and I (as well as many other prominent Substack writers) got our start as independents. He was a blogger and I edited my own print newspapers. We both built substantial readerships on our own before being scooped up by “traditional” news organizations, in a process identical to the one Roberts denounces when done by Substack….

Why did a source like former NSA contractor Edward Snowden choose to come forward to Glenn Greenwald in particular? He surely wasn’t bothered by the fact that Glenn didn’t come up through the ranks of a paper like the New York Times or Washington Post….

The answer connects to one of the primary reasons audiences are moving to places like Substack: the perception that traditional news outlets have become tools of the very corporate and political interests they’re supposed to be overseeing. Roberts complains about lines between opinion and reporting being blurred at Substack (an absurd comment on its own, but that’s a separate issue), but the “blurring” problem at those other organizations is far more severe. Are newspapers like the New York Times checks on power, or agents of it?

It was bad enough when the traditional newsrooms Roberts so esteems near-universally swallowed the WMD lie, but the real kicker was when the worst offenders in that episode were promoted, and given the helm at major magazines and journalistic supertankers like the Times. What signal does that send to audiences?

Because this is not a bug but a feature, these same types of errors have been repeated over and over, to the point where papers like the Times and the Washington Post eventually became little more than conduits for anonymous intelligence sources spouting unconfirmable fairy tales like the pee tape. The major “traditional” cable networks, as well as many of the bigger daily newspapers, have for years now been engaged in mad hiring sprees of ex-spooks, putting whole nests of known perjurers and Langley goons on their payrolls as contributors, where they regularly provide “commentary” on news stories in which they themselves have involvement. And Roberts wants to lecture us about “disclosure of compromise”?

The Biden Transition and the Fight for Real Hope and Change This Time

What Joe Biden Gets Totally Wrong About Student Debt

The Nation, via Naked Capitalism 3-1-21]

What the Neera Tanden affair reveals about the Washington DC swamp

David Sirota [Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 2-28-21]

Lessons From Today’s Doomed Effort To Save The $15 Minimum Wage

[The DailyPoster 3-5-2021]

There was another way Democrats could have moved forward with the $15 minimum wage in their COVID-19 relief bill: Vice President Harris, as presiding Chair of the Senate, could have ruled against the parliamentarian’s advice and kept the provision in the legislation. While the Senate could vote to overturn the ruling, it would take 60 of the Senate’s 100 members to do so….

In other words, if at least 41 Democrats refused to overturn Harris’ ruling, the minimum wage provision would have remained in the bill.

Today, 42 Democrats voted in support of a $15 minimum wage. That is one more than would have been necessary for the alternative approach to work.

Sirota argues that this shows Biden wasn’t really in support of the $15 minimum wage. But, this look to me more like something that should be on Senate Majority Leader Schumer. Though, with his 30 years of experience in the Senate, Biden surely knew this was a parliamentry option. So…. 

And then, there’s this, too….

Kyrsten Sinema’s Swamp Tale

David Sirota and Andrew Perez [The DailyPoster 3-6-2021]

A devastating review of how Arizona Democratic Senator Sinema morphed from a darling of the Green Party, to a “swamp monster.” 

But as she got comfortable in the Washington swamp, Sinema began to change her tune.

She voted to help corporate lobbyists harm lots of the marginalized people she claimed she got into politics to protect. She broke with her party to help the financial industry roll back already weak regulations passed in the wake of the financial crisis. She became one of the top recipients of campaign cash from predatory lenders, and helped Republicans advance legislation to protect those lenders.

In all, Sinema cast votes with Trump priorities half the time, according to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight. Her elevation to the Senate Banking Committee was considered a big win for Wall Street. Last summer, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce awarded Sinema their “inaugural Abraham Lincoln Leadership for America Award and Jefferson-Hamilton Award for Bipartisanship.”

The eight Democrats who voted ‘no’ on $15 minimum wage

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism 3-6-21]

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 3-6-21]

First 100: Whatever Happened to Executive Action?

David Dayen, March 4, 2021 [The American Prospect]

This is what legislating looks like, and it’s what it will look like for the next two years, even if you get rid of the filibuster. Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, and every other Senate Democrat has maximum leverage if Republicans don’t sign onto bills. (And considering that Republicans are making Senate clerks spend ten hours reading the entire American Rescue Plan, a process that’s normally waived, I don’t see much bipartisanship on the horizon.) It’s going to be a grinding, soul-crushing, enervating spectacle for those who want to see policy advances, even if the end result is positive. The American Rescue Plan is a powerful piece of legislation but everyone will remember the useless extraction of 0.6 percent of its value in check targeting. Those are the biases of journalism and politics, and it’s a fair point when popular policies are needlessly held back.

And this is why we have to ask the question: whatever happened to the executive action blitz?

When we conceived of the Day One Agenda, it wasn’t just to play a parlour game about what a president can do without new laws from Congress. It was intended to respond to exactly the situation we’re in right now.

Disrupting mainstream politics

H.R. 1: The Path to Democracy in America

Marcia Brown [The American Prospect 3-3-2021]

The House is passing a democracy reform package this week, which attacks the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United….

But the bill also points a path forward to how to react to conservative judicial rulings, a priority for democracy and voting rights advocates now that the Supreme Court has a 6-3 conservative split. “There are a number of provisions in the bill that are responsive to the Supreme Court’s decisions over the past ten years … whereby they gradually deregulated the campaign finance system and really greenlit suppressive voting laws,” Spaulding explained.

H.R. 1 accomplishes this in a couple of different ways. It includes some “statutory overrides,” which overturn Supreme Court decisions based on congressional intent. For example, H.R. 1 would override the statutory decision in Husted v. Randolph Institute (2018), which provided that Ohio’s voter purges were allowed. Statutory overrides, as my colleague Rachel Cohen and I wrote about extensively last fall, are a key tool for Congress to take back its power as a coequal branch of government….

But the Citizens United decision itself was a constitutional ruling. To address this, the For the People Act does something similar to a statutory override, only it attacks a constitutional decision not so easily overturned. The bill counters the influence of corporate spending by empowering small-dollar donors as a countervailing force, and by requiring greater transparency and independence of the big donors in political spending.

An entire section of the bill is devoted to the Citizens United decision. That ruling, the bill states, “erroneously invalidated even-handed rules about the spending of money in local, State, and Federal elections.” The bill continues: “The Supreme Court’s misinterpretation of the Constitution to empower monied interests at the expense of the American people in elections has seriously eroded over 100 years of congressional action to promote fairness and protect elections from the toxic influence of money.”

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 3-2-21]

Building a Grassroots Strategy to Elect Democrats in NC: How Georgia Did It

Wednesday at 7:30 PM EST – 8:30 PM EST

[Neighbors on Call and FLIP NC, via Facebook]

After years of strategic, collaborative organizing, Georgia activists see their state turning blue. Let’s find out how they did it! Diane Robertson (DNC Deputy Finance Chair and NC Democratic Party Executive Committee member) will talk with Kendra Davenport Cotton (Chief Operating Officer of the New Georgia Project Action Fund), with introductions by Dr. Aimy Steele.
Kendra Davenport Cotton is an experienced campaigner and nonprofit leader in Georgia who also has a deep understanding of the North Carolina political landscape, having studied and worked here for 16 years. She will help us learn from Georgia’s path as we build our own grassroots strategy to elect Democrats.
The New Georgia Project Action Fund is the advocacy arm of the New Georgia Project, which has registered over 500,000 voters. NGP was founded by Stacey Abrams and is led by Nsé Ufot.

The ‘Progressive Multiplier’: How Democrats Can Defeat Trumpism

[The American Prospect 3-4-2021]

A core part of conservative strategy has been explicitly political, including measures to unfairly restrict access to voting for people of color and young people and to reduce the value of their votes through gerrymandering. Conservatives have also reshaped power relationships outside the political arena in ways that have had profound but less widely understood downstream political consequences. Nowhere is this clearer than with labor policy, where conservatives have continued to press judicial and legislative limits on unions. While such reforms fit well with conservatives’ economic philosophy, they have also dramatically weakened the labor movement. With fewer members and dues payments, unions have been less able to turn out voters, costing Democrats votes up and down the ballot. Beyond unions, conservatives have also sought to cripple other organizational bases of progressive power, including reproductive-health providers and community organizing groups, as well as legal service associations representing low-income constituencies.

Conservatives have not only used policy to weaken progressive organizations, but also to bolster the size, resources, and influence of right-leaning constituencies. The massive increase in spending on law enforcement at the federal level since 9/11 has visited massive harms on people of color and immigrants, and engendered deep distrust of government. Less well understood, however, is how the growth of the homeland-security state has generated massive profits for private-sector corporations and created a sprawling government workforce, each of which form a powerful constituency that lobbies for even more policing and enforcement spending and funds right-wing politicians. These constituencies are the heart of the Trump coalition: Research shows that police unions may have played a decisive role in Trump’s 2016 election victory in key states, while corporations that profit from law enforcement contracts such as Palantir and GEO Group are major financiers of anti-democratic politicians, including Trump. Whenever they are in power, conservatives shovel millions of dollars to fossil fuel companies, anti-choice “crisis pregnancy centers,” and right-wing churches—all groups that in turn mobilize at the ballot box for Republicans.

So, putting people like this guy in the administration is not a good idea….

A Quiet Return to Government for an Obama-Era Labor Official

David Dayen, March 2, 2021 [The American Prospect]

Seth Harris, who co-authored an early blueprint of what Uber and Lyft would adopt in California’s Prop 22, is back in the White House in a labor policy position…. Seth Harris, a former deputy secretary of labor and acting secretary of labor under President Obama who has connections to the ridesharing industry’s thunderous Prop 22 victory in California last year, a shattering event for U.S. labor law, has taken a key policy position in the administration…. “I don’t think they are particularly proud of this hire,” said Jeff Hauser of the Revolving Door Project, whose organization has been critical of Harris in the past. “Clearly, the most newsworthy thing he has been involved in in the last several years is seen as something that has been very bad for the American labor movement.”

Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash presented a modified version of essentially this proposal in response to California’s AB-5, which codified a state Supreme Court ruling classifying rideshare drivers and other independent contractors as employees. The companies spent $200 million on a ballot measure to create this third category of worker, and they succeeded in one of the nation’s most liberal states.

The results have been predictably terrible, with grocery stores firing their full-time delivery drivers in favor of Prop 22–enabled gig workers, Uber and Lyft jacking up prices for rides, and health care stipends from the “benefits program” for drivers coming up way short of what was advertised. Rideshare companies have vowed to bring the Prop 22 regime to other states.

“David Shor on Why Trump Was Good for the GOP and How Dems Can Win in 2022”

[New York Magazine, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 3-1-21]

“One high-level takeaway is that the 2020 electorate had a very similar partisan composition to the 2016 electorate. When the polls turned out to be wrong — and Trump turned out to be much stronger than they predicted — a lot of people concluded that turnout models must have been off: Trump must have inspired higher Republican turnout than expected. But that looks wrong. It really seems like the electorate was slightly more Democratic than it had been in 2016, largely due to demographic change (because there’s such a large partisan gap between younger and older voters, every four years the electorate gets something like 0.4 percent more Democratic just through generational churn). So Trump didn’t exceed expectations by inspiring higher-than-anticipated Republican turnout. He exceeded them mostly through persuasion. A lot of voters changed their minds between 2016 and 2020….

“Over the last four years, white liberals have become a larger and larger share of the Democratic Party. There’s a narrative on the left that the Democrats’ growing reliance on college-educated whites is pulling the party to the right (Matt Karp had an essay on this recently). But I think that’s wrong. Highly educated people tend to have more ideologically coherent and extreme views than working-class ones. We see this in issue polling and ideological self-identification. College-educated voters are way less likely to identify as moderate. So as Democrats have traded non-college-educated voters for college-educated ones, white liberals’ share of voice and clout in the Democratic Party has gone up. And since white voters are sorting on ideology more than nonwhite voters, we’ve ended up in a situation where white liberals are more left wing than Black and Hispanic Democrats on pretty much every issue: taxes, health care, policing, and even on racial issues or various measures of “racial resentment.” So as white liberals increasingly define the party’s image and messaging, that’s going to turn off nonwhite conservative Democrats and push them against us.”

In the summer, following the emergence of “defund the police” as a nationally salient issue, support for Biden among Hispanic voters declined. So I think you can tell this microstory: We raised the salience of an ideologically charged issue that millions of nonwhite voters disagreed with us on. And then, as a result, these conservative Hispanic voters who’d been voting for us despite their ideological inclinations started voting more like conservative whites….

The decline that we saw was very large. Nine percent or so nationwide, up to 14 or 15 percent in Florida. Roughly one in ten Hispanic voters switched their vote from Clinton to Trump. That is beyond the margin of what can plausibly be changed by investing more in Spanish media. And I don’t think a shift that large can be plausibly attributed to what was said in WhatsApp groups or not buying enough in YouTube ads. I think the problem is more fundamental.

The Dark Side

Arizona Senate has no plan for storing the 2.1 million ballots it plans to audit? Terrific

[AZCentral, via DailyKos 3-3-21]

For two months, the Arizona Senate has been demanding that Maricopa County turn over the 2.1 million ballots cast in the November election.

Now, the Senate doesn’t know what to do with them….

Republican senators have been itching since November to get their hands on the ballots that delivered the state’s 11 electoral votes to Joe Biden.

Senators issued a pair of subpoenas on Dec. 15, demanding that the county turn over all ballots, voting machines and detailed information on every Arizona voter, among other things. On Jan. 12, Senate President Karen Fann issued a third subpoena ordering the county to deliver the ballots by 9 a.m. Jan. 13….

The standoff ended last week when Superior Court Judge Timothy Thomason ordered the county to comply with the Senate subpoena. So on Monday, Maricopa County officials boxed up the ballots and early ballot affadavit envelopes and began loading them onto trucks.

All 78 pallets of them….

But the Senate apparently made no plans for what to do with the county’s 2.1 million ballots, which until this week have been stored in a fire suppression vault inside Maricopa County’s Election Tabulation Center, as required by state law.

“The Council for National Policy”

[Documented, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 3-1-21]

“The Council for National Policy (CNP), a 501(c)(3), is an influential network of conservative think tanks, right-wing religious extremists, Republican operatives, elected officials and wealthy GOP donors, which have gathered in secret for nearly four decades to advance their social and political agenda. Documented is releasing its archive of CNP materials below, which include CNP Membership directories (12 individual directories spanning September 2017 to September 2020); CNP ‘action steps‘ from meetings; Members only newslettersCNP Meeting agendas; with more to follow. Documented has also published 59 internal CNP recordings, from inside CNP meetings between 2017 and 2020, available here.” • Quite a trove!

Federal judge says states acted too late to ratify Equal Rights Amendment

[NBC, via Naked Capitalism 3-6-21]

How Law Made Neoliberalism

[Boston Review, via Naked Capitalism 3-5-21]

This analysis of neoliberalism too often overlooks the critical role that law plays in constituting neoliberalism. Law is the essential connective tissue between political judgment and economic order.

Many people recognize that the law has changed in anti-egalitarian and anti-democratic ways in recent decades—for example, that Citizens United amplified the role of money in politics, or that the construct of “colorblindness” has become entrenched in constitutional doctrine and helps sustain structural racism. In our view these are not isolated changes, but part of an orientation—an ideology about markets, governments, and law that has become foundational to our legal infrastructure. We call this orientation the “Twentieth-Century Synthesis” in legal thought.

Under the Twentieth-Century Synthesis, areas of law that concern aspects of “the economy”—for example, contracts, corporations, and antitrust—were given over to a “law and economics” approach that emphasized wealth maximization. Meanwhile, other values—such as equality, dignity, and privacy—were supposed to be realized in constitutional law and areas of public administration. Shaped by these ideological currents, constitutional law turned away from concerns of economic power, structural inequality, and systemic problems of racial subordination. Other “public law” areas did the same. The result was that deep structures of power at the meeting place of state and economy were shielded from legal remedy and came to seem increasingly natural.

A number of us—legal scholars, practitioners, activists, and academics gathered under the rubric “Law and Political Economy”—have begun rethinking the relationship between law, economy, and politics suggested by the Twentieth-Century Synthesis….

The public was redefined as a collection of discrete “interest groups,” then shut out of rooms where trade deals were negotiated or interest rates were set. For example, reigning trade theory from the 1980s into the last decade asserted that all “interest groups” had to be held at bay—treating both citizens and corporations as “rent seekers” who would disturb the grand bargains and decrease efficiency. In practice, though, the public was shut out of treaty negotiations while corporations were brought to the inside and allowed to set the table. This resulted in trade regimes that gave capital priority—for example, access to transnational arbitration to protect their investments, to which labor had no similar claim.

The Political Movement That Dared Not Speak its Own Name: The Neoliberal Thought Collective Under Erasure

Philip Mirowski [Institute for New Economic Thinking, August 2014]

….consider the question: how should we approach the construction of a reliable history of a group of intellectuals who have managed to turn their meditations into a political movement on a global scale? Of course this raises timeworn problems of the relationship between theory and practice; but the Neoliberal case sports a further thorny complication: while we can fairly comprehensively identify the roster of whom should be acknowledged as a part of the movement, at least from its beginnings in the 1930s until the recent past, we are confronted with the fact that, in public, they themselves roundly deny the existence of any such well-defined thought collective, and stridently denounce the label of Neoliberalism. Not only do they wash their hands of most of the documented activities of the Neoliberal Thought Collective – think of Hayek and Friedman and their denials concerning the Pinochet interlude in Chile– but their plaint is that their opponents the socialists have always gotten the better of them, and thus their political project has never enjoyed any real successes, ever, anywhere, contrary to all evidence brought to the table. They are forever the bridesmaid of conservative parties, never the bride, to hear them tell it. Given the sheer numbers of people involved, and the really astronomical sums of money, and the cultural dominance of the airwaves, this sad sack victimhood is really quite remarkable, and itself calls for serious examination. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that a political movement that dare not speak its own name has intellectual contradictions that it dare not air openly.



Open Thread


The Utility of Fear, Anger, and Hate


  1. Joan

    Thanks as always for these Tony!

    As for cars in European cities: meh. Whether they are electric or gas I feel is dodging the fact that they shouldn’t be there at all. The countryside is different of course, but in European cities, cars are just so the rich people can flex their toys, slow down public transit, and generally embody a tragedy of the commons.

  2. bruce wilder

    Noah Smith has evolved into a highly conventional and boring economist. In this article, his “optimism” rolls past anything that might help make sense of the world, given what we actually know about the state of the global economy.

    One of the things that correlate with the massive population growth associated with early stages of economic growth is massive emigration. In the 19th century European countries like Germany, Britain, Norway and Italy saw more than a third of their population emigrate over the course of two or more generations. Famine, or near-famine was a motivating factor.

    Industrialization did draw in large numbers in the era in which increasing fossil fuel use and increased scale of production facilities and product distribution drove the engineering of systems that initially required large numbers of hands to operate. Subsequent developments over many decades have reduced radically the number of people needed directly to manufacture things. China, despite becoming a new workshop of the world, has fallen well short of putting the numbers into industrial manufacturing necessary to draw its whole population into a modern economy; India is trying to export services because there really are no manufacturing opportunities left that could conceivably employ tens of millions, let alone hundreds of millions.

    Manufacturing is a nice-to-have, to support population growth and economic growth; one actual requirement is food. The New Deal in the U.S. succeeded in an industrial policy aimed at increasing agricultural productivity and reducing the numbers of people dependent on farming in rural areas, resulting in massive internal migration.

    It may be that some kind of synthetic, factory-based food production will replace most of what looks like farming — in fact, something like that will almost certainly have to happen just to keep the first world fed without completely destroying the planet. But will it happen in Africa fast enough to save Africa’s wilderness or feed its people or give these populations something to do economically?

    Two other requirements for economic growth — energy and assimilation of waste — also go unmentioned in Noah Smith’s optimistic take. The planet’s ecology cannot handle the levels of energy use and waste we have now, never mind the numbers of humans!

    There is a neglected concept in economics called, congestion. More people attempt to access a resouce or exploit a resource and the result is not more, but less for everyone. Everyone attempts to commute at rush hour and the result is gridlock — highways that sped people where they wanted to go an hour before, take them nowhere.

    Economics was once called a dismal science (in a truly dismal context) and maybe it needs to revive pessimism to become less stupid.

  3. Ché Pasa

    From The Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung (Little Red Book), 1967, Foreign Languages Press, Peking:

    Idealism and metaphysics are the easiest things in the world because people can talk as much nonsense as they like without basing it on objective reality or having it tested against reality. Materialism and dialectics on the other hand need effort. They must be based on and tested by objective reality. Unless one makes the effort, one is liable to slip into idealism and metaphysics.

    Introductory note to “Material on the Hu Feng Counter-Revolutionary Clique” (May, 1955)

  4. Hugh

    The percent share of all income of the lower 80% of households peaked in 1969. That’s when the American dream began to hit the skids. It’s always strange to see people discovering things that have been known for decades.

    Similarly, population leveling off in Africa at 3.4 or 4.2 billion due to increased GDP, education and contraception doesn’t begin to explain how these people are going to be fed let alone educated in an era of climate change. The 1972 Limits to Growth report had the same problem. It just sort of magically assumed that population growth would stabilize. It has always been taboo to predict population collapse or the effects of 50 to 100 million climate immigrants heading north to Europe.

    Varoufakis is sort of right. But we can go fiscal with infrastructure renewal and climate change projects and we need to balance this with high marginal income tax rates, wealth and inheritance taxes on the rich.

    And that Wall Street is still a Fed funded casino 12 1/2 years on from the 2008 financial meltdown? More discovery of the already known.

    I agree with David Dayen. You get bipartisanship when Democrats are in the minority. When they are in the majority as now, there will be none. So why waste time and political capital on it? Rather than this phony stance, Democrats should just run on “The Republicans hate you and want you to die” between now and 2022. They won’t because they are feckless and Biden lives in some 1970s alternate reality.

  5. bruce wilder

    The Dems are without feck you say, that is, without effect, at least as far as economic policies desired on the left are concerned.

    This might be by design, a choice of the so-called “lesser evil” leadership you accept as delivering lipservice to a half-loaf that never appears.

    The function of the Democratic Party is to keep the leftish impulses of liberals from having any effect and also from coming into sympathetic communication with the populist impulses of the right.

    They do this with political manuever as well as a devisive rhetoric tuned to match the devisive rhetoric of the right, both right and left shaped and amplified by corporate media. All to avoid having enough power that they might have to do something that would offend their donors or their allies among the MIC or the so-called intelligence community.

    Your job, Hugh, is to claim that 50 49 42 Dem Senators favor a minimum wage of $15, provided it cannot be passed, and that fecklessness, Willy will tell us, has symbolic value because “nuance”.

  6. nihil obstet

    On H.R. 1 and attempts to legislate overrides of the courts’ oligarch friendly decision in Citizens United —

    Can we not change the structure of corporations so that funds spent on political activity must receive approval from stockholders? The Supreme Court has ruled that non-union workers at a plant with a union are not compelled to pay administrative costs for the union to negotiate on their behalf. The SC calls it forced speech. The worker has the right to the job and its benefits, but is not required to pay union dues. Most of us own stock, through pension plans or participation in the medical insurance market place (thanks, Obama /sarcasm). If a corporation spends on political speech which I disagree with, I should no more have to pay for it than the worker for union benefits.

    The “corporation” is spending the funds. This tries to hide the meaning that the CEO and his handpicked richly rewarded Board of Directors are spending my money for their speech. A review of the laws defining corporation and its structure and permitted action is way overdue.

  7. Willy

    Nuance suggests that the function of the Democratic Party is to maintain its leftish position on the Overton Window. Reality suggests that the scope and limits of the Overton Window is being determined by wealthy Libertarians, and wealthy libertarian social-engineeering machinations of every possible kind which have a reasonable chance of success.

    But some seem a little more honest about it:

    Maybe somebody else can track down how many Teslas have been quietly donated to members of DNC families.

  8. Dick C

    It would be well, there can be no doubt, for the American people as a whole, if they loved the Real less, and the Ideal somewhat more. It would be well, if there were greater encouragement to lightness of heart and gaiety, and a wider cultivation of what is beautiful, without being eminently and directly useful. They certainly are not a humorous people, and their temperament always impressed me is being of a dull and gloomy character. I was quite oppressed by the prevailing seriousness and melancholy air of business: which was so general and unvarying, that at every new town I came to, I seemed to meet the very same people whom I had left behind me, at the last.

  9. Willy

    Dick C, Americans are of dull an gloomy character for the reason of being wary of getting called “the other”, either a deplorable MAGA or an America-hating Marxist. And then there’s the fear that this crazy old man will come running up from out of nowhere and accuse you of being a centrist Democrat.

  10. VietnamVet

    Naomi Kline is correct about Texas, the Shock Doctrine and the Collapse. And, as pointed out, neoliberalism denies itself. Texas is the model for the movement that is the Western Empire – the billionaire/corporate dominance of the USA, UK, NATO, etc. The coronavirus pandemic has proven that the former democratic governments are corrupt and incompetent. The death of nearly a million citizens in the West documents this. The Empire is done. It is splintering apart. The Green Zone around the US Capitol is proof.

  11. Ché Pasa

    Re: Taibbi’s screed and pitch for Substack:

    Not too long ago, Glenn issued a tweet celebrating Atrios Eschaton as his inspiration and early day guiding star while he became familiar with and learned to utilize this new thing called Blogging to do what he does: excoriate mainstream media and particular reporters for not being like The Blogs and Bloggers.

    While Atrios certainly excoriated mainstream news outlets and reporters for their many failings and celebrated with high stepping and baton twirling every collapse of the mainstream in the face of internet competition (it was called “Blogger Triumphalism” back in the day) and Glenn took up the cudgel which he tries to wield from Rio through Substack these days, the result has not been quite what Duncan Black, PhD, and others probably hoped all those many years ago.

    The collapse, for example, has meant the near-extinction of local news in favor of a handful of big-ticket national outlets which absolutely dominate the remnant Mainstream — along with the cesspool of lies, rumors, and OMG gossip of Facebook. That’s the Triumph has led to. And that’s not what Atrios and others used to celebrate with such glee. They had hoped the internet would bring forth a new, more comprehensive and more “truthful” *however you wish to define that* media environment that would cover everything far better than anything that had gone before. Instead you get Qanon.

    Substack isn’t fixing it. But then it’s not intended to.

    It’s a vanity project. The issue for Glenn and Matt and others of their ilk is that they reject the imposition of editors and editorial standards and practices on their magnificent jewels of journalism. That’s why Glenn left the Intercept (so he says), and it’s at least part of why Matt won’t work in the Mainstream (not that he ever really did).

    I don’t agree with Roberts that Substack is itself dangerous in a global sense, any more than I agreed with Atrios that the Blogger phenom was the way of the news media future. No, even so long ago, it was clear that the collapse of Mainstream media that came about due to the rise of the internet would focus media into a handful of major outlets and into something like what Facebook has become. In other words, it wouldn’t be better than what went before, it would be manifestly worse.

    Substack is just another Thing in an expanding universe of media Things that come and go and make practically no difference at all. In the end, I imagine both Matt and Glenn will make a decent living through their Substack subscribers, but their effect on media will be ever more limited. They are no longer the new kids on the block.

    So it goes.

  12. Hugh

    The US is the free-est country on the earth. We have the freedom to go die in a ditch, –preferably out of sight and smell of our betters.

  13. Hugh

    Ché Pasa, I agree. I wonder whether substack is somewhere people go or end up. For Matt Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald, it seems more like where they have ended up. Taibbi illustrates the limits of attack journalism. It just doesn’t mean that much if there is no discernible vision or philosophy behind it. As for Greenwald, what can I say about someone who essentially missed the four years of Trump?

  14. different clue

    @Dick C,

    Is that passage from Charles Dickens’ travels in America?

    * * * * * * * * *

    All futurism is Afrofuturism?

    Okay, well . . .

    All futurism is Eurofuturism.

    All futurism is Sinofuturism

    All futurism is Indofuturism.


    One good Centrism deserves another.

  15. different clue

    I remember the Little Red Book. I bought a copy once just for gits and shiggles.

    Then I read somewhere that there were two versions of the Little Red Book . . . one With and one WithOUT an introduction by Lin Biao. After Lin Biao was ” unpersonised” and then assassinated by Mao, part of that “unpersonization” was the recall and destruction of every possible physical copy of the Little Red Book with the Lin Biao introduction in it, and the re-issue of millions of new copies withOUT the Lin Biao introduction in it.

    Some time after that I came across a copy with the Lin Biao introduction in it. Are there still thousands like it? Could it be the last one on earth? At the price of a dollar at a library book sale, how wrong could I go? Who knows but that the Lin Biao Little Red Book could be worth some money. Oh the irony!

  16. Dick C


    Yes, it is. My moniker lends a clue.

  17. Ché Pasa

    “Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung”, Peking, 1967, purchased from China Books and Periodicals, 2929 24th Street, San Francisco, Calif. 94110, probably on the same trip where I met Jerry Rubin at a house on Steiner St. where about a dozen anti-war activists from around California were gathered to discuss upcoming actions including the October End the Draft moratorium week at the Oakland Induction Center.

    This edition includes a facsimile of a handwritten exhortation by Lin Piao:

    Study Chairman Mao’s writings, follow his teachings, and act according to his instructions.

    The remarkable thing about the book today is that so much of what Chairman Mao says in his aphorisms and precepts and observations and analects and so forth seems self-evident truths, even without discounting the Marxist-Leninist framing. How that became the impetus for the upheaval of the Cultural Revolution as well as the transformations China has experienced under several post-Mao leaders is hard to fathom from the distant comforts of the declining West. But there you are.

    I chose the quote I did as a way to point out that many of those who opine on the Decline of the West are at heart Maoists, just as many of those who seek a Western renewal and revival are Leninists and Trotskyists.

    Everything old is new again. And ideologies can survive numerous extinction events…

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