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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – May 1, 2022

by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy

What is propelling the U.S. into increasing international military aggression?
John Ross [MR Online, via The Big Picture 4-24-2022]

Reduced to the most essential facts, the key forces that have driven this escalating U.S. policy of military aggression, which has now lasted over more than two decades, are clear. It is that the U.S. economy has permanently lost its overwhelming weight in world production, but that at the same time the U.S. still retains its preponderance in military power and spending. This, therefore, creates a very dangerous period for humanity during which the U.S. may attempt to compensate for its relative economic failure by use of military force.…

Summarising the trends above, the U.S. lead in productivity, technology and company size means that its economy overall is still stronger than China’s, but the gap between the U.S. and China is far narrower than the gap between the U.S. and the USSR. Furthermore, whatever is the exact judgement on the relative bilateral strengths of the U.S. and Chinese economies, it clear that the U.S. has already lost its global productive economic predominance. By 2021, in PPPs, the U.S. accounted for only 16% of the world economy—that is 84% of the world economy is outside the U.S. Purely economically the global era of multipolarity, instead of unipolar domination by the U.S., is not ahead it has already arrived….

The aim of the U.S. in Ukraine is precisely to attempt to bring about a fundamental change in policy and government in Russia so that a government is installed which no longer defends Russia’s national interests, which is hostile to China, and is subordinate to the U.S. If that were achieved then not only would China faced a greatly increased military threat from the U.S. but China’s enormously long northern border with Russia would become a strategic threat to China. China would be surrounded from the north.

But the conclusion which he U.S. policy derives from this, as will be analysed, is that it must therefore try to use military and political means to prevent this economic multipolarity from expressing itself.

2022 Strategic Investment Conference: Goodbye Normal

[The Big Picture 4-27-2022]

The highest inflation in 40 years, war in Europe, and economic shock waves….

Featuring an exclusive interview with the undead ghoul Henry Kissinger.

Russia / Ukraine

Why Europe cannot understand Russia 

Pepe Escoba [The Cradle, via Mike Norman Economics 4-30-2022]

Seven Decades of Nazi Collaboration: America’s Dirty Little Ukraine Secret 

[Foreign Policy in Focus, via Naked Capitalism 4-25-2022]

From 2014, still germane.

The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

Were The Stimulus Checks A Mistake? 

[FiveThirtyEight, via The Big Picture 4-29-2022]

Lawmakers passed a $2.2-trillion stimulus package in March 2020 (followed by two more in 2020 + 2021). In total, it added up to one of the most generous fiscal responses to the virus globally. As U.S. prices continue to rise by rates not seen in decades, it’s become clear that the stimulus came at a significant, unintended cost: inflation.

Opinion: There’s a big hole in the Fed’s theory of inflation—incomes are falling at a record 10.9% rate 

Rex Nutting [Market Watch, via The Big Picture 4-29-2022]

As [MMT] economists Yeva Nersisyan and L. Randall Wray of the nonpartisan Levy Economics Institute of Bard College conclude in a paper published this month ahead of the GDP report: “Most of the government’s income support has already disappeared, so going forward it is not an important contributor to demand in the economy.”

The faucet has been turned off. Without all the extra money from Uncle Sam, U.S. households will have to live within their means once again. Demand will slow, and so too will inflation, according to the ironclad economic laws of supply and demand.… If consumer demand—fueled by free money from Washington—has overheated the economy, then our inflation problem is solved even before the Fed really gets going. “There is no excess income left to drive the economy beyond capacity,” say Nersisyan and Wray…. ​​​​​​​What’s the problem, then? Supply contraction for a variety of reason. Thus, the solution is to address supply issues in this situation rather than supposed excess demand. The prospect for stagflation—low growth with high inflation—is real. “The appropriate solution to inflation would be to work to alleviate supply-side constraints,” say Nersisyan and Wray. To do that, unfortunately, “we need more domestic investment, not less.”

CHEAT SHEET: What’s Really Driving Inflation

Julia Rock, April 28, 2022] [The Lever]

• Corporate Profiteering: Business earnings are at their highest level since 1950, meaning prices are increasing more than costs. In all, a new Economic Policy Institute report shows that more than half of the price increases in the last two years can be attributed to larger profit margins. Those profits are far outpacing increases in worker wages….

The Housing Heist: Rent and home prices are skyrocketing because of pandemic-induced migration and commodity shortages, private equity firms buying homes, as well as years of underinvestment in housing and restrictive local zoning laws preventing new construction. The average asking rent is up more than 15 percent year over year, and home prices are up nearly 20 percent.

Bank of America sounding the alarm on collapsing freight demand 

[Freight Waves, via Naked Capitalism 4-26-2022]

If Wage Growth Is Driving Inflation, Why Is Workers’ Share of Income Falling? 

Dean Baker, DC Report, via Naked Capitalism 4-24-2022]

Revealed: top US corporations raising prices on Americans even as profits surge

[The Guardian, via The Big Picture 4-28-2022]

A Guardian analysis uncovers how companies enriched themselves and their investors while boasting about jacking up prices….

Two of the nation’s largest builders, PulteGroup and Lennar, intentionally kept home starts low and took other steps seemingly designed to maintain high prices by restricting supply.

“​​We could sell another 1,000 homes in the quarter if we wanted to without too much effort. It just doesn’t make sense to do that,” Lennar co-CEO Jon Jaffe told investors in an earnings call. Lennar’s profits are up 78%, while PulteGroup’s jumped 97%….

When Target and Walmart declined to pass all inflationary costs on to customers ahead of the holiday season, an investor revolt ensued, and their shares temporarily plummeted. “Shareholders are not interested in seeing anyone be cautious with price increases, and in some cases they’re saying ‘let’s throttle supply, let’s see how far we can take this’,” Owens said.

Is rent a useful concept?

[Capital as Power, via Naked Capitalism 4-28-2022]

Bonds of Inequality w/ Destin Jenkins (podcast)

[The Dig, via Naked Capitalism 4-29-2022]

“Destin Jenkins on his book The Bonds of Inequality: Debt and the Making of the American City, which makes a powerful argument about how the ubiquitous and in many ways invisible dependence of American cities on municipal debt to fund basic infrastructure has devastating consequences for democracy and entrenches spatial, racial, and wealth disparities.”

Soaring food prices push more Cargill family members on to world’s richest 500 list 

[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 4-24-2022]

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-29-2022]


Liberalism, conservatism and the lack of discussion of civic republicanism

John Adams’ Fear Has Come to Pass 

David French, April 24, 2022 [The Dispatch, via Naked Capitalism 4-25-2022]

…public virtue fails, our constitutional government does not possess the power to preserve itself. Thus, the American experiment depends upon both the government upholding its obligation to preserve liberty and the American people upholding theirs to exercise that liberty towards virtuous purposes.

Of course, neither side can ever uphold its end of the bargain perfectly (and there are many safeguards built into the system to preserve it from inevitable human imperfections), but that’s the general thrust. Citizen and state both have obligations, and if either side fails, it imperils the republic….

The people disproportionately driving polarization in the United States are not oppressed minorities, but rather some of the most powerful, most privileged, wealthiest people who’ve ever lived. They enjoy more freedom and opportunity than virtually any prior generation of humans, all while living under the protective umbrella of the most powerful military in the history of the planet.

It’s simply an astonishing level of discontent in the midst of astonishing wealth and power.

Or maybe it’s not so astonishing, because accumulating wealth and power is not and never was the path to meaning and purpose….

But when it comes to government, you’re never arming an “it,” you’re arming a “them”—a collection of human beings who suffer from all the same character defects and cultural maladies as the rest of us. There is no class of virtuous philosopher-rulers waiting in the wings, ready to create purpose and solidarity in a wayward people. In fact, many of America’s most prominent postliberal pundits and politicians have proven themselves to be dishonest and craven, the last people you’d want to trust with expanded power….

American postliberalism asks us to empower men and women who frequently don’t even pretend to be virtuous, who often glory in their vice, all for the “common good.”

The response to John Adams’s warning is not to arm the government with more power but to equip citizens with more virtue. And how do we do that? The path past animosity and against despair can be as short and simple as the path from Twitter to the kitchen table. It’s shifting the focus from the infuriating thing you can’t control to the people you can love, to the institutions you can build.

I’m reminded of one of Alexis de Tocqueville’s most famous quotes about the early American republic:

“Americans of all ages, all conditions, all minds constantly unite. Not only do they have commercial and industrial associations in which all take part, but they also have a thousand other kinds: religious, moral, grave, futile, very general and very particular, immense and very small; Americans use associations to give fêtes, to found seminaries, to build inns, to raise churches, to distribute books, to send missionaries to the antipodes; in this manner they create hospitals, prisons, schools. Finally, if it is a question of bringing to light a truth or developing a sentiment with the support of a great example, they associate. Everywhere that, at the head of a new undertaking, you see the government in France and a great lord in England, count on it that you will perceive an association in the United States.”

It is here that we find meaning and purpose. It is here that we build friendships and change lives.

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 4-24-2022]



The pandemic

How the pandemic is changing home design

[Axios, via The Big Picture 4-28-2022]

Overall footprints are getting bigger as builders add on more smaller rooms, which may need to function as offices, play rooms, home gyms or dens, depending on the family. Bathrooms are getting bigger, in part because we use them more often when we’re home all day. And every room of the house is more wired — builders are adding power outlets and USB ports to accommodate the devices essential to working or attending school from home. (Axios)

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

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 4-26-2022]


“The Richest People on the Planet are Criminals”

[Wealth Simple, via The Big Picture 4-26-2022]

And other insights from Jay Newman, the hedge fund insider turned novelist who has some unique insights into the darker corners of the world of finance. (Wealth Simple)

Reputed federal informant, whistleblower found dead in L.A. after he’s reported missing 

[NBC, via Naked Capitalism 4-28-2022]

“[H]e was reported to have turned over a trove of secret files about Deutsche Bank.”

Another Raid of Deutsche Bank, Another Dead Whistleblower

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, April 29, 2022 [Wall Street on Parade]

The raid comes just four days after the body of Valentin (Val) Broeksmit, 46, was discovered at about 7 a.m. Monday at Woodrow Wilson High School in El Sereno, just outside of Los Angeles. Val Broeksmit was the son of William Broeksmit who was found hanged in his London home on January 26, 2014. The senior Boreksmit was a senior executive at Deutsche Bank involved in assessing risk on the bank’s balance sheet. (See our report: Documents Emerge in Senate Hearing from William Broeksmit, Deutsche Exec Alleged to Have Hanged Himself in January.)

According to a profile of Val Broeksmit written by David Enrich in the New York Times on October 1, 2019, the younger Broeksmit had obtained “a cache of confidential bank documents” left by his father that provided a “tantalizing” look into the internal workings of Deutsche Bank. Val Broeksmit was sharing the documents with the FBI.

Billionaires Only Come To The Rescue In Movies And Comic Books 

Caitlin Johnstone [via Naked Capitalism 4-27-2022]

You don’t get to be a billionaire, much less a billionaire with massively influential media ownership, unless you collaborate with existing power structures. Musk has certainly been collaborating with the oligarchic empire very nicely up until this point, and it’s a safe bet that his purchase would not be happening if the empire felt its narrative control machine was in any way threatened by it.

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-28-2022]


The Private Equity Giant KKR Bought Hundreds Of Homes For People With Disabilities. Some Vulnerable Residents Suffered Abuse And Neglect. 

[Buzzfeed, via The Lever 5-1-2022]

In 2019, KKR took on a responsibility that was very different from selling cookies or batteries: caring for thousands of people with severe intellectual or developmental disabilities, some of whom cannot speak, wash, or feed themselves. With its $1.3 billion purchase of BrightSpring Health Services, one of the nation’s largest group home operators, KKR became the owner of more than 600 residential facilities serving people from California to West Virginia. Many residents have no family to look out for them. Almost all need round-the-clock care. They all depend on the company to keep them safe… But a yearlong BuzzFeed News investigation found that KKR focused on expanding the business even as a crisis mounted in its group home division, where conditions grew so dire that nurses and caretakers quit in droves, a state prohibited the company from accepting new residents, and some of the most vulnerable people in its care suffered and died.

TW: Anything about KKR is personal for me, not because I have friends or relatives in a nursing home owned by KKR, but because back in the 1980s Kohlberg Kravis and Roberts was one of the first financial predators I targeted and tried to warn about. KKR was one of the first corporate raiders to use leveraged buyouts, and one of the first companies they destroyed was Burgmaster, the largest machine tool maker in the western USA. Max Holland, whose father was a supervisor at Burgmaster, wrote about the disaster in a book that greatly influenced me: When the Machine Stopped: A Cautionary Tale From Industrial America (Harvard Business School Press, 1989) since it exemplifies Veblen’s crucial distinction between business and industry. 

McKinsey Opened a Door in Its Firewall Between Pharma Clients and Regulators 

[New York Times, via The Big Picture 4-27-2022]

The firm let consultants advise both drugmakers and their government overseers, internal records show. “Who we know and what we know” was part of their pitch.

Is McKinsey & Co. the Root of All Evil ?

Barry Ritholtz [The Big Picture 4-27-2022]

The global consulting firm has created dubious strategies for all manners of companies ranging from Enron to General Electric. Where ever there has been a financial disaster in the world, if you look around, somewhere in the background, McKinsey & Co. is nearby.

Predatory Finance

Fed Chair Powell Telegraphs the Perfect Storm for Wall Street’s Megabanks: Rapid Rate Hikes Hitting $234 Trillion in Derivatives

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, April 25, 2022 [Wall Street on Parade]

Restoring balance to the economy

Amazon’s Union Busting Is Subsidized By The Government 

[Lever News, via Naked Capitalism 4-24-2022]

The Union Struggle at Amazon

[The American Prospect 4-23-2022]

In this Left Anchor episode, the hosts interview Labor Notes staff writer Luis Feliz Leon on to talk about his coverage of the Amazon Labor Union there and at The American ProspectThey discuss the union’s wildly unorthodox tactics, what leadership really means in a left-wing context, and what their prospects are for the future.

Disrupting mainstream economics – Modern Monetary Theory

Banking Debate Woes: Part III

Brian Romanchuk [Bond Economics, via Mike Norman Economics 4-29-2022]

This article finishes off a sequence of articles on an ancient debate in economics: what limits bank lending? (Links to Part IPart II.) My argument is that the usual ways of looking at this question are highly misleading. The mainstream Economics 101 description of banking is hopeless — and then heterodox critics got bogged down in attacking a hopeless description of banking. The key to understanding banking is that they are a financial firm that borrows to invest in assets (a “levered financial entity”) — and they have some similarities to other financial firms, albeit that they have some special privileges.

Neoliberalism requires a police state

I helped Indigenous peoples beat Chevron in court and they put me on house arrest. It didn’t work.

Stephen Donziner, via Naked Capitalism 4-25-2022]

Gun deaths were the leading killer of US children in 2020

[BBC, via The Big Picture 4-24-2022]

Guns overtook car crashes to become the leading cause of death for US children and teenagers in 2020, new research shows. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that over 4,300 young Americans died of firearm-related injuries in 2020. While suicides contributed to the toll, the data shows that homicides form the majority of gun-related deaths.

Climate and environmental crises

Explained: How Indonesia’s palm oil export ban will impact your everyday life 

[Firstpost, via Naked Capitalism 4-27-2022]

The Rio Grande is dying and only a new compact will save her

[Denver Post, via Naked Capitalism 4-28-2022]

Heat wave scorches India’s wheat crop, snags export plans

[AP, via Naked Capitalism 4-29-2022]

Brazil’s Drought: The Trigger that Could Take Corn Prices Higher?

[AgWeb, via Naked Capitalism 4-29-2022]

Finland Is On The Brink Of A Nuclear Power ‘Game Changer’ 

[HuffPo, via Naked Capitalism 4-26-2022]

Creating new economic potential – science and technology

The Large Hadron Collider Rebooted and Immediately Broke a World Record 

[Gizmodo, via Naked Capitalism 4-27-2022]

Electric Planes Are Coming Sooner Than You Think.

[Afar, via The Big Picture 4-26-2022]

Electric aviation is no flight of fancy: Leading airlines like United and EasyJet are onboard as early adopters, with the first U.S. commercial routes slated for 2026.

‘The sound of money’: Wind energy is booming in deep-red Republican states

[CNN, via The Big Picture 4-26-2022]

Far from the coasts, wind energy is thriving here in America’s heartland, on the vast plains of Oklahoma, Texas and Nebraska. Long an area devoted to oil and gas, Western Oklahoma is now home to one of the largest wind farms in the world.

Information age dystopia

The gig workers fighting back against the algorithms 

[MIT Technology Review, via Naked Capitalism 4-27-2022] Part three of a series on AI colonialism.

Former eBay Executive Pleads Guilty to His Role in Cyberstalking Campaign 

[Department of Justice U.S. Attorney’s Office, via Naked Capitalism 4-27-2022]

Collapse of independent news media

Will Inflation Break the News?

David Dayen, April 26, 2022 [The American Prospect]

The greatest threat to democracy from media isn’t disinformation, it’s the paywall.…

The moment of Peak TV has likely passed because it’s no longer viable to float a streaming video site as a loss leader to encourage growth. That’s bad for writers and actors and producers, and also bad for the free flow of information, which we’re learning isn’t exactly free anymore.

But streaming video isn’t the only service reliant on subscriptions.

The Financial Times calls it “The Great Cancellation,” as families find whatever unnecessary expense to cut out of their strained household budgets. Meal kits, fast-fashion delivery apps like Rent the Runway, Peloton memberships, and countless other subscription-based services are under threat of seeing their numbers diminish.

There are obvious risks to inflation-fueled cutbacks, from large-scale collapses of subscription-dependent companies to the possibility of consumer spending losses triggering a recession. But one consequence hasn’t been explored as much: This turn against subscriptions comes at a time when most of the nation’s newsgathering companies have shifted to that exact model to fund all or at least part of their daily output.

Democrats’ political suicide

“The Squad could grow stronger even if Dems lose big”

[Axios, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-27-2022]

“The Squad is poised for big gains in November despite the Democrats’ likely loss of the House. The progressive politics that mainstream Democrats blame for their decline stand to take center stage if both trendlines hold. And the Squad-Plus would be positioned to push the diluted ranks of its rivals into backing some of its agenda — impacting the 2024 presidential race. As many as six staunchly progressive candidates have viable chances to win House seats this cycle.” Greg Casar (TX), Jessica Cisneros (TX), Summer Lee (PA), Erica Smith (NC), Becca Balint (VT), and Amy Vilela (NV). More: “Reps. Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Tlaib and Pressley easily defeated primary challengers in 2020 and seem on glide paths for reelection this cycle.”

“Is politics making people sick? A lot of young people say so”

[Los Angeles Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-29-2022]

“That helps explain why a group of Harvard students and their faculty mentor found themselves briefing President Biden on Monday about the latest findings from the semiannual poll of American young people conducted by the university’s Institute of Politics…. The poll’s headline number was that Biden’s job approval among Americans aged 18 to 29 has continued to plummet, dropping 18 percentage points over the last year — from 59% in the first spring of Biden’s tenure to 41% now. That made the Harvard survey the latest in a series of polls to show Biden, and Democrats more generally, in trouble with the young voters who were key to their victories in 2018 and 2020. But the students also told Biden about another aspect of the poll which, in the long run, may matter more: A majority of young Americans, 52%, reported feeling ‘down, depressed, or hopeless’ for several days or more during the prior two weeks, and nearly 1 in 4 have had recent thoughts of hurting themselves or that they would be ‘better off dead.’… Democrats’ slim chances of keeping their Senate majority, and Biden’s ability to bounce back from his current problems, both depend heavily on finding ways to counter that and keep young Americans engaged and motivated. It’s no wonder that the Harvard poll caught the attention of the man in the Oval Office.”

John Fetterman vs. Every Predatory Financier in America 

Alexander Sammon, April 15, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Fetterman is running as a clear economic populist, with a rough-cut persona and a towering 6’8″ frame to match. Long a champion of a $15 minimum wage and Medicare for All, Fetterman has built a reputation in Pennsylvania criticizing the excesses of financial capitalism and its role in hollowing out places like Braddock, Pennsylvania, the deindustrialized town that chose him as their mayor in 2005. Frequently, he’s called on the superrich to pay more in taxes—he wants to end the carried interest loophole, which allows hedge fund managers to get away with near-zero tax rates, and has endorsed policies ensuring that millionaires pay no less than 30 percent of their income in taxes and ending inversions and offshore subsidiaries….

In the Democratic primary, the billionaire class is playing an outsized role in propping up Conor Lamb’s sagging electoral chances. According to recently released FEC filings, Lamb’s super PAC, Penn Progress, has been staked overwhelmingly by hedge fund managers and investment barons.

Among the willing: Bain Capital co-chairman (and billionaire) Joshua Bekenstein chipped in $250,000 to Penn Progress. Stephen Mandel, co-founder of the hedge fund Lone Pine Capital (and billionaire) threw in $250,000 of his own. Thomas Hagen, chairman of the Erie Insurance Group (and billionaire) gave $250,000. Randy Peeler, managing director of private equity company Berkshire Partners, gave $100,000; Oaktree Capital co-founder (and billionaire) Howard Marks gave $25,000; Kinderhook Partners managing partner Steve Clearman gave $50,000. Raine Group partner and co-founder Joe Ravitch pitched in $50,000, too. As Sludge pointed out in a recent piece on Penn Progress, the PAC with which Lamb is extremely closely aligned, “Lamb was one of three Democrats to vote for a Republican bill that would make permanent many provisions of the 2017 Trump tax cuts.”

Biden Joins D.C. Establishment in Endorsing Corporate Democrat

David Dayen, April 27, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Kurt Schrader not only got the president’s only endorsement thus far in the 2022 cycle. Local Democrats have accused the DCCC of surreptitiously helping him, too.

Fossil Fuel Allies in Congress Stand With Embattled Rep. Henry Cuellar

Donald Shaw, April 26, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Cuellar, who has the worst environmental voting record of any Democrat in Congress, faces a competitive primary challenge from Green New Deal backer Jessica Cisneros.

Free Idea for Moderate Democrats: Criticize Republicans

Ryan Cooper, April 26, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Conservative positions on abortion and LGBT rights are astoundingly unpopular. It could be better sledding for moderates than condemning their own party.

‘Al Qaeda is on our side’: How Obama-Biden team empowered terrorists in Syria 

Aaron Maté [via Naked Capitalism 4-24-2022]

Lambert Strether: “another must-read. And the same crew took the playbook, scratched out “Syria” and wrote in “Ukraine,” and here we are. Throwaway paragraph:”

While Trump put an end to the CIA proxy war, his efforts to further extricate the U.S. from Syria by withdrawing troops were thwarted by senior officials who shared the preceding administration’s regime change goals.

“When President Trump said ‘I want everybody out of Syria,’ the top brass at Pentagon and State had aneurysms,” Christopher Miller, the Acting Secretary of Defense during Trump’s last months in office, recalls.

Jim Jeffrey, Trump’s envoy for Syria, admitted to deceiving the president in order to keep in place “a lot more than” the 200 U.S. troops that Trump had reluctantly agreed to. “We were always playing shell games to not make clear to our leadership how many troops we had there,” Jeffrey told Defense One.

Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

The Trump judge’s opinion striking down the airplane mask mandate is a legal disaster

[Vox, via The Big Picture 4-26-2022]

This decision is what happens when judges don’t care what the law actually says.

Trump Judge Finds That CDC Lacks Power To…Control Disease Spread 

[Talking Points Memo, via The Big Picture 4-24-2022]

In her order, District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle goes to great lengths in search of rationale to explain how the agency in charge of stifling disease spread could have been out of bounds in issuing a mandate to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in crowded hotspots like airports and trains.

Mask Mandate Struck Down Because ‘Sanitation’ Doesn’t Mean ‘Keeping Things Clean’ For… Reasons

[Above the Law, via The Big Picture 4-24-2022]

One of the least qualified judges on the federal bench proves why she’s not qualified for the federal bench.

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 4-26-2022]


Republicans Admit Biden Can Cancel Student Debt 

David Dayen, April 28, 2022 [The American Prospect]

A new bill tries to claw back authority given to the executive branch on debt cancellation.

Five Senate Republicans confirmed that President Biden has the authority to suspend, defer, or cancel student debt, when they filed a bill on Wednesday to block Biden from carrying that out.

The bill, known as the Stop Reckless Student Loan Actions Act of 2022, would make direct changes to one of the statutes Biden can use for the purposes of debt cancellation or deferral. It also states that the executive branch may not “suspend or defer” student loan payments for longer than 90 days or for individuals who make more than 400 percent of the poverty line. The executive branch, under the bill, also may not “cancel the outstanding balances,” whether as part of a declared emergency or “through any type of executive or regulatory action.”

The GOP’s New War On Divestment

Donald Shaw, April 22, 2022 [The Lever]

Republican state and federal lawmakers, their campaign coffers filled with fossil fuel donations, are quietly building a nationwide effort to pass anti-divestment bills that would punish financial institutions that consider the climate crisis in their business deals or try to do something about it by not working with fossil fuel companies.

The effort began last December, when a model bill written by former Texas state Rep. Jason Isaac (R), now director at the Charles Koch-funded think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation, was unveiled at the American Legislative Exchange Council’s major gathering of conservative lawmakers. The model legislation, titled the “Energy Discrimination Elimination Act,” calls for states to identify and divest from financial institutions that boycott or otherwise penalize energy companies for falling short of environmental standards.

Meet the woman behind Libs of TikTok, secretly fueling the right’s outrage machine 

[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 4-24-2022]

A popular Twitter account has morphed into a social media phenomenon, spreading anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment and shaping public discourse.

Lawsuits against Alex Jones are a new strategy in curbing conspiracy theories 

[Grid, via The Big Picture 4-25-2022]

Sandy Hook parents’ lawsuits spark new hopes — and fears — about what this means for the future of online disinformation.

“Building the “Big Lie”: Inside the Creation of Trump’s Stolen Election Myth”

[Pro Publica, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-28-2022]

“ProPublica has obtained a trove of internal emails and other documentation that, taken together, tell the inside story of a group of people who propagated a number of the most pervasive theories about how the election was stolen, especially that voting machines were to blame, and helped move them from the far-right fringe to the center of the Republican Party. Those records, as well as interviews with key participants, show for the first time the extent to which leading advocates of the stolen-election theory touted evidence that they knew to be disproven or that had been credibly disputed or dismissed as dubious by operatives within their own camp. Some members of the coalition presented this mix of unreliable witnesses, unconfirmed rumor and suspect analyses as fact in published reports, talking points and court documents. In several cases, their assertions became the basis for Trump’s claims that the election had been rigged. Our examination of their actions from the 2020 election to the present day reveals a pattern. Many members of the coalition would advance a theory based on evidence that was never vetted or that they’d been told was flawed; then, when the theory was debunked, they’d move on to the next alternative and then the next.”

Donald Trump found in contempt of court by New York judge 

[FT, via Naked Capitalism 4-26-2022]



Open Thread


Civilization Ending Long Covid Levels?


  1. Z

    The value of McKinsey to the C-Suiters and Wall Street is not the actual restructurings they advise on, which often damage the companies in the long run, but the accounting tricks they offer that come along with those restructures which allows the C-Suiters to tuck in write-offs for future operating costs and helps them manage near-term future earnings so that Wall Street can confidently buy the stock and then pump it to the public knowing that there won’t be any downside earnings risk for the next several years.


  2. Willy

    I wanted to discontinue my series about “What would Vladmir do?”, but then saw the “What is propelling the U.S. into increasing international military aggression?” article.

    Putin has sometimes commented reasonably about Americas “Where’s the beef?” economy and supersize fries military. Yet he appears to follow the very same fast food model for his own nation. Except with a more Canada-sized meal of course, which I’d call a Happy Meal Economy with Fossil Fuel Toy Inside, if this metaphor hadn’t already gone off the rails.

    I wonder what it’d take for Canada to develop hypersonic missiles, stealth bombers, Mach 4 fighter jets, weapons grade plutoniums…? I get the part where they’d have to allow Trudeau a whole lot more power, invade a Caribbean island or two, probably get kicked out of NATO, and have a history of ruthless despots and western invasions (though I consider the French still occupying Quebec to check that last box).

    Putin had so many other options. Yet he chose the sociopath path just like America often does. I know how power works. It rewards the most ruthless liars who start out promising to make all your wildest dreams come true, and then the place is crawling with lowrider cousins and the cheerleaders start disappearing. Power didn’t necessarily corrupt as much as the corrupt got power. That more weapons thing.

    Which brings me to confiscating oligarch yachts. I dunno about you, but I see this as a promising trend. If Saudis bomb Yemen again then sheik yachts get confiscated. Maybe if the USA invaded yet another hapless brown nation, China could legally seize American plutocratic assets inside China. Instead of playing the game of sanctions which always targets citizens who never wanted their dog in any plutocratic fight, turn the focus back onto punishing the actual instigators.

  3. Z

    Not a comforting thought that almost all of the people who ultimately DO make the decisions regarding the Ukraine and Russia conflict are likely on amphetamines and are pursuing the dopamine pings of righteousness and resolution while being chased and harried by the stabbing fear of humiliation.

    You think Blinken and The Uncrowned Queen of Ukraine Victoria Nuland are going to back down and risk the personal and public humiliation of losing after all they’ve foolishly tossed into the pot on this, namely the supremacy of the US dollar? No, they’ll push for a face-saving, risky escalation over that. They’ll call it “being principled” though the considerations that Russia called for before the war were all ones the US wouldn’t even bother asking for if the situation was reversed. Instead, they’d demand them.

    Think Scarface Zelenskyy has the wisdom or empathy to end this at the negotiating table and give up part of Ukraine in the process? Maybe eat some crow to save some Ukrainian lives? Doubt it. He’s a star! and no star wants to relinquish their place on center stage.

    Think the lead stiff at Weekend at Biden’s will be a statesman and step in to prevent this from escalating or is even capable of it? Double no to both of those and he’s compromised in this anyway because his son Hunter was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars … if not millions … for breathing for Burisma, a gig that Joe, back in his more cognizant days, undoubtedly got him.

    So, it looks like it’s full bore forward on this and they could care less if they risk all human life in the process. “Leadership” that’s doped up on their speed and power and hurtles us all towards an abyss.


  4. Z

    A move of overlooked importance this past week:

    Note also that Blinken made the bold claim that Iran was a few weeks or less from a nuclear bomb this week:


  5. Keith in Modesto

    The link for “Opinion: There’s a big hole in the Fed’s theory of inflation—incomes are falling at a record 10.9% rate ” is bad.
    It should be thus:

  6. Ché Pasa

    May 2 is the 8th anniversary of the
    Odessa Massacre
    one of the precipitating events of the current conflict in Ukraine. Hundreds of protesters against the Euromaidan coup-regime in Kiev took refuge in the Trades Union building after being pursued by a mob of “ultras”. Several dozen, mostly middle aged and older people, burned to death or died of smoke inhalation in the Odessa Trades Union building, others were shot or beaten to death by roving Ukrainian “ultranationalists,” dozens were injured, some severely when they jumped from the burning building that had been set alight by Molotov cocktails thrown from a mob of “ultranationalists.” The injured were arrested and taken away in police vans. Some were never seen again.

    After that and the Mariupol Massacre of May 9, 2014, in which dozens of Victory Day celebrants were shot down by Ukrainian militias, the Ukrainian separatist movement gained steam and credibility. From the point of view of the victims, mostly ethnic Russians (“Slavs”) and Russian speakers, the Ukrainian coup-government in Kiev had no interest in a unified Ukraine nor in protecting the Russian speaking minority of the country, but instead sought to drive them out or kill them in an orgy of ethnic cleansing.

    The Russians-Russian speakers sought refuge and autonomy in the Donbas where they were a (bare) majority. Russia reclaimed Crimea where Russians and Russian speakers were an overwhelming majority. The Ukrainian coup-government attempted to bombard Donbas separatists into submission and failed. Minsk agreements provided for partial autonomy for Donbas under the Ukrainian government as a means to pacify the region, but the agreements were never implemented. The conflict continued with Western encouragement and support.

    It led to the Russian invasion and all of the consequences that have flowed from it including political reordering of the West, the normalization and acceptance of fascists and Nazis fighting on “our side,” and cascading economic consequences in Russia, Europe and North America. Famines and worse are predicted in the global south as a consequence of the conflict in Ukraine. Nuclear war has been repeatedly alluded to and is implicitly threatened by the USandNato vs Russian Federation clash with Ukrainians caught and squeezed in the middle, their citizens made killed or made refugees by the millions, some of their cities torched, their lives turned upside down for… what, exactly?

    It didn’t have to be this way.

  7. Mark Level

    “What is propelling the US into increasing international military aggression?” Well, the passive verb use in the headline (“mistakes were made in Iraq”) is troubling, so maybe the basic assumption suggested should be interrogated. It’s pretty clear that it is a Who, not a What that propels this. Unelected ghouls like Victoria Nuland and her genocidal husband of PNAC (which had a name change before disappearing) run the NatSec apparatchik. They don’t just directly profit (via holdings in Northrop-Grumman, etc.), they are high on their own propaganda supply, as many have noted. They need war like a junkie needs junk, it’s the only thing that gets their pleasure pheromones pumping. (For all I know I may have just paraphrased William S. Burroughs, if so credit where it’s due.) It’s the same arrogant mania that led to other ridiculous homicidal fu<k ups like the Children's Crusades (I read a wonderful piece by Evan Connell on the specifics of that last year) . . . the results for the aggressors will be similar, though of course the canon fodder will suffer far more than the Masters of War safely ensconced @ the Atlantic Council, etc. Of course they have the sense that their genocides will never be punished and they may be right. 'Muricans seem more frightened and timid with their Elites than the Italians of the early 40s were when they came across a fleeing Mussolini, e.g. I guess if they have to bring down their own Empire in a destructive blaze of ignominy, it will be an entirely expected outcome, and all most of us poor peons can do is watch from the sidelines and hope they don't trigger massive destruction like a "limited" nuclear exchange. There's little comfort in knowing that they may be too deluded and insane to avoid such an outcome; the only consolation for the rest of the world will be the death and decline of an 8 decade empire that is blood-soaked beyond anything Sargon of Akkad or even Pol Pot (supported for some time by the US empire while genociding his own people, of course) had ever imagined.

  8. Blueberry Hill

    Wife: Kadaijah and I are putting masks back on the kids.

    Me: Good.

    Wife: Horrible coughing and diarrhea.

    Me: Shit! Pun intended! That’s Covid.

    Wife: The front desk person actually tried to tell me she was not sending someone home unless they had diarrhea twice. I told her he shit his pants —”call his dad!!” You have to fucking be kidding me!

    Me: It’s fucking Covid. Wait until one of these poor kids dies from liver failure which is a complication of Covid in children.

    Wife: We have 8 kids out sick and are sending two home. This is really scary. No one is breathing a word about Covid.

    Wife: I am taking a test when I come home.

    Me: I think you should.

    Me: This is why I will not vote for Biden or any Democrat. This is on them.

    Me: Not that I would vote for a Republican, but the Dems have done NOTHING and only managed to make things worse by pretending Covid is over or in the least innocuous and harmless.

    Wife: Yep

  9. Z

    Note that the Head PR Man for the Point Zero One Percent Obama begins a crusade against “disinformation” one week ( and a week later we get this:

    Sec. of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas says a “Disinformation Governance Board” is being created to counter misinformation.


  10. different clue


    There are millions of people who will take a DGB warning label as being a Good Brainkeeping Seal of Reverse Approval. That is . . . . if the DGB says a “certain something” is disinformation, millions of people will take that as proof all by itself that ” a certain something” is reality-based truth.

    The problem with that approach is that when the DGB discovers that a DGB Seal of Disapproval is enough all by itself to get millions of people to believe the tagged item, then the DGB will start working with other parts of government which want to plant their own disinformation into the mass mind. How will the DGB work with those other parts of government to get the disinformation planted and spread? So simple! The other parts of government will post their disinformation into the media and the internets and then the DGB will tag this disinformation as being “disinformation”. That will get the millions of people who don’t trust the DGB to assume that the secretly-planted other-agency disinfo which the DGB then says is disinfo . . . . is really info. And that’s how the DGB will get the millions of bitter cynics to believe in the truth of the government’s secret disinformation.

  11. different clue

    One problem members of the lower class majority encounter in our daily slog through the Forced Market Moneyconomy is the problem of toll-taking choke-holders. I think that would be a more layman-friendly term for what economists insist on calling rent-seeking rent-takers.

    One little category of toll-gate extortionists is the scientific journals which charge big money to read the scientific papers they publish. Well, I just read a little reddit entry from an actual scientific writer of scientific papers who offered some free advice on how to perhaps get a free copy of a particular scientific paper you might be interested in if you know what it is. And here is the reddit item:

    It seems like a small thing in our world of bigger problems, but every dollar is a bullet on the field of economic combat, and the “death of a thousand cuts” has to begin with the first cut.

  12. Willy

    Speaking of getting free scientific journals from the government, ever notice how you never see Bill Nye and Matthew Lesko together in the same room?

    And don’t get me started on those silly slavs. One minute they’re just like brothers, the next they’re all trying to kill each other off. Actually, they’d probably be saying the same thing about us if BLM wasn’t so different looking from the police patriots.

    One needs to take advantage of course. But all in good fun. I myself had east coast conservatives believing that Portland had been laid waste with all the churches burned to the ground, and city hall occupied by Mexicans and tent people. With the media in such disrepute, one can get folks to believe damned near anything these days.

  13. different clue

    Once a Week-end-wrap thread has addressed the topic(s) for the week as much as it is going to, would it be okay-ish to begin offering comments about various sorts of individual scale forms of economic combat the politically helpless individual might be able to wage against the Lords of the Moneyconomy?

    Just in case it would, here is a little micro-post containing a link to a website about how to fix things that break instead of throwing them out and buying new ones the way you are supposed to do . . . like a good little consumer.

    And in case the referred-to link somehow does not carry over, here it is on its own . . .
    Even if it is not as complete or as powerful as we might wish, it seems to be a good faith effort.

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