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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – May 12 2024

by Tony Wikrent


Strategic Political Economy

‘Sad What We Are Doing’: Global CO2 Increase Sets New All-Time Record

Olivia Rosane, May 10, 2024 [CommonDreams]

The average monthly concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere jumped by a record 4.7 parts per million between March 2023 and March 2024, according to new data from NOAA’s Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii.

The spike, reported by the University of California, San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography on Wednesday, reveals “the increasing pace of CO2 addition to the atmosphere by human activities,” the university said.

How Good, Kind, Caring People Became The Bad Guys 

Jessica Wildfire [OK Doomer, via Naked Capitalism 05-05-2024]

…When you complain, people judge you. It doesn’t matter what you’re complaining about. It doesn’t matter what you’re protesting or whistle-blowing. It doesn’t matter if your life is at stake. It doesn’t matter if thousands of lives are at stake. It doesn’t matter if the fate of humanity is at stake. Someone’s first instinct is to suspect you. It’s to accuse you of lying. It’s to label you a troublemaker.

They hear negative words coming out of your mouth. They associate those negative things with you, because you’re the person saying them. That’s how our primate brains operate. It takes a lot of self-awareness to overcome that, and many people lack it….

The New Anti-Antisemitism 

Rick Perlstein, May 8, 2024 [The American Prospect]

The response to college protests against the war on Gaza exemplifies the darkness of the Trumpocene….

THE PROVOCATIONS FOR THESE ASSAULTS are so much milder now than they were in the 1960s that an administrator then who could peer 55 years into the future would probably smirk. Students peacefully chanting slogans on a single, specific issue, backed by easily realizable demands? Pshaw….

But to repeat: What is happening now, I believe, might be far more dangerous….

Concerns for the “safety” of Jewish students has become a rhetorical commonplace in elite discussions of campus politics these days: “Jewish students of all political beliefs,” Theo Baker, son of New York Times superstar Peter Baker, tells us in The Atlantic in “The War at Stanford,” “have been given good reason to fear for their safety. They’ve been followed, harassed, and called derogatory racial epithets.”

It makes me feel like I’m losing my mind. You know who has good reason to fear for their safety? People, many of them Jews, getting pummeled by cops and fascists. People getting high-powered rifles aimed at them from rooftops by agents of the state who surely have been told by the people giving them orders to be ready to shoot because of all the “dangerous” things that are going on amid those protesters’ tents.

Sure, offensive things have happened to protesters. And that’s awful. But when I told some Chicago neighbors about all the Judaism going on down in Hyde Park, they were frankly shocked to hear it: They watch Morning Joe, from which they got the impression that Jew-hate was the overwhelming leitmotif of this whole protest thing.

It suggests one of those Talmudic puzzlements, or perhaps the setup for a dad joke: How many Jews have to pray peacefully in a pro-peace encampment (or alternatively, to cite a scene witnessed outside the 116th Street gate of Columbia University, how many black-hatted ultra-Orthodox Jews have to chant, “Anti-Zionism is not antisemitism”) for them to stop being an antisemitic mob?


Global power shift

The liberal international order is slowly coming apart 

[The Economist, via Naked Capitalism 05-10-2024]

[TW: I include only because The Economist is a notorious mouthpiece for the Anglo-American elites and their neoliberal policies.]

The In-Flight Magazine for Corporate Jets 

Luke Goldstein, April 2, 2024 [The American Prospect]

The Economist has channeled the concerns of elites for decades. It sees the Biden administration as a threat.


The Demise of US Power, De-Dollarisation & the BRICS 

Ann Pettifor [via Naked Capitalism 05-11-2024]

Xi Jinping’s Plan To Save China Through Science 

[The Scholar’s Stage, via Naked Capitalism 05-10-2024]

[TW: Note the response by western experts who have been thoroughly indoctrinated in the nostrums of neoliberalism and are thus unable to even think of how a government oversight can be beneficial guidance to the development of a society .]

The View from China: Perspectives on the West in the Xi Jinping Era 

[Pekingology, via Naked Capitalism 05-10-2024]

RUSI Report Quietly Validates Russia’s Strategic Superiority: A Breakdown 

[Simplicius the Thinker, via Naked Capitalism 05-05-2024]

[X-Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 05-09-2024]



Gaza / Palestine / Israel

Northern Gaza in ‘full-blown’ famine: Senior UN official 

[EuroNews, via Naked Capitalism 05-05-2024]

Israel bombs UNRWA building in Gaza Strip, claiming it was ‘Hamas base’ 

[Anadolu Agency, via Naked Capitalism 05-07-2024]

Ecocide: Israel’s systematic destruction of Palestinian agriculture revealed 

[Anadolu Agency, via Naked Capitalism 05-06-2024]

Prof. Amos Goldberg: “Yes, It Is Genocide” 

[ScheerPost, via Naked Capitalism 05-10-2024]

Israel finally goes too far 

Jonathan M. Katz, May 10, 2024 [The Racket]

My first reaction to hearing this news was to doubt its sincerity. Biden may be the most ideologically Zionist president in U.S. history. He just signed a bill appropriating an additional $26 billion in weaponry for Israel after months and months of uncountable horrors. That is probably in gross violation of U.S. law, as should have been affirmed by a mandated State Department report on Israeli violations of U.S. and international humanitarian law that was due Wednesday, but whose delivery has been conveniently delayed. And Israel is still slated to get billions of dollars worth of bombs, tank rounds, mortars, and armored tactical vehicles, even without the halted shipment, Reuters reported today….

But something really is going on here. You can tell in part by the conniption fit being thrown by Israel’s leaders, lobbyists, and the media….

Tragedy and Folly 

Josh Marshall, May 11th, 2024 [Talking Points Memo]

It gets lost in the myriad headlines at the moment about Rafah, weapons cut offs, Biden, horrific civilian loss of life, etc. But there’s a short piece in the Times of Israel this afternoon that captures a dimension of what’s happening right now in Israel that is mostly off the radar in the U.S. The piece is about a reported blow up between Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi. Specifically, it has the latter telling Netanyahu that because he refuses to make diplomatic arrangements for the post-war government of Gaza, the IDF is having to go back to fight again in areas it already took over. In some cases they’re having to go back and fight for the same ground a third time!

(Here’s another article in Haaretz on how the IDF is now going back into northern Gaza, which they conquered back in the fall. Privately the IDF says Hamas has reestablished control there because there’s no day-after plan, which is a diplomatic to-do item. If you blow it up and leave why wouldn’t they just go back?)

Netanyahu refuses to do that because there’s really no way to plan for the future without blowing up his governing coalition. But without some plan, the Israeli army is reduced to doing something like pushing water up a hill with its hands. The article is replete with examples of heads of the army or intelligence services trying to get someone to give them a strategy, or actually more than a strategy, just a goal. And it has Netanyahu getting mad because they’re going to the defense minister, himself a former high-level IDF general. It’s not even a question of disagreeing on strategy really — that’s for the political leadership to decide. It’s refusing to come up with any strategy at all….

Top Secret: In a 2018 letter, Netanyahu asks Qatar to fund Hamas

[Ynet, via Naked Capitalism 05-06-2024]

AIPAC Is Secretly Funneling Money Into a Congressional Race, Sources Say. Here Are the Details.

Ryan Grim, May 4, 2024 [The Intercept]

AIPAC is not done trying to take down the Squad.…

On Friday, a brand new PAC, ridiculously called “Voters for Responsive Government,” launched two new attack ads at Jayapal, putting close to a million dollars behind them. One of the ads literally accuses her of starving and abusing cats and dogs. Seriously.

You can read the full story here, and if you know anybody in Portland, forward them this email. And while you’re at it, tell them to buy my book on the Squad, called, creatively, “The Squad,” which goes deep on the war between the progressive members of Congress and AIPAC….

AIPAC and Republican Donors Raising Big Money for Maxine Dexter Against Susheela Jayapal In Oregon

Ryan Grim, May 10, 2024 [The Intercept]

Ghosts of ’68 

[New Left Review, via Naked Capitalism 05-09-2024]

…When self-censorship at US universities fails – a rare occurrence, as Edward Said noted three decades ago – overt censorship takes over. Yet few were prepared for the swiftness or brutality of the police-administrative-political response…. Federal law enforcement agencies had clearly been coordinating with city, state, county, highway and campus police; the New Hampshire governor said as much….

What explains the scale of this response? The semester ends sometime between late April and mid-May. Why not wait the encampments out, negotiating and offering symbolic concessions to buy time? This is partly a reflection of the changes that universities, like many other institutions, have undergone during decades of neoliberalization. In the mid-1970s, Republicans identified public universities as a crucial source of anti-authoritarian sentiment and demanded a complete institutional overhaul. The subsequent process of privatization, which has made tuition prohibitive for most prospective in-state students, has been catastrophic for democratic principles and practices. With massive, untaxed endowments running into the tens of billions, universities have slowly morphed into public-private police-carceral states, catering to ‘customers’ and answering to benefactors and politicians, not students or faculty….

Another crucial factor is the influence of so-called ‘shot callers’: a donor class of billionaires, often working through politicians or board members, with the power to force institutional changes or get people fired by threatening to withhold funding. As universities have become more like corporations, whose primary duties are to their shareholders, administrators have become increasingly pliant before donors and their representatives. Presidents can be forced to resign even when they have strong support from students and faculty, as at Harvard; or, conversely, they can ignore significant internal opposition because they have outside backers, as at Columbia. (One of the main shot callers there is Democratic donor Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, who responded to the protests by revoking a donation and taking out full-page advertisements in major newspapers which denounced ‘antisemitic hate’ and demanded greater ‘protection’ on campuses.)….

My dream died, and now here I am

Sabine Hossenfelder [viaThomas Neuburger, mAY 10, 2024]

It made me realize that this institute [where I was working] wasn’t about knowledge discovery. It was about money making. And the more I saw of academia, the more I realized it wasn’t just this particular institute and this particular professor. It was generally the case.

The moment you put people into big institutions, the goal shifts from knowledge discovery to money making. Here’s how this works.

If a researcher gets a scholarship or research grant, then the institution gets part of that money. It’s called the “overhead”. Technically, that’s meant to pay for offices and equipment and admin, etc.

But academic institutions then pay part of their staff from this overhead, so they need to keep that overhead coming. Small scholarships don’t make much money, but research grants can be tens of millions of dollars. And the overhead can be anything between 15 and 50 percent. This is why research institutions exert loads of pressure on researchers to bring in grant money.



Richest Americans Now Pay Less Tax Than Working Class in Historical First 

[Newsweek, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 05-10-2024]

“In the 1960s, the 400 richest Americans paid more than half of their income in taxes, according to the Times. By 2018, America’s wealthiest individuals paid just 23 percent of their income in taxes. Meanwhile, the bottom half of income earners paid 24 percent of their income in taxes. Today, America’s richest people control a greater share of the country’s wealth than during the ‘Gilded Age of Carnegies and Rockefellers,’ the [New York Times] said, referring to a period of unprecedented wealth concentration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This is partly due to significant decreases in taxes on the rich. Wealthy individuals once paid high taxes on corporate profits, which were typically their primary source of income, and estate taxes on wealth passed down to their heirs. However, these taxes have been significantly reduced in recent years—the top corporate tax rate in the U.S. was reduced from 35 percent to 21 percent in 2018, and the estate tax now generates only a quarter of the tax revenues it raised in the 1970s, the Times noted. Another factor is that many modern billionaires live off their wealth rather than their incomes, unlike most ordinary Americans.”

The Price We Pay for Bezos and Gates? Less Moral Societies

Sam Pizzigatti, May 08, 2024 [CommonDreams]

The longer we let inequality define our contemporary daily lives, new research helps us understand, the more the unethical behavior all around us will seem to reflect just the way our world naturally works….

People who live in societies with wide gaps between the wealthy and everyone else turn out to live briefer lives than people who call more equal societies home. People who live in more equal societies, meanwhile, tend to live happier lives than their unequal-society counterparts. They face less crime. Their economies crash less often.

Epidemiologists and economists the world over are exploring all these sorts of phenomena. So are sociologists and political scientists. And, over recent years, psychologists have been jumping big-time into the fray, as an analysis from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management has just highlighted.

How Do You Know If A Member Of Congress Is Too Corrupt To Vote For? Are They In Bed With Crypto?

Howie Klein, May 11, 2024  []


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

The Rise of Monopolies & Oligopolies 

[, via Naked Capitalism 05-10-2024]

[Lambert Strether: “Note the source.” ]


David Sirota, May 9, 2024 [The Lever]

I’ve been obsessed with The Great Bank Robbery, in which banks are charging borrowers higher interest rates for loans, but then refuse to pass on the proceeds to savers in the form of larger interest payments on their deposits. A new Fed study shows that this net interest gap is worse than it was during the last period of interest rate increases. Now bigger and more monopolized, banks are simply refusing to pass on higher interest rates to depositors, even as they rake in ever-higher payments on loans.

‘Argentina Stopped’: Unions Hold Second General Strike Over Milei Austerity

Jessica Corbett, May 10, 2024 [CommonDreams]

Argentina’s primary trade union federation on Thursday held another nationwide general strike, the second called since President Javier Milei, a far-right economist, took office in December and began pursuing sweeping austerity and deregulation….

The labor groups called out the government for promoting “dangerous policies for the privatization of public enterprises” and pushing for “a phenomenal transfer of resources to the most concentrated and privileged sectors of the economy.”

CGT celebrated the 24-hour strike’s success on Friday, declaring that “Argentina stopped,” and sharing photos of sparsely populated roads, transit hubs, and other public spaces.


They’re not capitalists — they’re predatory criminals

The Mega-Donor Who Colluded With OPEC 

Luke Goldstein, May  7, 2024 [The American Prospect]

For the past four years, the main area of inflation that has frustrated Americans the most is gas prices. The numbers have come down since their peak in 2022, but still remain stubbornly high….

The Federal Trade Commission recently uncovered another underlying cause: an orchestrated plot between OPEC and an American fracking tycoon to exploit the inflationary period to push prices even higher. That was arguably even more critical to the overall price-fixing scheme, because the U.S., since the fracking boom of the mid-2010s, is the largest oil producer on Earth, and the “swing” producer with the greatest ability to move prices.

This scheme cost the average American as much as $2,100 a year, according to one estimate. The orchestrator, CEO of Texas oil and gas powerhouse Pioneer Natural Resources Scott Sheffield, has used campaign contributions in Texas and Washington to amass serious influence on oil and gas policy, until now.

The FTC made its discovery while reviewing a merger between Pioneer and global oil giant ExxonMobil, a deal which the commission announced it would clear last week. But as a condition for letting the merger go through, the FTC is barring Sheffield from joining the board of the combined firm, because of evidence it obtained that Sheffield colluded with OPEC at the height of inflation to fix prices….

An Oil Price-Fixing Conspiracy Caused 27% of All Inflation Increases in 2021 

Matt Stoller [BIG, via Naked Capitalism 05-06-2024]

How the US financial system helps shelter profits from environmental organized crime 

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism 05-08-2024]

The Texas Three-Step 

[Credit Slips, via Naked Capitalism 05-08-2024]

[TW: included here to show how brazenly the law can be misused to shield corporate criminality from consequences. The ethics of the law profession needs to be reworked to create a strong personal sense of civic virtue that mitigates against lawyers engaging in these types of maneuvers. ]

When Employers Violate the NLRA, the Harm is Always Irreparable 

[On Labor, via Naked Capitalism 05-09-2024]


Restoring balance to the economy


David Sirota, May 9, 2024 [The Lever]

It’s good that some Senate Democrats are once again pushing legislation to end the “carried interest” tax loophole that lets private equity billionaires avoid paying regular income taxes on their earnings. It’s highly annoying that we’re all asked to forget that the Biden administration (like previous administrations) could just end the loophole right now without an act of Congress. It would be better to close it via statute so that the next president couldn’t reopen it, but the point is: The president can try to close the loophole on his own. Biden says he wants to close the loophole but has refused to use his power.

Rather than Putting Shareholders First, Japanese Companies Should Prioritize Wages and Capital Spending over Dividends

[, via Naked Capitalism 05-09-2024]

Zach Shrewsbury Is Wrapping Up His Senate Primary Campaign Strong— And Ready To Take On Jim Justice

Howie Klein, May 4, 2024  []

…If you’d like to help him keep his get out the vote operation humming, please consider contributing what you can here. Yesterday, the New Yorker ran an inspiring feature on Zach by Dan Kaufman asking if a progressive campaign can break the coal industry’s hold on West Virginia politics?

Shrewsbury is a 32 year old full-time community organizer and he never expected to run for office. “His burly frame,” wrote Kaufman, “is covered in tattoos, including a spear and trident on his forearm, marking his stint in the Marines, and a quote from Eugene Debs on his rib cage. (‘Thank God you look the way you do,’ a Democratic National Committee consultant told him at one campaign event. ‘I’m fucking sick of these haircuts and suits.’) Shrewsbury first got involved in West Virginia politics on the 2020 Senate campaign of Paula Jean Swearengin, a progressive activist from a coal-mining family, who ran against West Virginia’s Republican senator, Shelley Moore Capito. Swearengin lost badly, but Shrewsbury, who was Swearengin’s field director for southern West Virginia, took inspiration. ‘It’s about more than just winning a damn election,’ he told me. ‘West Virginia is in a state of desperation. We’re a good example of what happens when your representation won’t advocate for you.’”

Disrupting mainstream economics

There are six reasons why we need taxes 

[Funding the Future, via Naked Capitalism 05-07-2024]



Information age dystopia / surveillance state

The Antisemitism Awareness Act is a full frontal assault on free speech

[Middle East Eye, via Naked Capitalism 05-08-2024]

IRS Now Targeting People Who Threaten Washington’s “Ability to Govern” 

Ken Klipperstein [via Naked Capitalism 05-11-2024] Notice the Biden Administration engaging in the sort of authoritarianism that the “save our democracy” sorts are projecting on to Trump.


Collapse of independent news media

New Claim Puts ‘WaPo’ Boss Will Lewis in Crosshairs of Murdoch Scandal 

[Daily Beast, via Naked Capitalism 05-07-2024]


Climate and environmental crises

Study reveals how much carbon damage would cost corporations if they paid for their emissions 

[AP, via Naked Capitalism 05-07-2024]

The world’s corporations produce so much climate change pollution, it could eat up about 44% of their profits if they had to pay damages for it, according to a study by economists of nearly 15,000 public companies…. Nearly 90% of that calculated damage comes from four industries: energy, utilities, transportation and manufacturing of materials such as steel. The study in Thursday’s journal Science by a team of economists and finance professors looks….

Mexico’s Floating Gardens Are an Ancient Wonder of Sustainable Farming 

[Reasons to be Cheerful, via Naked Capitalism 05-05-2024]

The Iron Farm Bill: Agricultural policy coalitions in the age of climate crisis

{Phenomenal World, via Naked Capitalism 05-06-2024]

‘Everything’s on fire’: Inside the nation’s failure to safeguard toxic pipelines 

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism 05-06-2024]

Decarbonisation of shipping could create up to four million green jobs 

[Hellenic Shipping News, via Naked Capitalism 05-10-2024]



Democrats’ political malpractice

Democrats Indulge Cuellar’s Corruption

David Dayen, May 7, 2024 [The American Prospect]

Almost nobody has spoken out on the bribery scandal afflicting their party. That makes it harder to draw contrasts with Trump.

AIPAC Invades Oregon With Its Dirty Blood Money: Should Progressives Stop Contributing To Candidates Who Take AIPAC Money?

Howie Klein, May 5, 2024  []

Late last week, Sludge published a list of the politicians of both parties who have taken money from the pro-Likud, pro-genocide lobbyists. 26 of them had then over $300,000 in the current cycle— from Jan. 1, 2023 until March 31, 2024. Numero uno, George Latimer, is the candidate they recruited to run against Jamaal Bowman, their top target of 2024. The $1.3 million they have put directly into his campaign, seems gigantic, but it’s a pittance compared to the $20-25 million they are preparing in independent expenditures between now and the June primary. These are the 26 who have taken over $300,000 so far this cycle….

4 Years Of Trump Left The Swamp Intact— Congress Gains Too Much From Lobbyists To Reform The System

Howie Klein, May 6, 2024  []

…2022 was the first year that saw federal lobbyists spend over a billion dollars. The increased in 2022 and again this year, which isn’t even half over! There are over 10,000 registered federal lobbyists who are spreading that money around…

The Mullins brothers— Brody, an investigative reporter for the Wall Street Journal, covering business, lobbying and campaign finance, and Luke, a Politico writer covering the people and institutions that control Washington’s levers of power— have a new book, The Wolves Of K Street: The Secret History off How big Money Took Over Big Government, coming out tomorrow. Brody was part of the team that won the 2023 investigative reporting Pulitzer Prize for revealing financial conflicts of interest among officials at 50 federal agencies who bought and sold stocks of companies they were tasked with regulating. That was one part of the Swamp. K Street is another….

Lloyd Green reviewed the book over the weekend:  how lobbying swallowed Washington. Lobbying was a $4.3 billion industry last year….


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

Trump to Big Oil Execs: Give Me $1 Billion and I’ll Help You Wreck the Planet

Jake Johnson, May 09, 2024 [CommonDreams]

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump made a straightforward offer to some of the top fossil fuel executives in the United States during a dinner at his Mar-a-Lago club last month, which marked the hottest April on record.

According to new reporting, Trump pledged to swiftly gut climate regulations put in place by the Biden administration if the oil and gas industry raises $1 billion for his 2024 presidential campaign.

The “remarkably blunt and transactional pitch,” reported by The Washington Post, was Trump’s latest explicit statement of his intention to give the fossil fuel industry free rein to wreck the planet if he wins a second term in power. Executives from Exxon, Chevron, Occidental Petroleum, and other prominent fossil fuel companies reportedly attended the Mar-a-Lago dinner….

Donald Trump: American Crime Figure— What About His Enablers? Trump Woos The Oil Barons Back

Howie Klein, May 10, 2024  []

How The Right Wing Media Killed Its Own Audience To Own The Libs

NebraskaDemocrat, May 06, 2024 [DailyKos]

Intuitively Shredding Democracy

Abby Zimet, May 10, 2024 [CommonDreams]

[TW: A nice summary of the multitude of “microagressions” being committed against democracy and the right to vote by (anti)Republicans.]

The Right to Travel Under Siege

Gabrielle Gurley, May 10, 2024 [The American Prospect]

When the Dobbs majority sent abortion lawmaking back to the states two years ago, it wasn’t difficult to predict that entire sections of the country would eliminate access to the procedure. The abortion prohibitionists who’ve successfully walled off vast swaths of the Southeast and the Great Plains have gone one step further, however, by criminalizing travel to places where abortion is legal.

The constitutional right to travel is under assault in Republican strongholds like Alabama. Already in the spotlight for the state supreme court IVF decision that introduced the concept of embryos as “extra-uterine children,” Alabama aims to put its retrograde stamp on the right to travel for this medical procedure. One of the first salvos in what promises to be a long fight finds U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson pushing back on Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall’s move to toss a lawsuit by reproductive health care providers that sought relief from the state’s threats of prosecution for assisting people who are trying to obtain abortions. Yellowhammer Fund v. Marshall rests on whether organizations and health care providers assisting women with travel would be subject to prosecution in Alabama, which prohibits it….

Dobbs Was a Gift to Domestic Abusers

Melissa Gira Grant, May 9, 2024 [The New Republic]

Homicide is a leading cause of death in the perinatal period. But just as troublingly, abusers can use abortion bans to prevent partners from leaving or retaliate against them if they do.

Republican U.S. States Sue EPA over Strict Power Plant Emission Rules 

[OilPrice, via Naked Capitalism 05-11-2024]

Bannon headed to jail

Heather Cox Richardson, May 10, 2024 [Letters from an American]

On October 31, 2020, former Trump White House advisor Steve Bannon—who had left Trump’s administration in 2017—explained to a group of people that, knowing that votes for Biden would accumulate throughout the evening as mail-in ballots were counted, Trump planned simply to declare victory on election night, seizing the presidency and claiming that any results to the contrary were an attempt to steal the election from him. “[A]t 10 or 11 o’clock Trump’s gonna walk in the Oval, tweet out, ‘I’m the winner. Game over. Suck on that,’” Bannon was recorded as saying.

That prediction was pretty much what happened, but Trump did not succeed in seizing the presidency. Next came plans to overturn the election results, and Bannon was also involved in those. Then, famously, on January 5, 2021, he predicted on his podcast that the next day, “all hell is going to break loose.”

Not surprisingly, the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol wanted to talk to Bannon. It subpoenaed him in September 2021 for testimony and documents. When he refused to comply, a jury found him guilty of contempt of Congress in October 2022. A judge sentenced him to four months in jail but allowed him to stay out of jail while he appealed.

Today a three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld his conviction. He will not be jailed immediately; he can still appeal to a higher court.

[X-Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 05-07-2024]


How FreedomWorks Paved the Way for Trumpism—and for Its Own Demise

Adele M. Stan, May 10, 2024 [The New Republic]

The once influential libertarian group was built on rage and small government. Guess which one prevailed?

If you’d known what to look for, you could have seen it coming miles and miles away: the demise of movement conservatism in the face of Trumpism. The only thing surprising about the collapse of FreedomWorks, the loud and splashy libertarian astroturf outfit, is that it hadn’t happened sooner. On Wednesday, the group abruptly announced that it had been dissolved by its board.

Born in 1984 as part of the Koch brothers’ group, Citizens for a Sound Economy, FreedomWorks split from the political network of billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch in 2004. By 2008, the organization was poised to lead the backlash against the election of Barack Obama, helping to create and grow the anti-government Tea Party movement. In the 2010 midterm elections, FreedomWorks aimed to change the DNA of the U.S. Senate, and proved to be a powerhouse in seating the candidates it backed. But with the takeover of the Republican Party by former president Donald J. Trump, its power is no more.

New Laws Are Turning Police Into ‘Supercitizens’ 

John Pfaff, May 8, 2024 [The American Prospect]

A series of legislative and judicial efforts have removed police oversight from oversight boards and communities.

The (anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts

How ‘History and Tradition’ Rulings Are Changing American Law 


How Originalism Ate the Law 

Dalia Lithwick [Slate , via Naked Capitalism 05-11-2024]


Civic republicanism

The General Welfare Amendment: Restoring The Legal Teeth Of The Preamble 

[VoteNo2BigDough, via Naked Capitalism 05-11-2024]

[TW: I addressed this specific issue in Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 9, 2023, featuring the September, 2021 article by David S. Schwartz in 37 Constitutional Commentary 2022, Reconsidering the Constitution’s Preamble: The Words that Made Us U.S. — University of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper Series Paper No. 1718.

[Lithwick’s “How Originalism Ate the Law” in Slate and “The General Welfare Amendment: Restoring The Legal Teeth Of The Preamble” in VoteNo2BigDough belong together because they are both the result of the reactionary project to “reinterpret” the Constitution to literally dismantle “the administrative state” — or. more accurately, the structure of the USA as a self-governing republic. This is particularly maddening, because liberals and “the left” have adopted a philosophy of political economy that makes it difficult for them to recognize what the reactionaries are doing, let alone respond to it effectively.

[Until they were shocked by the December 2021 decision Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization which swept away Roe v. Wade, liberals and leaders of the Democratic Party have been crippled by a large part of “the left” rejecting out of hand USA Constitutional law and political history as mere instruments of an oppressive and exploitative capitalist system tainted irremediably by slavery. Liberals, Democrats and “the left” ignored the historical record of the fight within USA between republicanism and oligarchy. They mistakenly believed liberalism was a derivative of civic republicanism instead of seeing how much of liberalism — with its emphasis on “private property” and “individual liberty” rather than the General Welfare — was shaped as an oligarchical response to civic republicanism and the rising power of the American republic. Thus they were disastrously outflanked by the Rehnquist / Scalia / Thomas assault on the law and persistent undermining of the principles of civic republicanism. Meeting the oligarchs’ / reactionaries’ “argument” that Social Security, Medicare, the EPA, the Federal Labor Relations Board, and so on, are unconstitutional, liberals respond only with incredulity rather than historically-based explanations that the powers of the national government are, and were intended to be, general in nature and broad in scope.

[In Reconsidering the Constitution’s Preamble: The Words that Made Us U.S. — University of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper Series Paper No. 1718, David S. Schwartz, explains that conservatives and originalists dismiss the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution as a “stylistic flourish with no operative legal significance.” But, “the drafting history of the Preamble, observable by comparing the preambles in the Articles of Confederation, the Committee of Detail draft of the Constitution, and the Committee of Style’s final version, demonstrate that the Framers considered the Preamble to be substantively meaningful…. concluding that the Preamble is “a legally inoperative flourish has no basis as a matter of text or history.”

[In his 1833 three-volume Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States — long considered the most through and faithful exposition of Constitutional interpretation — Justice Joseph Story wrote that while the Preamble does not confer any “substantive power” on the national government, it does “expound the nature, and extent, and application of the powers actually conferred by the
constitution,” and should be used as a guide to interpreting the Constitution when “the terms of a given power admit of two constructions, the one more restrictive, the other more liberal.” Further, interpretation should be “governed by the intent of the power;” that is, Constitutional interpretation of federal powers should “promote” and not restrict — Story uses the word “defeat”” — that power. Schwartz writes,

“For Story, then, the preamble is an argument against strict construction of federal powers: a statement that the Constitution’s grants of powers are to be liberally construed, to promote such things as “the general welfare.”

[This is, of course, the exact opposite of the doctrines of conservatives and originalists such as William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito, not to mention the entire (anti)Federalist Society. Schwartz makes the important point that “The argument that the preamble meant nothing more than a stylistic flourish … was highly congenial to compact theorists, nullifiers, and secessionists.”

[We have seen this throughout American history: the “domestic enemies” of the Constitution have tried repeatedly to have the Constitution reinterpreted in ways that limit and even abrogate the powers of the national government. Today, the “domestic enemies” of the Constitution want to dismantle “the administrative state” and allow “free enterprise” and “private property” free reign to foul our environment, alter our climate, exploit our labor, limit our economic prospects, mute our political participation, and surveil our lives.

[Schwartz ends by noting that at the time of ratification, the Anti-Federalists fully understood that the grand objectives proclaimed in the Preamble meant that the federal government was not at all strictly limited in its powers, but pointed to an expansive realm of implied powers, as Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton would argue in his February 1791 report to President Washington on the constitutionality of establishing a national bank.

[Schwartz writes,

The Framers felt they had to clarify that the new government was a truly national government, and moreover, one based on republican principles—that is, authorized by the sovereign people, not by a grand interstate compact.

Significantly, nothing in the Preamble makes “limited enumerated powers” an object, or—pace Madison—an essential characteristic of the national government. The preamble does not list “federalism,” or “state sovereignty” or “balancing national powers with the rights of the states” among its great objects. [p. 10] ….

Federalists and Anti-Federalists during the ratification debates and early republic both understood the Preamble “as reinforcing a theory of sovereignty and national union that expanded the scope of national power, beyond either those powers that were enumerated or those powers that might be aggregated from that enumeration.”  This nationalist reading, channeling the constitutional vision most acutely expressed by James Wilson, was thus a prominent reading—although so read with horror by Anti-Federalists—as Federalists in the early post-ratification years argued that the Preamble was indeed a legitimate source of implied powers. [pp. 11-12]

[There is plenty of history that clearly demonstrates the wild inaccuracy of “originalist” interpretation: Hamilton’s reports, Justice James Wilson’s law lectures in the first years of the republic [and it was actually Wilson who wrote most of the Constitution; Madison is better known because he took notes on the proceedings], Justice Story’s Commentaries, and more. As Lithwick writes in her Slate article, “In Trump v. Anderson—the recent Supreme Court argument about the state of Colorado’s efforts to remove the former president from the ballot due to his participation in an insurrection—regiments, battalions, and armies of historians came together to debunk the president’s fatuous reading of the 14th Amendment’s disqualification clause.” But, they still lost the case. They have to cease ignoring the purpose and intent of originalism. And they can only do that by understanding what a republic is supposed to be. Not a “republic” as its meaning is now being mutilated and redefined by the reactionaries. The Southern slaveholders insisted the slave states were the true republics in their time. Failure to understand what a republic really is at that time, and repudiate the slaveholders accordingly, led to civil war. ]

The Original Meaning of Enumerated Powers (pdf)

Andrew Coan and David S. Schwartz [Legal Theory Blog]

From the abstract:

The powers of Congress are limited to those enumerated in the Constitution and must not be construed as the equivalent of a general police power. This doctrine of “enumerationism” is the linchpin of a multi-decade conservative assault on the broad conception of federal powers recognized by the Supreme Court since 1937. The loudest champions of enumerationism are originalists. But even critics of originalism generally accept that enumerationism is rooted in the original public meaning of the Constitution. Indeed, it is difficult to think of a stronger—or broader—consensus on an important question of original meaning.

This Article challenges that consensus. Despite its wide acceptance, the originalist case for enumerationism is remarkably weak and undertheorized. At the same time, enumerationists have largely ignored strong arguments that the original public meaning of enumeration was indeterminate. The constitutional text nowhere says that the federal government is limited to its enumerated powers. To the contrary, several provisions—the General Welfare Clause, the Necessary and Proper Clause, and the Preamble—could plausibly be read to support a congressional power to address all national problems.

Recovering the Lost General Welfare Clause

David S. Schwartz [63 William & Mary Law Review 857 (2022)]


The General Welfare Clause of Article I, Section 8, Clause 1 of the Constitution enumerates a power to “provide for the common defense and general welfare.” A literal interpretation of this clause (“the general welfare interpretation”) would authorize Congress to legislate for any national purpose, and therefore to address all national problems— for example, the COVID-19 pandemic—in ways that would be precluded under the prevailing understanding of limited enumerated powers. But conventional doctrine rejects the general welfare interpretation and construes the General Welfare Clause to confer the so-called “Spending Power,” a power only to spend, but not to regulate, for national purposes.

This Article argues that both the text and the drafting history of the General Welfare Clause support reading it as a power to regulate on all national problems, such as environmental degradation, violence against women, and pandemic disease. It is only our superficial ideological commitment to enumerationism—the doctrine of limited enumerated powers—that causes us to depart from the most evident textual interpretation of the General Welfare Clause. Recovering the lost General Welfare Clause is particularly important at this moment in constitutional history, when a conservative and supposedly originalist Supreme Court is poised to greatly constrict federal power to respond to pressing national problems in service of a tendentious and badly one-sided account of Founding Era views on federalism….

[p. 867] …Only after the repeated electoral triumphs of Jeffersonian Republicanism beginning in 1800-1801 did enumerationism become entrenched as constitutional dogma.  Since the New Deal revolution in 1937, our constitutional order has continued to pay lip service to enumerationism, while making every effort to work around it. Most often, we try to shoehorn regulatory problems into the Commerce Clause….

[p. 870 …Moreover, limited enumerated powers is not even a second-best mode of enforcing federalism limits. It is at best a third- or fourth-best mode.  The Framers themselves apparently believed that process limits on legislation—such as a two-house legislature and a presidential veto—were more effective than “parchment
barriers” in the form of specified limits.  But if paper barriers were desirable, then a better way to protect reserved state powers would be to enumerate limitations, rather than powers—a point that the Framers apparently understood, for example, in enumerating limits on Congress’s powers in Article I, Section 9.42

[p. 880] …The drafters of the 1861 Confederate Constitution reworked Clause 1 to obviate a general welfare interpretation: “To lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts,
and excises, for revenue necessary to pay the debts, provide for the common defence, and carry on the government of the Confederate States.”….

[pp. 887-888] The enumeration in Article I, Section 8, originated with the Committee
of Detail draft, reported to the full Constitutional Convention on August 6, 1787.  The Committee’s charge was to write up the numerous resolutions approved by the Convention in the form of a draft constitution… The resolution conforms to one of the primary purposes of calling the Constitutional Convention in the first place: to add legislative powers to what the Confederation Congress possessed.130 The Articles of Confederation had conferred several nontrivial powers on the Union, including powers to declare war, conduct certain foreign affairs functions, “appoint  maritime and prize courts, coin money, fix the standards of weights and measures, regulate commerce and relations with Indian tribes, “establish[ ]” or “regulat[e ]” post offices, and incur debt. Passing these on to the new national government
was uncontroversial, and was approved unanimously.  The “legislate in all cases” language following the semicolon was somewhat more controversial, but was nevertheless approved on July 17 by a solid 8-2 vote of the state delegations present…. The conventional view that the enumeration is exhaustive requires explaining away the Resolution 6 instruction to authorize Congress to legislate “in all


Open Thread


You Can’t Run Industrial Policy OR A War Economy Under Neoliberalism

1 Comment

  1. VietnamVet

    IDF Generals are complaining that Israel has no strategy for winning the Gaza War. Welcome to the 21st century. The whole foundation of the West with the triumph of the Oligarchs is the exploitation of humans and the environment. To do this, the Elite and Professional Managers cannot plan beyond this quarter’s profit because if they include the external costs to the public of the forever wars, declining health and early deaths from disease and pollution, the end costs are catastrophic even if a nuclear war is avoided. Literally the current outcome in the war in the Levant is that the Jews or the Palestinians will be exterminated, one or the other, along with any bystanders. The War Mongers will profit. The alternative is a two state solution with UN DMZs separating the two peoples.

    Survival requires that humans accept that this is a now a multi-polar world and that peaceful coexistence assures a future. If not, say good-bye to a habitable Earth.

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