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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – November 13, 2022

by Tony Wikrent


One point of view, does not show the whole picture!

AQEL Tech [YouTube, 2019]


The Pandemic

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-9-2022]


How to Hide a Plague: How Elite Capture and Individualism Made Covid Normal

[YouTube, via Naked Capitalism 11-11-2022]

The US has experienced among the highest cumulative mortality rates from Covid-19 in the Global North. This lecture will argue that the failures of the US pandemic response were mainly driven by economic elites who used their influence to undermine public health protections. The initial phase of the Covid response was collective, including a massive temporary expansion of the welfare state, but this approach threatened the power of the capitalist class. In response, there was an abandonment of economic interventions followed by a wholesale reframing of the virus as an issue of personal responsibility and individual choice. This lecture will explore how the exertion of elite influence went far beyond lobbying politicians, extending to government bureaucracies and civil society institutions such as news media and schools of public health. This process of constructing a new, deadlier normal holds lessons that can be transferred to climate change and other collective crises of the 21st century.


Strategic Political Economy

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 11-9-2022]


Ray Dalio: The Changing World Order Is Approaching Stage 6 (The War Stage)

[LinkedIn, via The Big Picture 11-8-2022]

History shows that the movements to civil and/or international wars that change the domestic and world orders take place via a progression of stages that transpire in big cycles that have occurred for logical reasons throughout history.


Israel’s Far Right in New Government Eyes Security Ministries; Who will Stop them from Just Shooting Down Palestinians? 

Juan Cole [via Naked Capitalism 11-12-2022]


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

What’s Driving Inflation: Labor or Capital?

Barry Ritholtz, November 7, 2022 [The Big Picture]



An Economist’s Chart Goes Viral: Shows Main Source of Inflation

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, November 4, 2022 [Wall Street on Parade]

Graph (same as above)


The bankers have launched a class war 

Thomas Fazi [Unherd, via Naked Capitalism 11-9-2022]

…So if the current inflationary bout has nothing to do either with excess demand nor excessive wage increases, but is in fact driven by factors entirely beyond the control of the Bank of England, and in any case is expected to resolve itself by the beginning of next year, why is the Bank going out of its way to pursue a strategy that would lead to a recession and raise unemployment, and make the cost-of-living crisis even more acute?

One possible answer was alluded to by Andrew Bailey, Governor of the Bank of England, last week: “We have inflation coming back down to target; and going below target actually,” he said. “But we have one of the largest upside risks to inflation in our forecast that we’ve had in the 25-year history of the Monetary Policy Committee. A lot of that has to do with the tightness of the UK labour market.”

Such “tightness” …  is likely to become a permanent feature of Western economies in the coming years — a result of the de-globalisation and reshoring that will inevitably see countries bring home production lines and supply chains that over the past decades have been outsourced to far-flung countries. For Western workers, this is a welcome development, as it will clearly increase their bargaining power.

But for Bailey and the technocratic elites he represents, this is a terrifying prospect: even though workers aren’t yet strong enough or sufficiently well-organised to fight for better wages, a structurally tighter labour market is liable to make such struggles much more likely in the future, especially in a context of permanently higher prices. They fear this not because it might lead to a wage-price spiral, which is unlikely, but because it would signal a shift in the labour-capital balance for the first time in half a century.

[TW: “A shift in the labour-capital balance” would mean that the event described immediately below will become more likely and “making money” through financial manipulation less likely.]

Wow. Judge Stops the Looting of Albertsons (For Now) 

Matt Stoller [BIG, via Naked Capitalism 11-7-2022]

One of the weird parts of the American economic order over the last few decades is how looting has become a normalized business habit, such that people have a hard time even imagining what the rule of law might look like. Well yesterday we got a reminder when a Washington state judge temporarily blocked the attempt of a few private equity barons to extract $4 billion from a large and important supermarket chain. The astonishment of the fanciest corporate lawyers in Seattle was apparently palpable….

Albertsons is a public company, but it is primarily owned by two private equity firms, Cerberus Capital and Apollo, and these funds have been trying to sell the company for awhile. But they know that the merger is going to take years to play out, and may be blocked, so as part of the merger deal they decided to grab all the cash that Albertsons has, and even put it into debt, in order to cash out with a special $4 billion payout.

Normally, such ‘dividend recapitalizations,’ which is a fancy term for looting a company you own by having the company borrow money and paying it out to you in a lump sum payment, goes on without a hitch. Such transactions, even though they are obviously destructive because they put pressure on firms to raise prices, reduce quality, and often go bankrupt, are not considered illegal….

After I published that BIG issue, other analysts of private equity, such as Eileen Appelbaum and Andrew Park, fleshed out the problem in impressive detail. Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Ron Wyden, as well as Congressional members Katie Porter, Chuy Garcia, and Jan Schakowksy, weighed in. So did Washington state Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, and multiple United Food and Commercial Workers local unions.

Like a lot of you, I do not have enormous faith in the political process, so I did not expect much. But something important happened. Seven state attorneys general sent a note to the Kroger and Albertsons CEOs asking them to cancel the special dividend. They said no. So Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a complaint in state court asking for an emergency injunction to block the dividend. Three other state attorneys general followed in Federal court.

Ferguson’s complaint is very good. He notes that the last time a private equity owned supermarket chain engaged in a dividend recapitalization during a merger transaction – the Haggen chain in 2014 during the Albertsons-Safeway deal – it almost immediately went bankrupt and lessened competition. This saga still stings in Washington state, where Haggen was based. Ferguson also pointed out that the special dividend will hurt the company, and that Moody’s immediately downgraded the firm’s borrowing rating because of it.

Apparently, these arguments were persuasive enough for action. Last night, King County Superior Court Commissioner Henry Judson granted a temporary restraining order, writing, according to Bloomberg, that “there’s ‘a well-grounded fear of immediate invasion of’ Washington’s right to protect its consumers and prevent anti-competitive behavior.”

Employed and Experiencing Homelessness: What the Numbers Show 

[National Alliance to End Homelessness, via Naked Capitalism 11-12-2022]


Economics as cultural warfare

The remarkable influence of Friedrich Hayek

Ben Jackson [Prospect (UK), via The Big Picture 11-11-2022]

[TW: There’s not much here except for some information on Hayek’s abysmal first marriage. There is no consideration of how the oligarchical culture of Vienna shaped the ideas of von Hayek, and his mentor von Mises, or how von Hayek mourned the loss of that culture after the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian empire (which has been described by Corey Robin). It is telling that von Hayek never became a US citizen despite spending the last 30 years of his life there. Even more telling is that von Hayek’s books ignore the work of Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and Henry Carey, while brimming with excerpts and ideas from prominent British aristocrats and empire apologists such as John Locke, John Stuart Mill, Lord Acton, Baron Macauley, and Walter Bagehot.]

The Cruelties of Empire

Adam Hochschild, November 24, 2022 issue [The New York Review]


Legacy of Violence: A History of the British Empire

by Caroline Elkins

Knopf, 875 pp., $37.50

In the Forest of No Joy: The Congo-Océan Railroad and the Tragedy of French Colonialism

by J.P. Daughton

Norton, 368 pp., $30.00

…Legacy of Violence, Caroline Elkins’s enormous history of the British Empire, is partly grounded in personal contact with some of its victims: elderly African veterans of prison, torture, rape, and castration at the hands of British forces fighting one of the country’s last colonial wars. She interviewed many for her prize-winning book Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya (2005) and later testified in a lawsuit that won damages for more than five thousand of them. This experience—and a huge stash of British government documents uncovered by her sleuthing and the legal case—has given her an awareness of the empire’s cruelty shared by too few European and American historians. (Those from the Global South often know better.)….

Whatever they were labeled, colonial wars were brutal. A young officer serving under the aptly named Major General Sir Bindon Blood described an attack on rebellious Pathans in British India’s North-West Frontier Province in 1897:

We proceeded systematically, village by village, and we destroyed the houses, filled up the wells, blew down the towers, cut down the great shady trees, burned the crops and broke the reservoirs…. At the end of a fortnight the valley was a desert, and honour was satisfied.

The writer of those lines was Winston Churchill, who, nearly half a century later, refused to allow food imports to ease the 1943 Bengal famine that killed some three million people. Again and again, Elkins shows us heroes of World War II—a conflict enshrined as the ultimate battle against tyranny—who carried out tasks no less tyrannical in maintaining British colonialism. Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, the celebrated victor of El Alamein in 1942, only a few years previously had used Palestinian prisoners as human minesweepers and imposed a complete blackout on press coverage of such actions. Air Chief Marshal Arthur Harris, who won medals from his American and Soviet allies for orchestrating the British bombing of Germany, learned to fight from the air by subduing Arab and Kurdish rebels against British rule in Iraq in the 1920s. “Within forty-five minutes,” he proudly declared, “a full-sized village…can be practically wiped out and a third of its inhabitants killed or injured by four or five machines.”

…What made the British Empire unique, however, was its global span, which meant that methods of repression, and the officials who wielded them, could be easily moved from one restive territory or counterinsurgency to another. This is where Elkins really shines, especially since she largely focuses on less familiar twentieth-century wars. The average reader of history is much more likely to be aware of the Indian Mutiny or the Boer War than the later ruthless British wars in Palestine, Cyprus, Malaya, and Kenya. When we picture British imperialism, we usually imagine a sun-helmeted man on horseback or in a palanquin carried by dark-skinned servants, rather than someone in a helicopter calling in air strikes.

Again and again, people and techniques from one British imperial war were moved across the world to fight another. When Britain finally pulled out of Palestine, Elkins writes, “nearly fourteen hundred disbanded Palestine policemen soon fanned out across the empire.” Some arrived in Singapore still wearing their Palestine Police uniforms. Innumerable commanders served in multiple campaigns. General Sir Gerald Templer, who became known as the “Tiger of Malaya,” was a veteran of both Palestine and the British bombing of Iraq. And the 30,000 troops he deployed included the King’s African Rifles from Kenya and Tanganyika, Gurkhas from Nepal, and white volunteers from Southern Rhodesia. Officers who had battled uprisings in Kenya, Malaya, Cyprus, Aden, and elsewhere were among those rushed to Northern Ireland when its Troubles began in the 1960s.

[TW: Too seldom discussed are the tensions and argument between Franklin Roosevelt and Churchill during World War 2, with repeated confrontations over the destiny of the British empire, which Roosevelt intended to bury once and for all. The arguments between the two were revealed by Roosevelt’s son, Elliot, who accompanied his father to the conferences at Casablanca, Cairo, and Teheran. It is also telling that American conservatives idolize Churchill but demonize Roosevelt. ]


They’re not capitalists — they’re predatory criminals

The $24 Trillion Market That Predicts and Influences Interest Rates

[New York Times, via The Big Picture 11-7-2022]

The market for U.S. government bonds, called the Treasury market, offers predictions on the path for interest rates and the economy.


Does Bankman-Fried Deserve A Bail Out?

[Heisnberg Report, via Naked Capitalism 11-12-2022]

All I’m suggesting is that if, instead of possibly mishandling enormous sums at a crypto exchange and trading house, Bankman-Fried allegedly ran a drug exchange and trading house, and if, instead of being Sam Bankman-Fried, born on Stanford’s campus (literally) to a pair of highly accomplished law school professors, he were a hypothetical Terrell “Big Dolla” Williams, born in a Chicago housing project to a poor single mother, or Williams’s hypothetical boss, Diego “El Jefe” González, born to nobody knows who in Sinaloa, and currently living in the Chicago suburbs in a $4 million home purchased by his wife, would he still have an active Twitter account? (Maybe, under Elon Musk, but that’s a separate discussion.) Would his organizations still be functioning at all? Would he be in discussions with an investor group to inject $9 billion into his crumbling empire? Would Bloomberg and Reuters still be reaching out for quotes? If not, why not? After all, the scenario I’ve just posited assumes that no guilt has been established for Bankman-Fried, Big Dolla or El Jefe. They’re all innocent until proven otherwise. Or at least that’s the way the legal system is supposed to work….

Finally, let me pose an even more uncomfortable question to readers: Who’s smarter, more capable and deserving our collective adoration: The Stanford-born, all-lanes-open whiz kid who made $16 billion by way of legal goods and services which some believe should be illegal, or the child born to nothing, with nothing and with no lanes open, who made $16 million trading illicit goods and services which many people believe should be legal?


Restoring balance to the economy

How mixed-race neighborhoods quietly became the norm in the U.S.

[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 11-9-2022]

Deep in the bowels of the nation’s 2020 Census lurks a quiet milestone: For the first time in modern American history, most White people live in mixed-race neighborhoods. This marks a tectonic shift from just a generation ago. Back in 1990, 78% of White people lived in predominantly White neighborhoods, where at least 4 of every 5 people were also White. In the 2020 Census, that’s plunged to 44%.


Why Are U.S. Transit Projects So Costly? This Group Is on the Case

[Governing, via The Big Picture 11-6-2022]

The U.S. is one of the most expensive countries in the world for building transit, according to the Transit Costs Project. A research group at the NYU Marron Institute of Urban Management is working to understand why.


Creating new economic potential – science and technology

They made a material that doesn’t exist on Earth. That’s only the start of the story.

[NPR, via The Big Picture 11-9-2022]

Material found in meteorites is a combination of two base metals, nickel and iron, which were cooled over millions of years as meteors tumbled through space. That process created a unique compound with a particular set of characteristics that make it ideal for use in the high-end permanent magnets that are an essential component of a vast range of advanced machines.


Information age dystopia

The FBI’s Transformation, from National Police to Domestic Spy Agency. Part One: “Disruption” 

Matt Taibbi, November 10, 2022 [TK News]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 11-12-2022]



Climate and environmental crises

Global Biodiversity: A Stable Ecosystem Yields Stable Economics

[Chief Investment Officer, via The Big Picture 11-7-2022]

The U.N. General Assembly unveiled a 10-point plan on financing biodiversity, showing how reversing biodiversity loss helps stop the spread of poverty.


One Billionaire emits a Million times more CO2 than an Average Person, as Protesters block Private Planes at Amsterdam 

Juan Cole [via Naked Capitalism 11-9-2022]


Collapse of independent news media

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 11-8-2022]


Disrupting mainstream politics

Toward a more perfect Constitution: Let the House grow! 

Danielle Allen [Harvard Gazette, via Naked Capitalism 11-9-2022]

I think we should expand the frame of the question to include laws that have changed the operation of the Constitution. Sometimes the best way to fix the Constitution is to fix those laws.

One significant problem was the 1929 Permanent Apportionment Act, which capped the size of Congress at its current number of 435. The body had previously grown with every decennial census. It was supposed to grow. Its relative proportions and geographic weightings were supposed to adjust with the population as the population shifted. But for the last 100 years, that principle of flexibility and elasticity has been abandoned. I believe it’s time to let Congress grow again so that it can meaningfully shift in shape with the population….

A larger House would put representatives back in closer proximity to those whom they represent. It would increase the number of office holders and therefore the likelihood that we could meaningfully diversify who serves. Perhaps most importantly, it would also restore a principle of elasticity and flexibility to the Electoral College. The number of electors flows from the combination of the number of Congresspeople (the popular sovereignty principle) and from the number of Senators (the union-of-states principle). If Congress could grow, the current overweighting of the Electoral College to less-populous places would be rebalanced. California, Florida, Texas, and New York could get their fair share. This would rectify the legitimacy problem currently developing around the Electoral College and give us more responsive representation.


Here are the 10 biggest donors in the midterm elections 

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism 11-6-2022]


The Politicians Who Destroyed Our Democracy Want Us to Vote for Them To Save It 

Chris Hedges [ScheerPost, via Naked Capitalism 11-7-2022]

The bipartisan project of dismantling our democracy, which took place over the last few decades on behalf of corporations and the rich, has left only the outward shell of democracy. The courts, legislative bodies, the executive branch and the media, including public broadcasting, are captive to corporate power. There is no institution left that can be considered authentically democratic. The corporate coup d’état is over. They won. We lost.

The wreckage of this neoliberal project is appalling: endless and futile wars to enrich a military-industrial-complex that bleeds the U.S. Treasury of half of all discretionary spending; deindustrialization that has turned U.S. cities into decayed ruins; the slashing and privatization of social programs, including education, utility services and health care – which saw over one million Americans account for one-fifth of global deaths from Covid, although we are 4 percent of the world’s population; draconian forms of social control embodied in militarized police, functioning as lethal armies of occupation in poor urban areas; the largest prison system in the world; a virtual tax boycott by the richest individuals and corporations; money-saturated elections that perpetuate our system of legalized bribery; and the most intrusive state surveillance of the citizenry in our history….

These establishment politicians and their appointed  judges promulgated laws that permitted the top 1 percent to loot $54 trillion from the bottom 90 percent, from 1975 to 2022, at a rate of $2.5 trillion a year, according to a study by the RAND corporation. The fertile ground of our political, economic, cultural and social wreckage spawned an array of neo-fascists, con artists, racists, criminals, charlatans, conspiracy theorists, right-wing militias and demagogues that will soon take power.

Decayed societies, such as Weimar Germany or the former Yugoslavia, which I covered for The New York Times, always vomit up political deformities who express the hatred a betrayed public feel for a corrupt ruling class and bankrupt liberalism. The twilight of the Greek, Roman, Ottoman, Habsburg and Russian empires were no different.


Reconciliation Is Available to End Debt Limit Hostage-Taking

David Dayen, November 10, 2022 [The American Prospect]

With the GOP likely to take over the House, Democrats can use the lame duck to effectively eliminate the debt limit and the leverage Republicans would wield.


“Can DSA Go the Distance?”

Sam Adler-Bell [Dissent, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-8-2022]

“DSA National Director Maria Svart has called DSA “a socialist organization for people who want to win things.” And that’s not a bad pitch, especially for those of us who spent our formative years on the left losing, if virtuously, over and over again. DSA, in fits and starts, has been winning and building power across the country. Though New York remains its stronghold, DSA has elected more than 120 candidates to local office nationwide—including six socialists to the Chicago City Council, four to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, and two to State Senate in Minnesota. Meanwhile, DSA members have mobilized to support striking teachers in West Virginia, Denver, Los Angeles, and Oakland, while encouraging activists to join unions in strategic sectors across the country. And although housing organizing remains a somewhat neglected part of its national program, DSA members have helped build tenant unions in Oakland, Houston, Boston, and Lexington, Kentucky. In a matter of years, DSA has turned from a musty debate club for retired social democrats into an electoral powerhouse of young, ecumenical radicals; it remains the most effective socialist organization the country has seen in a century. And yet it’s impossible to ignore a certain malaise that has settled over the organization, along with the broader left: a sense that an era of ceaseless momentum has passed, and existing modes of organizing have begun to exhaust themselves. In the past year, membership dipped from a peak of 94,000 and plateaued around 91,000 activists—only a small fraction of whom are regularly involved in organizing work. Those who remain largely agree about the obstacles they face: a difficulty in winning elections beyond a base of downwardly mobile professionals, a failure to translate those victories into legislative change, and—at times—an insular culture of debate, primarily online, in which disagreement can take on toxic, personal dimensions. DSA cadre disagree, however, about how best to resolve these issues: whether to double down on the existing electoral strategy, how to incorporate labor and tenant organizing more fully into their vision, and how best to mediate and overcome internal strife. In a 2021 year-end reflection, Svart encouraged DSA members to think of themselves as “strategic, long distance runners for socialism.” The question remains whether the organization can keep pace.”


The red trickle

2022 Election Night Live Blog/Open Thread

[Naked Capitalism 11-8-2022]

Lambert Strether comment:

(Note also that Democrat facehuggers strategists and consultants get commissions from media buys. Both Fetterman’s use of social media and the “every county” strategy take money out of their pockets. It will be interesting to see which media figures operate on their behalf in the coverage.)

In addition, Fetterman’s victory comes as the expense of the Pennsylvania Democrat establishment and the ghouls in the national press, an outcome that makes me very happy,.

If Fetterman’s “every county” strategy is adopted by more Democrats — heck, more Republicans — I think that would greatly improve politics in this country. Do as Chris Arnade would do; walk around. Get out of the bubble.

fjallstrom, November 9, 2022 [Naked Capitalism]

Regarding the red ripple. I think US politics is in a new phase. Until 2016 it was common wisdom that the most liked candidate would win US presidential elections. In 2016, with two candidates more disliked than liked, the more disliked candidate won the electoral vote, though the less disliked won the popular vote.

I thought two disliked candidates would mean lower participation, but it meant higher. Dislike for the two parties has continued to increase, but it doesn’t appear to lower participation.

So I would say today dislike drives participation. Rather then who would you like to have a beer with, it is who would you like to see kicked in the face. And new patterns emerge.

The question is how long the trend can last before the current two party system starts coming apart. As two punch-drunk boxers leaning on each other, neither can be dislodged by supporting the other, as hate and fear of the otehr party drives participation.


Corporate Power Had a Bad Election Night

David Dayen, November 9, 2022 [The American Prospect]

…But it would be wrong to say that Democrats won despite a lack of an economic message. The message was always lurking in the background in campaigns. And that message correlated with a populist frame of fighting corporate power….

House Democrats have been aligned with this perspective for a while. An Oversight Committee report released last week testifies to this, attributing the corporate profit story to rising concentration throughout the economy. And they didn’t just put it in dry reports that nobody reads, they ran on it.

John Fetterman, who rallied to flip a Senate seat in Pennsylvania, used this framing in his closing argument, questioning why inflation should “lead to record profits for corporate America.” I saw Fetterman two days before the election in Bucks County, and there he focused more on raising the minimum wage (which the standard economist take would say is decidedly inflationary, though there is no sign of wage-push inflation currently), protecting Social Security and Medicare, and fighting for more union representation. But he ran a number of op-eds in newspapers throughout the state on this issue near the end of the race.

In Pittsburgh, the seat currently held by Conor Lamb will be filled by Chris Deluzio, a populist whose closing ad hit his opponent for being a “corporate jagoff” and attacked “rising prices, lousy trade deals, and corporate price-gouging.”….

In Minnesota, Attorney General Keith Ellison survived re-election by drawing a sharp contrast on white-collar crime. He touted his fights against the largest corporations in America and attacked his opponent for wanting to shut down corporate enforcement. Similarly, Josh Shapiro, who won resoundingly in Pennsylvania’s governor’s race, weaved into his messaging a number of fights against student loan companies, opioid manufacturers, and crooked contractors.

Across the country, in fact, Democrats ran against corporate power. They brought up Republican defenses of Big Oil, Big Pharma, and the gun lobby. They highlighted specific votes that exemplified this. It was not the sole contributing factor to electoral success, because nothing ever is. But it was a factor, and one overlooked by the punditocracy, among many of their mistakes.

Democrats certainly could have done more to highlight corporate power issues. At a national level, they came to it a little late, and in the Senate there could have been more votes to put Republicans on the record. But it was part of the firmament of this election, without question. And it turns out that aligning with voter beliefs—aligning with voters, in fact, over corporate villainy—is a good strategy.


Eight Key Midterm Election Takeaways: The Progressive Electorate Has Spoken

Julia Rock, Rebecca Burns, Andrew Perez, Matthew Cunningham-Cook & David Sirota, November 9, 2022 [The Lever]

1. The economic populism formula works in swing states….

In the Keystone State, both Shapiro and Senate candidate John Fetterman ran successful populist campaigns and significantly outperformed President Joe Biden’s 2020 results in the most traditionally Republican parts of the state. The same goes for Ohio: Though Democrat Tim Ryan lost the race, he campaigned on a pro-worker agenda, and Democratic performance similarly increased in the state’s GOP strongholds. And in Colorado, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet campaigned on populist economic measures like the expanded child tax credit and likewise benefited from higher Democratic performance in the state’s GOP regions.

By contrast, more conservative Democratic statewide campaigns in North Carolina and Iowa coincided with the opposite trend: higher GOP margins than 2020 in Republican-leaning parts of the state. In Virginia, Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria also lost a close race after calling a ban on congressional stock trades “bullshit” — and being attacked for those comments on the campaign trail….

2. Many voters didn’t buy the inflation lie….

3. The electorate holds surprisingly progressive views….

The Fox News poll, however, found that 65 percent of the electorate think it should be the federal government’s responsibility to make sure that all Americans have health care coverage. Fox’s 2020 pre-election survey found similarly high support — 70 percent — for the idea of allowing people to buy into a government health care plan, commonly known as a public option….

7. Democratic voters remain dissatisfied.

A major factor in Democrats’ stronger-than-expected showing nationally appears to be the rock-bottom expectations of their voters. An NBC exit poll captured a deep sigh of resignation at the ballot box, with Democrats winning among voters who “somewhat disapprove” of Joe Biden’s job performance. Overall, more than 7 in 10 voters said they are “dissatisfied” or “angry,” according to exit polls conducted by Edison Research.

Such results suggest that Democratic voters weren’t inspired to vote for their candidates; they just couldn’t tolerate the alternatives.


[Twitter, via The Lever 11-10-2022]


This Election Was an Unmitigated Disaster, and It’s Time to Air Some Grievances

Bonchie, November 12, 2022 [Redstate]

Right now, Joe Kent … is on pace to lose in WA-03, which is a district that the GOP won by 13 points last time… Lauren Boebert turned a heavily Republican district into a recount.


Dems Snatch Up Colorado’s Toughest Race

Jarod Facundo, November 9, 2022 [The American Prospect]

A Latina pediatrician running on protecting abortion rights, creating renewable-energy jobs, and expanding health care access beats a former state secessionist….

Earlier this year, I visited the district, which has a Latino population of 40 percent. Aside from the competitive nature of this race, Republicans saw this seat as a crucial pickup that could have solidified their narrative about a changing Latino electorate. The day after I arrived, the Colorado GOP had opened a Hispanic Outreach Center geared toward turning out voters in Adams County. Both Republican and Democratic operatives in Colorado said that the majority of voters in the district considered themselves unaffiliated with either party, thus heightening the stakes for persuading potential voters….

Caraveo, a pediatrician and the daughter of Mexican immigrants, painted her opponent as an extremist for her views on abortion (which Kirkmeyer stepped back from) and previous comments about Medicaid cuts. In a debate earlier this year, Caraveo said, “I should point out that thousands of my kids rely on [Medicaid].”….

On the state’s Western Slope, in the Third Congressional District, centrist Democrat Adam Frisch surprisingly leads far-right Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) by less than 100 votes. Chances are likely that the race will finish within half a percentage point, making the race eligible for a recount.

In Pueblo, a small city located in the otherwise rural Third District with a near 50 percent Latino population, most voters expressed apathy to me over voting for Democrats. But local Latino-led groups in the county set up voter registration drives geared toward ousting Boebert. The more despondent sentiment seems to partially track. Even as the county flipped blue in 2020, and expanded its margins for these midterms, voter turnout countywide is down, about 4,000 votes fewer from the 2018 results, with more than 95 percent of results counted, at time of press.


A Good Election for Anti-Monopolists 

Matt Stoller [BIG, via Naked Capitalism 11-10-2022]


Youth Voter Turnout in the 2022 Midterms Delivered Key Wins for Democrats

[Teen Vogue, via Naked Capitalism 11-10-2022]

Democrats’ political suicide

“The Democracy”

Dave Denison [The Baffler, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-8-2022]

“The Democrats had eight years of a Clinton administration and eight years of Obama. It seemed never to occur to them that the wheels really could fall off the democratic jalopy, that a “win at all costs” Republican Party would manipulate the undemocratic features of our creaky constitutional machinery. The Democrats spent crucial years misunderstanding actually existing capitalism, underestimating their opponents’ ruthless tactics and rancid populism, and neglecting to build new coalitions across race and class boundaries in the places where it mattered most. They became the party that asked not what it could do for you, but what you could do for it—by way of a donation. They never got close to a serious effort against inequality and the concentration of wealth; they failed to protect reproductive rights, labor rights, and voting rights. The era of big government was over, said Bill Clinton. It was time to think small.”

“Why Democrats Don’t Win The Way They Should”

[Black Agenda Report, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-10-2022]

It isn’t incompetence that keeps the democrats from fully realizing their political power. The terrible truth is that they prefer horse trading over the issues of importance to their donor class than they do meeting the needs of the people. Why does House Speaker Nancy Pelosi constantly speak of the need for a “strong republican party?” She needs a strong republican party, that is to say one which doesn’t resemble the January 6th rabble that frightened most of the nation. A more respectable and traditional republican party is one she can compromise with, and both sides of the aisle can represent the interests of the U.S. oligarchy while pretending otherwise.”

The Democrats Lost Some Working-Class Support in the Midterms

Timothy Noah, November 10, 2022 [The New Republic]

The standard demographic shorthand for working-class voters is “non-college voter.” Nationally, exit polls show the Democrats lost a significant five percentage points among this group. In 2018 and 2020, Democrats captured 49 and 48 percent of non-college voters, a significant improvement on the 43 percent they won in the annus horribilis of 2016. In all three of these previous elections, Republicans won 49 or 50 percent of the non-college vote. But in 2022 the Democrats were back to 43 percent of the non-college vote, and Republicans won 55 percent, which is actually more than they won in  2016.

The shift was not among non-college white voters. These white working-class voters have been identified as a core MAGA constituency, most especially the men. White working-class voters went 66 percent for Donald Trump in 2016 and 67 percent for Trump in 2020.  The same percentage of white working-class voters, 66 percent, voted Republican in 2022. (White working-class Trump support dipped to 61 percent in the 2018 midterms, but we can set that aside as the usual midterm disaffection with the presidential party.) This consistency in white working-class voting patterns means the Democrats’ slippage from 48 or 49 percent to 43 percent of the working-class vote, and the GOP’s corresponding gain from 49 or 50 percent to 55 percent, represents a shift among nonwhite working-class voters. That probably reflects mainly a shift among working-class Latinos. After swinging toward Republicans by eight percentage points in 2020, all Latinos (not just working-class Latinos) swung a couple more percentage points toward the GOP in 2022.

If the GOP Retakes the House, Blame New York’s Bumbling, Selfish Democrats

Alex Thomas, November 9, 2022 [The New Republic]

…the Empire State’s Republicans outperformed expectations up and down the ballot. In a state where there are twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans, that shouldn’t happen….

The most notable loss for Democrats came in the suburbs north of New York City, where DCCC Chairman Sean Patrick Maloney lost by a few thousand votes…. he only aided in the calamity by jumping into a new district, pushing out Mondaire Jones—a popular Democratic incumbent—and then failing to win….

For many Democratic operatives, that vacuum of leadership goes all the way to the governor’s mansion, where Kathy Hochul is on pace to carry the state by only five points. By comparison, Joe Biden won New York by 23 points in 2020.

(anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts

Originalism’s Charade 

David Cole, November 24, 2022 issue [The New York Review]

Two new books make a devastating case against claims that the Constitution should be interpreted on the basis of its purported “original meaning.”


Worse Than Nothing: The Dangerous Fallacy of Originalism

by Erwin Chemerinsky

Yale University Press, 248 pp., $28.00

Constructing Basic Liberties: A Defense of Substantive Due Process

by James E. Fleming

University of Chicago Press, 274 pp., $95.00; $30.00 (paper)

…The problems begin with originalism’s principal claim, namely that it constrains judges more meaningfully than other modes of interpretation. Chemerinsky convincingly shows that for multiple reasons, originalism leaves as much room for judgment as other theories of constitutional interpretation.

Originalists must first decide which historical evidence counts, and as every historian knows, that requires a great deal of judgment….

Furthermore, even if we could know precisely what went on behind the closed doors of the Constitutional Convention, the framers did not have authority to bind the nation themselves. The Constitution took effect only upon the votes of the state ratifying conventions, so if any intentions are relevant, it would be theirs. But there is even less evidence available regarding the ratifying conventions. And even if we had verbatim transcripts of each state’s ratifying convention, how does one determine the intent of a collective body—or in this case, of multiple collective bodies? Original intent is a theoretical construct, not a fact in the world….

Perhaps most fatally, originalism fails its own test. There simply is no evidence that the Constitution’s original meaning was that it should be interpreted according to its original meaning. There is substantial reason to believe the contrary. The fact that the framers used general terms, such as “liberty,” “due process,” “equal protection,” and “cruel and unusual punishment,” strongly suggests that they understood they were drafting a charter meant to long outlive them, one that could guide unforeseeable resolutions to unforeseen problems. If you want to bind people to your specific intentions, you write with specificity. The framers chose not a stringent straitjacket but a set of enduring core principles whose meaning and applicability would unfold over time to meet the evolving needs of a growing nation. [TW: Powerfully expressed by Justice Joseph Story in his 1833 Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States.]


In back-to-back cases, justices will scrutinize traditional limits on challenges to agency proceedings 

[SCOTUSblog, via Naked Capitalism 11-7-2022]


Texas Judge Strikes Down Biden’s Student Debt Cancellation 

[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism 11-11-2022] Here is the opinion (PDF).


Biden Can Still Counter the Bogus Right-Wing Student Loan Lawsuits

Astra Taylor, November 7, 2022 [The New Republic]

The suits brought by the Cato Institute and other more mysterious plaintiffs are totally meritless. The president has the power to make them null and void—if he’ll use it….

As of last week, the White House reported that 16 million applications have been approved for cancellation. But the White House cannot hit the button and deliver the relief these people are entitled to because six Republican states decided to sue. Though their case was initially dismissed, the states appealed the decision. A higher court immediately issued a stay while it considers the appeal, which means the Education Department must refrain from canceling any debt until the court says it can (the Department of Education can still accept and review applications in the interim).

But as of last Thursday, the case has a gaping hole in it. Central to the states’ complaint was the contention that student debt cancellation negatively impacts the profitability of a company called MOHELA, a student loan servicer based in Missouri. But after prodding from Missouri Congresswoman Cori Bush, MOHELA publicly distanced itself from the case and challenged the states’ assertion….

The second case of concern is the legal brainchild of the Job Creator’s Network, a right-wing front group funded by the billionaire co-founder of Home Depot Bernie Marcus and the notorious Mercer Family Foundation, which purports to speak for small-business owners (Rebekah Mercer is Steve Bannon’s buddy). They lined their case up with a Trump-appointed judge named Mark Pittman, who sits in (where else?) Texas and who looks poised to toe the party line, no matter that the case is laughably weak.

The Job Creators case involves two Texas-based plaintiffs, Myra Brown and Alexander Taylor, who claim to be harmed by Biden’s cancellation plan. Little is known about them, and they have not spoken to the media; both filed a few sparse sentences about their lives and motivations. Brown, who appears to own a sign-making business, is ineligible for relief because of the specific kinds of loans she holds (she has FFELP loans, which are backed by the federal government but were originally funded by private companies). Alexander Taylor, who appears to be a graduate student at the Catholic University of Dallas, is ostensibly upset because he will only get $10,000 of cancellation and not the $20,000 that former Pell Grant recipients can receive.…

Those activists and experts the Biden administration ignored? We’ve been saying all along that Biden has the legal authority to cancel debt thanks to the Higher Education Act of 1965, an authority he chose not to lean on. Instead, he relied on the 2003 Heroes Act, which is more limited in scope.

This is a critical moment. Democrats desperately need to boost public morale and send a clear message to potential voters that they have their backs, particularly on economic matters.

Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

Two January 6th Participants Elected to Congress 

The Bulwark, via Naked Capitalism 11-10-2022]


Why is the Major Israel Lobby supporting over 100 Antisemitic Racists, Climate Deniers and election Denialists for Congress? 

Juan Cole [via Naked Capitalism 11-8-2022]


The Real Republican Dilemma 

Harold Meyerson, November 11, 2022 [The American Prospect]

The party’s defining positions don’t command popular support….

As the Associated Press’s VoteCast exit poll makes clear, the midterm electorate was, like most midterm electorates, older, whiter, and more Republican than the electorates that turned out for recent presidential contests. Republicans and Republican leaners outnumbered Democrats and Democratic leaners by a 48 percent to 44 percent margin. Despite that, as has been widely reported, this week’s winnowed electorate favored abortion rights by roughly a 60-40 margin, and on a host of other social issues, such as the serious threat posed by climate change (which 60 percent affirmed), clearly parted company from Republican orthodoxy. (For that matter, despite the widespread concerns about crime, 71 percent of respondents said that racism is a serious problem in policing.)

As has not been widely reported, however, the electorate’s economics also parted company from Republican orthodoxy. Asked if they preferred a government that did more to solve social problems, or one that did less by deferring more to businesses and individuals, 53 percent said more, leaving 47 percent to say less. Keeping in mind that only 44 percent of respondents were Democrats or Democratic leaners, that means that independents and even a few Republicans were no fans of bedrock Republican economics, either….

In fact, one question in the poll did go to the operational side of government’s role. Asked if it should be the responsibility of the federal government to ensure that all Americans have adequate health care coverage, 64 percent answered yes.

The affirmations of the state’s responsibility to do what the market won’t were also apparent in the results of several states’ midterm ballot measures. In Republican South Dakota, voters passed an initiative expanding Medicaid coverage. In Republican Nebraska, they passed an initiative raising the minimum wage to $15 and indexing it thenceforth to the cost of living.


“When Trump Announces Candidacy, Watchdog Will File Insurrection Disqualification Challenge”

[HuffingtonPost, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-9-2022]

“‘The evidence that Trump engaged in insurrection is overwhelming,’ Noah Bookbinder, president of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said in a statement last week. ‘We are ready, willing and able to take action to make sure the Constitution is upheld and Trump is prevented from holding office.’ Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, passed after the Civil War, bars any officials who have taken an oath of office to defend the government from reelection if they “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the government — or have ‘given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.’ CREW sent a letter to Trump on Thursday alerting him to the planned challenge if he announces his candidacy for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination. ‘CREW believes you are barred from holding office Under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment because you engaged in insurrection against the government you swore to defend,’ states the letter. ‘By summoning a violent mob to disrupt the transition of presidential power mandated by the Constitution after having sworn to defend the same, you made yourself ineligible to hold public office again.’”


Democrats Have Two Months to Trump-Proof the Presidency

Alex Thomas, November 10, 2022 [The New Republic]

Toward the end of his first term, the Insurrection Act became one of Trump’s fascinations. He publicly considered invoking the law several times but never followed through—when asked what he might do if he won the election and riots broke out, Trump said, “We’ll put them down very quickly. We have the right to do that, we have the power to do that if we want. Look, it’s called insurrection. We just send in [the military], and we do it very easy. I mean, it’s very easy.”

The former president discovered “insurrection” during the summer of 2020, when he threatened to send American troops into the streets of cities that were then crowded with protesters outraged by the murder of George Floyd. Immediately after Trump’s threats, a group of Democratic senators led by Richard Blumenthal introduced the CIVIL Act, which would have required approval from Congress, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Justice to use the armed forces or a militia to put down an insurrection. The CIVIL Act also would have “terminated the [president’s] authority to use military force to suppress an insurrection after 14 days unless Congress enacts a joint resolution extending such authority.” But the bill never went anywhere.


What It Means to Be a Republican Today

[The Bulwark, via The Big Picture 11-7-2022]

The most interesting political race of 2022 isn’t between a Democrat and a Republican. It’s in Utah, where incumbent Republican Sen. Mike Lee faces independent challenger Evan McMullin. McMullin, a nearly lifelong Republican, is conservative on most issues, so Lee can’t beat him with the usual playbook—calling him woke or a tax-and-spender or a socialist. By neutralizing the GOP’s favorite lines of attack, McMullin has reduced the race to one crucial difference between the candidates: Lee’s complicity in Donald Trump’s schemes to undo the 2020 election.

The Lee-McMullin race poses a difficult question: What exactly does the GOP stand for? Why should voters support a Republican senator against an opponent who agrees with him on policy but not on subverting democracy? If economic, moral, and foreign-policy conservatism no longer define the party, what does? What does it mean to be a Republican in 2022, beyond conspiring—or defending others who have conspired—to overturn elections when your party doesn’t win?

McMullin is discovering that there are answers to that question. And they’re ugly.


In the hunt for voter fraud, Republican door knockers are intimidating residents

[Reuters, via The Big Picture 11-8-2022]

The canvassers in California’s Shasta County in September wore reflective orange vests and official-looking badges that read “Voter Taskforce.” Four residents said they mistook them for government officials. The door knockers grilled residents on their voting history and who lived in their homes, probing questions that violated state laws on intimidation and harassment, according to the county’s chief election official.


How America turned against the First Amendment

[The Verge, via The Big Picture 11-6-2022]

Moderation laws. Book bans. Courts that keep getting played. America’s politicians are tired of the First Amendment getting in their way, and no one seems to care.…

The concerns and concern-trolling around “cancel culture” and “illiberalism” have never been louder. Yet, at the same time, the freedom of speech — the actual civil liberty protected by the First Amendment, not just a theoretical Enlightenment value — is being gutted by legislatures and judges.

Rather than seriously grappling with technology’s effects on democracy, many lawmakers and courts have channeled a cultural backlash against “Big Tech” into a series of glib sound bites and political warfare. Scratch the surface of supposedly “bipartisan” internet regulation, and you’ll find a mess of mutually exclusive demands fueled by reflexive outrage. Some of the people most vocally defending the First Amendment are the ones most open to dismantling it — without even admitting that they’re doing so.


The attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband is the culmination of longtime GOP hate-mongering

[Vox, via The Big Picture 11-6-2022]

For years, Republicans made Nancy Pelosi out to be a public enemy. The attack on her home is the result. (Vox)


Eye-popping’ new survey on Americans’ acceptance of political violence should be a wake-up call to leaders.

[Los Angeles Times, via The Big Picture 11-6-2022]


Peter Thiel Has No Clue What Makes America Great

Firmin DeBrabander, November 7, 2022 [The New Republic]

…These figures of the New Right, James Pogue explains in Vanity Fair, share dreams of a simpler time when we were not corrupted by the consumerism of the digital economy, and thrived in communities and family units that provided organic moral guidance. They reserve special scorn for the bureaucracy that upholds and entrenches this supposed cultural nightmare. Curtis Yarvin, who some consider the guru of the New Right, has issued a nifty—and angry—acronym to sum up his agenda: “Retire All Government Employees,” or RAGE. Our system is so corrupt and stagnant it must be replaced with a “monarchical regime run like a startup,” according to Yarvin. The bureaucracy must give way to a “national CEO,” he explains, “what’s called a dictator.”

The Claremont Institute, an increasingly influential think tank that has been called the “nerve center” of the New Right, shares this dire view of America. Its mission is “to restore the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life,” which sounds innocuous enough—until you realize what such restoration would require. Some Claremonters believe the administrative state is so deeply and expansively entrenched, and we are so reliant on it, that only a cataclysm can save the country. The most explicit articulation of this vision appeared in Claremont fellow Michael Anton’s popular 2016 essay “The Flight 93 Election” in 2016, which argued for electing Donald Trump—even though he was a brute who cared little for our freedoms and founding principles—because he would shatter the system. Like Flight 93, where passengers on 9/11 rushed the cockpit and crashed the plane, denying terrorists their ultimate target, so the Claremonters would destroy the government—to save us all. Naturally, Trump’s reign was a boon to the organization. Anton became a deputy national security adviser in the White House, and legal scholar John Eastman played an instrumental role on January 6, 2021, urging Trump to halt congressional certification of the election….

Figures among the New Right and the Claremont Institute complain that our government is bloated. It has quashed our freedoms and hardly operates at all. It’s a grotesque monstrosity that should be put out of its misery. Anyone who has traveled the world knows that’s ludicrous. We should be in awe of our bureaucracy, all things considered. It makes our lives better in countless—and basic—ways that we hardly notice, and is a model of efficiency.

My wife tells an illuminating story about her uncle from Syria who came to the U.S. for a short time to take care of some bureaucratic business. Being a dual citizen, he had to get a driver’s license and apply for social security benefits, both of which are reputed nightmares on these shores. My wife’s uncle, however, was amazed that he could take care of both chores in a single day—within a few hours, no less. In Syria, this would have taken days if not weeks, and would have required considerable baksheesh (bribes), which necessarily accompanies every government task big and small.


A Rich Man Walks Into a Bar BP 11-10-22


Open Thread


Every Covid Infection Does More Damage & Makes You Less Healthy and More Likely to Die


  1. VietnamVet

    The new global oligarchy has the exact same problems as the old ones, like last century’s Austria/Hungary and Russian Empires — inbred stupidity and corruption. In the last two and half years, the Western Empire has killed over a million of its subjects. The so-called end of the pandemic and the plateau of COVID deaths at roughly 11,000 Americans a month for the last six, has caused more deaths than the decade long Vietnam War. No, the pandemics are not over as long as there are no functional public health systems in the West. Healthcare for a profit is innately dysfunctional. Money for shareholders is made by treating an illness and cutting costs, not by cures or prevention.

    The proxy world war in Europe is at a culmination point. Russia has withdrawn to the East Bank of the Dnieper River.

    The Western Elite brawl has broken into the open between nationalists (Donald Trump), neo-conservatives (Liz Cheney, Tony Blinken and Jake Sullivan – the Deep State), and global neo-liberals (Elon Musk). Not too different than the earlier American Civil War between industrial capitalists and plantation owners.

    There are two choices left; 1) The Russian Federation reforms and becomes a government by and for the Russian people and mobilizes the nation/empire to open a new maneuver warfare flanking front with overwhelming air support to take Odessa and defeat NATO this winter, or 2) Europe sees the writing on the wall from the enforced energy inflation imposed by the USA and the intentional deindustrialization of Germany. A reformed EU (Germany, France etc.) sign an armistice with Russia and China. Eastern Europeans man the Dnieper River DMZ separating Ukraine from Russia.

    The future of the Five Eyes Deep State is fairly clear if a nuclear war is avoided which the Pentagon is trying to do. Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales leave England alone with the City of London. The USA becomes the odd man out, a no man’s land. Too corrupt to do anything right. The tripartite plutocratic revolt and ethnic uprisings splinters the nation unless a secular democratic constitutional republic is restored. Canada, the same. Australia and New Zealand will huddle together in the new China Ocean.

  2. marku52

    In another triumph of financialism, Boeing has decided that designing a new airplane is too hard and they will just go back to share buybacks and dividends as soon as possible.

    Wall Street rewards them with a share price increase, of course.
    “Calhoun, knowing his investors/analyst audience, spoke the magic words: returning free cash flow to shareholders. He forecast that by 2025-2026, Boeing will have $10bn in free cash flow. He’d like nothing more than to resume paying dividends and stock buybacks then, he said.

    Coming on the heels of killing any new airplane program this decade, critics were quick to pounce on Calhoun’s desire. But Wall Street loved it.”

    American Modern Manglement at its finest……

  3. different clue

    @Vietnam Vet,

    Perhaps the New China World Hegemon will be nice about renaming the Indian Ocean. Perhaps in a show of politeness to India, they might rename it the Chindian Ocean.

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