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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – September 12, 2021

by Tony Wikrent


Natalie Edwards Was Imprisoned this Month by the U.S. for Blowing the Whistle on Wall Street Banks’ Laundering of Dirty Money
Pam Martens and Russ Martens, September 8, 2021 [Wall Street On Parade]

Edwards is the heroic former Treasury official who tried in vain to get her superiors in the federal government to act on her concerns. Left with no other options to get action, she turned over documents to a BuzzFeed News reporter that became the core of the FinCEN Files, a collaborative investigation involving BuzzFeed News, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and 108 other news organizations.

In effect, Edwards spawned an international news bureau focused on exposing the flow of dirty money around the globe by big name banks such as JPMorgan Chase, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Standard Chartered, and Bank of New York Mellon. One in-depth report at the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) captures the magnitude of Edwards’ service to the public interest with this headline: “Global banks defy U.S. crackdowns by serving oligarchs, criminals and terrorists: The FinCEN Files show trillions in tainted dollars flow freely through major banks, swamping a broken enforcement system.”

….Edwards deserves a pardon from President Biden, not to be sitting in a Federal Prison Camp where she cannot have visitors because COVID-19 is skyrocketing in the state of West Virginia.

Please consider signing the Pardon Petition for Edwards and forwarding it to your email contact list with a note asking your friends and family to do the same.


Strategic Political Economy

Justice Dept. sues Texas over state’s new abortion law 

[Fort Worth Star-Telegram, via Naked Capitalism 9-10-2021]


Will the federal government defend Americans’ constitutional rights against local vigilantes?

Heather Cox Richardson, September 9, 2021 [Letters from an American]

Today, the United States of America sued the state of Texas for acting “in open defiance of the Constitution” when it passed S. B. 8 and deprived “individuals of their constitutional rights.” The United States has a “profound sovereign interest” in making sure that individuals’ constitutional rights can be protected by the federal government, the lawsuit declares. “The act is clearly unconstitutional under longstanding Supreme Court precedent,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said.

What is at stake in this case is the ability of the federal government to defend Americans’ constitutional rights against local vigilantes, a power Americans gave to the federal government in 1868 by ratifying the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution after white former Confederates in southern states refused to accept the idea that their Black neighbors should have rights.

Since the 1950s, the Supreme Court has used federal power to protect the rights of minorities and women when state laws discriminated against them. S. B. 8 would strip the government of that power, leaving individuals at the mercy of their neighbors’ prejudices. The government has asked the U.S. district court for the western district of Texas to declare the law “invalid, null, and void,” and to stop the state from enforcing it.

This issue of federal supremacy is not limited to Texas. Glenn Thrush of the New York Times today called out that in June, Missouri governor Mike Parson signed the Second Amendment Preservation Act, which declares federal laws—including taxes—that govern the use of firearms “invalid in this state.” Like the Texas abortion law, the Second Amendment Preservation Act allows individuals to sue state officials who work with federal officials to deprive Missourians of what they consider to be their Second Amendment rights. “Obviously, it’s about far more than simply gun rights,” one of the chief proponents of the bill, far-right activist Aaron Dorr, said to Thrush about his involvement.


Texas’s revolutionary law

[Angry Bear, 9-11-2021]

A basic fact about how lawsuits have always worked is that the party filing the suit needs to have “standing” — that is, needs to be able to claim some kind of direct harm from the action which the suit is about.  For example, if somebody owes you money and refuses to pay, you can sue him for the money because his refusal to pay is causing you direct financial harm.  Some random stranger who just heard that the person is refusing to pay up, and isn’t owed any money but simply doesn’t approve of the guy’s behavior, can’t sue, because he isn’t affected.  This is necessary to prevent the court system from being engulfed in chaos.  If people with no standing could sue over things, then any action that becomes public knowledge and which a lot of people disapprove of could trigger millions of lawsuits.  Courts routinely reject lawsuits on the grounds that the person suing does not have standing to do so.

But this is precisely the norm that the new Texas law seeks to abolish.  It explicitly gives anybody in Texas (or even elsewhere in the country) the right to sue anyone who helps a woman in the state get an abortion, even if they are completely unaffected by her decision to do so.  The purpose of this provision was to make the law hard to overturn, since it’s citizens and not the state who are empowered to enforce it.  That’s bizarre enough.

But granting a right to sue without real standing is revolutionary.

If this provision is allowed to stand, it’s hard to see what could stop other states from using it to destroy any business or interest which is politically unpopular locally.

The conservative / libertarian assaults on the Constitutional principles of civic republicanism — opposing public health measures such as mask mandates and vaccinations, making it harder and more onerous to vote, seeking to impose their beliefs about abortion, government finance and debt, and other issues — are not new. We are basically repeating the history of the decades leading up to the Civil War.  Heather Cox Richardson’s newsletter constantly reminds us of this sad fact. Then, as now, usurping the Constitution through badly biased legal reasoning and cases was a key tactic. It brings to my mind a quote from Abraham Lincoln, when he was running for US Senator in June 1858, that many others have found noteworthy: 

 We can not absolutely know that all these exact adaptations are the result of preconcert. But when we see a lot of framed timbers, different portions of which we know have been gotten out at different times and places and by different workmen — Stephen, Franklin, Roger, and James, for instance — and when we see these timbers joined together, and see they exactly make the frame of a house or a mill, all the tenons and mortices exactly fitting, and all the lengths and proportions of the different pieces exactly adapted to their respective places, and not a piece too many or too few — not omitting even scaffolding — or, if a single piece be lacking, we can see the place in the frame exactly fitted and prepared to yet bring such piece in — in such a case, we find it impossible not to believe that Stephen and Franklin and Roger and James all understood one another from the beginning, and all worked upon a common plan or draft drawn up before the first lick was struck.


Bill Mitchell — As the mainstream paradigm breaks down

[via Mike Norman Economics 9-7-2021]

On September 2, 2021, the Head of the BIS Monetary and Economic Department, Claudio Borio gave an address – Back to the future: intellectual challenges for monetary policy = at the University of Melbourne. The Bank of International Settlements is owned by 63 central banks and provides various functions “to support central banks’ pursuit of monetary and financial stability through international cooperation”. His speech covers a range of topics in relation to the conduct of monetary policy but its importance is that it marks a clear line between the way the mainstream conceive of the role and effectiveness of the central bank and the view taken by Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) economists….

First, note that Claudio Borio openly admits: “… the loss of policy headroom is not technical in nature … as central banks purchase a growing amount of assets, they risk being perceived as eroding the basis of a market economy.”

In other words, all this talk about the need for fiscal rules, and other constraints on government (treasury or central bank) are really not financial (“technical”) but, rather, issues of ideology….

Conclusion. The Speech was interesting because it demonstrated the chaos that the mainstream are now in as their core models are running against the facts and some of the economists within that tradition are breaking ranks to try to save their own credibility.


It’s Not Your Money. You also didn’t earn most of it.

Ian Welsh, September 7, 2021

One of the best posts Welsh has ever written dismantles with cold logic and facts the conservative and libertarian argument that “it’s my money, not the gub’mint’s.” An excerpt does not do it justice, so please go read it (it’s not long).

Some of the comments are instructive also, especially the whine “And what exactly is wrong with billionaires?” This is an excellent question, because to answer it plainly and directly is to get at the kernel of why liberal democracy is failing, and is powerless to stop the ruin caused by conservative / neoliberal economics.

The problem with billionaires is that, like power, wealth corrupts, and massive wealth corrupts absolutely.

This is a basic tenet of civic republicanism; however, USA has basically discarded civic republicanism and replaced it with liberal democratic capitalism.

Machiavelli, at the beginning of The Discourses on Livy, explains how the Romans created the office of the Tribunes as a reaction against the corruption of the rich. The story is told by the Romans themselves – and the American founders were quite familiar with Plutarch, Cicero, Sallust, Tacitus, as well as Machiavelli . They also were familiar with the English civic republicans John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, who explained in Cato’s Letters, that the king’s corruption of Parliament flowed from the privileges and monopolies bestowed on the London based trading companies, and traced the direct link to the catastrophic collapse of the South Sea Bubble, and the endless wars Britain had been engaged in.

It is a very natural human impulse to try and preserve and perpetuate one’s mode of existence in order to avoid a worse standard of living. But the result is that the rich are always a reactionary element in society. They have no reason to change the ways, means, and manners by which they have attained their favorable position.

But this poses a potentially catastrophic problem for society. Society requires resources to provide the material, spiritual, and cultural requirements of life, and to perpetuate itself, but those resources are finite under that society’s existing technological mode at any one point in time. To avoid the catastrophe of running into finite resource limits, a society MUST develop new science and technology that allows it to use existing resources better and more efficiently, use alternative resources, or change the existing technological mode entirely so that entirely new resources are made available.

To see this, just look at the computer and monitor you are reading this on now, and realize that all the resources and elements that went into making it, fully existed on this planet 100, 500, 1,000, 10,000 years ago. But the technology to turn those resources and elements into your computer and monitor have only come into existence since the end of World War Two — and entirely because of a decision by agencies of the USA government to share that technology freely with the people who would go on to commercialize it. And, recall Alexander Hamilton’s argument, as Treasury Secretary, that new ways of doing things would require government intervention and encouragement.

This basic consideration of political economy — the innate conservatism of the rich, set against the never ending necessity for creating new science and technology — is a more fundamental reason to tax huge fortunes out existence, than the also valid reasons of preventing capture of the political system by the rich, and dismantling the monopolies, oligopolies, artificial scarcities, and rent extraction that the rich create, and which, if left unchecked, threaten to destroy the entire economy with the simple weight of their burdens. 


Counterfeit Capitalism: Why a Monopolized Economy Leads to Inflation and Shortages 

Matt Stoller [BIG, via Naked Capitalism 9-10-2021]

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 9-9-2021]


“The economic gains from equity”

[Brookings Institution, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-9-21]

“Then, in The economic gains from equity, they conducted a thought experiment, asking: “How much larger would the U.S. economic pie be if opportunities and outcomes were more equally distributed by race and ethnicity?” Their answer is $22.9 trillion over the 30-year period. ‘The persistence of systemic disparities is costly, and eliminating them has the potential to produce large economic gains,’ the authors write. Standard economic models often assume markets work efficiently and thus suggest explanations—such as unmeasured differences in productivity or cultural differences—that would support the existence and persistence of racial and ethnic gaps. The authors instead assume talent and job and educational preferences are distributed evenly across race and ethnicity. They then show the economic effects of disparities that hold people back from fully realizing their potential.”


The pandemic

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-7-21]


Doctors Say Texas Leaders Failed To Stop COVID-19 From Spreading

[, via Twitter 9-4-2021]

Texas schools have amassed more than 50,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in students in just a couple of weeks. More than a dozen school districts have closed temporarily as a result of the disease, and Texas is a leader in child deaths from COVID-19 with 59 as of Sept. 3.

But state leaders have spent weeks of the surge pushing through controversial bills around abortionvoting restrictions and bail reform while Gov. Abbott has been fighting local governments over their efforts to stem the spread of the disease.

Hospitals across the state are running low on pediatric intensive care unit beds. Texas’ Department of State Health Services says only 81 of them remain — and just a couple hundred more regular ICU beds are available in the state of 29 million people.

“Governor Abbott has failed us. A republican state legislature has failed us,” said Dr. David Portugal a cardiologist in Sugarland, Texas. “These leaders should be held accountable and be asked to explain how they can justify taking actions that are killing their fellow Texans.”….

Abbott promotes vaccination as the real prevention. He got vaccinated on TV. But he draws the line on mandates — vaccines or masks — which are very unpopular with conservative primary voters as he faces two far-right challengers early next year.


The Surprisingly Strong Supreme Court Precedent Supporting Vaccine Mandates

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-10-2021]

Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 1905: “Jacobson’s claim was essentially the same as that taken for granted by vaccine skeptics today: That they have the personal liberty under the U.S. Constitution to decide for themselves whether to take the shot. Backed by a group called The Anti-Vaccination Society, Jacobson made a formidable case, incorporating many of the same arguments about freedom from government interference that are ricocheting around cable TV this summer, and mouthed by politicians…. One man’s liberty, they declared in a 7-2 ruling handed down the following February, cannot deprive his neighbors of their own liberty — in this case by allowing the spread of disease. Jacobson, they ruled, must abide by the order of the Cambridge board of health or pay the penalty.”


NIH funds studies to assess potential effects of COVID-19 vaccination on menstruation”

[National Institutes of Health, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-9-21]

“The National Institutes of Health has awarded one-year supplemental grants totaling $1.67 million to five institutions to explore potential links between COVID-19 vaccination and menstrual changes. Some women have reported experiencing irregular or missing menstrual periods, bleeding that is heavier than usual, and other menstrual changes after receiving COVID-19 vaccines. The new awards support research to determine whether such changes may be linked to COVID-19 vaccination itself and how long the changes last. Researchers also will seek to clarify the mechanisms underlying potential vaccine-related menstrual changes.”


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

“The House Paid Leave Proposal Is Awful”

Matt Bruenig [People’s Policy Project, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-9-21]

“If you like the US healthcare system, you’ll love Richard Neal’s new paid leave plan.” Good thing the Mass Dems smeared Morse to keep Neal in office! “For years, Democrats have pitched paid leave as a very simple Social Security program. But in the last few months, Richard Neal has steered the policy in a much different direction. Instead of a unified federal program, the House is now proposing to create a complex hybrid paid leave program that includes employer-provided private paid leave insurance, state paid leave programs, and then a residual federal benefit that is only available to people not covered by an employer or state plan. Under the new proposal, employers are invited to set up their own paid leave programs, which they can either self-fund or contract with a private insurer to run. In order to administer this, every single employer with a paid leave plan will have to register their plan with the Treasury every single year. As part of this registration, they will send a list of every employee that they expect to be covered by the plan each year to the Treasury. In the case of an employer with a third-party insurance plan, the Treasury will pay the employer a cash amount equal to 90 percent of the national average cost of paid leave per employee multiplied by their number of employees, which the employer will then fork over as a premium to a private insurance company. (Bizarrely, Richard Neal has highlighted on his website that one of the private insurance companies that will benefit from this has endorsed his bill.) By including private insurance in this way, the bill ensures that we will waste some of our paid leave money on private insurer overhead and profits. It also invites employers and insurers to profit off of benefit denials and cream-skimming of various sorts. An employer who has a workforce that takes a below-average amount of paid leave could conceivably get an insurance contract that charges less than the grant the Treasury pays them and then pocket the difference. The employer and state plans will also massively complicate the system for individuals trying to take paid leave.”


Voting Rights and Labor Rights: The Two Sleepers in Budget Reconciliation

Robert Kuttner, September 10, 2021 [The American Prospect]

On Wednesday, the House Education and Labor Committee duly approved a far-reaching measure adding stiff fines for unfair labor practices as well as personal liability for corporate directors and officers. The committee also created new rights. It would be an unfair labor practice for employers to permanently replace strikers, discriminate against a pro-union employee, or misclassify a worker as an independent contractor. This does not go as far as the PRO Act; but if accepted as part of reconciliation, it would be a major breakthrough.

Doing voting rights via reconciliation would be a heavier lift. In principle, the strategy would be similar—come up with fines or outlays that make voting rights fit under reconciliation. Two law professors, Jonathan Gould and Nicholas Stephanopoulos, recently provided a menu of such strategies in a piece for The Atlantic: Give citizens a financial incentive to vote; provide funding to states that enact pro-democracy reforms; provide federal money to counties and towns for election administration; use public funding of campaigns to crowd out PACs.


Infrastructure Summer: The Curse of Artificial Scarcity

David Dayen, September 9, 2021 [The American Prospect]

Back in April, I started to get really concerned about the tone being set by the president and his team, stressing deficit neutrality as much as the gaps in society this package would fill…. Then, as now, there wasn’t any consensus on the revenue side. Democrats, who all seem to regard themselves as tax experts, cannot even agree to simply return to the 2017 status quo, before the Trump tax cuts, which could yield as much as $3 trillion. Then, the corporate tax rate was taken down from 35 percent to 21 percent. There’s now only enough consensus to pull it back to 25 percent, not the 28 percent Biden proposed. Biden’s capital gains tax changes have been under constant assault by the business lobby. The international tax reform envisioned by Senate Finance Committee chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) was so weak it prompted a backlash among committee Democrats. Even with stronger enforcement, there’s nothing close to what would be needed to finance a $3.5 trillion bill…. The artificial scarcity created by linking spending and revenue is killing this bill.


Busting the Myth of ‘Welfare Makes People Lazy’

[The Atlantic, via Mike Norman Economics 9-10-2021

Cash assistance isn’t just a moral imperative that raises living standards. It’s also a critical investment in the health and future careers of low-income kids.

Welfare helps people work” may sound like a strange and counterintuitive claim to some. But it is perfectly obvious when the word people in that sentence refers to low-income children in poor households. Poverty and lack of access to health care is a physical, psychological, and vocational burden for children. Poverty is a slow-motion trauma, and impoverished children are more likely than their middle-class peers to suffer from chronic physiological stress and exhibit antisocial behavior. It’s axiomatic that relieving children of an ambient trauma improves their lives and, indeed, relieved of these burdens, children from poorer households are more likely to follow the path from high-school graduation to college and then full-time employment.


Skilled Workers Are Scarce, Posing a Challenge for Biden’s Infrastructure Plan

[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism 9-9-2021]

“I’d be surprised if there’s any firm out there saying they’re ready for this,” said Mr. Irvine, whose company is hiring about a dozen skilled laborers, pipe layers and concrete finishers. If the bill passes Congress, he said, the company will most likely have to double the amount it is hiring.

“We will have to staff up,” Mr. Irvine said. “And no, there are not enough skilled workers to fill these jobs.”


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

The Most Fatal Ailment

Clint Ballinger [via Mike Norman Economics 9-9-2021]

In 1985 economist John Munkirs painstakingly demonstrated the interconnections of a corporate fraternity that essentially ruled the US economy, calling the shots on what does and does not happen in many spheres (The Transformation of American Capitalism: From Competitive Market Structures to Centralized Private Sector Planning1985). This wasn’t conspiracy but fact, with details of the firms, interconnections, places and people as researched by a staid academic, not a wild-eyed conspiracist.*

And it was ignored precisely because of that. And because of the rise of the “economics” that would serve this new order. As a fellow institutional economist writes, “Unfortunately, as the corporations became more powerful and sophisticated in the post-war era, both the hoe and the hand upon it began to lose their vitality, as we institutionalists were ushered out of government and by and large made into second class citizens in economics departments.” (Sheehan in Neale et al. 1986).

And that was 1985. How far have we gone from there? Leaps and bounds it turns out. I note how bad the ailments related to inequality (in part stemming from corporate dominance of law) are now in the last post—many are worse than 1985, and inequality undoubtedly so. The gains of the post-war decades were lost as the wealthy managed to diminish them through law and finance. Just one example, by financial means: getting rid of “old-fashioned” pensions while enriching themselves in the process. With academic cheerleading not just from Chicago School types but New Keynesians as well, the “triangulation” strategies of the ’90s New Democrats, New Labour in the UK…you know it’s bad when an icon of 60’s counterculture and rock-n-roll is publishing the best economics reporting on a real issue such as this (Greed and Debt: The True Story of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital 2012, and Looting the Pension Funds: All Across America, Wall Street is Grabbing Money Meant for Public Workers 2013). The dominance and easy acceptance of this ethos by the 2000s was made clear in the inadvertently leaked and now infamous “Plutonomy” report by Citigroup.


Markets are Creatures of Government

Peter Cooper [heteconomist, via Mike Norman Economics 9-9-2021]

This is not just a matter of markets requiring a system of enforced property rights, which presupposes government, at least in rudimentary form. In monetary economies, functioning markets also require a viable currency, one that is generally accepted in exchange. Government ensures a currency’s acceptance when it imposes and effectively enforces taxes that are payable only in that particular currency. This is true not only of exogenous taxes but of taxes on consumption, income and wealth so long as these are assessed in the government’s chosen unit of account….
Markets are institutional and as such are embedded socially, legally and also financially, especially in a monetary production economy — think banking.

The fact that banks are chartered public-private institutions that have privileges and responsibilities in creating currency through credit extension and having access to the central bank as lender of last resort, as well as an international banking system for clearing trade balances in different currencies.


Information Age Dystopia

Why Facebook Won’t Stop Pushing Propaganda Vaccine disinformation

[Mother Jones, via The Big Picture 9-5-2021]

The Big Lie. The hate poisoning your community. It all goes back to Mark Zuckerberg’s business model.


Climate and environmental crises

World’s First ‘Climate Change Famine’ Devastates Madagascar

[TreeHugger, via Naked Capitalism 9-10-2021]


‘The climate crisis is a reality for all of us’: Africa’s unreported summer of extremes

[Independent, via Naked Capitalism 9-10-2021]


Life in the heart of B.C.’s brutal summer drought

[The Narwhal, via Naked Capitalism 9-10-2021]


Why won’t TV news say ‘climate change’?

[Columbia Journalism Review, via Naked Capitalism 9-6-2021]


How Ida dodged NYC’s flood defenses

[MIT Technology Review, via Naked Capitalism 9-5-2021]


How American Environmentalism Failed

[The Wire, via Naked Capitalism 9-6-2021]

Historically, US environmentalism has not been an inclusive or democratic social movement. Rather, it’s been shaped by the affluent and professional elites, often more concerned with promoting a romanticised vision of sublime nature than protecting the people and places most at risk from environmental degradation. Finally, after several decades of research, advocacy and organizing, environmental and climate justice have become priorities among even the most mainstream conservation organisations. John Muir would hardly recognize them; Martin Luther King Jr. would be delighted.


“U.S. Civil Engineers Bent the Rules to Give New Orleans Extra Protection from Hurricanes. Those Adjustments Might Have Saved the City During Ida”

[Time, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-7-21]

“Don Resio, then a technical supervisor in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) coastal program, was assigned in 2006 to lead a group of specialists tasked with using statistics to model the likely threat that future storms would pose to New Orleans. He toured the city’s devastated defenses in the days after Hurricane Katrina, and today remembers the sight of children’s toys floating in the rancid floodwaters, along with the stench of rotting bodies emanating from waterlogged houses. He knew that legislators in charge of allocating funding for the project likely didn’t understand that building for a 100-year storm, the standard in many such projects, would leave populations at significant risk. For instance, there would be a cumulative 26% probability of a 100-year storm hitting sometime in the next 30 years. Across 65 years, it would be equivalent to the flip of a coin. And as climate change brought stronger and more frequent extreme storms, the likelihood of such events would only increase. So the engineers tasked with designing and building the city’s new defenses fudged the numbers so that their work would actually protect New Orleans from the inevitable. After all, no one knew when Congress would get around to funding New Orleans protective measures again, and Corps engineers had a unique opportunity to win the resources needed to do their job properly.” • Sounds like the engineers understood about tail risk. Unfortunately, our sclerotic political system does not — or prefers to cull the population, in this case by drowning them, take your pick — and so they “fudged the numbers.” I’m sure some administrator turned beet red when they read this, and even now is taking steps to make sure it never happens again.


World’s biggest machine capturing carbon from air turned on in Iceland

[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 9-9-2021]


Institutionalists = Obstructionists

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-9-21]



“Democrats, Abortion and Phony Politics”

Margaret Kimberly [Black Agenda Report, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-8-21]

“Neither she nor anyone else in Democratic party leadership will ever acknowledge how badly they failed their people. They haven’t changed since 2016. They still hope to win by doing as little as they possibly can. The Texas law spawned hand wringing and foolish deification of the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg. But like Clinton she bore responsibility for the makeup of the current Supreme Court. In 2013 Barack Obama asked the 80-year old, two-time cancer patient to step down, just in case Democrats lost control of the senate the following year. That is precisely what happened but truth telling doesn’t suit the political image makers. Even worse, the Democrats lie about their ability to protect abortion rights. They could pass the Women’s Health Protection Act which would make Roe v. Wade federal law and do away with all abortion restrictions across the country. They could have done this when Bill Clinton and Barack Obama had democratic control of both houses of congress and they can still do it now. Democrats have been lying about their ability to protect abortion rights for the past 30 years. The Democrats constantly treat their members as suckers. They raise millions of dollars claiming that they will stop the Republican onslaught against abortions or some other issue that is important to their voters.. The Women’s Health Protection Act could be passed now but any expectation of that happening is for the suckers to believe. The Democrats claim that it would be too hard to pass because of the filibuster, which they also do nothing about. Round and round they go, with nothing to show except excuses for their inaction. Meanwhile their paid mouth pieces in corporate media use every trick in their worn out playbook to keep the rank and file from noticing they have been conned yet again.”


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-9-21]



Ryan Grim, September 7, 2021 [The Intercept, via DailyPoster]

A new email shows the former Mylan CEO worked with her counterpart at Pfizer to corner the market and keep costs up.


The Dark Side

“Heeding Steve Bannon’s Call, Election Deniers Organize to Seize Control of the GOP — and Reshape America’s Elections”

[ProPublica, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-7-21]

Lambert Strether noted: “The horror is apparently not felt by the Democrat leadership, or they’d be doing something about it.”


Bannon: The government is out of money
[via Mike Norman Economics 9-9-2021]

MAGA GOP position currently slash and burn… government shutdown on Oct 1 then followed by default around  October 15th…


“These corporations bankrolled the sponsors of Texas’ abortion ban”

[Popular Information, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-7-21]

“The politicians who sponsored Texas’ abortion ban are backed by some of the nation’s most prominent corporations. These same corporations hold themselves out as champions of women’s rights. AT&T, for example, is one of the top donors to the sponsors of Texas’ abortion ban, also known as SB 8. Since 2018, AT&T has donated $301,000 to the sponsors of SB 8. Yet, in AT&T’s 2020 Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Report, CEO John Stankey said one of the company’s ‘core values’ was ‘gender equity and the empowerment of women.’”


Texas Is the New Republican Template

[The Nation, via Mike Norman Economics 9-8-2021]

What’s happening there is about much more than the fight over reproductive rights. It’s about political control….

In a state that is rapidly becoming more diverse, more liberal on most issues, and a good deal more Democratic—in 2020, Joe Biden won the highest percentage of the vote for a Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter—the Republicans’ strategy would seem misguided. And it would be, if Abbott and his legislative allies intended to compete in a fair fight. But they don’t.

The package of voting rights restrictions that the governor has approved includes a ban on drive-through voting and 24-hour voting, which had been used to increase turnout (even during the coronavirus pandemic) in Houston’s Harris County. It also expands voter ID requirements, limits early voting hours, and places new restrictions on mail-in voting. State Representative John Bucy, an Austin Democrat, notes that the bill also outlines new avenues for criminally prosecuting voters who make mistakes. “There are increased crimes and penalties throughout this bill just for participating in the process,” says Bucy, “and there is not explanation as to why.”


DARK MONEY GROUP HARASSES SCHOOL BOARDS ACROSS CALIFORNIA Left [Coast Right Watch, via Naked Capitalism 9-6-2021]

According to McKeeman, the growing group includes 12 thousand “parents who are concerned about the detrimental effects of masks.” Although the organization’s Facebook page contains over 18 thousand followers, the rallies rarely draw more than a few dozen and the same parents and children have attended several school board meetings in different districts.



Open Thread


Once More Unto Covid and Schools


  1. bruce wilder

    The evidence for the proposition that the available vaccines reduce the spread of COVID is weak to non-existent.

    The makers claim only that vaccination probably reduces the severity of symptoms when infected. And that is all study of the trials really assessed.

    The idea that vaccines inhibit spread by making the vaccinated immune to infection comes from experience with vaccines that actually do induce a high degree of immunity to infection. These vaccines do not do that, or the degree of immunity to infection declines rapidly.

    It is hard to account for the fourth wave in highly vaccinated locales except by allowing that most vaccinated people remain potentially contagious.

    The legal and moral argument for vaccine mandates is weakened by admission of these facts. Not entirely refuted, because businesses that require employees to work in COVID-hazardous situations may still require vaccination as a measure to reduce the risk of severe illness.

    The charge that the vaccine-hesitant are putting others at risk (while the vaccinated are protecting others) is an unfounded exaggeration at best.

  2. NL

    Talking about invisible governors, in the links here, there is a quote that mentions a very interesting and rare book “The Transformation of American Capitalism: From Competitive Market Structures to Centralized Private Sector” . This is beyond monopoly, which would be dominance of few corporate entities in a particular industry, the book is about coordination and planning across many industries, including financial, which is akin to a planned economy. That was in 1985, but the system evolved rather than transform into something else.

    I also looked up whether I missed something in the New Deal laws restraining private money creation and private debt. Does not look like it. The Treasury dictated the FED on interest rates on public debt between mid 1930s and early 1950s, but this was separate from money creation. The FED seems to have two missions then: support government debt issuance and control over money creation. When FOMC came about, it reduced the influence of the reserve bank presidents (especially the NY FED), but this seems to be more of an internal struggle between different FED branches and personalities, and the Governors of the FED (here’re your semi-visible governors) were mostly people from the banking industry anyway. My source on this is mostly Meltzer.

  3. different clue

    So . . . . cross sector Private Central Planning of the whole economy?

    We should rename our country the CSSA . . . the Corporate Soviet States of America.

  4. Ché Pasa

    Well, Tony, this is one of the grimmest Week-end Wrap Ups yet.


  5. NL

    Should be the Corporate Board States of America – we don’t have Soviets, that was a labor institution.

  6. NL

    As to this flippant formulation that ‘vaccines work pretty well’ that we hear ad nauseam, I have always said that we will struggle on two fronts: with one hand we will fight the virus, and with the other we will hold off unhinged fake-fighters of the virus. Why the fake-fighters are fake, because they are fighting not against the virus but for preservation of the OLD world the virus is eating away, for their privileged life, for their status as experts (which the virus is showing they are no experts). It is in their rhetoric – “return to normal”, they want back to the way is was but they don’t know how – so they ravage and rant grasping for straws and magical easy solutions, of which there are none. I understand, it is painful to see your world and way of life seemly collapse. But we need to embrace the changing world in order to survive and prosper into the future.

    NR, apologies for mentioning you in particular, it just that you used this phrase, it applies to anyone who throws around the phrase. So, instead of parroting not just any articles, the parroting is of articles that present selective evidence from selective studies and – get this – include LINKS to those studies in scientific journals. Well, am I supposed to be blown away by this? Seriously? I guess the ‘take home’ message is that I can follow the links and read the articles for myself — well, I have done that, and the evidence is unclear, the experts seem to not fully understand viral behavior (this emerges when comparing older papers written about HIV and what is being written about SARS-Cov2), there are many issues in study designs (see study limitations in the same studies) and the studies are tainted by financial interests (see the Conflict of Interest disclosure included in the articles).

    But, I do not claim to be the final or any other authority on this or any other matter. I may be wrong, but if I am wrong, I am sincerely wrong, the above is my honest thinking that I have arrived from a study in my spare time using knowledge that I obtained in college and then built upon. I really hate to doubt the intentions of those who throw around the ‘vaccines work pretty well’ thing, but we can not be gullible too. What is in the hearts of these individuals – we cannot know, only they do, only they know whether they are sincere and what they are struggling for – eradication of the virus or preservation of the old world.

  7. Jim Harmon

    As part of this development,

    Facebook to buy $100 million worth of unpaid invoices from 30,000 small businesses owned by women and minorities

    Not the worst example of privatized government, but frightening nonetheless.

  8. Hugh

    Peter Cooper is an MMTer. And it is a tenant of MMT that taxes are necessary for money to have value. I always think MMTers don’t read much. They certainly haven’t read the Section 4 of the 14th Amendment: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.” And guess what any bill you pull out of your wallet says: “The note is legal tender for all debts public and private.” No taxes involved. I don’t get what MMT thinks it gains by saying that we shouldn’t believe the usual economic and financial fictions, we should believe theirs.

    Texas is just the most obvious example where the fascist revolution marches on. Elections aren’t elections unless they win them. And laws aren’t laws unless they write them.

    Being vaccinated against covid means you chances of being hospitalized and dying from it are greatly reduced. That’s why vaccination mandates make sense.

    Big banks like JPMorgan Chase and Deutsche Bank are criminal enterprises. Deutsche Bank is so crooked that it is the only one that would do business with Donald Trump. So a big shout out and best wishes to Natalie Edwards.

  9. Jim Harmon

    No, it is NOT “a tenant of MMT that taxes are necessary for money to have value.” As explained by VOX , from a stricly economic view, taxes aee only needed as a way to fight inflation. So a tenant like that needs to be evicted.

  10. NL

    “Being vaccinated against covid means you chances of being hospitalized and dying from it are greatly reduced” in a certain group of individuals (the young and healthy to begin with) for a short period of time (several months at best), while promoting emergence of more virulent and deadly strains by allowing unchecked evolution of the virus as it spreads rapidly among the vaccinated and making your body sick with artificial inflammation.

    There, fixed for you Hugh! Every time to repeat this partial truth, I will correct you.

    Whether the virus evolves to a more benign or a more deadly strain depends on how quickly it jumps from individual to individual. When this happens quickly, deadly variants outcompete mild ones, when the time to jump to a different person is long, then mild variants outcompete the deadly ones. This is well known from HIV research. When deadlier strains appear later this year or next, Hugh and the others will say: “Oops, we are surprised, we did not know”.

  11. Ché Pasa

    Being vaccinated against covid means you chances of being hospitalized and dying from it are greatly reduced. That’s why vaccination mandates make sense.

    Let’s consider why this matters. As we saw last year, and we’re seeing again, hospitals are overwhelmed with Covid patients. Our healthcare system, such as it is, isn’t designed to handle mass patient loads, only a relative trickle of reasonably well patients, the odd severely ill patient and accident victim, and a bulk-load of “elective” paying customers.

    We learned last year that nursing staff was being laid off during the worst of the Covid epidemic, and those who stayed had their pay cut. Even though many hospitals were overloaded and ICU patients were waiting for someone to die so they could be hooked up to machines — that there were too few skilled workers to operate.

    That situation isn’t better. Treatments are somewhat better for those who are hospitalized with Covid — going to the hospital isn’t necessarily an immediate death sentence, for example. So nowadays even the unvaccinated have a somewhat better chance of survival than last year.

    But vaccinated people who contract Covid rarely need to be hospitalized, thus relieving some of the pressure on the faltering health care system. Very few vaccinated people contract Covid, and those that do mostly have mild or no symptoms.

    No, the Covid vaccines are not “sterilizing”. They do not make one immune. Understanding that doesn’t at all mean that one shouldn’t be vaccinated, or that the vaccines are worthless breeders of even worse variants.

    The vaccines are the best we’ve got right now — along with masking, distancing, and personal cleanliness — that control the worst effects of the disease. Something better will no doubt come along eventually (think how the polio vaccine developed and changed and got better over time.) Simply claiming that because what we’ve got isn’t perfect — and there may be side effects in some patients — therefore we shouldn’t take the vaccine and observe basic precautions is insane.

  12. Hugh

    Thank you, NL, for your comic view of vaccines and virology. Please do not tell me what spells and incantations you use to defend yourself from covid and the evil eye.

    So as Peter Cooper wrote above, “Government ensures a currency’s acceptance when it imposes and effectively enforces taxes that are payable only in that particular currency.” That acceptance is based on its value. MMTers are given to making vast pronouncements, but when called on them, I have seen them revert to a demand that I read everything ever written by MMTers. Then magically I would understand.

    Taxes pose a quandary for MMTers. You see one of their big pronouncements is that taxes do not fund and are not necessary to government spending. So the question is what do they do? To quote from the article Jim Harmon cites (by Dylan Matthews, a writer at Vox and not one of the first tier names in MMT),

    “So why, then, does the government tax, under the MMT view? Two big reasons: One, taxation gets people in the country to use the government-issued currency. Because they have to pay income taxes in dollars” and second to control inflation. The first of these is basically what I was saying that taxes enforce a value on money and its use. Or as wiki says, “giving it value by creating demand for it in the form of a private tax obligation.” Both reasons are stupid. People use money because they find it useful to do so, and the 14th Amendment guarantees a value on it. As for taxation to control inflation, how exactly does it do that, considering that inflation can go up or down, but taxes can remain the same for years?

    About the only thing worthwhile that MMT ever added to the discussion was the re-introduction of the concept of fiat money. Beyond that, it is a terribly constructed theory and most of core tenets are, as here, laughably wrong.

  13. NR

    “Being vaccinated against covid means you chances of being hospitalized and dying from it are greatly reduced” in a certain group of individuals (the young and healthy to begin with)

    This is false. The data shows that vaccination greatly reduces infection, hospitalization, and death across all age groups:

    Averaged weekly, age-standardized rates (events per 100,000 persons) were higher among persons not fully vaccinated than among fully vaccinated persons for reported cases (112.3 versus 10.1), hospitalizations (9.1 versus 0.7), and deaths (1.6 versus 0.1) during April 4–June 19, as well as during June 20–July 17 (89.1 versus 19.4; 7.0 versus 0.7; 1.1 versus 0.1, respectively).

    In fact there may be some indication that vaccines are more effective in older people:

    Persons aged ≥65 years had larger declines in IRRs (incident rate ratios) for hospitalization and death than did younger age groups.

    for a short period of time (several months at best)

    This is unknown. A drop-off in vaccine effectiveness has been observed with time; however the amount of time it takes for protection to fade completely is not known at this time.

    while promoting emergence of more virulent and deadly strains by allowing unchecked evolution of the virus as it spreads rapidly among the vaccinated

    This is also false. The data shows that the vaccines reduce the spread of the virus among the vaccinated.

    data from the HEROES-RECOVER Cohorts,* a network of prospective cohorts among frontline workers, showed that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA COVID-19 vaccines were approximately 90% effective in preventing symptomatic and asymptomatic infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in real-world conditions.


  14. bruce wilder

    On MMT, like Hugh, I am a skeptic. Some of the most prominent MMT advocates seem to be competing with mainstream economists to spout the worst utter nonsense and to re-fashion MMT dogma (yes, dogma) for dubious purposes and in support of foolish dicta. (I do like Stephanie Kelton, especially when she humiliates Paul Krugman or Larry Summers.)

    On taxes and the value of a fiat currency, there is a subthread of MMT called, chartalism, which has an origin story that features taxes, in a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps mode. It’s fine as origin stories go, not wrong but not necessarily historically accurate either.

    The thing about money and credit is that it is a solution to the problem of calculating and making deals with the future in a world characterized by pervasive uncertainty. You’ve heard the ol’ saw about the only certainties are death and taxes. Well, there you go.

    Without explaining (which would be impossible in a blog comment anyway), to be effective in stabilizing the value of a fiat unit of account, taxes have to do a bit more than simply create a demand for currency scrip. There’s great instrumental value in having a marketable sovereign debt of considerable size. And, it is also necessary to tax primarily “economic rents”. These are aspects of founding a monetary and financial system on a sovereign fiat unit of account that many MMT enthusiasts ignore or actively denigrate.

    The importance of a marketable sovereign debt and the fiscal capacity of the state to actually collect taxes on “economic rents” are being denigrated at a time when the actual capacity of the U.S. to tax economic rents is being rapidly eroded by political corruption. This will not end well.

  15. Hugh

    Comment still in mod. Money is a medium that allows you to move resources, goods and services, within a society and between societies. Spending, taxes, laws, and regulations are the ways government can direct this movement.

    I agree with bruce that while MMT makes some broad pronouncements about money flows between the public and private sectors, it has virtually nothing to say about rents and the inexorable movement of money in the private sector into the hands of the rich and super rich. Indeed what caused me to run afoul of both MMT and Naked Capitalism was my ridiculing Randy Wray’s imbecilic positions that the wealthy couldn’t be taxed, because they hid their wealth too well, and that corporations shouldn’t be taxed, because they “earned” their profits.

  16. NR

    My comment is in moderation apparently, but the first and third points NL makes in his screed against Hugh are proven false, and it’s currently unknown to what degree the second is accurate.

    Meanwhile, here’s yet more data showing that the COVID vaccines are effective:

    Add it in with everything else.

  17. NL

    NR: ” COVID vaccines are effective” only to some extent and you can still die while being fully vaccinated! (Fixed it for you.)

    The study freely admits: “Some deaths are expected in vaccinated individuals as the number of people who are vaccinated is high and no vaccine is 100% effective.”

    The study covers 6 months – January to the end June, the vaccination campaign in England and Wales started in January, so at the beginning of the study, there was no one fully vaccinated.

    458!!!! fully vaccinated people died in that time period — death of these people are on the hands of vaccine advocates, had these people worn N95, social distanced or isolated, they would still be alive!!!

  18. NL

    Let’s also not forget that through their single-minded focus on the vaccine, the vaccine advocates implicitly ague against N95, ventilation, distancing, lockdown, development of prophylactic measures, etc and therefore, some of the death among the unvaccinated is also on them. We have these miracle vaccines, why fix our ventilation system?

    Looks like the CDC ruling is that vaccinated who came into contact with a SARS-Cov2 positive case must stay in place and keep on working until symptoms show up — those poor souls who ran home last week when a positive case came up here will have to take vacation time… so sad.

  19. NL

    Copy-paste from Lenski RE Evolution of plague virulence, Nature 334 11August 1988

    Indeed, for many years, conventional
    wisdom favoured the view that evolution would select those pathogens which had
    the least harmful effects on their hosts”. On the other hand, pathogenicity, or virulence, is often associated with transmission”. Mathematical analyses by May and
    Anderson”” and by Levin and Pimentel 10’11 have shown that the evolution of pathogens is highly dependent on this coupling between transmissibility and virulence. To see this, consider a simple equation for the rate of change in the number of infected hosts in a population: dY/dt = f3XY – a Y, where X is the number of
    susceptible hosts, Y the number of infected hosts, f3 is the transmission rate of the
    pathogen and a the rate of mortality including that induced by the pathogen. If
    the number of susceptibles is very high,
    the rate of increase of the pathogen – as
    reflected by the rate of increase of infected
    hosts- will generally be maximized when
    the transmission rate is high, even if this
    entails a high rate of host mortality. In
    contrast, reduced virulence could be
    favoured if perpetuation of the pathogen
    depends on prolonged survival of infected
    carriers, as may occur when the number of
    surviving susceptible hosts is very low. In a
    sense, a critical factor from the perspective of the pathogen is whether there is
    ample opportunity for infectious exploitation of other hosts or whether being ‘nice’
    to a current host is the best way of achieving maximal fitness 12 •
    The dramatic declines of the human population in Europe during the great
    plague epidemics of past centuries were
    presumably accompanied by comparable
    declines in the population of susceptible
    rodents. Not only might these epidemics
    have been triggered by the appearance of
    hypervirulent strains of Y. pestis, as
    Rosqvist, Skurnik and Wolf-Watz hypothesize’, but the declining populations of
    susceptible hosts may in turn have
    favoured less virulent strains.

  20. NR

    NL: Okay, you’re either trolling or actually insane. Bye.

  21. NL

    NL: Okay, you’re either trolling or actually insane. Bye.

    I am just competent. Than you very much.

  22. Hugh

    So the delta variant first appeared in India in late 2020, that is mass vaccination which occurred later had nothing to do with its emergence. But that blows up NL’s anti-vaxxer fantasy so just ignore that. He does.

  23. NL

    Science is harder and messier that sloganeering and flippant comments. I think someone does not get the point: vaccination is irrelevant when the virus has plenty of bodies to infect. We need to focus on limiting viral spread, this and only this will force the virus to become mild, and the mild strains will gives immunity to the more virulent ones. In fact, the emergence of the more virulent and infectious delta clearly demonstrates this point.

    This guy here is an expert. It is an interesting thread with lots articles mentioned (I have not looked through those yet) that elaborates on this point:

    See also the copy-paste above from 1988.

  24. Hugh

    According to Johns Hopkins, 661,385 dead from covid in the US. And NL has not learned a thing from any of them. Masking, social distancing, good ventilation are appropriate public health measures. So are vaccines. People have had multiple vaccines to go to school. No problem. Now with covid and huge death counts, all of a sudden covid vaccines are no good even though they have greatly reduced hospitalizations and deaths among the vaccinated. Why? Because the anti-vaxxers start with their conclusion. They are against covid vaccines. They throw in random reasons and justifications. These get debunked and they just move on to others or repeat the debunked ones over again.

  25. bruce wilder

    Twitter is a swamp, isn’t it? I can almost hear the insects buzzing my head and sense the creeping reptiles stalking my thoughts. The cacophony of stupid and half-truth is deadening. It must be a relief to find an apparent voice of sanity among the noise, ready to be Virgil guiding otherwise lost souls thru this Inferno.

    I do not think I would know how to sort out who to trust or how far.

    It is worth remembering that our public health authorities chose from the beginning to protect emergency room / ICU capacity, not the human population. In the U.S., zero COVID was never seriously considered as a strategic objective.

    The vaccines were designed to achieve that objective by making the disease symptoms milder. The disease would become endemic and almost certainly recurrent. The vaccines are a thumb on the scale as evolution searches a path to reproductive success for the virus.

    Human beings, with our vaunted ingenuity, ought to be able to “outthink” an unthinking virus, but from the evidence presented by Twitter chaos, I see little cause for hope.

    I would think it fairly obvious that vaccines, by making highly virulent strains “mild” in the vaccinated are accelerating the global spread of variants cooked up in any number global incubators and then flown everywhere by our insatiable need to travel.

    I feel bad for places like Australia or Vietnam that made the zero-COVID bet and are now being overwhelmed by the consequences of the American decision to “bend the curve” but not to save lives.

  26. NL

    Reliance on vaccines alone have been abundantly shown to be severely insufficient and in fact detrimental in a longer term to reduction in infection, hospitalization and death from the virus. The vaccine advocates pay lips service to the comprehensive approach in containing the virus that includes a list of highly-effective scientifically well-established measures, such as N95, ventilation and distancing, but in reality fanatically and single-mindedly pushing on the population one and only one solution, that is, the vaccine. The vaccine proponents use selective science, threats, intimidation, trickery, bribery, grandstanding and pretend ridicule to suppress voices of reason, to mislead the people about good science and to coerce the much suffering population into their false beliefs. They attack good science, caution and reason and claim high moral and scientific ground but in reality are nothing but propagandists and apologists for the Big Pharma and bad governmental policies of incompetent functionaries. We don’t know how many among the 661,385 dead from the virus are vaccinated, but we know there are fully vaccinated dead. Pretty soon going forward, it is fully vaccinated who will die in droves. When that happens the vaccine fanatics will prevaricate, feign ignorance and claim good intentions. But let us not forget who will have gotten us there and who must bear a burden of blame.

  27. Hugh

    By July 2021, there were 600,000 dead from covid in the US. Virtually all of those were among the unvaccinated. The current surge began about that time when just under half the country (47% as of July 1) was fully vaccinated. This data from IHME, the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

  28. NL

    Che Pasa: “The vaccines are the best we’ve got right now” – that’s a lie that Hugh and NR spread – what about N95? Cheaply available from many sources, not under patent.

    Who are going to believe: yourself or government and Pharma stooges?

  29. DMC

    That article on plutonomy of the Citi Bank report is some of the most eye-opening material you’re ever likely to read

  30. Ché Pasa

    The inequalities in the American economy have always been there — in a way, they’re built in and deliberate. Forcing, if you will, the Lower Orders to strive, and therefore (ideally) improving their own lot and that of the Overclass.

    But we’ve reached the point where striving gets more and more people nowhere at all. Or can even set them back rather than push them forward. I think there have been episodes like this in the past, but Americans could romanticize their way out of it or expand their way out, absorb the losses, and pretend everything would work out well in the end.

    But not now. The crises are too many, the inequalities too great, the political and social divisions too stark. Our rulers are hog-tied by their own freakish ideologies, corruption and bizarre wants and needs. They know not of the suffering of the People, or if they do, they don’t care or think it grand that the masses have so little succor.

    For the Overclass, the pandemic isn’t killing off enough of us fast enough. And those who interfere with the Death March are interfering with God-Given Freedom and should be condemned.

    It’s hard not to be sickened and cynical about it all.

  31. Jim Harmon

    My main takeaway from MMT is that deficit numbers should should r be used in isolation as a controlling factor in deciding whether to spend money on any given program.

  32. Jim Harmon

    r = never (sigh)

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