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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – September 13, 2020

by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy

Some graphs and comments for LABOR DAY
Tony Wikrent September 7, 2020 [Real Economics]

Industrial Revolutionaries: To understand how to revitalize our economy, you only have to look back to the founders.
Ganesh Sitaraman, September 10, 2020 [The American Prospect]

As policymakers discuss what industrial policy should look like today, the four traditions in American industrial policy offer important lessons. First and foremost, any public policy that shapes or structures a sector of the economy is an industrial policy, even the Jacksonian approach, which rejects strategic planning in any coherent sense. The choice to let powerful individuals and corporations pursue the industries they want, structure them how they want, and lobby government for ad hoc policy changes is just as much of an industrial policy as anything else, albeit not a very good one. Indeed, the “return” of industrial policy is better described as a rejection of the Jacksonian tradition.
For those who advocate for a new industrial policy, the Hamiltonian tradition offers a natural starting point. But the risks inherent in the Hamiltonian approach should be particularly concerning at this moment. There is already a pervasive view that the system is rigged, captured and corrupted by the powerful. Industry concentration in sector after sector is at an apex, bringing economic and geographic inequality with it. Applying the Hamiltonian approach in narrow areas, like determining supply chain needs or the production of public-health materials in a crisis, is both inevitable and desirable. But the agenda for contemporary Hamiltonians must be more than advocating for industrial policy; it must also be designing policies to prevent regulatory capture, whether as a function of lobbying, the revolving door, or personal friendships and elite culture. Failure to do so threatens greater inequality of wealth and power, and with it, the possibility of oligarchy or another populist backlash.

The Madisonian and Franklinian traditions, meanwhile, are in serious need of revival. Massive public spending in research and development, a public option for broadband and postal banking, and network infrastructure regulation, from tech platform rules to net neutrality, could provide a new foundation for discoveries and commerce. At the same time, antitrust enforcement and the revival of separation-of-function regimes in tech, telecom, banking, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, and other sectors will revitalize competition, enhance innovation, reduce the power of rent-seeking lobbyists, and ensure a more equitable economy through all regions of the country. These two traditions also work together as a system: Government-funded research and regulated network infrastructure provide the foundation and keep the country investing in a longer-term future; a competitive ecosystem sits atop that base, pursuing innovation in a manner that doesn’t concentrate wealth or power.

The challenge for Madisonians and Franklinians is that their traditions have been deliberately attacked for decades by Jacksonians, so much so that they are largely forgotten, and if remembered, much maligned.

“Elon Musk’s growing empire is fueled by $4.9 billion in government subsidies”
[Los Angeles Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-8-20]

“Tesla Motors Inc., SolarCity Corp. and Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as SpaceX, together have benefited from an estimated $4.9 billion in government support, according to data compiled by The Times. The figure underscores a common theme running through his emerging empire: a public-private financing model underpinning long-shot start-ups. A looming question is whether the companies are moving toward self-sufficiency — as Dolev believes — and whether they can slash development costs before the public largesse ends. Tesla and SolarCity continue to report net losses after a decade in business, but the stocks of both companies have soared on their potential; Musk’s stake in the firms alone is worth about $10 billion. (SpaceX, a private company, does not publicly report financial performance.) Musk and his companies’ investors enjoy most of the financial upside of the government support, while taxpayers shoulder the cost.”

How to Save a Dying Republic: Lincoln and the Greenbacks

Matthew Ehret [TheDuran, via Mike Norman Economics 9-10-20]

….I contrasted Hamilton’s system which tied the value and behaviour of money to the increasing powers of production of a society through manufacturing and internal improvements, to the opposing system of British free trade which tied value to hedonistic impulses and the worshiping of money….

Beyond the dangers of secession, Lincoln had to contend with the Wall Street financiers and anglophile families who worked tirelessly to sabotage the president’s ability to acquire the funds necessary to execute the war.

To make matters worse, the state of economic affairs was impossibly unmanageable with over 7000 recognized bank notes in the USA and over 1496 banks each issuing multiple notes. Under this highly de-regulated system made possible by the 1836 killing of the national bank years earlier under Andrew Jackson and the passage of the 1846 Independent Treasury Act which prevented the government from influencing economic affairs, every private bank could issue currencies with no federal authority. With such a breakdown of finances, no national projects were possible, international investments were scarce and free market money worshiping ran rampant. Manufacturing collapsed, speculation took over and the slavocracy grew in influence between the 1837’s bank panic and 1860.

The City of London was obviously not interested in allowing the USA to get out from under water, and with the gold-backed pound sterling, ensured the manipulation of gold prices and orchestrated the buyout of U.S. gold reserves. When Lincoln sought loans to execute the war, whether from Wall Street or International banking houses, the loans were granted only at excessive interest rates of 20-25%….

By the beginning of 1865, $450 million in Greenbacks were issued making up over half of all currency in circulation. Greenbacks and 5-20 bonds financed not only the arming, feeding and payments to soldiers, but also the often-overlooked large scale industrial and rail programs begun during the peak of the war itself… namely the trans continental railway (started in 1863 and completed in 1869 linking for the first time in history a continent from east to west). This was financed through grants and subsidies made possible by the greenbacks which increased government spending power by 300%!

In his 1865 essay How to Outdo England Without Fighting Her, Lincoln’s economic advisor Henry C Carey stated: “The ‘greenback’ has fallen on the country as the dew falls, bringing with it good to all and doing injury to none.”

James K. Galbraith, September 1 2020 [The Intercept]
Repeated from last week because it summarizes the most important points of economic reality at this stage of the pandemic economic crisis. Galbraith succinctly describes how the epidemic has fundamentally altered economic reality — and why a national economy based on consumer spending will not, can not, recover. So, reinforces the argument of the need for active government intervention in the economy made in the two historical articles above.

[Business Insider, via Naked Capitalism 9-10-20]
This blind ideological rigidity is the result of 88 years of the reactionary rich funding and building the conservative and libertarian movements to stop and dismantle Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. 

Patrick Cockburn [Independent, via Naked Capitalism 9-12-20]Remember 9/11, When America Went Mad

Ian Welsh, September 11, 2020

Bin Laden’s plan was to get the Americans to stop the proxy wars and invade and occupy using their own troops, so they could be defeated and the myth of their superiority destroyed, while they suffered the effects of imperial over-reach: wasting resources and time on far foreign wars….

At first it looked like he’d failed. Afghanistan in the first couple years didn’t do much to America. Then, in what Bin Laden must have viewed as Allah intervening, the Americans went mad and attacked Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11 and whose leader was a secular Arab and enemy of Bin Laden’s.

….He may have died, but so what, he basically accomplished his goals, and so much of US rapidity of decline can be traced back to 9/11.

Bin Laden understood himself and he understood his enemy. He won. America, despite being overwhelmingly more powerful, understood neither itself nor its enemies, and lost.
Nothing important to stop American decline or even slow it has been done since 9/11, it’s all been pedal to the metal, and now there are nationwide protests; riots; the most important state in America (that’s California, because it creates the future) is on fire, and the US is ruled by a reality TV star who wasn’t even a good billionaire.

Some of Oregon’s Helicopters That Would Be Used to Fight Wildfires Are Deployed to Afghanistan
[Newsweek, via Naked Capitalism comments 9-11-20]

The Pandemic

“Mr. Trump Knew It Was Deadly and Airborne”

[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-10-20]

Lambert Strether: I don’t love Trump. That said, this is madness. Trump said to Woodward that the virus was “airborne” on February 7 . From the Times, July 4: “239 Experts With One Big Claim: The Coronavirus Is Airborne”; the scientists had written a letter to WHO asking WHO to change its guidance on airborne tranmission (“It is understood that there is not as yet universal acceptance of airborne transmission of SARS-CoV2; but in our collective assessment there is more than enough supporting evidence so that the precautionary principle should apply”). I posted on airborne transmission only on May 25, and I was following the matter closely to adjust my personal practice. I started watching the topic because of March 9 observations on a Chinese bus that could only be explained by airborne transmission. The index publication for airborne tranmission seems to have been published on May 13, and was done in a laboratory setting. There was no way that Trump could have known the virus was airborne in February because nobody did. Trump might have meant droplet tranmission, but that’s not what the Times wrote. (And of course there’s no gotcha if Trump meant droplet transmission, because that’s what conventional wisdom believed.) And if Trump had said, in February, “the virus is airborne,” do you know what would have happened? That’s right: There would have been a ginormous yammering dogpile saying Trump didn’t “listen to the science,” in this case the scientists at WHO, who were wrong (as they, along with Fauci, were deliberately wrong on masks). The damage would have been enormously greater than the hydrochloroquinine dogpile, so thank whatever Gods there be that Trump didn’t say it. None of this is to defend Trump’s manifest deficiencies in many other areas, particularly in procurement, but Holy Lord! Meanwhile, I seem to remember plenty of other optimistic prognostications in the same time-frame from prominent Democrats, including New Yorkers Cuomo and Diblasio. Can’t anybody here play this game*? NOTE * From Casey Stengel. This, too, is a propos: “Don’t cut my throat, I may want to do that later myself.”

February 7 Tape of “Deadly Virus” Conversation Between Trump and Woodward, and More Buzzflash, via Naked Capitalism 9-10-20]

The Carnage of Establishment Neoliberal Economics

Drug cartels in Mexico are now using drones to assassinate people

David Sirota, Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 9-11-20]Marc Dann: Want to stop public corruption? Jail business execs who break the law

[Akron Business Journal, via Naked Capitalism 9-8-20]

But the real question isn’t how these things happen; it’s this: “Why do they happen all the time?” The answer is simple and distressing: Billion-dollar corporations blithely ignore and break the law because the people who occupy executive suites know they will never be forced to trade in their bespoke suits for orange jail jumpsuits.

As long as that’s true, as a trip down memory lane beginning with mortgage crisis will make clear, corporate lawlessness will almost certainly continue unabated.

The fraud-driven collapse of the housing market began shortly after I became Ohio’s attorney general. While officials of the big banks, mortgage companies, and speculators who touched off the meltdown that led to 10,000,000 home foreclosures cruised Wall Street undisturbed, a joint task force formed by my office as well as the Summit County sheriff and prosecutor was scooping bad actors off the Main Streets of Akron and tossing them in jail.

Although our effort was successful, it did not cast a wide enough net or attract enough media attention to worry the folks at Citi, Chase, et al. In fact, our work went largely unnoticed until the recent release of the “The Con,” a five-episode docuseries that provides both an in-depth look at the devastation caused by predatory lending and a maddening reminder that those who profited from the misery of millions walked away scot-free.

[Of Dollars And Data, via The Big Picture 9-8-20]

Earlier this year researchers at the London School of Economics released a paper titled, “Why Do People Stay Poor?” that illustrated how the lack of initial wealth (and not motivation or talent) is what keeps people in poverty. The researchers tested this by randomly allocating wealth (i.e. livestock) to female villagers in Bangladesh and then waited to see how that wealth transfer would affect their future finances. As their paper states:

[We] find that, if the program pushes individuals above a threshold level of initial assets, then they escape poverty, but, if it does not, they slide back into poverty…Our findings imply that large one-off transfers that enable people to take on more productive occupations can help alleviate persistent poverty.

Their paper clearly illustrates that many poor people stay poor not because of their talent/motivation, but because they are in low-paying jobs that they must work to survive.

They are, in essence, in a poverty trap. This is a poverty trap where their lack of money prevents them from ever getting training/capital to work in higher paying jobs. You might be skeptical of these findings, but similar things have been found by experimental researchers doing random cash transfers in Kenya as well.

COVID Economic Armageddon

From Hoovervilles to Trumpvilles: Homeless Crisis Deepens Counterpunch, via Naked Capitalism 9-12-20]

Brendan O’Flaherty, a Columbia University economics professor, projects an increase in national homeless rate by 40-45 percent this year compared to January 2019. (HUD reports that as of January 2019 the nation-wide homeless level reached 567,715 people.) O’Flaherty projects that upwards of nearly 250,000 people will become homeless “if homelessness follows unemployment the way that it has done so in the earlier part of this century,” thus reaching over 800,000 people.

A majority of young adults in the U.S. live with their parents for the first time since the Great Depression

[Pew Research Center, via Naked Capitalism 9-8-20]
[ZeroHedge, via Mike Norman Economics 9-10-20]
[The RAND Blog, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-11-20]

“Unemployment insurance—as 40 million Americans have started to discover during the pandemic shutdowns—is not a single public program, but a set of 53 distinct programs. Each state (plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands) has its own method for defining a worker’s past earnings, its own formula for determining how much of that income will be replaced by unemployment insurance, and its own cap on benefits. It’s the federal government’s intention that at the end of all those calculations states replace about half of a worker’s lost wages. So a worker earning $50,000 a year, at 50 percent replacement, should get $481 per week. This is no problem in Massachusetts, the most generous state, where benefits are capped at $823. But in Mississippi, the least generous state, the cap is $235. Instead of getting 50 percent replacement, that worker would get 24 percent. This drastic state variation is where the difference between the Black and white benefit comes from. The Black population in the United States—and by extension, the Black labor force—is not evenly distributed across the country. Six states have a near-zero percentage of the country’s Black workforce: Maine, South Dakota, Idaho, Vermont, Wyoming, and Montana. Another dozen states have fewer than 0.5 percent each. On the other hand, one in four Black workers lives in just three states: Texas (8.5 percent), Florida (8.1 percent), and Georgia (8.0 percent). Black workers are less financially supported in unemployment than white workers simply by virtue of where they live. The problem is that, overall, the states with more Black workers have less generous unemployment benefits…. That Black workers live in less generous states is not an accident of modern policymaking. The reason unemployment is administered by states at all—unlike Social Security, which is federally operated—dates back to the New Deal in the 1930s.”

[Nikkei Asian Review, via The Big Picture 9-7-20]

Health Care Crisis

Cancer survivor pleading for help with health insurance ‘angry and hurt’ over Tillis staffer’s response

[WRAL, via Naked Capitalism 9-9-20]

During Veals’ calls, she came across a Washington, D.C., staffer for Tillis. Frustrated by his lack of empathy, she started recording her calls.

“You’re saying that, if you can’t afford it, you don’t get to have it, and that includes health care?” she asked.

“Yeah, just like if I want to go to the store and buy a new dress shirt. If I can’t afford that dress shirt, I don’t get to get it,” he replied.

“But health care is something that people need, especially if they have cancer,” Veals said.

“Well, you got to find a way to get it,” he responded.


Climate and environmental crises

The US National Hurricane Center is tracking seven systems in the Atlantic

[Yucatan Times, via Naked Capitalism 9-11-20]Animal Populations Fell by 68% in 50 Years and It’s Getting Worse

[Nature, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-9-20]

 This is astonishing: “This paper gives the first, strongly statistically significant, evidence for a high correlation between large worldwide earthquakes and the proton density near the magnetosphere, due to the solar wind. This result is extremely important for seismological research and for possible future implications on earthquake forecast. In fact, although the non-poissonian character, and hence the correlation among large scale, worldwide earthquakes was known since several decades, this could be in principle explained by several mechanisms. In this paper, we demonstrate that it can likely be due to the effect of solar wind, modulating the proton density and hence the electrical potential between the ionosphere and the Earth. Although a quantitative analysis of a particular, specific model for our observations is beyond the scope of this paper, we believe that a possible, likely physical mechanism explaining our statistical observations, is the stress/strain pulse caused by reverse piezoelectric effects. Such pulses would be generated by large electrical discharges channeled in the large faults, due to their high conductivity because of fractured and water saturated fault gauge.” •

“The Oysters That Knew What Time It Was” 
[Wired, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-9-20]
“Brown concluded that the organisms were sensitive to external geophysical factors, perhaps minute fluctuations in gravity, or even subtle forces that hadn’t yet been discovered. In his rivals’ experiments, supposedly proving the existence of independent clocks, Brown argued that the subjects weren’t cut off from the environment after all. They were bathed in—and influenced by—subtle, rhythmic fields that varied as the Earth turned.” • Some of which cause earthquakes!

Information Age Dystopia

Eight case studies on regulating biometric technology show us a path forward [MIT Technology Review, via Naked Capitalism 9-6-20]

ATandT’s current 5G is slower than 4G in nearly every city tested by PCMag ars technica, via Naked Capitalism 9-9-20]

Give everybody the internet: We need to get the internet to everyone in America. Here’s what it would take to do it. 

[Vox, via The Big Picture 9-12-20]

The FCC estimates 21 million Americans don’t have access to broadband; some estimates are double that.

Collapse of Independent News Media

College newsrooms challenge an industry’s status quo

[Columbia Journalism Review, via Naked Capitalism 9-7-20]

Disrupting mainstream politics

David Dayen, September 4, 2020 [American Prospect]

A decade ago, after the financial crisis, Stephen Lerner developed a theory about power and how to seize it. This wasn’t out of character for him. Lerner, now a fellow at Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, was the architect of the Justice for Janitors campaign, SEIU’s successful campaign, despite beatings and repression, to win organizing for some of the most powerless people in our society.

Lerner’s idea after the financial crisis was similar to his idea to organize janitors: make power uncomfortable. “I said, ‘As long as the stock market goes up, nothing will change,’” Lerner tells me in an interview. “We have to confront the super-rich. I remember being in these huge fights, [critics] said it was so unfair and terrible and traumatizing. I thought, what do you think it’s like when a sheriff comes up and puts your stuff onto the street?”

…. The enormous support from the Federal Reserve has created a K-shaped recovery, with the wealthy pulling away from everyone else. Stocks are up. Real estate is way up. Bidet sales are up. This is at a time of mass evictions, mass unemployment, mass use of food banks. We have a bubble economy, only I’m not talking about a financial bubble, I mean the bubble like what the NBA is using down in Orlando. A thin slice of Americans at the top are completely unaffected by this crisis, and they’ve isolated themselves from the rest of the country….

Lerner highlighted hedge fund founder Daniel Kamensky, arrested for defrauding creditors of the department store chain Neiman Marcus. He mentioned Seth Klarman, the never Trump investor who won a $3 billion bet on insurance claims stemming from PG&E’s settlement over wildfires in 2018. “They make money off of money, and contribute nothing to the economy,” Lerner says. There is a plausible case to be made that the funding gap for states is equivalent to the boost in the fortunes of a fraction of the top 1 percent during the pandemic.

On top of all of these actions, there are union contract expirations involving five million workers over the next year and a half. At Bargaining for the Common Good, which Lerner is involved with, there’s a map of where these contract expirations are happening across the country. The concept behind Bargaining for the Common Good is to use the union negotiation process not just to win better terms for members, but to improve communities and expand benefits for everyone.

How New York City’s Democratic Socialists Swept the Competition

[American Prospect, via Naked Capitalism 9-6-20]

….The result, which will be confirmed after the general election in November, will establish one of the most left-wing legislatures in New York in decades. Just a few short years ago, a block of right-leaning Senate Democrats caucused with Republicans, putting the chamber under GOP control. In 2021, not only will Democrats control both chambers, but there will be more self-described socialists in Albany than at any time since 1920, the height of the post-Bolshevik Red Scare, when five members of the Socialist Party of New York were expelled from the chamber for being “unfit for membership.” A century later, those five have now been replaced, and then some….

“AOC made winning feel more possible to folks,” said Kumar. “For working-class people of color, her victory made them think, ‘I can run too and I can win.’” She added that the AOC race stressed to NYC DSA the importance of standing up a professional campaign infrastructure, adding organizing muscle to ideas attractive to the city’s young and diverse population. “Now DSA feels like it can be a one-stop shop for people running for office. Which is really exciting that we can fill all of our roles that a campaign needs to win.”

Purity test: Democrats clash over Biden diversity goals

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism 9-8-20]

“Black Democrats are urging Joe Biden to resist growing pressure from the left to impose an anti-Wall Street purity test on his hiring decisions if elected, warning that it threatens the party’s desire to boost diversity in powerful executive branch posts.”

Disdain for the Less Educated Is the Last Acceptable Prejudice

[NYT Michael Sandel, via Naked Capitalism 9-7-20]I need money, review of Yesterday’s Man: The Case Against Joe Biden

Branko Marcetic, [London Review of Books, via Naked Capitalism 9-7-20]
Lambert Strether’s introduction: 

Nagle and Tracey are bête noires for the woke, and one can see why. For those who have not read it, this is a clear-eyed assessment of the Sanders campaign, well worth reading in full. Here is the key point: “For years, polling data has been telling us very clearly that the vast majority of the public is to the left of the status quo on matters of economics and to its right on matters of culture. The Left is incapable of absorbing this truth, because to do so would mean genuinely putting the will of the actually existing American working class first—instead of trying to ride them to power in the interest of waging a vindictive culture war*.” • It was the economy. Stupid. NOTE * Surely this oversimplifies the class interests of the PMC? It looks to me like wokeness is an effort to run an entire society like a corporate HR department runs a firm. Plenty of good jobs in HR!

Cut These Words: Passion and International Law of War Scholarship (PDF)

[Harvard International Law Journal, via Naked Capitalism 9-8-20]
Lambert Strether’s introduction: 

Long article, but if you want insight into the evolution of The Blob from Bush to Obama, this is an excellent place to start. On the legal justification that the Obama administration evolved for whacking Anwar Al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen, without due process in an extra-terrritorial drone strike, for example:

First, and perhaps the most fascinating mystery, is the near-total erasure of the Vietnam era, and its vociferous doctrinal and policy debates, from the War on Terror international legal debate. The more one reads, the stranger it becomes—particularly once the invasion of Cambodia becomes publicly known in 1970, and the U.S. Department of State justifies the intervention in international legal terms. The doctrinal debate is eerily similar to those underlying key controversies between 2009 and 2018. The underlying law is, in many respects, largely the same. The contours of the international legal questions and their purported implications for the future disclose remarkable similarities. And yet, with the exception of that single footnote in the Al Aulaqi Memorandum, there is almost no reference to the raging scholarly discourse that occurred barely two generations earlier.


The Dark Side

Sahmus Khan, September 11, 2020 [The American Prospect]

….In 1991, St. Paul’s School, along with the law firm of Orr & Reno, threatened to destroy his daughter, a 15-year-old student who had been raped by two 18-year-old students. In her new memoir, Lacy Crawford names the educators who, she says, knowingly hid her rape from the police and engaged in witness tampering: Bill Matthews, John Buxton, Cliff Gillespie, and Kelly Clark, teachers and administrators at the school. Together these men lied to silence young Ms. Crawford and to protect the power of the institution to which they’d dedicated their lives….

Fabulously wealthy, with an endowment of about $625 million and only about 500 students, on grounds with over 100 buildings and nearly 2,000 acres, the school exudes privilege. Part of making elites, as I argued in my book, is defending status and power. Crawford’s book tells this story far more brutally and convincingly than I was able to.

Stanley Greenberg [The American Prospect, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-8-20]

“In 2016, a white working-class revolt enabled Trump to win men by an unimaginable 48 points and women by 27. But disillusionment was real in the midterms: The Republican House margin dropped 13 points across the white working class. In the new poll, Trump lost a further 6 points with white working-class women, where Biden only trailed Trump by 8 points (52 to 44 percent). While Trump has been throwing a lot of red meat to his base, white working-class men have not been dislodged from their trajectory, as Trump’s margin eroded another 4 points. These are mostly low-wage families, many with children raised by a single parent. They are consumed with rising opioid deaths and disabilities and a deadly expensive health care system….

That was a big part of why they voted for Donald Trump in 2016: so he could end Obamacare and its costly mandate, and deliver affordable health insurance for all. When he failed to do so, many voted against the Republicans in the midterms. But the pandemic was the perfect storm. I have never seen such a poignant discussion of the health and disability problems facing families and their children, the risks they faced at work, and the prospect of even higher health care and prescription drug costs. The final straw was a president who battled not for the ‘forgotten Americans,’ but for himself, the top one percent, and the biggest, greediest companies. That is why most in the Zoom focus groups pulled back from President Trump. Three-quarters of these voters supported Trump in 2016, but less than half planned to vote for him now. Even those who still supported him did not push back when other participants expressed anger with his doing nothing about health care, fostering hatred and racism, dividing the country, siding with the upper classes, and having no plan for COVID-19. This is a life-and-death issue for them, as much as nearly any other group in American society.

The same voters were still very cautious about Joe Biden, who seemed old and not very strong, but most importantly offered the prospect of only minor changes to the health care system and seemed unlikely to challenge the power of the top one percent>
. Like lots of other working people, they are looking for a leader who will make big changes in health care, fight for working people over big business, and unite the country to defeat the current economic and public-health crisis.”

[ProPublica, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-10-20]

“Most, though not all, of the roughly 2.2 million Americans living in nursing homes or assisted living communities are elderly — and thus at higher risk of dying from the coronavirus. They’re also part of the most politically engaged demographic in the country. In 2018, 66% of Americans over 65 voted, compared with just 35% of those 18 to 29. In 2016, Donald Trump had an advantage over Hillary Clinton among voters 65 and older by 53% to 44%, according to the Pew Research Center….. Family and friends who helped them vote in prior elections can’t visit them — and may have taken ill or died from COVID-19 themselves. Swing states such as Florida and Wisconsin have suspended efforts to send teams to nursing homes to assist with voting. Despite a federal law that residents must be “supported by the facility in the exercise of” their rights, two states — North Carolina and Louisiana — prohibit staff from actively doing so. While many other states allow voters to appoint a helper of their choice, voting assistance may be a low priority for understaffed institutions struggling with COVID-19 outbreaks. And polling places are being moved from nursing homes and assisted living facilities to sites less affected by the virus. For example, Somerville, Massachusetts, relocated voting from a nursing home to a school a little less than a mile away…. Under federal law, nursing homes have a duty to facilitate residents’ rights, including voting, said Nina Kohn, a distinguished scholar in elder law at Yale University. But even before the pandemic, compliance was spotty. From 2018 through 2019, Medicare documented complaints from at least 55 U.S. nursing homes in which residents said they weren’t given the opportunity to vote or were unable to get help casting a ballot. But nursing home inspectors categorized the vast majority of these complaints as low severity, meaning they were seen as inflicting little or no actual harm. As a result, fines for violating residents’ voting rights are rare. Nursing home inspectors, Kohn said, do not take such violations seriously.”

How a small group of U.S. lawyers pushed voter fraud fears into the mainstream

[Reuters, via The Big Picture 9-12-20]

GOP claims of voter fraud are “not about facts. It’s about structural changes that make it
harder for people to vote – people they don’t want to vote.”

….That once-fringe theory has become a staple of Republican politics, due largely to the efforts of a small network of lawyers who have promoted it for two decades, funded by right-wing foundations…. These lawyers have played an important role, arguing for restrictions on mail-in voting in the closely-watched states of Arizona, Georgia and North Carolina.

Four nonprofits run by or linked to this network of lawyers – the Public Interest Legal Foundation, the American Constitutional Rights Union, Judicial Watch and True the Vote – have been involved in at least 61 lawsuits over election rules since 2012, according to a Reuters examination. More than half have been initiated since Trump took office in 2017, including 11 cases concerning absentee or mail-in voting.

….The network includes J. Christian Adams, president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), an Indiana-based group dedicated to election integrity; Hans von Spakovsky, who runs the election integrity program at the conservative Heritage Foundation; Christopher Coates, a former Department of Justice lawyer who now works with legal advocacy group Judicial Watch; and Cleta Mitchell, a prominent Republican lawyer who chairs PILF.

Republicans Are Making It Harder To Vote: The voting battle lines are drawn

[FiveThirtyEight, via The Big Picture 9-12-20]

As a strategy, Republicans are making it harder to vote, while Democrats are aiming to make it easier, to the benefit of each party. And President Trump is playing a central role in these voting wars.

“Modern Monetary Theory Is Bunk And Would Lead To Disaster” 

[The American Conservative, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-9-20]

“Economic agents demand money for reasons other than paying taxes, mainly as a medium of exchange to buy goods and services and as a store of value in which to save part of their income. Were these agents to perceive that a particular government were recklessly spending via money-financed deficits, the demand for its currency would collapse due to a loss of confidence in the issuer. This in turn would result in a hyperinflationary episode similar to the one that has recently taken place in Venezuela.”

Lambert Strether notes: “It seems that belief structures are as hard to eradicate as kudzu.”

The Winter of Our Discontent: Projecting the 78 harrowing days after the election

David Dayen, September 9, 2020 [American Prospect]

…. The Hoover-Roosevelt transition was so bad that Congress shortened the length of all future transitions by a month and a half. This post–Election Day interregnum will be much worse.

Several elements of those historic failures exist today: political disunity, economic collapse, the possibility of a razor-thin electoral margin, and corrupt challenges to the results. But none of those other transitions incorporated all of that at once, and a deadly pandemic. And none of them featured someone like Donald Trump. Whether he wins, loses, or just decides that he’s won, the whole nation must prepare to navigate treacherous territory this winter….

Surveys show that more Democrats plan to vote by mail than Republicans. No matter the true outcome, you can expect Trump to declare victory, but especially if he leads on election night and then falls behind. Losing an early lead with late-arriving mail ballots feeds into Trump’s stated contention that the only way he can be defeated is if the election is rigged against him. (Some Democrats have encouraged early voting to prevent this scenario.)

Trump and the Republicans have tested out this strategy. They fumed at how late-arriving ballots flipped outcomes in the 2018 Arizona Senate race and several House seats in California. In Florida, Trump stated that election night totals must be honored, as Democrats made up ground in the late vote in campaigns for Senate and governor. (The Republicans ultimately won both races.) Last year, Kentucky’s Republican governor Matt Bevin cited unidentified “irregularities” in voting, after he lost a close election to Democrat Andy Beshear. Bevin called for a recanvass, which showed no changes, and he finally conceded, but not before Kentucky’s Senate president intimated that the legislature could decide the race….

“This could be the 1918 flu meeting the Great Depression meeting a right-wing revolution,” Gonsalves said. “It’ll already be a bad situation this winter even if things go well politically. But if we’re not going to see any leadership, we’re walking into a wall of fire.”

….Thursday, September 10, a fact-checking website known as “Logically,” posted a breathtakingly detailed outing of one of Citigroup’s Senior Vice Presidents, Jason Gelinas, as the man behind the notorious QAnon conspiracy website known as

The website has now disappeared from the web but you can read its archived postings at the website maintained by the Wayback Machine, an initiative of the Internet Archive…. The career history that LinkedIn had been showing for Gelinas has now been taken down. We emailed Jennifer Lowney, the head of Corporate Communications at Citigroup, asking if Gelinas was still employed at the firm and if the bank had requested LinkedIn to take down his resume. We have yet to receive a response.

According to Gelinas’ resume, he has worked at Citigroup for 17 years and is currently a Senior Vice President and Director of GFTS Core Technology Services.


Open Thread


Two Tips For Dealing With Smoke


  1. Joan

    Thanks for these. I was skimming the titles and when I got to the oysters who could tell time it put me in stitches. I’d needed that, needed to laugh.

    The idea of a majority of Americans being to the left economically but to the right socially is interesting to think about. Not to mention that a lot of people of color and LGBT people are wary of the “woke” movement because they see themselves being used for an agenda, and the backlash against that agenda could lead to backlash against them personally.

  2. Keith in Modesto

    Tony, there are too many temptingly interesting links in this wrap-up. I have things to get done – I can’t spend all day reading these articles! Damn you!!!

  3. the pair

    a link to the actual “why the poor stay poor” study since the link above is paywalled.

    great collection of links as usual.

  4. “Elon Musk’s growing empire is fueled by $4.9 billion in government subsidies”

    Well, yeah! We the people wanted electric cars, consumer-level solar power and a private rocket industry. Well, some of us did. This is how policy works. “Oh, someone’s getting rich because he did what we wanted him to!”

    The problem is the weaning, not the subsidy. Making the weaning happen is hard if the subsidized hire lobbyists, but this is a problem with any privatization scheme.

  5. Hugh

    Trump is good at throwing red meat to his base, but after nearly 4 years a lot of that base has got to be looking around and realizing that their lives haven’t been getting any better. Bottom line, they don’t live by anger alone, and Trump hasn’t delivered for them where they really need it.

    MMT is bunk but so is a neoclassical criticism of it. Economists really don’t understand money. When you think whose interests these economists serve, this is a feature, not a bug.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén